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Posts Tagged ‘life

My second life lesson from 1989 is: Sometimes doing nothing is doing something. 

When I was an infantry officer, one of my duties was to walk around the company to ensure that things were in order. Sometimes this meant keeping an eye on my fellow commanders.

One night, I discovered a group of corporals watching a “blue” movie in a shared rest area. I made sure that they saw me, gave them a stern look, and walked away. They stopped what they were doing and dispersed.

Photo by Ono Kosuki on

I did nothing in the sense that I did not report them even though they had broken camp rules. The logically-minded might say this prevented the souring of our working relationship. The cynically-minded might say that I held this incident over them.

I made the right call then, but this is a lesson that I did not perfect and had to relearn since then. Sometimes doing nothing helps and other time it harms. Knowing when to “do nothing” is tricky. It takes situational awareness, experience, and good instincts — all things that are difficult to teach but are possible to learn with time and practice.

When I read this tweet and clicked on the link to the article, I expected to find out which life skills these student needed and why.

The article mentioned conflict management, resilience, and cross-cultural understanding as life skills. Is resilience a skill? It seems more like an attitude first. How about cross-cultural understanding? It sounds more like a value to me.

I am not making an argument for pedantic semantics. I am for saying what we mean and meaning what we say. Otherwise we will have different takeaways from what is supposed to be common ground.

That aside, the “skills” were mentioned in the headline and listed in one line in the second paragraph. They were not elaborated upon in the remaining 24 paragraphs of the article. How about a life skilled value of delivering what you promised?

Consider the image embedded in this tweet.

The type of “telephone“ you had when you were growing up is not just a fact of life, it is also how you define technology.

Technology: It is the most representative tool that is available now that you did not have when you were growing up.

Your grandparents might call your iPhone technology. You parents might call fibre optic broadband and video-on-demand technology.

What are you going to call technology? How much are you going to fear it?

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I’ll admit it. The title of this episode did not appeal to me from the get go. Why use artificial intelligence (AI) to figure out of there are other forms of intelligent life in the galaxy?

Here is my bias: I would rather see the power of AI developed more for enabling better life on Earth. But I remain open-minded enough to learn something about the alien effort.

According to one scientist, the last 50 years of space data exploration is akin to a glass of water. This is against the total data set the size of the world’s oceans. So using AI makes sense.

I liked the honesty of another scientist who declared that he did not know exactly what he was looking for. He was simply looking for a blip of life against a sea of darkness. So again there is the counter narrative to the press and movies — we are not looking for aliens to battle.

So how might AI detect alien life? Pattern recognition of rare needles against vast amounts of hay in huge stacks.

About halfway through the video, the content switched abruptly to synths — AI with bodies that mimic humans. Long story short, we are nowhere near what science fiction paints in books or movies. But the efforts to deconstruct and reconstruct the human body and mind are interesting (to put it mildly).

I liked how the video moved on to the ethics of synths. What rights would they have? Can they be taught good values? If they commit crimes, who is responsible? These proactive questions influence their design and development.

I think the episode was the final one. If it was, it was a good note to end on.

I had two reactions when I noticed this video in my YouTube feed and watched it.

Video source

The first was that it came a few days too late for a course I was facilitating. It would have been a useful resource.

My other response was that was just-in-time for personal edification or continuous professional development.

A student might be interested in the video if it helped them get a grade or qualification. A professional would be interested in how the video influenced their way of thinking and operating.

The two people are not separate, particularly when they are working adult learners. But these learners are also pragmatic and might focus on the former.

I focus on influencing the latter. Only time will tell if this value system expresses itself in the form of life wide learning.

Three items appeared on my feeds that reminded me how symmetrical human life can be.

The first was an anecdote about a 50-year-old woman who reflected on how she felt more like a 16-year-old, at least mentally.

The other two were news articles about apps to help caregivers of the elderly with dementia.

Not every 50-year-old can relate to feeling 16, nor do all elderly develop dementia. But there is some truth in all accounts.

The uncertainties and tribulations in life continue mid-life and beyond. The elderly with dementia seem to regress to toddler or even infant state with a loss of physical and mental faculties.

Spare a thought for the sandwiched middle who have to take care of people at both ends.

It is time for a curmudgeonly rant.

Some schools and parents here seem to have forgotten to teach kids the basis. I am not referring to the three Rs.

What happened to speaking in hushed tones when in a shared or public space?

We already live in cramped environments in Singapore. This alone is a good reason for not talking loudly during conversations over a meal or when packed on public transport. A lack of volume control reveals a lack of self-awareness and is inconsiderate to others who do not want to be audience to your conversations.

What happened to taking care of personal property?

People routinely leave their bags and computing devices in fast food joints or coffee places. The onus is not on others to look after your stuff; it is yours to care enough to leave someone behind or to take your things with you.

There is a reason why they are called valuables — someone had to work hard to make the money so that you have that personal property. Be grateful, not careless.

What happened to taking care of shared property?

There is no learning if kids know how to return food trays in school but do not consistently do this at a mall eatery. There is no care if you use a toilet properly at home but somehow lose your aim and decency in a public restroom.

And yes, this rant is fresh. I am drafting this at a Starbucks while surrounded by people who talk loudly and who have left a handbag and two computers at their tables. There is no toilet at this establishment, but there is one a stone’s throw away. Someone decided to pee in a sink.

Maybe I should create an option in my education consultancy called Human Decency 101. But here is the sad news: If you need it, it is probably too late.

In a previous reflection, I noted how there seemed to be a phantom power draw by my Toshiba 2 Chromebook when I used it in presentation and facilitation mode.

The lowered battery life seemed to be due to my use of an HDMI-to-VGA dongle to project my screen during workshops. This was odd given how the Chromebook was a relatively passive device.

Recently I used my Chromebook for 6.5 hours straight in active use. I was grading learner performance with Google Forms and fact-checking in Chrome. I did this over a day in one morning and one afternoon session. I still had a little over two hours of battery life left when I responded to email at a cafe later.

All this seems is counterintuitive: Use the device passively to project the screen and the battery runs out, but use it actively and it is an all-workday device.

The difference is the HDMI dongle which seems to sap battery life. I estimate it reduces battery life in my Chromebook Toshiba 2 by about half.

It might be an understatement to say that I have put my Toshiba Chromebook 2 through the wringer over the last few weeks. I have tested its ability to:

In further testing the Chromebook for facilitating events, I have discovered that its battery life suffers.

When I facilitated workshops in August, I tested my Chromebook’s ability to use a USB LAN dongle and an HDMI-to-VGA dongle.

The Chromebook detected the LAN dongle automatically and switched away from wifi, but I kept getting “page not found” error messages in Chrome. This did not happen to me at home, so I guessed there might have been something wrong with the cable or LAN point at the venue I was at.

I could not test the battery drain of the LAN dongle as I went back to using wifi for the sessions. I suspect that it will take a toll on battery life as the dongle is also a travel router that creates an ad hoc wireless network. The dongle felt warm to the touch just after a minute of being plugged in, but that was the extent to my investigation.

Chromebook HDMI-to-VGA dongle.

However, I was able to test the HDMI-to-VGA dongle to project what was on my screen.

Each workshop I conduct is three hours long. A full work day is seven hours with a lunch break in between. I reset my online resources during lunch, so there is hardly a break for my Chromebook.

With the HDMI-to-VGA adapter plugged in, my Chromebook is no longer an all-day device. It will last the morning workshop and lunch, but it cannot make it through the afternoon one. The Chromebook battery is almost exhausted by the first afternoon hour.

From the start, I bring the brightness level of the screen to just one above dark, the wifi is constantly on, and the Chromebook is largely a passive device for showing resources (e.g., Google Sites, online timer) and collating contributions (e.g., Padlets, Google Docs).

I have used the Chromebook for hours at libraries, cafes, and other wifi spots where I can get work done. At home I use it for streaming YouTube videos or Netflix shows. In both cases, the battery rarely goes down past the 50% charge mark. This puzzled me because such uses seem more active than relatively passive workshop use.

The main difference was whether or not I was projecting my screen. At the moment, this seems to be the battery guzzling factor. Unfortunately, I have no idea how to mitigate this issue.

I watch lots of YouTube videos and I view most of them through an educator’s lens.

The video below reminded me that sometimes the important question is not WHY. It is WHY NOT.

Video source

Asking WHY is an important question. But if Belaey only considered that question, he might not have done what he did. Instead, he probably challenged himself with WHY NOT. Why not do it? What would he lose by not trying?

The short film below made me and my family LOL. It also reminded me that we should learn from life’s mistakes.

Video source

We do not get many “mulligans” or take backs in real life. We make mistakes and often we avoid situations that resulted in those errors. But it is important to confront those difficult situations or people.

The third video reminded me about the importance of being patient and persistent. The setting up of the 128,000 dominoes must have taken a very long time and there must have been accidents along the way.

Video source

The final show did not end perfectly, but the feat was still impressive. It would be easy to focus on what did not go well; it is important to also recognize what was successful.


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