On Zoom vs. Meet, GCQ, and Mental Health Check (Scrambled Thoughts #06)

I’m back with my usual rambling on my boring daily life this pandemic! This time, I will try to compare Zoom and Google Meet, vent more about GCQ and the more becoming nonsensical quarantine classifications in the Philippines, and a little bit about my mental health.

ZOOM VS. GOOGLE MEET

Hmmm, where to begin the comparison?

For sure, we know the popularity of the Chinese conference app when this whole ‘work from home’ and ‘online school’ started during the pandemic. I have tried the app as early as 2019, but I only thought of it as Skype-ish one-on-one video calling application.

The very first Department Meeting I attended during the pandemic was held in Google Meet, and that was my first time to use such application. I found it simpler and since it’s a Google app, it’s easy to integrate everything because our university email is running through Google Suite.

On the other hand, there’s this brand stigma against the first conference app, being a Chinese brand. Just like Tiktok, there are conspiracies about it stealing data and personal information, but of course it can’t be proven.

On one hand, here are some pros I observed with these two apps:

GOOGLE MEET (PROS)

  1. You can open it directly on Google Chrome browser and there’s no need for an installed app for it.
  2. The interface is simpler, therefore it’s easy to learn it by yourself.
  3. Less bandwidth is required.

ZOOM (PROS)

  1. A lot of features are present here that are not available in Google Meet, such as co-hosting and emoji reactions.
  2. Zoom has more flexibility in changing the virtual background.
  3. Zoom can possibly accommodate more participants than Google Meet.

On the other hand, here are some of my observed cons with both Google Meet and Zoom:

GOOGLE MEET (CONS)

  1. If you want to present or share a Google tab, you will need to switch tabs to navigate back to the meeting room.
  2. There are no emoji reactions apart from raise hand.
  3. There is no option to automatically record the session when the host starts the meeting.

ZOOM (CONS)

  1. If you are presenting the screen as a host, all other features will be reduced to pop-out windows which could block your view the shared presentation.
  2. It’s more complex to schedule a meeting since you need to provide a lot of details.
  3. More bandwidth is needed compared to Google Meet.

Both meeting apps are good, anyway, but your preference will depend on what feature you consider crucial for your online meeting/class.

GENERAL COMMUNITY QUARANTINE (GCQ)

Metro Manila is back to the second most relaxed lockdown/quarantine measure (MECQ), and if you have read my prior blog reflecting on the proposed ‘granular lockdown’ by the Philippine government, I said there that these quarantine classifications no longer make sense to me.

Whether there’s a strict lockdown or not, it will make no difference if vaccinations will not be expedited and mass testings will not be enforced. Either way, people are still discouraged to stay home. Even if restaurants will allow dine-ins once again, I would still rather order takeaways. Seriously, what’s the point? Anyway, I’ll just try to stay home (and stay sane lol) as much as I can.

MENTAL HEALTH CHECK

I would always practice patience, kindness, and leniency to my students in this difficult time because I don’t want to be one of the additional causes of their mental health struggles this pandemic. I am quite happy that they are also trying to do the same for me.

How’s my mental health? I don’t know how to describe it, really. I have become less anxious lately because I am slowly learning to take it one day at a time and live in the present and not worry about things that will happen beyond one year. However, I am starting to be bored and lose interest on things that became part of my routine. You see, I am a very social and outgoing person at times, and this pandemic has limited all my activities to things I could do indoors, including exercise.

I’ve been experiencing this feeling for a couple of weeks now, and it’s been affecting my productivity. Good thing, I was able to re-read James Clear’s book Atomic Habits. Even if I already know most of the cliche advices of the book, especially the compound benefits of being consistent on small habits, one thing that stuck with me the most is embracing boredom. I always find myself complaining and stopping to do something when it gets boring, from jobs to hobbies to projects, and a lot of things. But then I realized, all things I could implement that will give me inner peace are quite boring — nature, minimalism, developing habits long-term, etc.

That’s it. I just need to accept that boredom is part o the growth process, and it’s up to me on how to fight it and still try to reach my goals.

Let’s see. And I hope your mental health are okay, too!

Just rambling as usual,

Sherr

On -Ber Month, Zoom University, and “What is art?” (Scrambled Thoughts #01)

It’s the first day of another month! Cue ‘September’ by Earth Wind and Fire! (cliche alert!)

I love this September mashup with Post Malone’s Congratulations.

BER MONTH

You know the first thing I did today upon waking up? I played the song ‘Christmas in our Hearts’ by Jose Mari Chan in full volume, followed by Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want for Christmas is You’.

Christmas has begun in the Philippines, believe it or not.

Some of my foreigner friends have once asked me what does ‘-ber month’ mean. I laughingly explained that when the first month that ends in -ber (that is, September) falls, it’s already Christmas in the Philippines. That means, malls are gonna be blasting Christmas songs, some will start decorating their homes and establishments with Christmas decorations, and the countdown for Christmas Day starts today.

Last 2020, Christmas celebration in the Philippines was totally different because of the pandemic, and it’s going to be the same this year. No children going house-to-house, no office/barkada Christmas parties, and no family gatherings. My birthday falls on the same month as Christmas, so it’s a double whammy of sadness in my case.

But hey, that means you get to save more money, right? No birthday getaways, no buying gifts, and no spending money for clothes and parties. (Before I start rambling about my birthday, I’ll stop here and I might write a separate blog about it.)

Anyhoo, Merry Christmas, everyone!

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ber month
Ba-dee-ya, say do you remember?
ber month
September, October, November, December.
ber month
Happy Ber Months!

ZOOM UNIVERSITY

The school year is about to end in the university I’m teaching, and there are definitely no signs of things going back to normal in the next school year. While there is no official announcement from the university yet, I am planning to pull out my life in Manila and relocate back to Batangas while it’s still online learning.

On the upside, I could choose to work or be based anywhere I want, I can save money from rent, and I am safer from COVID-19. Aside from relocating back to Batangas to be with my family, I am planning to be based in some surfing areas in the Philippines from time to time so that I can continue learning to surf.

Zoom University is exhausting. It’s draining. It’s demotivating. It’s something I did not sign up for.

Gone are the days when I can facilitate quiz olympics, play some lively song to energize a drowsy 7am class, or actually see and hear my students laugh whenever I’m cracking jokes instead of seeing laughing emojis popping out of the Zoom call. All I have now is my laptop, a bunch of faceless students at the other end of the line, and constant monologuing aka lecturing with a very minimal interaction from the students.

Needless to mention that Zoom University has also affected my PhD application journey a lot. I’m tired. I’m starting to feel hopeless. But ooops, I shall tell more about this on another blog.

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ber month
Can you see my screen?
ber month
Zooma Cum Laude
ber month
Zoom University

“WHAT IS ART?”

On this very same term of the school year, I was asked to design and teach an elective that will be taught by the Department for the first time. After a series of self-reflection and as an attempt to incorporate all the things I’m passionate about on one course, I came up with a course offering entitled ‘Political Art in Modern Southeast Asia’.

I delivered lectures on the current state of Contemporary Art in Southeast Asia, how underground music is used as a political tool in the region, the state of independent film industry in the region, as well as how fashion can be used as a tool for activism. After which, I asked my students to pick one particular ‘artwork’ of their preference and present an analysis using the different International Relations theories, and its role in Southeast Asian Politics.

I struggled a bit in terms of the topics I had to lecture, as well as in defining what constitutes ‘art’ and how I was expecting the students to present them. I am not an art major, but rather a classic frustrated artist trapped in my current academic career, but I tried my best to deliver this course with the best that I can. So far, students have picked an excellent set of cases and provided insightful analysis of them.

I think I was able to give the question “what is art” in the context of Southeast Asia a justice, at the very least. I would be happy to teach this course again bringing the lessons for improvement I learned from teaching it this term.

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ber month
Create Dangerously
ber month
Creative Outlet
ber month
Art for art’s sake.

Just rambling as usual,

Sherr 😀

What if Southeast Asia has its own version of “We Didn’t Start the Fire”? (and my simple joys as a Professor)

Cover photo was from a random Valentine’s Day class photo in another university I used to teach in because doing screenshots for class photos over Zoom for my recent classes has always been a depressing idea to me.

As a preliminary assignment before discussing the different forms of Political Art that exists in Southeast Asia for my elective class, I came up with this *more or less brilliant* idea to ask my students to compose a song. After all, what made them interested to enrol in this elective is because they’re very much inclined into the arts (just like *ahem* their Professor).

https://www.instagram.com/p/CP2iyOrHOLF/

Simple. I asked my students to come up with a Southeast Asian edition of the song “We Didn’t Start the Fire” by Billy Joel.

Usually, I would see verbal and non-verbal reactions from students whenever I discuss assignments to them. Some students will show excitement in their eyes, some would frown, some would already assume they can’t do it and saw “awww”, and of course there will always be some who don’t pay attention and will ask about everything later over email or something.

Damn, I miss face to face teaching. All I get these days are party poppers and like emoji reactions.

The slide in my deck where I presented their first assignment yay!

But anyhoo, before asking them to do this assignment, I had to check the internet if there is an existing kind of content, because I want my students to be as original as possible.

Upon checking, there’s actually none! But there are a couple of covers of the song with different verses, but still focused on the United States current events and the world affairs.

However, I actually found a book on Cambodian Politics entitled “We Didn’t Start the Fire”, which was quite new to me (if I’m not mistaken), because I wrote a paper about Hun Sen and the Cambodian Democracy in grad school but I can’t remember reading this. Nonetheless, this is an addition to my long list of academic books to read on Southeast Asian politics yay!

We Didn’t Start the Fire (Southeast Asian Edition)

I just couldn’t help but feel very ecstatic as to how excellent the quality of the outputs of my students were and it goes to show that they really enjoyed the process of doing it. Like I always tell my students, “As long as I see you’re enjoying the process of learning all the lessons here in our program, my job here is done.”

While I can’t share everything they have made, allow me to share some of the album art they came up with, as well as selected lyrics from two groups. There was actually one student who also loved the song so much that he even submitted a cover of the song, but requested to keep it between the two of us. How impressive was that, right. To be honest, I never felt this fulfilled in my 10 years of teaching.

Full credits to my students. None of these are mine.

Oh, how I love teaching about Southeast Asia. I think I’m gonna grow old and/or die in this career.

Southeast Asian Independent Films That You Should Watch

BRUNEIAN INDEPENDENT FILMS

Yasmine

Anggur in Pockland

CAMBODIAN INDEPENDENT FILMS

Golden Slumbers

The Last Reel

Graves Without a Name

INDONESIAN INDEPENDENT FILMS

Solo, Solitude

hUSh

A Copy of My Mind

Sokola Rimba

Denok and Gareng

LAO INDEPENDENT FILMS

My Dearest Sister

Vientiane in Love

The River Flows

MALAYSIAN INDEPENDENT FILMS

Wayang

Jagat

Dukun

Aqerat

BURMESE INDEPENDENT FILMS

Kayan Beauties

The Monk

The Road to Mandalay

In Exile

FILIPINO INDEPENDENT FILMS

Ang Damgo ni Eleuteria

Yield

Perfumed Nightmare

Thy Womb

Wailings in the Forest

War is a Tender Thing

Once in a Lifetime: A Russian Song for Guian

SINGAPOREAN INDEPENDENT FILMS

Ilo-Ilo

A Yellow Bird

Sayang Disayang

To Singapore, With Love

THAI INDEPENDENT FILMS

The Island Funeral

Homogenous Empty Time

By the River

Boundary

The Songs of Rice

VIETNAMESE INDEPENDENT FILMS

Yellow Flowers and the Green Grass

Big Father, Small Father, and Other Stories

Love Man Love Woman

Photography Practice x My Skincare Routine

This term, I have a regular teaching load (12 units) plus one special class. This was actually fewer than my heaviest term ever where I had 15 units of regular teaching load and 2 special classes. I’m starting to develop a horrible sleep hygiene because it’s taking me a lot of time to prepare for my classes. It sucks so bad, if I’m being honest. But don’t get me wrong, I’m teaching the most amazing set of courses this term (including my dream elective), and I couldn’t be more passionate to teach!

https://www.instagram.com/p/CP2iyOrHOLF/

This time management and prioritization problem came with my difficulties saying no and asserting myself, my needs, and my wants, which I’m working on very aggressively because having the weight of mental health concerns this pandemic is just too much.

But, the good thing is, I can still pull myself out of my laziness to do my morning and evening skincare routine, and at least make time for my creative hobbies (even if there were days when I seriously don’t feel creative at all).

Cinematic Photography Practice Featuring My Skincare Routine!

I decided to practice my photography skills using my RGB pocket light and my Fujifilm XA3 camera with a Meike 35mm lens. I was stunned by the results!

My Skincare Routine

  • For my first cleanser, I use The Inkey List Oat Cleansing Balm if I only wore sunscreen and not makeup, and either Pond’s Cold Cream or Pond’s Cleansing Balm if I wore makeup.
  • For my second cleanser/facial wash, I’ve been religiously using Cetaphil Gentle Facial Wash since college (I used to use the Cetaphil Cleanser for Oily Skin but it’s not always available and it’s more expensive).
  • For my exfoliator, I used to use Pixi Peel and Polish, but I’m just finishing my tube and I’m planning to sully switch to chemical exfoliants. I’ve been trying Paula’s Choice and I’ll try to compare it with The Ordinary.
  • For my serum, I love love Iunik Tea Tree Relief Serum. It’s just like water and I feel like my skin absorbs all of it.
  • For ym moisturizers, I’m using Rovectin Clean Lotus Water Cream because it’s so light on the skin, but for night I’m using CeraVe SA Cream because it’s a little heavy on the skin.
  • For my sunscreen, I’m using Belo Sun Essentials Tinted Sunscreen if I’m wearing makeup and CeraVe Hydrating Sunscreen every night.
  • I use the Watsons Mask thrice a week and I sometimes use Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay every weekend or whenever I feel like using it.
  • For my eye cream, I use Human Nature Sunflower Eye Cream.

I’m trying my best to religiously be consistent with my skin care routine, just as how I am religiously practicing my photography skills. Having a sensitive skin is a pain and a little high maintenance, so I need to devote more consistency and patience for it.

I’ve always been a realist.

I’ve been studying political realism over and over again since I first read Sun Tzu’s Art of War for my International Relations class in college, until I went to grad school, and eventually when I joined the academia, there will always be at least one undergraduate class I’m handling where I have to reiterate the mainstream international relations theories, including realism.

In a nutshell, political realism tells us that the international system operates under an anarchic system, therefore states have no choice but to be self-reliant to protect itself from external threats, and the only way to ensure security is to accumulate as much power as possible.

Realism in a nutshell: from my International Theories lecture deck.

Security Studies, Wars, and Conflicts has always been my area of interest (Foreign Policy comes in a close second) because I was always interested as to why states behave a certain way, and this also stems from my interest on anything behavioral sciences, like psychology, sociology, and anthropology. On a personal level, I have this obsession in analyzing people and their behavior in an effort to develop more empathy and to also help myself develop an increased self-awareness to better my relationships with people.

But before that, let’s do a little weather check. You know I always, always love the rainy days, right?

So here’s the thing: I’m working on bettering my relationships with people. I have this “strong, independent woman” vibe (which is literally accurate, I swear to God), but whenever I find myself in a relationship, I start to lose it, become complacent, and just surrender my life, decisions, and a lot of things to the people I’m with. I think I’m still a people pleaser after all, no matter how much I deny it.

I’m working on saying “no” more to people and assert my wants and needs. I’m working on avoiding to be manipulated. I’ve worked hard to be the “strong, independent woman” that I am today and I’m not in any way throwing it away for some people who don’t even deserve any part of me.

Anyway, my point is, this time I’m unleashing the Stephen Walt and John J. Mearsheimer inside of me lol. I’m going to apply the rules of realism and laws of warfare in my own daily lives. True enough this human race is living in an anarchic world, let alone “strong, independent women” like me who can only rely on no one but ourselves.

Spotify Playlists That I Listen to While Working

Listening to some music while working can actually make us either more focused or more distracted, it depends. In my case, it actually depends on what kind of work I’m doing. If I’m just doing something that does not require deep thinking or listening to my thoughts, I would usually not listen to upbeat songs or my favorite songs which I will end up just singing with. On the other hand, if I need to build some thoughts (like writing a research), I need a complete silence or songs that are just chill beats without vocals.

https://www.instagram.com/p/COHinE9HeGZ/

So without further ado, I’m sharing some of the Spotify playlists I listen to depending on what kind of work I’m doing. Enjoy!

Cruisin’ Love Songs

This playlist is for a Sunday Slow Rock vibes if you don’t have a choice but work on a weekend. You can listen to it on any time of the week, of course!

Cigarettes After Sex Discography

Dream pop/Ambient pop could be the most calming music for working, hence Cigarettes After Sex. The name of the band could be a little awkward, but I swear they have the best songs ever. You’ll need their songs for some calming music to take off the pressure of meeting deadlines.

Westlife the Twenty Tour Song Lineup (featuring songs by Queen)

I have attended the Westlife The Twenty Tour in Manila last 2019, and since then I still haven’t gotten over the feeling. They had a tribute medley for Queen and it made me love Queen songs even more. This playlist is best for some pump of energy if you’re too sleepy to work. You can even sing along with it!

H&M In Store Music

If you want a fashion show feels while working where you can move to the beat, this is the playlist for you. The electronic music they choose is not too loud. Remember, stores like H&M choose their music carefully so that people will stay more and check out more of their clothes.

Lo-Fi Covers

Thank goodness to the universe for having musicians who came up with lo-fi covers of our favorite songs from all decades! This playlist is perfect for a more relaxing, calm working day.

OPM Bands 90s-00s

Where you at, Filipino Millennials? Sometimes I would use this playlist to have a boost of motivation to work because of the happy nostalgia it brings from my childhood and teenage years.

BBC Radio One – Live Lounge

BBC Radio One Lounge and other Live Lounge songs are acoustic covers of other artists’ songs and this is perfect if you love Brit Pop and other pop songs.

It’s indeed a long week ahead for me, and for sure I’ll be listening to any of these playlist throughout the week.

Have a great week, friends!

How do you measure success? how about happiness?

Is it with the number of friends? With your achievements in life? With how many lives you’ve changed? With how you achieve your inner peace? Or, does it really make sense to try to measure these things in the first place?

For some reason, shitty days will always be part of our lives and it will sometimes come in a timing when you just can’t accommodate it.

That happened to me today. I made a mistake of opening my email at 2 in the morning and receiving a sad news about something I’ve worked hard on. And it kept me wide awake until 7:30AM, just in time for my first class. I got through my first class with my camera off because I did not have time to prepare to dress up and put some makeup on. I was numb, overwhelmed, and I can’t explain what I was feeling. I had no one to reach out to and vent about it, except a few toxic people who knew about this whole journey I went through, which I did reach out to. And I got nothing but anxiety and unmet expectations.

Using best practices for Zoom meeting participants : Search Teaching Tools

I’ve been trying to sleep after my class but I just can’t. I don’t feel sleepy. I don’t feel tired. I thought that opportunity denied to me as per THE email will make me cry and destroy me at least for a few days or weeks. But no. I cleaned my condo, floor to ceiling. I’ve got an energy (not an angry energy) which I don’t know where it comes from. I feel normal, and I guess I just have to get through the day. And I did.

And another email came in today. This time it’s the faculty evaluations from last term.

how do you measure success

Faculty evaluations give me anxiety. While I believe and trust that students will not write very horrible comments on the way I performed in class, I did not have a good start with this thing. The very first set of evaluations I received were very bad. Bad in a sense that the Department Chair called my attention and asked me to to something to improve it. It put my contract renewal at risk. That was traumatic.

Well, if I’m being honest, I also started in a wrong foot. I was totally unprepared that time to go back teaching again. After almost 5 years of office work, I wasn’t ready to go back to the classroom again to teach, full-time this time. I forgot how to manage noisy students, lazy students, irresponsible students, and apathetic students. I focused on the diligent students, those students who actually cared.

Years passed, and online school happened, I became kinder to students of all backgrounds. I give them the benefit of the doubt for late submissions. I give them the benefit of the doubt for failing to attend classes. I follow up on them if they did not hand in their submissions. I never forced to call them out to open their cameras and recite. I was very, very patient. I always think about how I can possibly cause them anxiety and how I can prevent it from happening. I don’t want to give anyone anxiety because I know how it feels like, and it feels awful. I just want the best for them.

https://www.instagram.com/p/COEwsuxnnNR/

I will always remember facing the Admissions Committee in the Master’s Program I applied for that I was very certain about going the academia route after earning the degree, and therefore they should let me in. And here I am, yay! I dedicated years of blood, sweat, and tears to be able to have something to teach to my future students, and I am very happy it’s starting to pay off.

Earning my Master’s Degree and being given the chance to teach full-time is a dream come true for me. The world has been kind to me. Both my undergrad and grad alma maters have been kind to me. My students and colleagues have been kind to me. But was I ever kind to myself?

That being said, I think this time I want to measure success and happiness in terms of how much I can prioritize myself and be kinder to myself. Every word of appreciation I get from students from the evals are some things I can never say to myself. I’m not even aware that I’m being kind. I’m just doing what I think is right. I’m just doing whatever makes me sleep at night.

How about you? How do you measure success and happiness?