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Gaining a Perspective on Self Importance November 29, 2012

Posted by Wilz in Personal, Society.
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While participating in an online community, I wrote this (true) story in order to get two fellow members to stop a personal argument they have been carrying from one thread to another. Reposting the story here. For people unfamiliar with the Malaysian forum circuit, the LowYat forum is a very popular online public message board usually frequented by the tech community. Edits for anonymity in square brackets:

I was a moderator on a forum before. It was a community several times less mature than [this one], with significant numbers of mewling kids. The banhammer went up like about 6 or 7 times over contentious posts over the period of 2 years. (Many other times, but mostly for spammers or other problems we don’t have here – like posting pirated materials blah blah.)

I was also as vocal as [the moderators here] in threads and discussions, and I beat back a lot of people with argumentation / evidence / linking, etc. Kinda the same reason people dislike [one of the moderators] here I suspect.

After one of the banhammer cases, the individual being banned went to my Friendster page (it was that long ago, and many of the photos were embarassing for public viewing), downloaded all of my profile pictures, and put up a thread on the LowYat forums with all the pictures claiming that I was sexually harassing his female friend (or was it girlfriend? I forget) and trying to physically assault her. It was a warning thread to tell people to stay away from me.

After staring at the thread for a few hours, and writing a few paragraphs in self defense, and debating how much background information to divulge and so on…

I DID NOTHING.

I didn’t even create an account on LowYat. Friends active on LowYat asked me if they should go there and defend me, and I told them not to bother.

Because I stopped and asked myself – what good would that achieve? It’s his word vs my word, but more importantly, nobody cares. How much damage did he really do, considering the way he worded his post? Etc?

A few people posted and called me names, and some taunted him for not knowing how to defend his girl etc. Someone posted that there is no proof offered whatsoever, and after that someone else I don’t know actually gave the background information (I think this guy was banned from a forum that guy was moderating lol…). The moderator left the thread open in case “the guy being accussed” wanted to go and defend himself, and closed it after two weeks.

I didn’t bother. And it was one of the best things I ever did in my life. I grew up and learnt several very important things that day. To believe in fellow human beings. That idiots are not worth convincing. That non-idiots are not that stupid.

And most importantly: I AM NOT REALLY ALL THAT FUCKING IMPORTANT AFTER ALL.

Nobody remembers that, and I bet the guy doesn’t even remember it anymore. And I don’t remember it for the embarassment. I remember it with pride born out of humility. If I know who that guy is, I’d give him a hug, and tell him this story to thank him – thought it’s probably going to be hard for him to believe that I wasn’t being sarcastic.

LOVE THY NEIGHBOUR folks. It helps you live longer.

In case anyone starts thinking I have no feeling of self-worth whatsoever, a more complete description of my perspective would be: “I am only as important as what I wish to achieve”, but that came from other lessons.

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Mandarin misadventures December 15, 2011

Posted by Siew in Education, Personal.
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I recently took an indefinite break from my Mandarin classes. There is a good possibility that this break will turn into a complete stop to be honest.

I am convinced that Mandarin is the hardest language in the world to learn, for 2 reasons.

1. Mandarin and all chinese dialects are tonal. This is one excuse that I cannot hide behind. I grew up speaking Cantonese, and spent my entire secondary life listening to people speak Mandarin. When I went to class, pronunciation was never a problem. But to the uninitiated, it can be a nightmare. I have watched people who never grew up with tonal languages mess up Mandarin as they try and learn. The worst part is, it seems like one of those things that you can either do or cannot do. I have watched the teacher repeat the word 5 times and every single time, the attempt at saying the word comes out completely different. Tonal languages are a bitch to learn.

2. When learning English, you learn what the word sounds like and then you learn the meaning. That’s only 2 things. With Mandarin, you need to learn 3; what it sounds like, what it means and what it looks like. There is no alphabet. There is only a very basic system that will allow you to guess some of the words (but at other times, lead you completely astray). That additional connection that needs to be made for every single word you learn is a hell of a lot of effort. You can never find someone who can speak English (or French or Spanish or German for that matter) who cannot read the language. But with Mandarin, its entirely possible.This one problem is enough to make Mandarin enough of an uphill battle to make me want to quit.

In all fairness, I don’t think I worked very hard at improving my Mandarin. I almost never did any work outside of the classroom. And perhaps the teaching , methods were not particularly suited to me. But this teacher is as close as I will ever get to someone who can teach Mandarin to an English speaker (most other teachers will treat their adult students like Primary 1 Mandarin students, which makes it much, much worse). The fact that this didn’t really work out probably means that I will never learn the language, unless I work a lot harder.

I haven’t given up completely yet. I will attempt to revert to book 1 of my lessons and see if I can improve my reading from there. If I can read the passages there without much problems, them maybe there is hope yet.

The educator too, must accept blame for plagiarism! May 20, 2011

Posted by Wilz in Personal, Student Development, Teaching.
2 comments

The status quo in thinking about plagiarism usually goes like this: “Integrity is a compulsory value for each individual student, and they must uphold it in all matters, including homework and assignments.” Most universities require students to sign a pledge never to commit cheating or plagiarism. Coming from an education climate rife with plagiarism issues, I too, held strongly to this. (Disclosure: I copied math homework in uni – at most twice. But the distaste and pointlessness it left in my mouth made me swear never to do it again. I however never claimed the work as my own – the lecturer basically knew (and expected) everyone to copy.)

As such, most academicians have a tendency to place all the blame on the students – students who plagiarise are scum, with no values, etc etc. I wish they’d stop etc etc. I don’t think that is fair.

I am not trying to excuse a student’s individual responsibility to hold to academic values. However, looking at the big picture – human beings are incentive driven creatures. It is not always clear what those incentives are – it often differs from person to person. But increasingly in academic institutions (especially those catering to mass higher education), those incentives are ‘paper oriented’ – they want a degree, to get a good job and start a good life. End of story. Very few come here these days to actually ‘learn’. (Most don’t even know what that means anymore.)

A student who arrives here with values, will lose them very quickly. Submitting their own work, and at the same time watching those around them plagiarise and receive better grades is hugely demotivating, especially when ‘own work’ and ‘own learning’ often seems to matter little towards the ultimate goal – the degree. An educator has the responsibility to crack down tirelessly on plagiarism. Every instance of plagiarism encountered must be punished with the maximum possible sentence with zero negotiation/tolerance or the educator has failed his responsibility to every student who is trying to hold on to whatever shreds left of their academic integrity.

It is the educator’s responsibility to recognise students who hold on to academic integrity, not just with words, but with the assessment itself. They must be able to measure themselves against their plagiarising peers and know that they are better for it. And no – not tomorrow, not ten years from now when they are better members of society etc – but NOW. An educator who is incapable of allowing such students to recognize their own worth is scum as well.

Having said that, it is not always easy to detect plagiarism – in mathematics for example where often the solution steps are close to being the same. After detection, it is similarly hard to prove plagiarism. It is too time consuming, and there is a lot of other work to do – improving classroom methodology, research, etc. As such, another responsibility falls on the educator – to ensure that assignments are as impossible to plagiarise as possible. After a year of trying, I find it really isn’t as hard as some people pretend it is.

(Giving the same math problems to a hundred students and interviewing them one by one is often not a valid method of plagiarism elimination. It becomes an “interview assessment” instead of a “math” assessment. We’d probably have to do a “solve this problem in front of me” session for a significant random sample of students, and immediately fail those who are unable to solve said problem in order to provide a deterrent to plagiarism. And is that fair to those who ‘escape’? What about those who cannot think under pressure? Plus, if we’re going to assess them in our presence anyways, why not just do a small open book test?)

This trimester, I went with the standard practice for a subject I am teaching for another department – I gave out two ‘back of the textbook’ math homework assignments usually slated for 15% of the total assessment. Being free to give additional assignments, I cut the textbook assignments to 5%, and gave another case study/research assignment which is impossible to copy, and assigned it 10% of the grade. I told myself that this is sufficiently balanced. The 5% assignment will still force those who copy to at least write solutions, and maybe that will prompt them to learn eventually.

I am always honest and direct with my students, and I admitted to them that it will be quite impossible for me to hunt down plagiarism in the 5% assignment. But I told those who attempted the work themselves to write, “Own Work” on the front cover – as a point of pride for them, and to make it known to me. Of course, it is impossible to substantiate this claim from the student, and as such assessment cannot be adjusted to accommodate this.

However as I went through the assignments yesterday and today, every time I gave a high score to an obviously or suspiciously plagiarised assignment, and a low score to an “own work” assignment, I felt more and more empty inside. Yeah it’s only 5%. But it’s also hours of work from my precious “Own Work” students being effectively trivialized.

I enabled plagiarism this trimester, and I accept this blame.

Never again. Not even for 5%. I will never again allow myself to follow “standard practice” in giving take home assessments for which I am not ready to reasonably detect and punish plagiarism. And if I find that I am forced, I will fight it tooth and nail.

Thank you to all my “Own Work” students, for this valuable lesson in this educator’s career, and my sincerest apologies.

You are who you pretend to be. May 13, 2011

Posted by Wilz in Personal, Society.
8 comments

This post is going to sound a little odd. It is inspired by this quote:

“Be careful what you pretend to be because you are what you pretend to be.” – Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (American Writer, b.1922)

This has always been sort of like an epiphany for me. It carries a precautionary tone, but it can mean so many things. And it gives an odd, but very interesting way of looking at things.

Every now and then we hear of a great man/woman or a great act of good/kindness and we tell ourselves, “I don’t think I can ever be like that” or “That’s just not me.” This quote tells you that if you wish it so, you can. In fact, you will be. Just pretend. To yourself and others. As convincingly as possible. The other way to say this is probably “if you believe in something enough, you can make it happen”. That is the idealistic, positive tone of putting it, but it doesn’t really work for everyone. Some people cannot believe. However, those who do not have the strength to believe, can pretend that they do – and if you pretend long enough – that will be you.

Another way of explaining that – how are we ever certain that we’re doing the right thing or heading the right direction? Even someone who has looked really hard and figured out his purpose and direction as well as he can (and continue doing so with every new experience) – will have constant doubt. If I start bringing reusable containers to pack food, but I don’t know how to start conserving water when cleaning things because I’m a clean freak, does that make me green? Do I have the right to encourage others to be green? Should I first resolve all my own excesses?

Well the truth is – no one is holding a ruler and measuring when exactly you cross the line that makes you green, or charitable, or great, etc. No one can. So quite simply – yes – you are green when you choose to be. (I’m pretending here). If you sincerely pretend you are in all your dealings with yourself and with others – you will make it so one way or another. You gotta start somewhere. In fact, the decision to be something – is the decision to start pretending to be something. When we decide to change our ways and be green, we aren’t actually green yet – we are just starting out.

However if you don’t convince yourself that you have that green principle, you will never bring that reusable container to pack lunch, or refuse that plastic bag at the checkout counter. If you don’t convince yourself that you are someone who is on time, you will never plan ahead or apologize, because that isn’t your principle. If you don’t convince yourself that you are charitable, you will never offer that ringgit note to that stranger or friend who needs it. Life becomes a series of excuses of why you can’t be this and can’t be that.

Of course the precaution is there as well. We all make mistakes, but if we wallow for too long in self pity for being a horrible person – we will come to believe it. Everyone indulges sometimes – we allow ourselves a little too much gluttony, or a little too much envy, but eventually it will become us. We will find ourselves with people that we love to hang out with, but whose principles we completely disagree with (or more commonly, who do not have any principles at all). Everyday we pretend to fit in, and every time we allow ourselves to be silent on things we cannot stand for – we will slide that much closer to what we do not wish to be.

This is not in any way saying that everyone can claim to be whoever they want, wax poetic and that will be true. If you don’t bother to be consistent or hold to your pretense, you’re not going to convince anybody. However, if you’ve done your homework  and if you’ve figured out who you want to be and why you want to be that, you can safely ignore that little nagging voice that goes, “Nah… you’re just making this up as you go. Even with all the introspection, you really still have no idea what you’re doing.” In fact, embrace that voice – because you will know that you’re on your way.

When you get down to it, a good and consistent pretense is indistinguishable from a strongly and truly held principle. So call it whatever you want. We’re all pretending, but we all really are (pretty much).

So yeah – pretend to be awesome, and you will be awesome!

“What are you talking about, I already AM awesome!”

Yeah, that’s it. Good job.

“Wait what?”

:)

I fucking hate fortune tellers March 18, 2010

Posted by Siew in Personal, Society.
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Its amazing how people can believe that somehow the date of birth of a person will dictate how his life will be. Its even more amazing when this belief goes beyond just fun dabbling in mysticism and people start making life decisions based on these predictions. I mean, its one thing to avoid wearing a certain colour because some guru asks you too, but to decide who to marry and what job to take based on how the fucking stars align is just frustratingly dumb.

Apparently, my girlfriend is bad for me. She will control me and drive a wedge between my mum and I. She will cheat on me and sleep with her boss to get ahead in her career. All that apparently because we are both Tigers. Fucking genius isn’t it? Oh, and apparently, she will try to convert me. Never mind the fact that she has become increasingly disillusioned by the church over the years.

The fact of the matter is that I have never been the type to bow down to my mother when it comes to things that are important to me. I make concessions all the time just to keep the peace and to prevent her from exploding into a raging fit. But when it comes to something as important as who I marry, I’m not going to fold just because she believes some crack mystic who studied in China for a few years. Its my life. I am allowed to make my own mistakes.

The biggest problem now is that its likely to be a self fulfilling prophecy. My mum already made up her mind not to like her because she is a feisty character and a little darker than your average china doll. (Which is a fucking irony since she herself is one strong-headed woman. And she has Thai blood, making her dark-ish too). Now with some mystic telling her that the gods have dictated that our marriage will fail, she is going to be determined to see the relationship burn. And the best part is, when I try and reason with her about why the predictions are very unlikely to come true, she dismisses me with “Aiya, don’t want to talk about it la. You already made up your mind about it. I say what also you won’t listen. Blinded already, see what you want to see.” There is so much irony here I think even Oscar Wilde will cringe if he heard my story.

I’m also wearing a pendant that cost RM280 because I need protection. Argh!

I don’t think I will ever tire of saying it.

I FUCKING HATE FORTUNE TELLERS!

TMPoint – Enforce Your Own Queue System Please March 5, 2010

Posted by Wilz in Personal.
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I just sat for 1 1/2 hours in TMPoint Cyberjaya waiting for my turn ticket number “4056” to be called out on the automatic turn ticket announcer. Two counters were open for services other than payment of bills. As I waited, I watched as three different people cut the queue at both counters.

As is common with turn ticketing systems, people will press the buttons, take a ticket and then leave without waiting for their turn. So sometimes the system calls out numbers for whom the person is no longer present. A couple of opportunistic bastards happily took their place without showing their ticket number.

The staff at the counter didn’t ask for it.

A group of foreigners next to me were bewildered – trying to figure out why their turn haven’t arrived when people who very obviously arrived after they did (as much as an hour later) had their turn before theirs. They were nice enough not to make a fuss when I explained to them that people were cheating and the staff wasn’t even aware of it.

And no, this isn’t the case of someone leaving and coming back later. I SAW these three people press the button for their tickets. And all three waited for a while to make sure that no one was going to respond to that turn number before happily walking up to the counter (one even pretended to only notice her ticket after the second time the number was called).

To add salt to injury, all three of the bastards were applying for Streamyx, which is like a half-hour long process. I only wanted to change my address – which took like 5 minutes. The foreigners whose turn was just before mine also only took about 10 minutes.

If you’re going to have a turn ticketing system USE IT. It’s both idiotic and naive to assume that no one would attempt to cut the queue.

Why Does Semenanjung Fail at Lemons? February 17, 2010

Posted by Wilz in Personal.
3 comments

Lime vs Lemon

Coming back to Sarawak almost reminds me of a major quibble I have with drinks in Peninsular Malaysia – they fail at lemons.

It is close to impossible to get iced lemon tea at your basic food stall in the Peninsular, but not so in Sarawak. I grew up getting used to ordering iced lemon tea and getting tea with actual slices of those big yellow skinned lemons in it. Ordering the same in Peninsular lands you iced lime tea instead, which is just… odd (to me).

The lime we have locally, the most common “limau kasturi” (citrus madurensis) and the less common “limau nipis” or key lime (citrus aurantifolia) is not quite the same as the lemon shaped persian lime people in the west are probably familiar with (citrus latifolia). The lemon which I wish drinks stalls in the Peninsular would start actually using in their drinks is known simply as the lemon (citrus limon). I’m guessing we don’t have a word for because it doesn’t grow here.

We have words for all the other kinds of lime – “kasturi“, “nipis” (literally means thin), “parut” (literally means scar, referring to some wrinkled skin lemons), “kupas” (literally means to peel, referring to mandarin oranges) and “manis” (literally means sweet, referring to sweet oranges) – to name a few. But until today I can’t figure out how to refer to lemons in Malay.

After a few months in the Peninsular attempting to explain using descriptions like, “that yellow skinned lime fruit thing,” and “no, not the small one, the big one,” I kinda gave up. At the expensive eating places, you mostly get Seasons Iced Lemon Tea which is a factory processed drink you can also purchase in bottles. Ewww.

We need to start a “teh o ais lemon” revolution over there!

Notes (to Myself) On Starting Teaching February 4, 2010

Posted by Wilz in Education, Personal, Teaching.
4 comments

I taught my first 3 hours of class as a lecturer this week. Writing this entry as much to myself as to my readers.

I am teaching “Introduction to Computing Statistics”, Foundation (fresh school leaver) level. It is quite a simple subject, and it’s very easy to quickly cover the whole syllabus.

The first thing I found when teaching is that it’s easy to talk, but it’s hard to have students sustain interest/attention. It’s easy to grab their interest momentarily, but it’s hard to figure out if they are understanding what you are saying.

The prevailing question in my mind as I speak in front of the class is – do they get what I am saying? Do they understand why I ask them the questions I ask them? It is in fact frustrating as it is constantly in my mind, and sticking all kinds of doubts in there. I believe it is healthy however, for if I ever lose interest in this question, I would’ve stopped being effective as an educator.

In my very first class, one of the first things I found myself doing (not planned) was to put the textbook on the visualizer (camera – projector thing), turn to the first chapter where the definition of statistics is, read it out loud, and say, “That’s all rubbish to you isn’t it?” In retrospect, I always wanted to do that! Ahahaha!!!

I hope I successfully discussed statistics as it relates to the real world in my first 3 hours. Trying hard to find links for the remaining VERY dry chapters.

I am a boring old behavioral lecturer this week (and possibly this trimester) – no interesting methodologies I believe in employed so far, mainly because I don’t really dare to buck what is considered the norm without first getting my ears wet. A bit disappointed at myself, and reminder to self – don’t forget to start!

Two (I hope) interesting things:

I challenged my students to find me the mathematical proof that will allow me to estimate a student’s attendance accurately (within certain errors) if I were to only sample each student’s attendance a few times rather than take their attendance every lecture. It should be possible with the math I am going to teach them. In retrospect, it seems a bit too easy haha.

I discussed degrees of freedom, unbiased estimators, and advanced statistical proofs with them on an intuitive, non-mathematical level when asking them why they think sample variance calculations divide by (n-1) rather than (n) as in the population variance calculations. Told them my own conclusions and the limitations of my own knowledge on the matter, but encouraged those interested to find out more.

My conclusions? Teaching isn’t all fun, but I enjoy it!

I might have died January 7, 2010

Posted by Siew in Personal.
10 comments

I’m starting my blogging here on a fairly gloomy note, but its only when we have a big accident that the urge to write comes again.

If you all don’t already know, I was recently involved in an accident. I was driving back from the Curve when I nodded off at the wheel and promptly steered my car into a divider. The car went into a tailspin after the impact on the right side and ended up in a bush. I remember little else about what happened during the crash. I know when I came to a stop, I was groping about for my glasses. Someone eventually found them, I can’t really remember who. It might have been one of my friends who weren’t very far behind me, headed in the same direction. One of the lenses was gone, and I was half blind for the next 18 hours or so, until my mum and brother brought my my spare pair from Malacca. In that 18 hours, I had to choose between being disorientated by opening both eyes and having only one behind a lens, or going round with one eye closed and looking like an idiot.

My car is very banged up. The front right wheel came off and the driver side door caved in. I suspect the chassis might be damaged as well. The insurance claims are going to be pretty big, probably half the value of the car or more.

I had turned a quarter or my car into scrap metal. I can’t say that I really loved that car. I love it the same way I love my stove. It serves an important purpose in my life. I don’t have an emotional attachment to the thing, which probably makes the sight of seeing it mangled a little easier. But now that I have reverted to using my old Wira, I find that I kinda miss that little thing.

By some miracle, I escaped somewhat unscathed. I took one day off to make a police report and see the doctor, but I was back at work the next day. The major injuries include a 30cm bruise on my stomach that the seatbelt left and whiplash injuries on my back and chest. The doctor gave me a quick once over and proclaimed that all my ligaments are intact and that all I had were soft tissue injuries. I hope she is right.

Anyways, I think I’ll go to the main lessons learnt over this experience.

1. It is impossible to judge if you are too sleepy to drive.
I have driven when I was sleepy before. I got home safe every time. Those times, it was just general tiredness that was the problem. I wasn’t nodding off or anything. Having gone through that, it is easy to conclude that you would know when you are too sleepy to drive. The reality is that reaching that conclusion is impossible when you are sleepy. I knew that I was not fit to drive at some very basic level while I was at the wheel. The problem is, at that point, it was already too late. My brain was incapable of processing anything beyond basic reflexive responses. The critical step of forming the conclusion that I was too sleepy to drive was impossible to reach. If I don’t form the conclusion that I am too tired to drive, I cannot actually pull over. I think its one great danger of driving that no one bothered explaining.

2. If I ever become a soldier, I think I’ll be one of the few atheists in foxholes.
I know its very vogue to suddenly realize just how lucky I am and attribute my luck to the gentle hand of my creator saving my skin. But it didn’t happen. I didn’t have a religious revelation after my highly improbable escape from death and injury. I did not find God, I did not even subconsciously entertain the possibility of divine intervention. And no, I didn’t intentionally suppress any religious thought because it would contradict my pre-existing beliefs. I don’t think I am arrogant enough to refuse to admit that I am wrong about something as important as this. If I had felt some divine cocoon protecting me, I’d be happy to admit it and start going to church or something. But I didn’t. It does worry me a little to think that I might have reached the same point of blind faith in atheism as some fundamentalist theists have in their dogma. I am a little concerned that I had become so hardcore that would become completely dismissive about religion. I hold people with blind faith in contempt, so I really dread the day I join their ranks. But for now, I think I am safe. I think I have enough intelligent friends who will happily point out that I have gone off the deep end of atheism should it ever happen.

All I thought of when I got out of the car was, ‘Dammit this is inconvenient’. And of course, ‘Thank you Hyundai Getz safety design team’.

3. There is no hope for the PDRM.
Yes, this is an admission of guilt as much as it is a rant against the system. And yes, I know what a huge contradiction it is for me to be playing the system on one end while wishing it were different from the other end. But facing potential jail time and really big fines, I succumbed. I am not proud of it, but I would not do any different if I were faced with the same scenario again. I’m not that much of a hero.

4. Some touts are actually looking for an honest living.
I think I got lucky that I decided to trust a bunch of touts that were not out to fleece me. I have to admit I was very relieved to find out that their workshop is a panel workshop for my insurance. Makes things a whole lot easier. They even volunteered to bring me to the doctor after I made the police report. This accident is one of those experiences where I found myself in a situation where the fast talking gangster-looking fellow with brown hair is actually trying to help me more than the smartly dressed officer of the law.

Learn Touch Typing! December 29, 2009

Posted by Wilz in Education, Personal, Student Development.
9 comments

It just occurred to me that for some reason, touch typing is not part of computer skills education. Not even a chapter on it. And yet, typing is such a ubiquitous part of computer usage. I type reasonably fast (I think), a benefit which is enjoyed by far too few people in an age where computers are so heavily integrated in the workplace. I’m going to talk about some of the personal things I’ve enjoyed from fast typing, especially at work.

Start like this!

I can finish the minutes of a meeting by the time the meeting ends – i.e. type as fast as the decisions are being made. (Being very fast at Microsoft Word and using styles helps as well probably.) I send out the meeting minutes ten minutes after the meetings end, and the ten minutes is for fact/attendance checking.

I also write a lot, and a lot of people comment that it seems easy for me to produce a piece of writing quickly. I on the other hand find that writing is hard. I throw away a lot of the text I write as I edit and refine the speech / article / body of text. (Like for this post, I probably deleted as much text as you see posted, and that’s for a blog post.) So being able to type fast helps me put down a lot of ‘trial text’, and the less effort I had to make to put them down, the less reluctant I am to part with (delete) them.

Another important aspect of writing is taking down ideas as they come. The specific content, how they flow, story angles and little useful phrases pop into your brain unpredictably, sometimes when you’re writing something else. Being able to take that down quickly, and paste it somewhere in the rough order of your writing is also important. In short, writing well and quickly on the computer, probably is helped a lot by the ability to type fast.

Of course, other office related work – writing emails, proposals, composing letters, and updating calendars and to-do lists is sped up considerably. It’s also very impressive to be able to sit in a brainstorming session with senior colleagues while drawing, typing out and revising what they’re saying onto slides right in front of their eyes. Heh.

Social activities on the computer is sped up as well. I regularly have to slow myself down when chatting to avoid drowning out the other party chatting with me. Chatting with people in games, posting in forums, updating twitter or Facebook – all of these things are faster the more quickly you type.

Also, if you can type without having to look at the keyboard (called touch typing), you free up part of your mind to just focus on what you are typing. You don’t need to cue your fingers with your eyes, and look back up to double check what you’re typing. You keep your eyes on the screen, think of something you want to have appear, your fingers fly, and tadah, you have text. (It also looks really cool if you look at and talk to someone while you’re finishing off a sentence or two. Ahem.)

Our use of computers just seems so sub-optimal without proper typing instruction. Futuristic input options may make a lot of this somewhat obsolete, but for now, there is no reason not to master typing. I did a search for a typing speed test, and went with the first two results:

On http://www.typeonline.co.uk/typingspeed.php, taking the average from 5 tests, my speed is about 121 words per minute (wpm). The text difficulty can vary wildly, but my typing speed is somewhat constant.

On http://speedtest.10-fast-fingers.com/, I got the following results:
506 points, so you achieved position 378 of 506,056 on the ranking list.
You type 648 characters per minute.
You have 120 correct words and you have 2 wrong words.

Try the tests and post your results in the comments below. :) I also video-ed my fingers typing, “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.” It’s an English sentence that contains all the letters in the alphabet.

I have my parents to thank for my learning typing. I loved ‘messing’ with the typewriter at my mom’s office, and she would always give me a piece of paper to tap tap away on. But when my sister and I begged for a computer at home, they told us that we had to learn to touch type first, or they’re not buying us one. They got us this typing workbook and I would go downstairs to my father’s office, sit in the corner with an old typewriter, and tap away. FFFF JJJJ FFJJ JJFF FJFJ JFJF DDDD KKKK … In hindsight, they probably would’ve bought the computer anyways, but it’s powerful motivation indeed.

I wonder if there’s a ‘too late’ barrier to typing. I learnt it quite early in my life. I also wonder if learning typing on a typewriter will always be superior to learning it on a computer. I remember that typing on the typewriter was hard, especially when trying to hit the keys ‘a’ and ‘Shift’ with your left little finger. Switching from that to a computer is like sprinting after taking off the weights you’ve tied against your ankles for a week.

I’ve enjoyed so many benefits from knowing proper typing techniques. I don’t get why more people have not picked it up. I think I’m going to try to get this into the syllabus for Computer Applications in my university. Mid semester lab test – typing accuracy and speed test in the computer (typewriter?) lab!