Category Archives: The writer

Here’s to responsibility kicking in

I tend to drift off on Friday evenings, putting aside things that needed to be read. No excuse for me because I have been lazing around the house for the past few months, shrugging off responsibility for as long as I can, so I cannot talk about having a Friday night’s off from the tiresome week. But things will probably not be the same from next week onwards.

Truth to be told, I feel very fortunate, and lucky in a sense, to be offered a position that I want. Having just graduated, and with no prior working experience except for the honors project, I just armed myself with a mentality that as long as I display interest and commitment, I should not have problems with the interviews. What I faced was not intimidating interviewers grilling me over my lack of experience or that my grades did not meet up with my passion. It was more of my incoherence and lack of articulation that put myself off. I knew what I want, but I did not manage to align my aims with the goals of the organization/company. And on top of my inexperience, the skill sets did not really click well either. I blamed myself for my immaturity a few years back, when the lecturer was covering an important programming skill, and I did not pay attention to it thinking that it would not be of use to me.

With the tides washed against me, I was left to my own despair that I would have to send a second round of emails to places I never thought of going. And then I was given this chance. Pretty much to my amazement because it was not a place I thought I would be in. Furthermore, my impression of the standards held there are definitely beyond what I could possibly meet. Well, they said you can have all the plans in the world, but most of them are not going to roll out as you wish. To put things positively, to be hired means that they have already put the trust on me. It is going to be a rough climb as I am probably already behind everyone else in terms of reading programming codes, let alone write a script. Or maybe, I will not be touching it. And of course, as the work becomes serious and deadlines start catching up with me, accountability and responsibility follow. Oh well, let’s hope for the best next week.

Life isn’t going to be easy from here on. But an easy life, is a boring life.

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Talk science

Biology, the study of life, as I always tell my friends. It’s so much more than that.

Biology talks about the internal milieu of our human bodies, the interactions of living organisms with the environment, how the environment shapes our behaviors and also physical appearances, and how we came about.

But often, the lines between sciences blur when boundaries are crossed. The alteration in the molecular pathways in neurons can affect our mind and behavior, which in turn changes the way we interact with people around us or the environment. But it doesn’t just stop there. The interactions of people within a community pave the way for the establishment of social norms and cultures, and also govern the development of constitutional law that serves the rights of the people. And it all zooms down to how the brain functions, which till now, we still do not have a complete idea what is contained within.

I don’t always love science, at least not when I was younger. I was in science because I can’t do well in arts, probably due to my poor command of language. Whereas for science, content matters more than the expression of the content. At least up till tertiary education, where communicating science takes on a whole new level. In fact, I am happy with where I am. So if given a second chance, I would still choose the path down science discovery.

Ideas are always scattered in my mind like bullet points scrambled around the PowerPoint slides. Till this day, I am still unable to link up all the ideas in succession into a beautiful constellation and translate them across to the audience. So whenever I listen to someone deliver a speech/lesson on science across to the audience with such charisma, I am always in awe.

Science isn’t just a field that excludes the non-science. Many scientists and science journalists have been reaching out to the general public, simplifying grossly worded and intentionally sophisticated scientific journal paper into engaging and entertaining articles. Science communication, they call it, is about helping everyone understand the development and discovery in science, which may in many ways affect their lives unknowingly to them. Knowing simple terms like blood cholesterol or antibiotics is pretty much the same as understanding the concept of down-payment and recession. One difference is how much it affects your life that you’ll have to read up on it in order to continue on with your journey.

The list is not exhaustive and there are many more writers out there trying to bring science to the rest of the world.

As such, the idea of applying for a PhD has crossed my mind a few times. The autonomy (partially) of discovering and diving deeper into a field does pique my interest. Then again, I always reflect back on what I want and what I can. Unfortunately, these two aspects don’t always see eye to eye. Though they may have crossed shoulders in some point of my life, but only for a brief period. Since then, science comprehension has eluded me most of the time.

I still love reading the articles nevertheless. And hopefully one day, I’ll pick myself up and truly appreciate the beauty of science and spread the passion.

Just in case you missed out on the links above:

Ed Yong – Not Exactly Rocket Science

Ilana Yurkiewicz – Unofficial Prognosis

Suzi Gage – Sifting the Evidence

Peter Lipson – White Coat Underground

Virginia Hughes – Only Human

 

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Filed under Education, Science, The writer

Tell him

Let me share one of my all-time favorite oldies. Ally McBeal had this song featured, and that was the first time I came across this song, many years back in fact.

And then, Glee featured it:

In case you’re interested in the original version, by The Exciters:

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Filed under The writer, Youtube

Born into it

Temperature is so low I lose the sensitivity of my fingers (without gloves) within minutes. The blanket of snow still greets me god morgon whenever I stepped out of the hostel. The shudder always comes next when I breathe in the chill of the air.

Few Swedish students will be heading towards the tropical island for their research project next semester. Other than the culture shock they will experience, I think they will find the weather shock more unbearable. It goes the same for me too, but I would rather the heat waves embracing me when I go home than the icy air sucking the life out of me everytime the door opens.

A multi-racial community is where I grew up in. Seeing different skin colors is a norm for people living in the place where I come from, in addition to the many attempts the government tries to normalize the mix, I don’t usually see race as an identity of a person. To my fullest knowledge, we respect each other’s cultures and festivities, we acknowledge the presence of differences between how these people of different colors behave and accept them. An occasional thorn may appear from the surface of what seem like the peacefulness between races, but it never grows into the malicious and indiscriminate assaults between the people.

I don’t usually identify myself with being a Chinese, but I can’t help with the fact that I celebrate attend Chinese festivities, tie myself with the traditional cultures that advocate down-to-the-earth attitude, and eat Chinese food (no, not Chinese noodles). Seldom have I thought that my Chinese heritage defines who I am, until I met a lot more people from other races, and mostly, other nationalities.

So one of my Swedish friends, who’s going over to my homeland for his research project, was caught in a shock when asked about the ethnicity group he belongs to, on top of his nationality. Here’s the question (which is specific only to my country, not sure about the rest), if we are just looking at the capability and educational qualification of an applicant, why bother about names and ethnicity? Interestingly, I was asked where/who do I identify myself with, my country or my race? While I couldn’t really find an answer to that, I realized that I don’t feel belonged to any group that people categorize themselves into. Not that I want or don’t want to be a Chinese, I’m genetically and culturally born to be a Chinese.

Race is always a sensitive topic, because people choose to distinguish and protect themselves, to keep on to a culture that was passed on to them. While nothing’s wrong with embracing your own culture, it’s only wrong when you prevent others from embracing their own cultures.

So let me end with a quote from Confucius – “Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself.”

己所不欲,勿施於人

– 孔子

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While it lastsOne can never get enough of the pure whiteness.

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Filed under Culture, Sweden, The writer

The chill inside out

Growing up in a tropical climate means this is the first time I see the blanket of snow covers the entire landscape. The temperature has not dipped too low yet. The roads are muddy and the layer of snow is only ankle deep. So it’s still relatively safe to go for a run, well-equipped. This photo is taken (with my phone) while on the run back to my hostel.

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With the academic stress lifted off the shoulders, I am scrapping through all the seminars and lessons thus far, literally. Spent a few days during the exam break (in fact, 5 out of 6 days) traveling. To realize that I’m not that fond of walking the streets of the major cities, I found Copenhagen and London rather boring. Anyway, I brought my notes along and studied while on the move, and spent one day doing the final revision. Not surprisingly, like how I scrapped through the seminars, I barely passed the exam. I can’t help but feel a nagging feeling that I could have done more, but I didn’t.

I received an email today informing me that I failed a recent seminar because I did not demonstrate an understanding of the concepts involved in the studies. In my defense, I did understand what was happening. However, I find difficulties in bringing an idea across using technical terms when I’m not very familiar with the concepts. To make the situation worse, my articulation of the words seems to stir some confusion within the other group members, especially the tutor. As much as I would like to learn, the interfering with me is turning me away.

Things took a bad turn when my Honors project allocation came out. The prioritizing of the projects is quite a lousy idea, as implemented by my school, in my opinion. I shall not go into details how it works exactly, it’s just that not getting my first few choices of projects left me flustered. On the bright side (I have to dig deep enough to find this glimmer of light), it’s still within the field that I may be interested in.

Rough week I would say. I had wanted to come here to start afresh after the incidents back at home. But apparently, I still couldn’t find the courage to pick up the pen and start writing. The haunting feeling that I was never able to shake off still creeps over me occasionally. And all the little failures and discourses just aren’t helping. I could still help the failures, but the discourses are simply beyond me.

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The sky turns dark early in the afternoon. The sun never emerges out from behind the clouds today. The lack of sunshine means a lower synthesis of Vitamin D in the human body, resulting in the hindering of certain neuro-chemical pathway that is said to cause a gloomy mood.

It has come to the point where I don’t even know if it’s the lack of sunshine, or it’s just me. This is bad.

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Anti-socal, really?

Pardon me but it’s hard to write if I don’t know what to write about. And then, I stumbled upon Julian Tan’s article on Asian students’ reluctance to mix around with local (when overseas) and other international students while they are overseas.

Admittedly, I’m guilty of not mixing around with other students and tend to hang around friends of my own country. Let me just summarize the points he made for people like me, who are not sufficiently sociable:

1. Differences in social behaviors and sharing of jokes (not much on food, I’m quite resilient in this aspect) that contribute to the so-called culture shock experienced when you’re suddenly dropped into a foreign land.

Drinking has never been my forte, neither does dancing to rock/rap music appeal to me. I find it particularly tough to catch up on the Western counterparts’ conversations as they are really good story-teller, while my mind just draws blank whenever I try to recall details of an event. Certain jokes are hard to catch in the absence of context, which essentially boils down to the fact that I don’t live in your country. Once, I was with an Australian, an American and a New Zealander (also known as Kiwi – Wikipedia) over dinner. They shared their stories on housing because they moved away from their parents, on drinking in bars and on searching for employment overseas. Of all, I couldn’t contribute any because of my lack of exposure, because of how I was brought up. And to be frank, I still feel kind of weird whenever I answer the “How are you?” and “How’s your weekends?” questions.

2. English isn’t the first language. And it is difficult to break two barriers at the same time just to chat, the language and the clique.

While I have no issue with English conversation, quite the opposite happened. Swedish is my classmates’ first language, and naturally, they feel more comfortable conversing in their first language among themselves. It poses a barrier in wanting to chip into the conversation. It doesn’t help when they’re already a clique since they have been classmates for more than two years. So, it’s not just a language barrier that I have to break, but also a social barrier. On the other hand, among other international students, a mixture of accents which I’m not used to make things slightly complicated. Apparently, my own accent isn’t helping either. So at the start, we just brushed each other off with polite smiles and nods, silently acknowledging the miscommunication.

Blending in is never easy. It takes not just effort, but extra effort to interact with the locals, and with people who were brought up in a different environment than you are. Understanding a new culture or language isn’t an overnight event, neither should I categorize all the diverse cultures into a generalized “Western world”. But I do have to admit alcohol knows no boundary. It’s like music, money and food – everybody has a common understanding of them.

Yup, maybe I should try to be less “anti-social” and join the upcoming corridor party. Who knows, maybe I’ll love the combination of alcohol and loud music.

Since I’m on Julian’s article, also check another of his articles out.

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This isn’t really an iconic place in Copenhagen. I just found this row of buildings while I was strolling along the river (in the biting cold).

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Filed under Culture, Europe, Sweden, The writer

Into cooking

After many attempts at various recipes, I shall talk about this: Carbonara.

Okay, it doesn’t look particularly appealing on this photo.

Anyway, credits go to recipe one and recipe two. After salivating over the two videos, I decided to combine (too ambitious) the two methods of cooking Carbonara, and with much effort, I could probably manage only 50% of what’s going on in the video. Well, learn from the mistakes and lick the wounds. Tomorrow’s dinner will be better than today’s.

Anyway, mistakes made are as followed:

1. Forgot to keep the pasta water, resulted in dry and sticky pasta.

2. Bacon wasn’t crispy enough.

3. Too bloated from the ridiculous amount of Tagliatelle (the pasta shown in the picture) cooked.

4. Forgot the salt, thinking the bacon was salty enough.

Other than these, everything else went well. And probably work on my presentation skills next time. Hah! While everyone’s moving across borders, I’m kind of addicted to the kitchen. Anyway, the flight tickets are so expensive!

Edited.

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Filed under Food, Sweden, The writer