Sunday, 9 March 2014
I decided that I would do something different for my diary entry instead of moping about teaching. My new job is going fine thanks. I think I’ve settled in and now I feel more comfortable. The children no longer see me as a visitor and treat me with more respect and affection.
My favourite quote is ‘Fortune favours the brave’ which I think means good luck or opportunities come to those that are brave enough to seek it. I heard that it is a motto derived from Latin and there are many variations of it such who dares wins and God helps those that helps themselves.
I seriously considered getting it tattooed to my arm.
Sometimes I can be stuck in my ways and being spontaneous or making quick decisions can give me some anxiety. I like to be able to think things through and debate on my options. However, there are times when I have to make quick decisions. I spend endless moments thinking whether I should follow my head or heart. I also make snap decisions which I end up changing at the last moment which can sometimes be annoying to others.
I think I’m getting better at making decisions. I prefer to try an experience than be left wondering what it would be like. The majority of my decisions have been good and the ones that have been bad were not unfixable. Whenever I’m indecisive or scared I like to think of my favourite quote so that I think more positively.
Thursday, 6 March 2014
When Jon and I were deciding what books to read for our blog, I was the one that suggested that we read Decision Points by George Bush. I am not a fan of George Bush nor do I dislike him. His time as a president did not have much influence on my life. I wanted to read his memoirs to know what he was thinking during the major events that were in his presidency. The major events like 9/11, the Iraq war and Hurricane Katrina. I’ve always been interested in memoirs because you get an account behind the decisions made and what the person was thinking and feeling at the time.
I couldn’t finish Decision Points because I found it boring. I started the book in April 2013 and I put it down and never finished it. I decided to try again this year and I felt that it was too much of a chore to read it. I think that reading should be enjoyable and I just couldn’t stay interested in the book. It’s a shame because I had read his wife’s memoir Spoken through the heart and I wanted to compare the two.
Decision Points focuses on the major events that happened in George Bush’s political career. Unfortunately, I didn’t get very far into the book. I only got to when Bush had won the presidency. I found the book reads like a textbook. I think that’s okay because it might be useful for a historian someday but for a recreational reader it’s a bit boring.
Thursday, 27 February 2014
I've been busy with a new job. It’s nothing spectacular and I didn't get a teaching job yet. It’s a mean time job until I can get a job as a teacher. I work for an Outside of School Care company which means we look after children before and after school. It is for children who have parents who go to work early or finish work late. The children get snacks, play games and do art activities at the centre.
Most of the children at my centre are very nice and the behaviour management is at a low level. For example, they need to be reminded to share and take turns. Sometimes, they are bit complacent when I tell them to do things so I need to be more firm with them. I'm new so they don’t take me as seriously as the people who have been working longer. They also try to take advantage of the fact that I'm not familiar with the routine too by telling me “but we always get to do that...” It always turns out that whatever they are asking from me is not allowed.
An example of this happened yesterday when it was afternoon tea time. We serve snacks straight after school and the children can eat them if they want to or go play. We don’t force them to eat if they don’t want to and we have two snack times so if they change their minds they can eat later.
So at the first snack time, there weren't many people eating but that changed near the end of snack time when some kids noticed that the snack was corn chips and salsa. Some children came to me and told me that they had not had their snacks yet so I got them some food. However, my manager told me that weren't allowed any food because they have to learn to eat when it’s eating time and not when they feel like it. The kids went to other new staff members as well and asked them for snacks. The manager had to tell all the kids that snack time happens at specific times and you can’t decide to join midway through when you see something you like.
This job is my second job so I work seven days a week now. I also work as a tutor on weekends. I want to have a break on weekends so I've decided to quit my tutoring job at the end of the term. It is so my students can have a clean start with a new tutor next term.
Sunday, 16 February 2014
The Olympics have always been something that I've enjoyed watching, first every four years when I was growing up and now every two years with the Winter and Summer Olympics alternating on the world stage. What I love most in 2014 about the Olympics is how to me it's a made-for-today/modern event. I say that because of the manner in which social media has linked us and made our world in so many ways smaller and made us as people from separate nations closer to one another.
Growing up in New York in the early 1980s as a child the Olympics were mostly about one thing and one thing only. The "Cold War" between the Soviet Union and the United States. Keeping track of medals wasn't nearly as important as beating the Soviet Union. I was a little too young to remember the 1980 U.S. hockey team's Gold medal in Lake Placid, New York, but just old enough to feel the spirit and national pride that sprouted out of that victory propelling the U.S. into the 1984 Olympics (my first Olympics as far as really watching events was concerned).
Ever since the '84 Olympics the event has held appeal to me for a variety of reasons. I've been introduced to so many other sports by watching the Olympics and find an appreciation for the athletes in virtually every event. As a wrestler, growing up in a wrestling family I knew what it was like to partake in a sport that does not get the money or the limelight or fan fare of sports like football, American football, baseball, basketball or hockey. The Olympics allows the athletes who compete in those sports whose continuity depends largely on the support of family members and small communities of athletes the opportunity to shine on a Global stage. To me that's kind of special.
It has also been an opportunity to see that as separated as we might be by distance that we're not really all the different. When I was younger most of the Olympic events were televised in replay and there were few if any media outlets (and no social media) to let us know who had won and who had lost. There were no "spoilers" when you watched an event. Even if it had taken place the day before it was taking place LIVE and in real time to me. There's something I miss about that with today's Olympics. Perhaps we're always nostalgic for the era of our youth? The other thing the networks did when I was a kid was show a lot less coverage and a lot more behind the scenes kinds of looks at Olympic athletes, both from the United States and from other countries. What those little segments helped do for me was move me past the whole, "it's us versus them" mentality by humanising athletes from other countries, making them more identifiable and easier to relate to. I'd imagine natural maturation factored into how my view of what the Olympics were about developed and grew as well. Having said that, I do enjoy the greater coverage and the greater live coverage of events available to us in 2014 relative to 1984.
It is so much more enjoyable to watch the Olympics as a uniting event that's used to show, "we're not all that different from one another" and not as a divisive event used to announce "we're the best and bow before our superiority ". Obviously there is a competitive aspect to the events that will always exist that will make me cheer for the United States. The desire to achieve and be the best is also important in athletics so that element is not gone. The thing that has changed as I've grown older is that now I can be just as taken or impressed by the performance of an athlete from Brazil, or Norway, or England or Australia or China or Nigeria or Russia as I could only be by that of a U.S. athlete when I was little. While it might take away some aspect of the intensity as I watch I think it ultimately adds to my enjoyment of the events.
I took a long time to get to Sochi here, but the build up had a purpose. On the whole the U.S. media has been very good about this Olympics and when ever any country has the opportunity to host the games it becomes a kind of "show case" for them, and understandably so. Sometimes the "we're the best" mentality that is part of what makes America great but also part of what alienates us from parts of the world as well, comes through in the opinions of certain U.S. media personalities. A good portion of today's media personalities in the United States grew up during the heart of the Cold War or the end of the Cold War era as I did. As such, with the Olympics being held in Russia and Vladimir Putin trying to bring more notoriety to Russia, some objectivity gets lost at times. I think it's great to have national pride and I do miss some of the competitive burn behind the former U.S./Soviet Olympic match-ups but there is a part of me that wishes we could just leave the chest thumping to the athletes in the sporting world, on the fields of play, and not make it part of a political discussion in the media.
One thing the U.S. media has come down hard upon Russia for and Putin for is their perceived stance on the LGBT community ( I say perceived because I don't want to get into the nuances of some of the discourse to which I'm largely an outsider looking in upon). I'm not naive enough to believe that politics will never creep into these things, and any world event is an opportunity to bring light (understanding) where there is darkness (close-mindedness and fear). That does not bother me. I think that it's not only fair but also our right to try and help all people to open their eyes to the world we're living in and the world their neighbours, friends and family are living in. So hopefully as we do that we are keeping in mind our own issues and needs to encourage acceptance of the LGBT community here in the United States. That's something that I am proud of when it comes to my country... our willingness to speak and have our voice heard. Especially knowing that when we speak, people listen.
With that said.... do I really need to be told each and every night about the stray dogs that are running around Sochi or the housing conditions of the athletes relative to the opulence they might enjoy visiting the United States? I mean... come on. Those stories have almost been beaten to death and they've been an omnipresent part of the Sochi Olympics used in part by the media to validate that we're the best place to live in the world. Now let me say... I do love living in the United States and would not chose to make my home anywhere else, but I don't need to shit all over Russia to prove it. I'm sure that many Russians are perfectly happy living in Russia and have a great sense of national pride that they're just as entitled to as we are to our pride in the U.S.. I am relatively certain that many athletes from around the world are enjoying luxuries and having fun in Sochi. Isn't that what's most important? That these young men and women from other parts of the world (most of whom will not win any medals) get to enjoy the culture and history and diversity of people they will meet? I'm highly skeptical that the majority of athletes have even seen a stray dog (and highly skeptical that the reason they haven't seen one is because Putin ordered that they all be euthanized). Let's let our pride be pride and not arrogance. I said that when the U.S. speaks people listen, but that means they listen to both the smart and stupid things we say. Some of the stupid stuff we focus on about minutia detracts from the important things that are being said.
I am still annoyed with myself for having missed the opening ceremonies at Sochi, but on the whole, what I've seen is an Olympics that has been run quite well. There will always be issues as there has been with the warm weather and as there was with the warm weather during the Olympics in Vancouver as well. Those are not in the control of the host countries and have been managed well by the Russian event organisers from the events I've watched. I've had the good fortune to watch ice skating, ski-athelon, a few of the snowboard events, hockey and curling thus far. I hope to get to see a lot more and would really like to see some more of the ski events that I have missed thus far. I hope everyone is enjoying these Olympics! Currently I'm watching a medal ceremony where the Russian crowd is singing their national anthem in honor of one of their gold medallists. I AM proud that my country shows many of the medal ceremonies and it's particularly special to see the honor and pride of the home country as they honor one of their athletes. I hope for the well being of all fans and athletes for the remainder of these Winter Olympics... and....
As always... Go U.S.A.!
Tuesday, 11 February 2014
Crazy Rich Asians was a book that was really looking forward to reading. I’m Asian and I thought the title was hilarious. I knew that it was going to be a big hit. I also bought this book as a Christmas gift to a friend because I thought she would find it a hoot too. The main character in the book is Rachel Chu, a thirty something professor of economy. She lives in New York with her boyfriend Nicholas Young. Nicholas invites Rachel to Singapore to attend a wedding and meet his family. In Singapore, Rachel discovers that Nicholas’ family is crazy rich. What is crazy rich? Well, Nicholas’s father once bought a hotel just to fire a concierge that had been rude to his wife.
The story follows Rachel as she tries to survive among the rich, some are generous and kind while others are snobby and spiteful. She soon learns the difference between old and new money. People who come from old money are families who have been rich for generations. In the book, the older ones look down on Rachel who doesn’t have an aristocratic lineage like they do. Thankfully, Rachel is supported by her best friend named Peik Lim, a new money girl whose family made their fortune in real estate. Meanwhile, Nicholas is oblivious to the hateful attempts by scheming girls and his mother to drive Rachel out of his life.
The book is a comedy so there are funny one liners and outrageous scenarios involving the crazy rich Asians. The chapters alternates between characters describing their background and their attitude to money. Many of the secondary characters don’t appreciate their wealth and scheme to have more wealth and prestige, like Confucius says money can’t buy happiness. Besides Rachel, there were plenty of secondary characters I liked. I liked Nicholas’ cousin Astrid for always being herself and working hard at her marriage, I also liked Eddie a ridiculous man who is obsessed with his family looking perfect, Kitty Pong, the gold digging starlet and Su Yi, Nicholas’ grandmother. There’s were plenty of other characters I liked as well.
I think that Rachel almost takes second place to the descriptions of wealth in the novel. There were frequent references to designer clothes and accessories. I heard that this book will be made into a movie and I’m glad that it will be. I think it can easily be adapted for film. It reminds me of the movie Monster in Law starring Jane Fonda and Jennifer Lopez. Crazy Rich Asians is a funny and entertaining book to read. I think it’s great for when you just want to relax.
Sunday, 9 February 2014
I first saw this book when I was sixteen. My favourite place to hang out was the bookshop and I use to spend all my money there. I remember picking up this book a few times and reading bits of it. I wanted to buy the book but never got around to it. Eventually, all the copies were gone and I forgot the title of the book and author. I tried to search for a copy online but that was hard to find without name of the book and the author so I never got anywhere. Fortunately, I found a copy in a thrift shop and bought it.
The Fifth Quest is a fictional fantasy TV show similar to Xena. The star of the show is Ashtari, a warrior princess who also has magical powers and can speak almost all ancient languages. Ashtari travels the lands righting wrongs with her trusty sidekick, a half dog man Kish and hunky brother Xanthus.
‘Zumara is too old to continue the girl’s training’ explained the fortune teller. ‘The time has come for you to fetch Maya and take her on as your apprentice.’ (p. 3 The Fifth Quest).
Fifteen year old Rosie Cordell and her friend Nadia are obsessed with the show. They mouth the words when they watch and spend hours talking about the littlest details. One day, there is an audition for a new sidekick for the Quest series and Nadia drags Rosie along to the audition. Rosie wins the coveted role of Maya, the new companion. The book is about Rosie’s journey through fame and how it impacts on her friendship with Nadia.
I don’t even think she meant to put me down. It’s just that Nadia’s opinions were so loud and they whooshed through her brain so fast, she drowned out other people’s ideas without even realising she was doing it. After a while it gets to you and you give up expressing your opinion. (p. 96 The Fifth Quest).
The book alternates between chapters on the TV show and Rosie’s life. Rosie matures through the experience starting off as naïve and a bit of a pushover into someone more assertive. Rosie has to deal with the entertainment industry types with all their egos and smooth talking. As an adult, I groaned at some of the stuff that she got lead into but I realised that I could have been the same at that age. I also liked the difficult relationship that Rosie had with Nadia, as Nadia was really the one who wanted to be an actress. The two suffer from a lot of misunderstanding and jealousy which resolves near the ending.
I also liked the behind the scenes look at what goes on a TV show. Debra Oswald was a writer for many Tv shows and films so some things in the book are drawn from her experiences. I also think that she balances the perks of fame and the downside in an honest and realistic way. The book is a fun read and I think teenagers will like it, particularly those wanting to be actors.
Sunday, 2 February 2014
My father was an Opera lover and there were not many days when he did not listen to Opera as I recall growing up in our suburban Long Island home. The memories I have of sitting on the sea green carpet of our living room floor many a Tuesday night with my twin brother, as we played chess and chatted with our dad are some of my dearest recollections of my father. WMNR radio in Connecticutt transmitted a program called, "Evening at the Opera" hosted by Doug Fox. The program is still part of WMNR's radio line up today and still hosted by Mr. Fox and runs from 8 pm until midnight on Tuesday nights. Tuesday was a particularly convienant time for my dad who had his only day off from work on Wednesdays. During the school year I'm not sure how late we were allowed to stay up with dad listening to Opera and playing chess, but during the Summer and during school breaks, staying up a bit later than normal and spending some time with dad was something I always looked forward to. My brother and I were music lovers ourselves, and our entire family has always valued music in our lives even if we were not Opera lovers per se. I know that listening to Opera with dad definitely gave me an appreciation for the art form that I would otherwise have never had.
My dad took my brother Clifford and I to the only live Opera that I believe either of us has ever been to. It was an experience I will never forget. While I spent the better part of the first 25 years of my life on Long Island, our family did not often take trips into New York City. On our trip dad took us to the top of the twin towers (an experience I am particularly grateful to have had retrospective of the events in September of 2001) and brought us to see a German Opera at Lincoln Center. I wish that I could remember the name of the Opera, and while I do not remember it, I do remember reading the translations of the German Opera and enjoying the story and the performance. I also remember feeling a bit special experiencing a small foray into a world of culture and opulence which I had not experienced often given our middle class roots. As with all my experiences listening to Opera though, the very best part was spending time with Dad.
The New York City Opera where my father took Clifford and I to see a German Opera
My father was an unfailing kind, patient and mild mannered person, three traits that I always admired in him and yes, perhaps even revered him for. Clifford and I would often pester my dad with questions about the Opera singers, asking him about who his favorites were and who Granddad's favorites were. The thing that was the coolest though to me as a young boy and even as an adolescent was when Doug Fox would have his Opera trivia questions and my dad would give his answers. Many times the questions revolved around identifying a voice and I admired my father's ability and expertise to discern the correct Opera singer a vast majority of the time. Even better were the few occasions when he called into the station to Doug Fox and identified the singer, or made a particular request. It's funny how as a child, just hearing your dad's name on the radio makes him seem bigger... almost King-like in a way. Those evenings at the Opera were special and something I miss dearly to this day.
My father passed away in 2005 and while my twin brother and I had not spent any time in several years sitting with dad and listening to Opera with him as we played chess, when I think of him, those nights are some of my most prescient and treasured memories. Upon dad's passing my mother asked us all if there was anything we had wanted to take from our father's possessions, as decisions needed to be made about things that had to be thrown away or things we might keep and remember him by. One thing that I asked for and no one else seemed to have a deep interest in taking with them was my dad's collection of audio tapes. Dad would often times record episodes of evening at the Opera, so that he could listen to them again. I had this collection of tapes from my dad since 2005 but had never listened to them since then. This past Christmas I decided to ask for a tape player for Christmas. My mom who is an infamously giving person all year round, but especially at Christmas time, indulged me in that request and bought me a radio/cd/tape player --- the first I've owned since I was in college in the late 1990s.
While I've already used the radio and cd player extensively, tonight for the first time since Christmas I decided to pop some of dad's old tapes in. I just grabbed one, which happens to be a tape of Doug Fox's program one Tuesday evening in 1991 featuring performances by Maria Callas. The dulcet tones of Doug Fox announcing and Maria Callas' extremely beautiful and amazing voice brought back the emotion, feeling and mood of what was a lost time to me: those nights spent with dad listening to Evening at the Opera. I don't know that I'll experience this everytime I listen to dad's old tapes but for at least tonight it was a gift of time, a gift of love, and the gift of my father and my mother that I will not forget.