Selflessdoubt’s Weblog

South-East Asian Politics through the eyes of an Indian

End of one chapter; beginning of another December 18, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — selflessdoubt @ 5:15 pm
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So, most of my desk and desktop is cleared out for the new batch of interns who will replace me starting January. My last day at the internship…………last day of having to wake up everyday at 7am for five days straight, work till 4:30p.m, catch a bus at 5, go to my other work, come back at 11, get ready for work the next day, shower and crash. And trying to fit my studying for GREs, applying for colleges, staying in touch with people, etc in my already crowded schedule. So, I should be happy right? But I don’t……….I had tremendous satisfaction from this job and I learned something new almost everyday. I have to say that the only thing that kept me sane in Albany is my work at the Gazette because it not only kept me busy mentally, I also enjoyed it. I would do it as a living if it only paid more. Today, I’m sad that I’ve nothing exciting to look forward to. I’ll be working 5 months in the mall and I shouldn’t be really complaining because most people don’t have a job, but a mall job is not personally satisfying in the least. I’m nervous about how I’m going to be able to pay the bills; nervous living in this run-down place by myself; nervous about fighting my way through life……..I just have to remember that it is five months and I can see my mom again. Hopefully, having only one job will allow me to see my boyfriend and friends up at Oswego more often. Hopefully. For now, I have to stay strong and take things one step at a time. I can do it.

 

Gov. Paterson’s new pension reform December 11, 2009

Gov. David A. Paterson signed into law Dec. 10 a Tier V pension reform legislation that is supposed to save New York state around $35 billion in the next thirty years.

Some of the key elements of Tier V include:

  • Raising the minimum age of retirement from 55 to 62 years and imposing a penalty of up to 38 percent for anyone who retires before age 62.
  • Requiring employees to continue contributing three percent of their salaries toward pension costs, as long as they accumulate additional pension credits.
  • Increasing the minimum years of service required for a pension from five years to 10 years.
  • Capping the amount of overtime that can be considered in the calculation of pension benefits for civilians at $15,000 per year, and for police and firefighters at 15 percent of non-overtime wages.

Members of the New York state Teachers Retirement System will have a separate Tier V benefit structure which would include:

  • Raising the minimum age of retirement without penalty from 55 years to 57 years.
  • Contributing 3.5 percent of their salaries to pension costs.
  • Increasing the 2 percent multiplier threshold for final pension calculations from 20 to 25 years.

“An unsustainable pension system is not going to help any of us,” Paterson said. “This is to alleviate for the next generation some of the problems we are facing right now. This will be a system that will be sustainable over the next few years. The savings this reform achieves will help to lower property taxes by reducing not only State spending, but local spending as well”

Speaker Sheldon Silver joked that the governor signed the Silver bill into law.

Also attending were Sen. Craig Johnson; Assemblymen Michael J. Fitzpatrick, Charles Lavine, Tom McKevitt, Fred W. Thiele, Jr; Assemblywomen Michelle Schimel and Nassau County Executive and Chairman of the Commission on Property Tax Relief Thomas R.Suozzi.

 

College graduation rates are dropping; not much of a surprise! September 9, 2009

Filed under: Social causes — selflessdoubt @ 6:57 pm
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As a recent graduate from the State University of New York, I continue to wonder how people can give up half way through their education. I currently have a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations and Journalism with a minor in French. I did 22 credits my first semester Junior year and overloaded for the rest of the three semesters, yet I finished it. Sleep was almost non-existent as I also worked 10 hours a week. Most of my friends say that they’ve no clue how I did it or whether they could do it. I understand. I do not expect everyone to have a double major, but not even completing one major? It’s like giving up in the middle of a race. College has its ups and downs and there are times it does not feel worth it, but it is also worthless to give up. At the same time, college needs to be toned down. Professors treat their class like every student has only one course to worry about. They continue to build pressure on the students till a lot of them crack. Tests every week, papers, pages to read, projects, and yet there is so much to do when finals crop up. Thus, the falling graduation rate is not surprising. Maybe colleges need to revise their curriculum and students need to buck up.

 

South Korea trying to Handle the Past September 4, 2009

Filed under: Asia — selflessdoubt @ 4:18 am
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Members of the Truth and Reconciliation are recording memories of the surivivors of Korea’s devastating 1950-1953 war. South Korean men, women, and children have had a long and burdensome history.  North Korea invaded South Korea in 1950. An armistice was signed in 1953. People were fleeing from the opposing army as innocent people were being shot. Fifty-eight years later, investigators have so far unearthed the remains of 108 people from the trench, a quarter of them women and children.

South Korea has a repressive and depressing past, which also has an influence on their present. It is rather unfortunate that most of the world does not hear about this because Korea only brings up images of North Korea and their nuclear program.

North Korea and South Korea are two completely different countries in governance and economy.  It’s high time we give South Korea due recognition of their oppressive past. Even the South Korean government is guilty of executing their own people for the fear that some were aiding North Korean soldiers.  At least efforts are now being made to acknowledge the burdensome past.

 

Swine Flu in India August 13, 2009

Filed under: India,Uncategorized — selflessdoubt @ 8:53 pm

Swine Flu has finally reached India and it is causing authorities and people to panic. The worst affected city in India is Pune, about 300 kilometres from Mumbai. It started with the death of a 14-year-old girl and there are now 61 registered cases of Swine flu in Pune alone. There are 115 cases of Swine flu across the country. Cinema theatres, schools, and shopping malls have been shut down in Pune. Authorities recommend the wearing of masks.

No one would have ever thought that Swine flu would spread across continents  and reach as far as India. The most number of deaths are in the U.S, although it is not talked about by the media. The rate of growth of Swine flu in America is especially alarming  now as students prepare to go back to school.

 

Should Americans Learn a New Language? July 16, 2009

The international community’s perception of ordinary Americans is many a time assessed by their first-hand experience with visitors from the US to their country. Can knowledge of a language prove or disprove a stereotype?

When tourists, students and businessmen show a sensitivity to local culture, language, and sentiments, they become more marketable in these times of globalization, and the lack of these qualities endorses the stereotype of Americans being ignorant of the world in general. The less- heeled American ( after all less than 25 percent even have a passport) is taken by surprise when they are not understood in a foreign country.

According to Martha G.Abbott, Director of Education for the American Council in the Teaching of Foreign LAnguages (ACTFL), knowing other languages and understanding other cultures is a skill set that American students need in the 21st century. ” No matter what career students enter, they will be interacting with others around the world on a routine basis and doing business locally with those whose native language is not English.”

According to Allen Stagl, a well-traveled American and French Professor at State University of New York at Oswego, it is most important to be aware of cultural differences before traveling. Language is a part of culture. ” I think it is generally true that people treat you better if you speak their language,” Stagl said.

” I found this in Spanish, Italian and German speaking areas, and I am not fluent in any of those languages. In France, you’re better off in French in most situations. Most Parisian restaurants have multi-lingual menus, but in some, if you don’t speak French you’ll get short shrift at best. However, most of my Paris students have never had French, and none have really been fluent. But they’ve generally been surprised and pleased with the responses from the Parisians who have been very helpful and even gone out of their way to help.”

Keith Davis, the program coordinator for the France study-abroad program, says that the refusal to speak French is perceived as an unwillingness to facilitate conversation, and by extension, to participate in their society.

What the world thinks of touring Americans

A lot of the world considers Americans to be ignorant and “snooty” because of their unwillingness to see beyond America. “Americans not only don’t know much about the rest of the world, we don’t care, or at least we didn’t before the terrible events of September 11, 2001.”” said Mark Hertsgaard, an independent journalist and author of ‘The Eagle’s shadow-Why America Fascinates and Infuriates the World. ” Until then, many Americans were barely aware the outside world existed, a fact that both exasperates and amuses foreigners.”

During most of the 20th century speaking a language other than English was not thought important and in some cased even discouraged. New immigrants to the land of Opportunities had to quickly learn to speak, read and understand American English. Their native language was all but relegated to the home or vanished for the subsequent generations..

But the turn of the 21st century has brought back the focus on being bilingual or even multi-lingual.

Growth of language studies is showing a marked increase since 9/11. Languages studies has grown by more than 17 percent, according to Rosemary Feal, executive director of the Modern Language Association

College Requirements

There are many schools around the U.S. that make it mandatory for students to take a few courses in a foreign language before studying abroad. For example, the study-abroad program through Columbia requires students to go through a rigorous six-week language class, along with classes on literature, politics, culture and cinema. Even Purdue University has language requirements for students. The program to Brazil requires that students have taken at least four semesters of either Spanish or Portuguese.

There are, however, some colleges where language requirements are not mandatory. A lot of programs through the University of Illinois study abroad are taught in English. Some of them require students to take language classes in the country of choice.

Advantages of Learning a New Language

You can understand people talking next to you. You can have conversations with the locals and vendors at marketplaces. Servers at restaurants will be more friendly because they can understand you better. Travel will also be easier because many countries have directions and sign-boards at subway stations and bus stops in their local language.

” I have received numerous benefits by speaking French in foreign countries (and whatever language in a variety of countries,” said Justin Ledden, a lawyer living in Los Angeles.  Ledden has also lived, worked and volunteered in about 60 countries.

“Servers treat you better. They appreciate the efforst, especially if you have demonstrated a competence that goes beyong a giggling bonjour and the like. I have also made friends and developed a few romantic relationships due to knowing the language.  You can spend a decent amount of time talking to people, moving beyond superficial conversations and being a total outsider.”

One should try to speak the language of a country they are residing in for multiple months. At least, make an effort to pick up some phrases and learn basic conversation. English is known as the language of opportunity, but it might also be most beneficial to learn the local language. Language need not be a barrier; it is a wonderful tool to create a bonding experience. The behavior of few Americans abroad reflect on people’s overall impressions of Americans.

Nowadays, there are many tools that can help people learn conversational skills in a language reasonably easy. Language CDs, DVDs, books, audio tapes and even movies help people pick up and understand a language. There are also institutes around the U.S. such as Alliance Francaise and Goethe-Institut that offer short courses in learning French and German.

English Around the World

Of course, the scale of the English language has increased multi-fold in the past few years. Its importance in Asia, South America and Europe is significant. Business is mostly conducted in English. A lot of students speak English, but do not always expect everyone to speak English, as this might not necessarily be true.

Language is an important part of culture. Talking in the local language means that you are making efforts to assimilate to the surroundings. If you are just visiting a country for a couple of weeks, then it is all right to not know the local language, but if you are staying in a country for months on end, it will be to your advantage to learn the local language. You have to make all efforts to adjust because no one else will adjust to you. Learn a new language and explore a new view of a different culture.

 

Harry Potter Mania July 15, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — selflessdoubt @ 5:59 pm
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‘Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince’ released last night at midgnight to a frenzy. Movie theaters greeted girls and boys dressed as withches, wizards, and death-eaters eager to watch the sixth book in action. AMC 30 in Warrenville, IL has over 20 shows of the movie playing on Thursday. AMC Garden State 16 in New York has around 23 shows. Never before has a book series and movie series been as popular as Harry Potter.

My friend Jenny, 21, dressed as a witch accompanied by a broom, went to the theater two hours early just to get a good seat. My friend Esther from New York told me that the theater was a “madhouse.” I find the entire “phenomenon” to be unbelievable. In my 21 years, I have never seen people getting so frantic about a movie. It is crazy. I can’t wait to see the movie in France. i wonder whether French people will be this crazy too?