Saturday, July 18, 2015

Book Review: The Martian by Andy Weir

Thus, I write a short personal review on The Martian by Andy Weir.

To be honest, I did not plan for this book in my reading list all along. It came up on the recommendation list on GoodReads and I saw it again on the books-to-movie list 2015. So, for some reason, I decided to pick up a book that I had no expectation whatsoever. Partly, because the cover was orange in colour, so I was not very fond of it before I even pick the book up.

Things began to went everywhere once I started the first page. The language was simple and straightforward and a different kind of tone than the usual fiction. From a first person point of view, I  could read into what was going on and of course, the main character was 'thinking out loud' by logging in every single of his thought.

It was a  story of how an astronaut, Mark Watney, who was believed to be dead, was left stranded on the surface of Mars. He went from finding ways to survive with the leftover supplies, to inventing new ones to lengthen his survival capacity. Once the basics were sort of covered, he made plans and trials, in attempt to communicate back on Earth. By then, he had explained how he sustained himself with potatoes, grown on Mars.

On another viewpoint, the headquarters on Earth was dumbfounded to find him alive and active and followed closely to his activities. They then proceed on rescue missions and plans. They planned to ensure Mark's survival until Ares4's arrival months later. Mark's other team members from Ares3, who flew off from the surface due to emergency, was not given the piece of news until a later days. When the mission of launching the extra supplies to Mark failed, the Ares3 team decided a 'mutiny' and avoided landing back on Earth. Instead, they went an extra round, going back to pick Mark up. 

Throughout the story, you get to read about space-travelling in lay man terms and engaged in a similarly exciting journey, though it could be fun and dangerous when it is for real. It explored how we looks at things in life and perceptions in different stages of life. It did give you a certain thinking sometimes, despite all the humour.

In total, I really enjoy this book and would like to congratulate Andy Weir for bringing this wonderful book to life. 

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Phuket-Land Trip 2015 III

20 June 2015

Jui Tui Shrine and Put Jaw Shrine

After several consideration, we decided a package which will be bringing us out of the island for the next day. For that very day, we decided to hire a taxi - more like a tuk tuk driver to bring us to few places. Due to the limitation of the transport and budget, we did have to cut down our expectation, but hey, going around the southern part of the island in a tuk tuk is quite cool.

Before we start our journey, we changed and packed and we snapped a photo of this in case we need a rough map. This was the wall in the hostel reception area.

We went to find the tuk tuk and we started the drive. We passed by the alleys of the town in higher speed, compared to our walking speed. And this is Family Mart. Now I get to take a photo just to show you where we've been getting our junk food.

We heard about this transportation from our fellow room mate and finally get to see the difference. This was like the same vehicle I boarded during diving trip and it was called songthaew. The difference between this and Phuket tuk tuk, was the size and the basic vehicle. This one was a truck in comparison to van/car sized tuk tuk. Plus, in songthaew, you could actually stand at the back part with ladder and feel the wind pass by.

It was still morning, hence we get to see stalls with resemblance to morning market and people walking around. I find the streets slightly similar to those in Georgetown but a wider.

Our first destinations were Jui Tui Shrine and Put Jaw Shrine. Both of them were situated side by side at Ranong Road. This is how the first one looked like. Judging by the name, I think Jui Tui Shrine stood for this first one, because it sounded like Nine Emperor in chinese, while Put Jaw sounded like Boddhisatva in Chinese, which was the second temple next to the first one.

This little tower looked well decorated and I would have thought it was a building too. Turned out there where peopleburn the worshipping papers.

What caught my attention? This piece of couplet. Look at the suns and moons it used! And for the record, I can only read up to three suns and two moons. I can't even find how the rest was pronounced. I guess, probably the meaning was to say how many infinity days and nights...

This is the 'title' of the temple. I am not so sure about the second one, but the first one was the Nine Emperor Gods. These are gods which could be observed to be worshipped at places along the coast and near sea. Nine Emperor Gods has many said origin but usually related to sea and star lords. If you were to visit their temple during the ninth month of the lunar calendar, you could observe the Nine Emperor Gods Festival where people will be having vegan diet and rituals where some people went into trance-like state as an act of 'returning the favour' to gods, for perhaps something they were granted previously. In Penang, at the end of the nine days, the Gods were returned to the sea and all trance would vanish the moment the people walked into the sea.

The temple was pretty old and we were taking an interest in the 'answer to the lots'. In Chinese temple, there were usually bamboo strips put together where people will ask questions (to the God) while shaking the strips in a bamboo cup. And after one of the strips fall out of the container, with confirmation from the God (usually by throwing two half-moon wooden thing), the person could refer the strips to these 'answers'. The strips usually have numbers on it and you will just get a note from the respective box. However, look at these? The 'answers' were categorized before hand, where you go to the area of question you asked and take the number. From this photo, you could see more medical field: for women, for men, or surgery... etc.

The papers inside were pretty old too!

For the second temple, which was literally next door, the interior was very similar with usual chinese temple. However, we were lucky to be able to witness a 'kai guang' ceremony. It was something like an initiation ceremony for the gods statue for people to bring back home to worship and have gods protecting them...

At the end of the tour, we took a group photo, with the help of the tuk tuk driver.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

The 65th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting

The 65th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting had officially begun on 28th of June 2015. For those who wished to know what was happening and what was being discussed, you could visit this programme page. Thanks to the media people, many of the lecture and materials are available online. They served as a good read/watch during a short break.

Below is the opening ceremony video:

Monday, June 29, 2015

Phuket-Land Trip 2015 II

20 June 2015

First Breakfast in Phuket

I set the wrong alarm! Instead of the said 0700, I didn't realise my phone was still at GMT +0800. Hence, I woke up to sunshine one hour earlier, rolled around a bit and started to get ready for the day. We wanted to wake up earlier that day to go around finding tour package and start planning for the trip. I took a peek at the backyard of the hostel, which was not bad. It was the smoking area (you should not be smoking inside the hostel).

When everyone was ready, we started our journey by asking the reception if there was any breakfast place around. We were directed to this stall, just down the road.

The variety of the breakfast was intense. They were slightly familiar but not totally. For the heavier food, we've got rice or beehon with egg and meat and even chilli. On the other side, they were mostly kuih-muih, something that looked like nyonya kuih we encountered in Malaysia or Singapore. Recognize those green-ish delicacies?

One specialty on that day was this, rice dumplings! Coincidentally, it was Rice Dumpling Day (which also happened to our previous year's trip). To make that day a bit more meaningful, we bought some of the dumplings. If you haven't encounter rice dumplings before, the left ones are rice dumplings with meat or fillings. In Penang, it could come in sweet or savoury taste. For the right one, it was made from glutinous rice, pulut. It was usually plain rice and hence will be served with something sweet. In Penang, we could choose between sugar and gula Melaka (palm sugar). In this case, they came with a pack of sugar.

We walked further down the road to find places to eat or interesting food. We discovered a very nice hotel nearby, On On Hotel and a very classy building, which turned out to be a bank, 开泰银行 (Kasikornbank).

We found several stalls around the corner selling almost the same thing as what we saw and bought a few more before finding this little coffee shop. It was called T-origin. I can't read Thai, but it would be obvious it sells drinks and bread. We asked if we could eat there with drinks and outside food and - wait for it - yes! This was one of the best things I found to experience in Phuket, the willingness of the shop owner to allow outside food as long as you buy something from them. This, was not as easy when you come to Malaysia or Singapore. The owner most probably look at you with the darkest shade of stare. Well, so we settled in and ordered one drink. I know, sound stingy, but hey - first day, we need to save enough money to last the whole trip!

We arranged the food and started to feast on them. Most of the food were sweet and glutinuous rice. If not, they would be spicy. We ate the quail's eggs, which was a nostalgic food. The rice dumpling was sweet but not bad. I find it quite appetizing. The plain ki-zhang tasted totally same as in Penang, the only thing left out was gula melaka. Since the owner was so nice to let us eat, we might as well take as long as we can and even took selfie, or shall I call - wefie?

Walking continued as we start to search for shops selling tour packages. I was usually not so professional when it came to interacting with shopkeeper, asking for better pricing, therefore I turned into my better skill, documenting. Carrying my new camera around, I snapped quite some photos and tried to remember how things looked like. Hello there!

What makes the trip nice was the architecture around the town. Even some random abandoned house looked like these! Can you imagine how detailed the people were, to build just a small house? The small patterns which you probably won't notice unless you zoomed in. They were beautiful.

Alas, we did found a few stall selling good packages and we were collecting brochures for reference. According to one of the shopkeeper, it was a low season, hence a discount in most package price.

At one point, we passed by this row of colourful buildings and spotted a mart right at the end. We were happily inching towards the mart when we were nearly stunned by quarreling noise from one of the unit. It was a fierce fight and we kept our voice down, hoping we could go through that street in peace.

We eventually entered the mart and pranced around the isles of goods, examining each and every product. We commented on commercials and awed by rare brands of grocery. When we go for the cashier, we saw this cute little sign. They were selling some kuih and look at the mochi-like creature smiling there! We bought a box and ate it. It tasted like what we had as Ang Ku Kueh.

After that, we continued back to hostel while slowly deciding our next itinerary.

11th Doctor in The Rings of Akhaten

Random practice on pencil. That was drawn after I watch The Rings of Akhaten and find a certain insporation. It was lucky I could draw something out to even look like a face. Great drill.

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