Help Us, Multiplication God!

After leaving school for good (not counting my grad-student years, where I learned nothing about finance..) I went back as a teacher. It’s just an attempt to avoid the dreaded unemployed status, at first. After all, yours truly used to climb up aircraft skeletons to check for metal defects and went down muddy jatropha plantation to look for the next biofuel.
Teaching a bunch of rowdy middle-grade students is not what normal people aspire as a career. Still, now that I’ve left my beloved middle school and its students, turned out I missed my days as physics teacher terribly, more than I did my days as engineer or stock-exchange slave.That’s what you get for being a teacher, you hate the job but you’ll miss the students as soon as you stop being one.
Now there’s a little boy living in my house. My 7-y.o. nephew is a 2nd-grader struggling with his multiplication table. (Tryin’ to remember when the first time I started learning the multiplication. Probably in 2nd grade just like he is right now?) See, grade school is a whole different arena compared to middle school. In my class, kids are expected to have the ability of multiplying integers and rational numbers. My nephew is just about to climb the lowest rung to achieve multiplying numbers 1 to 10 – and school nowadays expect these little kids to master this before going to 3rd grade! If you ask me if I’ve ever multiplied something without using a calculator, I would have said yes, but that situation is most likely few and far between outside school and work in general. Now that there’s a calculator in every tablets and smartphones AND watches (Galaxy Gear, anyone?), would there be any need to memorize numbers?
To make his life easier, we tried the Kumon method – there’s a bunch of shiny overpriced workbooks available out there – and my own hands-on memorization technique (that involves screaming and jumping around!) to motivate my nephew, but so far only few numbers managed to get stuck on his little brain.  Basically, Kumon helps kids get familiar with numbers; at the end of the day, it’s just a drilling technique to memorize these numbers by repetition, not unlike the olden days using tables.
Honestly, it was a miracle he finally succeed in memorizing up to 100 (1X1 through 10X10) in less than a month, I’d have to give him credit for his hard work. Still, I’ve found out recently that half of his class is able to score more than 80% in the last test (his was a mere 71..) There must be something wrong with me and my nef! Help!
Navigating life is hard enough with or without Math. I still want to see my favorite nef grows up to become a paleontologist, and that means he has to survive his Math, and Science, and English, and 6 other subjects in grade school. Now who would dare say being a teacher is noble but only suit hopeless unemployed people? Please, people of all ages, strive to be the best teacher to your kids, and maybe, just maybe, we can cure this world of all diseases..
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GoodReads or Bust?

It’s a perfect setting: updating your blog in front of the window while it’s pouring outside. Rainwater cleanse out the cicak (small tropical lizard) droppings outside my bedroom wall. The incoming cool air replace the need of energy-draining A/C inside. But to others who have lost a house or means of transport due to the yearly flooding, they probably would rather say: “Rain, rain, go away, please come back another day.. (or year?)” So while I wait for my CVs to get any notice from some reliable schools (I teach science for middle school, please let me know should you know any vacant teaching position!), I read and update my GoodReads account.

my read shelf:
Virna's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)

How to say Goodreads
How to say Goodreads, a photo by PrincessPeach on Flickr.

I wonder if I can change career and become an editor or a writer. Naahh.. as much as I love to read, I still write poorly (this blog is probably a very good example.) While choosing which book is better than the other can be as easy as it sounds, writing a novel, albeit a bad one, would require real talent. So right now I’m just enjoying my presence in GR and some other book review social media sites that keep popping out like mushrooms this season. Booklikes is one of the bunch that I prefer. Another one I’m still tinkering with is Riffle. Wait, there’s a brand new one called Leafmarks – I’ll check it out soon since it’s founded by one of GR’s top reviewer (Emily May.)

Now I don’t intend to leave GR – I’ve spent a lot of my time building my presence there – but I would consider myself a GR refugee should better review site comes along. The reason being:

  • Most reviewers listed as ‘Top 100’ (in country listing, not World) just add the books they used to read in the past without contributing a decent paragraph for the reviewed title. And those reviewers who manage to review 200 books in a month – like, SERIOUSLY? As of Jan. 18, 2014, the record-holder is Eddy Allen (Canada) with 1,457 books reviewed this month. In Indonesia, Indah Lestari stays on top by reviewing 200 books. Is it even remotely possible to read and write a proper review of 100 books/week? Even if you’re a book editor, would you be able to do the feat if those are really 100 pop-up picture books?
  • There’s a growing number of authors as well as reviewers who have become victims of cyber-bullying. Bullying does happen in GR! I’ve read my share of negative reviews, but I’d have to draw the line when it comes to bodily threats (even if it’s only described in writing!) and heavy use of foul languages. Badly-written books are open invitation to badly-written reviews – try write a good thoughtful review of a badly-written books and you’ll have my respect..
  • Most teen reviewers (with raging hormones, I presume) generously use words such as: F–k, hell, motherf–r, omg!, you know the rest.. We know that YA books often use SAT words in such a way that one would think you’re reading the classics. Words such as: candor, erudite, abnegation, amity (I’m your fellow Divergent fans!) I wonder, if these reviewers read the book and understand those SAT words, can’t they at least write something legible that should describe their feelings about a particular title? I should blame the Facebook mentality here..
  • There are reviewers whose existence are just extensions of some aspiring writers desperate to have his or her book gain some positive following, no matter how mediocre the work. I’m currently reading an e-book to be reviewed on GR. By the end of p.42, I’ve dreaded giving this author a (justly-deserved) 2-star, since he’s only gotten less than 10 ratings and my review would wreak havoc in his overall ratings (he’s a GR author as well.)

(His book has a 4.5 star rating at the moment, while one of my favorite novel, Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, is currently rated a tad below 4.)

  • Books like Twilight and other YA favorites rule the GR constellation.. though there are some true gems (like all Rainbow Rowell’s books!) Can we then inspire some YA readers to infuse much-needed enthusiasm to some ‘adult‘ titles? Give me some inspiration to pick up books by Eugenides, and you’ll get my ‘like’ in your review..

So if you ask me, I’d like to stay on GR, but about time some geniuses create better sites, hopefully ones where I can easily transfer my GR titles, ratings and reviews with a push of a button!

Black rhino
White rhino, a photo by Manuel ROMARÍS on Flickr.

Floods & Sins [Help Manado 2014 Plea]

It’s been raining cats and dogs here in Jakarta – my city taking in the annual new-year-flooding – and people living in flood-prone areas already settle down in emergency shelters. Unfortunately, around the same time came disaster news from my kampong, Manado. Flash floods swept away most of Manado in less than 2 hours, in the middle of the day, and left thousands of people homeless, and some dead. The most tragic event had been the landslide that severed the arterial road of Tomohon-Manado in several locations, causing 5 or so cars traveling along the road under heavy downpours to fall within the cracks.

Just looking at the disaster pictures plastered on the first pages of every major newspapers in Indonesia, I could not help to be a bit apathetic. Last time I visited Manado had been 2 years ago; my mom and dad went there just last Christmas with my nephew. There were signs of environmental neglect in the city of Manado since the areas of Manado beach was open for business. There are now 4 or 5 malls standing only few meters away from the beach line. Obviously the walikotas and bupatis (mayors) never care enough to halt the never-ending construction. Keep in mind that most locals work as civil servant; most entrepreneurial endeavors are done either by Chinese-Manadoneses or those comes from outside North Sulawesi province (e.g. Javanese, Makassar, and the likes.) Mostly low-income PNS (civil servant) would come in droves during lunch hours and sometimes well after, almost everyday, that you’d wonder where that much spending power comes from.
Boulevard-Manado
Boulevard-Manado, a photo by izkaiska on Flickr.
Here’s what I’d like the Minahasa people to do;
  • Wake-up!
  • Re-elect city officials and call KPK to investigate further on any fund mishandling during their tenure
  • Stop going to the malls, start taking care of your family crops (clove, coconuts, cashews, you name it..)
  • Encourage your kids to study harder instead of aspiring to be just another TV stars
  • Encourage your college-bound kids to leave for better schools outside Manado so they could think like normal people for once..
  • Pray that when the flood recedes, people would start acting differently instead of going back to business-as-usual

And those Minahasan living in the US – come back and start rebuilding your motherland! With your US education, you can educate your Minahasan brothers and sisters.

Thank you, Youth. Godspeed, 2014!

Seventeen days going into 2014 and I already got bored waiting for exciting things to happen. Well, if some people mentioned that turning 2/5 of a century is like being 20 all over again, they’re gravely mistaken.
Patient laying in chair at a dental clinic surgery
Patient, a photo by Robert Lang Photography on Flickr.
In my case, about 20 years ago or so I happened to be:
  • 20 kg lighter
  • having less gray hairs
  • a hopeless romantic
  • pursuing a degree
  • starting a new life in a foreign country
  • drinking vodka shots in other people’s houses
  • watching Arnold Schwarzenegger’s True Lies with a (German) guy I like
  • spending a lot of time in a library because my life depended on it
  • trying on nail polish at the 24h WalMart in the middle of the night
  • doing a lot of walking (couldn’t afford a car at that time..)
  • an idealist
  • the apple of my mother’s eye
  • a sister of two (2) younger brothers
I should pat myself on the back and said: “You’ve come a long way, baby!” (Attention Virginia Slims, still can’t bring myself to start smoking!) But life has been kind, too. The joy of my youth still could not take away the fact that I, by now, have:
  • an adorable nephew who worship me (plus a chubby niece and an estranged nephew)
  • owned a house
  • earned two degrees
  • collected enough books for a personal library
  • been to Taj Mahal (and the World Trade Ctr before it collapsed)
  • been to a SmashMouth and ThirdEyeBlind concert
  • been courted by a good-looking Kuwaiti (the first Mr. Piston!)
  • had friends who happened to be Thai, Ethiopian, Somali, Chinese, Taiwanese, and Indian (including a former boss)
  • taught middle-school Physics
  • met my high school Physics teacher after I became a Physics teacher
  • a ragtag following of satisfied former students (including one member of the Overtunes!)
  • become a photographer (with a flickr acct..) and an avid reader (with a GoodReads acct..)
  • 3 iPhones, 2 iPods and an Internet connection
  • become a realist
  • a brother who is now in Heaven
And to share my goal before I become a half-centenarian self – I would like to:
  • be an optimist
  • have closer relationship with God
  • be a great aunt and teacher to my nephew Tim
  • speak another language, semi-fluently (either Japanese, Hindi, Arabic or Finnish..)
  • take up diving
  • take landscape shots of at least 10 Indonesian remote beaches
  • go back to graduate school
  • own a business (most probably anything related to education, or probably agriculture.. ha!)
  • own a patch of arable land (growing cashews, melons or grapes..)
  • visit the base of Everest Base Camp
  • have quality time with my best friends
  • go out with a great guy (non-Kuwaiti, thank you very much!)
  • be 20 kg lighter (or 5 kg, whichever comes first..)
Carry On Luggage
Carry On Luggage, a photo by Boy_Wonder on Flickr.
Now let me update my resume again – need another job to feed myself, stat!