Poetry Jam: Simply

Simply does as simply do,

though simply is often branded the fool.

Simply does as simply pleases,

Not being bogged down by all the details.

 

Simply does not mind or care,

What is over here or under there.

Simply only wants it easy,

Along with peasy, lemon-squeezy.

 

If you ever need to find,

A friend that’s simply one-of-a-kind,

Look for simply.

Because simply does as simply do,

Even if you don’t find it, it’ll come to you.

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Falling Is Good For You

You have to fall in order to get back up. Well, actually there is another way you could get back up, and that’s from lying down. But either way, getting up is a conscious decision that you make because you want to. It means that you still have mettle left. You could choose to stay down, but that would mean defeat. When you give up, you’re settling. In order to be truly successful, you have to fall and get back up.

You only learn when you fall. As my maths teacher said, “It’s good if you get it wrong, because then you’ll remember it.” You don’t quite learn things from getting things right the first time round. There’s no reason to. It’s only when you do something wrong, you feel something and want to change it. I recently took up the challenge of relearning how to rollerblade again. You don’t learn anything from clinging to the sidelines. You don’t learn anything from not letting go. You learn from falling. You learn how to better your technique and how not to fall. And that, my friends, is a lesson worth falling for.

Falling is only failure when you accept it as such. Another maths teacher told us at our leaving ceremony that, “All this too, will come to pass.” When you’re experiencing something in the present, you tend to lose perspective of the bigger picture. Forrest Gump said, “Life is like a box of chocolates.” I say, “Life is like a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle.” What you’re experiencing as you fall down is pain – like Family Guy’s Peter Griffin holding onto his knee and hissing like a snake – but it is only temporary. You’re failing to see the other 999 pieces of the puzzle – some you have already filled in, others till waiting to be filled in. It’s a lot like Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity: courting a pretty woman for an hour feels like a minute, and burning your finger on the stove for a second feels like an hour.

I am a heavy believe of destiny. Everything happens for a reason, though that reason may not seem so clear at the time. The scars you gain from falling are quite possibly painful reminders of the past, but they are also medals of wisdom. They are what make us who we are. Only in times of darkness, do we actually grow and mature. That is why age doesn’t always correlate very well with maturity, since it is our life experiences that shape us into who we are.

Why We Should Disconnect to Reconnect

Technology – the Internet, computers, apps, iPods, tablets and smartphones, have all made their way into our daily lives and have definitely helped us to enhance it. Nowadays, we can easily have a video call via Skype with friends and family overseas or kill some time in the waiting room by playing games, or listening to some music. In fact, technology is the very reason I’m allowed to share my thoughts with you and the rest of the world. It’s definitely a great thing.

Yet, I do believe that some of us are using technology in the wrong ways, and I’m not talking about hacking. I’m talking about using so much technology that everything else eventually becomes secondary. It’s overconsumption. We’re using it in excess. Well, maybe not you, but someone you know. But it’s really not good for you.

Too much of anything is bad for you. Essentially, it’s about striking a balance. Too much yin or too much yang throws everything off. We were never meant to be tethered or connected 24/7 to any computer or device. We’re not Google’s servers, after all.

There are days that I don’t touch the Internet at all, just because I feel that I don’t need to. I take the time to do other things that don’t require the Internet, like writing by hand or walking. When you’ve spent too much time online or watching TV, then you’re losing valuable time to laugh, smile, dance, exercise and be with the ones you love. Now I’m not saying that Internet memes aren’t funny, but being accustomed to ONLY Internet memes isn’t exactly noteworthy.

There’s also research to suggest that the reason you can’t fall asleep after watching TV or surfing the web is because of the strong LED backlight. Apparently, it’s equivalent to standing in the sun for one hour. No wonder, huh? There’s also the concept of dirty EMF (electromagnetic fields), which some researchers say are to blame for insulin-resistance and cancer.

Social Awareness. Technology was invented for the purpose of enhancing our lives, not to overtake them. You miss out on social cues when you diss someone online; you don’t see the negative impact it has on them. I honestly believe that in general, it’s made us lose empathy with one another and is slowly pushing us on to become sociopaths.

Comedian Louis CK does a wonderful take on this and I think that’s what a lot of people are missing out on. You might think it’s just a young people’s problem, but it’s not.

My brother is on his laptop computer for several hours a day and it is hard to make conversation with him. My father’s choice is the iPad. He will happily sit in his recliner for hours either watching videos or surfing the web. Needless to say, no witty icebreaker would be able to break that barrier there. Sometimes I’m sitting in the living room when they’re both there simultaneously typing or tapping away and I can tell you this: they’re not really there.

I have friends that are literally tethered to their smartphones like a wifi hotspot. I’m not kidding you. They’ll constantly be checking their phones for messages while I’m sitting across the table from them. Whoa whoa whoa. Just stop, guys. Just stop. If you need to take a call or make one, I’m not going to be angry. Likewise, if you need to make a quick text home or something. But please, most messages can wait.

There is no time like the present and you should be enjoying it with the friends and family you have. You should be experiencing, you know, experiences.

Live in the moment. This is mostly for when you’re taking a vacation, but you can do it in your daily life too. Although there are great travel apps like Google Maps and Yelp around, sometimes you can just wing it. As far as I’m concerned, there is no genuine knowledge like a local’s. I found that my most happiest and scariest times travelling was when I didn’t have an iPod or a laptop to fall back on. I also went travelling with a disposable camera once and I actually enjoyed my trip more because I wasn’t always focused on taking the perfect shot.

You actually give yourself the chance to become human again, and learn stories from interesting people along the way. You don’t get caught up in the online reviews or the wrong directions that Google Maps can give out. You don’t get that chance to zone out to music or games like you do in the airplane. You’re forced to breathe, take a look around and enjoy (or hate) the scenery around you. There’s also an added bonus of less worry about your valuables getting stolen, when you’re not carrying many (if any) tech gadgets with you.

Staying Alive. I’m not kidding about this one. Walking and texting (or walking and calling for that matter) were never things that went hand in hand. If you watch this video of a woman in South Korea who almost got run over at a four-way intersection while she was chatting away on her phone, you’ll know why. I have also heard the unfortunate news of a girl my mother’s friend knew who died on collision because she couldn’t hear the car coming with her earphones on too loud. I’ve definitely been guilty of this more than once, but I’m just willing to admit it. Luckily for me though, it’s not something that I do anymore. And don’t even think about using your phone while you’re driving.

Apart from that, there’s also the risk that you could get robbed, kidnapped or killed just because you weren’t fully aware of your surroundings. So you don’t HAVE to take that call straight away and you could just give your ears a rest while you’re crossing the street. On a more trivial danger, people that walk and text have a greater chance of bumping into other people or other objects. That’s probably a more embarrassing thought than a real threat, though.

I guess it just comes down to this: are you really using technology to enhance your life or is technology ruling yours? You may be surprised to find out that there are things that you’ve been neglecting.

Lessons My Math Teacher Taught Me

This is a special post dedicated to a teacher I was lucky enough to have in high school. Sometimes you’ll meet people who will go above and beyond their call of duty, and she was definitely one of them for me. It was really a stroke of luck that had me landed in her maths class, though it didn’t seem like it at the time. There were rumors that said she was really nice. I was hoping she was.

What I found was a different type of niceness. In the first two weeks, a couple of girls had already asked to switch to another class from hers. It was really quite a shame because if they had stayed longer, they would have gotten to know her true intentions. In retrospect, I only realized this much later and I grew to appreciate what she had taught us as a class and as person. For the record, she did teach us maths, but she also made us aware of greater social issues and practiced what she preached.

Here are just a few things that resonated with me through all these years:

Fun is culturally defined. This is one I will probably never forget. She mentioned once a story about a woman who shipped some soft toys to a third-world country. “They breed diseases! You’re going to make them sick!” she said. “The children there are perfectly happy playing with sticks and running around.” I thought this was an interesting point, even though the class laughed at the woman’s well-intentioned but bad act of generosity. Sometimes people don’t want or need what we think they want or need. A lot of it behind that kind of thinking is fuelled by commercial advertising; a culture of materialism, rather than actually responding to people’s needs.  

Tall poppies ought to stand tall. Now during my time at that high school, there was a push to bring underperforming students up to the average level. That came at a cost. Students who were doing extremely well weren’t really encouraged to do more than the expected level. My maths teacher decided to take that into her own hands and she pushed her younger students to sit the national exams, as well as mentoring us for the scholarship exams. She was a classic example of a tall poppy herself. In my final year with her, I learnt that she had gone to an all-boys school to study mathematics and science as the only female. She did that in order to study engineering and become a female engineer. At the time, there were very few and she was one of the first.

Giving is much better than receiving. Our teacher would whip us up a great end-of-year-lunch as a class. She did this every year we were there. She didn’t have to. In fact, a lot of teachers didn’t. She would spend her own time and money to make sure we had something fun to look forward to each year, without expecting anything back. I actually passed the scholarship exam in my last year, after failing the first time. I sent her an email thanking her for helping me get that result. You know what she said? She told me that the results were because of my hard work, refusing to take any credit for it. I think I almost cried when I read that.

Peace and corruption are two sides of the same coin. As you probably could already tell, she was a very anecdotal person. She actually bought a stack of postcards to class one day and asked us to sign them if we wanted to. They were actually petition cards to stop landmines. Remember, landmines were initially created for the purpose of destroying unwanted visitors. Another time, she was talking about peace corps in East Timor. She pointed out how they would go back to their tents with well-cooked meals, yet the people around them would get very little supplies. I guess they hadn’t learnt about that last lesson.

Seize the opportunity. Again, another story from the wise woman’s mouth. She knew a man who could now afford to be flying around on business trips, although he had been detained once. In prison, he actually learnt to speak other languages through the people he was around. As a laid-back teenager, I didn’t take that piece of advice too seriously. Nowadays, I’m much more aware of the time that I can never get back. We also reap what we sow. Putting the two together, I can definitely see now that I’m working towards a greater me.

I guess all I really wanted to say was: thanks a lot, Mrs McHardy.

Smashing the Gaming Backlog

Ah. The dreaded backlog. Maybe you’re an impulse buyer, or you really just can’t find the time to game all that much anymore in between work and/or school. It’s a first-world problem. That being said, I’m one that likes to finish what I start, and I decided to smash my way through my backlog. Along the way, I figured out how to manage my gaming backlog better, instead of just admiring the cover art.

Record. Making a list of the video games on your backlog gives you an idea of where you really stand. You might not know just how many games you own and want to clear, as Mike Niemietz found out. Whether you write it down on paper or use a site like backloggery.com, keeping things organized means you can prioritize games and keep on track. You’ll also feel great every time you get to cross a game off the list or have it marked as ‘completed’ or ‘beat’.

Know your limits. Even though I sometimes agree with playing more than one game at a time, don’t bite off more than you can chew. Variety is very important here when you’re smashing through your backlog, but too much can stifle your progress. I was playing through two PS2 games: Tokobots: Legend of the Karakuri and Kingdom Hearts at one point. Although the former is a platformer and the latter, an RPG, I found that I was confusing the control systems with each other, since I’d be pressing the wrong buttons and expecting certain commands. What I probably should have done was game on different consoles or completed one after the other. Likewise, in aforementioned link, you probably don’t want to go playing RPGs back-to-back. I’d probably pull a Limit Break on somebody if I did.

Define what value means to you. This sounds like a Business 101 class, but really, what are you playing for? You should play to get value out of your games. For you, this may mean doing all the things you need to do to see the ending cutscene or credits roll. For others, it may mean getting enough in-game time in to get that dollar-per-hour value. Another man’s ‘beat’ may not be another man’s ‘complete’. Know what you want.

Be unemployed. Been there, done that. This is probably self-explanatory, but you tend to have a lot of time on your hands. Games are a source of cheap entertainment. And just as a side note, please don’t feel guilty about gaming if you’re in this situation. Frank Lloyd Wrong wrote a very good article about why you shouldn’t feel guilty about not having a job AND playing video games. This actually gives you a good opportunity to slim down your backlog and provides you with some psychological stress relief at the same time.

Get rid of your games. You might want to downsize your backlog by selling, trading or gifting your games. If you’re a collector, then this tip doesn’t apply to you. But then again, if you’re a collector, this whole article doesn’t apply to you. This kind of ties in with the getting gaming value thing; if a game isn’t working for you, then you’re obviously getting very little to no value at all from it. For the collectors out there, they’ll just enjoy knowing they own the game and have it there if they ever choose to play it.

Backlog? Schmacklog! Remember, games were invented with the main purpose of being a form of ENTERTAINMENT. If you’re fretting about when exactly you’ll finish your backlog, then here’s what I’ll say to you: STOP. Stop gaming. Take a break. It’s counterintuitive to completing your backlog, but if games are no longer entertaining to you, then you’ve just defeated the purpose of gaming. You’re supposed to be beating the boss having fun. Remember that? FUN? The truth is that you’ll never play every single video game in the world and life is just too short for bad games. Play the games you want to play and game on.

As of this article being published, I completed all the games on my list. How about the rest of you gamers?

Short Story: Escape From The Dark Forest

“Grrr…ruff.ruff!” was the sound that emerged from the small furball’s mouth.

“Huh? What are you barking at, boy?” asked the boy as he stroked the dog’s head. He was barefoot, wearing a light blue cotton shirt and cream grey shorts.

What was supposed to be a happy day in the woods had now suddenly changed.

“Grr…ruff…ruff…ruff!” the dog barked again, as he looked up at the crimson-purple sky. The boy did as his dog did and, gazed into the mulberry sky. The trees surrounded them.

The dog began to whine pitifully. The young boy comforted his fluffy little companion, who was now starting to whine uncontrollably.

As the boy stared at the still, mysterious sky, he felt as if two eyes watched back with an icy stare.

“We’ve got to get out of here and get back home,” the boy said apprehensively, as he took his gaze away from the sky and picked up his pet.

“It’ll be ok, it’ll be ok,” the boy kept telling himself, as he walked onwards, uncertain of where to go.

His feet were left bare and uncovered, and cuts and bruises slowly appeared as he carried his puppy in his small bare arms, now shivering. The golden hairball in his arms was starting to twitch quickly too as a biting chill came upon them. The boy tilted his head down, watching as his young friend struggled to fall asleep. The boy then felt something warm stroll down one of his cheeks. The same feeling appeared on the other. They were teardrops. Even his usually rosy pink cheeks had now turned a palish-white color.

“I…i-it’s…g…g-going…t…to….b-be alright,” sobbed the young boy, using his arm to wipe away his tears. The puppy, looking at his owner, started to plant soft, gentle licks on his right hand; as if he understood his thoughts. Strangely enough, this motivated the boy to keep on going. Now he was sure he wasn’t going to surrender so easily, for the sake of his friend and his own.

“No, I’m not giving up,” he said. He plucked all his courage and headed on. The dog tried to sleep again but constantly twitched as frosty winds swept across them.

“Caw! Caw!” came a voice. “Caw! Caw!” it came again. Three crows appeared, flying right above them. The boy and his puppy both looked up, and as they did, his puppy jumped out of his arms.

Slash! A crow came diving down and swiped the boy on one his left shoulder, leaving behind a deep gash.

“Yaaaarrrgggghhhhh!” yelled the boy in agony. The other two crows followed the first and came sprawling down, trying to do more damage. But they soon found that they couldn’t. They were too afraid of the courageous little dog that was had started barking. The crows then flew away in a fearful retreat.

“Thanks boy,” he said, as he patted his dog gratefully, with one arm on his injured shoulder. It was still beating with excruciating pain.

His eyes started to quiver slightly with excess water; his pain and shock tears. Stumbling, he struggled to lift his dog up. Yet his fluffy companion knew his master was hurt. Looking back at him reassuringly with his sad puppy eyes, it was as if he were trying to say, “It’s alright, you’re hurt – you don’t have to carry me. You’ve looked after me, so I think it’s time that I started looking after you.”

“Argh. I’m sorry I can’t carry you,” he said, “Thanks buddy.” The boy bent down, rubbing his loyal companion around his ears. The two friends then continued to make their way home, stepping further into the path of trees.

They kept walking and walking, with a trail of uncertainty. With hope in their hearts, they believed that they would soon find their way home. It was all they wanted; to go home.

The boy then took his grasp off his grazed shoulder. His hand reached for his mud-brown head. It was aching.

“Ow…” the boy said, “Headache.”

“Grr…ruff!” barked the dog; as if he was trying to tell his young master that they must keep on.

“Yeah…you’re right.” the boy replied.

He then put his arm on his injured shoulder again, and kept on.

All of a sudden, a bright fluorescent light shone from behind the trees’ foliage. Were they nearly out of the forest? Or was it just an illusion? Illusion or not, the blinding light stung their eyes.

“Yaaahhhhh!” screamed the boy as he pulled his arm over his eyes to block out the bright glare.

The light was getting bigger and bigger as they walked further up towards it – they both wanted to know what it was.

“Wa – What is it?” the young boy said.

Suddenly, the light emitted several sparks and exploded. Now there was nothing left – no light.

But now there was a small butterfly-like creature, fluttering. It was almost like a tiny flying human. It opened its mouth to say something:

“Are you lost?”

“Sort of…yes! Yes we are!” replied the boy, as he cautiously put down his arm that had been fighting off the great light.

“Oh…” said the creature in a strange tone of voice.

“W-what exactly are you? Some sort of fairy?” asked the boy curiously.

“Well, I’m a pixie-fairy – a Flanderox, my name’s Silver. What’s yours?”

“My name is –” the boy started, but became cut off by a terribly high-pitched noise.

His eyes opened abruptly.

“Huh? What?! Where are we?!” the boy said, surprised.

He looked around him. He was lying flat on his back in a beautiful meadow. It was so serene, filled with luscious grass and the most wonderful daisies.

He was also surprised to find that his furry friend was lying comfortably on his stomach.

“Wh-What?!” I thought we were in the forest?!” he said in a shocked voice. But, really, he had nothing to complain about; he and his friend wanted to get home after all.

His dog had appeared to be sleeping before as he had now opened his eyes and stretched.

The boy got up weakly, and checked his shoulder. There was still a deep gash but now it had become encrusted in dried blood. He then looked at his hands, one of which was still blood-stained. He examined his feet. They were still masked with cuts and purple bruises.

Puzzled, the boy and his dog walked back into their cottage.

“Where have you been?” said a worried old man, with snowy white hair.

They both sat down at a small table and soon the grandson told his grandfather about everything that had happened.

“I believe you,” said his grandfather. He then took out a stone figure.

“Zarclaw, in the legends of our people, Silver was the small pixie-fairy that guided future rulers through that Dark Forest,” he said.

“Oh…. so um – am I g-going t-to b-become a-“

“Yesss….” he replied.

“Remember that pixie-fairy necklace I gave you?” The one you’re wearing right now?”

“Yup… but what has that got to do with this?”

“It’s Silver.”