Eraser country

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Eraser country does not allow certain memories. If it is an ugly incident the eraser officer strikes it through – delete. The delete constitution defines what shall be forgotten. A murder case, a bad taste meal, an argument between neighbours, a sad moment. The mission of the officer is to make sure everyone lives ever happy after.

cat eraserThe mission is successfully achieved. The citizens of eraser country do not have worries. Neither do they have fear nor anger. There are happy faces in every corner.

But of course, the citizens do not have brains. Together with any sad or ugly memories deleted, gone the mind power to think and reflect.

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Pollination

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Bee has a cool job, she goes to hearts for pollination.

The hearts she visits are all different. Some of them are spaghetti, they mess around a lot which really makes Miss Bee lost at all times. It is really difficult to figure out the spaghetti where is the beginning, where is the end. Some of them are like chessboard with good signs. It is easy to go east, west, south and north. At times traveling between the grid becomes a bit boring as each block looks the same. cat and beeBee’s favourites are garden like hearts. Walking among roses she usually forget the time. There she smells the tree, walk along the stream and plays with deer and rabbits.

Well her job is to pollinate. That is she brings a bit of spaghetti sauces to the chessboard, a few chessboard signs into the garden heart, and a little rose into the chessboard heart.

‘Such a fun job!’ Cat says to Bee, eyes full of longing. ‘Well, you say so. But that is travelling always for work. One day I will retire and just be a heart traveller for myself.’ That is the dream of little Bee.

Together to Become

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She cried herself off leaving from San Fransisco airport to Hong Kong. I pretended no one was watching me leaving from Shanghai airport to Hong Kong. We met through a common friend who wanted to buy a huge furry teddy bear from me.

The flower of friendship didn’t blossom immediately. There were plenty of things to do, plenty of parties to go, and plenty of people to hang out. We had meals and chats occasionally. We said HIs and BYEs. The initial interaction was skin-deep.

KakaotalkSomeone called fate plays us like dice and somehow we were always placed together. Going to business school, making investment, moving to banking or consulting, reading similar books so we can swap, hopping between Shanghai and Hong Kong, making travel plans to the same cities with an almost synchronized schedule, experimenting with all kinds of technological startup products, struggling with our identity, trying to find an environment which we fit.

It feels like having a comfortable pillow if you know you got someone on your back. No matter what you do, she is not there to judge. With all the secrets shared, you can read her without much efforts (vice versa).If you are upset or disappointed, you can always have her as an emergency toolkit. You have seen her in tears or in screams, without makeup, with pajama. (vice versa). For the last decade, we were becoming who we are today together. She joked my note to thank her for the friendship sounds like marriage vows.

She is taking a flight back to San Fransisco. Bon Voyage. It will be difficult to just go for dumplings with a quick call. But we will figure something out.

The eye borrower

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Mr. M lives in a perfect neighborhood because he can borrow eyes.

Say if he wants to go diving, he knocks at the door of a fisherman. With fisherman’s eyes, he can see seahorses, corals and dolphins with much brighter color and of bigger size.

cat with goggle divingIf he wants to get on holiday then he knocks at the door of a photographer. After putting on photographer’s eyes, he can see all the beautiful things magnified. A butterfly on a flower, dews on the grass. That makes a perfect holiday.

If he goes on a plane, he makes sure he gets telescope eyes. Siting on the plane, he can see stars in the far far far galaxy.

Visiting the serious professor to borrow his eyes is something Mr. M has to do before he goes to work. With that pair of eyes, things become much more logical. ‘You got to be serious some times’ Mr. M says to himself before knocking at the door.

One day the professor and the fisherman decided to swap house for fun. Aloh, Mr. M went to work with fisherman’s eyes and started his holiday with professor’s eyes.~~~~~~~~

Big Issues: Street Friends

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Knowing my incorrigible hunger for words and stories, M chose her welcome gift for me: three copies of ‘Big Issues’.

‘Big issues’ gathers Taiwanese writers around the world and put words of their worlds together. The magazine discusses environment protection, movies, current events, politics, and comics. Nothing serious. Rather every article is short and light-hearted. But there is something more special about ‘Big Issues’.

‘Do you know who are ‘street friends’?’ M speaks her version of mandarin, which I understand most of time. But occasionally we need to clarify a few definitions in order to understand each other, such as the vocabulary ‘ Street Friends’.

‘Does it mean homeless people?’ I took a bold guess. In terms of using refined language, I am always the less cultured among the two of us.

‘What is your impression of them? Can you describe them?’ M is a journalist at her deepest core.

‘Well, I think they don’t have a home. They are poor, wandering around with few friends and families’

‘You are mostly right. They got to live on the street after losing support from their families. Maybe a divorce with the wife or fall out with the family. Some of them do work but on a daily base with meager income.’

It turns out M has done a documentary about ‘Street Friends’. That explains the knowledge and compassion she has. “One street friend I interviewed makes a living by selling ‘Big issues’. ” Every wanderer can get current copies of ‘Big Issues’ for free. He/she can sell the magazine with a standard 100 Taiwan dollar price and keep 50% of the revenue. The government is also making more effort for this disadvantaged group. There is a program for tourists – Taipei guided by Street Friends. As a tourist, a ‘street friend’ shows you around the city. Combining his story, this friend will show the city using his experience and from his eyes. ’

M never lost her heart towards social justice and equality. The ‘Big issues’ suddenly increased its weight a lot more.

I shared my guilt by sometimes turning blind towards street friends. In the subway, on the street, I see them. Some with a baby, some with a speaker. I turn away my eyes sometimes. My choice of not to see them does not make them disappear, rather it makes me look quite small in front of ‘Big issues’.

u=1901779297,838110372&fm=21&gp=0[Beggars in Spain] asks ‘ What do you do if you meet one beggar in Spain?’ Mostly likely there is a selfless voice asking us to give him some coins. The book continues to probe our generosity ‘What do you do if you are surrounded by beggars in Spain?’ Or the better question might be ‘What do you think these beggars surrounding will do to you?

M&M

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When M and I first met each other, we were both in a buzzling party city, in our twenties. M was a sport journalist intern and I had no clue what I was doing every single day. Our common interest in expressing ourselves in words gave birth to the M&M book project. She proposed us to go around every subway station and write about them, the neighborhood, the people, the spirit and the stories. A journalist in heart she has always been.

M went on for another intern post in Hyderabad, India not long after our M&M project barely started. Having much more curiosity than money, I jumped on the plane to travel around South India with her. Together we took beehive buses leading us to all bazaar but memorable experiences. That was my first interaction with India. It was hot, humid and chaotic, things I hated when I was there but missed after I left. Bus windows with three completely different types of Gods to worship. A city completely shut down hearing the death of a local movie star. To this day, India remains an extremely tempting lover of my life, something I adore but with little courage to get closer often.

ML&MM and M parted after India. She went back to Taiwan to produce documentaries and write scripts for TV shows. I, after rounds of exploration, found out web-based education is my destiny. In between, we had long Skype calls to keep in touch.

Finally we reunited sitting in a book cafe in Taipei. There is still so much to talk about, as if the years parting us have not happened. Somehow the older version of us still both kept the one thing which originally bonded us: write as an existence.

Is Higher Education higher?

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I met with an INSEAD  MBA graduate today. Knowing I work in the online learning industry, he asked the usual first question – Do you think MOOCs will replace the traditional higher education system?

I guess to start with, we shall look at why higher education is higher and why it exists in its current format.

The education is called higher, why? Because the people entering higher education is higher in they intelligence? Because the university education will build a broader base for students as a human being, with higher responsibility to the general public? Because such education allows its graduates to get into a professional world which pays higher salary? A lamb knows how to walk and integrate into the wild nature since day one. But us, we need to spend the first 22 years to learn how to eat, how to sleep, how to survive, how to read, how to learn and how to be part of the civilization.  It is a long production process and are all these years necessary?

The second question is that why we need at least 3 to 4 years in the higher education environment. Why it is designed this way that we need to take classes together, eat together, stay in the same dorm. What we eventually learnt? Is our university life meant to allow us explore our interest and passion or to deepen our knowledge and expertise into a very specialized sector so that we can be ready as part of the functioning society when we step our of the university gate? Do we learn more about a certain topic or do we learn in a broader sense, to understand the world, discover ourselves, cultivate and strengthen certain values, build certain characters? Do we learn how to deal with others, maybe more importantly, how to deal with oneself.

The third question is how we learn in the campus? How much of the learning delivery overlaps with what an online system can replace. When we walk with some one in the corridor and talk about a book we read, a film we watched, a song we like, is it part of the learning? is it more important or less so? When we observe how others talk, think, act, reflect, change facial expression, change attitude, does that count as part of the education? When we have conflict with others, argue, storm, comprise and resolve, is that considered part of the mission of higher education?

Without a consistent definition and clear articulation of these questions, no one can come up with a simple answer – would MOOCs replace higher education. We cannot create another higher education without a sufficient understanding of what is it, why it came to exist and how it is delivered.