Blogging from iPhone

In my quest to drastically reduce the time I waste ogling at status updates and poorly taken photos at Facebook, I’ve decided to remove the app from my iPhone for good. But now I have to find something more useful during the hours I need to spend waiting. Like now, I’m waiting for my daughter during her tennis class, and I have to kill the time. I don’t always have my Kindle with me so I could only use my trusty iPhone.

Solution: WordPress app for iPhone! Now I can blog directly from my handheld device. :) Why didn’t I think of that before? It’s really quite handy. The only disadvantage perhaps is the small ‘keypad,’ which sort of makes me pine for iPhone’s big brother. πŸ˜‰ Anyway…all in good time.

Expect more posts from hereon!


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Just before graduating from the university, I volunteered to be part of a group tasked to talk to high school students about the joys (and pains) of taking up Physics as a course. Our aim was to “orient” their young minds towards considering Physics as a possible career choice.

I thought about how to prep my young audience. I knew it was going to be a daunting task, because let’s face it, Physics isn’t exactly everyone’s cup of tea. Especially in high school.

Anyway, I began my talk with the following question: “Sino sa inyo ang gustong yumaman?” Who among you wants to get rich?

Everybody raised their hands!

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About 11 years ago, just before moving from Yamagata (I assure you, it’s in the map…look it up), I was able to contact a few Tsukuba-based Filipino students and researchers who were members of the Filipino Association of Students in Tsukuba, more commonly known as FAST. Coming from a place where there were no other Filipino students, I was overwhelmed by the warm response from the people I have yet to meet. One of them warmly welcomed me to the community, and proudly told me that FAST was one of the most active Filipino organizations in Japan. Finally! After three long years of being stuck in the mountains where my only interaction was with books, Japanese students and lifeless machines (not necessarily in that order), I could finally be part of a Filipino community…in Japan! I could weep in joy.

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Years after being integrated into the so-called “shakai” or Japanese society, there is still one thing that baffles me to this day. It is the unwritten but generally accepted practice in the workplace to work past the specified number of working hours. The practice of zangyou, or overtime.

For me, extending beyond the working hours is NOT a reflection of how diligent you are, or how dedicated you are to your work. It is a sign of SLOPPINESS, because you are not efficiently making use of the full eight hours or so allotted for work. That should be ample time. That’s already 1/3 of your day allotted for work.

For some reason, people here seem to think that the longer they work on something, the better the results they will produce. It goes way back in school, I believe. I saw for myself how graduate students would sit at their desks the whole day, only to produce a one-paragraph abstract at the end of the day. It would have taken me an hour to work on it, so it was a real mystery to me why so much time was wasted on it.

For some people, time = effort, and so the longer you work on something, it means that more effort went into it. But if you were just staring blankly at your monitor for hours and not really doing anything, how could that be called work? Unfortunately,the quantity of ‘effort’ doesn’t always translate to the quality of work.

For some people, working to the point of exhaustion is the rule, not the exception. Work is not done until you’re literally dragging your feet away from the office, and finally arriving at home just to take an o-furo and then sleep. Well, I think it’s idiotic. You only have one body, and if you abuse it, someday it will get back at you. And as for those who have families, I think it is unfair to deprive your spouse and children of the quality time that they deserve. It is not surprising to see the breakdown of families here, because people do not know how to spend time efficiently at work, leaving little or no time for family.

In principle, I stick to the working hours and extend only when necessary. I am a full-time mother (and currently single parent) so I have to make use of my time in the most efficient way possible. I think it’s only fair, to put in exactly as much as what is demanded of my time at work, and to get a fair payment for that.

That’s a simple equation.

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A Fine Line

Someone I know recently deactivated her Facebook account for the simple reason that she got too depressed, because of hearing and knowing about what other people are doing with their lives. “Everybody else seems to be having a great time, busy with their own affairs…everybody else except me.” Does that sound familiar?

Call it a Facebook-induced depression. Compared to yourself, others may seem to be having the best time of their lives, may it be personal or work-related. The comparison becomes more acute when they post photos of places where they have recently traveled (where you haven’t been to), talk about scrumptious delights they’ve tasted on the other side of the continent (at a place you can only dream of), discuss excitedly parties they’ve been invited to (and unfortunately you weren’t), etc., etc.

Of course there will always be comparisons. It’s the way it’s always been. How different is that from bumping into one of your friends and hearing about his recent promotion at work? Or bumping into your girl friends and hear somebody discussing her future travel plans? The only difference is that now, we are being passively and speedily updated with the affairs of other people’s lives, and all those activities will automatically appear on our walls whether we like them or not. (Unless of course you’ve resorted to hiding them from your wall forever. Life is too short to be bugged by people with annoying online personas.)

The thing is, it’s quite hard for me as well to identify which ones are “sharing” and which ones are mere “flaunting.” There is a very fine line between the two. Perhaps there are indeed “genuine” posts whose main objective is to simply share. But no matter how innocent the objective of those posts may be, no matter how pure the intents of the poster could be, it will never be that way in the eyes of the person at the receiving end. We are all guilty of looking at other people through colored glasses, each tinted with our own prejudices and biases.

And then there are the so-called subtle posts. For instance, why should I change my status to reflect which airport I am currently in? What will that piece of information actually mean to somebody among my FB contacts? If they were my family, they didn’t need to be informed about my whereabouts; being my family they are already supposed to know. So it seems to me that the object of those status reports is to passively inform others how “hip” one is, say for being a jet-setter (side note: hip is when only few persons do it. If everybody else is into it, then it’s not hip; it’s ordinary!). Or perhaps to impress upon others about how hectic your schedule is, to gently remind your so-called ‘friends’ what a very important a person you are. Personally, I find it annoying that people would even bother to post status updates on their FB wall on how busy they are, to the point of noting down every single thing they had to accomplish in the coming days/weeks/months. If they’re so busy, then what the heck are they social networking for?

What we need to remind ourselves is that FB only provides a snippet of how people want others to see them. And even that is a very, very unbalanced projection of their real lives. Just take a look at the majority of photos uploaded everyday: travels, parties, happy family affairs, all projecting that warm and happy, fuzzy feeling. Does everybody feel that happy all the time?

We also need to remind ourselves that everything that gets posted online have been filtered. Only the good stuff goes. And besides, nobody really wants to read about the negative stuff anyway.

Fortunately, there is one good thing we can rely on when we become too exhausted from trying to decipher the fine line in FB: go OFFLINE. Believe it or not, the world will go on. Who knows, you may even find a better thing to do with your time.

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A few days back, a memory from my high school days came back to me, out of the blue. I wasn’t even thinking about anything in particular. It was the time when somebody brought a supposedly miraculous Sto. Nino to school, much to the delight of the Catholic teachers and students. I, being non-Catholic, immediately felt out of place amidst the palpable excitement that gripped almost everyone else in our class. It can perform miracles, they said. One of my teachers then promptly urged me to go forth and be healed, and never mind that I wasn’t sick or anything like that. He was referring specifically to the fact that I, being exceptionally nearsighted, wore eyeglasses, and supposedly even my nearsightedness could be cured by the miracle team that came to town.

I have nothing against Catholics, mind you, but you have to understand the context of the environment I grew up in. I was raised in an entirely different dimension of faith that didn’t involve worshipping stone images of anything, much less a purportedly miraculous one. And in fact it was a challenge to grow up having a different “religion” from everybody else’s. But I got along well with everyone, or at least that was how it seemed to me.

I immediately raised my objection to the idea. It wasn’t just that I didn’t believe that it had healing powers that could cure my myopia (I was already a budding skeptic way back then), but precisely because it would go against everything I was raised to believe in. Daddy would surely disinherit me, for sure.

But my teacher insisted: “What would you lose if you tried it? You have everything to gain.” Not exactly his same words; note that this happened more than two decades ago, so the memory is a bit rusty, but the message was essentially the same. Basically, he was telling me to just suspend my beliefs (or lack of it) for a brief second and just take a leap of faith. After all, if I did gain my normal eyesight back, then I’d rise out of the situation as the real winner! That would even make a believer out of me, who knew.

Well, I didn’t let myself be coaxed into it. I was too stubborn, or perhaps even scared. It would have been great to actually put it to test, now that I think about it. I just buried the incident within the deep recesses of my memory, and didn’t even think about it anymore.

Until now.

Should there be a moral lesson in this story? Well, for one, it’s that teachers don’t know everything. I’m quite appalled to realize that the principal of our school had even allowed something like that to happen in the first place. Was there anything remotely academic about it, that it had to take place within the hallowed grounds of our public school? Was the student body even consulted about it? If I were to go back in time, knowing what I know now, I would probably raise a ruckus.

Ah, the things that you learn in two decades. Or, the things you lose in two decades.

It’s so easy to fall into something, as long as there’s a promised gain. Faith is believing that there’s an eventual gain somewhere, sometime, somehow. An afterlife without sorrow or misery, pain or death, suffering or torment. A life full of blessings, because nothing happens without a reason, and everything is preordained. A life in a capsule entrusted to the care of a higher Being.

It’s all yours to gain, as long as you believe.

As for me, I have indeed remained myopic and I’m still wearing my eyeglasses. My eyesight has probably even worsened over the years. But one thing I know, though, is that where faith is concerned, I am now willing to shift my focus on what is immediately in front of me and try my best to see beyond.

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It’s been more than a month since the devastating earthquake struck the Tohoku and Kanto region. Here in Tsukuba, things are mostly back to normal. Well, there’s the recurring aftershocks, which serve to remind us that things just are not the same as before. Indeed, it’s as if that the days leading to March 11 seem to belong to another lifetime…another era where we can just go about our daily lives without a concern, go about our business without necessarily worrying about the power consumption; even shrug our shoulders nonchalantly whenever we feel the earth move beneath our feet. Earthquakes are so commonplace that they hardly make us take a break from what we’re doing when it happens. Sadly, after March 11, no matter how much we want to get back to our normal lives and resume our day-to-day routines, somehow, things just don’t feel the same anymore. Life, as we know it, has been altered forever, no matter how revolting that idea may be.

When the earthquake happened, the earth didn’t just shake the foundations of our buildings, it jolted us out of our complacency. It brought home the message that no matter how far or how high we think we have achieved as human beings, we are really just frail beings at the mercy of the great forces of nature. Really, who can boast? On TV and the internet I watched video clips of houses and cars being washed away like toys. Japan, for all its “hightech-ness” and economic prosperity, endured the unthinkable: a triple crisis of earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear power plant.

The loss of human life is just too horrifying to describe. It could have been much worse, were it not for Japan’s preparedness when it comes to dealing with earthquakes.

On top of it all, the nuclear plant crisis seems to be nowhere near resolution. They say it would probably take months before the reactors can be safely brought under control. Yes, there’s radiation being spewed into the environment, and the radiation level is a little above “normal” nowadays, but as they say it is still not high enough to be of concern. Currently, the monitoring of the radiation levels continues in various places inside and outside the perimeter of the nuclear plants. The only prudent thing to do now is to remain calm and vigilant of the current situation.

It surely doesn’t help when I hear of people expressing their fears and paranoia, which, no matter how hard I try to shrug off by focusing on objective and rational thinking, somehow manages to grate and vex my spirit. I wish they would just shut up. If Japan is becoming such a frightfully unlivable place because of the supposed “high levels of radiation” then what’s keeping them here, I wonder? Surely they are not being forced to stay here and risk reducing their life expectancy by exposure to radiation? You would think that after more than a month they would at least calm down and stop spreading their fears and panic to other people. You would think that they would at least stop reacting to each and every aftershock like it’s going to be the end of the world. Or worse, overreacting to speculations by so-called “experts”? That’s all there is to it, speculations! What would counting the number of aftershocks add to your quality of life? Would worrying about the next aftershock make an iota of difference to its inevitable occurrence?

Worried about an infinitesimal increase in the amount of radioactivity in tap water? Because of the infinitesimally small chance that it might cause cancer? It just doesn’t make sense when you consider that the real devastation happened elsewhere, “up” there, where actual lives and properties are lost, and those who managed to make it out alive are now facing a bleak future.

I say, keep it in the proper perspective!

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Oral Issues

Went to the dentist for another round of root canal treatment today. I couldn’t help it, but isn’t this the eighth visit already? Okay, I get it that there are four teeth to be treated, but after eight visits, and still unfinished?

I really don’t get it why the clinics here in Japan will give you increment treatments and have you coming back over and over again OVER an extended period of time. A tidbit here, a tidbit there. Expect to come two, three times, even for simple treatments.

Take my case, for example. I am hoping to get all four teeth restored, which unfortunately has been taking a painstakingly long time since it started in September (yeah, it’s been two darn months!). I stay at the dentist’s office for say, 30 or 45 minutes at a time, then end up scheduling another appointment for the following week. Most of the time, there isn’t any available slot the following week, so I could only book for a slot two weeks after. There was a time when the dentist was on holiday, so there was no choice but to wait for another two weeks.

I know rct’s can take a long time, nevertheless, the norm here in Japan is for treatments to be spaced out and carried in stages. At one time I went to the dentist for cleaning, and they only cleaned my lower teeth during that visit. I had to come back at another time to get the upper teeth done. Why the heck didn’t they just do everything done in one visit, and send me on my way? What’s with this staggering method? Sure, they probably get to treat more people per day compared to when they perform everything to the finish for each patient. But for the patient’s side, it is highly inefficient and inconvenient. Just think of all the time consumed commuting, plus the fact that you have to pay for each visit! A money drain, believe me.

I shudder to think of how much more extrenuous dental treatments (like braces) would entail. Is that a possible reason why I see so many crooked teeth around?

At any rate, I better make sure I take care of the rest of my teeth, if only to avoid getting on another maddening series of treatments.

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All in the Mind

A couple of days ago I learned a new (to me) Japanese proverb (kotowaza) which goes:


(anzuru yori umu ga yasushi)

According to Jim Breen’s dictionary, this proverb means:

The anxiety that comes from doing nothing is worse than any danger you might face.

Wow, that’s a mouthful. Interestingly, when I did a Google search on this I stumbled upon this Amazon link, where it appears that another simpler translation would be:

Things are easier than you think.

Right now, I’m at this point where I’ve no choice but to face head-on this so-called δΊŒι‡ε£γ€€(nijuu kabe, or double-barrier wall) in my career. The double-barrier referring to being a foreigner and a woman in the workplace, in a male-dominated field, and where there are very few role models around. Why would anyone care if I succeed or not?

On the other hand, being different somehow has its merits – one of these is that people pay more attention (perhaps more than necessary), which could force you to rise up to the occasion and perform your best. I for one know that I really perform well under pressure. But it could also backfire in a way, because it could lead to unnecessary pressure and ultimately, lead to failure. I hate failure as much as anyone else, and this adds to more anxiety.

You see, it’s not enough to be “as good as” the others. You just have to be the better than everyone else to justify your mere presence. And yet, I’m willing to bet, that being better does not even entail 100% acceptance. There will always be some form of resistance just because you’re different. This is the reality of the world we live in.

If it is true, that things are indeed easier than one thinks, then perhaps there is a way to overcome all these obstacles, real or imagined.

If i could find a way to surmount all these obstacles in my mind, then perhaps the rest will follow.

Time for a paradigm shift.

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On Facebook

I’m quite sure of one thing: being “addicted” to Facebook somehow managed to kill any desire to blog recently. Why blog when you can just post some of your thoughts directly to your contacts, your so-called “friends” online? Why even bother to post photos in your blog, where you can’t control who sees them? In Facebook, at least you have some illusion of control on who sees your shared content. As with any website or blog, valid readers and spammers alike all have full access to whatever content you post.

Well, who else isn’t on Facebook anyway? I heard on CNN today that if Facebook were a country, it would be the third largest in the world! But in a way, Facebook is becoming monotonous as of late. It’s also becoming really annoying, especially when your contact list is populated by people who are only intent on self-promotion, those who don’t have the discipline to keep away from Facebook while they are supposedly at work (shame on you, shame on you), and those who seem to think that their lifestyles/material things/looks are worth shouting to the world about, and damn you if you don’t pay proper attention! Well, I could go on and on. As in real life, there are people who are just plain annoying, and it’s no wonder that their online personas would be just as equally annoying.

Well, I’m keeping my connections open, so my Facebook account stays the way it is, for now. I really just want to keep in touch with dear friends and families, those whom I really care about. I just don’t want to spend that much time with it anymore, the way I have done so in the past. There are more important things to do. It’s ironic that people would say that they are busy, only to find them posting one thing after another in Facebook. Ha ha ha.

There’s at least one good thing that came out of this resolution, and that is a renewed desire to revive my blog. Let’s see if I could manage to post more regularly from now on. :)

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