Sunday, January 30, 2011

Responding to change

It has been a month since I drafted and put my new year’s resolution into action.

There were 13 items in the December 2010 list.

(F) 3 failed.
(H) 4 still hopeful. There are signs of failure but it is not too late to recover.
(L) 4 lost. The items that lost validity, i.e. too impractical to follow with little value.
(S) 2 successful.
(T) Total number of items = 13

My overall success rate is S/13 = 2/13 = 15%
Validity of my original plan = (T-L)/T = 70%

So. Where do we go from here.

Did I fail? Should I throw the towel? Does this mean new year resolution is a fad?

No, not really..

It seems ironic but I realised that the only way to make a new year resolution work is to accept failure. A new year resolution should not be seen as a final decree, a heavy stone with ten commandments of personal improvement engraved on it but rather a starting point for an iteratively improved plan and action strategy.

So at the end of January 2011 I now have an updated resolution. Critical items with high value and hopeful ones are still in the list. The low value impractical ones are dropped. And there are new items. Coincidentally I still have 13 items but it is a new set.

The critical difference in my strategy is I am now responding to change and learning from failure.

It’s OK to make mistakes. For instance curfews or cold turkey effects such as “no Facebook for 2 months” proved to be not working and the value of them are equally questionable.

I will revise the resolution once a month (at the end of each month) and the whole process will continue until the end of year. By the end of year I anticipate my success rate improved higher than 15% and realistically lower than 100%.


I finished reading ‘Replay’ by Ken Grimwood. The novel won the 1988 World Fantasy Award.

“Replay is the account of 43-year-old radio journalist Jeff Winston, who dies of a heart attack in 1988 and awakens back in 1963 in his 18-year-old body as a student at Atlanta's Emory University. He then begins to relive his life with intact memories of the next 25 years, until, despite his best efforts at cardiac health, he dies of a heart attack, again, in 1988. He immediately returns to 1963, but several hours later than the last "replay". This happens repeatedly with different events in each cycle, each time beginning from increasingly later dates (first days, then weeks, then years, then ultimately decades). Jeff soon realizes that he cannot prevent his death in 1988, but he can change the events that occur before it, both for him, and for others..” -Wikipeadia.

I don’t want to touch too much on the mystical side (fantasy is not my favourite genre). But briefly the plot has loopholes. Despite temptations of filthy rich lifestyle as our protagonist had been rewarded by the knowledge of future he always seemed to remain as "Mr Nice Guy"and I found this terribly unconvincing. I don’t necessarily buy the idea that a person’s fundamental morals remain unchangeable or incorruptible forever due to morally sound upbringing even under a hypothetical framework the book presents.

What makes life worth living and interesting is the unknown, the fact that we have no memory of the future. This is the underlying message I took with me from Replay.

Good book. Fluent and captivating. At times a bit tedious and predictable but overall has been a good read. Four out of five stars.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Magnifier

The thrill of receiving gifts from someone.

I remember vividly. I was ten years old or so. On my birthday my elder brother bought me a pocket magnifier that could be folded inside a cool looking protective plastic cover.

I was ecstatic. My friends in our neighborhood followed me everywhere like firebugs. We used the magnifier in almost every conceivable way. To use it effectively I started to collect postal stamps. We used to focus July Sun into a narrow beam and burned newspapers, cats, car tires and then eventually our skin for curiosity. We used the magnifier to closely inspect the naked woman in stripping pens.

Those were the days. Black and White TV was just starting and quite awful to watch. There was no personal computers, no mobile phones, no Internet, no Facebook.

Despite these shortfalls we never seemed to lack excitement. We had plenty of Spaghetti Westerns, James Bond movies, WW2 movies in which German soldiers spoke in heavy Teutonic accent. We used to stroll to local ice cream shop, played street games mostly soccer or basketball for twelve hours in virtually empty streets. We told each other ghost stories at night time followed by bets to sneak into a hospital morgue in our street.

Nowadays sadly no one seems to appreciate the value of a simple gift like a pocket magnifier. Not only teens but grown ups as well. We locked ourselves into virtual worlds and we seemed to find other self gratifying means.

Presents are thrown on the sofa or left on the table unwrapped. We hardly express our gratitude. Well honestly no one seems surprised or feel grateful anymore. No one even thanks to each other anymore, even if they did it is not genuine.

We lost the human touch.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Hate Speech

Until recently the following provocative banner was kept on the web site of Sarah Palin, the infamous pro-gun, bigoted extreme right wing US politician.

click to enlarge

"Don't retreat, instead RELOAD!" was Palin's battle-cry, asking voters to do away with Democrat congress persons.(1)

"Today the United States Democrat Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords survived a gunshot to the head after a gunman opened fire at an event she was hosting outside a Tucson, Ariz., grocery store. As of this moment, 6 out of the 18 (or 19) wounded have died, including a 9-year-old girl and a federal judge."(2)

"The problem of hate speech seems to set two fundamental commitments of liberal democracies against each other. While it seems obvious that we should condemn speech that conveys or worse incites hatred on the basis of race, religion, gender or some other shared characteristic, our commitment to freedom of expression seems to ask us to put up with it.

In the United States the courts are applying a guarantee found in a constitutional bill of rights: the American guarantee of 'freedom of speech' found in the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

Very little escapes the protection of the First Amendment altogether. There are only a few categories that First Amendment law recognises to be 'unprotected' or of very low value. The 'unprotected' categories have traditionally encompassed 'true threats', defamation (though that has since been qualified') and abusive language (or 'fighting words').

The First Amendment exception for 'fighting words' turns on the likelihood of violent response and the exception for 'threats' applies only to 'true threats' and not to 'political hyperbole'.

Hate speech laws have existed in various forms in Australia for well over a decade. Unlike other countries, such as the United States and Canada, they have not faced constitutional hurdles to their existence. The general acceptance of hate speech laws in Australia opens intellectual space for the exploration of a range of interesting questions regarding the laws' operation, the underlying values they pursue and the context within which hate speech is occurring."(3)

In my view hate speech should not be protected if it inflicted violent behaviour, and such restrictions should cover entire spectrum of political and civil organisations such as religious organisations, faith schools, associations, societies, and political parties. Hate speakers should be fully held accountable before Law which should decree sufficient penalties for the damage speakers inflicted upon the society.

(1) Sarah Palin prays for peace and justice; for congresswoman she ordered the assassination of
(2) The shooting of a Congresswoman
(3) Hate Speech and Freedom of Speech in Australia
(4) FDL firedoglake