Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The End of 2013

The year wasn't particularly better or worse than all the previous ones. Apart from functional dyspepsia, annoying rashes (on my forehead!) from an indeterminate allergen, and various joint injuries, I was in good health. I did not have any major breakthroughs in my research, nor contributed to my university in any monumental manner, but I gave my fair share of effort and energy, taught my students with my whole heart, and treated all who had to deal with me with utmost respect and sincerity. I was not deliberately hurt, slighted, nor slandered by anyone... I was adequately occupied and sufficiently happy. All in all, 2013 was fine - no complaints.

And here we are... at the end of it all.

Hope 2014 brings everyone the passionate drive, strength, and determination to work and strive for the heart's most desired.

To my loved ones - I love you still.

To the cockroach which flew right at me during class last week - please don't do that again. Kindly inform the rest of the members of your species too. Thanks.

Happy New Year, folks!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Costume Party

Two months ago, during Halloween season, my roomee's department organized a party in the office and everyone was expected to dress up, of course. My roomee spent quite some effort (by my standard - for her, she didn't consider borrowing a few items, buying a black tiara, and doing the makeup "a lot of effort") transforming herself into the Black Swan. I wondered then, for a moment, what I'd do if I were invited to a costume party. (I'd never been invited to a Halloween party...)

At my previous company, there was a theme for every annual dinner we had. I am not that ashamed to admit that I never bothered to dress accordingly... I'd just dig whatever out of my closet that was closest to the theme, and wear it... often without accessories or even proper makeup. I am this sort of boring person, at whom you right now probably feel like shouting "You only live once!" (my roomee just did...)

So, what if I were invited to a costume party? Turns out, I am... and not just a party, but a wedding celebration party! The theme is Gatsby. *Gasp!*

Right. Google showed me that I would need a basic loose-fit dress, a long bead necklace preferably with matching bracelet, and an extravagant (= ridiculous) headband. I should be able to put that together... *Ahem*

Yup, this will be my once-in-a-lifetime best-effort costume assembly. Maybe, who knows, I will find the passion for a once-in-a-lifetime go-all-out one in the future, before I die... =P

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Our Long Journey Home

We were, never in our existence, sure that we were worth this much trouble. But she thought differently. Granted, she probably did not expect the extent of the trouble she was signing up for, but she definitely thought we were worth the risk.

So, there she was, half the world away, exchanging messages with a friend who would be temporarily located at the side of the globe where we were. The plan to was to secure our purchase, pay extra for expedited shipping, and have us safely delivered to the friend, who would then bring us home by hand. Alas, our three-day journey with the courier proved too long. There was an inevitable change of plans with the friend, and she, the friend, had to leave one day before we got to where she was. We missed our passage home by just one day!

She was not devastated - she understood the risks of the undertaking right from the start - but was sorely disappointed. The first option was to have us returned. The horror! However, while the return arrangement was in the midst of being made, another idea struck her. Why, she has family in the area! Of course, since they are living there, it is very unlikely that they could get us to her, but maybe we could stay with them (indefinitely) until such time when opportunity of being taken home would chance upon us!

So, she asked, and the cousin said yes - she, the cousin, wouldn't mind picking us up, and keeping us safe with her, until the time someone in the family makes travel plans. It might not have been the best option, but it definitely beat making a return. So, we went home with the cousin. There, in our foster home, we stayed more than a year. We stayed almost 15 months! To be honest, we didn't think we would ever come home. We didn't think we would ever get to know her.

Then, fate smiled upon us. Oh, fate! A friend would be visiting the part of the world where we were and staying for several weeks - more than enough time to arrange for us to get to him. She extorted a "yes, I'll bring them back for you" out of him, communicated with the cousin... and, lo and behold! The cousin said she was booked to spend a few days vacationing at the very city the friend would be! Oh, fate!

All arrangements were made, the cousin safely hand-delivered us to the friend (we are eternally grateful to the both of them) and in a couple of weeks, we were home.

Home! Home to her, at long last!


Oh, how do we describe the overwhelming exhilaration we felt upon meeting her for the first time? How do we spell the intoxicating joy and excitement of finally being of use? How do we explain the contentment we feel to finally be at home? Ah, bliss!

Here are a few more photos she took of us -





We love her =D

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Pain Is My Constant Companion

I did not sleep well last night because I had a nagging pain in my right knee. Still do. The reason - I knocked it into stuff three times in the course of the day. Different furniture, same knee, same spot. I applied cold compression but it didn't help much. It still hurts. I expect it'll hurt for a couple more weeks, at least. What is worse is that this happened while the bruises I sustained on both knees from two weeks ago, when I slipped working out on a Swiss ball and landed on them on the hard marble floor, were barely gone.What is worse than worse, is that I am still "nursing" a pain in my left knee, which I suspect is accumulated from older furniture-accident injuries, and has been with me for at least two months now. That's just the knees. I will save you, Reader, from having to read all about the other sprains, strains, scrapes and bruises - all sustained from either climbing, yoga, or knocking into stuff.

The other day, I bumped my head into the opened boot of a car while loading stuff into it. It doesn't hurt now, but it did, rather badly, for a few hours ensuing. 

There isn't a staircase in my life that I've used and not fallen down on. It is quite amazing, in hindsight, that I've not gotten seriously hurt so far...

I guess that is the positive side of things. Despite living in constant presence of small injuries, I've not gotten seriously hurt so far. That's got to be good, right?

:(

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Memory

The human memory is a very poor storage medium. The very questionable accuracy of recollections aside, the mind is much too easily tricked into seeing things not the way they really are and distracted from noticing perhaps crucial details. When the brain fails to connect completely the chains of events due to the imperfection of the memory, it invents details for filling in the blanks... and this is not done consciously so the human would sincerely believe in the abridged version of his memory.

Growing up, I believed that my grandfather had super memory powers. The adults were always talking about how the stories he told never differed in a single detail, no matter how many times he told them, over the span of tens of years. I fancy my father inherited that from him, for I remember he too, could repeat flawlessly identical retelling of encounters. I realise now, these are all, literally, just memories of memories.

Convinced as I am in my own "elephant" memory, science tells me I am not to trust my brain completely. This is why: it is easy for me to see how conveniently my memory keeps parts of certain conversations and not the rest, because I keep records (journals, blog posts etc.) of any events or incidents I deem significant (or not... oh, well). This, perhaps is, although not consciously thought of at the time, the reason I started keeping written accounts. I don't want to forget. I want to always remember it when someone does something nice for me. I want to remember every enjoyable discourse I had with people I cherish and every light-headed moment and folly that had me in tears of laughter. Over the years, I've come to be known as having an excellent memory among friends and family (hence, elephant memory). Truth is, I have a better memory-keeping system than them. Not much else.

In some strange way, it is not altogether unwelcome to think that there will always be, in someone, a memory of my memories published in this virtual space. I guess, in some not-so-strange self-serving way, I don't want to be forgotten.

We will all, one day, die and be forgotten, unless we leave behind writing so important humanity will not forget us - achieving, in effect, immortality. This idea didn't come from me - if I remember correctly, it was William Saroyan.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Vegetarian Lunch

It was a feat that took two years to realize - an emotionally-charged, nostalgic trip down memory lane.


It's been seven years. The food is every bit as good as I remember, the people every bit as nice and friendly (and they remember us, still!) I don't miss my old workplace, but I do, really do, miss this vegetarian mixed rice we used to have every single day.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Then And Now

Right before I got my first degree, there was a period of time that I worked in a pre-school. Long story... (no, I'm not telling it all in this post)

Once, I was asked to attend to the children as they woke from their afternoon nap. The youngest of the group was a 4-year-old girl - an adorable little thing with an angelic face. She burst into tears she moment she was awake, and wouldn't say what was wrong. The older children told me she cried every day after their nap.

Not knowing what to do, and not wanting to call one of the real teachers for help, I did what I probably shouldn't have - I placed the girl on my lap, hugged her, sweet-talked her, and did her hair up with pretty ribbons... basically, I spoiled her until she stopped crying. Then, I took her along with the other children down to the dining room for their afternoon snack.

The kitchen prepared porridge that day. The little girl sat there motionless, looking melancholy, not touching her food. I asked her why she wasn't eating. She just shook her head. I asked if she was hungry, if she wanted to eat. She shook her head again. Then, I did, again, what I probably shouldn't have - I asked if she'd like me to feed her. She looked at me, in all her wide-eyed innocence, not protesting... so I did. She took each spoonful willingly and obediently, and emptied the entire bowl quickly enough.

In hindsight, I wasn't so competent a care-giver. The right thing to do was to encourage the child to be independent, and not let her charm me into spoiling and spoon-feeding her. Yet, even then, I knew that part of the reason I did what I did, was that it was the easier path to take.

There have been many, so many, times in the course of my career (thus far) that I was tempted to desert the rightful road, because it is just so much harder. If I were to just give my students what they're after - everything served on a spoon - my work will be much less frustrating... much less work too, in fact. But I just can't bring myself to give in. It is not what I chose this profession for.

I haven't had to deal with unreasonable students regarding my no-spoon-feeding principle (specifically, no softcopy tutorial solutions) for some years now. I am thankful - extremely thankful - that my students understand that this, the harder way, is the right one.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Thought Experiment

I'm sure many readers would have heard of this one: Trolley Problem.

A fast, unstoppable trolley is heading towards 5 people stuck in its track. You are within reach of a lever which, when pulled, will change the path of the trolley to another track, with 1 person on it. If you pull the lever, the trolley will strike and kill 1 person, rather than 5 of them. Will you do it?

Sometimes, I like to state the obvious - so, here it is: it isn't moral or immoral to decide either way. The problem is designed such that responses from subjects help scientists understand cognitive processes, logical reasoning, emotional irrationality and stuff (I'm not a social scientist =P)

I assume you've made your choice. If you decided sacrificing 1 life to save 5 makes a better option, I'm sure many others feel the same. Let's try again:

A fast, unstoppable trolley is heading towards 5 people stuck in its track. You are within reach of a fat man, who you can push onto the track, into the way of the trolley. The trolley, striking (and therefore, killing) him, will stop short of crashing into the 5 people. Will you do it?

The outcome will be exactly the same as the first scenario: 1 life for 5, or not? However, a lot more people will have difficulty making the decision.

I had, many years ago, read a more interesting version:

You are driving a high-speed train. Ahead of you, you see 5 children playing on the track, in the way of the train. You will not be able to stop the train in time, but you are within reach of a lever to divert the train to an adjacent track which is no longer in use, to avoid them. However, on this abandoned track, there is a lone child playing. Will you pull the lever?

Will you?

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Illusion

I've always been more idealistic than being a perfectionist, as perfectionist is commonly defined. I like things the way I like them - which isn't always the way everyone else prefers, and usually not what society deems perfect. I've once written what my the ideal idea of love is. That was four years ago. I had the same ideal when I first fancied myself in love, some fifteen years ago. I still do.

My first relationship,which ended barely a year after it began, was held for a long time, as the most ideal in my memory. It was almost everything that I wrote in the post, and we never had arguments. None at all. He was the closest, I thought, to a soulmate that was mine. For a long time, I felt I could not find the same feeling with another - the seeming "perfection" simply didn't exist. I willed myself to let it go. Comparison, I reasoned, wasn't fair, because of how short-lived my "benchmark" love was, such that all there ever was time for, was the dreamy, passionate, honeymoon phase. We never got to the rough patches.

I was wrong.

It wasn't the brevity; not that we weren't together long enough to start annoying each other; not any of that. It was that the imprint of my own idea of a lover is so profound that my ideal love has become a mere illusion. I scorn those whose perfect partner characteristics include good looks, being dramatically romantic and sensitive, remembers birthdays and anniversaries and plans lavish celebrations etc., and was always proud that I never expected any of that from mine. Those poor, frivolous, common girls! Ha! However, the truth is, men like that were far more probable than the illusion I want.

For, I was also wrong about not being able to find someone I could love as I want to love - the impossible feat is getting him to love me as I want to be loved. And ultimately, that is what I want.

I want to be loved the same as I want to love.

One might argue that I'm just making myself miserable for no good reason... but, one wouldn't be happy just by telling oneself to be happy. Sure, one is fine when one isn't sad. Unfortunately though, fine isn't happy.

Life is short. Don't waste time looking for something you might never find.
Life is short. Don't settle for less than what your heart really wants.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Extreme Sport

We were lying flat on our backs, just roused from a deep relaxation that we started the session with. Following the teacher's verbal instructions, we raised one leg, folded it to the side, then pressed it back down onto the floor. Adjusting the hips to be properly aligned and as neutral as possible stretched the folded leg muscles to a point beyond comfort, naturally. We raised the other leg, then folded that on top of the one already in position.

I heard gasping to my left. Not being in the deep focus that I ought to be, I turned my head. She, a woman in her thirties, was looking at me with one of the most tortured expressions I'd witnessed in class.

"So painful!" she cried, her legs dangling awkwardly, in her futile attempt to get into the pose. I could but offer her a sympathetic smile.

Throughout the hour-long practice, she sighed and grunted, struggled and stumbled, and constantly fought fatigue and pain.

I was reminded of this photo I once came across:

(Source: Pinterest)

So - relaxing pastime, spiritual path, or extreme sport? It definitely isn't, in practice, a spiritual path - not unless one purposely chooses to look at the activity as being spiritual. When I took up yoga, about 5 or 6 years ago, I'd meant to increase my flexibility, tone up my muscles, improve focus, and on the overall, achieve a more relaxed physical and mental state. Well, in a way, I do feel that I sleep a lot better on nights before which I had yoga sessions, but honestly, I can't say it's not because I'd usually be full of aches and tired out. A relaxing pastime? Maybe.

Take a look:

(Source: Eve Post Apple)

(Source: Pinterest)

(Source: Pinterest)

An extreme sport? Most definitely!

So this, plus martial arts and climbing, makes me an extreme sports girl! *Ahem!*

(confession: I can't do any of the poses in the photos I posted....... yet =P)

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Accidental Proposal

This is quite the worst I've read, in as long as I remember. Yes, worse than the worst of the Twilight books, which I consider one of my most regretted impulse purchase.


Taken from the back cover of the book:

Ed Middleton's just got engaged. At least, he thinks he has.

The thing is, it was his girlfriend Sam who did the proposing, and the more he thinks about it, the less he's sure that she was actually asking him to marry her. She could have just been asking the question, you know...hypothetically.

As the wedding day approaches, Ed becomes more and more uneasy. Sam keeps disappearing off for furtive meetings and private phone calls, and when he spies her going into a pub with a man he's never seen before, all his old jealousies and insecurities threaten to re-surface. It's the perfect time for Ed's unhinged ex, Jane, to show up on his doorstep.

Meanwhile, best-friend and soon-to-be best man Dan is determined to make Ed's stag night go with a bang. And when a severely hung-over Ed wakes up the morning after to see a second dent in the pillow, it seems as if that's exactly what happened.

Will Ed manage to find out the truth about his stag night as well as the identity of Sam's secret man? Or will an accidental proposal lead them both down the aisle to a wedding neither of them ever imagined?

Guess what... that's the entire story! Not pretty much the entire plot, but the actual entire plot, minus the conclusion, which by the way, became quite clear way too early. And the answer is yes. Both "Will Ed bla bla bla...?" and "Or will an accidental proposal bla bla bla...?" - yes. I hope by spoiling it for you I'm saving you the hours you might spend reading Ed's endlessly obsessing about Sam's mystery man, his ex, and his mystery dent-in-the-pillow. That's four hundred pages of the obsessive thoughts in Ed's head, followed by a repetition of those thoughts in form of conversations with Dan, repeated in an outer loop until the end.

Basically, this is a book of no substance. There isn't much of a storyline. There is no notable character development. In fact, there are no notable characters in addition to the few already mentioned in the back cover write-up. These (I think there were only two or three) were so trivial and inconsequential that honestly, only after a couple of weeks since finishing the book, I can't even recall their names, or how they relate to the "main" characters anymore. As if all these aren't enough, a part of the repetitive text is the super annoying reminder (by Ed, as the narrator) of how intellectually-challenged his best-friend is, and how his ex cheated on him. Continuously. On loop. 

So, in contrary to the Sophie Kinsella quote printed on the front cover, Matt Dunn's writing makes you want to roll your eyes inside out. The only reason I read it to the last page is I'm out of my mind. I finished an awful book, rolled my eyeballs till the extraocular muscles hurt, just so I can write a negative review of it. I'm so out of my mind.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Letting Go

After so long, most of the time, the warm-up lead is routine. A comfortable, easy, routine. The movement is fluid, like clockwork. The first clip is usually a breeze. Past the third clip, it is high enough to not hit the ground in case of a fall, unless the rope has way too much slack. After clipping in at the seventh, it is time to let go.


Staring at my hands, willing them to relinquish their hold, I block out the awareness of the distance I will drop. I inhale deeply, exhale, let go and let myself fall.

It seems easy. It is in fact, easy, for most climbers. It isn't for me, unfortunately. It is for me, the hardest part of my training. Many a time I simply couldn't do it. The fear isn't just in my head. It is real, it is crippling.

It's been three years since I took up sports climbing. It's been at least half as long since I took up lead climbing. The best I can do is clean a 5c (5.9) lead route. I can finish some 6a (5.10a) routes, but with one or two (or more!) rests, so they absolutely do not count. It is easy to blame my lack of progress on my lack of actual climbing - serious climbers climb 4 times a week, minimum, whereas I do once, sometimes not at all. My tiny stature - short limbs and all - makes a good excuse, as well as my limited brute strength and power, being a lady and all... *Ahem!*

Truth be told, even if I were more committed in my strength training in the gym, I'd still be held back by the one aspect I don't care to condition - mental strength. My climbing partner's been constantly reminding (which is how I politely mean nagging, scolding, threatening etc.) me to overcome my fear of falling.

This is the reason I am compelled to persist in the falling exercises - to learn to let go, and trust that everything will be fine. Yes, fine, in spite of risks of scrapes and bruises, and shameful involuntary squeals...

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Predictability

It usually is great when outcomes are highly predictable. One knows what to expect, one knows there will be no surprises. Except, in circumstances which the predicted outcome isn't the one one really wants.

Sometimes, I wonder - truly wonder - if sentimentality is actually hardwired in me. Time after time I've been disappointed and frustrated by responses, which predictability is so high I can almost forecast them word-by-word, and yet, I still willingly participate in events that call for them. Did I honestly believe that this time would be different from the previous countless occasions? No, I didn't. But I still went along. I wish I could understand why.

So here it is - the cycle of getting what I expected I'd get; then, facing the familiar wave of annoyance and exasperation; and finally, the resolve to not put myself in the same situation ever again. A resolve that will not be kept.

I wish I could care less. I really do. An emotionless being operating on pure logic and reason can't be that fun, but at least (s)he wouldn't hurt.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Bad For Tummy

A long-time friend and colleague was, like me, diagnosed with functional dyspepsia several months ago. We're both more or less fine now, but this condition doesn't really just "go away". It lingers. For life. We just have to be careful to not actively invite episodes.

So, a bunch of us went out for lunch and decided to try this place we never knew existed until we saw it. The set meal, which we all decided to go for because we love the convenience, came with either a cold beverage, in form of carbonated drinks, or a hot one, coffee or tea. I decided to go for coffee without a second thought. I said to my functional dyspepsia-mate, I don't take soft drinks. He said he was going for coffee too, and that we made the right choice because soft drinks are bad for our troubled tummies.

Really?

Coffee is also bad for our tummies, I said. Well, yea, he agreed, but not as bad as those darn "sparkling" stuff are.

I wouldn't disagree with him. Carbonated drinks are hard to swallow, saturated with artificial flavouring, colouring and sweeteners, and well, they make me burp more than I'm willing to put up with. Plus, I love coffee (so that I'm OK to ignore whatever artificial stuff that might be in the brew... *ahem*). Cheers!

It's kinda cool to have a fellow sufferer... not cool that we're suffering, but at least we're in good company. =P

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Curious

Every so often when sleep eludes me - this instance courtesy of the delightful white coffee I had at dinner - I simply sit and ponder life. Sometimes, it's life in general, sometimes it's mine specifically. Tonight, I'm thinking of all the people who like, dislike and downright detest me, and the reasons I think compelled them to.

I thought about those so vindictive in addition to cutting me completely off they talk behind my back, attempt to turn mutual friends against me and / or write nasty, slanderous public posts. It hurts, of course, but I am aware, to a good degree, why those who I know despise me feel that way. I have faults and I know what tick some people off, but I don't usually bother to modify my attitude unless the person affected is someone I truly love and care about. Well, I don't go about routinely pissing people off for fun, but as someone once said to me - if one isn't hated by anyone at all, one doesn't have a personality.

It is in this contemplation that I realised that there is one person, whose disapproval of me began a long, long time ago and has since festered into a full-fledged, open hatred, who I never knew how I offended. I couldn't care less now than I have cared all these years past - that I didn't realise I never thought about the reason - but I feel, right now, a pang of curiosity. Of course, I know very well that nothing will be different eitherway, but there is this part of me that really wants to get to the bottom of everything. It is an affliction and a serious one too. Sometimes, even after I get answers by putting together tell-tale signs and all that, I will still pursue the matter until I get a concrete confirmation. So, yea... I'm very curious - I'm wondering what could I have said, done, or been, that could have made someone keep so tenacious a grudge - and it's puzzling because I don't care at all about the said person, and as I said, I will not change a thing, regardless. It is simply much like reading a detective tale and desiring to get to the page where the criminal mastermind is revealed.

Anyway, some things in life will always remain a mystery, and some things are better left as such. Ignorance is not the bliss I want, but sometimes, it is the only bliss there is...

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Curry Puffs & Stuff

People who eat curry puffs are generally more concerned with the filling. Beginners at making curry puffs, on the other hand, are concerned with how the crust turns out - or so I'd like to believe. Otherwise, I'm just odd...

I'd never attempted these local breakfast favourite before because they are absolutely found every where one looks! The motivation came from the time the seller of one of the best we had disappeared. One day, he just wasn't there at his stall anymore. A couple of weeks later, the stall itself was gone. I wasn't devastated that I lost the source of a yummy afternoon snack, but it was annoying enough. I decided... what the heck, I can't do worse than the worst I'd eaten.

I started with the shortcrust pastry version (recipe) and yea, they were good, but not impressionable enough that I cared to go for further attempts.


Recently, I mustered enough courage to try these with layered pastry crust (recipe). It was a lot more work, but worth every bit of extra effort.


The crust was delightfully crispy and not exactly horrible to look at... with shortening at that. Imagine if I'd actually used lard!


These days, I get excited the moment I decide to challenge myself in the kitchen. Someone asked if I really do bake every weekend. Well, I don't... sometimes, I just deep-fry curry puffs *Ahem!* Perhaps it's the continuous inspiration from my roomee, perhaps the very satisfying sense of achievement when first (or sometimes, second) attempts turn out great. Or perhaps the narcissist in me needs continuous little culinary successes to remain narcissistic...

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Angry Face

Hello, did you see my angry face today?

I don't really want to be angry, for being angry is detrimental to my health and anyone who makes me angry sure as hell isn't worth affecting my well-being for. The body, however, isn't always successful in performing in ways the mind intends it to..... so, I got mad, despite not wanting to.

Did you like my angry face? I'm sure you don't, for it is horrible, and extremely fearful to behold. Surely you prefer my laughs, smiles, my amicable or even neutral facial expressions, to... whatever you saw today. Surely! So, grow some brains and stop infuriating me already!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Foo

The first programming language I learned was Pascal. Then, C came along. I don't remember whether Java or C++ was next, but it was in my C++ class that I first encountered examples of functions called foo. My lecturer never explained the name, nor did anyone inquired - I suppose, an identifier, by any other name (as long as it isn't a reserved word), works just as identifiers should. I admit, although slightly intrigued, I never cared enough to ask questions about it. I simply assumed the "oo" there most likely stood for "object-oriented", or something sensible like that.

Since completing my undergraduate studies, I have, at times when googling for stuff, came across examples with foo in them, and... I know, it shouldn't have taken me so many years to actually google it up. Turns out, its origin has nothing to do with programming.

foo usually appears alongside bar, though why I'd no recollection of the latter, I have no idea. "Foobar" came from FUBAR, which is acronym for F***ed Up Beyond All Recognition, a term used by the US Army during World War II.

I'm not a programmer but I'd once spent about a week coding continuously, with hardly any sleep, because the deadline was fast approaching and my application wouldn't run properly. So yea, I think I get it...

Further reading I
Further reading II

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Alone

Ultimately, that's what we all are, regardless of the number of friends, family and loved ones we have. It's like the classic joke of a woman staring at her closet filled with clothes and yet, have nothing to wear. Except it's not a joke... well, the closet thing isn't either - it actually happens.

There are countless number of thoughts racing back and forth in my head and various conflicting emotions trashing within my heart, and yet, I am that person standing in front of a full closet with nothing to wear. I feel helpless... and alone. So alone. A stranger within a circle of companions.

Again, this is life... and I must compel myself to be fine with it.

I'm fine.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Dreamchaser


This is her 11th studio album and first that wasn't produced by Frank Peterson since Dive (1993). I got a copy of the album a couple of months ago, and the reason it took so long to actually write about it is... sadly, I'm not crazy about it.

In accordance to the theme - going into space, realising a lifelong dream - the music is heavily engineered to that effect. The accompaniment is so rich it literally drowns Sarah's vocals at times, especially during choruses... vocals which I suppose, have been engineered more than her previous albums. Many songs contain so much of background vocals that after a while, it was like listening to a mini choir with a (fortunately) distinguishable voice of an angel singing the melody.

Don't get me wrong - I like the album tolerably well... I'm not just in love with it. I still love SB, though :)

Tracklist:
1. Angel
2. One Day Like This
3. Glosoli
4. Lento e Largo
5. B612
6. Breathe Me
7. Ave Maria
8. Eperdu
9. A Song of India
10. Venus and Mars
11. Closer
12. 7th Heaven (bonus track on DVD+CD version)
13. So Long Ago So Clear (bonus track on DVD+CD version)

I don't exactly have a favourite, but I do like some better than the others. Angel, for example, but that could very well be due to the fact that it was a single which I had become acquainted with long before everything else. Lento e Largo, however, isn't something I'm cultured enough is appreciate and enjoy. B 612 is a vocalization track - a beautiful one! It is a Sarah thing to have one lyric-less song per album, but here, Ave Maria and A Song of India both have so few lyrics they're mostly just sounds...

I guess the point is, I prefer Sarah to a technologically-packaged Sarah. Too much production just leaves us with less of the real Angel of Music.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Temper And Patience

When I was a little girl (and all the way until I was a young adult) I was known for my terrifying temper. It wasn't that I got angry all the time, but whenever I did, my closest friends wouldn't dare to come near me. One once told me that she's scared to talk to me when I'm mad. When I was 16, I took the courage to admit this flaw in an essay I wrote. My teacher - whom I would like to believe had a genuine concern for me - penned a comment at the end of it, encouraging me in my proposed efforts to rein the monster in. That was the point in my life I started consciously refraining from flying into a rage as much as I could.

I've never really asked my friends how I'd fared, but surely I'm no longer the "angry little girl" they used to know? And not an "angry little woman" now, I hope!

I am generally a very patient person. Or maybe I'm generally impatient. Or maybe it's just really difficult to generalize patience. Having, however, been more than a decade in the teaching profession, my patience has been conditioned to reach an almost inhuman level when I'm at work. Sure, the kids push my limits every time, but I've thus far done really well in stopping myself from scolding, insulting and ridiculing anyone. It's hard - I am stupidity-intolerant - but, losing it won't make the stupidity go away, I remind myself. Every time I kept off snapping, my patience ups another notch and stays there.

I'd really like to think that I am right now, with all these conscious efforts to be always calm and reasonable, a person that no one is scared of anymore. In reality though, that's not true. My temper, though most of the time successfully suppressed, is still as fiery as it always has been. So, with improved patience and control, I have not become less scary. I am just scary a lot less frequently.

That means, yea - if you really tick me off.....

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Dear Ant


I know it's really hot today. Scorching, in fact. It'd no doubt be great to find a nice, soft, comfy spot to take a rest and laze the day away... But, not on my clean laundry, please! No, no, nooooo! Please!!! :-S

Yea, I had to wash that particular item again. *sigh*

Monday, July 8, 2013

Lost Bear

I do not think of you often, I'll admit, especially since you've chosen to distance yourself from everyone I knew were your friend. It's unnatural, however, to not think of you at all on this date.

Sometimes, I wonder what changed, that you lost your way, and went on losing yourself to the point that I feel I do not know you anymore. Sometimes, I wonder if it were me who never saw nor knew the real you right from the start. Sometimes, I even wonder if I might have unwittingly contributed, however insignificantly, to the poor choices you've made. And I always wonder how much it was my fault for your having done wrong our friends.

I never meant to hurt. Not you, not our friends.

Forgiveness, I'm sure, though perhaps not easy to come by, isn't impossible to obtain, if you would just ask it of those who still care. If you would pay what you owe and strive on with honour and honesty. The road may be long and hard, but what is life, if it isn't that?

I hope you are well, where ever you are, and I hope you will find your way back to your family, your friends, life and normalcy.

Happy birthday, old friend.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Happy

There was a time, perhaps a year, perhaps two, ago, that a dear friend commented that I was sad. She saw, right past the jovial mood, lighthearted banter and careless laughter, the sadness in my eyes. She wanted to know - why, what, who? I care deeply about the people who genuinely care about me, and appreciate much - so much - their concern, but I couldn't say. I can't say. I'd like to think that life is simple; I want a simple life - but sometimes, things just aren't the way I want them to be. And I can't make them.

It's been a long time, a really long time, since someone told me I am happy. I was a little - just a little - taken by surprise. It may not have meant much to the person who uttered it, but it reminded me of the other comment, so starkly different, that it meant a lot more to me.

Perhaps it is making a conscious effort to be fine about everything - to be patient with those I love and apathetic with those I don't, to leave work at work and not get angry with certain people at work (by plotting a get-even scheme... kidding!), and to indulge in whatever and whenever I feel like it. Perhaps I have finally found a way to let go of the complications that is life, and just live. Or perhaps it's all due to the medication I'd been taking for my tummy troubles...

Then, perhaps I will no longer be happy in a few months, or weeks, or days. Perhaps...

Monday, July 1, 2013

Fine

Most of the time, that's the only thing one needs to tell oneself.

When one sees something one doesn't like; hears words that irritate the wits out of one; is made to feel small, unimportant, inconsequential, unworthy - it's fine. Turn away, don't look. Sing a song, don't listen. Be reminded that the person making one feel unworthy is unworthy of one in the first place - unworthy to be angry with, unworthy to cry over.

So, it's fine...whatever gets thrown in one's face. It's fine.

Because living the rest of one's life in pain is simply not an option.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Shaolin Monkey

We had just ended a 90-minute session. Some of the ladies wanted a group photo with the dance instructor, as he was nicely in "costume". We lined ourselves up in a neat little row behind him as the cameras got ready. 

"What - just like that?" he exclaimed, seeing how plain boring we looked. "Pose, everyone, pose!"

The picture was sent to him several days later and today, he shared it with me. 

"All of you can't pose at all!" he complained. "Look at how weird and funny you all look!" and he proceeded to describe each one.


The ladies, according to him, from left to right:

#1 - Is this even a pose?
#2 - Ms Universe contestant
#3 - Another Ms Universe contestant
#4 - About to slap him?
#5 - I want to hide behind the Monkey
#6 - The Shaolin Monkey
#7 - The Crab Walk

He can't believe we can't pose, he continued grumbling. He'll have to teach us to pose properly the next time. He can't even publish these photos anywhere with us looking like that. And I'd better not post this photo anywhere too, he warned me. Too shameful, he said.

Hee heee... I think my Readers would enjoy the amusement, though. I'll post the better one when we succeed in getting it =D

Friday, June 21, 2013

My Boyfriend

It was dark when I reached home. As I stepped out of my car, my mother walked up from inside the house to the main door and started unlocking the metal gate.

"Your boyfriend came by earlier..." she said, in a tone apparent of how she disliked the visitation.

I have a boyfriend? Really? It took me a few seconds to remember Flapper - the cute, furry, little bat that visits every now and then. Awww... I missed him! My mother complained that after flying around the living room a bit, he "disappeared". She didn't know if he's left, or was hiding in some dark corners.

He must've gone, I said, since he's my boyfriend, and so he must obviously be disappointed that I wasn't home when he dropped by.

Maybe he'll come again tomorrow... (this, I did not say out loud) =P

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

My Journey Home

After an hour of particularly satisfying yoga practice (in which I believe I achieved new depth in the standing forward bend... yes, it is a big deal!) I left the gym anticipating a blissful, relaxed night. It almost didn't happen.

My gym is approximately 15 minutes' drive from my home - under normal traffic conditions - so in a way, the distance is not that much. In that, however, I encountered:

1. At least 20 vehicles illegally parked and double-parked, resulting in horribly obstructed paths requiring complicated maneuvers to get through.

2. A huge "vintage" Mercedes going against rightful traffic on a one-way-street. With illegally parked cars on one side, the road meant to accommodate the width of a single vehicle now has to fit THREE. As it was happening, I thought to myself - if my car didn't get out unscratched, I'd totally confront the man driving the offending one with "Uncle, did you notice this sign which says "Jalan Sehala" (one-way-street)? That big arrow pointing that way means you can only drive in that direction..." I'm too polite, I know.

3. A horrible excuse of a human being doing this:

(original image from here)

The thing with bad road users is, they're so common I've become very skilled at not getting mad encountering them. For all I know, little irritants like these contribute to functional dyspepsia and seriously, they're not worth it.

So, yea - in spite of everything, I got home and enjoyed my blissful, relaxed night, like I intended to.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Saving General Yang

*Spoilers Alert*
Reader, if you have not watched the movie, please do not proceed to read this post. It isn't a review... I'd like to think of it as a general discussion of the aspects of this movie that I liked. Of course, if you are already familiar with the famous Yang family legends, I suppose there is nothing much I could spoil for you. 


So, there are many versions of the story, but the gist is that the Yang family, led by patriarch General Yang Ye were a brave and loyal clan who fought wars defending the Song dynasty. The antagonist invaders were the Liao dynasty army whereas the antagonist rival was a fellow Song general, Pan Renmei. General Yang died as a result of being betrayed by Pan Renmei and after most of his seven sons died in later battles, their womenfolk took up arms and continued fighting.

In this particular version, General Yang, after being betrayed, retreated with a handful of surviving warriors to Two Wolves Mountain, to which the Liao army immediately laid siege. It was revealed that this was a deliberate set-up by the leader of the Liao army, Yelu Yuan. The obvious reason - to lure his sons in so he could kill them all.

At home, the general's wife, Madam Yang, had a premonition and proceeded to consult a sage. He told her nothing, but gave her a slip of paper upon which a prediction was written. As the brothers put together a plan to rescue their trapped father, the prediction was revealed to the eldest son -


Translated literally, it says seven sons leave, six sons return. The implication is that one of them will die in the mission. Naturally, the eldest son promised his mother that he will sacrifice himself to ensure that his father and his younger brothers may return home safely.

The audience will be led the wonder which unfortunate brother will not make it.

The seven of them, with a small group of soldiers, went forth, clashed with the Liao soldiers and broke through a battalion of two hundred men. All reached the fort at Two Wolves Mountain unharmed, to General Yang. The pained countenance of the general upon beholding his sons was noteworthy. As he had anticipated, the Liao army soon launched a full-force attack. The Yangs, though battered and wounded, managed to escape.

It was just the beginning. Yelu Yuan, bent on killing them, pursued the family with a hundred of his men.

*Serious Spoilers Alert*

The audience continued to wonder which unfortunate brother will not make it.

The first death, when it came, to be honest, caught me by surprise, for it was far less heroic that I expected. Yes, it was emotional, but it was over almost before it's begun.

The second death, when it became imminent, caught me by surprise again, for I thought it wasn't supposed to happen. But it did. The eldest Yang son died fighting tens of Liao warriors in a bid to buy more time for his brothers to escape, as he promised his mother he would. He couldn't have known that he wasn't the first to fall, nor would he be the last.

The prophecy?


It was misinterpreted. The second part didn't mean that six will return. It meant the sixth.

The correct literal translation: seven sons leave, sixth son returns.

All, except one, will perish. The audience, now stupefied, continued in trepidation, wondering how each will meet his end. This, for me, is the most profoundly affective aspect of the entire film. Of course, in addition, I noted the rather well choreographed battle scenes and bloody aftermaths, good CGIs and the above average acting capabilities of the star-studded cast.

It probably will be mind-boggling to many, how much sacrifice was made by these men. Seven sons risked their lives to save their elderly father; the father, gravely injured, gave up his life to free his sons of the burden that was him; five brothers fighting to their deaths so that one of them could successfully bring the body of their father back home to their mother.

Mind-boggling... but that's how warriors were in ancient times - with such seemingly senseless acts of loyalty and piety.


I really enjoyed watching it. Hope you did too, Reader.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Laundry

It's the middle of the night and I just did a load of laundry. I told my bestfriend that when my laundry basket is more than half-full, I get this really, I mean really, uneasy feeling. And, I have to do something about it... she said that when their laundry basket gets more than half-full, her husband starts nagging and she will have to do something about it.

I know what the problem is - she is attracted to people who are OCD about clearing laundry (and a bunch of other crazy stuff)

Hey, I love you too! :X

Saturday, June 1, 2013

My Journey to Competency

It wasn't hard... just extremely tedious, and so strenuous on the last day that at the end of it, I slept for 11 hours straight!

Or maybe I just like sleeping. *oink!*

I've never doubted my competency in lesson delivery and presentation - even when I first started teaching - but there are some things for which the world simply wants proof in black and white. The actual worth of paper qualifications is always something I can't quite make up my mind about. A certified person is not necessarily absolutely competent, and a non-certified professional may very well be more than adequately competent.

Anyhow, I know I am competent in teaching / training, but now I also have (or will have, depending on how long shipping takes) the paper to prove it.

I should go back to bed.... *oink!*

Friday, May 24, 2013

Shoes

The last thing I heard was the conversation between the doctor and the nurse on how nasty the throat-numbing spray tastes. I saw the nurse lubricating the scope that was to make a trip to my stomach and duodenum. I felt the dull pain and pressure at the back of my hand where the sedative was going into my vein...

I woke up to the sound of my phone ringing. It was in my bag, tucked neatly right beside my chest. It stopped before I could get to it. I was lying on my side, as I was before I lost consciousness, and had an extra blanket plus my jacket over me. I tried to remember what happened. I couldn't. I shifted my body and tried to get up but failed. I felt so weak and gosh, my hand with the IV needle still in it really hurt. All I could manage was turning my head to take a look around the ward. I caught a glimpse of my water tumbler on a nearby desk. I wondered where my shoes were. I rummaged through my bag and found my phone. Three missed calls and an SMS. My eyelids were heavy, they were closing and I fell back asleep.

Again, I woke up to the sound of my phone ringing. This time, I managed to answer it. No, I don't even remember what the conversation was about... most probably like - how are you, I'm OK, how did the procedure go, I don't know I was knocked completely out, etc. I garnered enough strength to turn in the bed and looked at the floor. My shoes weren't there.

A nurse noticed that I've woke and came to check on me. She asked if I would like some food, as I'd been fasting for what must've been about 14 hours then. I said yes, and I tried to sit up. She gently stopped me and told me she would serve me. I didn't have time to tell her that I wasn't getting up to get food - I just wanted to look for my shoes. She returned in a few minutes with a steaming hot drink and sandwiches. I thanked her, and shamelessly wailed that I can't find my shoes.

"They here, they're here..." she assured me, pointing to a little compartment under the bed. They've been placed nicely in it, out of my view. Ahhh, I was happy again.

Now, in retrospect, I feel like an idiot - I awoke from a diagnostic procedure not wanting to know how it went, or when I would know the result, or where my doctor was and when I could speak with him, or how soon I could go home... but where my shoes were.

That is what's wrong with me.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Chalk


Is this what I smear all over my hands? Cute! =P

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Crazy Cakes

There are certain recipes, even if the end products are really good, I will not attempt a second time. Even if the first time was near-perfect. Even if the challenges weren't too challenging for me. Even if I get to play with my candy thermometer for the separate preparation of a fancy buttercream filling.

The reason is simple.


Oh, but I need to bore you with some background stories first. *Ahem* These little things that look like cupcakes are called Osaka Cakes. Think chiffon cakes in cute individual liners, the middle of each filled with whipped cream of sorts (I used Swiss meringue buttercream instead). They're super fine, soft and fluffy... one can easily gobble down three or four in a breath and then ask for more.

My mother was introduced to these cakes by one of her friends who made them for sale. Out of curiosity, she ordered half a dozen and sure, they tasted heavenly. Thinking they're too pricey to buy all the time, and that I am not a total idiot in the kitchen, she asked the seller to share the recipe. Turns out, her friend used a pre-mix easily available from any bakery supply stores, with on-pack directions for preparation.

She went out within the week and bought a pack.

Now, the main story begins.


It wasn't that the directions given were insufficient... well, they were insufficient, like all pre-mix directions are, but with the amount of cooking / baking we do at home, that wasn't even remotely an issue. My issue? This - do you, Reader, have any idea how many eggs it takes to get 370g of yolk? We buy regular-sized eggs and the yolk averages between 18 to 19 grams. Do the math.

Fine, I'll do the math for you - about 20 eggs. Twenty!

The yield was about 50 little cakes. That's almost half an egg for each. Plus a lot of leftover egg whites (the reason for the meringue buttercream instead of whipped cream) because the required 450g of whites can be obtained from just slightly more than half the amount of eggs cracked.

I don't generally object to consuming eggs, but I do object to consuming so much of it, especially for dessert. It is frivolous. Totally unnecessary.

See these not-so-pretty-but-still-adorable little buns baking in the oven?


Just 2 eggs for the entire batch. Plus I got half an hour of intense arms workout kneading the dough.

Yea, so, crazy cakes... no more.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Dear Spider

At the end of a particularly long, nauseating day at work, the last thing I want is to be alarmed. I don't want to jump and squeal for five minutes while you gleefully scurried and hopped from my bedside drawer to my desk, back to the drawer, onto the rug on the floor, back to the drawer again, onto the desk again, onto my Amy Tan book...

I will not object if you say, in your defense, that it were my screams that alarmed you into behaving in the wild erratic way you did. My apologies if that were true.

My further apologies for entrapping you in the rug while you were there for the nth time, dashing out of the the room with the bundled rug then shaking you out onto the stairs landing. I hope you were not too shaken.

Hey, I was scared silly too, OK? Stop complaining.

Good night, sleep tight... but go sleep somewhere else, please!

Monday, April 8, 2013

New Favourite Quote

Dear Reader, read this. No, seriously, do it.

Can you tell the part of the letter I enjoyed the most?

The person who wrote the advertisements is without doubt the most ignorant person now alive on the planet; also without doubt he is an idiot, an idiot of the 33rd degree, and scion of an ancestral procession of idiots stretching back to the Missing Link.

A quick Google search revealed that this letter, especially this particular excerpt from it, is rather popular all over the web. I'm late in my discovery of it, but really, better than never at all!

=P

Monday, April 1, 2013

April Fool's

One of the following is not true:

#1
I once received a gift from my boyfriend in form of my initials being embroidered onto a belt he wore.

#2
I once threw a mango at a boy, which hit him right on his (opened) mouth and he bled from his gums/teeth.

#3
I once went into the men's toilet in a desperate moment and had to hide in one of the stalls while real men entered to use the urinals.

#4
I once witnessed a friend's arm get broken during karate training, when we were practicing throwing opponents to the ground.

#5
I once questioned a tele-marketer on the very product he was trying to sell, to the point he said he had to call me back later - which he didn't, of course.

Who will you be fooling today, Reader?

Saturday, March 30, 2013

When I Grow Up...

Whenever I am in the hospital, I am reminded of the days I was a St John Ambulance cadet. We had some training in basic nursing, specifically, home nursing, in addition to first-aid. Those days, my bestfriend and I both wanted to study medicine. (On a side note, we both also wanted PhDs since we were 12 years old... at least that is still a possibility!) Yes, I wanted to be a doctor. That ambition was quickly shelved, for both of us, when we found out how much it would cost our parents. At one time, I seriously considered nursing as career. We had some of our nursing training at a government hospital, and the (probably underpaid and overworked) nurses were, to put it politely, not the friendliest beings I've encountered. I told myself that if I were ever to be a nurse, I'd treat all my patients with kindness, tenderness and pleasant facial expressions. I know I would make a great caregiver. *Ahem*

Among other things (ie., becoming a physicist, complete with the Nobel prize dream *Ahem*) I'd once also considered undertaking Forestry or Botany. When I was 15 or 16, I told my parents that when I was done with school, I would build myself a little hut in the middle of a jungle and stay there on my own. I wanted to study nature in peace and be distanced from all other people. My father was "supportive". He said, sure - I can do whatever I like... after they're both dead. Oh, well.

So, I did Engineering.


Funny thing is, I'd never thought of it until I enrolled for it. Granted, when I started college, I took general subjects suitable for a variety of degrees in the sciences, but it was somehow decided I would move towards Mechanical Engineering (but no, I ended up doing a different major in engineering... another long story there). Throughout my one and a half years in college, I'd briefly considered switching to Psychology (but my father was concerned that that wouldn't make me a decent living) and Journalism (but I prefer to write for self-entertainment).

And now, I'm in the teaching profession. I do not know at which point in my life I decided that teaching suits me... but it does! I enjoy imparting knowledge, I get a great sense of fulfillment when I know my students have learned and a single appreciative person out of an entire class of a hundred makes the (relatively) meagre salary acceptable. (Despite having said that, I totally wouldn't object to annual fat bonuses and handsome increments...)

I wonder how many people are indeed living the life and enjoying the career they had planned when they were younger. I am not, but I have no regrets. At times I still dream of venturing into different fields when I grow up... I mean, older. Learning can be a lifestyle, much like martial arts, or yoga, or climbing can. So, technically, the ambitions of my younger self are not total lost causes (except the Nobel prize part.... ah, the follies of my youth! *you may stop laughing now*)

What are the aspirations of your youth? =)

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

For The Myopic


When you're looking at rows and rows of frames, where do you even begin to choose one that might look good on you and is comfortable to wear? Seriously.

I usually just let my cousin (the optician) choose for me. So far, no one's told me I look dorky when I wear my glasses, so yea, this is the strategy I shall stick to indefinitely...

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The "Run"

I've always thought of myself as a non-sports person - years of being in a school where "sports" generally mean "mainstream sports" like running, jumping, netball, volleyball, badminton and the likes has drilled that too deeply into my head, so although I've taken up martial arts since college and more recently, climbing, I still don't relate myself to sports. I blame it on the school's way of defining sports as the ability to run or jump or catch and throw balls (which you have to run to do). I can't run and I don't run. I know running is getting to be rather "fashionable" in these recent years - so many friends who I never knew run are now doing half- and full-marathons, so much so that a 10km run is "for fun" and a 5km run is "not a run". Whatever. I've had friends try to pull me in:

Typical conversation 1:
She: We have 3 runners here, so we should make our next gathering at a marathon!
Me: Sure... you guys run, I'll cheer you from the sidelines
She: You can run the easy 10km
Me: I can run 10m to and fro between my office and the washroom
She: ...

Typical conversation 2:
He: It's just 7km... you will find your stamina
Me: Sure, I'll run 0.7km, then I'll die and you'll have to carry my dead body with you the rest of the way
He: ...

(read more on my inability to run)

Two weeks ago, my mother asked if I would like to join a 1km run for charity. I should have sensed that something was not quite right - who on earth would organize a 1km anything? It's for a women-related charity, she continued, and it's not competitive.

I said yes. For one, it's a charity event. For another, (this is the long story short) a dear friend had asked a couple of us to go on a weeks-long trek / hike across Nepal, and I'd sort of said yes. With stamina like mine, it'll be a kamikaze mission if I don't do anything in preparation for it. So the plan is - my friend who's afraid of heights will come climbing with me, and I, who's unable to run will force myself to, well, go for runs with her. Of course, as of now, the plan is still just a plan. *Ahem*

So, yea, a 1km whatever-you-call-it is as good a start as any. Unfortunately, it turned out nothing like I thought it's be. I had unwittingly signed up for a pointless event that, under normal circumstances, I would not have thought twice before saying no. The crowd was so huge and so full of families with loud, chattering women and screaming children I was uncomfortable just being there. I don't like family events - I prefer my family in the comfort of our home. The organizers served breakfast - I could only cringe at the amount of polystyrene used and was completely nauseated by the thought of how horribly littered the park will be when the event was over. I had no idea what the schedule was, but a full hour after the event was supposed to "start" the walk / run was nowhere near starting.

Maybe it's my age - I don't have much patience these days (except when I'm teaching, during which the well of my patience is practically bottomless... it's like there's a switch in my brain, and yea, I find it odd too). I was not about to stick around wasting my Sunday morning, which could have been spent sleeping! I half-ran, half-walked along the jogging trail around the park, got my fill of cardio I signed up for, and then left. I don't know if I made the miserable 1km, but I don't care - I still don't like running. I'd much rather be the "court jester" playing tennis (another long story that I shall save for next time).

Good night (or morning), Reader! =)

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Pre-Dawn Consciousness

In my teens, I was accustomed to go to bed very early and wake up by 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning (I usually left for school at 7am). I used to love those hours because it was dark and quiet all around, and I'd be literally all by myself. It suited me, and my family members never minded much my oddities. In university, it was common for me to stay up all night - along with my roomees and other nocturnal friends (yes, fellow humans, in addition to our hamster and rabbit, and we'd keep each other company via online chatting). Right now, I am wide awake at a time of the night that used to be my favourite, but I am no longer enjoying it. I need my sleep, for the obvious reason that I have a job which requires me to be awake during the day.

Every so often I am afflicted by insomnia. There was a time, some years ago, I was down with some form of depression and I suffered sleeplessness every single night, sometimes crying half the hours away. Of course, I am nothing like that now. My mind is simply too occupied - too obstinately occupied. It is frustrating in that I know exactly what the problem is, yet am utterly unable to overcome it by sheer will-power. If there is a will there is a way? Nope... sometimes the will just isn't enough.

It's been days. If I do not get over this soon, I'd have to wear make-up just so I don't inadvertently scare anyone I meet....

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Relativity

Of the entire one and a half years I spent being a college student, there are only two (not listed as texts / references) books I studied which I still remember, now, years later.

The first was Abnormal Psychology. I had to write a term paper for my Psychology class and my topic was Obesity. I don't remember how I ended up looking into that title - obesity is abnormal? abnormal conditions that cause obesity? - but I borrowed it. I remember reading, with unparalleled fascination, case studies of patients with brain damage from either illness or injury, with their behaviour and/or speech and/or specific abilities greatly altered according to the location and extent of the damage. I distinctly remember the case of a man that, due to some sort of accident, had his trachea permanently fused, such that he was unable to even swallow his saliva. Doctors connected a feeding tube directly to his stomach, through his abdomen. The psychologists observed that the man chewed food before spitting them down his tube. He even "drank" beer by taking the liquid in his mouth, therefore, tasting it, before spitting it into the tube. This afforded them a study of the significance of satiation. So. Interesting.

Since I'm already digressing so much, let me share one other thing I remember from the term paper I wrote. *Ahem* A group of researchers designed an experiment where they had two groups of randomly selected volunteers. These volunteers were told that they were to taste a new snack product (potato or some other kind of chips) and to provide feedback on how well, tasty it is. Each subject was be provided a bowl of chips. Those in the control group were not told anything futher whereas those in the test group were given a limit of how many chips they were allowed to eat. In other words, they had a constraint. The researchers then quietly observed and noted the amount the subjects ate. In the second half of experiment, the whole setup was repeated with the test group subjects being told they can eat as many as they like - no more constraint. The control group subjects were not given any instructions as previously. With a constraint imposed, predictably, the test group subjects ate much less compared to the control group. However, when the constraint was lifted, they ate significantly more than the control group, which showed no increase or decrease in amount of chips consumed between the first and second half of the experiment. The researchers (or some others, I forgot...) also observed that subjects tend to eat more when they are alone, than when in company of others (maybe because we all grew up with judgemental friends?). So, in conclusion, if you are trying to lose weight, don't try to stop yourself from eating (you'll risk overeating the moment you stopped stopping yourself) and always eat with a condescending person who loves to judge and criticize. Kidding =P

Now, the second one (yea, I was talking about books I read in college that left lasting impression on me) was a Physics title. I don't remember what I was doing, reading a Physics book that was out of my league at the time. I guess I didn't have a life. I studied the entire chapter on Einstein's Special Relativity, math and all. Yes... I actually studied all the mathematics. Unfortunately, I'm not genius enough to remember any of it *sad* One of the concepts - that time slows down for one travelling at speeds approaching the speed of light - remained in my memory though. It was perhaps also around that time that I was first exposed to the idea of time being one of the dimensions we live in. For example, if one gives 3-d coordinates of a place one is to meet a friend, the two will most likely not meet, unless one specifies the time of meeting as well. There are at least 4 dimensions.

I had for some time intended to revisit the theories of relativity, but as always, I had other things to do (I'm full of excuses, aren't I?). Recently, I came across this title:


It's all about the theories of relativity without the math! Well, there are simple equations that anyone can handle, but not any of those that only mathematicians and physicists can stomach. (You know, Reader, when I was very young, I planned to either become a physicist or marry one... both didn't happen *consciously stops veering off-topic*) Russell Stannard unfolds the concepts clearly, a step at a time, with easy-to-understand examples, diagrams and analogies.

The first part of the book deals with Special Relativity. The time slowing down at speeds close to that of light phenomenon that I mentioned earlier is termed time dilation. Seems pretty simple, but the part that might be called non-intuitive about it is that one experiencing time dilation will not notice that anything is out of the ordinary (neural impulses, like everything else, are slowed accordingly), because time is not of its own, but a part of spacetime, the four-dimensional reality we live in. Like this: In some Chinese folklore involving deities, a day in the heavens equals ten years on earth - so if a mortal visits heaven and spends a day there, when he returns home, he would find that ten years had passed. That's how in some stories, a maiden-deity who "runs away" to earth to experience life as a mortal can marry a mortal and live happily for ten years before the heavenly guards come to "catch" her. They would've only realise she's gone when she didn't return at the end of the day (in heaven)! But I've digressed... again. Apart from the effect on time, there is length contraction as well. Prof Stannard also discusses the Twin Paradox, Simultaneity (whether two events happened simultaneously or not depends on who is looking), and the (arguably) most famous equation of all time,  E=mc2. Subsequently, the reader will be introduced to General Relativity, which is, as the name clearly states, the theory of relativity for general cases, taking gravity into account. The reader must be prepared to understand (seemingly unorthodox) concepts such as light is bent when passing through a gravitational field, and space is not nothing and it can assume contours - like being curved one way or the other. The book concludes by showing the reader how everything comes together to provide scientists the understanding of much of the universe that they currently know (about 5% of it only!).

Honestly, this is a book I feel everyone should read. It's beautifully written, with adequate simplification of the complex, but not so much as to compromise the knowledge presented. Happy reading =)

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Hello, Friends

Friends? Hello.....? *knock knock knock*

Every so often, I am overcome by a sudden wave of wistfulness that I no longer see my high school friends as often as I used to. Everyone's simply too busy. The rational, empathetic and positive-thinking voice in my head says it's normal and completely acceptable. As people mature, they have more responsibilities - demanding careers, spouses, children - and therefore, not much time for all else. Yes, definitely.

How much better my life would be if that was the only voice in my head.

Alas.

I am too acutely aware that almost every single thing one does and doesn't do is a choice. Granted, some choices don't seem like choices due to societal norms and expectations, ethical and moral grounds et cetera, but they are, nonetheless, choices. One does not have time to do something not because one is too busy, but that one has placed that something on the lowest priority. That is the sad truth that no one will likely admit.

Being "busy" makes the perfect, convenient, no-offense excuse.

And, suppose the definition of "busy" is what I say it is... so the following are all valid - 

"I can't make it because I'll be busy (watering my cacti at that time)."

"I can't attend the party because I'll be busy (reorganizing my bookcases and arranging the books alphabetically by author's last name)."

"I can't help you do that because I'm busy right now (reading an article about monkeys shunning mean people)."

Seriously?

I've rambled. I know not why my mood took a turn for the melancholy tonight. I guess everyone (including myself, to be honest) needs a friendly reminder, every now and then, that when someone always seems to have the time for one, it isn't that he/she has a lot of free time - it is that he/she has assigned one a higher priority than most other things in his/her life. Appreciate that.

Oh, and lastly, you should really read that article about the monkeys, Reader. It's very interesting.