Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Review: Advice to a Young Scientist

This is about a book review about a book named 'Advice to a young Scientist' by Sir P. B. Medawar, Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine for his discovery work in 'discovery of acquired immunological tolerance'. 

In this book, Sir Medawar wrote what he view as good advice for young scientist and also mentioned some common concerns about being a scientist. In the case of Sir Medawar, he is talking for scientist in general, as in without specific field. However, having his background from the life sciences, it was an inspiration to learn some wisdom from the master. He deflates the myth of genius, intelligence, superiority in a life of being scientist, instead he thinks what thrives are those who are curious, with common sense and inquiring mind. That was especially emphasize in the chapter of whether one was cut out as a scientist. 

Not only that, Sir Medawar went on in giving advice on different aspect of a scientist' life such as presentations, paper, character and even development around other fellow scientists, be it younger or older. 

Why I like this book is that it is a truly down-to-earth advice book, without much flattery or colourful words. I could feel the truthfulness of his advice and their practical-ness. If you are a scientist, or if you are planning to be one, or if you want to understand what it is like to be a scientist, this is a great book. The advice might not be able to apply hundred percent on someone from another field, but there are some which are quite useful even though as a person.

Will I recommend it? Yes, definitely!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

KEFamily June 2013 Meetup

As many says, we usually treasure things when they are no longer around – that’s plain human. And that is how you really feel when you started to drift away from your circle once graduated from university due to different life, different time, different circle, different location and several other reasons. And this June, the usual KEFamily decided to have a meetup. We wanted to make it a monthly event, but like the G3 meetup, many things need to be done to really make that happen! This time round, we decided to meet at Black Canyon Coffee.

I had coffee frost with Salmon added with spicy thousand island.

Just by talking at one place is too mainstream. We decided to get over to Star Vista’s Awfully Chocolate for dessert! Gavin ordered a butterscotch drink, which is quite milky.

I had a sinful slice of white chocolate butterscotch cake. It is really sweet but great dessert! I like it, except I can’t see how I can eat it everyday.

Other than that, photo time!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close: Book

Oskar Schell, an eleven-year-old with Asperger’s losing his father during the 9/11. That was what the film focused, but not the book, which is why I dislike the book less. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close explored first the inner world of Oskar’s mind by projecting briefly life before ‘the worst day’ with his father and after, in which his father never came back. And the adventure began as he found a note written ‘Black’ in his father’s wardrobe when he was trying to reminiscing his father’s memory. What is fine in this book is that it did not focus too much on the internationally hot event. Rather, it was just mentioned at ‘the worst day’. Instead, the conjecture of the plot, at least for Oskar’s part, pointed to the emotion one has to deal with in response to a lost. And in this case, Oskar may not show the usual cry and grief kind of drama because that was not how his emotional world works. Besides, his thoughts were mixed with something else: the secret of the last few call messages of his father. The secret was so heavy that he carried with him almost along most of his journey, at least for the early half of the book. However, I do say the Jonathan Safran Foer’s image of Oskar was not very accurate at time. Yes, people with Asperger’s always have a lot of things in their mind, complicated. But Oskar seems to be too old for his age in terms of thinking sometimes. It was as though Foer accidentally let himself slipped into his character here and there along the story. But generally, in terms of the voice and emotion, Foer did well and it could capture some attention.

But then, things didn’t go well for the whole book, did it?

For me, Foer’s book loses its attraction when it comes to the subplot. It may be a style of writing, by adding backgrounds for another character as a subplot. It was a great thing to understand how Oskar’s grandmother and grandfather acted in Oskar’s time by flashbacks of their past. However, to some point, it was so heavy that the whole book started to lose focus. Plus, this part is lengthy.

On the other note, I do like the way the book was designed where there were some visualization of what was going on in the plot such as the paper Oskar found in the stationery shop, the pages that were filled with correction circle, the pages when the words showed how confusing Oskar’s inner world has become. These are some plus points that attracted me, personally.

These are some examples of how Foer capture story-telling techniques not just by words:

Photos taken from here.

Overall, this is a good book to read on – at least for Oskar’s part.

Selected quotes:
“I regret that it takes a life to learn how to live.”
“So many people enter and leave your life! Hundreds of thousands of people! You have to keep the door open so they can come in! But it also means you have to let them go!”
“I felt, that night, on that stage, under that skull, incredibly close to everything in the universe, but also extremely alone. I wondered, for the first time in my life, if life was worth all the work it took to live. What exactly made it worth it? What's so horrible about being dead forever, and not feeling anything, and not even dreaming? What's so great about feeling and dreaming?”
“I tried the key in all the doors, even though he said he didn't recognize it. It's not that I didn't trust him, becuase I did. It's that at the end of my search I wanted to be able to say: I don't know how I could have tried harder.”

Sunday, July 07, 2013

July: The Second Half

Happy Penang Heritage Day!

Yes, it is indeed a public holiday in Penang, Malaysia. But I am not there, so I am excluded from all the excitement and nice food. Two years ago, same day, I graduated from NUS as well, as an undergraduate. I did not score very well, I was happy to have my family around for my commencement, but I wasn’t very happy with my bad-beings during my undergrad life. It was a painful period of time, and I am still trying to walk out of that shadow.

Well, let’s hold the penitence just there. This post is about half a year has gone.

As we busied our way through our daily life, time has passed. The Time Keeper by Mitch Albom might tell about how it is bad that human started to fear the sensation of ‘time running out’, but in my opinion, it is more of how that will remind the pea-brain of human’s to be aware of living a fulfilling life. As I hopped around the lab, learning and stumbling – little did I notice that 50% of the year had just crossed itself out. I do know that it was June already as how I recorded every month, but June brushed pass me as lightly as I realize.

In June, I shifted the lab with fellow lab members. It was a tremendous experience, mixed with good and bad part of it. Its remnants still linger now. I learned a lot through this event, no doubt. Just after moving in, the haze came to Singapore – yes the serious hazardous haze.

It was at first thought to be some normal haze occurrence as what Singapore always had annually. However, this year, due to many factors, it was really bad. The Pollutant Standard Index (PSI) rose from a normal range until the hazardous range. I cancelled all my outdoors due to it. I can’t even breathe inside my own room, on my bed. Even in an indoor lab, we could smell the burned smell all day long. It is unpleasant. There was a N95 mask fiasco around for some time before the wind came to rescue. It blew the haze away from Singapore and arrived through Malaysia. I called back Penang to ask my parents to be ready with their mask if it worsen. It did get worse, though in Penang it was not as bad as other part of Malaysia. N95 masks were also sold out in Penang. My mum did get to buy some after that but that was when the haze was not that bad anymore. I asked her to keep those extras in case of this ‘annual’ event.

Anyway, the haze stood between our softball matches for Usport. In the end, we did finish the game. I played on Padang, SRC for a second year. Being a team which didn’t train together, I did not expect much of it, but there were mistakes that could have been done better. That gave me more alert of ‘give your 100% no matter what you do – perhaps except giving blood’. But the precious thing about this year round, I get to know other hall team member better. We ended up with jump shots on Padang. I hope we will play together more often. I treasure the relationship we had there.

Randomly, I do get surprises on my way home like this:

I went to the dentist, which I mentioned in my previous post. I had a couple of meet ups with friends, which I reckoned to be a vital part to maintain my social circle. Not just that, one of my high school boatmate came to Singapore as well. Soo Ling and I managed to meet up and check on her so far.

In between, I finished quite a few books and posted about how oleocanthal could be used to prevent Alzheimer’s. Not to mention Matt Smith’s announcement to leave Doctor Who, with his incarnation of the Doctor regenerating end of this year during the Christmas special.

So that’s for June and I shall start my another 50% of the year with more meaningful things to do!

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