Anyone know what happened to Belligerent? They used to have a website, but they're gone! That's where I got my hybrid system snowboard bindings... grr... I lost a screw on the binding so I was going to see if I could order some more, but it looks like I might have to go to home depot to see if I can find a match... *SIGH* Oh, well... I need to buy some screws for my turntable anyway... Oh, yeah I need to get myself a pair of pliers, too... Ok, Home depot, it is!

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Went and sat in on the first installment of the Feynman (pronounced Fine-men) Lecture at CMU today. Since he has already passed away, the lecture was basically an hour of watching one of the video taped recordings of his lectures. I really dug his style of teaching. Not a moment of it really came across as being a real physics lecture if you know what I mean. Of course a part of that is probably because I am who I am now with quite a bit of interest in various aspects of science, but I think many would agree that the way in which he teaches is certainly not your typical boring powerpoint-driven lectures you see day in and day out ( fortunately, they didn't have powerpoint back then... ^^; ). He seemed to bring in a lot of other related yet advanced ideas into the lecture without making them sound very advanced. I'm guessing that the reason why he brought them in was because he believed they were important in giving the students the big picture of how ideas were introduced and how they were discovered. The host talked about how Dr. Feynman was one of the most "truth-oriented" professors, and I guess that's along the lines of the impressions I've gotten from this particular lecture as well. All in all I got to revisit a lot of ideas I was introduced way back when in a new perspective, and rekindled my fascination of the world of nature and physics, so that was good! I'm def. going back there next week for the second installment. :)

Speaking of revisiting stuff... I just found out that a movie called Casshern is due out in Japan soon. When I heard the name I couldn't help but ask myself if they meant "Kyashan" which is an awesome animation series I saw back in elementary school. The hero was this dude in white spandex ( all good heroes need spandex ) with a transforming robot dog and a robot swan that had his mom's soul. Much to my delight I was right! I dunno why they opted to spell it in such horrendous way, but I guess that's just how Japanese people like their English. ^^; The aesthetics of the movie is highly matrix meets underworld meets bladerunner, but it doesn't quite have the finesse of a movie with a hollywood budget and a matching hollywood CG studio. Obviously 70s anime/manga aesthetics had a huge influence on Americn cyber-punk style movies, but Japan still needs to do some work on making movies that are as good as their animations. At least it seems to surpass all other Japanese sci-fi attempts ( how many were there anyway? ) I've seen, so it may be worth looking forward to. One thing that kinda bugs me is that the manga was never this dark, but I guess if you think about the whole robot taking over humans theme, the aesthetic goes along pretty well... and dark is in these days... All cape-clad CMU goth heads rejoice! :P Oh, on a random note... Utada Hikaru does music for the movie and she is married to the director of this movie... Utda Hikaru is married???? Isn't she like 19?

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Got my new license plate! Ha Ha! ^____^ Soon it's back to spring time and when I get my tires back on it's going to be time for some good driving. I've signed up to participate in the Mazda Rev It Up event once again. This time we'll be driving the 3, and there's going to be the 8 on the testdrive track!! I'm also looking into getting Bora's 15,000 mile celebration present in anticipation of possibly getting myself involved with autocrossing in the SCCA... What would that present be? Well, I'm thinking some sort of a suspension mod is the most suitable present for it at the moment. What do you think? :)

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There are many so-called annual "special" days in a given calendar year that are celebrated, and some of them are indeed worthy of the title. However, others really don't deserve the "special" designation. Yes, this entry is going to sound as cliche as it can get when it comes to expressing my opinion on why Valentine Day is really not one of those "special" days. I still wanted to go on record and try to articulate what my reasoning behind it was. Who knows... I might find a hole in my reasoning... or you might and point it out for me. Humor me and read on, please. ;)

So lemme start by giving you a few yearly events that I do consider special: marriage anniversary, Birthday, and New Year's (be it Chinese or not... just choose one) day to a slightly lesser degree. Now let's see what all those days have in common. They mark a day which indeed only happens once a year, and the very fact that they can happen only once a year already makes them pretty darn special to me. Now let's list some not-so-special days: Father's day, Mother's day (or parent's day), Children's day, and, yes, Valentine's Day. Of course I also need a third category which is "it depends"... These are religious or national hoildays such as Christmas Day, Independence Day, Thanks Giving day, etc... they can either have a great meaning to you or it just falls into the "not-so-special" day category depending on your cultural and/or religious orientation.

The reason why days like Valentine's Day fall into the not-so-special day cateogory is because the objective of those days can be achieved basically on any day. For example, the objective of Father's day is to remember how much love your dad has poured into raising you and to give you a chance to express your gratitude. Now let's think for a moment... Is there any reason why you can't do that on any other day? None that I can think of. That is not to say that those days are useless. As a matter of fact those days could be exceptionally useful if you haven't been able to achieve the goal up until that day or you're afraid you might not be able to achieve it before that day returns the following year. Those of us engaged in the modern time's so-called "busy lifestyle" may well neglect to express our gratitude towards our parents and may never even stop to think of them throughout the calendar year. So these days can serve as an opportunity to perhaps finally give your parent's a call, or maybe have a family get-together. However, if that isn't the case, virtually every single day in the calendar year can be a father's and mother's day. Sorry, that ain't a special day in my book. And naturally the same holds true for the oh-so-lovely Valentine's Day.

Now some of you are going to say "Oh, you should be especially nice to your significant other on Valentine's day"... *SIGH* Listen to yourself.. Why wouldn't you think that you should be as nice as you can to your significant other on as many days of the year as possible? Should you restrain yourself from providing them with your "ultimate nice day" just so that they can really see the difference on Valentine's day?? I'm sorry, but I think you shouldn't need Valentine's Day to show your siginificant other how much you care for them. If you do, then that to me is just really sad... Of course if you haven't been fully expressive of your love on other days this is probably a good day to make up. But, I wouldn't make that a habit... ;)

All this is not to say that you should ignore your significant other if they nag about how important they consider Valentine's Day to be. It's probably not worth it to try and reason with them on this kinds of issue. But give in to the nag ONLY if you're willing to spend the rest of your time with them celebrating infinite number of Valentine's day to the same degree (or greater) as you did the first time around. Good luck! ;)

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After reading my previous post about teaching it reminded me of a couple other interesting observations I've made about teaching to the "prepared" and "unprepared" students over the years. So I thought I'd spend a few words on the subject.

From my experience, when you're teaching to the unprepared students, it matters greatly whether or not you practice your teachings. However, if you're teaching to the prepared, that really doesn't matter as much. The unprepared students are usually unwilling to adopt a new idea unless it has some proof of its validity. The prepared students simply take the idea and decide for themsevels whether the idea is worth trying out after calculating all the risks associated with it. For all they care they could be the first person to actually practice the new idea since they don't mind as long as they believe it's worth giving a shot. Another point is that trying to teach the unprepared by example is doing them a disfavor. I've come across this many many times during my Junior year when I had to tutor other students how to program. It was quite obvious which students were prepared and which weren't because when I showed them an example of how to accomplish a certain task, the prepared ones would constantly bug me until they understood what my motivations were behind solving the problem the way I did. However, the unprepared ones took it for granted that whatever I did was simply a pattern they should learn by memory and never really questioned much. So what I did after a few sessions was I stopped giving them examples, and instead I started walking them through a verbal solution. In other words, I tried to help them understand every logical step that took me to come to a conclusion that convinced me that a certain way of solving this problem would be the best. Some students got annoyed that it took too long to learn to solve a problem and wanted to just jump to the example where others were quite intrigued by the whole process.

I wonder how many times during the course of a day I forget to maintain the mindset of a prepared student... How about you guys? Are you guys always prepared to learn?

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Although I may not be great at it, one of my passion is teaching. Actually, that's not exactly it... My real passion is being able to help others and teaching just happens to be one way of fulfilling that passion. I don't know if I would want to (or could) be teaching professionally, but I believe teaching is a skill that any self-respecting future dad needs to master. As any loving dad would feel, I want my child/ren to be able to live life leveraging on everything that I've learned so that they'd be wiser than I was at their age. The hard part is that I can't just shove all I know down their throat. If you're like most intelligent people with lots of ideas you'd like to share, you'll be so eager to teach everything you know that you'll just get frustrated when others don't learn them instantly. It isn't until the moment you realize you can't just expect them to digest your knowledge instantly that you start spending lots of time thinking about the most effective ways of teaching.

So far, the hardest thing I've learned about teaching is that teaching has to ultimately work alongside time. I don't necessarily mean that something that took you 10 years to learn will take your child the same amount. What it really seems to boil down to is that the best way a person learns is by first-hand realization. The good old saying about how learning by doing is the best way is just a much more simplified way of saying the same thing. Now, why does it matter when somebody learns something? From what I can tell it's because at different stages of life, people are in different states of mind built on top of previous experiences and learnings, and some teachings don't ring a bell until you've fulfilled certain prerequisites. That prerequisite may even actually mean doing exactly what you're not supposed to do and ultimately failing. So the trick is to have patience and lead your student along a path so that they will eventually be able to realize for themselves what you want to teach them. Of course it would be nice to accomplish that without them having to go through all the failures you had gone through, but sometimes there simply are no shortcuts. As abstract as all this may sound, it's even harder to come to grips with what all this actually entails and to practice accordingly. Given the modern society filled with promises for quick fixes and instant gratifications, it's that much harder to take the time (as in 10s of years) to lead your child/ren to a path of learning by realizing.

What most people like me end up doing in their earliy ages of teaching is preaching. As far as I'm concerned, preaching is the easiest way of teaching the most advanced of ideas. Advanced in the sense that the concept conveyed by preaching (assuming that the teaching is indeed valid) will only be learned by people who have already fulfilled all required prerequisites and are "ready" to learn the subject. It is the easiest way of teching in the sense that there's no real method to it other than telling it like it is. Of course it'll have to be supported by logic, reason, examples, empirical proof, and perhaps solid philosophy inspired by other great thinkers. To the unprepared, preaching will not work at all. Actually it may even provoke feelings against the preachings. To the prepared, it will strike a chord in a big way or at least motivate them to ponder on the thought and decide for themselves how to digest it. It's really sad how many college professors simply don't bother going beyond preaching when it comes to the art of teaching. Sure... the students (especially at the graduate level) are expected to have fulfilled all the prerequisites so that they are ready to learn via other's preachings, but on the other hand, preaching can really rub people the wrong way. More often than not you come across as an arrogant and pedantic pighead. Naturally the studens will simply get defensive or may even be offended by your thoughts. So I don't know why some professors don't bother trying to learn other ways of teaching... I really believe good teachers have to first be great students.

Phew... You know... when I do arrive at a point in my life when I feel the desire to settle down and raise a family, I seriously want to become a good dad.

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