The ultimate resolution for 2007

Looks like I’m a little late to be making a resolution right now but better than never! So, ten days has passed into 2007. I had some thoughts of what resolutions I should make for 2007 before the final clicks of two thousand six. But I made an excuse that everyone else uses—that resolutions are almost always the same and they tend to fail. Why bother? However, I did manage to think of some resolutions in my mind like you’re having a silent prayer in your brain. My resolutions were to go to gym more consistently, read more books (seems like I spend all of my reading on the web), get into touch with my Korean family more, learn how to read/write Hangul, go outdoors more often like camping, hiking, fishing, snowboarding, design a few websites for my friends, hang out with friends more and save money. Well, these are pretty common resolutions, so I guess that’s why I made the excuse.

Till now.

I’ve decided I will have a resolution for 2007. It’s going to sound ultimate. I’m gonna blog at least once per day till Dec. 31st. Yes that’s right, everyday, 365, no, I missed ten days, so it’s 355. This is the first one. I’ve always enjoy writing and I’m like this guy who looks at other people’s blogs and say damn I wish I could write like that or my writing is never going to be as good as theirs. Well, so what? at least I can read/write and do my best to follow the grammar rules. Who gives a shit if that person could write like William Faulkner or William Shakespeare? those words are mine. They form my writing style. And to get better at anything, you have to practice. For my writing to get better, I gotta blog everyday. I really have no excuse not to blog; I have like five different ways to post, both on computer and off. I can post through my new blackberry, gmail, macbook, and desktop. I sorta have this theory that the more you blog, the more productive you’ll be. I’m not really sure why or how I make that conclusion but I just feel it has to be. We will find out next year. :-)

I remember last year or two years ago that someone vows to read one book per week, so that would be 54 books in one year. I thought that was a fascinating idea and a great way to keep the commitment so that’s probably where I got my inspiration for this blogging idea.

Tomorrow, I’m gonna write something about the law of attraction. It should be interesting.

Here’s 355 days to go.

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My experience at a deaf school.

Before I start this post, I just want to make a little precaution that this is being written by a twenty-something guy who did not learn a single word till he was three years old, learned ASL as the first language and was stuck with a fifth or lower grade English level all the way till high school before finally getting out of the incredibly long maze to take control of English language without being batted down with some red ink from my teachers.

I don’t have a fancy phd initials next to my name and I’m just a guy whose high school senior picture can be found on the same wall along with my both parents’ black/white senior pictures frames. Yes, we all graduated from the same school at Illinois School for the Deaf. It is one of the many common things we share together, considering the fact we don’t share a single same blood droplet. Yes, that’s right, not a single drop and the reason for that is because I was born in Korea and got adopted. Our deafness and love hold us stronger than the bricks that form the Great Wall of China.

So, now you’re familiar with my little background and that I don’t claim to be an authority on subjects that talk about how to improve education and school system. I figure it’s time for somebody to talk a bit about deaf schools after having attended one and the only one since I was three years old, then upon graduation, went to Gallaudet University my first year before transferring to RIT for a change of major to Information Science and most importantly, having been around Deaf people all my life and reading tons of articles/blogs on issues that affect us as Deaf people.

If there’s one topic that is too familiar in the deaf community other than cochlear implant, which I would say is on par with abortion or stem cell research is the closing of deaf institutions. Every time when a deaf school has to be closed, it touches every Deaf alumnus’ heart. Deaf schools are like a second home after spending a big chunk of time there; for some people, it can be as long as 18 years since they were born. It also means when a deaf school has to go, ASL lost another home too. Because deaf schools are usually where most deaf kids come to learn their natural language. So, it heartily affects everybody who attended or graduated from deaf schools.

I’m not sure if this is true but someone told me that in the state of Florida, any babies or kids who are pathologically identified to have a hearing loss, they are placed or sent to Florida School for the Deaf/Blind (FSDB). It’s one reason that FSDB has one of the largest enrollment numbers among deaf schools in the United States. Well, I think that’s a great idea. I’m not sure about being automatically placed as I need to confirm this research but at least I think the state should require parents with deaf babies to visit the deaf school and get all the information, more screening tests for their kids, and actually meet people who have many years of experience working directly with deaf kids. I’d imagine they offer all kinds of advice to parents that they SHOULD know before making a decision for the future of their kids. Too often, parents either don’t know about deaf schools or are being told that deaf schools are for retarded children. If they still feel strongly about getting a cochlear implant for their kids, that is fine as long as they’ve heard both sides: us and the doctors/world at large. It’d be wonderful if all states could use this kind of policy.

Another thing about the decline in enrollment numbers, I think, has been the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It’s really a double-edged sword because while we want equal opportunity in employment and no discrimination, public schools are forced to let deaf students enroll and provide interpreters. Naturally, parents would want their kids to be close to their home so they’d pick mainstreamed schools over deaf schools. But the problem with these public schools are some of them have zero experience or have never worked with deaf kids before so they’re clueless and just place them in one deaf class because they couldn’t afford an interpreter for each individual deaf student. They let or hire a teacher who claims s/he is fluent in ASL just because they had a childhood friend who was deaf or took an ASL class for one year back in college. That’s why I support the idea that parents should visit residential schools first before they make any decision.
One issue we all know too well about deaf schools is the lack of education. Well, there’s no denying that it’s not true. But it’s not really their fault that they have a lower education standards than other public schools. Numbers play a huge part here. Not a long ago, I read something really insightful called the 80-20 rule. An Italian sociologist and economist named Vilfredo Pareto was the one who came up with the pattern of the 80-20. While studying microeconomnics, he observed that 80% of housing income in Italy was received by 20% of the Italian population. A more broadly definition is 80% of the consequences stem from 20% of the causes. It is known as the Pareto principle.

You’re probably going “huh?” I was just like you so I found some more practical examples. In sports, 20% percent of its top players produce 80% of the scoring. In business, 80% of the sales are made by 20 percent of the sales team. Even with our work; 20% percent of our efforts produce 80% of the results. 20% of Wikipedia users produce 80% of the content.

Beginning to see the pattern? this can even apply to the recent Gallaudet protest. 20% of the protesters report 80% of the latest news (the other 20% is probably Gallaudet’s biased PR, Washington Post and other biased media). 20% of the protesters help organize/lead/rally the 80% of the protest. Even in salaries, 20% of top paid positions get 80% of the budget.

Remember, it is just a theory, not the perfect universal answer or pattern to everything but it can help understand why certain things happen and explain the numbers. So, how is this related to the lack of education at deaf schools? Okay, let’s say 20% of students make up 80% of the school’s academic success. Enrollment numbers are very small at school, like at ISD, there is about 100 students in high school so that means there would be about twenty students who are academic. Now, in mainstreamed public schools, they usually have a thousand students or even two thousand, so they’ll have 200 students or 400 students who are academically driven. With those higher numbers, public schools can afford to offer more classes such as AP courses. They’ll have students who can take AP calculus and put about twenty students in the class and others in different courses like English. You can’t expect to put all 20 deaf students in one AP class and probably only a few can take it. To principals, it’s not a good use of teachers’ time and money to teach two or three students in one class. Like I said at the beginning, it is all about the numbers and the lower the numbers are, the lower the education level is going to be. It’s as simple as that.

So, where’s the solution in this? This is going to sound simplistic. Make an exchange program with mainstreamed schools. Establish a partnership with them. Send deaf students to public schools to take advanced courses that deaf schools don’t or cannot offer. At the same time, public schools can send their students to deaf school for ASL class for those who are interested in learning ASL and perhaps want to become a deaf teacher in the future.

How did I know about this? because I was in the program before. My high school, ISD, had a partnership with Jacksonville High School and I took an AP math class and physics there. Other deaf students also took psychology or history. JHS also had their own ASL class for those students who are first year and second year ASL class is taught at my school for deeper interaction with deaf students. I remember how those ASL classes were always seem to be full of hot girls and I had a crush on one girl who was an all-state volleyball player. Also, one girl from the class is now an English teacher and another girl is taking up deaf education to become a teacher too. I would say this exchange program is a win-win situation.

The only thing I’m going to add is a tutor program for those deaf students who go to public schools. If they wanted to take classes at public schools, they’d be required to attend tutor sessions because they will receive tons of homework. They couldn’t meet teachers after school or end of classes because they would miss their transports to take them back to deaf school. Also, tutors know ASL and would be able to explain concepts more clearly and assist with whatever questions they may have.

I’m going to talk about sports now. I’m not very tall or big but I was fortunate to be a starter on varsity teams (football, basketball, and track). If I went to another school, I would never been a starter and would be lucky to make a varsity in one sport, not three. Sports can play a big recruiter tool; look no further than those college teams that offer big scholarships to top athletes in the nation. If there’s going to be one thing that deaf schools can attract students from mainstreamed schools, it’s the sports. I personally know two guys who transferred from mainstreamed schools to our school so they can be starters instead of benchwarmers at their schools. Who would want to be on a bench all the time knowing you could be a starter at another school? Coaches and players find difficulty communicating with deaf players and they just find their way back to the bench and be a fan supporter. That is one thing deaf schools have an
“advantage” over other schools. However, it’s the scheduling that is entirely a different story.

We play in a very tough football conference called Western Illinois Valley Conference that consists of twelve teams and is split in two divisions: North and South. This conference is one of the toughest conferences in the state of Illinois and three or four teams would be ranked in top ten every year and has brought state championships for many years. Their enrollment numbers are growing while ours would stay the same or decline. Also, smaller schools would consolidate together to boost their enrollment or to solve their small budget problems by merging together. For us, no, we’re definitely not going to see more deaf babies being born. Their schools are becoming bigger while we stay the same or smaller. So, it’s no brainer that we always end up with the worst record.

In my freshmen year, we were 0-9 but was awarded a forfeit win because IHSA busted one school for letting an over-aged kid play. The next year, we’re 0-9 again, junior year same again, 0-9. So, my first three years of playing high school football were combined 0-27. I’m not going to count that forfeit win to make myself better. It’s no fun coming in the game, knowing you’re already doomed. There is probably no worse feeling than that. It really sucked. But during our senior year, having the largest class in five years and growing up together during those rough three years and a revamped new offense system that showed a lot of reverses and fakes with two wingmen, we finally WON a game. That was against Meredosia, which had about the same number of students as we did. We went on a winning streak, defeating Routt Catholic (our biggest upset win), Virginia, Northwestern in our homecoming game, before losing to Triopia, which was a state-ranked team. We were 5-3 and had to beat Greenfield, a perennial playoffs team to earn a playoff bid in our last game and guess what? we beat them! Then we played against a powerhouse football team, El Paso, that had almost 400 students versus our 130 students. Needless to say, we got beat badly. As for basketball? for all four years I’ve played, we’ve never had a winning season, so there’s not much to say about that.

So, what’s my point in all those? Make deaf schools independent of those non-sense conferences. I’m jealous of other deaf schools that find a way to play a few deaf schools in their schedule. Model Secondary School for the Deaf (MSSD) in Washington, DC often play against deaf school teams during their seasons including flying to California and Texas. Some deaf schools host deaf-schools-only tournaments. My dream would to create a new kind of conference for deaf school teams if that’s ever possible, so those so-called Deaf National Team of the Years honors will be legitimate instead of questionable. My fondest sports memories came from playing against deaf teams in Central School Sports for the Deaf (CSSD) tournaments. Our enrollment numbers are similar, we share same disability, we can actually talk to each other after games and make friends. I never did that with any hearing teams, so to speak. I’m not trying to sound as if I am against hearing people but it’s just the way things are. You can’t help it if you wanted to.

I realize this post is becoming very long and if you’re still reading this, well, I’m glad. I realize this is more of a personal experience than specific ways/suggestions to improve deaf schools. One more thing I’m going to bring up is the people or staff who work at deaf schools. I really think that there should be at least 50% or more deaf people working or teaching at deaf schools. This ensures that deaf kids will have an exposure to deaf role models and for deaf people to have a job. I’m not against hearing people who want to work with deaf kids and be a teacher but there are hundreds of schools elsewhere that they can get a teaching job while deaf people would prefer to teach at deaf schools where they can use ASL and without interpreters. That’s not saying deaf people cannot teach at public schools as they can use an intepreter but I don’t think hearing students would be as responsive if they had to use an interpreter to talk to the deaf teacher. It’s almost like hiring an English teacher to teach a Spanish class and use Spanish interpreters to translate English to Spanish. In dorms, deaf residental advisors can share stories or teach deaf kids how to get through life and in the real world as a Deaf person when oralism or cochlear implants didn’t work for them. I spent 15 years at ISD and all of my role models were Deaf, no hearing, to be honest.

That goes my post with my experience at a deaf school along with some suggestions that can help make deaf schools better. What I would really like to see is any hearing parents with a deaf child should go to visit a deaf residential school first before they make a decision. If they feel strongly about getting cochlear implant for their child, that is okay as long as they’ve considered all options but I don’t want to see them to feel that by not getting one means their child won’t be successful and cannot function in the world as we know it. I think that the sooner we realize or accept our deafness, the lesser we are going to struggle with our identities and where we belong to, also the sooner we can get on with learning. Deaf children would have developed a foundation in language development through ASL and be able to express their feelings or thoughts without spending tons of time in front of a mirror trying to pronounce between D and T. I know it’s hard for hearing people to see through that because they want to see their children as normal as they can be but they are normal, just a little different like everyone else is different.

I don’t regret for a single moment that I went to a deaf school at Illinois School for the Deaf and I’m looking forward to our 10 years reunion coming in 2009. It’ll be great to see both of my parents’ frames and mine on the wall one more time.

Gallaudet Protest may have cost more than 2 million dollars.

In the last post, I’ve pointed out that if the Board of Trustees decided to force JFK to resign, they’d have to pay her 2 million dollars as her lawyers cleverly advised her to put in the contract. Well, the Protest may have already cost Gallaudet more than 2 millions; however, it’s currently hypothetical right now. Here’s why.

First, I’d like to say something about how I felt last night and I would imagine this is how most people feel where such an event has put them to make gasps, cover their mouths with their hands and finally hit them hard and they started to weep. When something like that happens, you know it’s bad.

We just all witnessed something that’s never happened in the 142 years at Gallaudet University and something that’s never happened during the 1988 DPN Protest either, 135 incredibly brave students were arrested.

The emotions just blew to all time high—a sky high—and everyone went into an unbelievable disbelief and was utterly shocked. It was one of those rare moments when everything stopped for a min and we were transfixed on our computer screens, incessantly clicking on the reload button for the latest news from deafread.com, only to find out that we weren’t the only ones clicking down our mouses to death, millions others have done the same thing, which sent the server to crash, had to settle with next two or three servers till our senses and million others finally got what’s really going on.

It wasn’t so about the arrests that broke our hearts; it went much more than that. The place we all have come to know Gallaudet University, the uniqueness around the campus, the sense of belonging that all deaf people feel is gone or rather, destroyed. It feels like Gallaudet University is no longer unique from other places where it is the only large-scale place that ASL is not a minority language there.

Seeing those arrests gave me scary flashbacks what would become of Gallaudet University in the future not so far away from now. It will have interpreters in classrooms, just like every other college and deaf students will no longer see the reason to attend Gallaudet University anymore. ASL will not be a mandatory thing to learn or enforced for the sake of communication standard. Then, Congress will begin to see the same thing, decide to cut off the funding, and tell these students that they can just go home to their local colleges and to give them with ADA laws pamphlets to remind them that they have the right to get an interpreter. Gallaudet University is either closed or re-named to perhaps I.K. Jordan University and its mascot animal will be the Lobsters.

Okay, there I’ve said it, perhaps too extreme in tastes or in ASL, “far-out!” or get the heck out of here! But believe me, this is what most of us fear. All right, let’s ease a bit down on the drama side and explain what the hell I was talking about Gallaudet Protest that may have already cost them more than two million dollars. Well, it’s time to think mathematically.

So, 135 students were arrested. I.K. Jordan and JFK have their names locked on the list. They will be meeting over some lobster bisque soup leftovers from their recent super-fancy dinner. They will discuss if those students should be expelled. And if they were to be expelled from the university, that will cost them a lot of money, my friend. Take a look at this chart from Gallaudet University’s website on tuitions and fees.

The estimated total tuition for a whole semester is $10,735 for an undergraduate student. About $500 more for a graduate student. I’ll just use the UG student figures. Assuming they are expelled and will not return next semester, 135 students times $10,735 is a whopping $1,449,225. Not too far away from 2 million dollars to “buy out” Jane Fernandes. I think many of them are freshmen or second-year students, so they would have come back next year, so I’ll take 100. 100 times $10,735 times 2 (for two semesters) comes to $2,147,000. So, a potential total loss is $3,596,225.

Remember, this is all based on the assumption that I.K. Jordan and Fernandes decide to expel them out of campus. Now, is it worth it? so much for J.K Fernandes and so little for the students.

Think about it, the Board of Trustees.

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Gallaudet Protest may need two million dollars

That’s the amount of dollars the Board of Trustees have agreed to pay if they asked her to resign. Obviously, it’s going to take a lot to convince the BoTs to see if it’s worth two million dollars to replace her. Or the FSSA (facuty, staff, students and alumni) finds a way to come up with that amount of money and they can say “Look, we have two million dollars. Please step down.” but that’s just me and my radical thinking. I got this information from where else? Ridorlive.com. Look below about Jane’s contract.

This post isn’t going to be of a Pulitizer’s prize material but a curious observation and opinion by a person who was once a Gallaudet student during his first year of college in 1999 and has been following the protest closely.

The volcano has erupted once again. The protest first started in last May when students were unhappy with the selection of the next University president in Jane K. Fernandes and felt that the presidential search process was unfair and flawed. They also felt that JKF was pampered by I. King Jordan as they both hold a close friendship and JKF has risen all the way from her first job as a Vice President of the Laurent Clerc National Center (which is ironic, that I will explain a moment later), then became a Provost and now she is set to be the next President.

Students feel that with the close relationship between Jordan and she, Jordan would still have some voice/input/control in the future Gallaudet decision-making and isn’t completely out of the picture, basically leaving the current administration intact without going through a big change that would leave him behind the ship. It isn’t very hard to see this because last weekend, two Gallaudet buildings were already named after him and his wife. Perhaps Jordan felt that he deserved some kind of a special party (how does a lobster bisque soup sound to you?) and two buildings being honored after him and his wife for all his hard work, fund-raising skills and one deaf quote that has made him famous, “Deaf people can do anything but hear.” This only enables students to disagree further from him and his administration, feeling that there is an oppression and a suspected fiscal management—-a corruption at play. Gallaudet probably would need more than ten professional CPAs or positions equivalent of IRS agents to audit every cent that has come into the university. Something is sure to find there.

Now, back to the protest, it seems that the protest has caught on a wild fire when someone had an idea of locking out the HMB building where most classes and professors’ classes are. This is strategic because it doesn’t require as many people as it would need to block the whole campus. As in most other protests, they are like a fire or a car engine; all they need is a spark to get them going. Gallaudet students got that spark when DSP decided to get physical with students as one DSP officer tried to choke a student after students kept standing in his way. This was caught on the video. Another DSP officer used a mace spray in an attempt to “shoo” them away out of the HMB building. How did the Administration respond? The public office released a statement that no such accidents occurred and no one was hurt. They probably weren’t aware that those two incidents were actually caught on the videos. So, this only added more to the fire. Now, the Gallaudet Protest has found their momentum, with more people now convinced that there is something that needs to be done about the administration, starting with JKF’s resignation.

To really understand the whole protest, it isn’t as complicated as it sounds. There is a conflict in the philosophy between JKF (and IKJ too) and the FSSA. JKF has announced that in her future plans, she has a goal to include all communication modes from ASL to cued speech to pure oral. She even supports the idea of having an oral interpreter in a classroom if there are some oral students who have no knowledge of ASL and wouldn’t understand what a deaf professor may be signing. JKF sees a problem that with the declining number in unique deaf students who attend deaf schools like myself and my parents, there would be less enrollment numbers to Gallaudet. To help boost the number, she feels that she’d need to welcome ALL kinds of students who have some hearing loss or all of it regardless of what communication mode they use. Gallaudet will give them the accessibility they need when they get to the campus, making it more mainstreamed than it is now.

It may sound good and may help with the enrollment numbers but that’s not what Gallaudet is about. The founder of Gallaudet University, Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, went on a ship to Europe to seek what would be the best possible education for the deaf people and in that, he discovered sign language and he personally brought Laurent Clerc, a deaf educator, to America to teach sign language to the deaf. He had to convince Clerc to come with him and there is a rumor that Gallaudet’s first deaf pupil, Alice Cosworth, was the reason why Clerc came, in which they eventually did get married.

With a language that all deaf people can understand, they began to communicate their thoughts better, thus, education is possible. However, the sign language, now known as American Sign Language (ASL), have been going through so much oppression that black slaves or Jews would be embarrassed to hear. For the longest time, hearing people thought ASL was not a language and that it’s equivalent to apes making some funny gestures and in the Milan conference back in 1880, it was decided that ASL must be banned and only oral method shall be taught. As a result, Deaf teachers lost their jobs and ASL almost became extinct but who was there to save the language? None other than Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet and the college he founded.

Jane K. Fernandes was a former Vice President at the Laurent Clerc National Center. Instead of promoting or encouraging ASL to be the primary language all across the campus, she does not expect a high level of fluency from each faculty, staff, or a student. Now, she is selected to be the next President and her vision is to welcome all communication modes and expects that such accessibility is to be met. In short, she does not consider ASL to be a requirement to be a student or to work at the university. A good example would be in order to apply to colleges, you’d need to write a strong good essay in English, right? At Gallaudet University, you don’t have to be. There is no specific ASL screening test for faculty, staff and students. Basically, it is possible to waltz through the university with a little knowledge of ASL. FSSA doesn’t want that. They want to see ASL to be as natural as other languages and not to take a backseat to other languages. It seems that the real problem still lies between us and hearing people that they still treat ASL as secondary language and do not want to appoint a person who is deaf-centric and use ASL solely without resorting to what they always want to see—a deaf person who can talk.

This is precisely why FSSA does not want her to be the next leader for the deaf. ASL is like oxygen; we can’t live without it.

UNITY FOR GALLAUDET!

*disclaimer – all of the above was written with speculation and does not claim to be factual or accurate.

“Flowers for Algernon”

While doing research on the cochler implant technology, I had a flashback of this book, called “Flowers for Algernon” by Daniel Keyes. I read this book in high school and was one of my favorite books. What’s cool about this book is that it’s written in the first-person narration when the main character, Charly, was asked to write a progress report. Since he was mentally retarded, he wrote on a elementary-level grammar writing and would misspell words. After he got a surgery, his grammar improved, so did his IQ and at one point, he was smarter than the scientists who did the surgery. But his emotions could not keep up with his rapidly growing intelligence, like finding out about who were his real friends as they would tease him when he was mentally retarded, and ofc there was a love plot as he fell in love with one woman. The book cannot be a book without any kind of drama, that his intellect was only temporary and he slowly drifted back to where he was before the surgery.

This book is one of my fave books I read in high school.

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“Rebuilt: How Becoming Part Computer Made Me More Human.”

The idea of becoming the next Darth Vader is one step closer.

http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/13.11/bolero_pr.html

I find this article enlightening not because the guy could enjoy music again, with the upgrade of 121 channels in his cochlear implant but this one paragraph that explains it all, of what my current hearing is. Let me explain a bit.

For all my life, my friends weren’t the only one who give me a funny look whenever I turn on my mini ipod and start listening. Their expressions say “Huh? I thought you’re deaf.” or “Give me a break, you can’t hear! Stop trying to look cool or be like hearing people.” As I try to explain my hearing, only to realize they weren’t only one that were baffled or puzzled. I was too.

That’s till I read this paragraph.

“Music depends on low frequencies for its richness and mellowness. The lowest-pitched string on a guitar vibrates at 83 hertz, but my Hi-Res software, like the eight-channel model, bottoms out at 250 hertz. I do hear something when I pluck a string, but it’s not actually an 83-hertz sound. Even though the string is vibrating at 83 times per second, portions of it are vibrating faster, giving rise to higher-frequency notes called harmonics….

….The engineers haven’t gone below 250 hertz because the world’s low-pitched sounds – air conditioners, engine rumbles – interfere with speech perception. Furthermore, increasing the total frequency range means decreasing resolution, because each channel has to accommodate more frequencies. Since speech perception has been the main goal during decades of research, the engineers haven’t given much thought to representing low frequencies.”

That’s it! That explains why I could hear low sounds better than higher pitches like vowels and consonants, why I have more RB songs than rock metallic songs on my ipod. I can understand the vowels fairly well but become lost with some consonants, like C, D, N, and T.

One reason why I was aback of getting a cochlear implant in the first place is because of its limited 22 channels, which is being vividly expressed by this: “When the device was turned on a month after surgery, the first sentence I heard sounded like “Zzzzzz szz szvizzz ur brfzzzzzz?” My brain gradually learned how to interpret the alien signal. Before long, “Zzzzzz szz szvizzz ur brfzzzzzz?” became “What did you have for breakfast?” After months of practice, I could use the telephone again, even converse in loud bars and cafeterias. In many ways, my hearing was better than it had ever been. Except when I listened to music.”

I feel it was not worth the implant to get only 22 channels because that is like only 10% of what a human is capable of hearing. I want to be able to hear what a person hears, not like “Zzzzz szz” or that alien-like language. Now, the latest cochlear implant can process more than 100 channels, giving much more range in the ability to hear.

Don’t get me wrong. I was born deaf so I will always be the Deaf person that I have come to know. I view this as a way of tool to communicate with people, like you would buy a Sidekick to keep in touch with ur friends. But never to change my identity as a Deaf person.

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New Year’s resolution-aries

I’m no English buff but thought this is a kick-ass introduction. From Men’s Fitness, Feb. 2006, p. 110.

“For about a month at the beginning of each year, everybody is a hardcore gym rat. I’m talking about the hundreds of New Year’s resolution-aries who invade your gym, determined to meet their newly set goals even if it means sidetracking you from yours. Not only are they a distraction—working out in polo shirts and doing curls in the squat rack—they’re an outright danger, poaching the equipment you need and blocking your path. (picture holding 70-pound dumbbells and hurrying back to your bench, only to find some dude stretching on it.).

Of course, in about a month, most of them will be gone and the gym will once again be the dungeon of sweat and solitude you know and love—and you can resume your routine without further interruption…”

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Glowing Hands

Saw this website while surfing. I think it’s hilarious.

Here is the website that sells them.

Now we can talk in a bedroom without having to turn on lights. ;-)

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“There is no God.” by Penn Jillete

This guy has a point. “There is no God”. The bottom point? Enjoy your life.

Believing there’s no God stops me from being solipsistic. I can read ideas from all different people from all different cultures. Without God, we can agree on reality, and I can keep learning where I’m wrong. We can all keep adjusting, so we can really communicate. I don’t travel in circles where people say, “I have faith, I believe this in my heart and nothing you can say or do can shake my faith.” That’s just a long-winded religious way to say, “shut up,” or another two words that the FCC likes less.

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What the hell is monkeysphere?

Monkeysphere. I beg you to click and read the article. It may be wordy and require a few brain cells to process it. If you get it, you get it. :-) Basically, everything is irrelevant unless it’s personal to you (by being in monkeysphere with you).

Some random thoughts:

I always try to remember Ben Franklin’s twelve rules and one of them is “Incentive is everything.” Want to see something done? You gotta give that person some incentive to do it. Most of the time, it’s money but it can be anything else (negotiating comes in play here) and everything can be an incentive, I mean everything, like sex. One example was that in the last few days, I had four people IMing me right out of the blue. They were the kind that rarely send me an IM or at least initiate a conversation so I immediately knew they wanted something from me. Sure enough, I was right. They were asking if I had heard about this apparently new money pyramid scheme – monavie. I told them I’m not interested and I heard nothing more from them after that. Again, incentive is everything.

Do you know that Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity not only applies to time or physics only but also to other things? Like a person is only blind WHEN someone else can see aka “In the land of the blind, the one eyed man is king.” Einstein’s theory simply states that one object has certain qualities when in relation to another. When I think about it, it’s really true. We can’t say this is the best camera we’ve used till we’ve tested others cameras first. Or this girl is really hot-looking after we’ve looked at other women. In a way, theory of relativity is just like comparing and contrasting—finding these qualities that one has and another doesn’t.

I love learning.

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Beyond Google

As we all use Google for our search stuffs—let they be a scoop on latest celebrites, cars, toys, games, even for research papers, and other countless things, but some have used Google more personal, like finding an instruction to perform a CPR, a Heimlich maneuver on a dog, or finding your father you never met before, as told at this link: Google User Testimonials. There is one funny story that one student actually cited Google in his research paper. :-)

Another one here that someone used Google Maps to prove that the street was two-way lanes, not one way street and his case got dismissed from the court.

Google is not only just for common people like us but help businesses too, like this. Using Google search engine help “the National Park Service, where website complaints declined by a factor of 20.”

Google also entered in a language translation competition with other companies participating like IBM, Cal Tech, U.S. Army laboratory, and came out first in accuracy. Tough translation from Arabic to English and Chinese to English.

Finally, as an employee for Google, I find this story funny. Yahoo employees sneak into Google for a free lunch.

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What is it really like to be Deaf?

Thanks to a nap I recently took, approximately from 5 pm to 7 pm, I couldn’t sleep despite the fact I finished reading a new book I started two days ago, Freakonomics, which is a fascinating book btw, that is supposed to make me sleepy but didn’t. Thanks to my little friend in my head, I thought about a few things and thought I’d write a few words about what it’s like to be a Deaf person.

A good start to this would be to ask, “how did I become deaf?” Well, scientificially, the cause is unknown but it is probably heredietary since I was born deaf, and so was my older sister but we’re the only ones who are deaf in our family. So, I’ve been deaf since I was born. Ironically enough, it’s my deafness that has brought me here in America. Otherwise, I’d be still in Korea with my family and probably would be working on some rice farms or studying to become a priest. My sister’s husband is a priest, so to speak. I don’t know which is more blessing: being deaf and here in America or being hearing and stay with the family in Korea. Either way, I’m happy with who I am and what I end up living with.

Now, onto being a Deaf person, it annoys the hell out of me when a hearing person says “Oh, I wish I could be deaf like you, so I don’t have to be bothered by all those noises or having to hear those awful things.” Bull$hit. That is like telling a blind person that you wish you’re blind so you don’t see awful things (would you say porn is an awful thing to see?) on the tv. I’m not gonna pretend/lie here and say that I embrace every moment of being Deaf or that it’s the best thing ever happened to me. I’m telling you right now, being deaf is HARD and if I were to be hearing, I have no doubts I’d be a lot different person than I am now. But again, I do not know if I’m actually better off being Deaf or hearing. I might end up being a drug lord, being homeless on the street or getting killed in Iraq. I could be anything else in such a way that I won’t find myself writing this entry.

Since Deaf people only account less than 1% of the entire U.S. population, Deaf world is a lot like a high school except it’s a lot smaller. We keep bumping each other and everyone knows who f*cked who. It sucks when you’re trying to date someone; that someone is also your ex-girlfriend’s best friend or roommate. And when you do that, everyone back-stab you and call you a player. Much unlike Hearing World where you could meet a person at a bar, get some alcohol going, having a good time and you both decide to have a little extra fun and spend a night together. The next morning, you might realize it wasn’t what you thought it’d be, you simply walk out and never expect to see her/him again. Case closed. Unfortunately, that isn’t so with the Deaf world.

I take the metro to work everyday so it’s not uncommon when tourists come up at me and ask where the f*ck are they or where they’re supposed to go. Depends on my mood, I may act nice and try to lip-read, which I guess more than I actually lip-read, their mouths. It looks like they want to go to the Washington monument or Union Station, whatever. But admittedly, most of the time, I simply point to my ear and shake my head as to say “sorry, I’m deaf and can’t understand what you say.” Nothing harm, right? Except when tourists happen to be a hot-looking lady in a short shorts with long legs. I’d be more than obliged to be her tour guide and if she’s visiting just for the weekend, perfect. I can show her around the city and she’d be out of my sight by Sunday. (Think of Adam Sandler in “The first 50 dates” with Drew Barrymore).

Food. I can’t really customize my meal as much as a hearing person can. “Hey waiter, this isn’t what I want. I said no condiments on my burger but I want a Swiss cheese and onions. And this is overcooked; I want mine medium-well. Oh, these buns are overburned too.” Or whatever the hell like that. I suppose I could write on some napkin to tell him what I want but he’d still f*ck it up and got my order wrong. So I just mouth, “everything” and when I get the burger, I have to customize it with my fingers or spitting it out of my mouth barbarically. If I’m allergic to something, God bless me.

So, that’s what I have to deal by being Deaf. First of all, you may notice why I keep using capital D, instead of just deaf. Well, you know, being Deaf doesn’t simply mean you cannot hear and still be able to function within the hearing world as if there’s a perfect harmony between us. When you cannot hear a f*cking word since you were born, you perceive the world differently. You learn the language differently. You can only imagine the sounds but never actually hear it. You end up interacting with similar people, not those who could hear. When you have more than one generation who’s also Deaf, the pattern continues and gradually becomes into this world we all have come to know—the Deaf world. We’re not just deaf; we’re Deaf. When we say that, we don’t mean we’re perfect; we all have shortcomings like everyone else and we dream what it’d be like to be a hearing one day, as much as you’d dream abt being a Spider-man, the next U.S. President, or even geekier the Bill Gates. But don’t ever tell us you wish you’re deaf.

Yes, Nathan, admit it, you’re sick.

And I don’t mean it in a manical way or I’m a psychopath. You know, I mean as being sick with flu-like symptoms or common cold. It all started last Friday morning when I woke up and felt an itch or like having a tiny sandpaper in my throat, making it a bit uncomfortable for me to shallow. I can’t lie but admit that I do have a male ego (it’s a good thing that I admit it, right?) so I refused to believe that I was getting a sore throat. It’s probably cuz I was slombering, not keeping my mouth shut while sleeping (how male that was). I figured that a cup of Listerine will clear up everything in my throat and have a little Coke in my throat to fizzle them away. I got ready to go to work and when I got into my cube, the “sandpaper” in my throat just won’t go away and I decided to get myself a glass of water in a second attempt to free up the sandpaper’s coarseness in my throat. However, the sandpaper wouldn’t just get smoothed up and continued to become rough. Now, I was beginning to realize that maybe I do have a sore throat and in the defense of that, I popped a Hall lorengze into my throat and hoped that it’ll melt everything away.

All of the sudden, I don’t feel so good and started to feel a little hot despite I was wearing only a short-sleeved shirt. I had this imagination that my body was collapsing like an old building that was destructed into pieces by a set of intelligent bombs around the concrete columns except it wasn’t that rapid. If you still don’t get it, well, imagine it like the two WTCs crashing down on 9/11 but in a slow-motion and you get the idea what I mean. As I reached for the kleenex right before I sneeze, I suddenly thought—I’m having a dreadful cold and coming down with flu-like symptoms. And my thought said to me, “Yes, Nathan, you’re sick.” So much for my male ego.

While I was going through all that, I was reminded by this short story I read a while ago during in the college. The story is called “The Death of Ivan IIych.” by Leo Tolstoy and you can read all about it at this. It talks about a guy who refused to believe that he was sick till it was all too late and he learns how to deal with inevitable dying. Then he discovered something worse than dying, if that’s even possible, was the frustration that people can’t understand or fathom the pain he was going through. This struck me particularly because the little things you do could have an impact on your life. Here’s what I mean…

The Slip

He was so interested in it all that he often did things himself, rearranging the furniture, or rehanging the curtains. Once when mounting a step-ladder to show the pholsterer, who did not understand, how he wanted the hangings draped, he made a false step and slipped, but being a strong and agile man he clung on and only knocked his side against the knob of the window frame. The bruised place was painful but the pain soon passed, and he felt particularly bright and well just then. He wrote: “I feel fifteen years younger.” He thought he would have everything ready by September, but it dragged on till mid-October. But the result was charming not only in his eyes but to everyone who saw it.

What did he say about his slip

“It’s a good thing I’m a bit of an athlete. Another man might have been killed, but I merely knocked myself, just here; it hurts when it’s touched, but it’s passing off already — it’s only a bruise.”

They were all in good health. It could not be called ill health if Ivan Ilych sometimes said that he had a queer taste in his mouth and felt some discomfort in his left side. But this discomfort increased and, though not exactly painful, grew into a sense of pressure in his side accompanied by ill humour.

The pain prevails

She [his wife] said he had always had a dreadful temper, and that it had needed all her good nature to put up with it for twenty years. It was true that now the quarrels were started by him. His bursts of temper always came just before dinner, often just as he began to eat his soup. Sometimes he noticed that a plate or dish was chipped, or the food was not right, or his son put his elbow on the table, or his daughter’s hair was not done as he liked it, and for all this he blamed Praskovya Fedorovna.

At first she retorted and said disagreeable things to him, but once or twice he fell into such a rage at the beginning of dinner that she realized it was due to some physical derangement brought on by taking food, and so she restrained herself and did not answer, but only hurried to get the dinner over.

The realization of his condition

After one scene in which Ivan Ilych had been particularly unfair and after which he had said in explanation that he certainly was irritable but that it was due to his not being well, she said that he was ill it should be attended to, and insisted on his going to see a celebrated doctor. He went. Everything took place as he had expected and as it always does.

The so-called male ego

The pain did not grow less, but Ivan Ilych made efforts to force himself to think that he was better. And he could do this so long as nothing agitated him. But as soon as he had any unpleasantness with his wife, any lack of success in his official work, or held bad cards at bridge, he was at once acutely sensible of his disease.

The coming of the pain

The pain in his side oppressed him and seemed to grow worse and more incessant, while the taste in his mouth grew stranger and stranger. It seemed to him that his breath had a disgusting smell, and he was conscious of a loss of appetite and strength.

The inevitability of the pain

There was no deceiving himself: something terrible, new, and more important than anything before in his life, was taking place within him of which he alone was aware. Those about him did not understand or would not understand it, but thought everything in the world was going on as usual. That tormented Ivan Ilych more than anything.

Well, read the ending of the story to find out what happened to him!

This is something what I would call a “Butterfly Chaos Theory” that the flutterings of a butterfly in the East (China) can acculumate to a hurricane in the West (Florida). As he had a small slip that led to his dying. So, what is exactly my point? My point is that I realize I’m sick and I’m gonna do about something. Any suggestions?

Self-Education

One month and seven days since I turned 24 years old, I’ve arrived at a point where I feel I’m in middle of nowhere. It’s hard to describe how I feel but the best I can explain is that I feel like a fifty years old man who’s having a middle-age crisis. So, likewise, I’m having a mid-twenties crisis. It’s not like I need a Viagra to help boost my life or spend my retirement money on some miatas. It’s more like arriving at a dead end and which way should I go? I’ve graduated from college last May and have settled into a government job with steady paychecks. I didn’t go to a graduate school like most of my friends do. My friend told me that I should consider myself lucky ‘cuz I have a job while those who don’t—don’t have anywhere else to go but a graduate school. Yet my other friend said they want to go to graduate school cuz they want to advance in their major or that their undergraduate majors require them to go further in their fields. Like even being an elementary teacher requires you to have masters degree in deaf education, child development, or the likes. Or they just want to add Phd. degree to their names. I suppose I didn’t go to graduate school cuz I was tired of pulling all-nighters to cram on homework or projects and that I want to see some $$$ and spend it while I’m in my twenties.

Now, my job isn’t exactly the greatest job in the world and it’s catching up on me—was it worth the decision? Well, I’m an optimist and I didn’t write this post to whine about my standpoint in this life. I’m gonna do something about it. As you can see the subject above, I’m gonna self-educate myself. After all those years I’ve attended schools and colleges, I’m going to take learning into my own hands. What am I gonna teach myself, you wonder? Somewhere in my blog archives, I’ve said that I’m a descendant of Korean lineage. And I’ve been meaning to learn Korean or Hangul language since I found my real family 3 years ago. You might wonder.. why now? why not 3 years ago when I discovered my family? Well, my excuse was that I couldn’t find anyone who can teach me. Lame excuse, huh? That was my excuse and rather being stuck at the dead end, I’m gonna teach myself to learn Hangul.

It’s interesting. For the last 3 years, I have been expecting my family to learn English so we could communicate in English and my brother has been learning tediously. Now I realize…why should I expect them to learn English? Who says everyone must learn English? Even English isn’t the most used language in the world; that’s Mandarian, which is spoken more than 1 billion Chinese people. I have a brain, I have a degree in IT, so what am I doing here, waiting for my family to learn English? It’s never too late to learn a new language—I’ll be like an infant–absorbing every new word and form sentences in Hangul. That’s my goal and I’ve made the first step toward that goal. I’ve ordered an introductory textbook from Amazon.com. You can find this below:

My possible regret about this is that I could have done this 3 years ago and by now, I probably would have been fluent enough to write a letter and happily keeping in touch with my family–with my biological mother laughing at my little errors in writing like an infant falling down while trying to walk. And I’d have a several pen pals from Korea, learning all about the culture and reading news in Korean effortlessly. Neverthelessly, I’m gonna start now and I’ll be posting my progress here and maybe along the way, I’ll bump into someone who can help guide me.

*signing off*

Two buffets in two days

See the subject above? I’ve stuffed my stomach with buffet foods (courtesy of Korean foods) in the two days span. One on Friday night and last Sunday. There’s something so American about buffets. If you wanna know why more and more Americans are becoming obese, look no further than buffet places.

We love the idea that we can EAT for all we want and with that psychological effect, we CRAM as much as we can into our stomachs so the money we paid for the buffet would be better spent. We love the word—unlimited—so we have unlimited data plans for our pagers, and remember when AOL starts offering unlimited hours plan? We all jumped on this bandwagon and remain logged till computer monitors get burned.

So, buffets also means unlimited foods and we pretend we have bottomless stomachs and fill them in. As soon as we realize our stomachs are no longer bottomless, we start spitting out comments like “I’m gonna throw up!”, “My stomach is gonna burst open!”, “Oh, I gotta make a dump! Where’s the bathroom!?”. Isn’t that sound sad, doesn’t it?

One pro thing about the buffet, actually two things, is you can try a small portion of the dish and see if you like it or not instead of blind-order the dish and pray that you’ll like the dish. Second thing is that you don’t have to wait for your order to arrive and you can quickly look at all the foods and decide which one you’ll eat first. My dad would often fall victim to a bad dish or wrong order—maybe it wasn’t large enough or it simply tastes awful—and you’re basically stuck with your order unless you’re bold enough and demand another order.

So, what’s my point? While buffets may be a convenient way to “preview” choices of dishes, it lies at the root why Americans are becoming heavier everyday.

Tonight, I gotta hit the gym and burn those buffet calories to avoid becoming into yet another obese American.

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