Have an account?

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Oh blogosphere, wherefore art thou

I remember when the highlight of my day was to see my blog roll shift, signalling that there was a new post in any of the blogs that I followed. I would usually attack the link with a voracious appetite. Here was something that I knew would stimulate my thoughts, tickle my funny bone, provoke passionate responses. But most of all, it was connecting with friends on a deep level. The kind of connection one could achieve by a chat over a good coffee, all in the comfort of one’s own home. I would always wonder what Ailin would be doing in Sweden, and how she was faring in her battle with pain; where Fauziah Ismail was and what adventures (and gripes) she would share; or what entertaining fad Ah Beng would share from his treasure trove of a brain; what epiphany of language and culture Jordan Macvay would experience. And oh so many, many more.

But progress is a cruel master, and like all roads lead to Rome, progress on the Internet all led to Facebook. At first I was ecstatic to connect to my blog friends on Facebook – to find out that they were in fact real people (I know right?), ordinary people with extraordinary experiences. It was fun to be able to chat with them at any time, to find out what they were doing, to see photo updates of their families. But soon, constant contact became something that was taken for granted. We became so reliant on instant status updates and real-time chats, that it became a chore to really have to think about what to write on the blogs. It was too taxing to the brain. And besides, who had the time? And soon, one by one, the blogs started to follow the lonely path to oblivion. One by one, my blog friends started to stop the updates. And we didn’t even notice. Gone was the deep connection I would feel with my blog friends. Gone was the quality of thought and interaction, replaced with quantity over substance.

But that is the path to progress I guess.

All roads lead to Rome, and all the Internet leads to Facebook.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Time blocks

Image credit here.

I used to always think it was strange that Dad was never able to sit through a whole movie with us when we were growing up. He would perhaps start watching one with us, and leave after about 30 minutes, to do whatever it was that he would rather be doing.

That is, until I found myself challenged trying to finish a whole movie myself, without feeling the urge to hit the fast-forward button, at times, or even getting up and going to my study to do something else that was more productive. I can't remember exactly when I started behaving this way, but I think it could have started sometime during my PhD.

Unless it was a movie that I really wanted to watch (and not my children), then I found that it was almost impossible to sit through the whole thing.

Things that I normally found more engaging/pressing/interesting than watching through a whole movie:

  1. The Internet. Yes. That's right. Even though it was little more than scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed with an expression of boredom on my face, it was at least interactive and engaging enough to keep my mind (semi) occupied. 
  2. Games. Yeah, I still play some games on occasion. A few times a week. Playing RPGs mostly. Where I am in my own world, interacting with the fascinating characters, and completing those infuriating missions for achievement badges. But they were interactive nonetheless. On the gaming side, there were stretches where I wouldn't play for weeks or months at a time when I was trying to complete my PhD of course. Though I am trying to re-acclimatise myself with a 'normal' routine post-PhD.
  3. My thesis. Uhuh. Yup. Not that it was fun (never fun). But it was something that had greater priority. And it was interactive.  
But of course, I did other things besides the activities mentioned above. And I did watch TV, and sometimes movies, but all with a sort of schedule in my mind. 

A schedule in the form of time blocks.

Thinking about this more, I realised that I could sit through almost anything as long as it did not exceed 30 minutes. I mean, I could sit for a few hours in front of the TV, but the shows that I liked the most only ran for 30 minutes - comedies mostly. I love sitcoms. Most importantly, they could fit in a single time block. After that I was free to do something else. Or maybe even spend another time block watching another.

So a movie was generally four time blocks.

Eating out was three.

Playing with the kids was between one to two (two if we played Monopoly).

Bowling was three. 

Golf was six.

When I got to see time that way, I was able to know more about how I would rather spend these blocks of time.

The question was: even though other activities took up more than one time block, why was I able to do them, and not sit through most movies?

Perhaps it lay in the nature that my brain needs constant interaction?

I don't know.

Perhaps I should spend a time block or two figuring that out.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Dulce et decorum est, pro patria mori

Photo credit here

The 22nd of August was day of mourning for the whole nation. Malaysians from every walk of life gave a minute of silence for the dead as their earthly remains were transported from the coldness of foreign shores to the warmth of the embrace of their Ibu Pertiwi, their Earth Mother. 

And yet, hardly a day had gone by when a headline rudely splashed across my Facebook newsfeed: 
“PKR leader calls National Mourning Day an excessive affair”, which immediately raised my ire out of the sheer audacity and disrespect toward the dead, and toward a nation in mourning. How dare this upstart politician use this tragedy as a grounds to bash the government? Has he no decency? Has he no respect? I straight away clicked on the link to find out more about this person. 

And I was surprised.

This was no ordinary politician. He was a retired Admiral of the Malaysian Armed Forces, someone who had dedicated his life to the preservation of our nation’s well-being, our way of life. And here he was questioning the Government’s excessiveness in mourning, and called the armed personnel involved as ‘mindless slaves’. Something did not quite add up.
I read the article again.
Imran Abdul Hamid, the retired admiral-turned-politician, was quoted to have said:

“It’s not that we do not sympathise with the victims of MH17, but the national mourning day did seem excessive given the fact that the 10 soldiers who died in Lahad Datu did not receive the same amount of honours.”

And this made me think very hard. For those unaware of what he was talking about, last year, Malaysia was invaded by an armed group of Filipino rebels. Ten brave servicemen lost their lives upholding their oaths to defend their country. They were given military burials with the customary gun salutes. The PM visited the families of the fallen, and there was media coverage for a day or two.
But there was no declaration for a national day of mourning. There was no honor guard motorcade from the airport to their burial sites. No roads were closed off.

And this made me think again.

It was not that the admiral did not feel pain, or did not mourn, over the Malaysian lives lost in the skies of Ukraine. It was that the sacrifice of the nation’s heroes, who had paid the ultimate sacrifice, seemed to be worth less. And this was what was unfair. He was not speaking as a politician of the Opposition. He was speaking as a leader of men, of heroes, who laid down their lives every day so that we could preserve our freedom, our way of life, our identity.

This was the newspapers doing what they are good at – putting a political spin on news to make it sell better. This seemed to work as most of the comments that I saw in response to the story were those of hate toward the man, and the political ideals he was seen to represent.
They did not see that this was a man who had lived, and still lives by the creed:
 Dulce et decorum est, pro patria mori – It is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country.

Only is it?