Back Again

It’s not that I have become busier than usual. After blogging for what seemed like a long time, after going through several blogging upheavals and various stages of discovery in my blogging, I just plain stopped. Why exactly?

Blogging didn’t feel right anymore. Writing my thoughts online for the entire online community to read and perhaps comment on didn’t feel as exciting as it used to. Bloghopping actually became a chore and felt like a waste of time. I just couldn’t help but ask myself – why the heck am I reading these blogs for, anyway? To derive some creative inspiration? To feel more connected to the blogging community? Or to leave those comments so that they in turn will know that I’m still alive, I still maintain a blog? In fact, those who brilliantly came up with one cheap gimmick after another to promote their blog – and themselves – just proved too much for me to handle. I just had to get away. I just had to leave it all behind…or burst. It just didn’t matter anymore. Life it too short to spend on such trifle matters.

I went through the same circus myself. I went through the same process of self-promotion. I put myself through those cheap gimmicks myself. It was a shock to realize that. I realized that it just wasn’t the way I had envisioned my blog to be. I had tried to put an honest voice in every entry I made, but somehow it managed to come out with ME (or MY family) being the superstar. It just didn’t feel right anymore. After all, I am just me. I’m not a superstar. I’m not famous. Just a regular person.

When that realization finally dawned on me, I kind of felt embarrassed at the way I wrote my blogs. I wrote them like I am some sort of SOMEBODY the world needs to listen to. Gee, what a ton of crap.

After spending almost a year of hiatus from blogging, I realized that hey, I actually didn’t set out my blog to be like that in the very beginning. In the beginning the purpose was simple: to write. I wrote about the things I wanted, not the things other people wanted to read. I discussed things that I cared about, not the ones other people might be interested in. But then the temptation for the whole blogging-celebrity-demigod-status somehow proved too much to resist.

It sounds very selfish, but yeah, that’s the way I started my blog, and that’s the way I want it to be. No embellishments, no cheap tricks.

Just the honest truth.

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Cambridge Science Festival – Part Two

The Cavendish Laboratory is located in the West Cambridge Site – the newer (modern!) buildings are located in this area. It is quite a distance from the City Centre, so we drove there on our car and parked at a road nearby. It wasn’t as crowded as in the previous venue, there were plenty of spaces to move around, and had arguably more interesting setups and experiments.

Here are snapshots on our second time at the Cambridge Science Festival:

March 21, 2009

West Cambridge Site

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Cambridge Science Festival – Part One

We are indeed privileged to be in Cambridge this year, just in time for its 800th Anniversary year. There are various events organized by the University throughout the whole year to mark the occasion. Additionally, there is also an annual event called the Cambridge Science Festival, which is held in March each year. The Science Festival held this month had over more than 160 events for all ages over two weeks, with the theme "Centuries of Science."

image Naturally, I jumped at the opportunity to expose my daughter to such events – hoping that she will get the impression that not only is science interesting stuff, but that it is also fun and engaging (and definitely not just for the geeks and nerds). I think it’s just wonderful that there are events like these where children and adults alike would get an exposure to science. There are several such events in Tsukuba, but we have yet to attend one (too lazy; Japanese language was too daunting; Aya was too young, yada yada yada). So one could aptly say that this was our first experience together. Not just us, actually, because Lola was also here to enjoy the festivities. Just imagine, my Mom, a senior citizen and who is not a science-person herself, having fun doing experiments with us! Kudos to the organizers and facilitators of the event — superbly done!

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What’s That Word Again?

I was cooking dinner one evening, and my sweet daughter Aya was helping me in the kitchen. Out of the blue, she asked me, "Nanay, what does bitch mean?"

I was taken aback, and immediately I worried about where exactly she had heard that word. Did she hear one of her classmates or friends say it (bad, baaadd children!)? Did she hear it on TV? The Internet? Or worse, did she ever hear me say it out loud? Well, at least my conscience is clear that I have never said that word in front of her. If you’re a responsible adult, it’s only natural and expected that you filter the vocabulary you use in front of children, particularly your own. Still, despite our best efforts, it is next to impossible to shield our children from the so-called evils of the real world. It’s all part of growing up in an imperfect society. Sooner or later children will find out that both nice and nasty things are out there in various proportions.

Anyway, in between chopping vegetables and putting meat to sizzle on the wok, I tried to explain to her the meaning of the b word. I said, "Well, it has two meanings. The first one is that it refers to a female dog. The other is a nasty one, and that’s what some people call nasty people who are mean and not nice. You shouldn’t use that word because it’s a bad word."

Aya looked thoughtful, the way she always did whenever I explain a word or idea to her. Then as if she suddenly remembered something, she immediately left the kitchen.

When she came back, she showed me the Illustrated Classics for Girls book I recently bought for her, the one she has been reading by herself recently. Gingerly, she opened a page and pointed at a passage on Chapter 3 of The Wizard of Oz:

But the scarecrow had an idea. "If the tinman chops down this tree, we could use it to cross the ditch."

Oh…my…gosh! It was ditch, not bitch, you hopeless schmuck. Trying to hide my embarrassment, I quickly explained to her the meaning of the word ditch.

Lessons learned:

1. Children ask simple questions, but adults make a big deal out of them.

2. Adults just need to listen carefully to what children say (if only to avoid blunders like this one).

:)

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Balance vs. Mediocrity

I’ve been thinking a lot on how I can possibly apply some of the ideas I’ve learned at the women’s forum I attended late last month. I chose two workshops to attend in that forum, one of them was on assertiveness, and the other one was on work-life balance. One of the things I learned in the workshop was that successful women who seemed to "have it all," in real life, actually have to make compromises in their lives. The "have-it-all" idea is just…an illusion.

I don’t know how I may seem to appear to other women, but I don’t think of myself as one of those successful women who seem to have it all. I’ve made compromises along the way myself. And if I were to make a chart of my life now, it would probably look like this:

image

That is roughly based on the number of hours I allot to my daily concerns on weekdays. Weekends are of course devoted mostly to family/home affairs, because I opt not to work on weekends.

If I were to make my "ideal" chart, it would probably look like this:

image

Haha, good luck with that one. I did say "ideal"; I didn’t say it was practical (right now). Still, it’s nice to think of ways on how to achieve that kind of balance. And hey, who knows? Priorities do change as you get older.

A huge chunk of my time is concentrated on work. I feel kind of guilty because my work gets the best of me, and the rest goes to my family and other stuff. I do manage to snip off a few hours per month for my so-called "Me-Time." I usually devote it to blogging, photography, and what-have-you. And I just wish I had more time to devote to things I really enjoy doing – things that do not have the word "work" tagged on them.

And yet, in spite of the fact that I devote so many hours to my work, I still feel that my efforts are not enough. How much more severe would the consequences be if I were to redistribute my hours so as to achieve a more "balanced" life? As it is, there will always be colleagues who would perform better in terms of scientific output and impact. There will always be those who can be at the laboratory virtually 24/7, and whose brain cells never stop working on their scientific problems even when they get home. There will always be colleagues who would have the luxury of time, those who don’t have to take occasional breaks from work in order to take care of their sick children. While effort doesn’t always translate to productivity, it can lead to a significant difference over time.

It makes me wonder about this. Choosing to have a family life is a purely individual choice, but does it necessarily mean that those who do will inevitably have their career trajectories severely affected? Are they doomed to mediocre careers because they just can’t devote themselves wholly to their disciplines anymore? Like it or not, when you become a parent, your priorities shift drastically. It’s just the way it is.

On the other hand, does having a career condemn you to become a less effective and caring parent to your child? Are you doomed to have your child say to you one day, "You just weren’t there for me"?  Ouch.

Life becomes akin to walking on a tightrope, where a slight perturbation can cause you to dangerously keel over to the other side. Now that’s something you don’t learn in school.

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Posted in On The Serious Side | 1 Comment

Ingglisera

"Why did the banana go to the doctor?" my six-year-old daughter asked me one day. Startled, I replied, "Well, why don’t you tell me?"

Grinning from ear to ear, she excitedly said, "Because he was not peeling well!" This was followed by loud girly giggles. Wow, I thought to myself. Did she just tell me a joke in English? I mean, she actually understood what the joke was all about: a word play on "peeling" and "feeling." I was so amazed. Just months ago I couldn’t imagine her telling me a joke like that.

She had another joke for me: "Why is 6 afraid of 7?" The answer is: "Because 789." A word play on homonyms!

And here’s another: "Why is Cinderella so bad at football?" "Because her coach was a pumpkin!" Oh, I see! I thought it had something to do with the dainty glass slippers not being suitable for football, bwahahaha.

She picks these things up from school, friends, TV, and the internet. As any normal child at her age would, I guess. But I could also observe that she really likes English as a language – in fact, nowadays she never talks to me in Tagalog or Japanese anymore. Even when I speak to her in Tagalog, she responds in English. And she loves to use "big" words in her sentences, too. Words like "wonderful," "recognize," and "realize," among many more. Maybe it’s no big deal for children whose native tongue is English. But considering the fact that we never really used English at home prior to coming here, and that she practically grew up in a Japanese environment, her astounding progress in English is a real delight to me as a parent.

Her reading skill is also growing in leaps and bounds. I encourage her to read me stories every night. It’s a great way to learn new words and increase one’s vocabulary. I remember that as a child I didn’t just read books, I devoured them. I’m happy to see that my daughter is also developing this affection for books. One of her most favorite hangouts in Cambridge is Borders, believe it or not. 😉

There was also a time when she recited out to me:

I hear and I forget,

I see and I remember,

I do and I understand.

I did a double take and blurted, "What did you say?!!" Where did that come from? Well, I’m sure she learned it in school, but dear me, it sounded so profound, so Confucius-like. It reminded me of the times when I learned how to operate a machine for the first time. Understanding only comes when you do it yourself. :)

Same way with language, I suppose. Use it to learn it. Guess I’ll have to be put up with Ms. Ingglisera’s* jokey jokes for a while. 😛

*Ingglisera = refers to a person (female; Ingglisero is male) who likes to speak in English even if it’s not one’s own native language. Sometimes used in a derogatory manner (but I’m not really sure why!).

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Snowed in

And just when we thought that it would never happen…

fen causeway in snow 2
I love the way the snow reflected the blue color from the darkening skies.

snowman 
Aya’s wish finally comes true. We made snowmen at our backyard!

snow3
On my way to the university. The whole scenery was simply breathtaking. :)

See more related photos at my Flickr album. 😉

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Posted in Life in Cambridge, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Rethinking Darwin

This evening I was finally able to attend one of the Darwin lectures sponsored by the University of Cambridge, in celebration of the bicentennial anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth. The lecture was delivered by Prof. Jim Secord, Professor of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge, and Director of the Darwin Correspondence Project.

Charles Darwin in 1881
Image source: www.flickr.com/photos/cpurrin1/2262636867/

I got to Lady Mitchell Hall (LHM) – the venue- at about ten past five, but was promptly told at the door that the hall was full – and this was a good 20 minutes before the lecture’s schedule! Instead, I was told to go to the "Little Hall," which was directly opposite LHM. Even Little Hall was almost full, but I managed to squeeze-in in one of the pews. It was my first time to attend such an event – and was quite surprised at how many attendees there were. There was a palpable sense of excitement in the air. However, instead of a stage, in front of the room was a large projection screen. Latecomers had no choice but to content themselves with a digital broadcast of the actual event unfolding at the other hall.

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Milky Teethy

Last month, the thing we had dreaded the most finally happened: Aya had started teething again. She was right on schedule, because children start losing their teeth around the age of six. Problem is, the milk tooth where the permanent tooth was supposed to move into was a stubborn one. It wobbled a bit, but it didn’t seem ready to give up its place yet.

aya I didn’t know what to do, honestly. I have very vivid memories of my Daddy wrapping a thread around my tooth and pulling it with all his might. I wailed with all my might in return – although it didn’t hurt that much, the thought of having my tooth pulled in brute force surely wasn’t a happy one.

I consulted Baggy. He only had one advice: go see a dentist.

I wasn’t so sure I needed a dentist to do the job. After all, as far as I remember, none of us kids (in my family) went to a dentist just to have our milk teeth pulled out. And actually, neither did Baggy. Still, he insisted that it was the right thing to do.

Anyway, I consulted my cousin, who is a medical doctor. Her advice was the same: go see a dentist.

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Random Googly Thoughts

In the 2008 action movie, "Wanted," the underdog Wesley Gibson (played to perfection by up-and-coming actor James McAvoy…drool!) types his name in the Google search box — and comes up with zero hits. To him, this signifies a sad truth about his existence in this world: he’s nothing. A nobody. An insignificant being living a meaningless life of drudgery. Zilch.

image It’s as if Google has become the ultimate scale that weighs how significant someone is, not just in the virtual world of the internet, but in the real world as well. After all, isn’t the internet a microcosm of the real world we live in? It used to be that someone is considered significant when mentioned in a local newspaper or any published material. Well, the internet changed all that.

The word "google" has itself been transformed into a verb, as in: "Just google it, and you’ll find out," or "Google the information you want." These days, if you’re not on the internet in some form (anonymous or otherwise), it seems as if you don’t exist.

Call it the process of googlification. How googlificant (google + significant) you are is directly indicated by the number of hits you get from googling your own name. 😀

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Posted in Random Thoughts | 4 Comments