Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Life Thus Far

Looking back, it has been more than two weeks since I posted something here. Fear not, my reader (if there’s even any of you), I’m still alive and kicking. I have been running. Just joking, peeps, I was not running because I preferred to face the problems instead of dodging them away. But of course, once a while, to save a breath or so, I did have to play a little trick. It’s just survival. And that brought me back from the big circle, what have I been doing. Hold on over there because I won’t be saying too much. I was just quite occupied with stuff. I just finished reading the Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins. Besides, the new year sees me assigned with new duties, which meant new things to get my hands on. Now to think of it, I should be doing some check-back to ensure I had been sticking to my 2012 goals so far. Instead of that, I have been reading quite a bit. That, comes in all kinds of reading materials. I did some paintings as well…

Since I had decided to put a temporary stop on fiction reading, this might be the time I resume some of the writing over here. Plus, I am still figuring out some videos and searching for good sites to share photos. So, stay tuned!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Not-So Grad Trip: Masonry, National Archive, Peranakan Museum Et cetera

To make the landmark, this is the trip down the road when you turned into the road next to the fire station, which looked like this:

Half Day Trip in Singapore

The first thing I could see was this building right next to the fire station. I did not notice anything special by then, believing it was just an office now until I walked nearer. This is the Freemason Hall. Truth to be told, I first heard of Freemasons only when I attended the history class in NUS. I heard it in EU1101E and other classes but ignored it because I have no idea who to ask and was confused with the Wikipedia (they just have too much information for certain pages, not their fault – it’s my laziness). Until during Europe of Dictatorship when I took this topic seriously and at least paid a little more effort to understand the whole thing.

Half Day Trip in Singapore

For those who wanted to know what’s Freemasons, feel free to Wiki it. That is not a topic I could explain in just one sentence, accurately. Other than that, I took down the photo of the plate outside the hall for your information. The columns of the hall, some, were supported by these poles which I had no idea what was that for. I supposed it was to support the column rather than a ritual stuff? And you could see the sort of universal logo of Freemasonry along the wall…

Half Day Trip in SingaporeHalf Day Trip in SingaporeHalf Day Trip in Singapore

I did not intend to enter the hall, so I proceeded to the next venue. Along the road, I could see from far this building with words on it and yes it was that kind of legendary place I had always wanted to have a look: The National Archives of Singapore!

Half Day Trip in Singapore

When I walked closer to the building, my heart dropped. I had always imagined archives centres looked old or ancient or you know, OLD! But this building did not look anything like that. My dream archives, rows of shelves with brownish filings, beautifully architected structure… Well, still, this national archive did not look real bad. It just gave me a rather 70s or 80s look. I could imagine people with afros walking in and out now… Attached would be the plate about the building too! And of course, I couldn’t enter this building as I had no official reason to. Just wish they have some kind of tour for curious people like me, hmm!

Half Day Trip in SingaporeHalf Day Trip in Singapore

Further down the road, you could see the Registries of Civil & Muslim Marriages. This would be the place to register your marriage, of course! And that means I have even more NO official reason to appear there. Hence, I turned…

Half Day Trip in Singapore

On the other side, I could see this building. On the wall, there was some word to indicate something about Armenian. It looked like this is a place with a larger community of Armenians. It’s a new thing for me, I would say, realizing how extensive the community is here.

Half Day Trip in Singapore

On the other stretch of building, it was the Peranakan Museum which I didn’t get to enter. The building was well furnished and banners were seen as it was holding a Kebaya exhibition that time…

Half Day Trip in SingaporeHalf Day Trip in Singapore

So, what I did was had a quick walk at the compound of the museum to find some interesting view such as this ACM Cat statue. On the plate, it says, ‘In memory of the cat that adopted this building and became the museum's mascot, 1998-1999.’ Others would be some decorative objects, which made the place lively.

Half Day Trip in SingaporeHalf Day Trip in Singapore
Half Day Trip in Singapore

And this is the side of the Armenian Church, which I only recognize at the white washed wall…

Half Day Trip in Singapore

Down the road I walk, continuing the journey…

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Talk on Virus Particle Maturation

After I made sure myself done my duties and sent in my samples for mass spectrometry, I got to walk in to the talk I had been noting down on my schedule, Virus Particle Maturation: insights into elegantly programmed nanomachines by Professor John E. Johnson. I missed his introduction part but managed to catch up as it was just at the first few slides.

The first part encompassed the message ‘Do not throw away your old records!’. This was the part the speaker told us the process of getting the size of the virus particle. At the same time, they tried to figure out the components as well. In between, they used crystallography to determine the size of the particle at different stage. From each data given, proposed structure was given. Of course, they did not stop just there as they furthered their experiment with other methods to back what they believed to be a much concrete evidence. The speaker did successfully deliver the presentation in a rather simple way. I am glad to understand most of it, really.

For some of you who wondered why did they did the study on a virus particle, here is some of the explanation. They found out that these particle could actually invade peptidoglycans in some microorganism (At least that’s what I remember from the slide). And they used the same theory on bacteriophage head, which looked same and function almost similarly, by packing DNA inside. They were pretty much interested to find out how did such a initially pretty fragile structure would strengthen as DNA was packed inside, filling the inner space with pressure. Turned out that the structures of pentagoras and hexagoras interlocked with each other. As the tension in the ‘sphere’ increased, the angle of lock would flattened and making the locks strengthened.

At least these are roughly what I could do to summarize what I understood. It was an interesting talk and one that reminds me to do loads of readings and learning in order to fully understand it next time!

Looking for Alaska by John Green

cover-of-looking-for-alaska

Had been searching for John Green’s book in the store and it was difficult until I found the one in library. The thing is, many people are reading the same thing and I had to wait till I get the book and didn’t even get the time to read it until I need to return the book because someone else was waiting for it. I was amazed by I could finish this book in almost three days. Another record after my two-hour read of Harry Potter.

Looking for Alaska by John Green might not bring you to the wonder world of elves and hobbits, but it brings you to the mind of teenagers. I was not very into the vulgar languages, smoking and sexual stuff in that book, but I was quite interested in exploring the character’s growth through the incidence. The book was about this boy, Miles going to a boarding school to find his ‘Great Perhaps’. Divided into ‘before’ and ‘after’, the book ventured Miles’s experience of knowing his new friends, getting to know Alaska and falling in love and into a triangle. At the same time, he was exposed to different family background and of course, loads of thinking through as he grew up. The book told the picture of carefree school life but also the process of going through and out of it. The focus concentrate on Alaska’s death in a car accident after she was drunk, upset and sped out of the school in the middle of the night. Affected by that incident by alot, was the closer friends: Miles, Colonels, Takumi and perhaps, Lara. Miles knew he loved Alaska, but then he realized how little he knew about her. This was quite true for many school days’ relationship. But of course, the story was not just about that. In the process of finding the truth of Alaska’s death, in the process of knowing her more, Miles reckoned he had found answers to many things. This indicated how this incident had changed their lives when they grew out of it.

Personally, this is quite an interesting book. Though at first I was quite of a dozing off with the usual school life venues. But the meaning was there. My life may be so different from what they went through, but it is definitely a book for us to understand about an experience of love and loss, at the same time understanding our directions in life.

And here is some of my ‘answers’ to the Discussion section in the book.

Discussion for Looking for Alaska

So, these are some questions posted on the back of the book. I will give them a try although I have to say all these are mere opinions from me, a non-literature major people; hence, bear with it.

1. Discuss the book’s unusual structure. Why do you suppose Green chose this strategy for telling his story? How else might he have structured the same material?

My attention was caught at the structure of ‘before’ and ‘after’ of the story. In my opinion, that structure was strategically put to focus the whole story on that one event, Alaska’s death. Although, at some point, I do agree that the ‘before’ part was quite lengthy compared to the ‘after’ part. I was sort of expecting the ‘after’ part to be more detailed in how Miles was going to ‘look for Alaska’. Nonetheless, the current structure could do good as with the detailed ‘before’, we could understand how attached it is of Miles to Alaska, emotionally. And that is very good to explain the ‘after’.

2. Miles tells the story in his own first-person voice. How might the book differ if it had been told in Alaska’s voice or the Colonel’s? Or in the voice of an omniscient narrator?

I would say that if it was not told from Miles’s voice, it would had a whole lot of different feel. Maybe, if it was from Colonel’s, then there will be a certain similarity of the emotions for a friend loss. But, Miles’s attachment to Alaska was very different from Colonel’s, so Miles’s voice was suitable as he could portrayed the very first hand experience of the whole incident, the confusion from a guy who came to find his Great Perhaps. However, if it was to be Alaska’s voice, the whole story would have no meaning at all because her character was supposed to stay mysterious. It’s the layers of curtains between each of them, the unknown that drives the story for its own Great Perhaps.

3. The Colonel says, “Everybody’s got a talent.” Do you?

I believe I do, and maybe I’m still finding it. That’s when you need a Great Perhaps, I guess?

4. Miles’s teacher Dr. Hyde tells him to “be present”. What does this mean?

For me, I would think it was a sense of being in the class, listening, understanding and absorbing.

5. John Green worked for a time as a chaplain in a children’s hospital. How do you think that influenced the writing of Looking for Alaska?

I would think his narration of the Eagle was a softer character because of that. He left the Eagle some dignity rather than displaying him as a figure of stern, cruel and everything. It might not be a direct thing, but maybe it gave him that idea…

6. What do you think “The Great Perhaps” means?

It’s like a Eureka moment? Nope, it’s a less certain thing than that I think. Sort of, maybe there are things in your life which you would go on and ask, “I will do something and PERHAPS something would be different.” And the Great Perhaps was when you really go and do that something and gotten something out of it. It is just a possibility, but a good kind of possibility. (I’m not even sure what I’m talking now – maybe I’m just not good at expressing it…)

7. And how about Bolicar’s “labyrinth”?

I had many versions of my believed labyrinth. One of it was like the one mentioned in the book. Though, I was not much a fan of understanding suffering because instead of wishing to walk out a maze of suffers, I could let go pretty easily. But I could understand how human do get lost in the labyrinth of their life. Some of them try to cheat, some of them try to give up; but my opinion was, IT IS JUST A MAZE, JUST CONTINUE WALKING IT AND FEAR NOTHING! Yeap, that’s it.

8. In the “Some Last Words on Last Words” section at the end of the book, Green writes, “I was born into Bolivar’s labyrinth, and so I must believe in the hope of Rabelais’ ‘Great Perhaps.’” What do you think he means by this?

It sounded as if Green did put in a bit of himself in it, doesn’t it? He might have his own labyrinth and his own Great Perhaps.

9. Has this novel changed the way you regard human suffering? And death?

Fairly speaking, nope. I had my own personal experiences to guide me in a deeper sensation in that aspect.

10. One of the characters, Dr. Hyde, says, “Everything that comes together falls apart.” Do you think the author agrees? How does he deal with this Zen in his novel?

I’m not sure about Green, but Miles did, I think. Just by this ‘We need never be hopeless, because we can never be irreparably broken. We think that we are invincible because we are. We cannot be born, and we cannot die. Like all energy, we can only change shapes and sizes and manifestations. They forget that when they get old. They get scared of losing and failing. But that part of us greater than the sum of our parts cannot begin and cannot end, and so it cannot fail.’, it gave an extra view though. Everything eventually dies, but not everything.

11. Alaska loves these two lines from the poet W. C. Auden: “You shall love your crooked neighbor/With your crooked heart.” What do these lines mean to you and why do you think Alaska likes them so much?

I sort of sees that as a  perfection of imperfection. Just because someone is imperfect, doesn’t mean him/her shouldn’t be loved; just because your love is imperfect, doesn’t mean you can’t love him/her. I think Alaska likes them, though, was with her perception of herself. She sees herself as a negative thing, being unable to call 911 for her mother when she was dying. But she still loved her, although her love for her mother was not perfect nor did her mother was perfect for her to be loved.

12. Miles writes, “Teenagers think they are invincible.” Do you agree? Why or why not?

It depends. Many teenagers felt they were invincible because they could do so much more that they haven’t gone through things that stop them down, fearless of anything.

13. Was it necessary for Alaska to die?

I would say it was as strong point to bring Miles to what is he called his Great Perhaps. If that hadn’t been happening, Miles would be stuck at his early stage of growing up.

14. This novel is filled with wonderful characters. Who is your favourite? Why? Do you know any people like these characters?

Although Takumi had appeared at an obviously lower frequency in the book, I think I like his character. Dr. Hyde was another one. Reasons of favouring these figures, plenty!

15. Can you imagine Miles and the Colonel as adults? What might they be like? What professions do you suppose they might choose?

Interestingly, I could. Though that would be according to what they’ve got so far in the book. We never know what will happen in their lives after this book which might change their life furthermore. But this incident had became some kind of fixed point that brought them to a proper grow up, a true thought about life and relationship rather than just at the skin level. As in what profession will they in doesn’t really matter except that I would imagine Miles to become a autobiography writer and Colonel to become some kind of leadership figure, although he did need to improve a bit for that.

And yes, these are my answers!

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Not-So Grad Trip: Armenian Church

Later of the trip, I walked down the stretch of beautifully constructed buildings, including this one which I noticed during my journey to Duke-NUS the other day. Its white wash style would probably be the first that caught my attention. As I just finish taking a Mediterranean class in university, I know white wash walls were not just about new housings. This is in fact the view I saw on the bus previously and I was looking at the ‘1835’ numbers as well.

Half Day Trip in Singapore

Outside the building, I saw this banner about the 175th Anniversary Celebrations. And that was when I realized about the Armenian community in Asia. And this Armenian Church had a plate on it.

Half Day Trip in Singapore
Half Day Trip in Singapore

Alongside with the plate about Armenian Church was the map to the ‘Civic District’. Apparently they had made the whole area into some historical ‘theme park’ which is really awesome. If I found this earlier, I would be walking in a more convenient route for all the essence. So, if you are interested to tour around this area, be sure to get this map as they had different route for differently themed purposes.

Half Day Trip in Singapore

So, enough of the outside of the church, I am walking in! What was welcoming me was this unique, or interesting, walkway with stones – or pebbles, not the round type. It was as though I was walking on a railway, but it was a superb experience. How often would you walk into a place to find a road like this? Plus, the place was quite deserted, which means a calm journey as I walked between the greens…

Half Day Trip in Singapore
Half Day Trip in SingaporeHalf Day Trip in Singapore

So, along the path I was quite shocked when I glanced across and saw this figure of angel. Instead of the usual roman or gothic statue of angels, which looked pretty happy and realistic, this statue looked rather eerie to me. No offense but my first thought was, maybe this is a real angel because people tends to beautify things into statue. But all is well as I saw more of other sculpture…

Half Day Trip in Singapore
Half Day Trip in SingaporeHalf Day Trip in Singapore

Finally, what greeted me is this whole building. It was not big, looking immensely small compared to those high-flying buildings around it, but it gave a different feel. Not to mention the calm environment and special path, the whole building could deliver the message ‘peace’!

Half Day Trip in Singapore

And in front of the building, it was a row of beautiful pink flowers. The colour was so beautifully addressed as it matches onto the white washed background of the church!

Half Day Trip in Singapore

Inside the church, however, I was greeted by several things which I had no idea how to read. The interior was an octagonal dome or cylinder with rows of seats for the mass while in front was a platform with a portrait of Last Supper and the crucifix. On the wall, were several writings in what I believed to be Armenian.

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Half Day Trip in SingaporeHalf Day Trip in SingaporeHalf Day Trip in SingaporeHalf Day Trip in Singapore

Standing between the chairs, there was someone coming in and prayed a while. I looked on, enjoying the environment. Modern churches now were equipped with air conditioner, loads of stuff, but they gave me a sense of rush and chaos. This church, was not air conditioned under the sun, and all I could feel is peace. This place is just good!

Half Day Trip in Singapore

Not only that, as I walked out, I realized I do like the white washed wall a lot. I imagined if I would ever went for a trip or two in Greece, maybe there would be chances that I screamed of excitement or just stick on those walls, hugging them like a teddy bear!

Half Day Trip in Singapore

Beside the church building was this house. I have no idea what is its purpose but it reminds me of some Penang houses…

Half Day Trip in Singapore

On the compound were the statues either of Christ or some tombs… This one actually made me thought of Christ helping the two child, protecting them from blazing sun. But of course, that was my imagination.

Half Day Trip in Singapore
Half Day Trip in SingaporeHalf Day Trip in Singapore

Reference:

1) “Armenian Apostolic Church of St. Gregory the Illuminator Singapore”. http://armeniansinasia.org/.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Mini Mémoires: A Tale of My Crooked Teeth

I had been hesitating for days whether this should be in my blog or published freely on my free work sites as a memoir. The story, had been too simple for me to categorize it as a story but anyway, I published alright. I put it in a memoir category, my story 'Tale of My Crooked Teeth'.

It is a very simple story which I had longed to share in my life and I hope the story didn't bore any of you too much. Other than that, sit back and enjoy the story, and comment so that I can improve!

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Not-So Grad Trip: Singapore Art Museum

Just nearby CHIJMES, stood this beautiful building, hidden behind a row of trees. If it was not because of the giant balloons which were displayed at that time, I would have missed it. It is now known as the Singapore Art Museum, gazetted on 14 February 1992. Before that, it was a school named St Joseph Institution. It was a chapel before that, built by Father J. B. Boucho in 1832. In fact, the construction of this chapel had a lot to do with CHIJMES and the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd, as shown in the reference below.

Half Day Trip in Singapore

You could still tell it was a school as the title was still there now. I did not know I could produce my student card and enter the exhibition for free hence I walked around the exterior of the building before wandering off to my new location!

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Half Day Trip in SingaporeHalf Day Trip in Singapore

References:

1) Tan, Bonny. “Former St Joseph’s Institution (Singapore Art Museum”. http://infopedia.nl.sg/articles/SIP_1625_2009-12-31.html. December 2009.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Job Seeking Period

Just posted my 2011 reflection and 2012 resolution, I noticed I missed a part which I would really want to share with you. I am still catching up with the posts but let us skip the time, travelling to the job seeking period of my life, roughly the third quarter of the year of 2011. It was a happy event to graduate and finally getting to go around the world like a man – I mean, like an independent individual. I knew it might not be easy but I knew I must be strong to go through the process. And things were not actually happening as what I quite expected…

To say that those days were okay, that was a lie! As a matter of fact, I find it a complicated period of time. This was the time I realized I wasn’t strong enough to face all these and doubted myself. Of all the failures and standing-up-agains I had in my life, job seeking was as though repeating the same thing again. I was literally spending my days applying for job, spending my parents’ money on expenses and spending my wits in understanding the life in the outside world. And the fact that I was graduating rather alone, things seemed to be harder because no matter what happened I would be on my own. Outside school, it’s a strange world I had never really know and I was to venture on my own, forced to suit myself in because if I don’t, I could not survive. I have to admit I was extraordinarily emotional during the job seeking period. Tears rolling down my face in my room, having tantrums on events, staring at the ceiling asking for the meaning of life… all these, were actually what happened to me! My family was always supporting me morally but at some point, they felt worried of my sadness and kept asking me to stop crying because they would be crying too. I felt bad to make them worried but at that time, all I have is them – who else could I express my inner feelings to? I felt ashamed for spending my parents’ money on my daily expenses but I could do nothing. I wished I could find a job as soon as possible to lessen their financial burden, but I was confused with the misery being too independent from my family. With everything cooking up, I felt quite helpless to the point that I started to doubt my own ability in handling my own future. In the end, lying on an unfamiliar mattress in my rather strange room, I was so bored that I wished I could do something and that’s the starting point of my turning point.

I started to find things to do. I tried any resources I could use or find. The very first of everything, I made myself my own graduation trip. I was never a travel person, and my finances would never allow me to go around the world (maybe I could in future, who knows?). I rejected my friends’ invitation to a graduation trip to Europe. But then, I decided to had my graduation trip in Singapore, the very island I had studied in for three years and yet I was not very familiar with the country still. I got myself a few destinations and area, drew some maps, did some minor planning. On certain dates, I picked up a camera, a bottle, a backpack, important stuff and a cap; with that, I started my journey around Singapore. I may not have visited all of Singapore, but I could say it is quite a surprise I actually did that. In between, I did invite my friends to tag along. I will be posting about my graduation trip at some point. Other than travelling, I started to look at writing, continue to write my story and look at materials for my writings. I gathered information and examples of video logs. I had no idea I would ever had courage in doing anything like that but right after I get my job, I stepped out my first step in making videos. Other than that, I was so negative at that time that I guess I had even lose interest in drawing. Many of the drawings were rubbish, but when my mood came back, I succeeded in decorating my wall! And by drawing, I could throw away everything and immerse in the drawings, giving me a sensation of joy!

After all these, I do feel challenged sometimes still. Just like what was in Doctor Who, ‘Every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don't always soften the bad things, but vice-versa, the bad things don't necessarily spoil the good things and make them unimportant.’ I told Priscillia, ‘I think maybe this period of time is a time for me to grow extensively’. And I grew A LOT! I am now open to admit how bad I was at that time, because I am also proud to admit I grew out of it. No matter how strong I have been, there will be times I am weak; but that doesn’t mean I can’t be stronger than before. I am glad I did survive and appreciated those, especially my family, who bear my complains, tantrums and rants all the way from Penang… And, this is another time I felt very human, I couldn’t find any other moment I was that emotional I guess…

Goodbye 2011, Hello 2012!

This time, I will put the video at the later part as I wish to express myself first. As you should have noticed the title of the post, this post is about New Year Day (so much of a ‘new year’ when it was a month ago). Something different from previous year was I had decided to make a reflection and resolution. Life is too short to waste away years and years not knowing where you want to go, isn’t it?

My reflection on 2011 was not complicated, nor simple. Some great things about 2011 were that I graduated from my undergrad degree. Although I did not graduate as some top scorer of the class or the Student of the year sort of thing, I had had an amazing journey to grow up. I will leave such emotions on my graduation posts. By that, I went through a period of job seeking days. Then I got a job, which is acceptable and interesting! On the last evening of 2011, I played softball, concluding an eventful year. I went to a temple with my friends: Carmen, Sharlene and Ken Juin, to witness the celebration of New Year 2012. They hit the gong for 108 times, we prayed and wished each other Happy New Year. I called back home to greet my parents and phone my brother to wish him. It was incredible!

Later I visited the rest in one of the hostel room. They had a session of steamboat and resolution thing. I wasn’t very organized at that moment, but I promised to put it up. So here it is:

Untitled

Ignore vision and mission because these were meant to be a long term thing. My goals for this year are as listed. First, I would want to remind myself of my intention to learn German. Why? I have many random reason. One funny  thought was, ‘I would like to conquer Europe, in the language sense’. I guess I was wondered by Germany’s history and it’s probably the next language after French which I have some idea. Plus, German is of a different language family from the Latin family. I guess it would be a thrilling experience! Second, continuing to be a good person. I assume it sounds easy but not as simple as just saying. I will watch my step! Third, it is something about my dream to become a scientist – curious more, ask more and research more, very clear! Fourth, write. I would like either continue writing my story or start by trying some small scale fictions. If even I had a chance, maybe I will turn into a Grammar Nazi – an irony for me as I was always scolded for my retarded grammar mistakes when I was young. Fifth, make better videos!!! Yes, I started to do videos in 2011, which was just absurd. I am generally shy, I guess – that I don’t really talk to people as in a real talk. And now I am thinking of making videos – so much of my experience after being the videographer for KEWOC during second year in university. Sixth, I would want to make sure I swim more and stay healthy. Actually I would wish myself to actually cut down my weight from overweight. It is a hard thing to do, unfortunately. But still, I won’t give up. Stay healthy as first thing – lowering down from overweight is next. If this year I tried and I fail, next year I will continue. No matter if it takes years, because I know it’s for my own good… So, I guess I had roughly stated my goals of the year and let’s see if I stick to any!

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