When visiting this Web page you may not agree with what I write and I do not expect you to. Nevertheless, I hope that what you read helps you learn about me, and gives you something to think about. I also hope that this is in no way offensive to anyone. That is never my intension. After all, you read this page voluntarily.
|03/31/2005||I decided to use one public blogging service, and so, from now on you may read me on http://jfvrcorner.blogspot.com/. As I said on my very first blog, I would evolve. This is my first step.|
"Human rights include food and water"
That was written on one sign held by one of the protesters over Terri Schiavo's feeding tube removal in Pinellas Park, Florida, USA. I wish people protested so passionately about the thousands (millions?) of children, adults and elders that die daily of starvation in Africa, Asia and Latin America, people that die out of any hospice and without any health care: in the abandonment of a world that only responds to the events of the american daily life, made spectacular world news by the media of a handful of countries. Is it that only people from these few rich countries really have the basic human right of food and water?
Speaking of creativity...
I was just yesterday morning giving a very short workshop on creativity to my students in the Design Project in Computer Engineering and this morning I found in my email the "Engineering Education News - Connections February 2005" of the ASEE and the following article. To my own satisfaction, the article speaks of many of the concepts I was trying to convey to my students. It all seems to indicate that I had chosen the right material for the workshop in the right course. I was very fortunate. Well, without further ado, here's the link. Enjoy it.
What does it mean "Merry Christmas and Happy New Year"
For years I've had this question in my mind and only now I finally put it out in the public. Let me explain what I observe. Sometime in November or beginning of December cities get decorated with lots of beautiful lights and other types or ornaments. Most people go shopping like in no other time of the year. Everybody rushes to buy gifts, useful or useless, for everybody else around; it doesn't feel like gifts but obligations to attain or maintain social acceptance. People start smiling and remembering that there are poor people in the world, sometimes not too far from their homes (this is true at least in poor countries) and organize fund raising activities for gifts to those "less fortunate". It is a time of reconciliation for all the fights and conflicts that could not be resolved or didn't wish to resolve during the year. All of a sudden, the Christmas spirit fills every body with the forgiveness many could not achieve in any other occasion. Then comes the 24th and 25th of December and everybody hugs and kisses while saying "merry Christmas". Is it just wishing that Christmas day be merry? What about the rest of the days? Why should it be merry, because of the gifts or because Jesus was born 2000 and something years ago in a date that historically has not been accurately determined yet? Much of the evidence would point to the merriment for the gifts since the message of Jesus was love and forgiveness for every day of our life, not just for his birthday! Now, if we really care for the "less fortunate", why do we only remember them in this time and forget about them the rest of the year? They suffer and starve everyday.
And then, on the days surrounding the 31st of December everybody kisses and hugs again, but this time not saying "merry Christmas" but "happy New Year". Christmas is then a thing of the past. Now it's time for resolutions, what we were not able to do in all our previous years, now it is the time to start them, even though we may not actually achieve or finish them eventually. But then again, why not wishing a happy new year to everybody everyday; why not making resolutions everyday; after all every instant a new year is starting, only from a different reference point of the earth's orbit around the sun. Maybe if we celebrated Jesus teaching of love and forgiveness everyday, if we gave something to the poor and less fortunate everyday or offer them a good job and a fair salary we may have a just world and be merry; and maybe if we set realistic resolutions for each day and for each instant of our life we may actually get things done and have a happy life.
May all the people of the world have a merry Christmas and a happy new year ... everyday.
Thanksgiving day or should I say thanks-giving day?
First I have to thank my daughters Ana María and Carolina who, while rehearsing for today's oral talk for their school, illustrated me with some information I didn't know about Thanksgiving, like the first year it took place: 1621 AD. Second I have to thank my old friend Martin Meiss for one of his wonderful reflections when we gathered in his house on South Salina St. in Syracuse. He was fond of this American, or should I say north American celebration since Canadians celebrate it too, because, as he once said, around a dinning table people loudly or quietly express their gratitude for the food and the great things life has offered each and everyone, regardless of religious, political, philosophical or other beliefs, national origin, race, sex or sexual preferences... Third I have to thank the International Students Office at Syracuse University for inviting me to my first Thanksgiving meal at the Carrier Dome in that fall of 1982. I still remember they told us that dinner was on the date Canadians celebrated Thanksgiving, which is earlier than the American celebration. That one was not only a Thanksgiving dinner but a celebration of human diversity.
Somehow I believe now that Thanksgiving should be truly a celebration of diversity, since for the first Thanksgiving celebration in Plymouth Native North Americans and English Pilgrims shared generously their food in celebration of a bounty crop. These generous people didn't look at the color of their skin or whether they came from different nations. They just joined in celebration of life in the most familiar of gatherings, a meal. Natives had been sharing their land and its goods with the English settlers, with no greed. Probably they weren't the only natives who welcomed strangers in their land and homes, for Colombus had written almost one hundred and twenty years before about those people with no greed, referring surely to some other natives in some distant place in this continent he had recently discovered (?).
Sadly, many Natives in the American continent and other parts of the world have been reduced, or should I say confined, to live in Indian reservations, in many cases in conditions of poverty, maybe misery. How much this celebration has changed: Generosity has been traded for greed and competition, civilization for technology, harmony with nature for our modern concept of development, and a welcome to strangers for national borders... How fragile memory is. We remember the dinner celebration but forgot about sharing prosperity, we watch sports on TV but forgot about generosity, we say thanks but forgot about Gratitude [capital letter intended].
Today, cuddled by the luscious Puerto Rican breeze remembering nostalgically the cozy warmth of a fireplace I will join some friends in thanks-giving for the food we will share, for the laborious hands of my wife Rocío and others that lovingly made it; for the food that has never lacked on our dinning table; and for the many lessons of love that we celebrate but we find so difficult to learn.
|11/23/2004||This is a wonderful sequel of a previous blog on collaboration by Dave Pollard . I will have to comment on this issue later on. As an Engineering faculty I have experienced great frustrations and a few minor successes in trying to get my students to work in teams. By now I think that ABET effort to place emphasis on approaches that stimulate teamwork in engineering schools as part of the accreditation criteria is very wise. Nevertheless, a concerted effort has to be made from elementary school all the way to higher education if we really want to achieve truly effective collaboration and teamwork.|
"Socially, we're engaged in a
race to the bottom. Do we want to allow competition based on exploitation of
the work force?"
CRAIG COLE, chief executive, Brown & Cole Stores, on employee benefits offered by some retail store chains.
This was today's quotation of the day on the New York Times and the link takes you to an article that focuses primarily on the Wal-Mart debate in the USA. I have no evidence against or in favor of Wal-Mart and so I don't take any side on this particular issue at this point.
I do however take a stand on the issue of exploitation. I have seen how CxO's (call them CEO, CFO, CIO, or whatever) get to their workplace in a luxurious car, worth more than a house in a social interest housing program while most of the employees of the same company have to take public transportation, don't have a house because they cannot afford to buy any, and probably have to rent one bedroom that is shared with his/her significant other and children. While the CxO goes to fancy restaurants and may pay hundreds of dollars (or Euros, for that matter) for a meal with friends, their employees don't even have that amount of money for their monthly groceries or health insurance and many times they have to choose either food or health (as if this ever was a choice). Evidently people need to eat on a daily basis and so they gamble their health and hope for not getting sick. But the diet is central to good health and so the situation will surely deteriorate. And then what? Wait for charity? This eventually becomes a matter of public health. So, who is to take charge of this issue, the government or the individuals? I think both. So, Mr. Schwarzenegger (I am referring to the assertions of the Governor of California, according to the New York Times) it is not just keeping unemployment numbers low. The matter is to have social justice. What could Mr. Schwarzenegger have implied with "economic recovery"? Only macroeconomic numbers, I guess. But just a reminder to him and many other government officials of the world: before those macroeconomic calculations were even invented there were people and these people are more than mere numbers. Unfortunately, life matters in this modern world are not resolved as quickly and easily as plots in the movies.
This is all too often life
in the so called developing countries. But, that exploitation now is becoming a
public issue in the "most powerful" country in the world is specially
worrisome. Is that the price to pay to be the most powerful? I hope not. The
issue is a matter that goes hand-in-hand with democracy and justice. I suppose the
fact that I can take a free stand on this issue is a display of democracy.
But my freedom of speech is not the only aspect of democracy. Democracy is
also about having equal and fair opportunities to make a living not just
surviving. And democracy is not just about being able to speak publicly in
newspapers and other media about these and other issues. Democracy is about
the governments elected by the people taking a stand and all the necessary
measures for justice to prevail, not just for the few ones that sue a company but for all.
After all, democracy is not just about voting in an election. Democracy is about being the "government of the people" or "the rule of the majority" as the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it. Or is it that the rule of the majority is being exploited by the "minorities" (the real minorities)? I don't find this economic (and social) imbalance necessary or desirable. I would bet a business could be just as profitable but with justice only if income were more evenly distributed.
|10/26/2004||Oh, boy. I keep adding links that I find of great interest instead of writing my own stuff. Should I say again "I enjoyed reading this one ... too"?. Well, I did and I found it thought provoking. This one was on Teaching Ethics.|
|10/15/2004||I enjoyed reading this one.... Collaboration is not as natural as many of us thought, huh?|
Development is much more than industrialization or
economic growth as it is presented too often. Development involves not just economic prosperity but
cultural, and social enrichment as well. I have seen very positive economic
growth numbers in developing countries and yet, internal unrest is evident.
Development is a comprehensive process in which each community and
each individual can participate of the prosperity and receives the benefits that come along
with it. I have witnessed bonanzas that end up just in inflation and
increased social disparities, tensions, resentment, violence, ... and war.
It's true; communism didn't work, but capitalism as applied in many countries isn't working either. Maybe it's because the solution is not to adopt alien economic models, but to build grassroots models. Whether one model seems similar to any other should not surprise or deter us from using it, either. The human species is quite diverse but it is in all of us that we are social beings and we share many characteristics. Besides, we have used the wheel successfully in most (if not all) of the cases we have applied it; why reinventing it, then? But we have to realize that the wheel is not the whole machinery.
"... we are committed not simply to tolerance of various peoples and views, but to appreciation of the richness that differences create for all of us." Chancellor Kenneth A. Shaw from Syracuse University. In Diversity Digest. Spring 2003 Vol. 1. Issue 1. http://sunews.syr.edu/diversity/Diversity.pdf
After that sentence I am speechless.
|09/24/2004||Well... well ...well. You may notice this is my first
attempt to have a WebLog and I have started with a very simple tool. Maybe
someday I'll get into something more sophisticated but for the time being, this
is my first experiment to record my ideas and opinions on any subject I happen
to come across. Most of the opinions here are my very own and they do not
necessarily reflect any position of the University of Puerto Rico or any of
the institutions I have been or will be with, so I take full responsibility
Of course, I do not expect you agree with them and I hope you do not find them offensive since my intention is not to attack anyone. This is my personal corner and it is not intended to start any discussion or controversy. So if you go on reading my weblog, I hope you learn something positive and you have something to think about.