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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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This post corresponds to the Friday meme of the Filipino Reader Conference. And I’m proud to say there will be a First (Yes, you read it right) Filipino Reader Conference on September 14 at SM Mall of Asia. And I’m disappointed to confess that I can’t attend the event. (Why does the Philippines have to be an archipelago?) So much for lamenting the continental drift theory, the topic about this meme is: How hard or easy is it to be a book lover in the Philippines? What are some of your frustrations as a Filipino reader (e.g. availability of books)? What are positive aspects of being a reader based in the Philippines (e.g. book prices are lower here than they are abroad)?

Philippines is a nation of nonreaders. Although statistics suggest that we, Filipinos, have high literacy rate, an average student can only pick one or two books in his lifetime unless of course if he or she is forced to do so (English Book Reports?). The problem is not the availability of the books or its prices but the number of Filipinos who view reading as a waste of time. Unlike an avid reader (I’m referring to myself), these people don’t see the beauty of words, how it can transport you from a coffee shop in London to a forest in South America to an inter-galactic war in outerspace. I’m not saying films, documentaries or any other visual medias are not as effective as literature but I’m pointing out that books also exists for entertainment. By reading books, you let your brain do its job: to think. Reading, in most cases, is a two-way process: you take in words, then you imagine, you take in words, then you imagine. Brains, elementary science tells us, uses oxygen and gives it off, when you think. This event conditions your brain just as jogging conditions your heart. Perhaps, I am getting preachy but you get the point. The benefits of reading is endless.

So how does the small number of Filipino book lovers affect my reading experience? There are no book clubs, at least here in Davao. What I read may just come and go with no room for discussion. You may suggest a online book club but, who are we kidding, what’s better than having a live discourse about a book. Giving an idea and having an immediate response. In my case, I rarely spot someone reading a book (except of course in a library).

This frusturation, however, leads to some positive effects. Since there are only few readers, the library books or bookstore books are mostly available to me. (O Yea!) Recently, I just borrowed Suzanne Collin’s Catching Fire. Had there been many reader, I’ll probably get the book until next month or next semester.

They, the other Filipino bloggers, say that Philippines prices its second-hand book for less than the other countries. I guess I have to agree. Last month, I bought “Bridget Jone’s Diary” for only Php 20. (Current exhance rate is $1 = Php 43.) I don’t know about brand-new books. On our school book bazaar, I was eyeing for the “Screenwriting for Dummies” but it was expensive or was it the original price? It costs about Php 1500 or $35.

Regarding the availability of books, I have mostly no problem. Our school library has plenty of books and if there aren’t available, I can go to a bookstore or if that fails, well, there’s internet. However, there is a problem, at least for me. There is no available “e-book reader”. I tried hopping from one mall to the other, from bookstore to another. E-book readers cease to exist. ( I badly craved for a nook.)

Basically there isn’t much fun in social aspect of reading on a Filipino reader. My hopes, however, are still high that someday Filipino readers will grow in number (exponentially).

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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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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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The Nanny Diaries

I never knew nannies in New York have job, other than child-rearing, like a personal assistant. Receiving errand one after the other. Trying to make the ends meet. They were also expected to be a governess, to do dry cleaning and to fetch for a restaurant reservation. They are not just to fill the gaps of parenting but they are likely to be considered as the parents. As the looks of it, almost all of them are even underpaid.

Mrs. X, a demanding, careless mother and have grown mindless to her son’s existence, is in need for a nanny to Grayer, a bubbly and sometimes snobby four-year old kid. She then hires Nan, a senior college student at NYU who can’t finance her education and living and thus resolves to make money by childcare.

As Nan gets admitted to the job, she is then bombarded with countless tasks and is invited to numerous events. At once in a halloween custome party, Nan finds out that Mr. X is having an affair with another woman. Afraid of being involved to a rotten marriage, she figures she should quit but the thought of leaving Grayer in the middle of a dillemma is unbearable. Everyday, Nan tries to juggle Mrs. X’s endless tasks and raising Grayer. “But to do it well is to lose it”. (more…)

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The Virgin Suicides (1993)

Before the trash collected itself from the curb, before the fence was remove, before the house was labeled as haunted, before the parents got divorce, before the suicides happened, the Lisbon family was living peacefully in Michigan with their 5 daughters: Cecilia, Lux, Bonnie, Mary and Therese.

Told nearly twenty years later after “there were no more daughters to save”, the story was narrated by a collective first-person observer from a group of middle-age men addicted to the Lisbon girls. The tragedy started when Cecilia cut herself on the wrist, a near-death experience. As if that was just a game, she tried it again but this time jumped off from her window and was impaled against the fence: a sure kill. The remaining girls suffered from “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder”, and peer pressure. As the narrator said,  “Inside their house they were prisoners; outside, lepers.”

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Not even a spilled coffee could spoil my excitement as I read Ender’s Game. A story set in a futuristic tale. The Earth has already exhausted its powers when they survived the second attack of the buggers, an insect-like alien that threatens the existence of the human race. Thus, the government plans in making an invincible army out of genetically modified children.

Ender, a six-year old kid, is one of the children who have been chosen to participate in the program. They studied science and mathematics at the battle school, a place that resides in outer space. Above all, they play the simulation game in the battle room. They are divided into armies and are scheduled to fight, armed laser guns and their wits. For several years, that was Ender living for and he knew he was good at it.

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theresnoplacelikehere_ceceliaahern

In times when I lost something, a pen or book, I always sulk and complain where it went. My father, which has no help at all, will then tease me and say, “Find it with your hands, not with your mouth”. When all hope is lost, I pondered about how I taken it for granted. But just give me days and I will forget it. However, in Sandy’s case, she won’t.

Sandy had been obsessed in finding her lost things since an incident of Jenny-May Butler’s sudden disappearance. From a single sock to a memorable diary, she would strip their house naked just to find it. But not all search cases ended up with satisfaction. Eventually after realizing that she had potential, she started an agency on finding missing persons.

On her search for Jack Ruttle’s case, she had wandered to a path that she has been long looking for. A path that led to place called “Here”, where all missing things stayed, even missing people. Now, she had satisfied her lifelong search but it conjured another one. How could she find her way back home?

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