Saturday, 31 December 2016

Closing of a chapter?

Seeing all the retrospective posts of 2016 on my Facebook feed suddenly gets me in the mood to start writing again, which admittedly has been dormant for quite a while.

2016 really flew by this year and passed by like a blur. The only fleeting memories I have is the long hours spend on my research project and writing my thesis, trying to beat the deadline. This was like a year of finality, where everything that I've been working on comes (crashing?) to an end point.

I can hardly believe I'm almost at the end of my 4 years plus PhD journey. It seems not too long ago that I just stepped foot in Germany and getting used to life in Dresden.  And suddenly right now, I have submitted my thesis (honestly, the details of its creation process still eludes me) and having to start preparing for my defence.

This year also saw its fair share of people settling down, tying the knot and babies being popped out (one or more of them) - a gentle reminder that life is passing by and people are moving on with their lives. At this age, I'm no wiser to where mine will lead.

Happy new year 2017 folks.

p/s: From my trip to Swansea,  at Rhossili Bay.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Most awesome movie!

If you haven't caught the latest superhero offering from Marvel: Guardians of the Galaxy, you really should.

Not your current standard superhero movie fare which tends to be dark and serious (Dark Knight, Superman) or wisecracky (The Amazing Spiderman), this one veers more towares the tones of classic space/adventure movies like Star Wars and Indiana Jones. From the hero jumping from one adventure to next, to jaded characters that are not your typical superhero-material quality, this is a superbly fun movie that's bound to rekindle your inner child as you watched those classic movies

The appearance of a humble Walkman in the movie, featuring pop songs from the 70s/80s is a suprisingly genious move. I couldn't help but think back about the late portable music player (Aiwa, not Sony so can't be called a Walkman), that I've chucked in a drawer but otherwise is still in working condition. The same can't be said for most of my cassettes though: a lot of them now sound shrill, creaky or doesn't play properly.

While I might not have the original Walkman, which is a actually trademark by Sony as a portable casette player, the Walkman name still survives today. As a portable music player that plays digital music files e.g. MP3, AAC etc. When it comes to audio qualiyt, Sony still makes some of hte best products in the business. I've had a few of these later versions, and have been extremely satisfied with them. This is the latest one I got myself a couple of months ago (sort of as little birthday gift for myself):

I'm using it daily to stream music from Music Unlimited while I work, and it's been extremely satisfying so far. Superior audio quality, beating anything I've heard before. And subscribing to a music streaming service, has exposed me to various artiste and genres of music that I've never accessed before. Stuff from classical music, cool jazz, R&B, 90s music, modern classic fusion (e..g Lyndsey Stirling) and newly released music from tonnes of mainstream and non-mainstream artistes. Having a huge library music at my fingertips for a relatively cheap monthly fee is incredible and somethign I don't see myself giving up for a quite a long time. And I've even managed to comple the awesome playlist of 70s/80s songs that were featured in Guardians of the Galaxy:

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Old photos

Time sure flies. I can hardly believe I've been here in Germany for slightly more than a year now! It only hit me when I was checking the calendar and then got an email reminder from the PhD office that I need to set a date and arrange for my 1st annual thesis review committee. Which I did by the way, as right now I've to prepare a report and a presentation scheduled for Nov 6.

Things seemed to pass by a blur. I haven't gotten much travelling around done, as most people who are overseas are apt to do. I mean, I did go on a Phd retreat in Prague and bits of Dresden but that's about it. I think I've come to realise I'm just not the "travelly" kind of person, which is you know the complete opposite of folks that harbours dreams of "travelling around the world and exploring different sights and sounds".  I mean, it's not that I hate sight-seeing but it's something that I'd prefer tagging along to someone's invitation rather than me logging on to or to hop on the next cheapest plane to a "cosy, sleepy hamlet with unique traditional delicacies that will surprise travellers".

Another thing I'm bad is photos. As some of you who follow this blog would be well aware by now,  I'm terrible at uploading photos and keeping them updated. I just tend to snap some photos here and there, and then completely forget about them. Most of my photos are untagged and left to rot in the camera until one fine day I decide to transfer them to my PC. Now that I have a smartphone, things are a bit easier of course thank to the auto-upload feature of G+. However, since I'm also not that great at social media either... you can see where this is going. :)

Anyway, here are some quite old pics from my last trip to Aberdeen, Scotland. I was there from around March-May last year for an attachment at the University of Aberdeen, working with Dr. Sam Martin on ferritin genes in salmon. Yep.. these photos are more than a year old.

Hostel where I stayed. Has 6 person to floor, shared kitchen + 2 bathrooms. Around 5 minutes walk to the Zoology building where I go to daily.

The street near my hostel, walking towards the Zoology building.

Scene from the main city area, with double-decker buses. Most of the buildings here are not painted, with dull shades of gray.  A lot of the buildings here seemed to be renovated from old stone buildings.

If I remember correctly, this is the King's building/college of the university.

The long street across the university where I can walk from my hostel to the town centre. A bus ride to town cost 2 pounds, and after a while I figured it's cheaper to do the 15-minute walk to town and take bus ride home after buying stuff.

The famous St. Andrews cathedral. It is open free to public at certain times.

As usual, my favourite part of old churches - the painted glass windows! 

On a train ride to Glasgow to visit a friend, passing by the Stirling station.

 Passing the Perth station. Guess I learned that it is not just a place in Australia! :P

Most of the time the train passed by many large fields and farmlands. 

Cheap and large, juicy berries! My favourite strawberries and blueberries were great too! Bought 2 packs of each.

One of the best meals I've had in Aberdeen. The cafe is called Grub and is located on thatthat street stretching from the university to the town area. The panini with brie and cranberry was really delicious! For the complete meal set I picked a hot chocolate and yoghurt with muesli (which were pretty good too). Came to about 4 pounds.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Great reason to make a new post

.. so that I can skimp on writing and call this a blog update. :)

Posting the live version because it beats the studio version, hands down. So much energy and a flawless performance.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Retrospection 2012

For some reason I thought that today was 30th January and that New Year will be on Wednesday, until I got a notification of a new post by Jeremy that the year 2012 is actually coming to an end pretty soon.

If I could sum up 2012 for me in one word it would be change... and blur. Ok, probably in two words. Looking back in 2012 while I'm somewhat aware of what happened I still had to rack my brain to figure out where did all those calendar pages fly by? So many things happened, so many changes in my life and I'm still barely on top of things in my life now.

I started out this year a little uncertain of where things will take me. I've submitted my Masters thesis in September last year and was still waiting for my defense. I continued looking for a PhD position and started applying for a few different places. Then I was offered the chance to do an attachment with Dr. Sam at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland for 3 months. At the same time I managed to get past the first interview for a PhD position at the University of Glasgow and was invited there for a second interview. In Glasgow I met up with my long-time secondary school friend, Alvin and stayed at his place for a few days for the interview. 

Unfortunately I was not successful for that interview, and as I was working in Aberdeen I got a surprising reply to one of my "casual" PhD application. "Casual" in the sense that the offered position seemed really interesting and quite out of my league that I didn't think much of it as one of my more potential applications. Anyway I got a call later from Dr. Michael and 3 weeks later I hopped on a plane to Dresden, Germany to visit his lab at the Max-Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics. I came back to Malaysia in June and after two short months, packed my bags and left for Germany with much trepidation to begin a new unknown chapter of my life.

This is the first year that I've spend more time out of Malaysia then in it. Living in a foreign country can be quite draining, particularly one where you don't understand the language. Everything here is in Germany, from applying for a bank account to getting a phone and signing a contract. It can be quite draining at times, when you consider that a simple things like figuring out the lunch menu or looking at product label at a supermarket requires some considerable effort of guesswork.

I also found out how difficult it is to explain how things are in Malaysia and the way we see things. How do you respond to a guy from China who says "Your name sounds like a Chinese name.". Erm, cos I am?? There was also another time when someone said, "Oh Chinese people are usually quite thin, I've never seen fat Chinese people before", to which I laughed and said of course there are and it's a growing problem. "But you're not Chinese right, you're from Malaysia!" Uh, yes I am and yes I'm from Malaysia as well. I guess the concept of cultural plurality as well as ethnicity and nationality
being two completely different things are slightly harder to grasp for folks that came from  a predominantly homogenous country. 

On the upside, I've gotten to know quite a lot of different folks here from many different countries including Egypt, Croatia, Serbia. And I also had my first wintry Christmas here. Learning German .. has a bit slow and difficult (much more than English!) but while I can't speak that well or fully understand conversations, I could make do mostly shopping for groceries or ordering off the menu.

Being away from Malaysia, there are lots of things I missed - the food, the weather, the people. And by people I also mean the chance to have a witty and engaging conversation in English. I also really miss hanging out with them over a nice (!) meal. Granted,  I don't hang out much anyway while I was back in Malaysia but I think living outside and mostly independently back then have really prepared me to living by myself in a foreign country.

Hopefully 2013 will be less drastic so that I can occasionally take a breath and realise - the flowers along the way are smelling quite differently now.

Happy new year 2013.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

I'm dreaming of a while Christmas

Just a short post to let you guys know that I'm still alive and having just survived my first "wintry" Christmas here in Dresden. "Wintry" in the loosest sense since it was snowing quite a bit for 2 weeks before Christmas, and then it stopped for Christmas week and most of the snow melted away. In fact Christmas started out quite bright and cheery (with sun! .... and there was much rejoicing among the people). So technically I didn't get to experience a white Christmas but a white pre-Christmas is still cool. And singing/listening to Christmas carols of snow and fireplace and warmth makes a bit of sense when you're not sweating under the good ol' Malaysian heat.

So to make up for this short post... pictures!!

 Heavy snow day outside my doorstep (street along my house).

 Walking through the park near the medical campus.

 An unnecessary walk through the street as I got off the wrong tram stop.

 Someone made a snowman right at the entrance of the 
 Centre of Regenerative Therapy and Diseases building. 

  Christmas tree decoration at the middle of a Christmas market

 Same decoration at night, and with more people
Closer look at a Christmas market. A popular item is the Gl├╝hwein, a warm 
spiced winethat helps to stave off the winter cold I suppose.

Hope you guys had a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Gehen nach die Stadt

Today I made a trip to town to get some supplies. And also to have a nice meal since I'll need to cook the whole day tomorrow as all the shops are closed on Sunday here.

So I took a tram to Pirnaischer Platz, which is like a plaza/kind-of-city-centre. I dunno really, I just saw a lot of shops and places while passing through in a tram.

I've passed by here previously, but only briefly to go to the Foreign Visitors Office to register my arrival in Germany.  A lot of trams and busses pass by here, and lots of tourists too I suppose. There's quite a number of shops and eateries around.

After having been here a week and a half, it's nice to be greeted with the sight of familiar food.

The little blue packet on the left is Europe's answer to our 'pop-pop' towels. You know, the scented damp tissue wrapped in plastic typically found in Chinese restaurants. Except that it's packed like a sterilised alcohol swab, smaller in size, stronger scent and only a polite inaudible tearing sound upon opening. I've seen them before when I was in Aberdeen, which I will make a blog post erm.. later.. :P

So I decided to try  the McRibs, which turns out to be like a slice of pork fillet with a dollop of meat/barbeque. Tastes alright, though the sauce can be a slightly overwhelming.

There's also a small section of McD, known as McCafethat sells coffee, pastries, and bubble tea! Yes, I kid you not. I think this is the next big thing in Dresden, at least. Incidentally I had passed quite a large Bubble Tea Original (hehe..) shop a couple of minutes away from McD.

This is the supposed plaza which gave rise to the name, I suppose. There's also a tiny row of open market stalls at the far end of the pic, selling mostly sausages, ice cream, coffee and knick-knacks.

ZOMG! Civilisation at last! An actual shopping complex! This is the first shopping complex I've seen in Europe that's comparable to the ones we have in Malaysia. There's quite a number of eateries too, will try them out next time.

As usual, you can check out a few more pics on my google+.

Auf wiedersehen!