Sunday, June 25, 2017

Realizations (March 13, 2016)

I just wanted to post something I wrote after I resigned from my first job in Manila. It was also the first time I experienced burnout. I certainly feel better now than I did then. I am in my second (and last) year of graduate school and I'll focus first on this one before fully focusing on my next job search.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

3 ways to jumpstart your best school year ever

It's Back-to-School season again. Are you just an average student? Are you the type whose grades are always near-failing due to your many activities? Or are you the top-student in the making, with your almost-Machiavellian pursuit of honors and high grades? No matter what your standing is or what kind of student you are, most of us want to enjoy school life while minimizing failures and incomplete grades as much as possible.

No matter how stressful it seems, there is a way to find balance. Decide what your goals are in studying, and meet them. When I started college, I decided that I want to be in the Dean’s List. I never cared much for extracurricular activities as long as I have time to read good books. It's you who sets your own priorities. Be clear.

1. Be organized.  Even if it's just your phone calendar or a more complicated and detailed planning system, it helps to have a tool to remind you of events, exams, and project schedules. After experimenting with so many apps and planners, I discovered the Bullet Journal. At its basic, its simply a DIY Planner you design yourself to suit your needs. There are a lot of resources on the net on how to make your own.

A page of my first bullet journal. Amusing cutouts from a movie flyer.
Good students plan and minimize procrastination as much as possible. Most students cram, but try doing your tasks earlier than them! It's a better feeling to have already accomplished things while others are panicking during finals. When I was in college, I made it a point to study hard during the start of the school year to exempt my final exams (or just to make sure that I will pass even if I don’t excel the finals) so I can also have more time to focus on the end-of-semester requirements.

2. Use the Library.  All the information in the world may be at our fingertips thanks to the internet, but for my studies and reports, I use books to save time. It's better to have one good and reliable resource rather than use the net, with all the information overload and you end up wasting more time searching for the best information to use.

Use the library to study. At least, if you’re alone and hiding there, your friends won’t easily distract you. One hour of focused study is better than broken study hours. With more focused study, you can enjoy other things without feeling guilty! It's really better to have good grades /and/ have fun at the same time!

3. Don't forget your friends. If your friends are not making you focus on your studies, think hard if they are really worth your time. I was lucky to have classmates and friends who are also focused on their studies. Friends are your source of support during the good and hard times of your college life, and they can be your friends for a lifetime beyond school.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Is being a one-man librarian worth it?

Nowadays, librarians are in high-demand in the Philippines. There’s a lot of institutions looking for librarians, and there are few licensed and professional librarians. However, due to budget cuts and saving, some institutions only require the bare minimum to meet the requirements. Most librarians or fresh graduates of library science often find themselves as ‘one-man librarians’.

They may or may not have assistants, but essentially, they work alone in their library. They manage the library, acquire and organize its books and resources, keep the books and chairs in order, and serve the clients.

In my first official job, I was a one-man librarian in a small college library. Due to the situation and the burn-out I felt, I eventually quit. In my experience of being a one-man librarian, I often compare it to being the only waiter (and cook) in a restaurant. You take the order, you cook the food, you serve it and take the money. You clean up after the customer and buy the supplies yourself.

In being the all-in-one librarian, I had to budget for the library’s needs, manage work students, prepare accreditation documents, monitor the borrowing and returning of books, catalog the books and arrange them, and go to the bookstores and buy the books myself. My next job at my university was less stressful because there was only ONE work to do: catalog books. If you’re alone, its always a challenge to prioritize and you have to focus on one thing at a time while having to delay other important things as well.

I think being a one-man librarian depends on many circumstances in an organization. Personally, I feel that its better to have other librarians so they can team up together. Having more than one librarian also means a clearer division of work.

I think being a contented one-man librarian depends on two factors:

The Organization and its Management. Your library’s success also depends on the organization. If they are understanding and supportive, the better. In my case, I often had to explain what the librarian does to non-librarians who have no idea about my work.

The number of clients and their service demand. The smaller number of people and the lesser their demand, a one-man librarian is able to manage. In my previous job, it was stressful during exams time. Their demand for research and study materials is overwhelming, and you don’t have time to decide what to buy for their needs.

As for me, one of the main reasons why I was so stressed is because of the unlocked door (really, of all reasons!). The library was in a building and I wasn’t allowed to ‘close the library’ when there was no one to guard it because the students are there all the time, and they might need to study. So, I was always nervous even before I opened the door because the students might have messed up the books again, or someone borrowed without permission or some other unexpected nightmare. The work students assigned in the library often get pulled out for other activities. It got to a point that I couldn’t sleep or relax, even during holidays when I’m supposed to be resting.

If you are applying for jobs and considering a position as a one-man librarian, think it over and research the organization thoroughly. You may be overwhelmed by the work. But if it looks like a good opportunity and you can manage, it may be a welcome challenge for you.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

5 School Essentials you can’t leave home without

1. Your notebook and pen.
The notebook and pen may be the most important invention in all of civilization. The notebook and pen is enduring even through technological change: portable and light, trusty information storage without faulty back-ups or batteries running out. Take notes while listening in class or doodle while pretending to listen in class. Research shows that our brains remember more when we write things down.

2. Yellow pad.
Quizzes and exams for class still use the classic yellow pad. Write your essay drafts for requirements and exams. Have your own yellow pad, so you don't waste time still asking for some from your classmates!

3. Handy highlighters.
Don’t you just love highlighters? A fresh set of candy-colored pens to make your readings less boring. Highlighters help us focus in studying so you don’t miss he most essential points and concepts. A little color and creativity helps our memory remember what we studied.

I personally like using the neon-green Faber Castell highlighter, as I read in Candy magazine that green is the color that can help our minds remember the most.

4. The Laptop.
You can’t survive college without a laptop you can trust. This is your workstation for research, reports, and powerpoint presentations. This can also be your entertainment for idle times and breaks. Watch movies, listen to music, or play games.

5. Your smartphone.
Other than your laptop, a smartphone is arguably the most essential item of your student life. It can be a computer and camera in your pocket. Edit reports on the fly while collaborating with your classmates. Read your notes, share them, and discuss ideas in your classes. Talk to your family at home if you live faraway from school. Capture and share your unforgettable college memories which you can laugh over years later. With a reliable phone, school and life has become easier.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Social media: the good, the bad, and the ugly

I would just like to share this essay I wrote for a finals exam for the subject Group Dynamics. The question is:

The 21st Century is highly digitized, given the fast-paced expanding growth and development of technology-meditated communication (internet, social media, etc.). Assess and evaluate your technology use and expound on the advantages and disadvantages of its use to your interpersonal relations with others. Cite personal or work-related example/s and explain the dynamics using any of theories, philosophies, principles, processes, and concepts in Group Dynamics.

In the 21st century, social media is now an undeniable part of our life. It has changed how we communicate and our relationships with people. Now that more people are using smartphones, we can talk with other people no matter where they are in the globe. With free data and faster  internet connections, communication is getting even cheaper and easier.

As a millenial, I've tried and I'm using various social media accounts. I've used Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and Google. As an introvert, I found that sometimes I prefer talking to people through the internet than in real life. I can be more direct and clear in writing through screens than in speaking in real life. I can see my relatives who live abroad and friends I don't have time to meet. I can talk to my brother in Manila or my aunt in New Zealand through video calls. These free services are a big help for families with OFWs in other countries.

Announcements of important events, seminars, and job postings are often found on Facebook. Social media has also been a great help for my Masters degree studies. Since my classmates live in different places, we can use Group Chat in Facebook Messenger to discuss our projects. We use Google Drive to store and share study materials, and edit group projects together. You can also connect with other professionals in your field through social media. In seminars and workshops, I often add the people I knew there in my Facebook account so we can also share information in the future. You can keep up with the latest news and stalk your celebrity crushes online.

But as they say, too much of something is not always good. Facebook and other social media sites are designed for us to be "hooked" - we keep coming back to Facebook because the 'likes', attention, and validation makes us feel good. We end up showing only the best version of ourselves and our lives to get more 'likes'. As users, we also tend to get jealous of other people's accomplishments in their posts. Facebook has also become an avenue of fake news, gossip, propaganda, and even crime.

I've noticed that more people nowadays spend far more time online than they interact in real life. Because of the ‘likes’ and attention they get, people tend to represent themselves in a false way. They only post about their accomplishments and things that sometimes have no real meaning anyway. People spend far more time on their phones than talking to people around them, people spend far more time taking pictures to share in social media rather than live in the moment and enjoy their surroundings. People spend more time taking the perfect picture of their food instead of enjoying actually eating it. Instead of us using social media, social media is using us.

In my experience, I now have to deactivate my Facebook account because I found that I was wasting so much time just browsing the site. When people ask why I 'disappeared', most are so shocked that I deactivated Facebook. I admit that I dislike this reaction - Facebook has become so normal to us that not using it is seen as something abnormal. I think we should think critically of how social media shapes us. I'm still on social media but I'm trying to discipline myself not to waste so much time on it. Though social media provides great services, we must not forget that they are run by private companies who make money with the information we provide for free.

Social media's popularity is normal, as humans are social beings and these tools are there to facilitate and develop our communication as we form and maintain relationships. As humans, we all have the need to be seen, heard, and loved. It is good to share our thoughts, feelings, and lives but we have to admit that sometimes we only share these things to get attention and be admired. We end up being too focused on ourselves and how we appear in our internet profiles.

Social media has also changed the way we interact with others. Now, we have new verbs in our vocabulary that didn't exist years ago. We 'add' people to be our friends, we 'unfollow' a person whose posts we find distasteful, 'unfriending' means severing all connections with another person, and 'blocking' means getting rid of annoying people who keep bothering us. What we do in social media reflects and affects our relations in real life. In fact, social media has become so intertwined with real life that there is no separation anymore.

One disadvantage of social media is it can be an avenue of negative groupthink. People with the same beliefs band together and bash one another. During the May 2016 elections, there were people called 'Dutertards' who have unquestioned belief and loyalty to their candidate that they insult and bash others who don't believe in them. Now, even with all the issues of violence and extrajudicial killings with the current administration, there are still people in social media who actively support the President and are ready to fight at the slightest hint of criticizing him.

I speculate that in the future, social media will still continue to improve and will be a normal means of communication. However, people should be responsible users of social media. It is a great tool for communication and an avenue where we can exercise our freedom of speech, but we must remember that with this freedom also comes with our responsibility not to abuse it.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Chinkee Tan shares The Power to Create Wealth at Victory Iloilo

I've been reading the blog of speaker Chinkee Tan for some time now. His insights on money and how we spend it hits me most of the time and inspires me to save rather than spend. When Victory Church invited him to speak for free yesterday night, I didn't miss the opportunity to attend. I'm glad I did! He was previously an actor alongside comedians such as Randy Santiago and Bayani Agbayani, but he left showbiz to pursue business. Mr. Tan delivers lessons on money in a real and funny way, the audience was bursting with laughter most of the time.

Its worth it to hear Mr. Chinkee Tan speak at least once in your life, I think writing doesn't come close to how well he speaks and how funny he is in real life.

Here are the lessons that I've learned from him:

We all want to be wealthy. We all want to provide for ourselves and our families, and enjoy life. Though most of the time, we have problems with money and debt. We want to enjoy life, but the money doesn't always seem to be enough. Chinkee Tan says that the problem is not about the money but the mindset. 

Since our mindset affects everything, a positive mindset makes us win in life better than being negative. We must choose positive people around us as well, as negativity is infectious. Wealth doesn't only come from "sipag at tiyaga" but "sipag, tiyaga, karunungan, and diskarte."

Negative mindset + negative action = Negative Result;
Positive mindset + positive action = Positive Result! Change of mind, change of life.

Most of the time, we think of spending rather than saving money for the future. If we think of our instant gratification NOW rather than our security in the future, then it is inevitable that we will spend and spend.

Chinkee Tan asked us to be more conscious of where we spend our money, even with small amounts. Imagine bottled water. For 7-10 pesos, we are not only paying for the water but the plastic bottle, cap, label, advertising, and shipping. If we buy bottled water everyday, imagine how many pesos we can save everyday if we choose to refill a water bottle instead of buying! These also applies to cigarettes, coffee, lotto tickets, and those little things that cost little coins, but add up to thousands of pesos over many years of spending.

Its not that we should deprive ourselves of these things, but we should buy things within our budget and start being conscious of the money we spend without thinking. Money saved is money earned. 

We should learn to save while we are earning a small amount of money, because how can we learn to manage more money if we didn't learn how to handle it when it was small? Some people, even they earn a lot, still don't have enough due to the wrong mindset and improper spending.

Chinkee Tan also illustrated the difference between poor and rich people. One thing he noticed was rich people invest in education, while those who are considered poor invest more in entertainment. Rich people have ideas all the time, and they are not only thinking of now but the future generations.

We should also save money for emergencies and our retirement. The rich invest their money in things that can make money 'grow'.

During the question-and-answer portion for the last part of the program, someone asked about tithing and I love Chinkee's answer: God owns everything, so in tithing we are only giving back what rightfully belongs to Him. The point is, we can never outgive God. He only asks for the tenth of our income, and yet he blesses us with abundance beyond what we deserve.

Chinkee Tan also has a free mobile app for Android and iOS, and he has radio talk show, Chink Positive, on Aksyon Radyo (AM 720) every Sunday at 6 to 8 AM.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Book review: THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE by Shirley Jackson

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, New York: Penguin Books, ©1959

“No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.”

I was about 2/3 reading Herman Melville's Moby Dick. Though I admit I find it quite dreary and boring, it was tiring me to scan blocks of text and the drama was not stirring me anymore. So I downloaded another batch of eBooks, started reading Shirley Jackson's horror novel The Haunting of Hill House yesterday. I just finished it moments ago. You may be familiar with the author's name, as she wrote the short story The Lottery which is studied in English classes. Her book We have always lived in the Castle is on my list of favorite books ever.

You can call a book truly horror if you get scared staying alone in your room, and you may find it funny but it happened to me. The four protagonists and occupants of Hill House were experiencing the first of many hauntings during their stay. I was scared stiff in my own room (I'm the only person in the first floor of our house) that I went upstairs and slept with other people because my imagination would scare me that maybe I won't fall asleep. Truly, it's not physical monsters and seen ghosts that scare us. Its the creeping unknown that haunts the Hill House.

A certain Dr. Montague is a scientific investigator of all things psychic, supernatural, and haunted. He discovers and stays in a "haunted" house called Hill House, unoccupied for decades. For his study, he enlists the help of others who have somehow had a haunting or supernatural experience. His three guests in Hill House include Theodora, cast out by a roommate due to an argument; Eleanor, staying with her sister after her mother's death; and Luke, the house's future heir and placed there by the legal owner (his aunt) as an agreement during Dr. Montague's stay.

The story is told through the eyes of Eleanor Vance, a lonely woman. She is 32 years old, and staying with her sister for 3 months. Before that, the sick mother she had taken care of for 11 years died. She got an invitation from Dr. Montague and decided to go to Hill House, thinking it would be a nice place to spend summer and escape the married sister she dislikes.

Eleanor is first described as friendless, and resenting the years wasted taking care of her mother. She finds friends in the other guests of hill house. She is drawn closest to Theodora, who is livelier than her. They form a bond, explore the house and its surroundings, and they are together when the inexplicable hauntings arrive. There is an unknown force trying to get in the locked door, bloody words on the walls calling out for Eleanor, and someone whispering or singing or laughing in the next room. Eleanor falls for Theodora (that's how I interpreted it),  but gets rejected. She has an overactive imagination, and tells everyone a lie about where she came from. She tells them she lives alone, when in fact she lives with her sister.
“She could not remember ever being truly happy in her adult life; her years with her mother had been built up devotedly around small guilts and small reproaches, constant weariness, and unending despair. Without ever wanting to become reserved and shy, she had spent so long alone, with no one to love, that it was difficult for her to talk, even casually, to another person without self-consciousness and an awkward inability to find words.”  
"I don't understand." Theodora threw down her pencil in exasperation. "Do you always go where you're not wanted?" Eleanor smiled placidly. "I've never been wanted anywhere," she said.
Hill House itself is described as a dreadful and "unright" place. People could get lost in it, the angles are all wrong on purpose, and doors you open close by themselves.
“All I could think of when I got a look at the place from the outside was what fun it would be to stand out there and watch it burn down.” 
Dr. Montague has researched the history of the house. It was built by Hugh Crain for his family, a wife and two daughters. Tragedy strikes, his wife dies before they set foot in the house, and his two other wives after her also died tragic deaths in the house. The two daughters grow up and fight over the house, the older giving it to her caretaker, and the younger sister grew obsessed with taking back the house until she died.

Ghosts are not seen, and it seems as if the house itself has dreadful evil.
"...What really frightens people so?"
"I will not put a name to what has no name."
Soon, Eleanor's sanity gets hazy due to the hauntings in the house. Her companions conclude that she should leave for her own health, but Eleanor has grown attached to the house. The book's tragic end leaves the question of the house unsolved. I feel so much sympathy for Eleanor.

This is a good read for those looking for short, spooky books that deliver horror effectively. For me, this quote from Caitlin Kiernan's The Drowning Girl (an author who is also inspired by Shirley Jackson) accurately describes truly effective horror:

"It isn't the known we fear most. The known, no matter how perilous to life and limb, is something we can wrap our brains around. We can always respond to the known. We can draw plans against it. We can learn its weaknesses and defeat it. We can recover from its assaults. So simple as a thing as a bullet might suffice. But the unknown, it slips through our fingers, as insubstantial as fog."

This book made me love Shirley Jackson's writing even more and now I'm looking forward to read her other works. No one writes horror like her.