Thursday, 26 February 2009

Obama's magic

Teaching is the art of helping people learn. A good lecture by a Chinese Physics Nobel Laureate, using only words, inspired me to become a Physics student at HKU and then became a Physics teacher for the better part of my life. That was many years ago.

The current USA president has the same gift and magic to inspire Americans in his speeches. Martin Shovel wrote:

The success of Obama and Favreau’s [Obama's head speechwriter] writing relationship is built on a fundamental principle of good communication: if you want an audience to pay attention, you have to begin by getting them to care about what you’re saying.

To inspire, we use narrative. To reason, we use facts and logic. To learn, we need to care enough to change ourselves.

We teachers can learn a lot from reading and studying great speeches. See my other blog Godlessize for some great speeches godlessized.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Just a story, but worth learning a lesson from it

A Modern Parable......

A Japanese company (Toyota) and an American company (Ford Motors) decided to have a canoe race on the Missouri River. Both teams practiced long and hard to reach their peak performance before the race.

On the big day, the Japanese won by a mile. The Americans, very discouraged and depressed, decided to investigate the reason for the crushing defeat. A management team made up of senior management was formed to investigate and recommend appropriate action.

Their conclusion was the Japanese had 8 people rowing and 1 person steering, while the American team had 7 people steering and 2 people rowing. Feeling a deeper study was in order, American management hired a consulting company and paid them a large amount of money for a second opinion.

They advised, of course, that too many people were steering the boat, while not enough people were rowing. Not sure of how to utilize that information, but wanting to prevent another loss to the Japanese, the rowing team's management structure was totally reorganized to 4 steering supervisors, 2 area steering superintendents and 1 assistant superintendent steering manager. They also implemented a new performance system that would give the 2 people rowing the boat greater incentive to work harder. It was called the 'Rowing Team Quality First Program,' with meetings, dinners and free pens for the rowers. There was discussion of getting new paddles, canoes and other equipment, extra vacation days for practices and bonuses. The pension program was trimmed to 'equal the competition' and some of the resultant savings were channelled into morale boosting programs and teamwork posters.

The next year the Japanese won by two miles.

Humiliated, the American management laid-off one rower, halted development of a new canoe, sold all the paddles, and cancelled all capital investments for new equipment. The money saved was distributed to the Senior Executives as bonuses.

The next year, try as he might, the lone designated rower was unable to even finish the race (having no paddles,) so he was laid off for unacceptable performance, all canoe equipment was sold and the next year's racing team was out-sourced to India.

Sadly, the End.

Here's something else to think about: Ford has spent the last thirty years moving all its factories out of the US, claiming they can't make money paying American wages.

TOYOTA has spent the last thirty years building more than a dozen plants inside the US. The last quarter's results: TOYOTA makes 4 billion in profits while Ford racked up 9 billion in losses.

Ford folks are still scratching their heads, while collecting their bonuses... and now wants the Government to 'bail them out.'


cross posted to Corporate E-Learning

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Victoria Bush Fire

Last weekend's bush fire in Victoria turned out to be one of the worse bush fire we have ever faced. The week before, we have the record-breaking 4 consecutive days of temperature over 44C which basically fried every thing dry. On the day, we have a record breaking 46.6C with strong northern wind and single digit humidity. While some fires were spontaneous, unfortunately, the authority has identified cases where arsenic may be involved.

The damage and destruction was widespread. As shown in the photo above, whole towns were wiped out. At this point, there were 181 people confirmed dead, over 4000 people homeless, hundreds were in emergency units with burn, over 700 homes totally lost.

On a slightly brighter side, the Bush Fire Relief Fund set up by the Victoria Government together with Red Cross has already reached 28M and several fund raising efforts will be coming in next few days. Record number of people donated blood in the last few days.

Could this bush fire be avoided in the first place?

Scientists are now pointing the fingers towards the worsening weather pattern. While the southern part of Australia is extremely dry (drought for the last couple of years, Melbourne's water storage is at record low), there are flooding in the northern part of the continent (one month's worth of rain was dumped within days in Queensland). Extreme temperatures (two hot weather records were broken within two weeks) are expected to continue.

If we are to put a value to climate change, we now have a vivid case.

cross-posted to Sustaining Future

Monday, 9 February 2009

My brother sent me this. I am sharing with all my friends. English translation after the original Chinese.

人生吧, 0歲出場,10歲快樂成長;20為情彷徨;30基本定向;40拼命打闖;50回頭望望;60告老還鄉;70搓搓麻將;80曬曬太陽;90躺在床上;100掛在牆上...









Life: [Chinese has no tense. I used a simple present here. Depending on your age, some should be in past tense, some should be in future tense. :-)]
Year 0: come out
Year 10: grow up happily
Year 20: look for love
Year 30: set life's direction
Year 40: work hard
Year 50: look back
Year 60: go home
Year 70: play cards
Year 80: lie under the sun
Year 90: lie on the bed
Year 100: hang on the wall

Live great and die with no regret;
When we can hold hands, do not just walk side by side;
When we can embrace, do not just hold hands;
When we are together, do let separation come easily.

New Concepts in 2009
One focus: health
Two principles: Be cool and be fussy
Three forgetfulnesses: forget age, forget past and forget adversity
Four possessions: a loving life partner, understanding friends, prosperous business and a warm home.
Five verbs: sing, dance, be light-hearted, smile and be slim.
Six do-s [I changed the original negatives into positives except the last one]: eat before hungry; drink before thirsty; sleep before tired; check up before sick; don't get old before regretting wasting the life.