Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Embolden

This will be a quick update. There had been times this week when I do get encouragements from my fellow lab members and professors, not to forget Prof M who actually sees the field I am working in will be one that will contribute a lot to the human population. I truly understand when Sir Paul Nurse mentioned ‘whatever it is, it must be strong to keep you going on’ because the road is tough, fun and exciting – but yes, tough. I felt rather glad to receive so much words of wisdom and encouragements of course, but I do get worried that I will forget of where am I and paused my footstep. So, I keep on reminding myself. And it was funny because I do get some small challenges alongside with these. For example, I was given task and given a certain pressure to figure out the things. I don’t like to be told what should I do and what I should not do, but it is a frustration to not able to think out of the box yet because my knowledge is still a smaller box than other’s knowledge box. I need an upgrade obviously. And I reckoned it is not about knowledge sometimes, it is about wisdom and strength. I was quite exhausted sometimes after the duties that my brain just chose to sneak off for a little break, which is annoying at times. But I guess all these trainings, are really good way to forge me into something good. And I am ready for the challenge. I may still fall several times, but I am ready.

Yesterday night, I took some night off to write a short article about a journal published in Nature. I am still not considering that a good one because it is more of a summary rather than a good review consisting many background readings. Need improvement for this area. Check.

For today, our bus broke down nearby Clementi area and we had to take 963 to school instead. I did my duties and went back to my thinking box. Later the evening, I went for frisbee, slightly late this time and get to do some fast run this time. I guess I am improving. After the game, I went to listen to Carmen’s and Huihui’s performance in YIH Starbucks for Reconnact. It is much better today and I busy-bodied for a few moment before going back. I am still halfway reading loads of articles. Being able to ‘save them in Pocket’ has become a good excuse for ‘I’ll read later’. I really need to give myself some sense of urgency to stop all these nonsense.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sunday Indoors

It was not exactly an indoor Sunday because I did spend a brief hour outside, getting myself a new thermo flask so that I can get access to quick hot water whenever I want, some fruits for my likings and three onigiri for my lunch and tomorrow’s breakfast. The place was packed, but it was bearable, though I did make a mistake of not getting a basket and ended up lugging all the things across the mart’s lane. I had two onigiri for lunch (That’s like two lump of rice, oh gosh). Then I watched Cloud Atlas. It was superb. Then before I start my work for translation, I cooked my dinner, Milk bread with egg and salmon, topped with mushrooms and sides with a slab of cheese and some lady fingers. It was quite a big meal.

After that, I had two tangerines and off to start doing my first piece of translating work for UNV. I was procrastinating the piece, to be truth. But I did it in the end, finishing up the work just half an hour before the deadline! I did grabbed some time after that to read a new piece by David Mitchell on Snowmen and Flood and The Sad State of Our Science, and How to Fix It from Bloomberg. Then it is now midnight. To think of that, I still have much to do, hmm… well, I should conclude my weekend and continue fighting then!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

An Evening of Dissimilitude

I am not going to summarize what happened these few days but just one evening, this past evening (Yesterday, because it’s passed midnight). It was quite a stagnant early evening before the workflow came. I was reading papers for the sake of the project. (Nope, I haven’t achieve the skill of finish one paper in five minutes.) I was quite hungry somehow. I chipped two butter chip cookies and the Tai Yang cookie Weiting brought me from Taiwan. Then, the cells are ready and all the work began. I am still new in the sense that I can only run two experiments in one go – and that’s not even two projects. I accept my incompetence at the moment as I am still on my way towards a higher standard. After I finished up the work, I was left with half an hour of frisbee if I still want to go. I thought I might never have enough fun, so I decided to go for dinner with few of the lab people. I ended up spotting the DBS people still playing frisbee and changed attire. I played almost 25 minutes of frisbee since they ‘elongated’ the game time. Everything was running, adrenaline pumping – so much difference from what happened when I gobbled up the cookies. The next thing, I went to YIH Starbucks to ‘sort of support’ Carmen for her collaboration with Huihui. They are performing!

It was quite relaxing, sitting at one of the round table right next to the platform, drinking the iced Hojicha Tea latte, which allows me to get free (empty) red packets, reading The Seasoning of a Chef which I just started. Not only that, from my observation, I noticed the manager of the Starbucks. She is a lovely person, so kind and nice and friendly. I like the way she treat everyone, truly living to the spirit of Starbucks of serving the world with coffee. It’s a precious to know someone passionate about their job, so I salute her. So I was basically taking a few hours away from laptops or thinking about work today for some relaxation. And that was when I asked myself last night if I sacrificed too much of my personal growth time for Science. In some way, I sacrificed something, but to think back, personal growth was cultivated during my work time as well – it is not as though I did not learn anything from my lab that is outside Science – but of course, I am glad I remind myself constantly of a must to have some own time for quality time Smile.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Impeccable Delirium

I was not joking when I decided to use the word as stated in the title. I had a crazy week, not in a way as in too busy to have my own time; but in a way of too many things happening in just a short period of time. I was actually amazed that when I came back from vacation, I told myself it would be a blink of my eye before the break for Chinese New Year is here, but I definitely blinked more than that and it is still few weeks more.

As I mentioned, I went to SMA Symposium the other day. The whole thing ended for three days. The second day was more energy-draining since it consists of morning talk of the programme and a whole evening of presentations. Though, it was really great to be able to see the making of Science. The presentations might not be well-packaged speech, but the contents are really eye-openers. I do admit I don’t understand many parts of them, but I am glad I made my choice of attending it because I get to know more about research and particularly something about the project I am going to join. It was rather funny to see my name on my mentor’s presentation slide as I still consider myself ‘a pair of hands’ and really limited thinking I had contributed compared to the effort the people paid off for the whole project. I need to work harder, I think; but my mentor assured me it’s because it is just the beginning. Well, I still have to play my part. And the winners were awarded that evening reception, which we mistaken as dinner and got disappointed to find out we were served snacks and beer.

After that, I skipped the Wednesday bit partly because there were less topics related and also I has duty to fulfil. I collected my Gardens by the Bay ticket and had lunch in YIH (mixed rice). I trial run the first practical for the most basic Biochemistry class. I forgot everything I did in my first year, but one good thing about Biochemistry is that you can make sense out of it. So, forgetting does not mean the end. That night, I attended casual dinner at Straights Kitchen. The food was just okay and the variety was not really stunning. But still, who would deny an invitation for dinner, right? They congratulate one of the professor for his tenure-ship, which is something that don’t come by every year.

Thursday, as what was said by colleagues, was my day of getting my ‘phD’ (pH meter degree). We calibrated a whole teaching lab of pH meter. It might seemed to be an easy task but the challenge is that of it was too repetitive and easy and it sometimes bore you down if you has nothing better to get occupied with. I am glad all of us worked together in a rather fun environment, which made the chore looked less unbearable. And we had lunch in, yes I know, YIH. I had Kimchi fried rice, which was quite oily for the day but tasty. We had TA briefing that evening and that’s all.

Friday is the day of practical. As last semester, I am still frowning about the weird timing of the practical, which spans across my usual lunch hour. But my colleagues are smart people when they provided welfare outside the lab. I got to eat some chocolate chip cookies and coffee as a break from the tummy-grumbling in lab session. I should really get some food and treat them back in future because they saved my life. Of course, the professor was quite funny with his usual humour, such as ‘if you think you are going to die, crawl out of the lab so that we don’t need to fill up those forms’. Of course, these are just jokes. We do wish nothing really serious happen. Afterall, it was just a pH practical – what could possibly go wrong?!! Nothing really goes wrong, but there were some minor hiccups with rather innocent/blur students because it was their first practical. Let’s hope they gain more wisdom in the following practical then.

That night, my lab went to congratulate one of our member’s baby for her baby shower. She smiled when we crowded around her. Of course, we had dinner there as well – good steamboat. Then there is our ‘one day MRT station tour’ before stopping at Holland Village. Interesting evening we had there and I ended up taking taxi back home in the middle of the night. Good thing I get to share the fare though.

Saturday, I woke up to realize I left my laptop adapter back in lab, so I have to go back and at the same time, returning my library books. It was a rainy day, given that it rained since the midnight (after I came back). I went to IMM to post postcard and letter, which on the way I spotted Yan Tie and his wife grocery-shopping at Giant. I dropped by for a quick ‘hi’ before hopping off to school. At first I thought since I had to go back to school, then perhaps I would want to watch the IHG, but it was cancelled – just like what happened to my ‘jogging/walking/crawling’ routine for that day. I returned to near my house area with Zhuangli and we had lunch in Capricciosa. I had a pasta with smoked salmon and Fritelle. The pasta is not bad and I like the salmon that is not overcooked. The Fritelle was nice although there are cinnamon. I do have something say to the crisp that came along though, because I felt it harboured the smell of oil when I eat them. But overall, it was a happy lunch. I napped the whole evening and had a late dinner of onigiri that day.

Sunday, I finally got to see a no-rain morning. It was still a chilling morning. I went for a slow jog of around five rounds around the IPPT track and had some slacking PT for my own before going up for breakfast. I had milk before the jog, but I tried the oat recipe recommended by my colleague. I heard of it before but I had never gain any confidence in trying it, so today, I did. It was just heating up the oat and add milk with it. It was really bland, in my opinion. The most I could taste was the milk taste, which I might need some time to get used to in the case of oatmeal. I finished it in the end though. I went for grocery shopping in NTUC with some imaginary plan for the breakfast for five days in future, replenished things that are expired (I am really sorry about this) and also got some food for the meal today.

My meal of the day, flavoured rice with lady fingers and mint-sauced salmon fillet, paired with herbal soup (the one Mummy stuffed in my luggage). They were superb, because it is a good meal and it is still within my budget (although I had to cut down the salmon portion to make it possibleSad smile). The rest of the day was spent on finishing The Great Perhaps by Joe Meno (look at me procrastinate) and reading journals and articles. I do slacked around quite a lot for this Sunday, no regrets. #YOLO

Monday, January 14, 2013

Summarizing Yesterday

I guess I will have to start training myself to blog in a very fast manner, including phasing out typing errors and grammatical errors. The time I have each day is still twenty four hours and I am having more and more things to be occupied with. To balance out my new year’s resolution so far, I guess I can’t compromise my health by sleeping too late as my parents had been saying the ‘eleven to one prime time’ is crucial. I will try sleeping at least at midnight and will start managing my sleeping cycle to wake up early (if ever I can). So what happened yesterday?
I attended the first day of SMA Symposium. The session was scheduled with SMA alumni sharing their experiences of the programme and how did the programme affect their current life. Some was rather so-so but there were some inspiring ones. Each of them is unique but of course I enjoyed particular certain few speaker’s speech.
During the lab ‘talking’ session, we shared few updates and had some talk. Prof actually asked if I see the amazing things that are done by these bunch of people. I said ‘All the time, everywhere’. That was indeed (I will blog about this some day) a very frequent basis that I witness wonders in the lab, the robustness – the maturity. And prof was nodding ‘Learn!’. I guess I am very grateful to have such a conducive environment to fluorish.
Tomorrow is another day of symposium. I recognized I might not be a good material for listening to lecture because even though some of the speeches were inviting, I still find it hard to focus and fall out several times. Tomorrow will be a challenge I guess, but I still have to try.
Right, see you!

Monday, January 07, 2013

Back to Work This New Year

Thought I would want to record some good things that happened just the few days I came back to work after a vacation. It was after a session of upset stomach and loads of Penang food, so bear in mind I was in a phase of homesickness, not-really-into-eating-anything and laziness. I was looking forward for a good head start in work, but it was admittedly coupled with the momentum deprived spirit.

And it was in the morning that Ryan messaged me to ask me to be prepared to pass down my UROPS project to this new student. Perhaps not the whole project, but still, it was almost two years since I was intensely involved and one year since my life was mildly entangled with the project. I was reading back my reports and try to find out any of my own personal notes worthy to jot down so that I could give the new student an insight. At the same time, I need to find out where were all the things!

Right after that, Weiting messaged me about having some goodies for me. It was not just from her, but I did not expect to get any gift on such a new year. This is true because I did not really ask for anything specific in my Christmas list this year. I can prove it. But anyway, so I dropped by after lunch to retrieve all the goodies!

They were indeed goodies. Most of them were shoved into that pink plastic bag, and I don’t even know if I am going to use them. Truth to be told, I am a very bad person with souvenirs. I think they are too lovely to be used that I often ended up putting them in a container. I’ve got, and specially introduced by the fellows, a calendar where you’ve got these little hearts of stickers to stick who you dated on that particular date. I have a feeling I will be dating a rather not-a-person science stuff throughout the year – though I really don’t mind dating my friends.

I rejected Sylvia’s souvenir and realized quickly I might have been too rude. I tried to apologize or did something to fix it but it did not seem to work. I told her I really won’t be using any of those souvenirs. I don’t know if this is rude but I just think it is important to be honest. Especially when I think those lovely stuff would be better off finding better owners. I am a bad owner.

Other than that, I found the protein – which the joy was totally overshadowed by this Paradise Tree Snake. Ryan or his friend caught it along the ridge and it was going to be send off for some measurements. I did get to take a photo of it and tap on its container for a few times before going off to face the rather confused new student who was still in the midst of exploring the project nature…

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Wrapping up 2012, Unboxing 2013 (Part 2/2)

Continued from Part 1.

Enough of 2012, now is the real thing – 2013. As I said, I slept through my first few minutes of 2013 but I did it for good reason – I was resting. For 2013, there were a few things that were kept in my mind about life in some funny ways #YOLO, #DFTBA and ‘When our time came, Britain, we did it right.’ #YOLO, as most of us know, means ‘You only live once’, which could be elegantly spoken as ‘seize the day’ which is from the very posh quote ‘carpe diem’. When I say #YOLO, I really mean it and not in a funny way or crazy way. I did not want to do something crazy just because YOLO, I would like to do something that is meaningful not just for me but for everyone else in the world because YOLO. #DFTBA, means ‘Don’t forget to be awesome’. It might sound cheeky, but seriously, during my working life, DFTBA is the one that reminds me of being DFTBA. When people goes into their working life, once a while, people forgot how to feel happy, how to feel young, how to not trap in the work-eat-sleep cycle and this is the time when you need to live the DFTBA spirit. Even for the most seemed-to-be-boring work in the world, find awesome things in it, see the greatness at the most unexpected places. The final quote, is given in a speech during London Olympic 2012 Opening ceremony, ‘When our time came, Britain, we did it right’. Well, Britain might not apply to me, but I would want to live my life so that I can say ‘when my time came, I did it right’.

When we look into the whole timeline of civilizations, or existence of Earth, or the vastness of universe – our existence, our life – is just this little speck. Some might thought we did not matter – but no, we matters. We are given this very small portion in the realm of existence, why make this small portion insignificant? We are given a limited life time, limited space, limited growth and (even though regretfully) limited knowledge in some sense, but with these limitedness, we haven’t truly live out to our potential. I have only one life that I am aware of. Any life before or after me (the Karma thing, if you believe it), I have no control over it. I have this one and only one that I can make a change, I can do something with it. I have this life time, that 24 years before this were somehow used up, for good or for bad. For the good ones, I am happy for it; for the bad ones, I take it as a prequel to my good ones. Anything after this, I can’t control what will happen – BUT, I can decide what I should do now. I don’t ask for future Mafer to thank me for my good beings, and I don’t wish future Mafer blame me for my bad beings – because life is not about dwelling in the past or dreaming of future. Dream is good, but realizing it is better. I want a life without regrets.

This year, DFTBA because YOLO, so that when my time came, I did it right.

But of course, for people like me, I think a goal too general might not be a good idea. Hence, I came up with a few resolutions myself. Basically, I am repeating 2012’s resolutions with more specifications (wow, Hi-Res):

Vision: DFTBA because YOLO, so that when my time came, I did it right

Mission: Be a wise person and a scientist

Resolutions:

1. Learn German(50 new vocab/phrases), upgrade French (50 new vocab/phrases + 5 essays), improve English

2. Continue to be a good person – Live right. I would like to be a good person, be kind and be nice. I do give people impression of being cold, so I do wish to be more nice by ‘speaking right’. This of course includes stay healthy, which I hope to maintain by last year’s standard.

3. Write. For this, I am not wishing for more – just maintaining is good enough.

4. Make better videos. This is a bit tricky, because the camera was returned to its rightful owner, my brother and I am left with not much equipment. I wish to maintain but yes, I will see how.

5. Curious more, ask more, research more. THIS IS THE ONE I HAVE TO HIGHLIGHT. Given that I am now in a research lab and doubled with department duties, I am happy to commit to research. But I am still fitting in to the work culture. Besides, to do my Resolution #5, I might have affected my other resolutions. I would like to work hard to balance the thing out, which will be my Secret Resolution #6. And of course, in terms of research, I set a goal that might or might not be able to achieve – my first scientific publication. I won’t give myself any high hopes nor would I wish for which authorship, just research effort worth a publication – that will be good.

So, yes, I am finished with my resolutions, better keep it short and simple and precise, eh? And yes, for YOLO, I should go to bed now, bye peeps!

Wrapping up 2012, Unboxing 2013 (Part 1/2)

It felt like just yesterday, when I raised my glass and said my resolution for 2012 and today it is me raising my glass of cranberry juice, cheering for a good 2013. In fact, I missed the first few minutes of 2013 by sleeping through it because I had an episode of tummy upset just the day before. But  the ringing of fireworks woke me up alright.

First, what I started, I ends; so let me wrap up 2012 first by re-checking my resolutions:

Vision: Change the world. Discover!

I would like to make amendment to such a vision as I know that I can’t change other people without their consent. So, in this sense, I would like to change the world by setting myself as a good example. By that, means I need to change to a better self! Discover, is to discover all the wonderful things in life – the wonderfulness when life is awesome, the amazingness when life is not that awesome; because, in the end of the day, this is the life I live!

Goal 1: Learn German

I did learn some German but I would not say I passed it. So, I will just leave it here.

Goal 2: Continue to be a good person

I did, and I do. Of course, it depends how you define good. I did my best to set myself a good individual morally and tried my best to be a better person. For that, I gave myself a tick for this passed 2012.

Goal 3: Curious more, ask more, research more

I am definite I’m curious, asking and researching all the time. I don’t have a data to show if it is ‘more’, but I am satisfied with the amount of effort I put in within 2012. So yes, another tick.

Goal 4: Write

For this, I do have some numbers. So far, I had written 13 science blog posts (regardless of their quality), 3 short stories and 90+ blog posts. My short stories are Tale of My Crooked Teeth (a biography/life lesson from myself), Searching Sam (a short story of sibling love) and Please, Mr. Snowman (a rather sad Christmas story). Overall, I think I fit this goal. I had an increase in blog post number as well, see.

Goal 5: Make better videos

In 2012, I made 9 videos (not counting the recent few). Quality-wise, I would not be able to judge them but I would say I only fulfil this goal in the earlier part of the year, and got a little sloppy later on. Way to go, Mafer!

Goal 6: Swim more – stay healthy

In 2012, at least for the later part of the year, I fulfilled my resolution. I tried to stick to my schedule of swimming once a week and running at least twice a week. I do take a few lazy breaks here and there, but I am totally okay with it after seeing the effort I have put in. Plus, I would gladly announce, for once in five years, my weight is below 70kg (not sure if it increases after I went back Penang for almost 10 days, but yes, it is still an improvement). Not that I encourages slimming culture, but I wished myself to fall in a healthy range of BMI, that’s all.

So, yes. Roughly, I achieved all my resolutions, but as Kelvin said ‘because your dream is not big enough’ and yes I agreed with him, so I shall make better resolutions in 2013. But my 2012 was not just about achieving my own personal goals of course. Let’s have a look into my 2012.

In 2012, I joined in a outside-NUS softball tournament. It is amazing because I did not really know all of the team at first and we get along well and I enjoyed the game. Most of the team are from Montfort and they are really a tightly-knit bunch of people, reminding me of my old school. It is also my first time, playing on Padang!

In 2012, I went to Marina Bay Sands – The Rooftop. It’s nothing much, but still I don’t see when will be my next time actually going up there, haha!

In 2012, I met several brilliant people. For a hermit or a normally-passive people like me, I am not used to making the first contact with people. But through different circumstances, duties, invitations, social pressure or stuff like that (things that you might not think is really a way) to get in touch with people, I do get to know different people and I am glad of that.

In 2012, I went for two exhibition, the Titanic’s and Harry Potter. I am glad I went, even though it meant I have to spend some money. They were great exhibitions and experience, so no regrets! Also, the company I had for these exhibitions are fantastic people.

In 2012, for my previous job, I threw myself in for the job, even though it was not about research. I learned of the greatness of being able to commit to your job and enjoy it and I do. Don’t get me wrong, I still love research, but I enjoy being able to share knowledge with people, I enjoy being able to explore the amazing world of Science with people who are starting their journey or are sailing along the path and I enjoy exploring from different perspective. For the last few months of my previous work, I have never felt that happy – not because it is ending, but because I truly found how one could find joy in their work.

In 2012, I learned a new sports – frisbee. I played frisbee, as in that ‘plate’ before, but I did not ever thought of playing a sports out of it. I literally not like touch rugby, which was quite a close one to it. I am allergy to grass, and I am bad at running, and I’m just terrible with any team sports and is definitely way-off the standard when it comes to hand-eye coordination. But somehow, I joined in the friendlies in DBS and just decided to take up a challenge. So, now, once a while, I will just drop by their games and played along and I believe I am getting a hand of it.

In 2012, I changed department to get a little bit closer to my dream. I did not count for any pay rise or reduce in workload. I went for it when I was offered an opportunity for research. It is a demanding job, but when things get tough, I will tell myself ‘you wanted this’ and I will be saying ‘yes, this is the thing and I have to go through, to go to my dreams’.

In 2012, I volunteered in a Buddhist stall for henna painting. It was my first time painting Henna for people publicly and it was rather scary at first. I was very content with all the smiles the people had after I finished the painting, especially this little girl’s ‘yes, it’s perfect, it’s very nice!’.

In 2012, I greeted my ex-profs (they will always be my profs) merry christmas and happy new year and surprisingly, they remembered me. I am grateful how they still remembered me as a good impression and wished me well for my future undertakings. I am very happy for just the email exchanges.

In 2012, along the year, thanks to the technology now, I got updates from many old friends! This is especially for the boatmates!!! Not only that, with Soo Ling coming to Singapore to work, and Phey Shan’s arrival – I felt more and more closer to old friends. Not only that, there were many others who are here and I am still yet to hear from them personally. At the end of the year, I get to meet Rachel, finally, for real, after so long of difference in our vacation timing!

Many thing else happened in 2012, but it was generally a great year. It has ups and downs – just like how a great year should be. I appreciated the strength I got when I felt down and I am grateful for the humbleness I was reminded when I was on top of the world. I believe, these are the trainings for a great person in the making – and therefore, I shall accept the task.

Read on Part 2.

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