Thursday, September 27, 2012

Alamak, English! week 1, spelling.

According to my new pre-examination time table, Thursday is the day to revise my English. But I really have no idea how to do that, since my house is strangely lacking of English revision books... and reading story books might not work out so well. So I thought, I'll practice writing, so that I'll hopefully be at my peak come the exam date. But sitting down with a blank piece of paper and scribbling on it is not very likely to help me out much. So maybe I thought, if I share a bit of English Lesson with my blog readers, theoretically it would give me practice writing, and at the same time it would (hopefully) help my readers as well. I would normally shy away from doing this, because my low-level English might embarass me in the eyes of international readers, but then I realised, a) what international readers? 'doh. b) my low-level English has already been embarassing me for the past one year, and c) There has been a significant increase in local readers of my blog recently, so I don't mind doing this.

By the way, for any non-local readers who are reading this, "Alamak" is the Malay equivalent of what we would say in English as "Oh, snap," or in Old English, "Alas!" or in British English, "Well, this is a bit of a rum do, isn't it?" This is meant to be ironic, because in Malaysia we have this educational show called "Oh My English (link translated)" which mainly corrects many English errors that are caused by the intermingling of the language with local slang.

Anyway, today I thought I would focus on Common Spelling Errors, and also some instances of when student mix up two words with similar spelling. Any paragraph with an asterisk (*) at the start is a summarisation of the above paragraphs, meaning to say that its a little important.

Lesson: "ie" and "ei".
A Facebook post I saw recently listed some of the top mispelled words. At number one on the list is "received", often mispelled as "recieved".

Did you have to read that line twice to spot the difference? The positions of the "i" and the "e" are changed. It's a very common mistake that can be hard to spot, but I have very little doubt that those cunning English teachers at school will pause and squint for a while whenever they see the word "received", to try to catch a student doing it wrong. While an ordinary reader might easily overlook such a mistake, we should try to perfect our writing, especially at SPM level.

Many people can become unsure when writing this word. They are well aware that they have to be careful to get the spelling right on this particular word, but they can't quite remember now, is it the "i" that comes first, or the "e"?

This is why people invented "Spelling Rules". If I recall correctly, some countries will teach their children all of the spelling rules, and believe me, these rules are very effective. Notice, for one, the spelling of the word "believe" in the previous sentence. The "i" came before the "e". But in the word "received", the "e" comes before the "i". In both cases, the letter directly after the "i" and the "e" is a "v". But the letter before the "i" and the "e" in the word "believe" is an "L", and in the word "received", it is a "c". Other words with the "ie" combination, like "friend" and "tie", have one thing in common: the letter before the "ie" is not a "c". From this, we deduce the following spelling rule:

Spelling rule: "i" before "e" except after "c".

*This rule works for any word that has the letters "i" and "e" adjacent to each other in a word. Words that have the letter "c" directly before the "i" and the "e" are spelled with "ei", such as "receipt", "deceive", and "conceive". All other words are spelled "ie", like "believe", "friend", "tie", and "fiend".

HOWEVER, there are a FEW exceptions to this rule. Of course there have to be exceptions, did you think it would be so easy? The following words do not have so much as a single "c" in them, but are stilled spelled with "ei": height, weigh (-ed, -ing -s, weight), seize, heifer, weird, feign, and surfeit. I don't know what the last one is, really, but the internet says it is an existing word, so it must be. There may be other exceptions, but I guess these are the common ones.

Lesson: "affect" and "effect".
I don't really know if very many people make this mistake, since unlike the previous one, I have no form of real statistic or data to prove that it is a common mistake; of course I could just use Google to see if it is, but I'm lazy. To be perfectly frank. Anyway.

I'm sure I must have made this mistake, at one time or another in my life. "Smoking has many negative affects on our health." Now, if I had written that, it would have been completely and undoubtedly WRONG.

The correct way to write that sentence would have been "Smoking has many negative effects on our health."

This is how it goes: The word "affect" is a verb, meaning that it is used when something happens to someone. The word "effect" is a noun, meaning that it is the thing that has happened.

In other words, we would say that a person is affected by the noisy environment, or maybe his bad behaviour affects the focus of other students in the class. The word "affect" here means that a bad thing is happpening or has happened to these people.

On the other hand, we say that these people have felt the bad effects of the polluted water supply. The word "effect" here is referring to the bad thing that has happened to these people.

*But I may be rambling. I hope all of this is sticking. To go back to our old sentence about the smoking, we would say that "Smoking has many bad effects on our health," or, "Our health is affected by cigarette-smoking." That's it. I've explained it to the best of my ability. So, in the words of my Additional Mathematics tuition teacher, "If you still don't get it, repeat it a hundred times until you do." Or, in my case, I guess you could just look for a better English teacher than me...

Lesson: "your" and "you're".
This is an error that I used to make all the time. But ever since I found out about it - and I did so quite late in life I might add - I have been very taboo about making that mistake.

You're probably getting tired of the English lesson by now, and so am I, so I'll cut our last lesson short.

The difference is: "your" is the possesive of "you", whereas "you're" is an abbreviation of "you are".

***If you do not care about all these English grammar terms, as you have every right not to, then please skip to the next paragraph***
Now you're probably wondering, what is a "possessive" and what is an "abbreviation"? Well, a possesive is used when you want to show that something belong to someone, like "He owns that book, so it is his book."
As for the abbreviation, that would be all those shortened words with the apostrophes in them, such as the word "isn't", which is the abbreviation for "is not". Don't use these in formal essays, because they can be considered informal.

Now, "your" should never be mixed up with "you're". "Your" is used as "The book belongs to you, therefore it is your book." You can never say "you're book", because "you're" is an abbreviation of "you are". This means that "you're book" would actually mean "you are book", which is of course completely wrong.

We use "you're" in speech, when we want to shorten the words "you are". For example, "You are very dedicated when it comes to learning English," or in plain speech, "You're very dedicated when it comes to learning English." You can never say "Your very dedicated", because then you would be saying that the "very dedicated" belongs to you, therefore, it is "your very dedicated", which does not make any sense at all.

*In short, whenever you want to use the "your" or "you're", you can try to visualise what role the word plays in the sentence. If you are using it to say that an object belongs to a person, then use "your". If you are using it in the place of "you are", which I believe is allowed in a dialogue in narrative writing, then use "you are".

Advanced lesson: The same applies to "its" and "it's". "Its" is used the same as "your", and "it's" is used the same as "you're".

There will be considerable confusion here, since the possessives of many objects like "the woman's glove" use an apostrophe followed by an "s", but in the case of "its" we just use the "s", as in "The door creaks because its hinges are rusty". In other words, "it" is similar to "he", "she", and "you". He, she, you, it; his, hers, yours, its.

On the other hand, "it's" is used in the place of "it is". Like, instead of saying "It is a monster!", you can just say "It's a monster!", which is a much easier thing to say when you're busy running away in terror.


That would be it for our lesson tonight. Of course, as any teacher would, I hope that everything I've said will be meaningful to someone, and that people will be able to learn from the words that are formed by my lips, or in this case, my fingertips. Well, helpful or no, tonight's English lesson certainly benefited me, if not anyone else, so I am not discouraged from trying again next Thursday, in accordance with the timetable. If you like my English lesson (which would be a dream come true), then you'll know to come back next Thursday night, although Friday might be a better day, since my updates may be quite late at night. Or if you absolutely hated this lecture, which I anxiously expect and am well prepared for, then you'll know not to bother visiting next Thursday. Either way, thank you for reading, and I'm terribly sorry if I made any English errors while trying to teach English - talk about the crab that teaches its child to walk straight - and I hope you'll point them out to me. Thanks for reading, and good night.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Facebook Hoax

Today I'm going to try something different for a change. Instead of trying to be creative and writing my own blog, and probably failing to do so drastically and instead end up posting something completely uncreative and boring, I'm going to take snippets out of someone else's creative post which turned out a lot better than I ever could have done (giving them credit of course), and perhaps that way, my post in its entirety might be slightly more interesting. Its time for a bit of a change anyway.

At one time or another, we have all received an e-mail or seen a photo on Facebook concerning a poor sick child, next to a story about how the child had been cruelly neglected/beaten/injured, and that for each time a person forwards that e-mail to their friends, or shares the picture on Facebook, Google or Facebook would donate one dollar for the child's treatment. Of course, most of us encounter this kind of thing very shortly after first being introduced to the internet, so most of us are quite frightened by it, thinking "Is this thing real or not?"

Some may reason that "Hey, maybe this kind of thing really is possible, if they attach some kind of tracking device to the post when they send it out. Then they would donate an amount of money equal to the number of times the post was passed on. Of course, that doesn't mean that everytime we come across one, it's real thing. But some of them might be real. Right?" Right? Well, actually, no. Those things are completely and undoubtedly, hoaxes.

Stopping to think for a while now, I suddenly realise that this post may be obsolete, as everyone on the internet has probably figured this out by now, because there's been all these internet awareness-raising campaigns going on and whatnot. I hardly see those things appearing on me newsfeed anymore. But I did see one of it, a couple of weeks ago. A friend of mine shared it. That's what made me decide to write about it in the first place, and its the reason I think I'll go through with this post to the end.

How can we be so sure that it's a hoax? Well, look at it this way: Would the Facebook company ever say something like "Oh, I am very touched by this child's story, and I would love to donate to his/her cause, but you know what, I'll only donate if the photo gets a lot of shares on Facebook." Uh, no. Doesn't quite sound right, now does it? Another reason is, the photos that are circulated in such a manner are often real, i.e. not Photoshopped, meaning that it is a photo of a real child facing real pain. But these photos are usually photos of a child who has already passed; meaning, the photos were probably stolen from a hospital somewhere or something, and by continuing to share the photo, it will reach the eyes of more people, and those who were relatives of the child or personally knew him, would be devastated to see the likeness of the child being misused in this way, to borrow a phrase from another website.

That's about it, I guess. In short, the "Facebook Donates for Sharing a Photo" thing is a hoax, so don't share it, and do the world a favour by reporting the photo instead. You guys are lucky, because after I had made up my mind to write about this topic, some weeks ago, I did a bit of research on it, and by the time I went in to bed I was all inspired to write a long analogy about the whole thing. It was about a king and his subjects. That very same night, I sat down and wrote it. It is still written down in a notebook on my desk right now, and it's a few pages long. Fortunately, I decided to just write what you see above instead, and perhaps link a few other sites, so you don't ever have to read any of that drivel I wrote that night, ever. Yay for summarisation.

I thought that two of the websites I visited when doing my "research" did a very good job of telling the whole story in a clear and not-at-all-too-long-winded manner. Unfortunately, today I can only recall one of those pages. But there are many different ways for you to find out more about it, if you're interested. After all, the world is supposed to be at the tip of our fingers, right? What with all this newfangled internet and all. Anyway, for a clearer and less jumbled-up account of the above issue, you can always pay a short visit to Facecrooks, and, of course, Google.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The "String Around the World" Problem

Now, imagine this - and I use the word "imagine" early on, because this problem really does require a certain feat of the imagination. One day, when you are emptying out your pockets, you find a really long length of string; a length of string so long, that it seems that it might be long enough to stretch all the way around the circumference of the earth. Now, this certainly defies logic, but it does not defy the imagination, so let's play pretend for a while.

As it so happens, you're standing right here, in Malaysia, which is located conveniently closely enough to the equator of the earth. A perfect place to start your experiment. The Greenwich would probably be an equally suitable spot, but from here you'll be able to lay your length of string all the way around the world, without having to pass through, say, the North Pole. So you jog on over to Indonesia with your string in your pocket, and begin laying it down on the ground all the way around the earth. Of course, the Ocean presents a bit of a problem, so what should we do? Let's build a World Bridge that joins all the countries on the Equator. Again, a bit of imagination may be required here. From Indonesia you travel due East, with one end of the string in your hand, and the other end waiting back in Indonesia. You pass through all the countries on the equator, until finally, you arrive back at Indonesia. You fuse both ends of the string together, using... fire, or super glue, or magic, or something... and, well what do you know, the string is just long enough! An inch less and you would not have been able to make the ends meet.

Quite satisified with how everything turned out, you bend down, and try to lift the string off the ground. But it won't budge a bit. It's as tightly bound around the earth as the belt around your waist. You ring up your friend in Uganda and ask them to try lifting the string off the ground. They reply that the string won't move. You call all your other friends in Brazil, Kenya, and Ecuador to try the same thing, and they all give the same results. You station some more friends all the way around the World Bridge, and they can't live the string off the ground. The string is a snug fit all the way around the earth at every point on the world. To put this in perspective, you can't even slide a sheet of paper between the string and the earth.

Being quite pleased, you stick your hands into your pockets, and discover, lo and behold! You have another piece of string in your pocket. This piece of string, however, is exactly 1 meter long. You decide that it wouldn't hurt to add this 1 meter of string to the one on the ground, so you cut the string at your feet, add the 1 meter of string to it, and fuse them together with... whatever method it was you imagined up just now. Then you ring up all your friends in Kenya, Brazil, Uganda, Ecuador, and the whole World Bridge, and tell them all to pull up on the string all at once. Of course, you in Indonesia will try to lift the string too.

The main question, after an unnecessarily long backstory, is this: On the count of three, how high off the ground will you and your friends be able to lift the string?

If the string was a perfect fit around the globe just now, it would surely be able to come off the ground now, after you've added 1 meter to it, right?

When I asked this question to my friends at school, most of them said that the string would come 1 meter off the ground. This answer certainly defies Logic, and Mathematics; but this is just the Georgian way of thinking, these days. If the string come 0 meters off the ground, and you add 1 meter to the string, then it would come 1 meter off the ground. In other words, when you are at loss for an answer, just take any information given in the question, and write it in the answer space. Maybe you'll get some points for that. As a friend of mine always says, "Only in SGI."

The answer that people who ask this question generally expect to get from other people is, the string would hardly come off the ground at all. After all, the circumference of the earth is 40, 074 kilometers long. Your string is exactly that length, and it would not have come off the ground at all. After you've added 1 meter to it... your string becomes 40, 074 kilometers and 1 meter long. Imagine that. Such a small addition to the string around the world, would hardly make a difference at all. So, the string probably still wouldn't move at all, and even if it did, the difference would hardly be discernible. You might be able to slide that piece of paper under the string now, but only just. This is what most people would answer - if you ask the right people, anyway - and on the whole, it appears to be a very logical answer. However, it is actually mathematically inaccurate. In other words, it is dead wrong.

The correct answer, that is to say, the answer that is mathematically accurate, still seems to defy Logic. If you tie a piece of string all the way around the earth, and then add 1 meter to it, and ask everyone to lift the string off the ground, everyone would be able to life the string to a height of 15.9 centimeters off the ground.

The explanation for it - what can I say? It all comes down to the mathematics. The equation for finding out how high off the ground the string will rise with an extra meter added to it, is configured in such a way that the diameter of the sphere becomes obsolete; meaning to say that, if you repeated this experiment with the Moon, the globe in your study, or the gumball in your pocket, you would find that the string came off the surface of the sphere to a height of 15.9 centimeters at all points when it was pulled away from the object evenly all the way around. When you consider how this would work in comparison of a basketball to a golfball, you may start to see how it works.

If you have an interest in mathematics and want to find out how it works, exactly, or if you think I'm trying to pull the fleece over your eyes here and want some real evidence, or if you got bored reading my long post just now and jumped to the end here, you can find a much shortened version of the above post together with all the calculations involved at Worsley School, i.e. by clicking anywhere here.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Year-old Blog!

Today is a very special day! Do you know why? It's the blog's birthday today! That is correct, exactly (or almost exactly) 365 days ago, I sat down and started up this very blog which you are now viewing today! On this date, last year, I struggled to come up with something creative for my first post - unsuccessfully, of course - and today, nothing has changed. For the blog's first-year anniversary, I was honestly considering putting today's post in the eyes of the blog - like what Sherlock Holmes did occasionally in some of the later stories. I was going to pretend that due to "The Boss" being very busy with exams and all, the blog had been given full authority to write itself, because of its birthday. The blog would then proceed to make a fool of me by spilling all my secrets and fancies, and thus, perhaps make something more of an interesting read. But in the end, I decided, "Hey, if I tried something as magnificently creative as that, I would surely fail miserably, on account of my incompatibly uncreative nature!" And in any case, I would probably be much better at making a  fool of myself than anyone else could - or at least, better than any persona whom I had invented on the spot expressly as a commemaration of some event no one is likely to take notice of, could.

As the blog has now reached 365 days of age, perhaps it would be nice to look back, and reflect on how far our blog has come today. Of course, I could probably see how far it has come with my glasses off, but that doesn't mean we can't take a look anyway.

- Whenever pressed for a reason for creating my blog - or at least, whenever I imagine myself as currently being pressed for a reason for creating my blog - I have often used the cover of "not having facebook, and therefore requiring something else instead, to fill in the empty spot." There is actually a backstory to this. Last year, in actual fact, three days before I created the blog, I went to Ipoh for a school Science Convention thing. My school sent three representatives - of which I was proud to be one - to the convention with the results of our studies on Obesity. I came up with the idea that since we had used the BMI calculation a lot in our investigations, we should prepare some means for people at the Science Convention to check their own BMI. So it was that on that day, I was sitting alone behind our little desk, with our little presentation on a board behind me, with a measuring tape stuck to a pole nearby, and a weighing scale at my feet. The other two representatives from my school having abandoned me to check out the presentations (or rather, the presentors, if you get my meaning) from other schools at the science fair, I was left to man the fort, twiddling my thumbs and delivering the routine presentation explanation to anyone who was kind enough to stop and take a look. It was right around this time that a group of schoolgirls - a sizeable group at that - came around to my little booth there. I proceeded to deliver the routine presentation explanation, as I call it, for want of a better word; and while I would like to say that I kept my cool the whole time and calmly explained everything to them clearly and concisely - I cannot deny that my face was probably red, as they say, as a beetroot. Alright, I'm not the coolest of people, especially when faced with such a eep-what-am-I-going-to-do-now moment as that. I was planning to do what I had to do efficiently and in a gentlemanly manner, after which they would leave and I would never see them again. Therefore, it came to me as very much of a surprise when, after taking some of their BMIs, as they requested (most of them were underweight, and one of the was normal), they suddenly let loose on me a question which had never been asked of me before, and one which I was certainly not expecting in those circumstances: "Can I have your Facebook?" I was so shocked that it was all I could do to tell them that I did not, unfortunately, have a Facebook account. After that, true to my prediction, they went on their way and I never saw any of them again.
Three days later, I returned home and made a blog for myself. I may not be very good at spotting opportunities, but I know one when I miss one. Of course, since the incident I have started a Facebook account as well, but you know. Life is funny.

- The moose has been the mascot, so to speak, of my blog ever since I looked up the plural form of the word "moose" in wikipedia, and found a very interesting answer. Shortly after learning of the complexity of the moose's plural name, I blogged about it, and the background of my blog has featured a moose standing in a field ever since.
The moose standing in the field in the background today was actually photoshopped into it.
I imagine that if I ever change the blog's background, I would even photoshop a Moose into that background as well.
Today, I cannot remember for what reason I had looked up the plural form of the word "moose" in the first place. I have never had to use any of the plural forms of the word "moose" since.

- Why did I make a page called Sandwich in the first place? I wish I knew. Whatever the reason was, I'm certainly unable to make any spectacular sandwiches today, unless a Leftover sandwich can be viewed as spectacular. My sandwich-making abilities, as much of them as may exist, can't really come into play when one is seldom allowed to perform any sort of cooking more complicated than microwaving some salty stuff from the fridge and slapping them onto a loaf. Perhaps some day, when I have my own kitchen and all, and if I still remember the blog at that time, I might seriously start making up sandwiches for the blog. Yes, I might.

That's all I can think of to say right now. Thanks for reading, and here's to another great year of uncreative stuff coming from me!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Welcoming myself back

Good evening everyone! Just a quick update to let everyone know that I'm back, and that I'm sorry I went on a study leave for the exams for more than a month without any sort of notice - I believe they call this sort of thing a French Leave? I'm sure I heard that phrase from my English teacher at some time or another. Oh well.

Also, tomorrow is a very special day! Does anyone know what it is? If not, you'll find out tomorrow! I'll try to blog more regularly from now on too.

If you're actually reading this, I thank you for not having lost interest in my blog after all this time, with absolutely not prospect of me ever posting anything even slightly interesting or creative. Smiley!