Monthly Archives: January 2007

Snowman, Cuteness

I must be a poor judge of something cute.
Before Christmas, I was out shopping with my daughter and we needed to find something for my newly born niece. We’re in Borders walking around and I see a small stand of stuffed animals. I naturally gravitate towards a bear as they seem to be the safest to pick for somebody to like a lot.
As I pick up a brown bear, my daughter grabs a small snowman off the shelf. She exclaims, “This is soooo cute!”. I go, “You think your baby cousin would like that more than the bear?” She goes, “Yes this is much better, Daddy! Get this for her!” I go, “Are you sure? This bear is pretty cute too…” She goes, “Yeah it’s pretty cute, but this snowman is really cute!”. We go on for a little bit longer and I relent. I look at this snowman and it’s OK, but I think the bear is cuter. Whatever. So I put back the bear and grab the snowman. She goes, “Can I hold it?” I go, “Sure of course”, and give it to her.
We walk around some more, picking up some other stuff for her other cousins. And all this time she’s cuddling the snowman and finally as we’re ready to leave, she pulls on my sleeve and looks up at me with those Daddy-melting-eyes and asks, “Can I have one too?” I laugh and say, “Of course sweetheart, go and grab one.” She runs off and we end up buying two.
And I’m still trying to figure out what makes this snowman so cute over that bear, or something else for that matter.
At Christmas, I give the snowman to my baby niece and SHE LOVES IT. The whole time while I’m there, she’s got it in her arms and running around everywhere with it. The other day (many weeks after Christmas), my sister calls me and tells me my baby niece is STILL running around with the snowman and sleeping with it every night, well after most kids would lose interest on a toy.
Geez. Go figure.
So much for my expertise in what’s cute and what’s not.

We’re Still A Fearful Society

The Mercury News reports that the creation of a Mandarin immersion program for Kindergarten to First Graders will likely get squashed.
It’s amazing to see people still fearful of their own turf in this day and age. Haven’t we moved beyond this? Of course not. Drive to Oregon and you’ll see people stare at you (if you’re Asian) as if you’re from Mars…by the way this happened just a few months ago. And just try heading to the middle of the country. Let me tell you – ignorant and bigoted folks still exist in great quantity. Perhaps I should be nicer and say “naive”. Should I stoop to their level and call them something negative when they just have not experienced the world and become more comfortable with that which is unknown to them now?
How can we compete on a global scale if we can’t even see the realities of the situation that our children need to be better prepared for the future? Humans have a tendency to blind themselves where fear is concerned.
Global warming? Just a fluke. Might lose my business if I do something about it. Of course might lose the planet if I’m wrong….
The article is reprinted below – if I get an email from the copyright people, I’ll likely delete this so sorry about that!
By Sharon Noguchi
Mercury News
After the Cupertino Union School District began the nation’s first Mandarin immersion elementary program eight years ago, interest in teaching Chinese skyrocketed, with schools from San Mateo to Charlotte, N.C., following suit.
But the Palo Alto school district probably won’t be joining them.
On Tuesday night, faced with a blizzard of opposition, trustees indicated they can’t support Superintendent Mary Frances Callan’s recommendation to offer Mandarin classes to 40 kindergartners and first graders in August. They said they were worried that the program would further burden administrators, crowd elementary and middle schools, and divert attention from projects such as improving writing.
“We’ve stretched our staff so much, and we can only do so many things,” said trustee Dana Tom. “It’s like going to the grocery store and buying a candy bar in the checkout line, without thinking that, ‘Gee, I really need bread.’ ”
A group of parents have been lobbying for the program for four years, but implementing Mandarin immersion in Palo Alto could have proven costly politically for trustees.
In the contentious discussion leading to a public hearing Tuesday, opponents threatened to boycott fundraising efforts, vote against board members, oppose future tax measures and even try to rescind the parcel tax passed in 2005. Several accused the district of catering to an “affluent, vocal minority.”
That perception — that Mandarin programs serve a limited and privileged constituency — helped incite passionate opposition and fueled intense online debates. About 120 people turned out for the hearing, divided among proponents wearing red — the Chinese good-luck color — and opponents wearing green.
As a result of the surging interest in Mandarin, the College Board will offer an AP test in the language for the first time this spring. At the Chinese American International School, a private school in San Francisco, applications have more than doubled in four years. And for the first time in its 25-year history, non-Chinese students form the majority in the pre-kindergarten classes, said Andrew Corcoran, head of the school.
The trend, at least in part, reflects the growing economic importance of China.
In Cupertino, Mandarin immersion also engendered intense controversy at its inception with parents voicing the same fears as those in Palo Alto: They worried it would divert precious funds, and they disliked the growing influence of Asians in schools.
But opposition has subsided; there are now 40 children on the waiting list for kindergarten. The 315-student program at Meyerholz Elementary draws from both native Mandarin speakers and those who know no Chinese at all, said director Mary Jew. In fact, she said, “sometimes non-native speakers have a much better pronunciation.”
Several districts had been hoping to follow the Cupertino model. Palo Alto had conducted a “feasibility study” in response to a request last spring from a parent group, Palo Altans for Chinese Education.
As a result of the study, Callan suggested starting two K-1 classes at Ohlone Elementary School in August. Principal Susan Charles had met Tuesday with her staff and welcomed the program.
Ohlone has one of Palo Alto’s three alternative programs, along with a direct-instruction program at Hoover and a Spanish immersion program at Escondido.
But at the public hearing Tuesday, four of five trustees expressed reservations about adding a fourth alternative program. The final vote is scheduled for Jan. 30.
While acknowledging the demand for Mandarin language instruction, trustees still said they didn’t want to tie district hands by adding another commitment. Only board President Camille Townsend supported the idea.
“Language acquisition happens best at kindergarten and pre-K,” she said. The district should continue being an educational leader by starting a Mandarin program, she said.
Despite the superintendent’s assertion that the program would not cost extra money, opponents and several board members expressed concerns that it would siphon staff time and other resources.
Some worried that a Mandarin program would attract more families as the district nears its school-room capacity, noting that because Palo Alto schools get most of their funding from local property taxes and not the state, more students doesn’t mean more money.
And many objected to offering a program for only a small portion of students.
“This is a private school for the Mandarin-speaking population,” said Anya Finseth, who asked whether speakers of other languages should also get a program.
Trustee Mandy Lowell said, “I think it is a terrific program.” Then, after debunking opponents’ arguments, she concluded, “The pluses don’t outweigh the minuses.”
Ultimately, proponents concluded that the board found the political costs exceeded the value of the program. “I thought they would have a little bit more vision about where they are taking the school district,” said David Yen, parent of a 4-year-old boy.
Other proponents concluded that it was simply easier to disappoint proponents than to further enrage opponents.
“For Chinese to become a mainline language in school, it has to be something those who are not ethnic Chinese will support,” said Corcoran of the Chinese American International School. “It’s very important that we look at the study of Chinese as serving the whole community.”

Learning Touchy-Feely Mandarin

Today I had my first Mandarin class with a friend of mine. We decided it could be cool to do a joint class and maybe lower fees for both of us, but potentially have a wider variety of things to talk about and practice our Mandarin.
At the beginning of class, I related to the teacher what my goals were, which were to learn “feelings” words, conversation, and usage, and to gain enough fluency in business Mandarin to deliver my old creativity in online advertising presentation and be able to field questions.
The second goal was pretty standard; my teacher is already teaching at companies like Google and helping people with their work with China. The specific language used in online advertising is something she hasn’t much experience in, but I think we’ll get there.
The first goal was more unusual. Initially when I told my friend I was interested in learning Mandarin, and that I wanted to learn “feelings” words in Mandarin, she laughed and said that was exactly what she was doing with her current teacher. I laughed too and thought this would be the perfect opportunity to do this.
Learning “feelings” words is definitely a female thing. But in the last 2 years post-divorce, I have come to believe that communication of one’s inner feelings is crucial to maintaining good relations with another person, whether in English or Mandarin. I think it is useful for people of both sexes to learn the language of feelings and to practice using them so that they become part of their normal everyday vocabulary.
As we talked today through class, I came to realize that many of these words were not known to the teacher. I asked why that was. Apparently, it is more than just not knowing the language. It’s much more deeper than that – apparently it’s a cultural thing.
The Chinese, over the centuries, have come to view expression of their feelings to be downplayed or not done at all for a variety of reasons ranging from men afraid to show that they are weak to just lack of modern research in relations and the effects of “feelings” communication.
This revelation was very interesting to me. I thought back to my parents and definitely they did not use this language much. Then when it came to English, they didn’t bother to learn these words and the use of “feelings” communication became doubly removed. Which then leads to the children – uh, that’s ME – not learning this method of communicating – or at least not from parents. It suddenly became very clear as to why my “feelings” communication abilty was severely hampered until the last 2 years or so and I actively pursued its study in attempt to be better at it…at least in English.
I can already communicate light conversation with someone in Mandarin. It was time to up the ante and get into more complex concepts. Ultimately, I believe this will make a stronger communicator when it comes to relating to someone in Mandarin, and, I believe, even in business situations.

Downsizing My Life and Moving

I just bought a new place. It’s about less than half the size of my house and just what the doctor ordered.
Basically, I’ve got too much crap. And I need to get rid of as much of it as possible. I don’t know what the crap is in my garage, I never use it, and have come to the conclusion that I don’t need it to be sitting in my garage…or in the rest of my house.
This house is also just too much space for one guy. It encourages crap to pile up and I finally get fed up with it all last November and bought my new condo in Palo Alto (current house in Cupertino).
My plan is to buy all new furniture and furnish the PA condo first. Then, I will move everything I want to keep over there. Anything that is left in the old house is up for trashing or garage sale or giving away.
Thankfully, almost all of the furniture has arrived and now I can start the long process of getting all the stuff I want to keep over to it. I still may need a storage cube, but that’s ok. The cathartic process of cleaning up and throwing away stuff I don’t need is going to get rid of all the rest.
I can’t wait for the finality of downsizing my life. It takes a huge weight off my shoulders. Having so much stuff isn’t satisfying and ultimately harmful, in my view. Yes money can buy you lots of things, but in the end, having every freakin’ thing in the universe isn’t going to make you happy.