Posted by: Spacehamster74 | 01/13/2011

Heuristic versus Algorithmic parenting

I stumbled across this article by Amy Chua titled “Why Chinese Mothers are Superior”. In summary, the article posits that if you ban your child from making any friends, and make them study 24 hours-a-day you’ll produce “the perfect child”.

My parents never reached the extremes that Amy Chua did. However, I do recall being banned from seeing friends, or not being allowed to go with my parents to visit a friends place because I had homework to do. No wonder I was socially isolated when I was a teenager.

From my own personal experience, the end result is a child who might be academically brilliant, but has low self-esteem, no initiative and stifled creativity. That child might succeed at high school, but fail badly at College and barely scrape through university.

I think what’s fascinating is observing which professions Asian parents perceive as being the most successful. From my experience, the profession that garners the highest accolades are Doctors or Accountants. Engineering is regarded as mid-range. The profession that garners the lowest accolade is the IT Profession. Asian parents regard IT as being for people that play computer games and can’t work in a “real job”. Tell that to Steve Jobs or Bill Gates. It certainly explains why I don’t see many Asians in IT jobs.

What’s interesting is seeing just how many people endured the same childhood that I did, and came through life bearing the same scars. I find it quite comforting to find out that I’m not alone.

Posted by: Spacehamster74 | 01/07/2011

About the Online Shopping debate

There’s been quite a bit of press lately about the Big Retailers campaign against Online shopping. I’ve been shopping online for a few years now. In almost all cases, I’ve found that the prices of online retailers are much cheaper than their bricks-and-mortar counterparts.

For example: I went to Dick Smith and Optus when I was shopping for my Samsung Galaxy smartphone. In both cases the customer service was apathetic (to say the least), and neither retailer had the Galaxy in stock. So I bought the phone at Mobicity instead. Their customer service was fast and friendly. And every purchase comes with a 12-month guarantee. I received the phone within a week, whereas I would’ve had to wait for a month if I’d bought it from Dick Smith or Optus.

Better customer service and lower prices are the reason I prefer to shop online. And it’s only now that Big Retailers like Harvey Norman are starting to recognise just how big a threat online retailers are to their businesses. So they respond to this threat, not by being providing better service or being innovative. Instead, they use tactics that I believe amount to intimidation: “If you don’t shop with us, we’ll slug you with a new tax.”. A large proportion of the online retailers I shop with are based in Australia. Even though Harvey and his partners say they are campaigning against foreign companies like, I think the real target of their anger and vitriol are sites like Mobicity and PC CaseGear. It’s about protecting their bottom-line, not serving their customers – and it always has been.

And they wonder why I won’t shop with them again if I can help it.

Posted by: Spacehamster74 | 01/07/2011

It takes more guts to go on living…

I don’t like sharing depressing news with people (for obvious reasons). But what was chronicled in this article was so shocking that I had to write about it. Bill Zeller was a brilliant Fifth Year graduate student in Computer Science. He hadn’t even left Uni and he was already developing some, quite frankly, really great applications. He was popular, widely respected, and it appears that he had one heck of a future ahead of him.

Here’s the suicide letter he wrote (warning: It’s really depressing).

I can certainly empathize a little with what Bill Zeller wrote about. My teenage years were socially isolated and very lonely. Looks and appearances are everything when you’re a teenager. Let’s face it, a 16 year-old overweight acne-ridden Asian guy isn’t going to have many friends, right? There were some really dark moments when I honestly contemplated doing what Bill Zeller did. And then I remembered a quote from a book I read: “It takes more guts to go on living than to just give up and die.”. It’s twenty years later, and I’m incredibly grateful that I listened to that advice.

I’ve never talked with anyone about this. Ever. Partly because at the time I believe it would’ve brought shame and embarrassment upon my family. Also because I don’t think my parents would’ve been very sympathetic to someone with a potential mental issue  that really did need treatment. And because I’m certain that people would’ve laughed at me and despised me even more than they already did. And mostly because, twenty years on, I’d left it all behind me and became a better well-adjusted person in the process. Looking back on that dark period of my life, I’m amazed and extraordinarily grateful that I made it out the other end.

To anyone reading this who’s either going through what I did back then, or contemplating doing what Bill Zeller did, remember this: You are not alone. There are approximately 6 billion people living on this planet, and I can guarantee that quite a few of them are going through what you’re experiencing. Talk to someone. Write it down. Get help. Just don’t give up, because it takes more courage to go on living than to just give up and die.

Posted by: Spacehamster74 | 12/30/2010

Is Star Wars still entertainment?

Just read this interesting posting by John Scalzi on his Whatever Blog, discussing whether or not Star Wars is good entertainment. You can find further discussion here, and here at John Seavey’s blog.

I can only add my own meagre $0.02 based on my own experiences. Star Wars was the very first film I remember seeing, and for a 3 year-old it was a life-altering experience. I think Star Wars is great entertainment for a kid. It has memorable spaceship designs that were easy to draw, memorable characters and a simple easy-to-follow storyline.

But I found that as I got older I needed to read and watch stories that reflected the more complex life I was leading. So I started watching Star Trek and Doctor Who when I was 12. I read Douglas Adams, Isaac Asimov and Arthur C Clarke when I was 16. And I discovered Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore in my mid-twenties. The observant amongst you might’ve noted a lengthy 5-10 year gap between each set of authors. That’s what happens when you’re socially isolated and don’t have any friends to share your interests with.

The conclusion I can draw from my own experiences is that because Star Wars was pastiche of a lot of other genres, it was a great jumping-off point to discover the rest of Science Fiction and Fantasy. I wonder what the jumping off-point was for later generations?

Posted by: Spacehamster74 | 12/23/2010

On the frustrations of Pedestrian traffic

I don’t know about anyone else, but I find strolling about any crowded streets occasionally annoying. I lived in Melbourne for about 5 years, and if there’s one thing that used to annoy the hell out of me, it was colliding with the occasional pedestrian. What’s worse is, they wouldn’t apologize – they’d just give you the stink eye and shove you aside. I think that kind of behaviour is one reason I was happy to leave Melbourne and come back to Hobart. Not to mention the public transport and the social isolation – that was pretty awful too.

And now I’m starting to see the same kind of annoying behavior in Hobart as well. People just don’t seem to understand how to “give way” before they’re about to collide with someone. I think this kind of behaviour is indicative of our own narcissistic attitude about ourselves – it’s all about “me me me” rather than “us us us”. Hobart didn’t always used to be this way. When I returned here 5 years ago, Hobart was a very friendly comfortable city to live in. Nowadays it seems almost as bad as Melbourne. There’s an edge of nastiness and maliciousness that wasn’t there before.

Or maybe it’s just me. I’m not ashamed to admit that this has been the toughest year of my professional working life. I’m pretty stressed out, burned out and completely exhausted. Hopefully a 3-week holiday away from the Office Politics here at work will help.

Posted by: Spacehamster74 | 12/22/2010

I’d rather wear a rubber-band on my wrist

I heard this morning on ABC Radio that the ACCC has ruled that the Power Balance wristbands have no credible scientific basis for their claims.

English cricketers Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Strauss, AFL bad boy Brendan Fevola, St Kilda captain Nick Riewoldt and NRL star Benji Marshall have all been known to wear the bracelets.

But ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel said in a statement: “Power Balance has admitted that there is no credible scientific basis for the claims and therefore no reasonable grounds for making representations about the benefits of the product.

“Its conduct may have contravened the misleading and deceptive conduction section of the Trade Practices Act 1974,” Mr Samuel said.

I keep on wondering just how people can be suckered into buying this stuff. And then I remember that rational thinking and logic aren’t really valued by either the community nor mainstream media nowadays. For a civilization that is quite probably at the pinnacle of its development, we really aren’t all that bright are we?

Posted by: Spacehamster74 | 12/22/2010

Hello world!

Welcome to This is your first post. Edit or delete it and start blogging!

Posted by: Spacehamster74 | 12/21/2010

Behold the Android!

I’m typing this on my new samsung galaxy smartphone. I’ve had the phone for a month and thus far I’m very happy with it. It’s a huge improvement over my old winmo phone.

what impresses me is the wide range of applications available for android, as compared to winmo 6.1. I’m using both fbreader and kindle to read ebooks. internet surfing and reading is a breeze. I’m even using twitter – which I never would’ve used on my old phone.

I can easily see this phone lasting me for a few years. I’d recommend this phone to anybody.

Posted by: Spacehamster74 | 11/30/2010

Steve Tucker’s story

For personal reasons, I can deeply empathize with Steve Tucker's story. Especially when it comes to his difficulties in dating girls – it's a problem that I've had since I was a teenager. The reasons were the same, but the causes were different: "Why would any girl want to date someone as fat, stupid and ugly as me?".

My story is not about "Romeo & Juliet", it is about every kid being bullied in the school yard. It is about teenage kids committing suicide because they feel worthless. It is about people dealing with disability; those who cannot communicate their suffering and the families that care for these people tirelessly. It is about telling peer pressure to go f— itself. It's childish behaviour and it impacts our adult lives in ways we don't see. It is about gender stereotypes (both of them) and social conditioning. It is about mental health and getting help if needed.

I'm telling my side to stop the bullshit and telling disadvantaged people: "You can win. I am proof of this. But you must have a go to give yourself a fighting chance at a happy life."

Some people might think Steve's actions that were initially reported in the media were foolhardy. But I deeply understand the reasons for why he did what he did.

Posted by: Spacehamster74 | 11/11/2010

It may not be a democracy but it at least has to be fair

I wasn't surprised to read that Ivanhoe Girls Grammar wouldn't invite same-sex couples to the school formal. I was even less surprised after reading this article at Crikey.

It is downright embarrassing to read that the principal doesn’t “think it’s appropriate they feel discriminated against”. For someone who has been the principal of this exclusive school for almost 15 years to not have any understanding of what it might feel like to be a teenager who is marginalised or discriminated against is amazing. And shows a complete lack of empathy.

When I attended the school in the late 1990s there was a lot of pressure on students to attend functions expressly designed for “socialising” with boys. It seems as though nothing’s changed. While at co-educational schools activities such as formals and school plays — high school rites of passage — are organised for the benefit of students, at IGGS it has always been another story.

 Coming from a Public School, I've always had a perception that Private School Education was for the Elite Ultra-Conservative White Anglo-Saxon Landed Gentry. Incidents like these aren't likely to persuade me to change my mind.

And well done to both the girls and their parents for standing up for what they believe in and voting with their feet. What both Hannah and Savannah have experienced was pretty awful. But at least prospective parents and students considering joining Ivanhoe Girls Grammar will know what that school really stands for. 

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