Sunday, March 20, 2011

Debate for Why History

This is when I feel time is so expensive! The debate costs us 20% of our grade but research is 5% while performance is 15% – and each of us were given only 5 minutes to speak. So, technically speaking, if you did not participate in the Q & A, your 15% is spread across  5 minutes – which gives you 3% of your grade every minute you speak!

So as Group B, we were to propose the motion of “Development in Science and Technologies helped strengthen ideologies of nation states in 20th-Century Europe.”. If it is a normal happy week, I would not have felt much about it but this week, I was bogged down by another modules and I am totally lacking in preparation. I have to admit I did not really rehearse my speech and the speech I delivered during the debate is a total spontaneity! Plus, I was running late from the class before – which was the symposium.

Imagine that! I were to change my mind from a middle age history to 20th century history – using a science brain! But anyway, I managed to try my best in the Q & A, thanks to basics learnt last semester. But I could have done better if I did not put so much time on the symposium. However, I am glad I strived through Rire.

This is the essay we were to pass up regarding research on our part.

* Please note that this is for reference purposes and personal information was removed for privacy purposes.

Friday, March 18, 2011

How Far Are You Willing to Challenge Your Weakness?


Trust me, I know I will usually address an undermining of passion towards scientific research, but this time it has nothing to do with science – at least, no directly. This week had been a really fearful week for me as I think it was my first time putting so much effort in putting things right, especially on something which in the past I had not done well. Age of the Mediterranean, is a module of Hellenization, Christianization and Islamization, and Europeanization. Not to go into detail, I will just highlight the main topic in this post. I mentioned I had a very bad experience in the midterm, but the symposium work happened to be as stressful. Looking back, why did I think when I take this module? First, it was a total accident. I planned to take another EU module: Empires, Colonies and Imperialism. At least the title sounds something related to my country’s history and it’s cool to learn it from a different perspective. And planned for that since the first semester of 3rd year since it was my last year and I would like to make sure I can fit my timetable. However, it appears that, the website made a last minute update right before 2nd semester and my whole timetable was messed up – plus, this particular module was not even in the list. I would have been shouting , “WHAT?!” but instead, ended up with several e-mail bombardments between me and the European Studies academic convenor and CORS office. In the end, I was of course forced to find a solution by changing my direction. Not thinking I can handle philosophy or literature, I ruled out political science as the module description was not really appealing (was expecting more drama Rire), and decided to went back to history instead, a subject I had not been very well in, with a certain of despise and bad experience during high school – but a new found interest back in NUS. There were only three EU history modules: Why History, Age of the Mediterranean and Cold War. I need only two but I took three – but back to the point –why didn’t I throw Mediterranean out of my choice bucket?

It contains really things that is related to science and learning; something like I will be deepening my knowledge back to its roots. And second, it contains Islamization – one of the weakest subject I was in. Although I realized what we learned in SPM is totally irrelevant to this, the initial idea was that I would like to give myself another chance – to prove or to fix my weakness. I wish I will change my view about Islamic studies under different education system. And I think this is sort of the time I should challenge myself, an ‘enemy’ many could not conquer. And this week is the symposium for ‘Is Islamic Europe an Oxymoron?’. To left with a total independent research on a topic I don’t even have basic on, is cruel at time – but I tried my best. Working as a group, again, has its pros and cons. I was to face with people who weigh their individual essay more than anything, walked out of discussion, not discussing, not replying emails – but yet, because of knowledge and social skills, got to be in better position during the whole symposium. I see people who were so experience in this topic that not only they have background in this but also external sources to help them in their study. Seriously, when I was facing all these and comparing them to me, I felt extremely helpless as it’s a year 2 module and the teacher obviously will not tell you answers. In the end, I read a lot, find a lot and spent almost every second on this – dumping my research aside (because the machine broke down as well la) – and I found factual stuff about my piece – but what’s its significance? What’s the hidden message? What’s it going to do with Islamic Europe? How to link it back to my argument? In this, due to lack of background about its historical context and the religion context – I am really miserable. What’s more was I thought at least I could sort things out during the symposium, by knowing more about this piece – things I don’t know. Due to time constraint, I was not able to dig information out of it and even left with an unfinished group essay!

And when I say group essay – it is supposed to be done by the group. But what happened? Because of obvious slanting grading towards individual essay, no one cares about group essay! Although there are one or two who did helped out but we didn’t manage to finish it by symposium and as the symposiarch, I was subjected to the embarrassment of asking the teacher if we could pass up on the same day but at a later time. If this is the case, fine! But no one really make any special changes to the essay until few of us busy editing at the last hours of that day! Being not really an English person or History person, I am really lack of confidence in editing the essay – especially those not by me! However, in the end, we still make it. I was so exhausted and miserable that I decided to just click send and it just sent! I understand it was not up to the teacher to cause many of us unable to discuss about our pieces but what can I do, this I guess is when we can just look up to the sky and say, “Ini adalah takdir Tuhan”.

Anyway, the tessera I was working on is this:

Tessera 10


Symposium Group Essay – Islamic Europe: Clash or Continuity?

Tessera Essay – Islamic and Western Civilization: A Covalent Bond?

Tessera Handout

* Information about their authors were removed to protect their privacies.

* Please note that these are just for reference as they are licensed. Other than that, opinion produced in the work is purely our interpretation and do take note it was just a product of minds from undergraduates consists of student who are of history and non-history disciplines.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Friday is not the End

It was a pain, not being able to share the joy of the end of the week with your classmate. This is worse when the supposed last day of a week didn’t end well. Yesterday, I started my day with Age of the Mediterranean midterm. I did not expect myself to score or even end the test confidently as I know how much behind I was in term of the knowledge. But I did put in effort and I wished to at least manage to understand the questions. In truth, I would have said this is one of the worse midterms I had ever had – but to look at it another way – I did not fail, but just found out this doesn’t work. By what had been seen, although painful and heart-breaking (yes, Dark Lord do have some of these moments, please), I should be prepared to score maybe a zero out of it. I may have looked at it as though it doesn’t matter, but deep inside, I wished I could have done better. For this, I must put in more effort for the rest!

Things didn’t went well after that. The Cold War lecture was magnificent, with the lecturer bursting out of the classroom to ask the Japanese class students to stop chirping outside and once a student walked out to shut them up. Seriously, sometimes, Arts students are annoyingly talkative. But after taking Arts classes, I realized not all of them are like that – good! The group meeting after that was not as I expected with certain people who seemed to regard their individual portion more important than the group ones. It is true it will be graded more but how can you show you did a great job by not adhering to the group’s motive?! But I am glad to have some of the group people to be very independent, initiative and willing to undergo this busy period of time with the rest of the group. This undoubtedly is what we always seek in a good leadership, not someone who stay in villas while the people were seeking a place to warm themselves.

The day did not end just like that. The moody element which hitherto had been weighing me down creep in me even in lab. I arrived at 6 in the lab to discover the HPLC machine is down and that’s the one I booked! Other than that, the mass spec is totally gone haywire as well. As I was telling to my mentor over the phone , “Tell me, what is working in the lab?” – frankly speaking, what in the lab is still working smoothly? I called Girish to ask if he will be using HPLC that night and he said he will be using it. By that, I have to stop all my experiment and walked back hall to grab my dinner. Just when I get my dinner, a call came in. If you want an expression, that will be imagining the food has already reached outside your mouth and someone took it away from you. Yes, Sheena called to say Girish said he won’t be using HPLC tonight. “ What?! Do you think this is funny?!” Yes, I felt like yelling to those people who never been considerate. I was forced to put down my dinner and walked to lab so that Sheena could teach me how to construct the new method. The saddest thing is, my mentor came in later and it was someone else who teach me – what on earth! But I won’t be upset by that, as Sheena had been a good teacher. My day then ended with me walking back to chew on the cold dinner (which still taste bad when I’m hungry – hmm), a shower and whole night of gluing my eyes on the screen…

Saturday, March 05, 2011

What Actually Does It Mean for being a Set Décor-ian?

If you are wondering am I going to join into next year HallPlay: No, I’m not! But this is what I discovered while studying the lecture notes for Why History? The 20th Century course. Being in HallPlay Set Décor for two years, and one of it as a head of the department, I had never put my job on this side of the world. I did imagined us, creating marvellous sets and architecture, showing intricate details and professional imagination – but never an application in history. And here you go, a quote from the lecture note:

What aerial reconnaissance that the Luftwaffe was allowed to make over southeast England seemed to confirmed the build up of the FUSAG troops. Thanks to the ingenious work of an army of set designers, stage and scene builders recruited from the world of film and the theatre, mock up vessels of every description made from canvas and plywood began appearing in the ports of Kent, Sussex and Essex. Inflatable tanks and devices that simulated the tracks left by tanks and heavy vehicles were used to make it appear that every wood and copse was hiding parts of a vast armoured force that Patton would bring with him across the Channel to drive Rommel's Army Group B back from the coast and allow the fiery American general to spearhead the attack on the Rhine and the Ruhr.To add apparent certainty to German conviction about the Channel crossing, a phantom refinery was constructed in the harbour at Dover to reinforce the impression that it was going to service Patton's force. These imaginary scenarios were cultivated by very talented and skilled experts and technicians...

- Dr Malcolm Murfett

After reading this, I was so touched and honoured to be able to join in a department which had served such a noble entity during the course of peace-keeping. Hopefully, this spirit will stay and be in our (Set Décor-ians) heart even in the time of misery. As Dumbledore said in Harry Potter: “Happiness can be found even in the darkest of places if one only remembers to turn on the light.”

Hope you enjoy this piece of ‘snack’ and feel better out of all the stress you are having, while I have to head back to my experiment, which is facing obstacles again and again, yet a great adventure.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Eventful Day

Right, let’s take a break after such a long series of Christianization of Roman Empire, Islamization is yet to come…

It’s half past midnight and I would like to dedicate this post for a rather eventful day. The morning went by with Mediterranean symposium where the group of ‘Did Rome fall? (Or Was She Pushed?)’ presented their view on the tesserae chosen with circulating snacks, which is a traditional element of a symposium! The thing was since it was the first symposium, things did went a bit out of hand at times, but no matter, I still enjoy the learning process. Besides, my group mates started to turned up and talked to me out of the blue. So at least now I get to remember them better, yay! Dr F was saying about the email I sent him and I had questions to ask as well, but the thing was I have another tutorial right after his class just downstairs. So, I asked to meet him at four instead. Indeed, between this two hours, really interesting tutorial occurred. Unlike the first tutorial, which was rather serious and academic, this time was really a good laugh. We spent the first part of tutorial discussing about themes and view on lectures: particularly military/naval history narratives’ impact on identity and nationalism, our lives, implications and intermingles with political, social and cultural discourses. The second part of the tutorial focused on partly anti-semitism and also question of race, religion with economy, politics and history. For that, we were to be in our group and role-play. And this is the beginning of the whole drama!

Group A: Jews in Nazi Germany. As a Jew, you are to deliver a speech to your fellow Jews in Germany.

Group B: Nazi German: Defend anti-Jew policy.

Group C: Liberal British: Arguing state to counter Hitler.

Group D: Asians: Colonized by British, sympathize with Hitler. Enemy’s enemy, our friend.

OKAY, the nature of the role-play was interesting enough and guess what, I was in the Nazi German group. The whole discussion sounds so wrong when we have to go against the traditional thought of seeing the Nazi’s policy as evil and go towards it. Not that I find it difficult, but to be able to or given an opportunity to do that in public – like a tutorial class, was way absurd and really a ‘once in a lifetime’ experience. When we present our part, we stated ‘we would like to inform that the following opinions are not our own opinion’ and continued with a ‘Hail Hitler!’. That was way crazy and perverse! Our part was mainly saying how bad the Jews are and why the policies should be pushed forward. Other groups did presented with good ideas as well. By the end of presentation, each of us at the audience floor would have to ask some question towards the presenter and this added on to the previous laughter. We were laughing so much of how funny the nature of the tutorial made us put down the barrier of being traditional, seriously.

The tutorial ended pleasantly and followed up by me walking up to teacher’s office. Obviously he wasn’t there and I met one of the classmate (don’t ask me who, because I barely remember his name when I saw him) in Mediterranean who wished to pass up papers as well. While waiting, we did talked for some time, which gave me access to preparation for my own symposium. Out of boredom, I went examine on each of the professor’s door – which is quite rude, but it was a pleasure to read all the articles they posted up. After some times, what appeared on the corridor was Dr K and he was like ‘ Are you waiting for Jack?’ For a moment, I was wondering what should I respond as – first name term to address my professor, that’s still absurd though students did that all the time behind the teacher, haha! I just nodded, at least. Dr K was saying he will be here in a moment but apparently time was ticking and Dr F was still nowhere to be seen. I was okay with the waiting as I don’t really have anything on after that and my mind simply just need some kind of junk-time space to clear all the weariness before another round of craziness. Dr K finished his talk with some student and started to came over to help us to phone Dr F (wow, as though we are urgent student matter, tsk) and even walking down the staircases to find him. A quick chat with Dr K where he was interrogating – whoops, asking about the course we are taking with this professor. As usual, I remained silence when there is another willing speaker, haha – sorry lah! Even after that, he offered to help the other student to pass up the paper (not as though I didn’t offer my help, but I think maybe I just don’t look reliable as the Dark Lord huh?) and the professor went down to check on that other professor again (Is there a tendency a professor slipped and rolled down a staircase? I don’t wish there is. I would rather wish Dr F just went for a coffee). Dr K was then telling me of how Dr F was still surrounded by a bunch of students after the 1101E lecture (oooh! no wonder!). Interesting on how professor describe the squeaky student’s background sound, reminded me of my Mom’s primary school, haha! Thanks for Dr K though who stayed for quite a while to entertain me by even showing a ‘strangling’ sign on how all the students were buzzing around. I understand how it could be felt but seriously, I do really feel that’s the thing you will miss the most after everything, haha! (I remembered how I felt the same feeling on Bernie, one of my student – indeed under my direct care when I was there, and I really miss those days now, haha!).

If you think waiting was the end, then the end was the beginning of another thing. This was one that nearly scared me out of my soul. Dr F came finally and I was dragging my bag into his office, thinking of telling him this conversation will be a short one as I have few to ask and I understand professors might wish to leave the office or what. But before I can say anything he asked me to enter the office and said he wanted to ask me something. This is for real: I was so shocked as I was questioning myself ‘Did I showed I haven’t read enough for the class that my poor performance in class needed the teacher’s attention? Surpris!!!’I could feel the silence and he started to ask me on opinion of tutorial and how to make it better. *faint* Now I am relieved! At least he was not going to lecture me on how I did badly in class, phew! The conversation continued with my question and then my symposium stuff (some minor technical problem). Not disclosing much of the conversation as it was really lengthy in some sense, plus a privacy of both of us. But I left his office with another big news hitting me: Immuno CA result was out. HUH?! WHAT?! AT THIS TIME?!

Yes, that was when I decided to drop by the result board before heading to lab. While waiting at the bus stop, gosh, someone suddenly talked to me! OMG, can all these stop please?! I kept being approached by people whom I don’t remember and they remember me! That makes me so terrible and embarrassing! I guess I should draw down faces of people I met everyday so that i can have a ‘contact list’ with their face on it when they talk to me. That girl was from my Why History lecture (freaking, how can she know I’m in the same LT?!) and talked to me about MCQ test. Obviously I was blabbering on how I might be down by God knows how much question due to cabbage questions. But then we parted to our own way and I accidentally met Tina in Science canteen. The rate of meeting people was so astonishingly high and I’m glad at least I remember Tina. The result turned out to be as usual – not really brilliant but not as bad as I thought – so so la! And when I entered the lab, what knocked on me was the fact that –20 was not working and people were rescuing things from it. Since the mass spec was in use, I helped out a bit and witness yet another move-the-boxes operation. Seriously, lab management should evolve a bit. And later on, I was informed my protein being freeze-dried at the lyophilizor was melting. What?! Yes, I have to re-freeze-dry it, sad! Luckily I came back to lab to check on it – if not, ha! And my day continued rather in a smooth way with a late dinner and pages of history texts…

So, it was indeed an eventful day – not that things happened were highly significant or highly insignificant, but it just make your day feels like a day Sourire. Tired? Of course – but if my body was not meant for tiredness, why was this adjective being created then?

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