Archive for the 'Thoughts' Category

Happy New Year

Happy New Year from Stephen and Megan

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Search Engines Designed for Children

Google Seeks to Help Children Search Better – NYTimes.com

Good grief. What a misleading headline.

While I agree that learning how to use search engines to find information successfully is an important skill, I don’t know if I want my kids to search "better" per se. For primary school children, I’d want them to learn how to search in a limited, controlled environment.

When considering children, search engines had long focused on filtering out explicit material from results. But now, because increasing numbers of children are using search as a starting point for homework, exploration or entertainment, more engineers are looking to children for guidance on how to improve their tools.

Kids apparently like Bing because it uses more images than other search engines. Also, I did not realize that children tend to focus on whatever’s on the bottom of the computer screen because that’s what they see first when they look up from the keyboard after pecking out their search.

As for Stephen, I’ve installed Chrome on his computer and while he usually doesn’t have to search for much, he already knows that he only has to enter an approximation of the correct spelling and the computer will offer up the correct search term or URL to him. Frightening to think what he’ll be able to unearth online in the future. Perhaps some of what I’ve written about him but have since locked up….

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If you’re interested in alternative search engines specially designed for kids, check out AskKids.com and Tyler Wainright has a list of safe and secure web browsers for kids.

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Grateful to be Alive!

With Help, Conductor and Wife Ended Lives

LONDON — The controversy over the ethical and legal issues surrounding assisted suicide for the terminally ill was thrown into stark relief on Tuesday with the announcement that one of Britain’s most distinguished orchestra conductors, Sir Edward Downes, had flown to Switzerland last week with his wife and joined her in drinking a lethal cocktail of barbiturates provided by an assisted-suicide clinic.

NY Times, July 14, 2009

Reading this story made me feel so sad. Why didn’t Sir Edward want to spend more time with his children and grandchildren? Wasn’t there anything in his life worth living for even without his beloved wife?

I can’t say I’m always high and giddy on life but I’ve never once thought I’d like to cut it short.

I’m grateful that I didn’t miss my family’s visit to Singapore in May.

I’m grateful that I got to listen to Stephen talk about how he loves everyone in his family and that he wished we could all live together in a big house that he’d paint white so it would be like we lived in the White House.

I’m grateful that I got to catch Megan as she toddled back and forth between Marv and me while she held aloft a remote control in her left hand.

I’m grateful for the chuckle I had earlier after Marv made a choice quip with perfect timing.

I’m grateful to be here yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

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Secret: My Insides Are a Mess

From Empowering Parents:

“Don’t compare your insides to other people’s outsides.” One of the big, big mistakes we make in assessing ourselves is that we constantly compare our insides to other people’s outsides. Inside we may be feeling frantic, or worried, or any number of things. And on the outside, other people look like they’ve got it all together. The end result is that when you compare your insides to other people’s outsides, you come up short—and that’s especially true if you’re a kid.

How are your insides looking?

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by Stephen 2008

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Ego Depletion

From Stanford Magazine:

The gist is that self-control develops like a muscle. You can cultivate a strong sense of self-control by using it, resting it, and then challenging it again, over time. However, on any given day, you can deplete your self-control such that you will make different decisions after a long hard day than you might in the morning.

Explains a lot….

More from Baumeister RF et al., Ego Depletion: Is the Active Self a Limited Resource? (pdf), Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1998, Vol. 74, No. 5, 1252-1265

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How To Unassociate Zip Files from WinZip on Windows Vista

Apologies for the bad grammar above but “unassociate” was the keyword I used to find a fix to my computer problem this morning.

Some time ago I installed WinZip to extract .zip files. I’m not sure why I did that except that I must have been unable to figure out how to use Windows Vista to open zip files. Anyway, the trial version of WinZip expired and to get it working again, I would have had to pay $29.95.

I was about 2 seconds away from doing so after a fruitless search trying to figure out an easy way to de-associate my zip files from WinZip and back to a neutral file status. Luckily, I found out how at Tech Support Guy Forums without needing to delete or edit registry files (scary!!).

Here’s how to re-associate (associate, link) zip files for extracting with Windows Vista:

  1. Right click any of the zip files associated with WinZip
  2. Click Change next to the “Opens with” line
  3. Click Browse
  4. Click Computer under Favorite Links on left sidebar
  5. Double click your hard disk
  6. Open Windows folder
  7. Scroll down and select the “explorer” file (this is NOT Internet Explorer)

Now when you click on the zip files, they will open with Windows Vista and there will be a button at the top that says “Extract all files.”

windows vista extract zip

Hope this helps some of you frustrated Vista users!

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Foreigners Not Allowed

My career as a foreigner started at age 5 when my parents moved our family to the U.S. from Taiwan. I received my US citizenship in jr. high so from that time on I was no longer a foreigner until I left the U.S. again to live overseas with my husband in 1998. Now once again I am a foreigner and if some people had their way, I would be a second class citizen whose opinions didn’t count for squat.

Shouldn’t it be the opposite?

After all, foreigners have a perspective that combines their global experiences. In my case, I’ve lived in Taiwan, the United States, Japan, Vietnam, the United Kingdom, and now Singapore over the past 35+ years. Given what I’ve learned from all these places, my thoughts and opinions on what I encounter here in Singapore are unique.

I’m not saying that my opinions are so important that everyone should stop, listen, and take action. What I am saying is that my views on Singapore life aren’t any less relevant than a “fellow Singaporean.” What defines a Singaporean anyway? There are plenty of naturalized Singaporean citizens here who may or may not qualify as Singaporean in the eyes of those who were born and raised here. Popular Singapore blog, Mr. Wang Says So, proposes that “the hallmarks of a Singaporean are suffering and struggle.” My American six-year-old declared himself a Singaporean after living here just five short weeks. He rooted for the Singaporeans in the Olympics rather than the Americans!

No matter my nationality or ethnicity, I have the right to say what I think about life here on this small island. I’ve sung Singapore’s praises for many years and am grateful to have the chance to live here. But, just as there have been everywhere I’ve lived, there are irritating and weird people walking the streets (when they’d be better off staying at home) and I like telling you all about it here on my own personal blog.

Foreigner or not – I’m interested in your opinion.

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Busy and Happy

Dolls in care homes for the elderly calm and soothe according to one doctor.

Ian James, a doctor at the Centre for the Health of the Elderly at Newcastle General Hospital said the use of dolls in care homes for the elderly can help reduce disruptive behaviour.

“There are a number of reasons for the powerful effect of the doll in reducing some of the challenging behaviour,” he told Reuters (in a story about “reborn babies”) by telephone.

“People are comforted and are so much calmer and quieter — you just have to be there to witness that.”

“It’s a familiar role from time when they were busy and happy,” his co-researcher Lorna Mackenzie said.

I’m scared of the future and old age. I don’t really want to know how life might be 30 years from now or 50 years from now if I’m lucky enough to still be here and healthy. Maybe it’s crazy and hectic and all too much insanity sometimes but it sure beats frailty and dementia.

Yes, we’re busy and we’re happy.

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The Dangers of Bouncy Castles

bouncy castleBouncy castles, those big inflatable trampoline-type play structures, are a staple of birthday parties. Last year, Stephen was invited to one that featured a bouncy castle that took up half of a small gymnasium and could fit 15 kids on it with room to spare. The party was made-up of children aged 2-5 and was utter chaos from beginning to end.

At any given moment, a child or more would be crying from having been jostled or bumped. One kid even started a “game” where she brought a handful of gummy candies onto the bouncy castle and threw it up in the air with every bounce. Needless to say, other kids soon had to have a try at throwing candy with a few others eating the candy that was thrown. Crazeee.

Personally, I would never host a party that included a bouncy castle (unless it’s at an indoor playground where you pay to get in). As an American, I’m all too aware of the risk of getting sued when children are likely to be injured. And that’s exactly what happened to two parents in the UK who rented a bouncy castle for their triplets’ party three years ago.

Sam Harris, now 13, of Spalding, Lincolnshire, suffered a broken skull when a 15-year-old boy kicked his head at the party in Strood, Kent, in 2005.

Mr Justice David Steel said Timothy and Catherine Perry, who hired the castle, had not provided enough supervision.

Damages, for which Mr and Mrs Perry are insured, are likely to exceed £1m.

The High Court had heard Sam sustained a “very serious and traumatic brain injury” and now needed round-the-clock supervision.

~BBC News

Accidents do happen.

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Happiness is a Crock (but Cal Ripken, Jr. is not)

Todayonline has a great article on various countries’ efforts in teaching kids how to be more resilient, to understand their emotions, and to behave in a sportsmanlike manner. Unfortunately, the article ends with with a ridiculous quote:

…we’re definitely making progress in teaching our kids to be happy, but it’s like exercise — you must see it through for it to make a difference.

~Singapore Temasek Polytechnic lecturer Marion Neubronner

Gimme a break. Why does everything have to be about happiness? Should we expect to be happy happy all the time?

My personal philosophy doesn’t focus on happiness. I concentrate on striving for excellence and perseverance. Some of the time, achieving a goal brings a measure of happiness but more often, it brings me satisfaction. I think the word “satisfaction” is more precise and describes how I feel better than the blanket catchword “happiness.”

cal ripken jr get in the gameSpeaking of sportsmanlike behavior, I enjoyed the NPR interview of baseball legend Cal Ripken, Jr., who played in 2,632 consecutive games spanning 16 seasons. In his book, Get in the Game: 8 Elements of Perseverance That Make the Difference, he wrote about how, as a child, he was “the worst loser and the worst winner in history.”

My strong will showed itself early on when I didn’t have success or I failed or we lost. I tended throw fits and be angry because I didn’t know what to do with that energy.

My parents were pretty cool. They didn’t really scream at me, they didn’t yell at me, they didn’t punish me so to speak. But they asked me, “Why do you react this way?” I told them that I can’t stand it. I have to get it out somehow. They encouraged me to put it into something positive so therefore you derive the benefit. It was a way to manage that inner drive that served me so well all those years.

See. It’s not about being happy all the time. In fact, I give you permission to be unhappy and to be ok about it!

Life’s about channeling your energy so that you can be productive. And that takes some serious perseverance.

Update: Persistence also crops up in an interview with Carnegie Mellon computer science professor Randy Pausch, known for The Last Lecture.

We weren’t surprised to learn that the “secret” to winning giant stuffed animals on the midway, like most anything else, is sheer persistence.

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