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I don’t have “a person that inspired me”

    As many of you know, I will be going to Vancouver this fall, studying in the University of British Columbia. This journey will be one of the biggest in my life but I’m not here to talk about that journey today. I’m here to talk to you about my life’s journey.

   Part of a college application almost always come with an essay (or a short answer.) One common question that comes up year after year is “talk about a person who have inspired you.” Many of you have some straight answers, Martin Luther King Jr.! Mother Teretha! My dad! My counselor! Writing about this seems so easy and standard. I can imagine you, sitting in your desk (or in front of your computer) typing away, creating inspiring words that move the college admission office.

   But not me, I’m dumb-folded by that question. You must be thinking, “there must be someone in your life that has an inspiration on you right?” The thing is, I may have, but either I have already forgotten or the time I spent getting to know that “inspiration” just wasn’t long enough.

   As a child, I grew up in three different cities in Japan. Starting from the international apartment block in Jinde to another block in kawaguchi and stopping finally at a block in Iruma, all in 9 years of my life. You have to understand that, at that time period (1993-2002), Internet wasn’t yet “a thing” in Japan. Sure there were some dial-ups but there sure wasn’t any facebook or twitter or lots of mails going on (especially not for us kiddies.) Hence, moving away from town basically meant moving away from all my friends, my teachers, my “inspirations”

   In that circumstances, my family must be my inspiration right? They have stuck with me since birth, moved with me everywhere and things. To some extent, that’s true. But mostly, my family is not my inspirations.

   Now, I can already imagining you protesting: “but.. you love your parents!” Yes, I do love my parents. I appreciate what they have done to me and will always will. But love is different than inspirations. Although this may seem sad but moving around also affected my parents, not enabling them to rise to the highest social status. Also, being a kid, I was clueless to what my dad did except I knew he was teaching in a university.

   And then, in 2002, we went to Vietnam. And it was suppose to make me a real “Vietnamese.” I didn’t. I stayed a stranger although I was supposed to be fitting in. And this period of confusion stripped me of a chance to get to know my parents better. To date, I do know things about my parents history but probably not to the level that I can write a book about it (like some of you do.)

   So, as you can see, there aren’t a “single person” who inspired me. But don’t get me wrong, I AM inspired, I DO have a dream. But where did that come from? From many people: people like Spencer West, Efron Penoflorida, my counselor, my parents… all of them create that inspiration. All of them creates a small piece in the inspiration that pushes me.

And so, maybe I think it is time we redefined inspiration.


Review: The Lost Symbol

Thriller is a genre where it’s hard to do good on. All the logics need to be in place and plausible and it needs to be surprising and understandable at the same time. Hence, there are only a few writers who have been successful at writing in this genre one of whom is Dan Brown with his piece: The Lost Symbol.

Right before the story actually starts, Dan Brown treats us with a mysterious ceremony, a style in which Brown has used often is his work.After that, the story starts with the familiar professor Langdon, our Harvard professor whom we are familiar with through “The Da Vinci’s code” as well as “Angels and Demons”. He is just arriving at Boston to deliver a lecture, doing his friend: Peter Solomon a favor.

Langdon soon realizes however that he has been called to Boston to take part in a much larger plot (as always.) He then dispatches onto a long journey(640 pages although the entire journey is only about 4-5 hours in the book: 8p.m. until after midnight) to save his friend and uncover the mystery hidden within Washington D.C.

The story itself was thrilling with numerous twists that surprise the readers, keeping their interest and urging them to go on. Each new page is a new adventure, seeming to draw the readers into new events, new symbols and new meanings. One method Brown used to keep up this thriller was in use of switching perspectives. From the perspective of Langdon, the protagonist to Mal’akh, the antagonist, Brown jumped through nearly all the characters in the book without getting lost as each character holds a piece of information that others do not have.

The adventure soon creates many mind-blowing revelations (as stated in the first page of the book: All rituals, science and facts presented in the books are true), that craves readers into finding out about those subjects even after they have finished their book. My personal favorite was when Katherine Solomon “weighted” a soul. This party of symbols, meanings, puzzles, truth and illusion all help to create a tense, fast yet complex atmosphere filled with tension and realizations.

Through his book, I believe Brown has highlighted the importance of knowledge in accordance with the saying: “The more we know, the less we know” and convey the importance of knowledge in a very thrilling manner

A must read book on my list.

Global Issues Network 2011–The finale

   Recently, I was able to be one of the lucky students to attend the Global Issues Network in the Jakarta International School – JIS located in….. wait for the surprise….. JAKARTA Open-mouthed smile

   Global Issues Network is basically a network of young people connecting with each other with the sole aim to create changes in the world. However, I won’t be concentrating on how the conference went. Instead, I want to talk about all my experiences with GIN over the past 2 years and my thoughts on how GIN should evolve. It’ll be filled with all those dramatic “awakening” but all of the accounts are pretty close to the truth so yeah…

In 2010, I attended my first GIN conference. Back then, I went there not knowing what to expect. And then I met Spencer West and Efron Penoflorida as well as many other people. They were inspiring, to the point that when Spencer West finished his speech, We were all standing up, sort of wetting our eyes, some even crying. That was when it clicked; and from then on, I was a difference person (warned you of the dramatic awakening Smile with tongue out) But hopefully, the end of the conference wasn’t the end of the connections. I was able to connect with one other student, from an International School in Indonesia whom I still keep in contact and who is probably one of my best friend. We stayed in contact and GIN was our frequent topic of discussion.


Picture with Spencer West

However, nearly all the other students weren’t able to make that kind of connection like I made. They all continued on with their life at their school. And then the next school year came and all of the people who went to GIN in Hong Kong either left or were now Seniors (including me.) So we needed to recruit some new members. Hopefully, our number went up to 15 (from 7 last year.) But due to circumstances, the group was again demotivated and our works were delayed. Simply put, GIN in my school suddenly wasn’t working anymore.

In order to solve it, I talked to the person in the Indonesian International school. We talked about defining GIN and what it meant.  Why? Because I wanted to go back to the fundamentals, to find our goals. What we came up with was that GIN needs to create a network between different schools to create a difference.

Wait wait wait, how does it work? So let’s imagine GIN delegates from 5 different schools meet in the GIN conference. They all developed a connection that they bring back to the school; then these 5 people form a network between these 5 schools such that each year, they will work on a common project (an event that will happen on the same day …etc…). We both agreed that this model will work since it creates the sense that the students are part of something much bigger and also create a sense of competition between schools.

With that thought, we went to the conference in JIS, I talked with my teacher about the idea and she was a bit skeptical about the idea although she still encouraged me to make those connections. Throughout the conferences, I made 2-3 connections so that I can contact students in those schools.


Student Workshop by our school

The night after the first day, my teacher talked to me about how a teacher in GIN had the exact same idea like me and is working on it to take GIN to the next step and part of the plan was to create a committee of GIN alumnus to work on it. So now that my ideas are really being worked through, what should I do? Apply for it continue GIN in my University: UBC.

Great works and great future

A Special on Youtube about how great things can be!


Earthquake in Japan

I was standing, talking to my friends on my bus stop, greeting all those who came back from the field trip (which is Grade 6 through 11), talking about how their field trips went, how our Senior mock exams went… and one of my Japanese speaking friend tapped me on the shoulder and said: “Did you hear? 8.8 Magnitude Earthquake in Sendai” Although he said it slowly, I still had to clarify the news. I opened my jaws and the only thing I could utter was “Holy….”

I have to admit, I don’t usually frown over these kind of news. Some will say I may be cold blooded but that’s not true. The truth is, I don’t show sadness that easily. But this time, it was Japan, it was the place I was born and grew up in. It was different. So the entire journey on the bus was filled with bad thoughts, thinking about all my friends and families over in Japan.

When I got home, I immediately searched for every piece of news, Japanese, English, Vietnamese, anything I could find and started reading. I also contacted my friends and family members who were living in Japan and asked if they were alright (one responded saying he was fine. Thank you…) And since then, I kept hoping that it’ll be good, Japan is trained to do this, we are trained to handle this, thigns won’t go wrong but I’m not really sure anymore, the death toll is rising, the missing people are rising, the economic consequences are huge… it seems we haven’t hit the bottom yet.

Let’s make it clear, we (as in Japanese) are born with the ability to fight earthquakes or rather to live with it. From the experience in Kobe to the little everyday quake you feel, it’s simply embedded into our life. Our buildings, our drills, our stock of emergency food… all of these have prepared us in case of serious Earthquake so I do believe that Japan will handle it pretty confidently. We’re used to it. We’re used to rise up from the rubble to make a new city.

But nevertheless, I wholeheartedly feel sorry for all who lost their lives (including a 6 years old who died due to a supermarket roof falling on him…)

My deepest hopes are with all the people of Japan.

Peace, out.

Chrome apps are awesome

Chrome Apps

Just to show you how awesome Chrome can be

   Recently (or recently I just found out more likely. My stupid Chrome just didn’t updated for like a gazillion years.) About the Chrome apps and as far as I can tell, they’re pretty awesome. You can check all your RSS, news, Read it later, Check the weather from the about:tab tab.

   So guys, you know which browser to choose.

So what types of aids are good?

Yesterday, I posted that maybe, aid is not the right way for people to go. This time, I’ll talk about how some aids will be an essential part of the development

  1. Education: If we are able to help in anyway then Education is the best way to go. Yeah yeah, I know we all hate school and just want another Summer break (or not, just a hasty generalization I guess) but in some part of the world, kids can’t wait to get into school. But they can’t. In Vietnam, many of the kids don’t even have schools in their area and have to walk ridicules distance to get to the nearest school (about 10-15 kms) this, added with high cost (relative to income) of education has put many kids out of school, helping in their family instead. This is a great place for aid to come in. If they can build a school, if they can get a teacher (who is generous enough) to stay in that school for at least a few years a teach there so that there’ll be an educational basis, it would be great.
  2. Healthcare: Now onto the second type, AIDS, cholera, malaria, influenza, cancer, heart disease… all those diseases that we are scared of. But poor people tend to be more vulnerable to the diseases (especially those related to water conditions/hygiene) and as they are poor, they can’t afford to pay all those humongous bills that is needed to help them get better. Therefore, healthcare aid, maybe in vaccinations and free operations and such would be great. It would be better however, to train the capable locals to be a nurse and even give the high school grads medical training in universities so that they can return to their community with all the skills (and if that happens, then provision of necessary facilities would also be needed. Without making them depend on aid…. It’s hard xD)
  3. Something that I haven’t thought of.

This list will be added but right now, these two are in my opinion, best ways to give aid. However, it would mean nothing if they can’t use their new found skills and health to productive work. Therefore, job creation must also be implemented.

Is Economics the way to solve Poverty?

   Hey guys, I’ve been reading this book called Spin-free economics lately (and will post a review of it once I’m done. It’s an interesting piece.) and the view expressed in it is quite different from what an ordinary person thinks.

   Everyday, we see advertisements, calls, urges for donations, to save the poor to build houses to help educate and deliver medicine to the poor and those banners and calls for change strikes our sympathy, making us pulling off our wallets and donate some money.

   And then there’s the volunteer, when young teens from the developed countries (from US/Australia/UK and such) that goes to the Less Developed Countries (usually in China or Sub-Saharan African Countries to participate in service learning activities, to know more about the world and to serve.

    Now, before I move on, let me clarify this: I value aid; I value volunteerism. I am a part of the Global Issues network and I’m proud of it. But here’s the thing, I think it’s inefficient and sometimes even damaging.

   Here are the reasons why:

  1. Corruption: How much of the money you put in end up in the hands of the real poor people? With the extremely high level of corruption in mainly the African countries, you can never be sure. Examples can be seen from Haiti when after 1 year and most of the rubble aren’t cleared yet, preventing hundreds of thousands from going back to their houses.
  2. Distortion. How many times do you see the sort of such as: Food Aid and Clothes Drive? While it is true that the poor DO need those things, I’m doubtful the way we’re helping is going to help them in the long run. Think of it this way: Susie, living in Zimbabwe is producing tomatoes (suppose tomatoes can grow in Zimbabwe without any difficulties.) Susie sells her tomatoes to the locals with a meager return but enough to keep her going. Now suddenly, an NGO brings to the village hundreds of kilograms of tomatoes and rice in the program of “food-aid” now that everybody can have the food for free, Susie can’t sell her things anymore. She soon runs out of money and is turned into Poverty. What could have been better may have been to use that money to teach the inhabitants about farming and provide limited amount of seeds so that they can start making and selling their own food.
  3. The moral dilemma of volunteering: The detailed post can be found HERE. In short, volunteering (especially International volunteering) may not always be very helpful to the poor and the unfortunate.
  4. The reasons for poverty: Have you ever heard of the Common Agricultural Policy(CAP)? No? here’s the Wikipedia article Wikiwiki 😀. Here’s my description of CAP: A form of subsidy, paid by the EU to the farmers so that they can sell their crops cheaper. Sounds pretty noble right? Maybe not so, especially when we consider the fact that because of this, many African farmers can’t compete with the European farmers, forcing them out of business and into poverty. The same can go for the US Cotton subsidy. So the problem here is not that the poor can’t help themselves out of poverty. The problem here is that the poor are prevented from helping themselves out of poverty, by the very countries whose citizens donate money to pull them out of poverty, interesting isn’t it?

   I’m not saying that my opinions are absolutely right and I am more than happy to receive criticisms and comments for further improvements. But the point I’m getting into is that the LDCs may not need more aid. What they need is free trade and globalizations. Remove all those trade barriers, remover all those tariffs, remove all those subsidies.

   This may sound ridicules but in economics, we have something called Comparative Advantage: an idea that a country can produce something more efficient than the other. With globalization and free trade, countries can exploit this “advantage” and produce their goods in the most efficient ways resulting in us consumers getting the lowest price. In addition when there is free trade, there’ll be a greater degree of economic dependence between countries (because in order to exploit their comparative advantage, a country would need to import things they don’t produce and export things that they produce in large quantities) which is highly likely to lead to peace and stability (just like how EU has held Europe in peace for more than 6 decades now.)

   So my question is: Aid or Trade? Let me know (IF anyone even reads this) in the comment.

A bit of update on Natura

Economy is complicated, don’t pretend to understand it

   Now a days, everybody talks about Economics, from an average guy (like me) to economists at Harvard. Everybody is interested in how it’s doing how it will turn out. They ( well, most of the times the average people) have a really strong opinion about it, without fully understanding them. For example, a person has a brilliant idea that countries can decrease their deficit by printing a lot of money! Yay! Well, the only problem is that if you print money, the debt will go up. (simple law of supply and demand).

   This looks pretty straight forward eh? Well, not to some people, at least not to the Brazilian government back in the days (not now though, they’re great now). So here’s the thing, there are only a few percentage of people who lives in our planet actually understand how it works. Graphjam makes it quite clear:

   But here is the bad new, ordinary people who have “strong opinions on the economy” IS part of the… wait for it economy. And without proper knowledge, people can seriously mess it up. The entire real estate bubble thing? The banking and financial system screwing up? All those are due to our imperfect knowledge of the market (in my opinion). If we have truly understood what the entire banking and fiddling around with money means, the recession may not have been that severe. Better, an entire country may not have gone bankrupt (yeah, I’m referring to Ireland and Greece. No offence but the economic policy is just not well thought out enough.)

   So guys, here’s my advice. Don’t pretend to know economics. The truth is, nobody fully understands how it works. Not me, not you, not even the Harvard scholar sitting and analyzing the data, not the bankers that’s sitting in the Wall Street, not Barack Obama, not Osama Binladen, not David Cameron. We’re a part of it sure, but we would never be able to understand it FULLY (we do understand it partly, at least the Harvard scholar and most of heads of the state do).

   Having realize that we don’t know anything is the first step. Because we don’t know anything, we can be Cautious (Or you may decide that there’s no risk so jump in anyways…) when you are, you either try to understand it or take less risk. Either way, it’s going to get better.

   We’re a part of the mechanism so don’t pretend to know it. Try to understand it instead. It’ll make it much much better.

Anyhow, song of the day:

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