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Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson

 THE FOLLOWING content is lifted from my homework on our Finance class. We were to read a book and answer guide questions. I was quite dubious to read it since we are in the business course, why should we care about literature? It turned out that the book is about managing success, masked with a children title. The book is so small, that you can read it in about an hour. It has mixed reviews in goodreads. Others say it was helpful, while some say its gibberish. This reminds me of a computer tutorial in YouTube. A member commented that it was pretty simple, and there’s no need for making a tutorial. I watched the tutorial and it was helpful. I guess the degree of helpfulness depends on the person’s range of knowledge.

One thing is certain, for those perplexed and amateur, we need guidance, even basic guidance, and this book is one of them. With one-sitting read, reassuring words, fable story, what’s not to like?

P.S. Thanks J.M. Tingson, our finance class, for introducing the book. I never knew  what my mark was but I feel I did well and I enjoyed answering each question.

P.S. This homework taught me that a headline and/or questions will help you provide more concrete and unified composition.

REFLECTION QUESTIONS FOR WHO MOVED MY CHEESE?

1. In Johnson’s book, the cheese is a metaphor. What does it represent?

THE CHEESE represents things we desire. It is perhaps derive from the ideology that rats crave for cheese, like the hit cartoon series “Tom and Jerry”.  But I have to admit I haven’t saw a particular rat eating a cheese.  In most cases, I catch them gnawing our Tupperware. (No pun intended.)

2. What does the maze represent?

THE MAZE represents the place where we will find our “cheese”. For a student, it would be likely in the school. For a clerk, it would be likely in the office.  For a scientist, it would be likely in the laboratory. For me, just read the next answer.

3.  Identify both the cheese and the maze in your own life. Then consider what might happen if someone moved your cheese. Imagine the ways you might have to cope with the changes.

MY CHEESE is to be a filmmaker and a writer. The maze is, well, yet to be decided, considering both of those things can be done ubiquitously. If someone moved my cheese (which is unlikely since my cheese are intangible), it’s either I’ll follow the cheese or force the person who moved my cheese to moved my cheese back! Contrary to the old adage “If life gives you lemon, make a lemonade”, one person had said that “If life gives you lemon, let life take the lemons back.” Why? Because at some point in our lives, we deserve nothing less.

4. What changes have you already experienced in your life? How did you react to the changes? Were you threatened, angry, frightened, disoriented, or excited by the challenge (come on…be honest!)? After reading Who Moved My Cheese? do you feel you dealt as well as you could have with those changes?

WAIT. I can’t think of any major major changes in my life. (Major pun intended.) If you consider the shift from high school to college, I dealt it well. Or from first year to second year, I really had no problem. But I guess, if change will come, I am better equipped for it now. Heck! I might start to expect it.

5. Has Johnson’s book helped you see how change can be beneficial…in life in general, as well as in your own work or personal life?

I FIND myself pondering when the book pop the question “If you weren’t afraid, where will you be now?” I don’t like when I’m afraid, I can’t move freely or think straight but in retrospect, in the times of being frightened, those were moments I do extraordinary stuff and those were the times I sought God. As oxymoron as it sounds, fears helps build confidence and faith.

However, the “cheese” concept per se taught me nothing I have already learned. I am always reminded of the phrase “survival of the fittest” from Charles Darwin’s Theory of Natural Selection. Or the tagline “Adapt or Die” from Joe Wright’s action movie “Hanna”, starred by Saoirse Ronan. (Am I going off-topic now?)

6. If you read “A Discussion,” the book’s third section, what did you learn from the way others interpreted the book? Were any situations similar to your own?

THE “ALUMNI” discussion shows that the concept of cheese can be interpreted in different ways. Either way it leads to make our life better. The only close situation I can get (since I’m not yet in the corporate world) is Elaine’s problem of letting go of her old relationship with “serious molds”. Angela further recommends  that “what we really need to let go of is the behavior that keeps causing our bad relationship. And then move on to a better way of thinking and acting.” For if we don’t change, we will keep getting the same “moldy” results.

7. Do you wish Johnson had offered concrete answers to the question of dealing with change? Would you have preferred a “how-to” approach, say, a step-by step guide? Or do you appreciate the way in which readers are free to interpret and apply the parable for themselves? Which approach is more helpful to you?

NO! I like how Johnson turns these mundane ideas to something interesting. The “How-To” approach is dull. True it leads to you the lesson directly but it doesn’t let you experience the lesson, just like the parable. Having different interpretations make the concept altogether fun, this shows that you can modify it in your own needs. Take what you want and leave what is unnecessary.

8. In the parable, Johnson says the four characters represent the four parts of ourselves, from the simple to the complex. What does he mean: which character represents which part of ourselves? Is there one character you relate to more than the others?

I’M STILL figuring out if the four characters represent four parts of ourselves since the two rats act in unison. So, I’ll consider three. Hem represents our personality when we think too much, the rats for when we simplify ideas and Haw for when we discern which is appropriate between the two . Of course no one is absolutely better than the other. It’s just a matter of situation. Math exam, for instance, you don’t just simply answer what is in front of you. You think outside the box! (Which is thinking too much.) You might be missing some fundamental rules of factoring, like I just did in my previous calculus quiz.

For mnemonic purposes, the rats, Hem and Haw may represent Sigmund Freud’s Id, Ego and Super Ego.

9. Why is it so hard for most of us (all of us?) to accept change?

UNLIKE THE instantaneous rate of change that can be solve using derivatives, change in real life is insatiable. You can’t exactly calculate, for instance, the future returns of transferring to another university. People resist change because of uncertainty.  People like change if it is in their best interest but since it is uncertain that change can either be beneficial or detrimental, they shun the idea.  Change threatens our stability, our comfort zone.  I mean, who are we kidding? Who wants to be exposed to risk?

But sooner or later, environment will force us to change. It’s just a matter of time. Besides, adapting change is one of the secrets of a contented life. As a famous poet once wrote, which I can’t verify, “You can’t see the ocean without first losing sight of the island.”

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IN THE flirty world out there, you have to battle your way through perfumes, dresses, shoes and other glamorous things that would lure a lovely man into your cage. But as painful as it is, age is a valuable asset and being in your thirties is as hard as you can get. In this age bracket, we meet Bridget Jones, 32, who seeks a functional relationship and tries to improve herself based on her New Year’s Resolution.

An eager fan of Jane Austen, Helen Fielding outlined her novel “Bridget Jone’s Diary” with that of “Pride and Prejudice.” We see the characters of Mr. Wickham as Daniel Cleaver, a carefree and selfish man and Mr. Darcy as Mark Darcy, a highly educated and respectable man. In the story, the two has also unsettled accounts and later in the film they find themselves hitting each other in the streets, which would lead to a background music of “It’s raining men”.

As for Elizabeth Bennet’s character, she is no longer shy and constrained woman. Things have changed. Bridget is battling not the economic problems but couple problems. She has been teased over and over again by her relatives, mostly by her mother, and every year they try to set something up to her. She is so happy when she gets laid that she calls herself as a “sex goddess”. (more…)

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Becoming the mockinjay by ripaille-d39g5cw

SUZANNE COLLINS ends her epic Hunger Games Trilogy with Mockingjay, where instead of hunting in the woods, collecting leaf samples and flirting with teenage boys, Katniss is now leading a revolution.

So it seems that our heroine is on the verge of selflessness – a feeling that teenagers rarely feel. She agrees, after some conditions, to stage a mock-up televise footage that shows the impoverished districts are capable of overthrowing the dictatorial capitol. Despite her image to be strong, reliable and stable, Katniss knows deep within herself that she is weak, fragile and inconsistent. This is obvious when she sees Peeta being held captive.

At best, Collins maintains the readers’ attention, keeps the pace of the suspense – not giving less and not giving much. But let’s cut to the crap, shall we? The book is a thrilling experience except when you get to the last few chapters. Everyone knows that the grand finale will come through the face-off of Katniss and President Snow, the capitol leader. (Even Collins knows that.) But no, we don’t get that and in fact, the replacement is not any better.

Imagine that you have a computer with an i7 core processor and happily watching Blu-ray Discs, editing summer vacation photos and perhaps killing splicers from Bioschock 2. In the next day, your supplier tells you that this is even better and hands you instead a Pentium-powered computer that can barely run Photoshop.  That’s what happened at the end of “Mockinjay.” You just can’t believe it happened. (more…)

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Image by life serial

WE HAVE  a copy of this book on the school library, which is weird since when I look up at the database there were no copies of “The Hunger Games” or “Mockingjay”. Not to mention, we are over several thousands of students in the school and I manage to get my hands on “Catching Fire”, one of the trendy series this days and is evident on the upcoming film adaptation. I guess I’m destined to read this book. (Ha! Dream on.)

Recap: Hunger Games is the annual activity of the capitol, the government, which showcases 24 tributes as they kill each other for everybody’s entertainment. The one who survives simply gets the liberty of living his life.

After she survived the Hunger Games, Katniss and her family have the luxury to sleep on a well-kept house, eat three times a day, drink a clear water, watch television (television is a rarity on poor households) and in some days, hunt in the woods. Since Katniss victory, there are some unsettled events such as Peeta’s affection, Gale’s identity, and most of all the capitol’s reputation. The capitol, specifically President Snow, is disturbed with Katniss’ recent action in the Hunger Games, her act of rebellion gives hope to defy the capitol. It is in this reason that Snow visits Katniss and warns her that she should act amiably about the situation or else . . . you know the drill.

One of the common traits of a compelling storyteller is his ability to conjure conflicts. Harry Potter, for instance, has to face the greatest, wicked wizard of all time. Ender Wiggin has to defeat an entire fleet of alien warships. Suzie Salmon has to reconcile with her past and move one. The closest writer I have ever come across to provide genuine conflicts is Suzanne Collins. She torns Katniss for suspense and still manages to grace her for sympathy. Katniss is entitled to mentor in this upcoming Hunger Games and the soon-to-be tributes will once again break her heart. If you guess her younger sister or her childhood lover, I’m sorry but your hunch is wrong. I dare say the next participants are beyond your wildest imagination.

I’m glad that despite the intense events, “Catching Fire” doesn’t losses the touch of being a young adult. You still see Katniss as a teenager, confused whose love to accept and to reject. She is still emotional and can’t rationalize actual events. In short, she is flawed and I’m grateful with that. At least, despite the gender differences, I can still relate. (more…)

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On her early years, Dren is homeschooled

TWO GENETIC Engineers, Clive and Elsa, are making a creature from a different pool of animal DNAs that could suffice research and development of medicine, say, a cure for cancer. The creature actually has a name, Ginger. Now, Ginger is made from countless studies and hefty sum of money. As you all know, genetic engineered organism has lower life span and it would be a great loss both for the corporation and the scientist to see that happen. Remember the first cloned sheep Dolly? So they create Fred, a male version, who is supposed to mate with Ginger and produce off springs.

Then something went wrong. (Of course something should go wrong, how else could the story go on? Sorry I’m just messing with myself.)  When Ginger and Fred is presented with the shareholders, something like, “Behold, the creature that will change the face of the Earth!”, they somehow disliked each other, I’m understating the word disliked they did much worse than that. It is a big let down and the project is about to be terminated. But of course, geeky scientist won’t let that happen especially if they spent their whole life to the project, working for perfection. (more…)

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I read somewhere that if you want to enhance your brain in a playful way without going through cumbersome processes, read detective stories.

“Father Brown Stories” is penned by G.K. Chesterton, a renowned writer during the early 1990’s due to his works regarding philosophy, theology and literature, to name a few. The book is a collection of short stories about a detective priest, Father Brown, a short plump man who have a keen sense of unveiling mysteries. He is not officially a “detective”, but because of many cases he solved he is more than qualified to be one. On the “Queer Feet”, he solved a case by listening to someone’s feet!

It is exciting to see a priest being a detective, I reckon Father Brown is the first of its kind. Priest is one of the dullest occupation there is. I’m not degrading the quality of worship to God, or discouraging you, but you have to agree reading the same book every year, conducting masses every Sunday, secluding your self daily (hourly)for solitary prayer, hearing not-of-your-business confessions knock the adventure in you (or is it just me?) However, Chesterton makes the character of a priest exciting and engaging rather than boring you to sleep in the pew. He solves problem and still manages to mix valuable life lessons. (I hope I didn’t sound blasphemous.)

G.K. Chesterton is a prolific writer. According to Wikipedia, he has written “around 80 books, several hundred poems, some 200 short stories, 4000 essays, and several plays.” Yes that is some numbers, I doubt if I can ever reached that record even though I started writing at a young age.

He starts every story in cinematic effect. I call it cinematic for one the narration reads like a script and the other is he doesn’t start at Father Brown directly. Chesterton, in most cases, defers his protagonist’s appearance to the end or in the middle. In the very first story, “The Blue Cross”, the whole narration follows another detective and ends in conclusion of Father Brown.

Father Brown by G.K. Chesterton

Chesterton’s semi-poetic writing style has attracted many of his contemporary writers. He has a rather unusual pool of phrases. In fact, G.K. Chesteron’s phrases has been quoted many times already. One of his phrase has been the basis of Evelyn Waugh’s novel Brideshead Revisited and countless detective TV series.

One might consider his works already a classic since they have been alive for a century. The only problem of the stories is that it is very formulaic. Most of the story starts by the execution of crime and Father Brown explains the solution in a deep words and since the time era is different, I sometimes have trouble comprehending the word structure . Even the people around him, which some of them are dying to hear the answer, are confused or annoyed by not getting direct to the point. That said I don’t favor all the stories. My fault is I can’t justify how good Chesterton’s detective stories since this is my first detective book. I have yet to read other books, say, Sherlock Holmes and Thursday Next to permit a reasonable judgment.

The stories are compiled into five volumes, but I only read the first two. The good news is you only have to read the first story, The Blue Cross, to know if you like Father Brown or not and the better news is that it is available in the internet. Read it here.

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“What The Dog Saw” is full of interesting topics, mostly in social sciences, written with brevity, joy and wit that guarantees you not to raise a yawn and, even, to hold your urinary bladder. Recently, I have been craving for essays and, as I was walking in our school library’s aisle,  I came across with Malcolm Gladwell, an intellectual man whose works have consistently appeared in “The New Yorker”.  I thought essays have to be dull, boring and colorless for it to be an essay, at least that is what school teaches us, but as Gladwell shows us, that is not at all necessary. He gives us a compelling, down-to-earth stories. Stories that would have been rotten if it weren’t for Gladwell’s attempt to write about it.

What The Dog Saw (2009)

This book, Gladwell’s fourth one,  is an anthology of his selected essays.  He talks about the dominant presence of Heinz ketchup,  the inventor of the contraceptive pill, the legendary dog-whisperer Cesar Millan, the famous serial killers like Ted Bundy, just to name a few. After reading the book, I felt rich receiving a swimming pool of information. As an accounting student, I consider the “Open Secrets” a treat. It talks about accounting ethics and the “peril of too much information”, well it talks about the giant company Enron. Gladwell reveals to us how Enron manages to survive their debt for long and as his later essay “Talent Myth”, he shows us that despite  the Enron’s employee star system, of being innovative and pushing the limits, it still manages to fail. “It never occurred to them,” Gladwell later writes, “that, if everyone had to think outside the box, maybe it was the box that needed fixing”.

His essays yank us from passive mode to an active one and you find yourself searching for facts if these things might actually be true. I didn’t search for authenticity because I’m convince when the book notes “every one of these stories was rigorously perfected by the copy and fact-checking departments of The New Yorker magazine”.

Gladwell lets us to think for ourselves and encourages us to challenge the current view, to be skeptic, he might as well challenge us for his views, which makes the book altogether fun. At some point, I was having a mental debate with Gladwell when I refuse to acknowledge his differentiation of “choking” and “panicking”. As for me both are different levels of panicking.

Did I mention that this book is as compelling as your favorite fiction book? Though it doesn’t read like one, “What The Dog Saw” delights you from its diction and well-structured sentence. A good way to spend your afternoon.

 

 

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Clayton Riddell is on the way home after he sold his comic work when a man bites off the ear of a dog. A woman charges to a vendor. Numerous distant screams. Before Clayton knows it, the world is already in chaos. He realizes that the cell (phones) makes a person crazy when he listen to it.  Clay, together with his pick-up friends, Alice and Tom, races from Boston across Kent Pond when he remembers that his son owns a cell. Stephen King’s “The Cell” pulls off a not-so horrifying thriller in a gory zombie tale.

Cell (2006) by Stephen King

When I was reading “The Cell”, Stephen King’s “The Gunslinger” keeps reminding me that this is not worth the time but I am actually impressed to see a dramatic improvement from his writing, which is reasonable since King admits he haven’t been in writing workshops until, I guess, when he started writing the second book of the Dark Tower series. In this work, he chooses the words carefully and manages to tickle you in serious moments but one thing is still disappointing, he’s not a compelling storyteller or should I blame it to the plot? In the middle, when the dynamic trio escapes to an English boarding school, or even before that, the story slouches, no not being a slow pace but it gets boring. He narrates the zombies and what they are doing but it gets worn-out to see the little progress of these creatures. At first, zombies eats another zombies, then they learn how to team up and start to flock to right then to left, then they start to sing and on and on. It would have been fine if these things plays a great role or even a satisfying epiphany in the end, but no they just get blown up. This just shows that these zombies’ deteriorated brains can’t think well. (more…)

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Jack and his group wields fire as a sign of triumph

As I trudge to the classics, I found one that I wish I didn’t explored. “The Lord Of The Flies”, I would describe, is a luscious fruit matched with an enticing color (and even in an elegant food packaging) that in the end you would just throw away.

The labeled description tag attached to the fruit’s head says: A group of British boys crashes to an isolated island with no food and no adult. In the tense for survival, they decide to create a pack with a leader who happens to Raplh. All is well until one by one ceased to obey orders to follow another leader, Jack, who is more capable of gathering food. By then, all begins to get gory. The two leaders witness a clash of leadership and a conflict of interest among other boys. This story shows the existence of evil from a human mind amidst of loose laws and beliefs (and perhaps distinguishes Freud’s id, ego and superego.)

I know this doesn’t happen much in reviews but I admire the book’s layout. All of them – leading, tracking, font style, font size – pleases my eyes. The width of the book, which is considerably short, and with its rectangular size slides perfectly in my pocket. A perfect travel companion.

Now back to the rant. (more…)

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“Animal Farm” is an allegorical novel of the political abuse of Stalin or any abuses of the idea of communism or totalitarianism. This fable, portrayed by talking animals, is also a showcase how the downtrodden people suffered from the reign. How uneducated animals are led to misery by the leader’s corrupt use of language. How the gullible animals are fooled in thinking they have the Utopia. And most of all, how humans can be like animals.

animal_farm_book_cover

Animal Farm (1945)

The story starts on the rebellion of the animals under the supervision of Mr Jones, the landlord of the farm. He is a diligent and hardworking man however, at some point, he became lethargic and forgot to take care of the animals. In result, the animals are underfed and overworked for several days. One night when Mr Jones comes home, the animals expect for their compensation however they got none. At last, the animals can’t take it anymore and decide to take the matter for themselves. They kick and punch their oppressors and in the end manage to overthrow all Mr. Jone’s lot.

After triumph, the intellectual pigs assumed the leaders’ position. By then, the farm prospers. They harvest harder and better than Jones’. They also undergo many reforms like educating the animals and establishing moral laws. However, things get ugly when Napoleon hungers for power and supreme authority. He purges and kills anyone who poses threats on his plans. Since most animals can’t think for themselves and regarded as “stupid”, they believe and follow all Napoleon says and orders. Before they knew it, their freedom from Mr Jones slowly becomes a prison of dystopia.

I admire George Orwell for his stubbornness. His book criticizing Stalin’s regime, at that time, is a controversial topic. It is like a taboo that’s why almost all of the publishers rejected his proposal. But at last when the World War II ends, one publisher took charge. From them on, the book have steady sales. (more…)

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Have you ever wondered how far a mother will go to save her leukemic daughter? Would you consider a designer baby as a last resort? Is it the right thing to do? Or if it is normal to stop monitoring your other children because you have to tend the dying one?  Would you choose to save your daughter while putting the other one’s life at risk? Here, in the book, the situation presents itself.

My Sister's Keeper

My Sister's Keeper (2005)

My Sister’s Keeper is a story about the Fitzgerald family suffering the after effects of considering genetic implantation to conceive a child. The family had two children Jesse and Kate. The latter, at the age of two, is diagnosed of APL, a rare type of leukemia, barely curable. With a perfect donor match, Kate can live longer. The mother, Sarah, decided to conceived a child through test-tube. The embryo’s genes is perfectly altered to match those of Kate’s. Thus, Anna is born.

At childbirth, Anna had already donated a cord blood. Since then until thirteen, she have been giving blood, tissues and bone marrows to her sister Kate. Luckily, Kate had survived these past years and had the pleasure of kissing a boy. However, as time pass, Kate’s body begins to deteriorate and is need not just a refillable source but an organ – a kidney or else she’ll die. At best, Anna has to stop playing hockey and will not be able to drink alcohol. At worst, she might die or experience paralysis. The risks prompt Anna to think twice. In the end, she seeks for medical emancipation. She sues her parents for the rights of her own body. (more…)

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I loathed science since grade school, particularly biology. I don’t get how learning the cell’s structure and its division stages going to help me in getting a job or living my life. Certainly, the subject is not an entertainment with its countless terms, which were probably derived from Greek words. After reading the book I still didn’t like studying science, probably I never will. But at least, for a moment, I enjoyed the topic.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Henreitta Lacks at the cover

The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks is a biography of Henrietta Lacks, the woman behind the HeLa (hee-lah) cell line which helped produce in studying tissue culture and develop various medicines and medical advances: polio vaccine, chemotherapy and cloning – to name a few; and the struggle of Lackses family at the death of their mother, Henrietta, both from personal, ethical and political issues. The story does not only tell the grieving loss but also highlights the racism and medical  advances in the past century, which makes it a good choice for a book club discussion.

Henrietta Lacks, a poor tobacco farmer and an African-American, died at the age of 31 out of urinal dysfunction cause by cervical cancer. Her cells were taken without her consent but before her death, George Gey, a scientist, had already been interested to her cells – the first one to live immortally outside the human body.  Worst of all, the family had been deprived of such knowledge and some companies were making money out of it. (more…)

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Pride and Prejudice stood through time. Crossed cultural boundaries. Translated to hundreds of languages. Studied in an English Class. Inspired aspiring writers. Mirrored the early 19th century England. The only thing that a contemporary reader can ask would be how beautiful it is.

Jane Austen

I don’t know if its true but they say Jane Austen started the brigade of Chick Lit, a genre of fiction featuring a female protagonist, often in a humorous ambiance, mostly includes romance and requires less thinking of its readers. I find it likely true if one stripped the language into a contemporary tone, remove the setting from its place, replace with a quirky cover. But it will likely ruin the book.

The novel highlights the economy of the 19th century England, including its system. In the author’s days, it reveals the woman is in need for a man for economic benefits and reputation and least likely for love. The women are powerless and inferior compared to man unless they have money or of in a higher position. (more…)

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