Sunday, November 29, 2015

Birthday!

Wow, it took me a month to start writing about my birthday!

To kick off with what I've got up my sleeve for my birthday this year, I did a little short cover on David Bowie's "Space Oddity" with a little thank you message before that for people who had played a part in my life.


My birthday at the start of this month was a Sunday, but basically it started the day before. Sharlene made a sudden invitation for lunch on a Saturday. Since I was going to the lab, I suggested NUH and it turned out KJ could join us too! We decided to have some Penang food at Penang Street outlet, which was enough to curb the desire for home town delicacies. We chat and joked and it turned out they planned to treat me for my birthday the day after. It was very nice of them and I thanked them. Through the conversation, we got to know about our common friend, G, who was admitted into the hospital but the visiting hour had passed. So we had to give it a miss.



On the day of my birthday, I woke up early in the morning to watch Doctor Who, it was the Zygon Invasion episode. Then, I prepared myself and went over to Maxwell Food Centre as planned with ZL and Stephanie. We got to eat some local food like pancakes and dumplings. We did not manage to try all the food there obviously, because we only have three stomachs in total. Stephanie showed me the banana cake she made as I requested that as a birthday special.



After the lunch, we walked a little around the area and went to Department of Caffeine for some café stuff. I got a latté and we shared a banana waffle (which reminded me of the amount of banana we had on the same day). We chat a bit and also decided to visit our friend in the hospital after that.



Before the hospital visiting hour, we still have an hour or two to spend, so I pop back into the lab for some quick stuff, like checking the cells and some simple experiments. It was fruitful, nonetheless. I was very pleased with the result. And later that day, we spent an hour visiting our friend, and get to know how he was settling in with his post-operation recovery phase. All is well but his mother was rather worried, which was normal. He got a very cute kidney plushie, which was cool! Dinner after that was in Kopitiam and we ended the day to rest for Monday.

ZL also gave me a pack of presents, which was very very nice of her. These stuff could easily be practical in my life. The tumbler, needless to say; the book, good for my 2016 to-do planner (I have been making good use of MUJI notebook for 2015 so I shall continue the habit); the brownie, my snack for the next few days; the shortcakes, literally my breakfast for the next week.


On Monday, I had a lovely treat by two of my lab members, somehow by surprise. I thought it was a joke, but it turned out they really treat me to good food in Marché. Not just that, they finally introduced me the infamous Tutu Kueh from Singapore. I haven't had one during my seven-year-stay here, so it was a shame. It was a small stall with a lady moulding flour with flavours in these funny-looking device. The whole steam-feel was making it so classic.

A photo posted by Mafer Seow (@freshwiz_mafer) on

The final product? Little round piece of white flour that melts in your mouth. I find myself liking the coconut-flavoured ones.



And hence, this is my birthday in a short summary. It was cozy and lovely, and I thought it was great! In addition to that, I also posted a sketch painting for my brother's birthday... which was just the day after mine..


Sunday, October 25, 2015

Blue Sushi by Bertie Gilbert

Finally, I managed to space out some time in the morning for this piece of clip. I enjoyed Bertie Gilbert's other short film and thought when this one is out I should have a look at it. As I mentioned before, his style had matured and I am rather pleased with the things he made. Blue Sushi touched a bit on coming out as a transgender, but in my opinion, it was not totally about LGBT, it is the display of the fact that each and every one of us are the same. People or even ourselves, no matter which type of person you are, tend to think we already understand ourselves in terms of our choices, when in fact, most of the time we might not have the best and perfect answer. And the fact that it is not wrong and bad, it is called 'growing up', by exploring yourselves, your own choices and find yourself, and not according to what people think and say about you. This show, is about each of us, coming out in good terms with ourselves and be happy. I like it! (Well, of course, the above is my interpretation, feel free to add on.)

Saturday, October 17, 2015

I Live in a Busy World

This is not a phenomenon I noticed recently, it had been here for some time, bugging my mind again and again. Nowadays, among friends, co-workers or even strangers, when you ask 'How are you?', the answer was no longer the standard 'fine'. I used to mock how that 'fine' was so auto that it didn't mean anything, but oh, how I miss it now. 

People started conversation saying they're busy. Oh, whoops, so should I end this conversation now so that you can continue with your busyness? People giving you a list of their activities trying to tell you their schedule is too busy to include your suggested activity. Erm, okay, I get it you don't have time for this. Excuse me, I'm too busy to know your timetables too. People disappearing from act because they are too busy with whatever they are doing, when it is a teamwork. So... do I still call you a team mate or...? People grumbling about how heavy their workload is now, literally every time you see them. I know you are overworked, everyone is overworked. Wait, are you okay? Are you coping? Is this a distress signal?

Don't get me wrong, I was not immune to this 'disease' either. I read back those delayed posts I had in this very blog, how many times had I use the 'busy' word as an excuse? The truth is, when that happened, it has nothing to do with busy, at least most of the time. It was just, this blog post might not be on my priority list anymore. When I was a student, I tended to say I was busy studying. But, really? Did I really learn a lot? No. That just showed how bad a student I was, because that showed I haven't even manage a student life properly, I can't cope, I was not good enough. 

And then, things changed. I looked at myself from outside me.

I disgusted myself with myself. It showed me how incompetent I was. It showed me a person who used excuse to cover excuses to dodge away whatever responsibilities that was thrown to me. It showed I was not being true to myself, to admit I changed my priority. Yes, blogging is no longer my top ten purpose in my life, get it straight, and admit it. It showed I was bad at managing my time, my study, and my priorities. You are a student, you are supposed to at least try to be good at studying, dude. It showed how sloppy I was. It showed how self-centred I was, telling everyone I was the one busy, that I mattered, the things I do is soooo much more important or bigger than them. And the truth is, how big is your work, is your own perspective. It showed I was not mature enough, with a big chunk of arrogance. I took it as though I have the biggest problem in the world, I was owed, I was the most unfortunate person in the world. What actually happened? I was not humble enough to realize everyone in this world has their own problem, and by doing that I'm shoving other's problem off and enlarging mine to hundred times, until I live in my own little bubble. It also could meant, I was not smart and wise enough to realize and solve my problem. Here you go again, I'm literally hanging a 'I AM DUMB' sign on my neck and be very proud of it. Dumb! 

There are so many more examples that I can give, and most of them are not very good, cheerful ones. 

In the process of doing all this 'busy stuff', not only did I belittled people around me, I belittled myself. I underestimated my own potential. I buried my dreams. I overshadowed my own chance to shine. And one of the worst things? When it is really 'busy', it doesn't add up to the effect anymore. My message here is not to tell people not to admit busy-ness when it is true. There will be times when you can't cope and is on the verge of collapsing. That's time when you need to ask for help, signal people around you to keep an eye on you. And if you have been stating your situation as 10/10 all the time, when it is really serious, there's no 11/10 for you. It was a bit of a cry-wolf effect.

In the end, I admitted to myself, that this is bad, for me, for my friend, for my family and for my entire life. I have to take responsibility for my life and what I really want to do with my life, I need to take charge and do something about it. And so I started to change, mentally, with attitude and action.

So far, it was going great. Most of the time, my respond to 'How are you?' became 'Great.' I see the world in a more positive light. It gave me hope to push myself further with every step. I also started to understand myself better in time, my strength, weakness and potential, limitations. I can see places I need to improve and certain aspects of my life I should feel proud of. I appreciate life better and looked forward to a better ones. The world no longer became about me, it became world, so much bigger and many to explore.

These are my take from the lesson I learned and purely my own interpretation and thoughts. I thought this post had a lot of 'I' and 'me' inside, but I wrote this from my own point of view, to not generalize too many of you. I hope it tickle your mind a little and make this world a better place.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Book Review: Very Good Lives


Rather than a book review, I would say this as a 'thought after the read' more of Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination. If you have always been thinking you didn't have time to read a book, please - please, check this one out. This iss practically of a length not-a-book, and a message of so-much-more-than-a-book. In fact, you might find the text on-line somewhere because this book is exactly the speech J. K. Rowling gave at a Harvard Commencement. To be able to stand there and give advice to the future generation, that must be something. J. K. Rowling came to me through Harry Potter, when I was still a child who was not very fond of reading and not very good at making friends and finding life not really fitting together. The wizarding world had served as my comfort zone, my emergency blanket during my secondary school years and at the same time, a initial culture, preparing me to understand the real world. Through this so-called virtual world, I learned to understand human, I learned what it means - life. And this convinced me Rowling had a set of good life principle. In fact, I find her way of life interesting, not all perfect, but not all bad - and that's where we can learn from. In this book/speech, Rowling gave a few advice through her own life experiences.

Here are a few quotes I find moving, among a whole list of quotes (I can't paste everything here!):

It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.

Life is difficult, and complicated, and beyond anyone’s total control, and the humility to know that will enable you to survive its vicissitudes.

We do not need magic to transform our world; we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.

Many of what she spoke, might sound to you, normal, simple, everyday and mundane. And that was what matters. Most of the time, it was the simplest, commonest things in our life that actually matters. These little reminders...

It made me thought of the speech during my commencement. I can't remember the whole of it, but what stroke my thought was 'not to chase for honours, let the honours chase after you'. It was a waking bell in some way and a reminder.

In case you are interested in listening the speech, here it is:

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Phuket-Land Trip 2015 IV

20 June 2015

Cashew Nut Factory Visit

After the previous stop, we continued our journey on the vehicle. Here are the other two passengers chilling while the wind flew by...


We get to see more of the streets of Phuket. There were familiar shophouses selling daily stuff like this one (left). Piles of pails, bottles, containers, chair, broom, cups, bowls... anything you need - the dry stuff - in your house. And there were also houses which were well-painted and looked very nice (right). They were beautiful and I wondered what it's like, to stay in there...



Our next destination was a cashew nut factory. It was a coincidence when I just had a conversation with my ex-colleague over the chat group about cashew nut, water guava and jambu. This was a small scale factory, more for display rather than functional.

So, visitors were quickly gathered at each stations where demonstration of traditional processing of cashew nut was shown. The first one showed the extraction of the raw nut from its hard shell. This machine here has a screw-like punch which will go right through the 'eye' area and pry open the nut shell. And from inside, you get one cashew nut.


If you are curious. The red coloured object was a demonstration of how cashew nut fruit looked like. Having come from the same family of jambu air, they looked almost the same, except the nut of this, which could be seen at the bottom of the fruit after the bell-shaped body, is edible.


In the same factory, there were some machines too. Those were not as large scale as those manufacturing plant machineries, but it should be sufficient for the local factory uses. The one on the left seemed to be a roasting machine while the right one is a packaging machine. It was a pity the tour did not include explanation to these sections. 


The tour was quite short and we were shortly leaving the area. This is how it looked like from outside...


Monday, August 10, 2015

Rocks That Bleed by Bertie Gilbert


I watched Rocks That Bleed, a short film by Bertie Gilbert, today. The work-in-progress feed about this work was always filling up my screen but I didn't really know what was it about. I used to watch Bertie Gilbert's Youtube videos. In fact, he was one of the first vloggers whom I watched and followed. Unfortunately (or fortunately), I knew about Bertie from Harry Potter. And some resourceful fans pointed out this channel he had and I started watching the channel. At first they were simple, funny videos, which sometimes left you like 'what?'. But after some time, his skills improved. If I haven't mistaken, most of his old videos were taken down. Anyway, his current videos were more artsy and have more meaning, in my personal opinion. For example, this short film. It didn't have complicated plot. It was not long. It was not heavily manipulated. However, the feeling is there. I could get what the film was trying to convey, the emotion, the message. Nonetheless, one thing I like about his new film was the filmography, the shots were well captured, very ecstatic indeed. Do give it a try and have a look!

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.

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