Thursday, May 30, 2013


(This item was written for March 13.)

TRY doing this sum without writing anything – or using a calculator: 33 minus 20 plus 12 plus 10 minus 8 and add the result of that to the result of dividing 24 by the cube of 2.

How did your mental calculations go? What is the answer?

If you did not get an answer or took more than five minutes to do this sum, it is likely that you are becoming too dependent on calculators, a technology, to calculate for you. And, you are not using your brain more. (I will give you the answer later.)

This is one example of us becoming too dependent on technology that we cannot do simple tasks.

Think about the maid who has got used to doing the laundry using the laundry machine that when the power is off, or when the machine fails to function, the laundry cannot be washed.

Think about a student who researches using the internet. If the network is out, how can s/he get his/her assignment completed if s/he relies on the internet for all research?

Technology can help speed up work for us, however, we must be careful that technology must not make us lazy – or weak.

Students who use their calculators to work out every given problem – simple or difficult – are not putting their minds to work.

As I understand, invigilators supervising exams at the lower levels of learning – as in Grades 8 and 10 – do not allow students to bring their calculators into the exam room because the Education Department knows that you (the student) must learn to use your brain to calculate answers to all problems given.

It is sad that students who have gone beyond those levels still cannot calculate simple sums mentally.

I read years ago that Mike Lazaridis, the co-inventor of Blackberry, once said in an interview that he would not buy his son a computer until he has gone past high school.

I think that the Canadian, with a background in engineering, does not want his son to be distracted as many are today with a computer or phone.

He knows that he learned basic principles in Science and Maths (important subjects for engineering students) without the aid of a computer and knows that if his son is going to be good in those subjects, he must not be given a computer too early. Those may distract him.

(Answer to the sum is 30.)


I MAY have mentioned this quite “unusual” tip sometime ago. Your dreams could be fertile grounds to bring out sub-plots, or anything creative.

Of course, as writers, we have to decide what goes on paper, and what does not. We make that decision for all sorts of reasons, including judging by our moral/ethical principles.

Interestingly today, I got a “song” from a dream.

As soon as I woke up, I went to the guitar and worked out the chord-sequence following the clear melody that was completed in the dream.

My challenge now is not to lose it. I have to keep working – adding words and other parts – until it remains with me, forever.

These kind of experiences teach us yet again, how wonderful the mind is – its conscious as well as its sub-conscious parts.


TWO days ago I was washing a few things - manually that is - when an experience I had almost seven years ago came to mind in a strong way. (In fact, it was more like coming from the “soul” than my mind). 

Photo: My first notebook in the trade.

I knew I had to weave it into the fiction work that I am working on.

I know this tip is experiential – and you (a writer) often get the same “urges” when you are doing something other than sitting in front of a computer, or with a pen in hand ready to write.

Those “urges” come when you are engaged in something else – washing your clothes, trimming the flower hedges or weeding around the house.

Use those moments to bring your creative self to come out and give you the sub-plots.

(This afternoon, I completed a 2,000-word chapter from the “urge” I received a few days ago.) 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013


(This item was written for March 6.)
TECHNOLOGY is now making life easy. Information technology particularly has made it convenient to learn new skills in computing, language, business and writing.

On Feb 20, I attended a public lecture given by the mathematics professor Dr Deane Arganbright at the Divine Word University’s Port Moresby campus.
It was the second time that I saw the American, who has lectured at the University of PNG as well as DWU, demonstrate how he used the spreadsheet software MS Excel to create beautiful shapes of butterflies, flowers and rabbits, and even produced animations.
I learned then that as a pure mathematician he had taught himself different computer language programmes –  BASIC, Pascal, Fortran, etc – and then taught them to others.
Computer language programmes can be hard to learn on your own, but the availability of computer software, CDs and DVDs makes it easy for you to learn many things.

 Photo: Dr Deane Arganbright and wife Susan. (Pic courtesy of Dr Arganbright.)

A few years back a young Australian pastor told me that he was going to learn to play a guitar all by himself.
He had a nice guitar, and a DVD produced by a trained guitarist friend of his. He only had to make time available to learn from the DVD.
If you are interested in learning a foreign language, you can pick up a CD/DVD from good shops to learn Japanese, French or German. They enable you to listen to the correct pronunciation of words as well as attempt quizzes.
Even language text books today come with a CD or DVD – making it easier to read texts and listen to recordings of native speakers of the language communicate.

While Dr Arganbright was giving his lecture, he mentioned people or institutions that are now revolutionising learning by posting lectures and lessons on the internet.

He mention Khan Academy, the institute started by the American engineering graduate Salman Khan, who in his attempt to coach his younger relatives in maths and science, recorded lessons and posted them on YouTube.
Since 2006 Khan Academy has posted 4,000 lessons on maths, physics, astronomy, economics and history – and anyone in the world can access those and learn for free.

The professor also mentioned Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s OpenCourseWare project. Since 2011 MIT has placed most of its courses online for anyone to access.
Then there are journalists and entrepreneurs who post tips and lessons on their blogs for those interested. You can also subscribe for their free newsletters.  

Make use of technology to learn.  

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


LEARN AND LIVE ITEM ... I have not been updating with the Learn and Live items since February 20. This was the one written for February 27.
I ALWAYS give this challenge to students: Always work to score the best grades in whatever you study.
This tip is not original. It was given to me by a teacher many years ago.
There are many reasons why good grades – such as As and Bs – are important.

Firstly, your chance of advancing to the next level of education – secondary or tertiary – are higher with an A/B average.

Secondly, you stand a higher chance of getting a scholarship, here in PNG universities, or when applying abroad.

Thirdly, when you apply for employment after completing college or university studies, with higher grades you stand a better chance of getting a job.
You see, good companies and organisations want the best people working for them. The type of grades on your transcript (or certificate) tells more about you even before you are asked to turn up for an interview.
Take a look at the newspaper advertisements of companies seeking graduate cadets to join them. You will notice that the minimum grade requirement is B-average.
If you score As and Bs, you stand a higher chance of working with the best companies in PNG.

Fourthly, your effort and habit of working hard in school to get those high grades will be with you as long as you live. Of course, even if you do poorly later on, you will know that you are capable of accomplishing much better results. Nobody has to remind you.

Fifthly, one day when you are in the position to mentor others, you will know how to better guide people to achieve good results.
Having scored good grades, you would urge your students (if you are a teacher) to do the same. And when you are a parent, you will know how to urge your children in the right way.

A few years ago, there was a bright boy (I shall call him Albert) in class. Albert, 14, was not faithful in attending class and during a teacher-parent meeting, his mother told me that her son was now more interested in building his body than completing his schoolwork.
“He spends more time looking into the mirror after visiting the gym,” the mother said.
“I am a cleaner and Albert’s father is a driver, but I want Albert to get another job.”
I felt for the mother.
Many, like Albert, are distracted. They should attend school and score the best grades. That opens up better opportunities in the future.