Monday, December 26, 2005

Tippy: Healing the wounds of Self-Injury - a struggle

I would like to dedicate today’s post to a close friend of mine, who been journeying in like with what “scientists” quite quickly label as “Self Injury”. Though the labeling is sometime useful in trying to communicate among “experts”, it does little to ease the pain for those like Tippy challenge them selves. I would not want to talk much about DSM or related treatment or any thing scientific. Instead, I would like to see the world the way Tippy see’s it. The following journal was written by Tippy and is published with Tippy’s consent. Just as life, this entry is long and complicated. But, I urge you to read on. I want to use the next few entries to those of you, who like Tippy, are learning to cope. And, as i said before, todays entry is a glance into Tippy's world. Thank you Tippy, for the courage you show in coming forward :)
Darkness Under Siege.

My dad once asked me “why do you think we’re all made to live if we’re just going to die at the end of the day?” We were driving along the highway – it was almost one in the morning – and I was dead tired. I shrugged and turned to face the window. My thoughts were racing though – because I knew why. I knew damn well why. But I never told him. I couldn’t.

My whole life has been a lie. I’d grown up thinking I was “normal” – whatever that means... Okay, let’s rephrase that… I’d grown up thinking everything I was going through was what everyone else went through. You see, I was the poster child for allergies – seafood, temperature changes, sweat, salt, coloring, sugar – anything really, anything at all. I had no tolerance for medication in general – I’d break out in hives. I couldn’t swim in pools (chlorine caused major itching on my part) or in the sea (the waters salt content was above my tolerance level), which didn’t stop me almost drowning when I was seven.

Yeah, that’s right. I’d almost died. Sometimes I wish I’d let myself drown. Sometimes I wish I hadn’t let myself get smart – and get back to the edge… But wishful thinking’s just that… Wishing. Nothing more. Sometimes I wonder just how capable adults are at caring for other human brings – especially children. They say they know best – they say they’ve lived through it all. They say they wish they had listened to their parents instead of being arrogant little arses… but there they are – smoking, drinking… having too good a time to realize there’s a seven-year-old girl in the deep end of the pool – shouting, sinking… dying… Everyone thought my Uncle Felix had rescued me – pulled me outta the pool, hung on to me – carried me off. Of course, he didn’t stop everyone from telling him just how lucky it was for me that he’d been there. Yeah, right. I pulled myself out thank you. I walked back to my folks, thank you very much (who, by the way, didn’t realize I was gone, offering me fruits and pineapple tartlets with salad and cake until I burst out crying). So that’s the memory that sticks out most in my childhood. Me almost dying… and no one knowing…

Of course, every so often, my dad will give me a big hug expressing his giddy excitement with the fact that I’m still alive and kicking – despite all I’d gone through as a kid. Adults are supposed to be in-tuned individuals – but sometimes they can be so clueless. Doesn’t he see I don’t give a shit about whether or not I’m “alive and kicking”?!?! Obviously not, because otherwise there’d be no problem.

I was asked by a friend of mine to share my story – so it would help others gain insight into what it’s like living in a black hole – and how people can cope with such emptiness. Reading about someone else’s sorry-ass life has never helped me – obviously. Listening to sob stories, hearing about what “the poor dear” had gone through and how it helps to share and show a little compassion is all bullocks. If it were really that easy – we’d all be happy. And we’re not.

Back in the first grade, I was beaten relentlessly on the bus on the way home from school everyday by sixth and seventh graders I barely knew. I was a skinny, scared and lonely five-year-old who had managed to piss off some very big “big kids” to the extent of needing to be put in my place. I never found out what triggered the attacks. I never found out why I was such a nuisance… why I was hated. But I’d figured for the most part – that it must’ve been something I did… or something I was…

I wasn’t wrong.

By the second term of the first year, I was a social outcast. I was too hyperactive for the girls and too much trouble for the boys. I didn’t learn anything because I couldn’t stay still. I’d be running around – poking Ashleigh, kicking Ross… running off with Annabel’s lunch box while our teacher chased me across the room, knocking other kids aside – finally… finally grabbing me around the waist and tackling me to the floor. Wrestling me into a seat in the corner and waiting for the bell to ring…

I really didn’t care about what the other kids thought of me – mostly. It wasn’t until I was in the third grade that I realized girls sat around playing with plasticine – making cookies, cakes and the odd tart with clay that had eye-catching colors and shocking names like “outrageous orange”, “ravenous red”, “ballistic blue” and “yell-out yellow” . Even the boys couldn’t stand me. If they got in trouble – they’d get time out. If they got in trouble (and I was the one who’d caused it) – it was time out, no recess, sitting silently in a corner and constant reminders of what a “bad boy” he had been. It wasn’t a surprise that I basically kept to myself during my whole elementary school experience. It was either that or be eaten alive.

I was in the LSU (Learning Support Unit) throughout grade school. I was slow in everything, so I basically wasn’t mainstreamed. I hung out with my class for art, physical education and all that rubbish – but for all the real shit? – I was catered off to a special needs class. I don’t remember anything from being in those classes – except for doing stupid things like “If I had a magic finger I would…” sentence completions… Rather useless if you ask me… but *shrugs*… Growing up for me wasn’t pretty…

It comes at no surprise when I say I don’t remember much about growing up… and to be honest? I really don’t mind at all…

Let’s just shy away from my childhood miseries for a moment, and talk about the present. About why I’ve really become a lost case… And about why I’ve been given this opportunity to bitch about life.

Life to me… has no meaning. It has no spirit. It has no light. Life – is as dark as dark can go. It’s pitch black. It’s a hole… a deep hole of perceptual chirpiness that seems to gnaw away at the very essence that is you… It eats you and for the longest time… you don’t even realize it. You don’t realize the very thing for which you strive is the very thing which accentuates all thoughts of death and release. It makes no sense. And that scares the hell outta me.

Now, I’m not depressed, and I’m sure as hell not suicidal… (which, if you’re reading this, would seem a contradicting statement) but I just don’t see any point in going on… It’s a bit like this…

You’re on a cruise ship with all your mates, your folks, your family… everyone who has ever graced your presence. The doughnut guy down on fifth, the toilet cleaner who shot you “that look” for walking into the toilet right after it’d been cleaned… Everyone… every single soul… or shell – at least.
You’re not sure exactly where you’re headed – your folks tell you it’s a secret while you’re secretly thinking Hell – but eventually… eventually the ship careens off course and starts to take on water. So people start getting off – taking supplies: food, clothes – everything you’d ever need to survive. First the people you never knew leave… Then your friends… Then your family… And finally, your parents… until there are no more lifeboats; no more jackets… no more salvation… You crash directly into a small desert island and you’re stranded. Alone.

You have with you though – a gun, a bullet and a box of chocolates… The chocolates represents all the med’s you’ll ever have to take. Zyprexa, Lithium – and all that good stuff… They cure the symptoms – but not the disease. And you can go on taking it… It’s gonna keep you going – no doubt – but for how long? A day? A week? The little extra boost of energy a small square of Cadbury can’t make up for everything else you need. The real stuff… The good stuff… The gun represents hope… and the bullet? Your last hope… See, you know, that with enough determination and willpower, you’d be able to reach the fruit in the trees, you’d be able to slaughter the wild boars, the rabbits – whatever… But you can never muster up the strength to get up… So you think to yourself… Do you want to waste the last bullet on an animal that’ll only be able to sustain you for “so long” – or would you rather keep it for yourself…?

I’d like to think it was all made up – every single bit of my tortured memoir… But if it were – I’d be asleep… It’s three in the morning and I’m still pouring out my heart and soul – unable to get what I desperately need. Rest. Afraid that if I close my eyes – I’d wake up dead, and unable to continue writing. To share – to help…

Sometimes my life is just filled with moments of paranoia – “Oh shit, I’m flunking a subject – my life’s over” “Damn, I lost fifty quid – I’d gonna be homeless” – stupid little thoughts that manage to squeeze their way into my relatively large cerebrum… That manage to nestle themselves in between “get an education” and “make enough money to support your folks in old age” – making just plain living an unacceptable term and/or belief.

It’s no wonder I want to give up. Getting rid of thoughts that pollute your every dream – your every waking moment… Getting rid of anything that threatens your future… It’s human nature – but it’s as hard as hell… Self injury doesn’t work. Drugs don’t work. Drinking yourself silly works – but only for awhile… until you’re sober enough to realize the alcohol did nothing more than spike the thoughts and fuel their spirits. It’s like you’re trapped on one of those tea-cup rides at the seaside (summer) carnival… Your “cup-mates” are spinning the little wheel in the middle of the cup – making you feel ill with every little rotation – or movement for that matter. It really makes no sense at all as to why don’t won’t give in to your pleas to just sit back and enjoy the ride. But that’s what depression is isn’t? It’s a black hole that no one understands – it’s a concept that’s so utterly abstract – that it’s almost tangible to sane individuals. Almost…but not quite.

It’s almost four now… And I’m ready to drop. My clock says it’s four – when it really could still be three – but I just don’t know. I’m not going to bother about what time it is, because I’m just going to go… This is all I’m going to write for now. I have so much more to say – and if you can bear with me – I’ll have part two ready for viewing after the holidays – in late December or early January.

Christmas is a day away – and I hate to admit it – but I’m not looking forward to it. My birthday’s coming up in exactly one week – and I’m not looking forward to that either… It’s good to know depression does well in sucking the life outta everything – doesn’t it? One of life’s (ironic) miracles… *shakes head*

I bet it was all Pandora’s fault… Who asked her to open the bloody box anyway? Curiosity should’ve killed her really – instead of the cat (who I suppose, was really an innocent little thing… that did nothing… to stop her either… Damn it!)…. But, oh wait… it did didn’t it?

Alright, that’s it. I’m off to bed – sleep off this migraine… and hopefully this cloud. It’s a busy day tomorrow – so pray I don’t lose it.

Love,
Tippy.
This essay was given to me by Tippy. By reading it, i would hope that the reader is able to catch a glimpse of Tippy's world.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry...

Astrorat wishes you a Merry Christmas!

The following poem is dedicated to all my beautiful blog friends! To all of you who make this site truly worth every second! Merry Christmas

Minstrels: a Christmas Poem by William Wordsworth

The minstrels played their Christmas tune
To-night beneath my cottage-eaves;
While, smitten by a lofty moon,
The encircling laurels, thick with leaves,
Gave back a rich and dazzling sheen,
That overpowered their natural green.

Through hill and valley every breeze
Had sunk to rest with folded wings:
Keen was the air, but could not freeze,
Nor check, the music of the strings;
So stout and hardy were the band
That scraped the chords with strenuous hand.

And who but listened?--till was paid
Respect to every inmate's claim,
The greeting given, the music played
In honour of each household name,
Duly pronounced with lusty call,
And "Merry Christmas" wished to all.

Have a happy one....

Friday, December 23, 2005

I Learnt About Peace

It’s the time of the year that’s harped about so much all around the world, but I am passing this season with a certain amount of sadness. It’s a feeling of helplessness and hopelessness. The celebration, the gift giving, the money spent, the singing, the cheer, the joy, the happiness, the jingles, the colours, the décor, the tree, the cribs, the parties, the dances, the dinners, the … stop stop stop… On the other side of this world of cheer is a world made of hatred, war, crime, pain, anger, poverty, starvation, anguish, death, destruction, killing, murder, darkness, and utter devastation.

This was the central theme of the Perdana Global Peace Forum. If anything happened, then that must be the fact that my eyes were open to a part of the world that many of us are neither aware of, nor want to acknowledge. Be this the war that’s raged on the people of Iraq, the war raged on the people of Afghanistan, the killing in New York, London, Bali, or the wars that have eluded humanity in Palestine. These events were the core of the discussions at the Perdana Global Peace Forum that took place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in December 2005.

The forum provided with its participants the other side of the “War on terror”, the “quest for black gold”. The forum spoke about how the so called “champions” of peace are indeed war mongers. The forum thought me that the United states of America, the same great nation that conferred my own degree in Psychology. This is the same great nation that thought self-proclamation claimed to be the “police” nation of the world with great plans to eradicate the world of terrorism. It is the same nation that claimed to free the people of Iraq from a tyrant who was responsible for the killing of about 200 people, were in fact were responsible for the deaths of more than 3 million innocent Iraqi’s due to both military action and economic embargo.

I learnt that the greatest weapons of mass destruction is not found in Iraq or Afghanistan, but instead are owned and were used in modern day by the United states and United Kingdom in the name of terrorism. The sulphur “bomb” and other “smart” missiles were responsible for the death and destruction of nearly a million innocent Iraqi people.

I learnt that the greatest motivator for war is the drive for money making. The attitude to conquer the resources of others and profit as a result. This in essence is modern day colonialism. The Government of the United states of America is doing to Iraq and Afghanistan what England did to Asia. They are dividing Iraq so that they are able to harvest oil for their own benefit.

i learnt that the George W Bush is as equally evil, if not more evil, as Sadam Hussain. George W Bush is directly responsible for the death of more than 3 million innocent civilians world wide. He is directly responsible for the violation of human rights in the abuse of innocent people in detention canters that are not within the borders of America.

I learnt that peace can never be achieved unless war mongers such as GW Bush, Sadam Husain, Tony Blair, and John Howard are tried for war crime against humanity.

I learnt that the world was 10seconds away from total destruction thanks to a tense moment between nuclear powers such as Russia and America. America that demands nuclear disarmament world wide has the largest number of nuclear arsenal. She has enough fire power to destroy the world 5 times over with the touch of a button.

I learnt that media such as CNN and BBC presented to the world the lies that George W Bush created. Further, these two media corporations made a monster out of alternate media corporations such as Al Jazera. The president of the United states must have been afraid to show the world the death and destruction that the “shock and awe” created.

I learnt that it is important for people to stand up for what is right. And war is wrong. Be it war against terror, or war for terror. The world now has more “terrorist” attacks than it had when the United states set forth a process of destruction.

I learnt that the trial of Sadam Husain, does not conform to any strands of international regulation or conduct that America preaches. The war on Iraq is largely illegal. The installation of a government system by the Americans in Iraq is illegal by standards of international law.

I learnt that I every human being needs to stand up for peace. And this should not just be empty rhetoric. Not just words written on a blog published on the web. I need to stand up now and be counted to stop war world wide. I have deeply understood that attending the global peace forum has opened my eyes in a special way to teach me that the world needs peace NOW and I have to stand up to work towards it.

We celebrate Christmas at a time when the world around us crumbles and falls. Yet, we do exactly what we did when Rwanda was massacred. We ignored the cries her cries. And now, a larger more destructive force threatens to destroy the basis of human freedom and human rights. Our attention is focused at buying into the treats that media and popular culture promises us. We now risk annihilating the our very human existence.

The accounts in the article were based on the research findings presented at the Perdana Global Peace Forum. For in-depth details presented here, please visit www.perdana4peace.org

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Exotic Animal sex!

I can imagine how the very title could repulse some of you. i seriously risk getting the "hai astrorat. you are such a pervert. i hate you" emails.

But, this ones has to be posted. check out this video for more "graphic" details! (comon click it.. i know you want to.... :p)

I have been working on an article that could encompass my thoughts of the recent peace conference. That ones coming up soon!

The Christmas sprits in me… from my nose and all the way down to my toes :)

Friday, December 16, 2005

Bloggers invited as MEDIA!

oh ohh ohh.. this just in... as the title suggests... yes... you heard me, The 'organisers' of the Perdana Global Peace Forum have invited 4 Malaysian 'bloggers' as media personal. Now, how cool is that? Its really fantastic news!

Check out the following malaysian superstars !

Brand New Malaysia


Jeff Oii

MageP's Lab

Yvonne Foong

Just added: TV Smith (thanks SK)

And also the 'official' blogsite @ PGPF

Its really a great achievement for bloggers in Malaysia! hats off to you guys! :)

To top the cheese cake Dr. Mahathir (the Malaysian Ex PM who's not been afraid to slpash more than his current counterpart) stated that it is important that in order to find the truth and strive for world peace, alternate forms of media, such as the internet, should be encouraged. This was in context of his statements about the USA's control over media that reports news on Iraq.

Its very unusual to find him support the 'alternate' and 'other side of the coin' media sources. After all, Malaysiakini, an online newspaper, had its fair share of trouble during his 'leadership'. Perhaps he's gone soft in the middle! ;)

"its probably a small victory for the blogers, but a HUGE victory for alternate media!"

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Global Peace Forum & a Look at “War Mongers”

It was the first day of the Perdana Global Peace Forum and I have learnt a such a huge quantity of information about social justice, peace, war, the lack of the three, and about the perpetrators of war.

The Perdana global peace forum is an international event organised in Malaysia by the ex prime ministers - Dr. Mahathir Mohamad.

The vastness and complex nature of the event calls for more thought before I put my thoughts together and write out any decent article. As for experience, I spent the entire day from 8 AM till 7PM discussing debates from the perspectives of world leaders. As exciting as it was to meet them ‘hotshots’ in person, I am elated at the fact that there’s more from where that came from!

I am too tired to do anything else right now, but felt a sense of urgency to share the urgent call for ‘the need for world peace’. Now more than ever, the world (according to the words of all esteemed speakers) needs peace (and yes ladies and gentlemen, the world needs something done NOW). I don’t do much justice to this piece that I am writing cause I am going to leave you hanging. But what I plan to do, is to compile my thoughts about how this forum has helped shape my mind.

With that said, I truly urge appreciate the attempt made by the Malaysian NGO’s in pioneering a movement with an Asian focus, towards world peace. And this ladies and gentlemen aint just rhetoric. This aint the typical miss universe “I will save the world and the starving kids” talk. This was an attempt made by world leaders (the list of names who you will see in my previous post).

I am deelply moved by my experience. Good Night! :)

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

A letter to HELP Univeristy College

Dear Management, Staff, and students of HELP University College,

Hail the Government of Malaysia for making attempts to reduce the number of smokers in the country! Recently the Vice Chancellor of University Sains Malaysia pointed out a mockery made by the Malaysian government's enforcement system in relation the enforcement of the ‘smoke free pact’ that the nation had signed. The Chancellor was not impressed in some members of the country allowing large tobacco companies organise the “international tobacco conference” here in Kuala Lumpur. Further, to rub salt to the nations battered efforts in curbing tobacco use, the VC didn’t think very much about the national airline offering to be the ‘official’ carrier for the event.

While this debate about proper enforcement was raging, another debate much like this was brewing at HELP University. The situation is this. Is it right to place ‘park’ type benches in close proximity to the fire escape of the building. So close that smoke from the their breath frequently gets into enclosed air conditioning vents. So close that the boundary that sets the smokers away from those who dare ask for clean air on campus has become all but ‘smoky’. Its is not unusual to find cigarette buds scattered in the back exit ways of level 4 and level 3 of KPD block E. It is no unusual to find cigarette buds at the entrance to the campus building, inside elevators, and all corridors that lead inside.

The behaviour of the some tycoon smokers has become more of living their own right to smoke while ignoring the rights of non-smokers and their plea for a smoke free university/college entrance and/or environment.

While the local universities have taken bold steps in setting a bench mark towards smoking on campus by exclude all smokers from campus. The Local universities are uniting to reject university applications (both student and staff) from smokers. Though I don’t go that far as to blatantly disrespect the sad needs of the smoker to indulge in poisoning his/her-self (its your right to die if you want to), I how ever believe that justice needs to be served to protect the rights of the non smokers who demand a smoke free environment. By allowing people to smoke within campus of within 5 Meters of campus grounds is by no means serving justice to this large population.

The VC of USM rightly points out the national divide on smoking policy (i.e. to smoke or not to smoke). Some feel that it should be allowed, while some feel that it should be totally banned. However, most feel that allowing students to smoke at educational esteemed institutions fall drastically short of setting of proper academic, social, and leadership standards.

The question to ask yourself is has HELP university adequately set standards towards smoking (or the lack of it) to represent government agenda. Apart from printing odd poster that and equally strange statement in the ‘blue’ program hand book issued by the Department of American Degree Program, that reads “butt off… smoking is strictly prohibited at HELP institute” (strictly was originally in bold italics), nothing is being done to enforce that “strict” code into conduct.

I urge the management of HELP to change the current nonchalant attitude towards smoking on campus and make the following recommendations that would help enforce no-smoking on campus ground for the benefit those who demand a smoke free environment.

1. Strictly enforce the NO-SMOKING regulations as that required by the government. It is our right as students to have a smoke free environment within the campus grounds. This is not just my opinion, but is to a large extent government policy. Universities and colleges are a place of public interest and hence rules that encourage and public safety must apply.

2. Introduce severe penalties for those who violate campus "NO-SMOKING" regulations. This means taking a an active role, in stopping the practice of smoking within campus. No Smoking signs (or the lack of it) would not promote no-smoking behaviour. It is important that staff both academic and non-academic be enforced to take action if needed.

3. Actively take part in more ANTI-smoking campaigns. To make sure that the university stands out and sends a clear message about the consequence of smoking, and the effort that it would put into getting its students to kick the habit. The ambivalent attitude that university currently takes teaches young students that it is okay to smoke, just as long as you are doing it ‘behind my back’. But in reality, the real consequences of smoking is far more serious and needs to be addressed immediately.

4. Negative stereotypes and negative attitudes towards smoking should be encouraged. There should be no reason to be ashamed of it either. If university is a facility of learning, then students should not be thought wrong values. It is generally accepted (and I am not going to cite) that smoking is harmful to health. As a premier private university, HELP should lead by example and make a public appeal to ban smoking.

5. Psychologists (or Psychologists-to-be) SHOULD have a positive influence on human behaviour. Any form of training, that undergraduate psychology students experience, should be one that fosters the development of ‘positive’ values in them. Attitudes that foster negative behaviours (in this case smoking) should be discouraged.

It important that an active enforcement of what already seems to be university policy (strictly no smoking) should be encouraged for the benefit of those who plead for a clean environment both inside and outside the school premises. Though the said rule may not be ‘just’ rules, they are nevertheless there to protect the wellbeing of the students, and to encourage a healthy lifestyle. These rules do not by them selves solve the issue. There needs to be an active enforcement of these rules.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Take your dirty hands off…

In the name of protecting the valuables of an organization, security procedures must be in place, and subsequently, there will be rules that govern that organization. It is also true that rules are simple written statements about what needs to be done in a given instance. Rules however do not dictate or explain procedures or protocols of behaviour either by its enforcers or the people on the other side of the coin!

This explanation highlights an incident that occurred today, at the main library of my campus. Regulations say that the library staff have the right to check your bags upon when you leave the building. Obviously since management never thought about a bag handling counter, this ‘rule’ needs to be in place to make sure that library property is not vandalised or stolen. Rules however do not lead to accepted forms of “checking” behaviour.

Let me get straight to the point. It is unacceptable by any standards that library staff insert their hands into student bags, sacks, briefcases, … (insert what you carry). Specially so because 1. The staff members are not respecting students ‘privacy’ 2. They do not wear gloves and hence their hands carry germs, disease, infections 3. They can place objects, items, pills, packets, or anything like that which can put students in trouble with the law (Now I know you are thinking that they are nice people and all woopsidoo, but that’s not the point. Lots of nice people have cause the lots of other nice people endless misery in the past).

As a student, I think it is within my right to cooperate with the necessary checks. As such, I strongly (and make no mistake about it I will not change my opinion on this one) believe that if any bag checks need to be made, then security or staff must make sure that it is the student who shows them the contents of the bag.

Here’s what transpired today

Astrorat: hi how’s it going. (noticing other students show their bags) Hold on a sec let me get my bag on the counter (I was carrying a travel bag in my right hand, a transparent file/folder and 3 books in my left.)

Staff: (doesn’t say anything, but attempts to open my bad)

Astrorat: Please do not touch my bag, I will show you the contents my self. (proceeds to open zipper of bag)

Staff: (ignores what I said and starts pulling my file)

Astrorat: I told you, please do not touch my things. I will show you the contents my self

Staff: (ignores, says nothing, and proceeds to insert hand inside bag)

Astrorat (irritated) I told you don’t touch my bag (looks real pissed)

Staff: (irritated and a tone of rudeness) What?

Astrorat: I said don’t touch my bag, I will show it to you myself

Staff: if that’s the case then you should leave it out (points outside towards an empty space that leads to the elevator/entrance)

Astrorat: I could lave it outside if you had a bag handling place and since you don’t, it is writing my right to bring my bag in just like every one else. Besides You have no right to touch my bag.

Staff: (cutting me off) Just go. Just go

Astrorat: (really pissed) Your management and the rest of the worlds going hear about this.

Ok first. I am not obsessed with cleanliness nor am I showing symptoms of OCD. I am angry cause I feel violated. My bag belongs to me. It is my private space. It is my shrine. As such touching the contents of my bag violates my rights.

Second, Library staff do not have the right to be rude to students for reasons that I don’t understand. I am clearly aware that I did not raise my voice or act irritated until he continued to do exactly what I told him not to.

Third, no one gives him the right to insert his hands in my bag. He may have the right to check it, but that’s with my consent and my showing him. It is my duty to show my bag or produce it for inspection. In this case, I did not say no.

Fourth, he has no right to give me ultimatums. To tell me to that I leave my bag outside if I cant let him insert his filthy (I don’t know where it has been in the past hour) hands in it?

Fifth, what’s with the dismissing attitude of “just go” as if he was chasing off a trouble maker? Where’s respect for students?

I encourage that management do adequate justice to stop this harassment of students. I suggest that ethical protocol and procedures be established for all security checks on campus.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Global Peace Forum: Malaysia

Malaysia is hosting/organising the “Perdana Global Peace Forum".

According to the Ex-prime minister of Malaysia (Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad), It’s a forum to “search for peace” (incidentally he is one of the speakers at the forum). The forum streches for 4 days (including the opening and closing) in December.

Other speakers are:

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad (Former Prime Minister, Malaysia),
The Hon. Samdech Hun Sen (Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Combodia),
HSH Prince Alfred of Liechtenstein (Chairman of the Advisory Board, International Peace Foundation),
His Eminence Cardinal Pedro Rubiano Sáenz (Supreme Catholic Cardinal of Colombia),
The Hon. R.J.L - Bob Hawke (Former Prime Minister of Australia),
The Hon. Mr George Galloway (MP & Leader, Respect The Unity Coalition Party, UK),
Mr. Denis J. Halliday (Former United Nations Assistant Secretary General),
Mr. Hans-Christof Von Sponeck (Former United Nations Assistant Secretary General),
Mr Michael Carmichael (Chairman, The Planetary Movement Ltd. United Kingdom),
Dr. Helen Caldicott (Founder & President, Nuclear Policy Research Institute),
Sir Iqbal AKM Sacranie (Secretary General. The Muslim Council of Britain, United Kingdom),
Prof Francis A. Boyle (Professor of law, University of Illinois School of Law),
Mr. Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed (Executive Director of the Institute for Policy Research & Development),
Prof. Michel Chossudovsky (Director & Editor Canada),
Mr William Clark (Author & Manager of Performance Improvement, USA),
Tariq Ali (Writer, Film-Maker & Editor United Kingdom),
Mr Daniel Ellsberg (Anti-War Activist USA),
Mr Larry Everest (Journalist USA),
Mr Michel Vatikiotis (Regional Representative, HD Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue Singapore),
Mr Eric Garris (Webmaster, Antiwar.com /Managing Editor USA),
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf (Chairman Cordoba Initiative USA),
Dr. Ben Mollov (Lecturer of Inter-Disciplinary, Department of Social Science Israel)
Mr Pratap Chatterjee (Managing Editor, CorpWatch.org & Authorof Iraq Inc, USA), Mr. Jimmy Massey (Author & Iraq Veteran USA),
Mr Justin Raimondo (Editorial Director, antiwar.com),
Tan Sri Azman Hashim (Chairman, Board of Trustees, PLF),
Tan Sri Razali Ismail (UN Special Envoy for Mynmar),
Tan Sri Dato’ Seri (Dr) Ahmad Sarji Abdul Hamid (Chairman, Institute of Islamic Understanding MALAYSIA),
Tan Sri Datuk Noordin Sopiee (Chairman & CEO, Institute of Strategic & International Studies - Malaysia),
Tan Sri Abu Talib Othman (Chairman, Human Right Commission of Malaysia),
Dato’ Dr. Ronald McCoy (Past President, International Physician for the Preventive Against Nuclear War),
Dato’ Mukhriz Mahathir (Co-ordinator, AMAN Malaysia),
Dato’ Munir A. Majid (exChairman, Malaysia Airlines),
Dr. Chandra Muzaffar (President, International Movement For A Just World)
Prof Shad S. Faruqi (Professor of Law, Universiti Teknologi MARA)

And to ice the lovely cake of speaker, his Ex Abdula Badawi (the current Prime Minister of Malaysia) will be presenting a key note speech!

Could it get any cooler? Could it? Could it ever?

Of course it can!

I am invited! :)

yay! i am so excited! I really have no thoughts about this forum right now. i have been contemplating on what i could learn out of it. Its ironic how this happens a day after my previous post on the conflict on Sri Lanka! it either confirms pure chance or that a Blog-God exists!

Either way, i am ecstatic about the opportunity.

Reflections of another world: Sri Lanka

And so that’s the end of Conflict resolution as a course! After the grand final paper, and a big and fat steak with a close fiend I thought I need to do some justice to the hours of drooling and aimless pondering in class.

I was reading up on conflict resolution and its causes and kept wondering how the crisis and conflict Sri Lanka can be fit into a page on my page! Though ‘fitting’ Sri Lanka into a page might not really do justice to the true extent of conflict there, i hope this would help those of you who may not really know what’s going on there. While I don’t claim to know every thing going on in that little island place, I do have some amount of experience living the misery for quite sometime.

So, I would like to dedicate this post to the people of Sri Lanka, who in my opinion have been robed of their human dignity by eager political fractions (both ruling and opposition), and a rebel force.

I used my notes to help form a skeleton structure along which I shall write. I identified the following useful dimensions to explore the effects of civil war in Sri Lanka.

Social Issues:

  1. Child soldiers: LTTE’s recruitment of children as war heroes. There’s even a celebration of child worriers. Though the LTTE claims that they do not recruit any more children as worriers, this fact is yet to be proven.
  2. Civilian casualties: Government stats that have said “64000” for the past 8 years. That number is far from reality. The number of civilians dead is much higher. A huge number of people, perhaps in the thousands are unaccounted for.
  3. Drug abuse: the number of reported drug users on the rise. This also includes the increased use of alcohol. Curiously a 400ML bottle of beer is cheaper than most other beverages.
  4. Rape, abuse, and humiliation: the rape of women by the military and the militia. While media reports on this has been scarce, there have been a number of cases of abuse. Perhaps not dominant after the recent peace agreement, but that does not mean that it did not occur in the past.
  5. Internally and externally displaces persons: The flood of refugees from Sri Lanka to India, the United Kingdom, America, Canada, Australia, and Thailand have not been accounted for. The fact that people choose to leave their home country for a “better” place reflect back on an inherent problem rather than their lack of patriotism.

Health issues:

  1. Decline of Health care facilities: It is true that the health facilities in the capital of Colombo is up to ‘standards’. However, this is like saying that the health services of the USA is great because the services in Washington is wonderful. War torn regions in t he countries north and north east have long been having an inadequate health services. This issue was compounded by the ongoing war and the recent Tsunami.
  2. HIV/AIDS: as much as parties do now want to admit, there has been an increase in the number of people living with AIDS in Sri Lanka. The UNDP estimates the number of people living with AIDS based on 1998 stats and put the number in 2003 at approximately 4000 adults. But, reality lies somewhere else. (http://www.youandaids.org/). Along with aids, Sexually transmitted infections (STI) are said to increase too.
  3. Mental health: Increase in cases of clinical depression, suicides, PTSD, and anxiety type disorders. This data has been reported from colleagues working at NGO’s in the country. In a nut shell, Sri Lanka lacks any form of meaning full mental health program or assessment there of. The reason has been that precious funds have been channelled to “facilitate” the countries war efforts.

Economic issues:

  1. Affect on economic development: Staggering economic development as indicated by the raise in inflation rates. The fall of the currency and the lack of Sri Lankan businesses in international markets.
  2. Absence of skilled workers. The brain drain. The exodus of workers to other nations. Why? You do know what happened to those who stayed on the titanic right?
  3. Country moves backward: Where is Sri Lanka compared to where it was 20 years ago? Where is Sri Lanka going to be in the next 20 years. It clearly lacks any vision. Its main focus: war. Economist have become war mongers. I say this because the government spends huge sums of its budget on defence and war. Ok.. and how are people gaining?

Political issues:

  1. Conflict that never resolves: ok, sounds like intractable conflict doesn’t it? But, is this conflict really as a result of the people choosing to conflict or two very political agendas sparking. The LTTE and the government have more to gain by prolonging conflict rather than resolving it. How about business from the sale/purchase of arms?
  2. Corruption: corrupt government officials. Bribe taking policies. For obvious reasons, i cant give you any example other than saying that each time a certain political party is thrown out of power, along with its exit, opens a can of worms that paints a picture that isn’t as virtues as the party would have had hoped to have shown.
  3. “brain drain”: lack of intelligent political planning. The biggest concern: lets prepare for conflict.
  4. Ideological focus: increase in the communist manifesto. This form of communism that propagates hatred against marginalised comities and identifies marginalised communities as the “cause” for the trouble. Increase participation of “Buddhist-monks” in politics. The spread of hate messages by the same.
  5. Role models: or the lack of it.

Psychological Issues:

  1. Mental health issues: Disorders: as mentioned under health dimensions. Outlined earlier. Sri Lanka has an absence of mental health research of mental health services.
  2. A society that has learnt that aggression as an accepted form of retaliation. More and more incidences of violent incidences that are continuously increasing in intensity have been reported from non-war regions.
  3. Children who experience aggression and violence: the cycle starts with their parents and eventually continues into the child life. The circle will continue. Where will it end? Or will it end at all?
  4. Absence of respect and recognition for youth:

And finally to you the leaders who make the decisions that affects millions of people: may you rot in hell. On the personal side, the nations has left me pondering if I will ever really fit in there any more. The picture I just painted, though incomplete, is bleak. Right now, the issues may not seem to be alot or may seem irrelavent but they probably paint a picture of the world as i once saw.

For now, home is where I am ;)

Thursday, December 01, 2005

A tribute to Nayagam (1942-2005)

I am grateful for the wonderful memories of you that are etched in my mind.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

a e i o u and sometimes w

Yeah yeah.. I have not been blogging for a while and its starting to become a sort of habit! Nothing that I enjoy, but I have been having my mind occupied with the tons of assignments and projects that were scheduled for completion at the end of semester. That’s right folks, it is the end of semester! This only means one thing! *scary background music and drum roll* Finals are not far away :|

I had fun putting together/producing the play (Cinderella’s Crunchy Christmas Cake) for theatre!! For those of you who missed it, too bad! For those of you who were there, I hope you enjoyed the characters as much as I enjoyed brining them to life! Here’s a quick view of the very colourful cast of nine!

The beautiful cast:
(L-R Bottom row) Salamander (the prince's foot soldier), Millicent (the cook), Violet (an evil cousin of the two sisters), Gardenia (one of Cinderella's sisters), and Isshy (the evil grandma elf). (L-R top row): Prince Charming (him self), fairy godmother, Cinderella, and Ella's other evil sister. (not in the picture, beauuuttiiful Lindsay Price, the author!)

Work with msf:
Work with msf’s refuges population is getting more and more exciting. Met two very delusional individuals. One hears voices instructing him to do stuff like jump off cliffs, hit people. Chile the other believes that blood oozes from his skin and that he has poisoned (the poison has apparently made him very allergic to insect bites, hence the blood).

I haven’t really read any where that acute stress can cause “delusional” type disorders (I am not that well read though), but its an interesting prospect because could that explain the fact that communities tend to be ‘more’ religious in times of excessive stress?

From a purely scientific/pseudo-scientific (Call it what you want) perspective, could it be that those diagnosed as “delusional” are less likely to be religious? Could religion be in fact a socially accepted form of delusion? Though I may never know the answer to that question, I could perhaps see if delusional disorders and religion occur in unison? As I said earlier, would the spectrum of delusional disorders (as categorised by society) be in fact a misguided/misplaced form of religion?

But, as long as the two patients are concerned, they agreed to meet a psychiatrist! *yay*?

Research his an all time low.

On the other hand, my proposed research project with the refugee population, has come to another snag! At first, there was that fiasco with my university claming that I could not do a thesis-paper/special project because I had already done an internship. WTF! But, that has been sorted, and I am now the on the way! Or not so soon.

My research supervisor (lets call him G-sharp-major for now) tells me that ERB would not be happy with one of my variables (legality - “legal” vs “illegal”). Apparently, doing this research would be a sure shot way to get my name printed on the tomorrows headlines. I kept insisting that it would be good publicity for my uni. But, he wouldn’t have any of that.

I however think that there is more risk involved in putting my participants into trouble by identifying them. Since anonymity doesn’t really stand in the eyes of the ‘law’, I wouldn’t want to push it further.

What am I going to do?
I am thinking of measuring other variables that arise as a consequence of being legal or “illegal”. But, that’s a long shot and it makes the study really complicated! but, before that, i think i am gona concentrate on finals! :D

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Colloquium Day

Attended the 10th research colloquium at my university. As, becoming chairperson for the presentations (think Emcee) becomes the responsibility/burden (depends on how you see it), there I was sitting my way for an hour of presentation, heating up the chair for the next ‘chairperson’ to meet his/her fate!

Obviously, the chair person is the only person in the entire audience who cannot see the screen. Unless you turn around, risk look totally weird (but that’s not a problem for a senior psych student.. believe me), risk spraining your neck (KJ has more experience here), and perhaps falling off the chair! But, fear not, cause that’s a great opportunity to stare at all the awesome girls in the audience, and still look respected! (how cool is that? Wana become a tutor?)

Apart from the wonderful experiences of chairing, that 1 hour give enough time to tune into you inner world, a time for self hypnosis of sorts! Having gone through a series of mantra chants with my co chair, and seeing the light (or was that from the balding head of the apPAULer?) I was compelled to jot down some ways about how “research colloquium” could be made more ‘interesting’. If you are not taking me seriously right now, its ok, the 10-commandments was ridiculed at first too. Heres my shorter 5-item version

1. Have poster presentations up during, the same date

2. Extend the duration of poster presentations. Don’t remove posters on Saturday. Its student research and I would like to see that up for longer period cause that would be respecting my semesters worth of work.

3. Have a copy of the power point/outline of the presentation on display with the posters, after the Saturdays main event. This way, it would be easy for those who want to refer back to presentations.

4. Feedback to students from the ‘judge’ is a great idea. How about more than one judge? How about external judges? Guests? Researches from other u’s?

5. The event culd be made more attractive. Current publicity makes it sound more of a chore, rather than a privilege that it rightfully should be. Students work really hard to present their research findings. i doubt that the amount of importance given right now, is sufficient.

Monday, November 21, 2005

SMOKE'in HELP - part II

It has been a while since I had a comment posted! Assignments were plentiful, and I was darn lazy to do anything about it sooner! Weeeel, I am done with writing about the conflict in Rwanda as part of the conflict resolution class (perhaps the class should be called political science? But that’s for another blog). I am also done with the first draft of a theatre assignment that requires an analysis of dramatic styles in two of Tennessee Williams plays, “the glass menagerie” and “a streetcar named desire”. The last one was harder!

It was good to see the comments that came in about the issue of smoking culture, research supporting tobacco companies, and the general lack of no smoking in HELP. I had to think twice about responding to the comments, and decided to have a separate entry. This is because, …. Read on…

Firstly, I would like to answer (or try to) some of questions that KJ brought up. I wouldn’t know if there were many junior psych students in the research. However, I did spot a few well known, seniors! I know that some of us flatly refused to get our selves involved and quit. But, I also know that some seniors continued!

As for my comments on implications of conducting research, that aids tobacco organizations, by junior or senior students would be:

1. It would minimize the negative stereotypes that are held by students. Negative stereotypes and negative attitudes smoking should rightfully be encouraged. There should be no reason to be ashamed of it either. If university is a facility of learning, then you risk teaching students the wrong values. It is generally accepted (and I am not going to cite) that smoking is harmful to health.


2. Psychologists SHOULD be a positive influence on human behaviour. Any form of training, that undergraduate psychology students experience, should be one that fosters the development of ‘positive’ values in them. Teaching them that getting involved in tobacco marketing research is NOT positive, as it will encourage them to be more accepting of smoking. Think cognitive dissonance (I am not going to explain that term. Look it up!)

3.There is a breech of national policy. It is the Malaysian government’s intention to ‘reduce’ or ‘eliminate’ smokers. This pledge was made at an international level (Hence USM VC's comments last week). Encouraging research would result in an ambivalent attitude towards government policy.

As for psychologists taking oaths, I don’t know if we have to! I do know that medical doctors do take oaths promising to value the ethics of their profession. I would like to know if any such oath taking would be done in my clinical school. Ephez is right in pointing out that the inherent variability in the fields of psychology would result in different attitudes towards oath taking and its subsequent practice/adherence.

However, this should not be seen as an excuse. That lack of an oath is no reason why any psychologist (industrial or otherwise) should behave in ways that harm society at large. People dealing with other people need to be held accountable for their behaviour. Psychologists, regardless of their work setting, influence human behaviour, and should not make “the lack of an oath” and excuse.

Further, every professional organization that hires psychologists (or confers their status) have their own ethical code of conduct. Adhering to an ethical code, is as equally important as “just taking an oath”.

The issue in HELP (Dr. Deb, this should answer your question), arises not because of the decisions that the head of the department of the centre psychology made. Instead are due to the decisions that were made the head of University. The head of the University is an economist (that does not exempt him from practicing ethics). Further, the centre for psychology (my defence to them) was not responsible in organising the research project. However, it is disappointing that members of staff from the department (psychology) acted as coordinators/consultants/etc. I believe that these specific members who represented the centre for psychology should have been sensitive in following ethical guidelines.

I also want to clear out a comment made by mythsn_legends. HUC’s management DOES NOT nor DID NOT ‘promote’ tobacco products in campus. I am ‘accusing’ them of supporting marketing research (conducted by a 3rd party advertising company), that is geared towards creating a product placement strategy for BT. My argument is that, regardless of the financial gain that HELP stands to gain from the partnership fostered with the ‘advertising’ company, it is WRONG to do projects without considering the implications of the research findings. In this case, it would equal supporting a giant tobacco company.


Should psychologists support organizations that cause harm or bring no good to individuals and society at large?

I was thinking of a really sarcastic way of replying, but… will stick to a NO (in large font) for now. Reasons, science should be about taking people forward. Its about development and not the destruction of man kind. I applaud you for being brave enough to take your stand in saying NO, and for those of you who asked the many provoking questions.

I am not too sure if “all sorts of rules” about no smoking would really solve the issue unless, some meaningful amount of enforcement is undertaken. Even the simplest of all laws can be broken, when those in authority fail to enforce.

I would like end this blog entry by calling out to you (psychologists or not) to come forward as a student body, to communicate a clear cut message to society.

1. WE WILL NOT TOLERATE OR ENGAGE/SUPPORT IN THE PROMOTION/SALES/USE OF TOBACCO PRODUCTS/COMPANIES.

2. WE WANT CIGERATE SMOKING BANNED FROM UNIVERSITIES IN MALAYSIA.

Interested? What you waiting for? Get active in your university! Or email me if you will support this drive in HELP.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

False Memory: Are Recovered Memories of Past Events Accurate?

Abstract
The effects of suggestibility (misled vs. non-misled) and source monitoring (yes-no vs. source recall test) and source modality (picture vs. text vs. both picture and no text vs. neither picture or text) on memory were examined. 16- to 25-year-old college students (N = 48) saw a color slide and read either a misleading or non-misleading narrative about the picture. Participants recalled details of the picture by source (source-recall), or recalled details of the picture with no reference to the source (yes-no). Participants in the yes-no recall condition had better memory scores compared to those in the source-recall condition. Misleading narrative did not influence recall of items either from picture or text. Results are discussed in view of the false memory debate.


Click here to read more

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Tagged

A blog friend (Deb) tagged this entry about the “10 things I recently learned about myself”.

Writing this out was much more difficult than I thought it would! Thanks Deb, i did learn something about me!

Tagged: Ten Things I've Recently Learned About Myself

1. I like the color green: its taken me this long to figure out!


2. I like collecting books and secretly desire to own my own library.

3. I love research, though don’t enjoy the lit-reviews!

4. I love cartoons

5. I love walking along misty pine forests near streams.

6. I am LESS spiritual than ever before! My force, I have discovered, is within myself.

7. I procrastinate a lot more than I hoped I would. But I always beat deadlines.

8. I love to be alone. I am a loner!

9. I believe that intelligent life forms other than humans exist.

10. I like Japanese girls! ;)


*I tag all my blog friends!*

Monday, November 14, 2005

SMOKE'in HELP

Hail the Government of Malaysia for making attempts to reduce the number of smokers in the country! As the Vice Chancellor of University Sains Malaysia points out a mockery made by the government's system in allowing the tobacco companies organise the “international tobacco conference” in Kuala Lumpur (the VC didn’t think very much about Malaysian Airlines being the national carrier for the event) while other sectors in the government are trying hard to “negate” the effects of smoking (New Sunday Times, 2005), HUC’s head Dr. P tells his students, that research done in aid for an advertising company that is promoting the products of British Tobacco is a “great opportunity”. WTF!

Though he (Dr. P) sees that linking with a giant advertising company, by conducting their research as an “opportunity” for the University to expand its corporate links, it is disturbing to find out that students who were involved in this project were made to do research in less than ethical ways (some of these students include psychology seniors).

The aim of the research project was to carry out observational research and report, back to the advertising agency (by the recruited RA’s), the 'typical' patterns of conversation that people engage in. On the point of view of research ethics, the participants were NEVER given informed consent of this little “recording”. When this point was raised, the spokes person for the advertising company (the one that was doing the media work for BT, denied that ‘recording without permission’ was in any way unethical - Dr. P agreed! (Shame on you)

It gets better. Initially the students were not told that this work was supporting the advertising efforts of BT. It was very much later, that this fact was established. The irony of this incident was that the chief coordinator was a young research assistant who was fully attached to the centre for psychology. Dosent s/he know about research ethics? Do s/he really have to do every thing management tells him/her to do? Is ass kissing that important s/he chooses to violate accepted ethical strandeds of psychological research? Where is ERB when projects like this are undertaken? isent there a stranded of practice that Universities adhere to?

The research data is qualitative and allows for the particular advertising company to place the BT’s products right into Malaysia’s cultural arteries. The particular coordinator I referred to earlier, dismissed this concern by claiming that “qualitative research cant give you much information” (don’t BULLSHIT, you need to get back to your basics in marketing). The results, which is obvious to anyone in the right mind, would be an increase in BT’s market share in Malaysia! Specially among the youth (the research sampled a youth population). (for those of you who are not sure about product placement through qualitative research, think of Nike’s latest campaign in China)

Some moron just told me, that no matter how good the marketing campaigns are, the increase in Malaysian government cigarette tax, will eventually deter its use. Again, bull shit! Think Again, think Nike. Just cause the price is high, doesn’t mean you don’t buy the product. Product placing is a very powerful way of winning consumer share. Supporting research that helps tobacco corporations obtain that data, is like giving into a form of 'neo' colonialism. The independence that Malaysia obtained in 1957, would not mean anything, if you sell out valuble information.

While the VC of USM rightly points out the national divide on smoking policy (i.e. to smoke or not to smoke), I feel that the distinction in any educational institution, and specially in Universities, and more so especially in Universities that specialize in Psychology, should be one that does not support or encourage the use, promotion, sale, or help sustain tobacco companies. HUC, SHAME on you.

Writing this particular article made me think about the existing laws about cigarette use (or cigarette use) on campus. The last page of the little book of University rules (yes, there is such a book) says that smoking is strictly prohibited on campus. I feel that this 'last-page' attitude, has spilled over to HUC’s overall attitude towards smokers to one of tolerance and acceptance.

Apart from the encouraged research project in aid of British Tobacco's marketing interest in Malaysia, HUC is guilty of failure to enforce strict “NO SMOKING” zones within the campus. Students are seen smoking at the entrances, exits, and within the campus grounds. When I contacted a member of the staff, the response given to me was “what can we do, how do we stop them”. HELLO? The university has been ignoring calls be students who were concerned about cigarette smoke getting into the air-conditioning system. This is happening on the same building that houses the Centre for Psychology! Yay, for the future “achievers” of the nation!

I have this to request from the Management, staff, administration, big guns, gurus, and leaders of my University.

1. HALT any form of support given towards tobacco companies. Regardless of the loss of financial gain, have the guts to say NO and set an example for the students.

2. Apologise to the student body for cheaply indulging in research that endorses tobacco marketing.

3. Strictly enforce the NO-SMOKING regulations as that required by the government. It is our right as students to have a smoke free environment within the campus grounds. This is not just my opinion, but is government policy (correct me if I am wrong) under the Universities and colleges act.

4. Introduce severe penalties for those who violate campus "NO-SMOKING" regulations. This means taking a an active role, in stopping the practice of smoking within campus. No Smoking signs (that dont exist either) would not solve anything.

5. Actively take part in more ANTI-smoking campaigns and provide information of the negative consequences of smoking.

And finally two things:

to the VC of USM: I am not sure about the politics that you are involved in dear sir, but your comments on the existing policy towards tobacco et la, is encouraging!

To the coordinator(s) who thought you could bullshit me and get away, i have this to say: You were key in encouraging this research project among young undergraduates even though you knew what you were getting into . When BT’s market share increases (and it will), and some one close to you coughs his/her last breath, I hope you will remember the day you told me “qualitative research would not make a difference”

Saturday, November 12, 2005

The Person in Me

Astrorat has a new look ;) (or atleast, is trying on one). After much deliberation, I have finally made the changes. Some readers have suggested that the previous background was too “strong” and hence, I have made a deliberate attempt to include softer colors! I would love to hear your comments on the change.

I guess the change in the blog reflects change that I am trying to bring into my life. The week of public holidays in KL (ew ew ew) have left me unmotivated to continue studying. If not in real life, then at least in the blog!

Comments from my readers:
Thanks to the holiday I have been blogging a lot! I am happy that the people who read my posts are enjoying its contents regardless of my odd use of profanity (ok, perhaps a little more than odd). I even had one reader write back to me, describing my entries as “funny”. Okaaayy!!!

Some of you had commented about my having an strange love-hate relationship with my university. Well, that’s not true, in fact I love my university. I however, do not agree with its policies or practices (this is true for my opinion of psychologists as well). And hence, will voice my opinion in an attempt to change the ‘norm’

A very close friend commented that it would be nicer to see more personal life stories on this blog. And I couldn’t agree more! hence, I have challenged my self to include more of these “the person in me” articles (is that what you call it). But, I guess I would have difficulty not speaking about psych related stuff, because psychology and its related work has become such a big part of my life, that its hard to isolate the two. She (my friend) almost said “sad, no life”, but, I doubt that’s true. I am quite passionate about what I do.

Great news! Or should I say, YAY!
I Was accepted into a clinical program with a full tuition scholarship! Yay! Hence, astrorat is well on the clinical path. There was a time during my undergraduate years, when I wasn’t sure of my major (let alone, how I was even going to pay for it). I once thought that cognitive psych was the way to go. I love cognition. Then there is a part of me wants to become a medical doctor. But, I cant afford medical school right now.

But my encounter with
MSF changed all that and showed me possibilities of getting the best of medical practice, psychology, and cognition in one area = clinical psych. How cool is that?

Though I wish that I could have gotten a similar offer from the University of Adelaide (Australia), I am not going to complain as the full tuition scholarship + opportunity to lecture is wayyy more than I could afford any place else!

Research going wrong:
I have come to a difficult snag with the research that I was proposing with refugees. After spending what seemed like centuries of consultation with the department of law in trying to figure out the legal implications of doing research with undocumented persons, my university tells me that I cant do both an internship and the 4th year paper! what the F***

According to them, since I have completed an internship paper, the special project paper (that I plan to do) would not count towards graduation! *frown* according to the people in UIU, the credit earned from the research paper, will not count towards graduation. *haih* but, I don’t want to waste any more time, I want to get the remaining papers done in spring and I cant afford to spend any more time doodling on, as the clinical school is scheduled for Fall, 06!

The Oath:
Astrorat (that is i) will be taking an oath promising never to physically or verbally abuse women, ever. This events organized by a local Malaysian NGO called AWAM (All Women's Action Society – no URL), and a Malaysian teaching hospital called HUKM
(Hospital Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia) and will be held at my university! I jumped to the idea of supporting their campaign and signed up. My thoughts about women, violence, and Malaysia coming up after the event.

Play time with Bingo:
After quite sometime, I spent time playing with my dog Bingo! Though he has a different name on his birth cert (a quite cool one for a dog), but we just choose to call him bingo ;) sorry bingo, though I cant remember your real name, I still love you.

He’s quite old now! An adult by dog years I recon, 7 in human years! Bingo’s a shy type, and refused to pose at this “family” photo session. Its all human feet and doggy back side! But, he’s a funny chap for that! will update more pix of my friend when i do get them.

Guess that’s it from me! :)

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Tutors - Part II

My last entry dealt with darker side of tutors, and today I want to spend a little more time talking about those tutors who ‘keep the fire burning’ and then highlight another contributor to the failing tutor system. First however, kudos for the true elite of the tutors (you know who you are, if you read my previous post with little or no guilt). You deserve a standing ovation. Its your attitude of going the extra mile, that makes tutoring a whole lot fun, challenging, exciting, and rewarding.

Ok.. enough of positive thoughts (for a really good article about positive psychology see
Dr. Deborah’s latest article). I however, would like to spend the rest of this post on making some damning comments about a bunch of students who … errr.. read on..

To start with, the tutor-student (or ‘tutee’) relationship in my university is an odd one. Tutorials on one hand are not compulsory, and are really an option that’s been in place to support students who need ‘extra’ attention. Having said that, its ironic how the “university of achievers” usually have their tutorial list filled up on the first day of posting. High demand signups are fine, but what about what happens after that?

I have this to say to those of you who sign up, and then show no interest in turning up for tutorials: why the f**k did you sign up in the first place? It is not only selfish of you (for filling up a spot that another more deserving and needy could take) but it is also disrespects your tutors time.

Having had that very cathartic moment, I would like to make the following *humble* requests from all students.

Respect your tutor's time. Remember, your tutor is a student too, and therefore has demands and deadlines of his or her own. You can show your respect by keeping appointments and by finding out what time is too late to call your tutor at night. No one wants to be woken up at 2AM even though you are staying up late to meet a deadline. For the very least, do atleast Turn up for tutorials. Theres no greater insult than being stood up.

Communicate! Let your tutor know about exam dates and other important deadlines so that the two of you can plan ahead if you need extra time. Also keep in mind that your tutor might like to know how your exam went. Related, your tutor would like to know if you understood what was said. If you don’t speak in English, then say so.

Come prepared. Though tutoring may be a more casual arrangement than meeting with your lecturer, the more you have studied beforehand and articulated your own questions, the more productive your session will be. Psychologists (and psychologists to be for that matter) don’t read minds, hence, adequate preparation will help.

Be specific. The more your tutor knows about your needs before the session begins, the better prepared he or she can be to help you. If you are stumped on a particular problem, for instance, why not e-mail it to your tutor before your meeting?

Don't expect perfection. Though peer tutors have excelled in the courses they tutor, they do not have all the answers. For that, there’s god (don’t know his/her email, sorry)

Be active. One of the most important ways to learn from your tutor is to be active during your tutoring meetings. Make sure you explain to your tutor, in your own words, the concepts that you have been reviewing together. Putting the material into your own words will help both of you to make sure that you have grasped it and can apply it.

I cant believe that I went though a whole page without using much profanity! What’s happening to me? (worried)

Monday, November 07, 2005

Elite of the University: Tutors

Ladies and gentlemen… let me introduce you to the elite of the University: the Tutors!

For those of you who do not know what/who are tutors, they are basically students who assist lecturers and run tutorials in exchange for experience (and a sad cash reward of $1(US) per hour. You start your career as a tutor for General Psych and then apply for other classes based on how well you did for that paper.

Lets see now, All you need to do, to become a tutor is make sure you have an A for your Intro to General Psych (yeah, as if that’s hard) and then maintain a B+ (or 3.3 average for the respective Psychology paper of choice. Besides the having a top grade, it doesn’t matter if you were a loony cause no one really cares.

Tutors come in all sizes and shapes (BIG ones and little ones). They have all kinds of interests, all kinds of hobbies, and all sorts of ideas. While tutoring to some of us is a life time privilege and a huge honor. The tutoring experience, not only looks good on your CV but gives you a whole range of experiences such as delivering real lecturers, presenting tutorials, marking quizzes, and checking papers. None of these are typical of an undergraduate opportunity, hence it is a real privilege.

Students join in this tutor program for all kinds of reasons. Some of the darker reasons are becoming evident as some tutors have become more of an elitist society of bullshitters who are more concerned about the privilege of being called a tutor rather than paying much attention to the responsibilities attached.

Why do I say so?

During a casual conversation, I asked a few student tutors about why they signed up for the tutoring program. Here are their responses.

1. “ It makes chances of dating someone of the opposite/same sex higher”. LOOSER
2. “ I can use the tutor room to sleep/rest/eat”. What the F**k? go home or go some where else. What are café’s for?
3. “Look intelligent”. Yeah right! During a tutorial this one tutors reply (defense of utter ignorance) to a complicated question was “that’s the way its always been done, don’t ask why”. FOOL…
4. “Its really cool to be a tutor!” Yeah right! Go join the ‘Image club’
5. “I want my picture on the tutor board!” Moron, this is not a singles lounge.

Why do I think that these elitist tutors are bullshitters?

1. They respond to student questions saying “that’s just the way it is”.
2. When unsure of how to solve a problem, promises student to get back to him/her later, but conveniently forget all about it.
3. Disregard administrative responsibilities. Marking quizzes are a chore, but its still a duty. I know some tutors who just don’t pay attention to administrative work because they find it ‘boring’
4. When asked to explain a difficult concept, start talking in gibberish. On top of that, make it sound as if the student is really stupid for asking that in the first place.
5. Have the attitude that they are above all other students. On top of that, they complain that students are disinterested in attending tutorials. While this issues of student drop out is present, it only affects those tutors who are trying very hard. Bullshitters generally use this as an example to mask the true reason for dropping out (sucky tutorials rather than student disinterest).

I have pondered why tutors like sitting on their “tutorly throne” (or rather swivel-y chair - thanks Kj) and impart knowledge on to the ‘mere-students’.

For you dear tutors/staff I have the following comments.

A) First and foremost, make sure you hire/select tutors with the right attitude.
B) The elitist attitude has to go… learn to relax and enjoy your time with the students. (thanks Kat)
C) If you cant, then get counseling cause trying to cover your own inadequacies (small penis perhaps?) via tutoring doesn’t help anyone (neither is it going to fix your original problem)
D) Get real, the 4RM/hour reward schedule, puts lab rats into shame. Understand that tutoring is not about the financial gain, but rather about the rewards in experience. Its about learning and experiencing the things that you could never exchange for money. Cheating out on that experience would mean that you are depriving another more deserving student from making use of the opportunity.
E)Understand that learning comes from the experiences that are embraced. If you do have aspirations to become a truly good psychologist, then start now. If you feel that its too hard, then perhaps a change of career to Mass communication would help.

I do realize that there are inherent problems with students perceptions of who tutors are. Some very good tutors who I know, face difficulty connecting with their students due a lack of interest on the part of the student. However, this is not to be confused with the elitist attitude of certain that I am highlighting here (my thoughts on students coming up on a later blog).

Finally, I would like to leave you with some comments that tutors should be longing to hear from their students. Perhaps this will give you an idea as to what tutor goals should be built towards.


Here are comments you WANT to hear or should be hearing:

"Not only did I get a better understanding, but I started to love the material, thanks to my tutor."
"I never felt stupid asking him/her questions."
"My tutor seemed sincerely interested in my improvements, no matter how small."
"I think I had my foot in the door and just needed someone to push me in the right direction."
"Her tips will last a lifetime."
"In his clear and straightforward manner, my tutor explained concepts that had totally confused me in lecture. The tutor’s style, however, was never condescending, and I always felt that he respected my intelligence as a student."
"What always impresses me is how my tutor didn’t just explain things, but she always actively involves me in the dialogue. Even if I say I understand the concept, she asks me a question just to reaffirm my understanding. I have found this extremely helpful."
“My tutor pointed out problems with my paper, yet made me think about why it was a problem. This will help me not make the mistake in the future. S/he was just genuinely very helpful and nice.”
“ My tutor helped me break down my overwhelming paper into parts I can handle.”
“ My tutor was patient and easy to understand. I felt comfortable working with him/her.”
“ I like the calm atmosphere, not feeling embarrassed. I wasn't rushed. I was able to work through it all.”
“My tutor was very patient and helpful with my third-grade questions on citing sources”
“ My tutor took the time to allow me to find my own mistakes making sure that I understood the suggestions that were made”

Now.. Do you really think that you are cut out to become a tutor?

Astrorat would like to thank Kj for helpful comments on creating this post