links for 2007-01-31


links for 2007-01-30

links for 2007-01-29

Read or Die Convention 2007: Manila, The Philippines

If you are going to be in Manila, The Philippines, on Feb 3 and 4 2007, make sure to check out the Read or Die Convention.

Organized by the Read or Die book club (named after a famous Japanese anime and manga), RodCon is The Philippines’s first ever book and literary convention, and promises many fantastic things for literature enthusiasts and bookworms everywhere. Among the many things available are:

  • Various panels, from lectures to discussions, book signings to launches
  • Literary-related exhibits, such as rare books from the likes of Neil Gaiman and Salman Rushdie, or vintage comic book illustrations
  • Film screenings of movies based on books, such as Pride & Prejudice and About A Boy
  • The first-ever Pinoy Readers’ Choice Awards, giving awards in fiction, non-fiction, comics, and poetry
  • Portrait of the Filipino as Reader, a photography competition
  • Read This!, a customized postcard project involving local artists
  • Lotteries, book auctions, quizzes, Bingo, and other fun games
  • Sales of all kinds of books, of course!

Tickets range from P150 to P400, with rates for students and professionals, and can be obtained from all Powerbooks outlets, Booktopia, Aeon Bookstore, and the Ateneo University Press. All proceeds from RodCon will go to the AHON Foundation, which aims to develop elementary public libraries all over the Philippines.

RodCon takes place February 3 and February 4, 2007 at the Hotel Intercon (Ayala Avenue, Makati City, The Philippines), and opens from 9 am to 8 pm daily. AirAsia flies to and from Clark, Manila regularly, with tickets ranging from RM100 – RM200.

If you can’t attend, there are also many other ways to support RodCon – business sponsorships, affiliations, or monetary donations.

I am acquainted with one of the organizers of RodCon and have observed her tireless and determined nature to bring RodCon to life – truly fascinating! If you have the means, please support RodCon any way you can; events like these will inspire other similar events around the region to come up and flourish. We need to support those that are starting out, so that they can lead the way for more.

Links in Post:

links for 2007-01-28

links for 2007-01-27

links for 2007-01-25

100 Projects for Peace: Calling Malaysian Youths

I recently received an email from Adriana, a Malaysian studying in Colby College, asking me to promote her project for 100 Projects For Peace. If you are a young Malaysian (about 16-25 years old), or know of any young Malaysians, please read her email and contact her ASAP:


Would you like to be part of a team of young people that travels throughout Malaysia (Peninsular and Sabah and Sarawak) to talk to the youth of the country about:

  • What their Malaysia is?
  • Their personal wish for the country as she turns 50?

My name is Adriana Nordin Manan, and I am in the process of applying for a grant from my college for a project to do just that, and would love to hear from you! If you are between 16 and 25 years old and keen on celebrating Merdeka a little differently this year, get in touch! We will most probably be traveling sometime in July, all expenses paid.

Final Product: a book and documentary that compile the stories and pictures, distributed to different community organizations, schools and civil society organizations. I would also be very keen on giving short talks and presentations on our findings at different venues, in the spirit of sparking honest discussion on where we are headed now that we are turning 50 as a nation.

HOWEVER, I am extremely flexible when it comes to the kind of input people want to provide, especially in terms of the final product. Having a documentary and photo exhibition would be great too, for example. Spoken word and poetry jam sessions come to mind as well, or even the “Malaysian Youth Cookbook” (ala the “Anarchist’s Cookbook”), hee hee…..

Logistics: As I need to submit my revised proposal to my college on January 31st, I REALLY NEED to hear from people before then, with questions, critiques, suggestions or simple hellos. It is important that I demonstrate that some progress has been made in getting contacts in Malaysia, to convince the committee that the dough should go to us. As I am in Ecuador at the moment, e-mail is the best way to reach me, it’s I do appreciate your taking the time to read this, and would love to hear from as many people as possible.

Lastly, do spread the word to anyone you think might be interested in knowing more or chatting with me about the project. Thank you so much again, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Also, if you’d like to know more about the potential funders of this project, check out or



Links in Post:

links for 2007-01-23

links for 2007-01-22

World’s Greatest Shave 2007: Sponsor Me!

This isn’t exactly about alternative education. But it’s for a good cause – cancer research and care – and we will need all the help I can get.

I am participating in Australia’s World’s Greatest Shave 2007, a fundraiser for the Leukaemia Foundation. Between 15-17 March 2007, people across Australia will shave their heads or dye their hair to raise funds for cancer research and care. According to its FAQ:

All money provides support and care for patients and families living with leukaemias, lymphomas, myeloma, and related blood disorders. The Leukaemia Foundation also funds vital research into treatments and cures.

If I reach at least AU$100 (US$79 / EUR61 / MYR276), I will shave my head. My hair is 10 inches long, so this works out to AU$1/inch. Any less and I’ll dye it a radical colour, but I am more hoping for the shave.

Please sponsor me! My sponsorship page contains an updating blog, photos, comments, and details on how to sponsor. All major credit cards are accepted.

If you donate online, I will personally plug you AND your website, World’s Greatest Shave page, or a project of your choice on my sponsorship page and my personal LJ. I will also link to plugs for my efforts on my sponsorship page (, so let me know if you’ve promoted me!

This record-breaking event is known and recognized internationally; even people like the late Steve Irwin and his family have taken part. It’s a MASSIVE thing and we need as much help as possible.

Support cancer research and care, by getting rid of my hair. Sponsor Me Now!

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World Bank Essay Competition 2007: Your Practical Ideas on Corruption

The World Bank is back with the 2007 edition of their international Essay Competition:

The World Bank invites you to participate in the International Essay Competition 2007:


corruption affect your life?

to fight the corruption that you face?

PRIZES $5,000 & $1,000
Deadline for submission: March 15, 2007
Participants: Students and non-students alike, between 18 and 25 years of age

To know more and to submit, please visit:

Finalists will be flown to the ABCDE Conference in Bled, Slovenia for final juries and award presentations. Entries close March 15th, 2007 so start writing now!

Links in Post:

links for 2007-01-19

Science? Arts? Commerce? Which Stream?

The Star recently published two articles about choosing streams after the PMR (Middle Cert) exams. According to the people interviewed in the articles, it seems that no matter what your interests, you should go and take Science anyway, because it makes you “more analytical” or it “opens up your options”, and that the Arts is apparently “less taxing”.

As someone who took Humanities in school, I find this advice utterly disappointing. Indeed, I found both articles problematic.

The first assumption made by many people in the articles is that non-Science subjects are not challenging or taxing enough. I took Malay Literature, Art, and Commerce in school, and I can tell you that they are no less challenging. You still had to learn how to critique, to analyze, to think creatively. Some people suggest taking Science now, despite your interests, because at least you learn how to “think analytically” – you can learn how to think analytically no matter the subject! Perhaps it’s not formula or theorems, but accounts and finances, or metaphors and similes. Still analyzing. Indeed, many people recommend taking Philosophy, an arts subject, in university for exactly the same reasons – skills in analysis and thinking critically, which can be applied anywhere..

The next assumption is that taking Science opens you up to more opportunities than taking non-Science subjects. This is a fallacy. There are so many opportunities out there for just about anything, and many more that do not specify a particular academic background. You will not necessarily be in a disadvantage if you decide not to venture into Science. As George Bernard Shaw once said:

People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances that they want, and if they can’t find them, make them.

That said, is the current crop of Malaysian scholarships part of this vicious cycle? Mot scholarships are meant for Science students, so more people take Science because they feel it’s the only way they get some funding, which leads to more Science-only scholarships…while the others lose out heavily. When will we break this cycle?

Some say that you can always takes Arts and Humanities courses after SPM. I ask, why wait? If you’re truly interested in something non-scientific, why not take the opportunities that are there? When would this delay end anyway – “oh, wait after SPM” becomes “wait after STPM/A-Levels/Foundation” becomes “wait after undergrad” becomes “wait after grad school/you get a job” becomes “oh, you’re dead, never mind”.

My sister’s an interesting example. She had always wanted to be an architect as far as she could remember. In school, she was placed into the Science stream due to her grades (it helps that she does have some interest in Science). She was talked out of doing architecture in university as she was told “there was no money”. A double degree in Chemistry and Biotechnology in Imperial College led to a Ph.D. in Biochemistry, which then led to a research job with Cancer Research UK – which led to her realizing that she was never truly happy because she’s never got the chance to really delve into her true artistic self. She’s now in Art school, documenting her progress, and is the happiest she’s been in a long time. How many people realize that their life is in their hands? Will it take them just as long as my sister did – or even longer – to make that change?

Taylor’s University College principal Anucia Jeganathan and Advanced Studies Advisors director Yow Lop Siaw have, in my opinion, the most informed comments in the article. They acknowledge that more and more students are taking Science due to its reputation for prestige and opportunity. However, as the article notes:

However, Jeganathan believes that the current system is not balanced and that a healthy mix of both Arts and Science subjects after the PMR should be encouraged as “it makes for better students.”

The answer may lie in having a more broad-based education system, similar to that practised in Britain and the United States, where labels like Arts or Science stream are not used.

Jeganathan says that for this to happen, Science and Arts students should take more subjects from the other stream. However, there first needs to be a wider range of Arts subjects offered in Malaysian schools, she says, such as music, drama and public speaking.

“Currently, we don’t have many Arts subjects that engage and involve the students.”

Most Malaysians continue to hold stereotypical views of the strengths and disadvantages of doing the Arts or Sciences.

Top scorers are advised to do Science which is more “challenging” while weak students are advised to opt for Arts as it is less “taxing”.

Essentially, what matters is not whether students do Science or Arts subjects, but that they take subjects that they enjoy and subsequently pursue related careers.

I can say for sure that this is true. A large part of why students are reluctant to do anything Arts-based is because the students who do take Arts are treated like crap. I had friends from all sorts of classes (I was offered a Science stream space but declined) but I could tell there was some snobbery against us. When I opted for Humanities – the “last” class – I was told that I was “a fool” and was “wasting my As”. This attitude carries on in how we are taught – while we had some great teachers, some others didn’t bother to make the effort.

Also, there are frighteningly few non-Science or Business courses available, and even fewer teachers willing to teach them. I really wanted to do English Literature, but I was told that I needed to find 15 other students, and I only had one other person. No other school in the state (at the time) offered the subject, so I ended up taking Malay Literature instead. The other Humanities subjects they had were Art (which everyone in my class had to take) and Music (which I’d much rather take but couldn’t due to technicalities). We had Commerce foisted on us to make us “well-rounded” – funny how they don’t really tell that to the Science or Business students! (To their credit, some did Accounts, Art, and Music, so good for them.)

Where is theatre? Dance? Speech and forensics? Media? Languages? Digital art? So many options that should be made available…but nowhere to be seen in the SPM catalog. And why aren’t there teachers to teach them? A common excuse is “lack of resources” – how much of that is really “we don’t think the Arts are worth the hassle because Arts students are stupid”?

People! Look outside the box for once. Science subjects are not the Holy Grail of education. Arts students are not idiots. Encourage more diversity in learning! Don’t be afraid to take up non-Science subjects! Don’t just take them because they’re popular or prestigious! Learn what you want to learn. Take your education and your life into your own hands.

Links in Post:

links for 2007-01-15