A year in research, what research taught me about life (1)

Its been a year since I last enrolled into the honours year programme, and boy what an amazing experience it has been for me. A one year intensive research programme coupled with advanced classes in chemistry, what more could I ask for? I chose to do the honours programme because I wanted to challenge myself, and because God asked me to remain in melbourne for another year.

Reflecting back on the past year, there are many parallels that I can draw between research and life in general.

1. You never know until you try:

Research is about experimentation. Experimentation is about trying new things. Just as Edison tried a 1000 times before inventing the light bulb, a researchers’ job is basically a daily routine of trial and error. Continually experimenting and checking the data. Science has progressed tremendously over the past few decades and we have very comprehensive theories to guide us in our work. However, once you begin wading into the unknown, once you begin trying out new things, theories sometimes begin to fall apart. It is commonplace to see researchers sitting down in front of their computers, scratching their heads at the data and exclaiming “Whats going on”. My favourite meme about labs is ” Nothing seems to work. And when it works, nobody seems to know why “. The blockbuster chemotherapeutic cisplatin worked, but no one seems to know how it really works or why it really works. It just does. To quote Deng Xiaoping ” Dosen’t matter if the cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice “. In a sense that is what research is about. Finding something that works. All the theory in the world can help and guide you, but you never know until you really try.

Physicists have already proceeded beyond the newtonian model of science to quantum mechanics, a wacky interesting world where you can never know something for sure. For example, atomic orbitals are used to describe an atom, but we never really know where an electron is at any given point in time. We just know the probability. In the same way, some a systemic approach to understanding PK and PD might be where answers lie.

In a sense, life is like that. we can read all the self help and philosophy books we want but at the end of the day, we dont know until we really try. When theory breaks down in the face of reality, and you are left with countless unknowns, the only thing you can do is to try, try, and try, and to see if it will eventually work. Of course in life, sometimes you have to know when to give up as well and have a sense of when things should take a u-turn. Sometimes the right way to go is backwards.

I guess the point I really want to make is that right now, many of my peers and myself included, we worry about finding the “right” job and fulfilling our dreams. But what exactly is the right job? Is your dream really your dream? You only know if you try out the job or try working hard at something you really love. Its easy to think and speculate but really, taking action and diving into something is what counts. To find your place in this world, you need to take action. Sometimes we might not end up where we want to be, but that is life. We make the best of what we have. The sun still shines, the flowers still blossom. There are thunderstorms, but there are beautiful days as well.

Lessons from a Taxi Driver #1

Comfort_Hyundai_Sonata_taxi (1)

Image Credit: Terence. [CC BY 3.0] Via commons

I love talking to the taxi drivers in Singapore because I feel that there is much conventional wisdom to be learnt from them. Here’s an article about a CEO who learnt from a taxi driver in China.

It was a friday morning and my phone alarm didn’t sound off!! :(:(. Disaster. I was to be at a school by 7am to help conduct a training programme BUT it was already 7.20am. I quickly showered and called a cab and rushed down to the school. Little did I know that this cab ride would help set the mood for the rest of the day.

A cheerful uncle greeted me as I boarded the cab and we started off with the usual pleasantries: For some reason or another we began to talk about employment and the economy. The uncle told me he used to be GM at a large mechanical engineering firm. He got the position by working his way up over the years. The transition to a managerial position meant that he now had to focus more on managing people and ensuring their performance.

Lesson 1: Do what you love

Many people choose to study according to market demands. If there is a demand for lawyers, they study law. If there is a demand for accountants, they study accountancy. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this. Life is hard and you can’t always do what you want to do. Sometimes you just have to do what will earn you some money. But a high demand for lawyers now might not mean a high demand for lawyers in later years as all the previous positions have been filled.

Others however choose to follow their passions and do what they love. At my university, this was most apparent in the Arts and Sciences. Sure, the future for these students did not look like comfy office chairs and stable high income BUT they enjoyed what they did. Talking to a few of them, you would be captivated by their passion for a particular subject or topic.

Which is the better path? Which is the better choice? I think it all boils down to what you want in life. There is a chinese saying: “敬业乐业” : If you respect your job, you will enjoy what you do. There is much wisdom in this and this view is also shared by the Japanese. Check out this blog post from ninjagirls!

So, why is it so important to respect and love your job? The uncle told me the following things:

  • If you love and respect your job, you will give your 100%.
  • You will go to work with a smile
  • You will do more outside of your job. Ever wondered why the best students in University know so much? Because they are passionate about what they do. They have already devoured so many textbooks and articles that an average person would not.
  • Your bosses will see your passion and reward you accordingly

My ideal job would encompass the following elements:

  1. I can do what I love
  2. I can help society or contribute to the economy. This means that I am relevant. Are typewriters relevant anymore? I don’t think so. Not sure if typewriter experts have much job prospects in today’s world.
  3. I can earn enough to ( fill in the blank ). For me, I would like to earn  enough to support my family.

I think point number 3 deserves further elaboration because of the word “enough”. What is “enough”??. This will definitely differ from persons to persons. For some, $10Million isn’t enough while others would live happily on $100,000 a year( 100 x difference!). It all boils down to : Why do you want X amount of money? What will you use it for?

Life is not perfect and we will not always get what we want.But if you love what you do and you are passionate about it, I am sure that you will become successful. Why? Because nothing in the world can stop a passionate person. Wake up everyday with a smile!

Lesson 2: Be willing to try

The taxi uncle told me he had a daughter in high school. His constant advice was for her to try things before dismissing them. Have you ever eaten something you thought would taste bad but ended up tasting really good? We only have one life to live, why not savour everything that life has to offer? Through a constant process of trial and error we will then discover what we really like.

Maybe your new job seems “sucky” at the moment but who knows 2/3 years later you might come to really love it? If you tried your best at least you can quit knowing you did all that you could. Give your 100% at everything. Who knows what might happen?

Reality Check:

Doing what you love, contributing to society and the economy while at the same time earning enough to support your family and do what you want to do. Sounds like the stuff of dreams dosen’t it. Life is hard, and you will not always get what you want. Bills have to be paid. Food has to be provided. Expectations from family and partners to be met. Life is hard. But if you don’t try you will never know. Check out this video! 

Taxi Drivers: Both ends of the paradigm

Some of the happiest, joyful, contented and sanguine people I have met are taxi Drivers.

At the same time, some of the most angry,bitter and sad people I have met are taxi drivers.

Same job, same pay, same hours, different paradigms. Why is this the case?

I think this just shows that regardless of the situation you are in, one can choose how to face it. We can choose to be bitter and angry or joyful and accepting.

Happiness is a Choice:

Happiness is a Choice. No matter how tough life is, we can always be happy and thankful for the small things. Thankful for the fact that we have food on the table, friends and family who love us, thankful we have clothes to wear, a roof over our heads. Thankful for the weather, thankful for our lives, thankful for the things that we have. People will often say “If only this happens to me then I’ll be happy”. But you can choose to say “If only I choose to be thankful for the things that I have, I can be happy”. I’m not a really good writer, hence I am using this as a platform to practice so I’ll end off with a video:

 

Food Diary #4 Song Fa Bak Kut Teh. New Bridge Road, Clarke Quay MRT, Singapore.

Sorry no picture. Food was too important.

Location: 11 New Bridge Road #01-01 Singapore 05938. It’s located really near the reverse bungee ride at Clarke Quay. 

Opening Hours: Tues – Sat: 9.00am – 9.30pm, Sun: 8.30am – 9.30pm (Closed on Monday)  Last Order: 9:15pm (Source)

Review:

Really popular place in Singapore. I went at 8pm on a friday night and had to wait for ~15 minutes. Open air seating area, well ventilated. Ask any taxi drivers for Song Fa Ba Kut Teh, New Bridge road and they will bring you right to the doorstep. Lots of parking in the area as well. Easily accessible after alighting from Clarke Quay MRT Station. Order list:

Bak Kut Teh + Mi Fen: Typical Singapore Bak Kut Teh taste, really delicious pepperish broth. Noodle texture was just right.

Pickled Vegetables: An appetizer to get our stomachs going.

Braised Pig Intestines: For those who love intestines, the taste is decent. Less chewy than the ones you get at kway chap stalls.

Pig’s Liver Soup + Pig’s Kidney Soup: For fans of pig innards. The liver and kidney were cooked to just the right texture.

Food Diary #3 Hakata Ikkousha Ramen. CHIJMES, Singapore.

Sorry no picture. Food was too important.

Location: CHIJMES, Singapore.  Restaurant is located along the Japanese Food Street, near Toast Box and behind Lei Garden chinese restaurant.

Opening Hours: 

Review:

True to their restaurant theme, the restaurant seating space is pretty limited so get ready to queue. But trust me, the queue is really worth it. I once waited an hour at their melbourne branch  for dinner because the food is just that good. Before I review what I ordered, here’s a mini guide on how you can enjoy your ramen to the fullest. You will find on the table a couple of sauces/additives that you can use to adjust the flavor of your ramen to your liking:

Sesame Seeds: Open the cap and turn the screw around. Really Cute.

Pepper: Pepper. Nothing much to say lol.

Sea Salt: According to the staff, it adds a great flavour to the ramen.

Ramen Sauce/The really salty one: Add with caution, I reccommend half a spoon to start off with. Really good stuff.

Ginger: Your japanese picked ginger that is red in color.

Spiced Kimchi: Really spicy!! Add a little first and see how the taste goes first.

Garlic:  The MUST ADD for your ramen!!

 

What I ordered:

Ajitama Tonkotsu: Tastes exactly the same as the tonkotsu I had in melbourne. To quote my friend who grew up in Tokyo, “The taste is really authentic”. What can I say, probably the best ramen I have ever had.

Food Diary #2 Yhingthai Palace. Purvis Street, Bugis, Singapore

IMAG0275Dessert! Image Credit: Me

Location: 36 Purvis Street, Singapore 188613

Opening Hours: Daily 11:30-14:00, 18:00-22:00 (Source)  

Review:

Restaurant with air-con. Tables well spaced out so you won’t feel too cramped. Easily accessible by walking from Bugis MRT. Took me around 10 minutes. Lots of parking in the area, no worries. Order list:

Mango Salad for starters(pic here): Green mango salad, really refreshing salad to start off that really gets your appetite going from the soury taste. The small bits of prawn/shrimp make the dish really tasty.

Lamb Curry: A little bit spicy but excellent thick viscous curry.

Some biscuit dish with a side dip(picture here);  Sorry I was not the one doing the ordering that night so I have no idea what this dish is called BUT the taste is incredible. The meaty sauce goes well with the crunchy biscuit.

Fried Rice: Decent, nothing special. Ordered fried rice instead of white rice to go with the dishes.

Kangkong: Not your typical sambal kangkong. The dish is fried with their home-made chilli which is not too spicy and has lots of prawns in it. Nice taste!

Tapioca for Dessert: Big chunky pieces of tapioca. Really chewy and went well with their coconut cream/sauce.

Food Diary #1 Anson Chee Chong Fun. Near Kembangan MRT, Singapore.

IMAG0272Image Credit: Me

Location: 324 Changi Road Singapore 

Opening Hours: Mon: 07:00 – 18:00,  Wed – Sun: 07:00 – 18:00,  Closed: Tue (Source) 

Review:

Really nice place with air con now after undergoing some refurbishing, perfect for hot and sunny Singapore. Easily accessible by walking from the MRT or taking a bus. Might be slightly difficult to find parking during weekends as it will be really crowded. Reccommend to dapao on weekend haha! Items that my friends and I ordered were:

Chee Chong Fun: Really good if you like the type with thick black sauce. Soft smooth texture that is a little bit chewy.

Nasi Lemak: Their Nasi Lemak is to die for. It’s damn good. Rice really fragrant. Fried chicken tastes awesome. Their house chilli is also decent as well.

Chicken Noodle Soup: Good for those who like a clear chicken soup base with little additives.

Beancurd Pudding: They have a couple of flavours, we ordered the apple flavoured one. Really good and smooth texture. The apple flavour is green in color.

 

The Rust Falls off the Lid + Rurouni Kenshin Movie Trilogy Review

Firstly I apologise for the lack of blogging. I’ve been contributing content to a separate blog as part of my assessment at Uni. Check out Scientific Scribbles at the University of Melbourne. My posts can be found here.

Ok so next up, Rurouni Kenshin Movie Review!! (SPOILER ALERT)

Before the live action movie, I only heard about the famous Samurai X! from friends and various media so it was really exciting to be able to finally watch the three movies! I’ve seen other live action films such as Dragonball Z and Avatar and they were disappointing to say the least. Rurouni Kenshin however has some of the best acting and live-action sequences I have ever seen for a live-action adaptation of an anime series. So what makes Rurouni Kenshin special for me?

 

1) Cold Blooded Killer or Kind Hearted Hero?

I really love the juxtaposition in this anime. In the first movie, we are introduced to Hitokiri(人きり) Battosai, which translates as “Human Cutter Battosai”. A cold-blooded assassin which helped the current government come into power. To many, Kenshin was just a tool of the government, similar to how Edward was viewed by many as a “dog of the military” in Full Metal Alchemist. After the war, Kenshin vowed to never kill again and live a life of peace. Further into the story, it is revealed to us that Kenshin chose to aid the government because he believed that it would result in peace for the country. We are also shown how much the assassination of a politician who was about to be married affected him emotionally and psychologically.

Kenshin desired peace, but it could only be bought at a price. He understood this and took the burden upon himself. A similar theme which has been expounded in Attack on Titan, Gundam 00,  and the award-winning chinese movie, 英雄(Hero).

These “Heroes” or “Villains” understood the sacrifice required to achieve an ultimate goal, and were willing to undergo trials and tribulations to achieve their dreams.

I really like this contrasting of a single character as it adds complexity to the plot and helps us understand that “There is no clear right or wrong in many situations“. Our world is complex, multi-layered and grey.

2) “Foolish” Idealism

Kenshin has only known the art of killing all his life. All he knows is that the purpose of a sword is to kill, a fact that Saito ( the other samurai who works for the government) readily accepts. Kaoru however believes that the sword can actually be used to “rejuvenate one’s soul”. She believes that a tool used for killing can instead be used for the good of others. This is a contradiction that is best explained in the movie 英雄(Hero) when Jet Li talks to the Emperor. Kaoru helps strengthen Kenshin’s resolve not to kill and Kenshin fights with his blunt blade throughout the series, rarely killing anybody. This resolve is challenged in the third movie however where it seems as though he has to be willing to kill to overcome his opponents.

In the end of the third movie, Shishio dies due to his past injuries. This was a major letdown for me and many fans I am sure. This is where things get interesting. What are the directors trying to tell us here? Did Kenshin’s foolish dream of taking down his opponents without killing succeed, thus implying that one should uphold his or her ideals despite it being a seemingly impossible task? OR Did the directors want to show that such lofty goals are practically impossible to achieve in real life since Shishio wasnt really ‘defeated’ but died  due to his injuries. OR Is this your standard good triumphs over evil story? Something to think about.

Regardless, rooting for the idealistic hero Kenshin kept my eyes riveted on the screen throughout all three movies.

Closing Thoughts…

I thoroughly enjoyed the movie trilogy. The icing on top of the cake was the ending song by One OK Rock, “Heartache”. You can listen to it here.

 

Edit 1: Post Finished. Pictures to be uploaded.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

重新写作

已经很久没写文章了。至从从高中毕业后就没写了。一转眼就已经6年了。这6年我有改变吗?在网上看到老祖的写作:

“往后看就颓丧

往前看就担优

而在现在活着的人就会感到幸福“

不知道这句话真的是老祖的原作,但我觉得这句话的含意非常的深。

一直为自己的未来担忧。这星期就试试在此时此刻活着吧!

 

Raison d’etre

The french phrase literally translates as “reason for existence“.  There are a myriad of blogs out there. So why did I choose to start my own blog?

  • Improve my own writing and communication skills. Writing well is a skill I want to carry with me for the rest of my life, hence the blog. Of course I cannot improve on my own and will require feedback from others ( friends family etc.).

Languages I will blog in ranked in order of proficiency:

  • English
  • Chinese
  • Japanese

What I will blog about in no particular order:

  • Personal Thoughts and life
  • Food and possibly some fashion
  • Science
  • Dota2
  • Finance
  • The news
  • Possibly more to come?

Posting Frequency:

  • Once a week.  (unless I have no connectivity for some reason or other)

 

Here’s Something for You:

Thanks for reading this post. Here’s an interesting tidbit!

Technorati Blogosphere Review

 

Till Next Post!~