Category Archives: learning

Nifty Japanese stuff: Kakasi

Kakasi is an external utility for
converting Japanese text between coding systems. It can also add
furigana after kanji or convert a text file to romaji.

Debian users can apt-get install kakasi kakasi-dic.
There’s an Emacs interface,
a Perl module (Text::Kakasi),
and a Ruby library.

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Passed JLPT level 3

Looks like I passed level 3 of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test.
Yay.

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Learning Links

“Learning Links Center for Alternative Education, an NGO with SEC Reg.
No. A20000-8543 housed at Stalls 7 and 8 Sanvil Center, Katipunan
Avenue, was founded by Ateneo alumni in the year 2000. Its mission is
to help 7 to 14 year old Katipunan street kids and at-risk children
get access to supplementary educational activities so they can achieve
their fullest potentials and integrate more easily into mainstream
society.

Currently, Learning Links is in need of volunteers who can join their
twice-a-month Saturday afternoon Ate-Kuya program. Volunteers will
have the opportunity to share around two to three hours of their time
per session with a group of kids – swapping stories, playing games,
engaging in creative tasks or taking a stroll in the Ateneo campus
-and act as buddies or even role models to these little ones.

Interested parties may call or text 0917-8269108 (Kuya Froy) or
0917-6939831 (Ate Julie).

Together, let’s bring learning back to the kids.”

E-Mail from Ateneo Alumni Affairs Office

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National Strategic Planning for ICTs in Basic Education Initiative: A Round Table Discussions

  • Broadening Access to Education (April 18, from 9:00AM to 4:00PM)
  • Improving Planning and Management (April 19, from 9:00AM to 4:00PM)
  • Enhancing Quality of Learning (April 20, from 9:00AM to 4:00PM)
  • Enhancing Quality of Teaching (April 21, from 9:00AM to 4:00PM)
  • Sustainability (April 29, from 9:00AM to 4:00PM)

The said round table discussions will be held at the Seminar Room,
National Computer Center, C.P. Garcia Avenue, UP Diliman, Quezon City.

(from Marvin Pascual):
By the way, this event is not exclusively for people who are into
academe only as what I was expecting before. Everyone is encourage to
join us to fight and promote Linux and Open Source for the ICTs in
DepEd. Please send your name, e-mail and contact numbers to me
privately if you are willing to support and help DepEd in their ICTs and
quality education to students.

Darn! Wish I could go. Anyway, it’s for basic education; I can wait to get into that.

犬が1匹、猫が1匹、カナリヤが3羽います。 We have a dog, a cat and three canaries.

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A fun-filled day: part 1. Lunch with Nishida

My day started with lunch with Nishida, a Japanese businessman setting up the Philippine subsidiary of MSI Corporation. MSI was my host company during my internship, and I’m greatly obliged to them for the opportunity to see how the Japanese software industry worked. I was nervously thinking of what they might want assistance with, and I was pleasantly surprised to find out that this was a social call. We met at the lobby of Shangri-la Makati and walked to Zen for (unsurprisingly) a Japanese lunch.

I had fun chatting with him in Japanese. He said he must’ve been to
all the Japanese restaurants in the area, and he proceeded to list
them. They were just imitations, he said, but they were much cheaper
than food in Japan so he wasn’t unhappy. He had some problems figuring
out the bento box system at Zen, so I tried to explain how it worked,
and I also asked for the Japanese menu. (Good thing my mom and I
peeked at the Japanese menu a week or two ago!)

We then chatted about life in a foreign country. I told him how I’d
quickly made friends through free conversations with volunteers,
technical conferences, and nomikais (informal get-togethers). He’s
been in the Philippines for over seven months but has been having
problems making Filipino friends. Although he went to a few karaoke
bars (you know the Japanese and their karaoke), he didn’t really get
to know people there. As he said, women there just hit on you because
they want to marry a Japanese guy. I laughed and told him I have a
wonderful boyfriend; he doesn’t need to worry about me. He has a
Filipina assistant who sometimes teaches him about Filipino culture
(what to do and what not to do), but they can’t hang out because they
work together. All the other people he knows are Japanese, so they
chat in Japanese. As a result, he doesn’t really feel comfortable
chatting in English.

Of course, I offered to switch to English so that he could practice.
He declined, saying he was just so relieved to find a Filipino who can
talk to him in Japanese. I told him a lot of people learn Japanese
because of anime, and offered to help him look for friendship circles
and other things like that.

We also chatted about cultural misadventures. Food was, as always, a
source of great humor, from balut (which we both can’t stand) to
chicharon (which he found absolutely horrific—how can anyone eat that
sort of stuff? I just grin). He told me about this morning’s phone
call. When he called up the house to confirm our lunch, of course he
asked for “Chua-san”—I always used my last name in Japan, following
convention. My dad answered the phone, and it took some back-and-forth
and a bit of panicking on Nishida’s end before my dad realized the
call was for me. Heh. That’s also why I tend to call guys by their
first names instead of by their last names, even if that _is_ their
nickname…

(You can ask Ernest about the very first time I called him up. See,
his nickname was not only “Baello” (his last name), but he also had
the same name as his father_, so I couldn’t just ask for “Ernest”…
To be safe, I specified his _full_ name instead. That made his mom laugh.)

Anyway. We’ll take care of introducing Nishida to some other people
and taking him out to see some places; it’s the least I can do to
repay my obligations to the volunteers who helped me so much in Japan.
I wish Dominique was there. They’d probably have gotten along very
well. My mom might have fun chatting with him, too; she’ll know how to
make him feel relaxed. Tita Raquel, definitely. I wonder who else
among our friends can help the poor guy… =)

「それではおまえにねこを一匹とってきてあげよう」と、おじいさんはいいました。 “I will get you a cat, my dear,” said the very old man.

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On computer science education

In response to Neil Santos’ rant about computer science education:

What a pity it is that you’ve never had a good teacher. A good teacher can help you grow immensely. I’ve had great teachers, and they really changed my life. Let me share with you some things I’ve learned from them and why I’m crazy about computer science.

When you meet a lot of brilliant people, you’ll quickly realize that technical skills do not guarantee people skills and vice versa. One of the best ways to meet brilliant people is through open source. Look at Richard Stallman: undoubtedly a genius, but his personality rubs a lot of people the wrong way. (He’s really cool, though.) On the other hand, there are people who combine both technical know-how with passion and great communication skills; these are the teachers who can change your life.

I owe so much to the teachers I’ve learned from inside and outside the classroom. The best teachers I’ve had taught me that I’m not limited to the classroom. They helped me gain the confidence to try things on my own. They showed me things I didn’t know about and might not have discovered on my own. They questioned my assumptions and challenged me to do better. I remember when I was in first year college and I was slacking off in subjects like English; it was my computer science
teacher who told me that I should pay attention to details!

My teachers really helped me deal with my insecurities about our curriculum. I always kept my eye on schools abroad, and because I was already working on open source in college, I could see how people my age were doing really fantastic things like maintaining the Linux kernel or writing their own operating systems. My teachers helped me take advanced classes and get into extracurricular projects and
competitions. When I started working on things on my own, they gave me encouragement and great recommendations.

I’ve heard many, many stories about teachers who aren’t as good as the ones I had, though. Most teachers don’t seem to care about their students or their subjects. I want to help change that.

Computer science changes every day. The accelerating pace may make you think that it’s impossible to keep up. The truth is, as things get faster and faster, a strong foundation becomes more and more important.

That’s what I’d like to think I teach. I do not teach how to program in Java or C++ or Perl. I teach people how to _think_, how to break a problem down into solvable parts, how to learn more and more and more. My job is not to pour information into passive students, but rather I am here to show them the basics and then challenge them, make them hungry for more, guide them through questions and hints. I don’t know everything, but I love sharing whatever I know, and I love learning new things from students and the world.

I messed up a lot as a beginning teacher, too. There were days when the explanations I prepared the night before didn’t work and everyone was just confused. There were days when I’d just get so frustrated with my inability to express something or to convince people that copying isn’t going to teach them as much as actually sticking it out and solving the problem. But still, there were days when I’d see students get that Aha! moment, and that made things worthwhile.

I enjoy computer science so much that I cannot think of _not_ teaching it. I want to get other people hooked. I want people to fall in love with learning and problem-solving. I want people to discover that they too are capable of mental wizardry; that they too can make the computer dance to their tune. I want to be a fantastic teacher. In order to do that, I’m working on not only getting the theoretical and practical background to share with my students, but also learning how to teach and teach well.

Let me tell you that computer science education doesn’t have to be like what you’re suffering. I know it can be good, and I want to make it even better.

What does this mean for you, now, while you’re taking up your degree at Adamson University?

Well, if you can’t do anything about your teachers right now, you have many ways of coping. Open source gives you an opportunity to test your knowledge and make a difference world-wide. Even as a student, you can work on really cool things! Come hang out with us, too. We can challenge you. We can help you stay enthusiastic and passionate about computers. When are you usually free?

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