SMS

December 3, 1992 marks the day the first ever text message was sent. It was sent from a pc to a mobile phone, and simply read “Merry Christmas”. What started out as a small tool is now one of the most used technology worldwide.

Nowadays, every smartphone is text message “friendly”, giving everyone the ability to send a text at any time. Smartphones with a SIM card allow the holder to text without wifi—everywhere.

Public domain Via Pixabay

Text messages come in handy when in emergencies, or when you need to quickly communicate with someone, without having to call them. To call someone, you need to make sure the time is convenient for the other person. Texts, on the other hand, can be sent whenever since they don’t require an immediate reply.

I prefer texting to calling, for the mentioned reasons, but in the end, I would rather talk to someone face-to-face. You can get thoughts, emotions, and expressions across easier, without having to use emoticons, when talking face- to- face.

Personally, I think text messages should be used to make communicating more convenient, but not as an alternative for in-person communication. Although I text my friends, I still see and communicate with them everyday.

Text messages also have disadvantages. First of all, messages can be misunderstood to mean something else, since most of the time the correct ‘tone’ can be hard to detect, unless emoticons are used. Second, students who get used to texting in abbreviations and rely on auto-correct may struggle with grammar and spelling in school as well. There’s nothing wrong with texting in abbreviations when you’re in a hurry— just make sure that you actually know how to formulate sentences when in need.

Another issue with all types of texts or online communication is cyberbullying. It’s much easier to send hateful things to other people when you aren’t there to see their reactions. It’s also easy to hide your real identity behind a screen and get away with cyberbullying.

“Don’t text and drive” is a  common lesson taught these days— one that you would’ve never heard 15 years ago. Many car accidents occur because of distracted drivers, and most of the time the driver is distracted by their phone. Just ask yourself: is a text message worth risking your life for? If it isn’t, then focus on your driving, and if you really need to send a text, park somewhere and send it. Don’t do it while you’re driving—you’re risking other people’s lives, too.

 

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Essential Workplace Skills

While searching for the best candidate for a job, employers look for specific skills that show whether that person is fit for the job or not. You should be aware of these skills so you can work on them and make sure you’re a good candidate. Here are the most important employability skills:

Communication

Having good communication skills means that you speak confidently and respond actively. You have to look interested, and understand what the customer is saying. While this is most important when working in customer service, it’s also essential is all sorts of jobs. We all know how frustrating it is when you’re trying to communicate an issue to an employee and they fail to understand.

Self- management

You have to be organized, independent and responsible. Organize your time and working area, making sure that everything is tidied up and in the condition that you first got it in. Work on your own, without constant instructions or supervision. Be responsible for your area, words, and actions.

You also need to have a strong work ethic. The first step to forming one is to have integrity—being honest and trustworthy. Complete work to the best of your abilities, putting in maximum effort. It’s not good enough to complete a task; you should put in effort. Self- discipline is also important since there won’t always be someone pushing you to work.

Public Domain Via Pixabay

Teamwork

Most jobs will require cooperating with coworkers and working with them. Therefore, one must be able to work as part of a team. We generally practice our teamwork skills when completing school projects with classmates, and I’m sure everyone feels annoyed when one person doesn’t cooperate or complete any work.

Leadership

A good leader is able to make good decisions that help everyone, and to work under pressure. They give instructions to others and offer advice or help. If your job doesn’t really have any component where you are required to lead, you can still show good leadership skills by being a role model. Employees must have good attitudes since they are representing their company.

Efficiency

You should be able to work quickly, independently, and productively. An efficient person is able to complete a task in a short time frame with the least amount of energy or resources wasted.

Critical Thinking

In basic wording, critical thinking is having common sense. If a problem or issue comes up, you should be able to fix it or compromise if it’s major. Customers may have complaints, and it’s up to you to figure out what’s wrong and help them, without having to depend on your supervisor or boss.

Adaptability

If placed in a different department, you should be able to quickly adapt to your new environment. To do so, one must be flexible. Personally, I’ve had to adapt to a new school environment since our school is under construction, requiring us to take classes in a nearby school. It’s also about learning from your mistakes and accepting critical feedback from others.

Punctuality

This is probably the most basic, yet important skill. Being on time every day applies not only to work, but also to school and social events. Being punctual proves to your employer that you’re dedicated to the job and portrays you as a good role model to others.

 

These skills will still be important in the next 5-10 years; however, IT knowledge will most likely become a requirement for every job since technology is advancing rapidly. Although, it shouldn’t be a problem since everyone in this day and age has access to technology, and will gain the knowledge necessary to apply, just being in contact with electronic devices all the time.

 

 

Virtuality

The first time I ever tried virtual reality ended with a bruised leg.

I put on the Samsung VR and was instantly in a new world— a virtual one. I was on a suspended rope bridge over a canyon of some sort. I turned my head from side to side, and the view was so convincing that I lost balance and tripped, hitting my knee on the edge of a nearby table.
Tip: clear the space around you before you put on a VR headset.

Anyways, I was able to walk the length of the bridge, and then tried a different game set in a jungle. It amazed me how realistic the experience was since I was in a 360 game where I can see and move in any direction.

Which leaves the question: Can virtual reality ever replace actual reality?

Public domain via Pixabay

Virtual reality can be useful for several reasons. It can be used for entertaining purposes, like watching a movie or playing a game in a virtual world. Or, to try out new things that you wouldn’t normally get a chance to, like skydiving or swimming with sharks.

It can also be useful for economic reasons, like in the real estate business. Imagine you’re moving to a new city and you want to purchase a house. I’m sure everyone knows that pictures can be deceiving, and you wouldn’t want to buy a house just based on pictures you saw of it. This is where VR comes in. A real estate company could create a virtual house that mirrors a real house a customer is interested in. The customer would then be able to ‘explore’ that house and decide whether it suits them or not.

Most importantly, virtual reality can help in job training. Last year, my class went on a field trip to a Career Day exhibition, and one of the activities included putting on a VR headset and virtually welding.

An intern of any kind can get a realistic experience of what a specific job will be like, and it can help prepare them. A surgeon can complete a surgery, a teacher can practice teaching or public speaking, and a firefighter can face a ‘real’ emergency. Another cool way to use virtual reality would be to help a lawyer explore a crime scene to help him in his or her job.

“Virtual reality is the ‘ultimate empathy machine.’ These experiences are more than documentaries. They’re opportunities to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.”
~ Chris Milk, CEO of Within

Although virtual reality can be useful, I don’t think it can ever replace actual reality. There are some things that need to be done in real life, like eating or sleeping. If someone is sick, they would need a real doctor to treat them; if someone is in danger, they will need a real person to save them.

Virtual reality won’t be able to completely take over our world because people with jobs will still be needed. Even communication needs to be done in real time. Virtually talking to someone isn’t the same as a face- to- face conversation— you have to actually be there to feel their emotions and see their expressions.

If we were to depend on virtual reality, everyone would just sit at home all day and no one would have the skills for communication anymore. It’s kind of like the movie Wall-E, if you’ve watched it.

So is virtual reality cool? Definitely. But I don’t think its cool enough for us to completely depend on it and forget our real world.

An Unforgettable History

I don’t know about you, but I don’t own any orange shirts.

September 30th has been declared Orange Shirt Day in Canada— a day where people wear, or should wear, orange shirts to show support and understanding of the residential schools’ problem Canada had not so long ago.

Residential schools were a way for the Europeans to assimilate young Aboriginal children. Their goal was to “kill the Indian out of the children and severe their ties with family and culture.” To do this, children were taken away from their homes at young ages and sent to schools far from home, separate from their siblings.

Photo Credit: William Topley via Flickr

Once there, they were at the mercy of the European staff and the government. Their hair was cut, their names changed to European ones, and they weren’t allowed to speak their language anymore. They spent most of their day doing chores, with harsh punishments if they broke any rules.

The result of spending several years at these schools? The children didn’t fit in with their families once they returned. Most of them no longer spoke the language of their ancestors and were white-washed.

“When I fought to protect my land and my home, I was called a savage. When I neither understood nor welcomed his way of life, I was called lazy. When I tried to rule my people, I was stripped of my authority.” ~Chief Dan George

You might be saying: this happened long ago so why should I care? First of all, the last residential school closed 21 years ago, which isn’t that long ago. Second of all, it’s an ongoing cycle.

More than 150 000 children went to residential schools. These children eventually started families. However, they spent most of their childhood away from their parents, so how would they know how to raise children?

Personally, whenever I heard about residential schools I would think: “Well why didn’t the Aboriginals fight back?” I had recently found out the answer to that and it shocked me: they didn’t know. The parents were under the impression that their children were receiving a good education. Only the government and the school staff really knew what was going on, and they both remained quiet.

Many First Nations turn to drugs and alcohol to help them deal with the mistreatment and discrimination they face. It’s not really their fault; there aren’t rehabilitation programs or anything else they can turn to instead. There are also many stereotypes regarding them that only ruins their reputations further.

As a student, there might not be much that I can do to help with the residential school problem. It’s not like I can speak to government officials or personally apologize to all the Aboriginals affected. But that’s not an excuse to do nothing. I can still raise awareness by educating people about what happened and taking part in protests or movements. It is important to understand that everyone can help. Yes, we can’t change the past, but we can make sure nothing like it happens in the future.

As a Muslim, residential schools have a different meaning. Culture and religion play a big role in my life. I wear a head scarf everyday and it’s part of my identity. I speak Arabic —  it’s the language I grew up hearing and I use it everyday at home. I’m a proud Syrian- Canadian. I can’t imagine having to let go of these things— they make me who I am.

Unreadable

A few weeks ago, I came across a book called, “What If?” by Randall Munroe. It was sort of like a science textbook, with a bunch of absurd questions and scientific answers. When I first saw it, I thought, hey, this would be a great source of knowledge and would probably help me understand the nature of things better.

With that in mind, I started to read through it. Thing is, I really enjoy reading but only fiction, and therefore reading this book was almost an impossible task. After around 15 minutes of reading, I started to lose interest and decided to ditch the book. I still look back on it with regret; the information the book contained would be great to know— if only there was a way to get it into my head without actually having to spend hours reading.

Via Pixabay

And that’s how I got an idea of an invention. If I were to invent a piece of technology that would change the world, I would invent a machine that transfers knowledge from a book straight to a person’s brain.

It would look like a helmet with electrodes on the inside and something like a barcode scanner connected to it. Now, I’m neither an engineer nor a doctor, but here’s how I visualized it would work: the scanner would be used to fully scan a book, and using the high-tech in the helmet, it would summarize the information in it and convey it to the wearer’s mind. Just pretend we actually have the technology necessary to do that.

This would be helpful to a wide variety of people. People like me, who are unable to focus while reading a book but need the knowledge. Students who don’t want to read their whole textbooks but require the information to understand and pass the class. My non-Arabic speaking classmates would definitely benefit from this invention when they’re trying to study Arabic or memorize Quran. And finally, it would help people with certain disabilities. They would be able to gain the same knowledge that students their age are gaining, without a problem.

Like any invention, my ‘helmet’ would have some limitations. I imagine it would be costly to get access to it, and it would also take some time to scan a book and do the whole transferring process.  While this invention does transport a book’s knowledge into a person’s mind, it doesn’t give them photographic memory and therefore they probably won’t be able to remember all of it for very long.

All in all, I seriously hope someone comes up with an invention like this sometime in the not-so-distant future. In the meantime, I’ll have to somehow finish my book without dying of boredom. 

A Summer to Remember

This summer, my family and I decided to go on a trip to Vancouver, British Columbia. So, on August 8th, we took a flight to Calgary then Richmond. Since I’m not one to sleep on planes, I brought a book along to read.

Upon arrival in Richmond, six hours after leaving Regina, we rented a car and took off to Vancouver. Coming from a small city, everything seemed different–tall buildings, crowded streets, four- lane highways, and huge parks. Just watching out the window as we drove was interesting.

After a 40 minute drive, we arrived in Vancouver’s downtown. We walked around the area, entered different shops, and ate at a nearby restaurant. No longer hungry and excited to see the city, we purchased tickets to Vancouver Lookout. There, we mounted a glass elevator to an observation deck with a 360° view of the city.

To be completely honest, I was slightly disappointed by the view. Vancouver is a beautiful city and all, but due to the wildfires that were occurring in parts of BC at the time, a layer of smog was present over Vancouver and therefore made it hard to see very much.

Taken by me

 

Next, we went to Stanley Park,  a 405- hectare public park that’s surrounded by waters of Vancouver Harbour and English Bay. There is more than 27 km of forest trails, centuries-old trees, and a path to walk right by the water. I got to see the Hollow Tree, a red cedar tree that’s more than 800 years-old, as well as the famous Totem Poles.

Vancouver Aquarium, also located in Stanely Park, had many beautiful sea creatures. I won’t talk about every living thing I saw there since that will take forever, but I will talk about my top two favorite parts– the dolphin show and the jellyfish exhibit. The 30- minute show consisted of two dolphins doing many jumps and tricks, as well as a quick lesson on how dolphins are trained. The jellyfish exhibit contained around 150 tiny jellyfish that were each doing their own thing and were absolutely cute.

Taken by Me

We spent half a day at Grouse Mountain, where we rode the Skyride up 3,600 ft and got to enjoy the breathtaking view of the city below us. A bird-in-flight show took place at the top, as well as other entertainment. The second half of the day was spent at Lynn Canyon Park, where we hiked in the forest for an hour and crossed a suspension bridge to reach two waterfalls, the Twin Falls.

An hour long ferry at 8 am got us to Victoria, where we spent all of the next day. There, we visited a butterfly garden, the Butchart Garden, the city’s harbor, and the Fisherman’s Wharf, which was basically an area of floating houses, shops, and restaurants where tourists can rest. An hour before our ferry back to Vancouver, we stopped at a town called Sidney that overlooked the English Bay and was surrounded by mountains to take pictures.

Taken by me

A visit to Playland the following day meant riding many roller coasters and crazy rides that left me too tired to do anything after, besides eat. So, we went to an Italian restaurant where I tasted the best cheese pizza in my life.

Shopping at the McArthurGlen Designer Outlet Mall was a unique experience because it wasn’t like regular malls. It was basically an outdoor plaza with lots of designer brands and every store that would normally be located in a mall. The nice weather also helped make our experience great.

A pool of dancing fountains, large areas of trees, beautiful picnic areas, and a view of the mountains made Queen Elizabeth Park an especially popular tourist attraction. Also located inside the park, we visited the Bloedel Floral Conservatory, which is home to many stunning species of plants, butterflies, and birds.

The seventh and last day of our trip was spent at English Bay Beach. With a cold sea breeze, soft sand, Vancouver’s skyline visible to the right, mountains in the distance, and cargo ships heading to the harbor, this beach was my favorite out of all the others that I have ever visited.

Taken by Me

And that concludes my trip to Vancouver since five hours later I was back at home in Regina. I made many great memories in that one week, and I hope to see more of British Columbia in the future.

WordPress Verification

After blogging for several months, I’ve decided to analyze my blog and make an audit of it.

In total, I’ve published 11 posts on my blog. Eight of them were school based and set by the blogging challenge, and the remaining three were free posts. I find it difficult most of the time to find an appropriate topic to write about, so I enjoyed writing the school-based posts.

Although most of my comments were from my classmates, I did get a few comments from other students who were also part of the student blogging challenge. It was cool to have people that I didn’t know comment on my posts and share their thoughts, and in a way, it connected us.

I may not have gotten a ton of legitimate comments, but I did get, like, a billion spam comments. In total, my site has been protected from 4,416 spam comments. Every time I log into my WordPress, I have to delete between 10-200 spam comments from my spam queue. This got pretty annoying and I eventually had to change some settings to help prevent spam, but it hasn’t made much of a difference.

Public Domain

The post I got the most comments on was “Syria: What it Was and What it Became.” I think it’s because it was about a pressing issue that was currently going on, and because a lot of people didn’t know about the situation in Syria and were surprised after they read my post.

The post I enjoyed ‘writing’ the most from the Student Blogging Challenge was “A Sentence Using Images” because it was a creative challenge and it was fun to formulate a sentence from pictures and have people guess it. From the free posts I did on my own, I enjoyed writing “The Phenomena of Dreams“. It was fun and interesting to research about dreams, and most of the information I had in my post were facts that I did not know prior to writing the post, so I educated myself by writing it.

I switched from the default theme to “Plane”, and I customized the colors and the formatting. I like this theme because the header image isn’t that large, and I feel like it would distract the reader if it was. I also liked the color and background options and was able to customize the site till I was satisfied.

To personalize my blog, I added six widgets on my sidebar–recent posts, tags, categories, blog statistics, flag counter, and a blog roll. I put the tags, categories, and recent posts widgets to make it easier for my readers to navigate their way through my blog and find my posts. The blogroll is a way to connect with other bloggers and give them sort of a shout-out. And finally, the flag counter and the blog stats are just a way for my visitors to see how many other people visit my blog and where they come from.

I think that having six widgets is just right: not too many and not too little. The widgets I picked don’t take up a lot of space, and I don’t think they distract the reader or take away from the posts. But then again, that’s just my opinion, so if you think otherwise, let me know.

On my blog roll, I only have one overseas student, and that would be Alina. We’ve exchanged a couple of comments, and she was the first overseas student to connect with me so I decided to add her blog onto to my blogroll.

Finally, I’ve only used simple web tools like images, videos, and block quotes, all of which were introduced to us by our teacher. The only web tool that I ‘discovered’ and used on my own was a slideshow, but that’s not that creative. I may need to explore WordPress and look for creative web tools to use in my future posts, but for now, I’ll stick to the basic ones.