Saturday, March 31, 2012

Honours or honest degree?

I was amazed when I read this. There are students out there who could afford to fork out two grand for someone else to write their thesis? The mind boggles. My experience of student life (undergrad and postgrad) is one of skimping because even if you get a scholarship, it doesn't necessarily cover all your expenses (my uni is located in Kuala Lumpur).

Are we more morally bankrupt than the people before us? Are the changing landscape of professional development and personal growth pushing us to become more dishonest? Are we just lazier than before?

Who knows. It could be any and all or even none of the above. All I know is that being a teacher at tertiary level just got tougher. I mean, you can identify that the student was cheating, but proving it is something else altogether. So you may have to grit your teeth and just pass the kid anyway even though you know well that he/she couldn't use prepositions properly to even save her/his life. The kid whom you know worked hard, built his/her skill sets to write a darn good thesis got no more than the cheating one because you can't prove how the cheater cheated.

How depressing.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Midweek sh*ts & giggles ... early-ish.

Death wish

But not the way you think. Chumbawamba, a band that struck supernova-like stardom for 15 minutes in the 90's thanks to this song, actually released a song that reads the passenger manifest of people whom they would like to see die in a plane crash.

Since Ally McBeal made the cut, I daresay it's a pretty good list.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Midweek sh*ts and giggles - man edition

XY all the way, baby.
Never thought I'd see heels that high on a man after the 70's are over.

Dating fail #87972363983094.

The Jews. Clowns don't faze 'em.

Success do come after many failures, it seems.

Celebrating the pi day, his way.

Oh, yeah ... gimme some honey all right.

Learn to spell. It may save your life (or sanity).

Better living through chemistry, I say.

Now who's the badass?

Neil Patrick Harris. So good he could sell you that he's a straight horndog.

Gotta know what works for you.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Drama of Childhood

The Mad Song 
by Mr Rogers

What do you do with the mad that you feel?
When you feel so mad you could bite?
When the whole wide world feel oh so wrong
And nothing you seems very right
What do you do?
Do you punch a bag?
Do you pound some clay or some dough?
Do you round up friends for a game of tag?
Or you see how fast you'd go?

It's great to be able to stomp
When you've planted the thing that's wrong
And be able to do something else instead
And think this song
I can stomp when I want to
Can stomp when I wished
Can stomp! stomp! stomp! anytime
And what a good feeling to feel like this
And know that the feeling was really mine
Know that there's something deep inside
That helps us become what we can
For a girl to be someday a lady
And a boy can be someday a man

I had moments of being a very angry child. Don't ask  me why; to this day I couldn't pinpoint the cause. The only thing good about it was I got it out of my system that by the time I was a teenager, I had no angst left. So I never bothered with any teenage rebellion.

I now realise that I lacked the vocabulary to express how I felt even though I read a lot. The books that I devoured was chockful of adventures and fun, but there was barely anything emotional. It would have been nice if I had a frame of reference for my feelings that I could actually understand, and it looked like children who had the opportunity to watch Mr Rogers in his neighbourhood, got this advantage.

Fortunately for me, my mother had an excellent collection of Reader's Digest with sections addressing good emotional and mental health and how to condition yourself to be a socially acceptable human being. Not to say that my family did not show me an excellent example for being a good person, it's just that I'm so thick that the lesson didn't penetrate well until in my 20's. And I'm still a work in progress.

So teach your kids to express themselves in a respectful and positive manner. It is a learned behaviour, just like courtesy.

Or spree killing at their high school.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Monday, March 12, 2012

Monday, Monday ...

Yeah, the week begins again. Let's start with a little humour, shall we?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Sisterhood, yo

It's the International Women's Day today!


We made grands strides in less than a century. Women can now vote, get an education (though many places still frown on educating the females), get a job, smash through the glass ceiling and CHOOSE to stay at home and raise their babies (it used to be terpaksa-rela or it-really-ain't-a-choice-sugar). It's good to be a woman in this age because we live longer and are less likely to die in childbirth (unless you live in Afghanistan, Chad or something). And we have more opportunities than our grandmothers and great grandmothers, and all this changes over a mere two generations (barely three weeks if you are a fruit fly), at least for the women in Malaysia.

But we are still crippled by body image issues; trading corsets (yes, in Asia, we wore bengkung) for anorexia, the white ones burn themselves in the sun or in salons, the darker ones peel their skin with harmful chemicals to become fairer. We still earn less than men while working twice as hard, still get stuck with more household chores than our partner (maybe not an issue for lesbian couples, *LOL*), and we are expected to remain a virgin on our wedding nights when the men get approving thumps on their back for being a lothario. Our days off are not necessarily days off like a man would describe it and in fair weather or foul, the expectations on us don't change.

We are still not in control of the decisions to be made on our body. In the US, the Congressional hearing on contraception was a panel of men; so yeah, they know so well about a woman's reality about birth control and abortion *rolls eyes*. Did they not think that supporting the former means reducing the need for the latter? What with global warming and the stress of accommodating the needs of a burgeoning world population, having children in a more judicious manner is only logical.
Our clothes remain a hot topic for everyone, whether one wears too much or too little. Frankly, I believe that a woman has a right to choose whether she wants to wear a bikini or a burqa. Women's clothing has been an issue of contention at political and social level, as though the what we wear is the fabric of the society. Face it: the real major causes of social ills are poverty, lack of access to education and opportunity, lack of respect and empathy to fellow humans (and non-humans) as well as greed.

A few historians and sociologists remarked that civilisations begin to decline when the society begin to segregate women from the rest of society (reference here and Fatima Mernissi's wonderful books Women and Islam: an Historical and Theological Inquiry as well as Islam and Democracy: Fear of the Modern World).  In an attempt to attain purity, maintain "honour" and satisfy false masculine pride, women are isolated from the rest of society, denied rights of basic citizenship (e.g. their children not given citizenship status if their partner are foreigners) and denigrated as a human being (i.e. when violence against women is condoned by the society).

Women still don't get much respect: we get blamed when we get raped, we are the first to be economically marginalised when the country's financial system experience a meltdown, women's worthiness are still judged  by their youth and looks and in any social crisis, women are among the first and most consistent victims.

Hence, inasmuch as we made leaps and progress towards improving the lot of women in this world, there are still plenty that needs to be fixed. For some society, the progression is remarkable and heartening, for some, social conditioning and culture made change a lot harder. We must never lose faith, ladies, but rather continue to work towards evolving our world to a more just and harmonious place. Not just for women, but for everyone.

Books read: week 10

I have a habit of re-reading books, especially those I love (like this one and the second one in this list) that it slowed down the number of books that I devour.
1. Guilty Pleasures by Laura Lee Guhrke
Hero: 3/5 stars
Heroine: 2/5 stars
Storyline: 4/5 stars
Pacing: 3/5 stars
Fun Factor: 2/5 stars
Repeat Reading Factor: 1/5 stars
I heard good stuff about Ms Guhrke and she was recced to me by a friend on Goodreads. I really want to like her books, I do. After all, I need new authors to follow to feed my insatiable reading habit. Alas, though the premise was interesting, the follow through was disappointing. The hero was okay to me, but when the heroine suddenly devolved into this fishwife after being no more exciting than a doormat, the book just lost its lustre for me. The bits that pulled the heroine's bacon out of the fire was a bit too pat for my taste, but in the absence of other readables (and the fact that I forked out money to rent it), I consumed it till the end.
2. Red-Headed Stepchild by Jaye Wells
Hero: 3/5 stars
Heroine: 3/5 stars
Storyline: 3/5 stars
Pacing: 3/5 stars
Fun Factor: 3/5 stars
Repeat Reading Factor: 1/5 stars

Again, another recced author. Premise was all right, lousy follow through and the development of characters and plots were meh. Pity since she is quite prolific.
3. Set the Dark on Fire by Jill Sorenson
Hero: 5/5 stars
Heroine: 5/5 stars
Storyline: 4/5 stars
Pacing: 4/5 stars
Fun Factor: 5/5 stars
Repeat Reading Factor: 3/5 stars
This book was a pleasant surprise. I picked it up because I had a few more bucks of rental money, but it was a nicely constructed book with interesting characters and great plot development. I adore how "real" the characters were, flawed and yet still striving to do the right thing. 
It was a little disconcerting in places because of the shifting POVs, but once you kept track of the major players, it was a breeze. The character interactions were fluid and realistic, the imagery crisp and descriptive that you feel the head of the dry lands of south east California.
I will look for her other works next time. 

4. Kiss at Midnight by Eloisa James
Hero: 5/5 stars
Heroine: 5/5 stars
Storyline: 5/5 stars
Pacing: 4/5 stars
Fun Factor: 5/5 stars
Repeat Reading Factor: 4/5 stars
Eloisa James is one of the rare authors whose work I did not enjoy in the beginning, but then grew to love. I came across something she wrote way back in the late 90s but somehow it just didn't appeal to me. But now, I devour anything new that she produces.

This book is a reinterpretation of the classic Cinderella tale, except that this time around, the heroine doesn't wait around waiting to be rescued. Oh, and the prince wasn't really that charming.

Great banter, great characters, great plotting.

I hope that the butler gets his own story too.
5. Blood Royal by Jonathan Green
Hero: 3/5 stars
Storyline: 4/5 stars
Pacing: 4/5 stars
Fun Factor: 3/5 stars
Repeat Reading Factor: 1/5 stars
Sherlock Holmes meet Phileas Fogg with mutant insect people and Victoriana. This is a fun and adventurous read, reminiscent of the style made popular by Jules Verne and Arthur Conan Doyle. Very deux-ex-machina and the dialogue is a little clunky at times, but over all a nice way to spend your reading hours.
6. Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan

Protagonists: 5/5 stars
Storyline: 4/5 stars
Pacing: 5/5 stars
Fun Factor: 4/5 stars
Repeat Reading Factor: 3/5 stars
This is book 1 of the Kane chronicles, a new series by young adult author, Rick Riordan. I started reading him courtesy of my friend Iztoy who lent me the first three of the Percy Jackson series. It was about how Carter and Sadie Kane worked to save their father (and incidentally, the world) by stopping the god Set from unleashing the forces of chaos. Based on Egyptian mythology, the vivid characterisation and storyline really captures you from page one.
Now, to find book number two ...