Monday, October 5, 2009

Walking out

I haven't blogged much lately.

Things have been rather overwhelming for me, especially in terms of career. I don't know if I made a wrong first step, only time will tell. It's topsy-turvy. Don't get me wrong, it's not about who or what I got into trouble with. It simply wasn't the ideal 'marriage' per se. More like a shotgun, then you realize that the person who is waking up beside you everyday probably isn't the right one for you.

I did have a brush with sales jobs in the past, when someone tried to sweet-talk me into my namesake - MLM. Sure, the fresh air-con, the bustling office environment and the ra-ra gangs - they did entice me quite a bit, to be honest. However, I have never felt comfortable doing it. It was a warning sign that I failed to heed. So I landed in this sales job, but probably I should have never done so because my attributes are simply not cut out for it. Presentations? Sure, I can do them. Pretty well. But meeting people, strangers even? Don't get me wrong. I can hold a conversation, but too bad - sales is an emotional thing. I am not good with touching people emotionally, especially at the crucial moment. Therefore, no sale.

Let me tell you that the sales that I am doing isn't easy. Lots of initiatives and drive have to be generated within yourself. And you are very much on your own. Once your fuel is gone, that's it. Nobody is going to top it up for you other than yourself. That's what exactly happened to me - I am tired. Jaded. But at least I found out the truth before it gets even worse. Keep on going home empty-handed, feet dragging? No good. I know of a lot of people like that, but seriously it isn't a good sign if one is being burnt out so quickly.

Do I think of myself as a failure? I am tempted to, but fortunately V counseled me out of it. For those of you who don't know who 'V' is, she is my fiancee. Someone I would dare to say that she's the best woman I have ever met, who has been very loving and supportive even during these tough times. Right now, I am focusing on getting back to what I can do well in - either chemical engineering or possibly banking. How long will I take before I get to go to work again? I don't know. With this supposedly recovering economy, even with a degree, it's still damn hard. God damn hard. But I am a fighter. I will continue fighting unless I am dead.

As for V, I feel very sorry for her sometimes because as her beloved one, I cannot provide much material support as of now. I am floundering in the rapids myself. But I will get out of it one day - and when that day comes, she'll get this support that she had fully deserved.

Walking out is never easy, be it from a place or from someone. It requires tremendous courage sometimes, but you just have to bite the bullet and move on. There will surely be greener pastures elsewhere, let these seasoned feet of mine carry me to those pastures. The sun will shine once again, for even light and darkness take turns to manifest its presence.

For those readers who have followed me thus far, sorry for not providing updates regularly. I will try to post more stuff when I have more time. Right now, I am entrenched in a war zone.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Past and Present Condo

I haven't been exactly the luckiest person around. I have had a lot of knocks and stumbles throughout the years and sometimes, I am tempted to be resigned to fate - something which is against my personality. Why? Because I am a fighter.

But the catch is, fighters will invariably tire one day. And lately, in the past one or two years, I am indeed tired. Hence, gone - or rather, adjusted was my attitude towards the honors and the accolades, as well as the hearts and the flowers. I don't fight as hard as I used to - or rather, be as obsessed as I was in the past. The previous Condo had been written into the historical annals. The current Condo is an improved and very different version of the past one.

I have not been the luckiest person in heart matters. I used to be the one who has the romance tabloids draped all over me, with those factually uninvited but overly enthusiastic 'friends' who broadcast my interest unabashedly to completely unintended parties. The news would spread like fire, but ironically, I would become frozen instead. Frozen because of a mixture of fear, reluctance and dismissiveness. Again and again, this happened umpteen times.

Although it was only about a couple of years away, I have nearly forgotten what it feels like to be in love with someone. Those fleeting liaisons, stashed away amongst the archives of time, seemed so faraway but can be surprisingly stark and vivid. The touches, the smiles. The moments spent smirking by the telephone cord as the tone of an apparently unattractive counterpart (to others, but not to me) filled my ears. And the memories of the footsteps down the dusty, washed away dirt paths. Sometimes, they do not want to spare me, hence they came to haunt me before I sink into a slumber. Tears would occasionally overflow and speckles of sodium chloride would remain on the pillow sheet cometh the very next ray of sunlight.

That was it, until I met her.

She is a very unique lady. One whom, I am afraid, could not be replicated in any form or imitation. Her eyes sparkle with determination and intellect, but are also full of emotions. Such beautiful eyes! I found mine transfixed onto hers, and eventually hers onto mine. She is no Megan Fox, Mariah Carey and what not, but her brand is extremely out-of-this-world. It was a very difficult road leading up to this point, but a very memorable one as well. There were many a time that nothing would remain, it could have been. Could have been. But finally, fate has decided to do me a favor this time. Corners have turned. And I see from afar that the familiar silhouette is gradually growing larger.

And then there was the hug. Only a hug, you say. However, it probably was one of the most meaningful and emotional one that I have had. Nothing beats that. Like the feeling that you have found your long lost, half-piece of pendant which you thought you could never find it again. The saunter beneath the moonlight and the gentleness that shroud me, are both destined to become timeless classics.

Thanks to the heaven, I have found you.

Sunday, July 5, 2009


Ever felt like an alien before?

Note that by the word 'alien', I don't necessarily mean those little green customers that you used to, or perhaps even love to, see on those TV screens. In those sci-fi movies. The 'alien' in this context has more to do with the physiological make-up - that is, if you frequently feel that you are constantly out of sync with the people around you, like nobody ever resembles you remotely, that would qualify you as an alien in my context.

And let me tell you this, being an alien sometimes doesn't make one feel good. Humans are social creatures, that much we know, and it doesn't feel good to be left out, even inadvertently, does it? However, sometimes it is inevitable - after all, one can only try to 'close up' the gaps to a certain extent. It becomes trying and tiring to bring it further than that. Hence, sometimes it is better to just preserve your own flavor.

Or seek another alien. With the world getting so unforgivingly congested, surely there must be other aliens amidst all the 'normal people'? Yes. That is possible, in every sense. But the catch is this - aliens are to be met, not sought for.

Fortunately for me, I have met another alien myself since last month. Let's call her V. For anyone here who is itching to know what V does, where she comes from, etc etc - I am sorry. I am not here to reveal all these. Plus, it would be blasphemy to the agreement between two aliens to reveal such heavenly secrets. Then, what's the point of talking about her? You ask.

Well, it's the special bond. The special bond which only two aliens can share with each other. It's akin to someone who can automatically and precisely decipher your code-laden words without you having to apply the 'layman dictionary', like you would do when communicating with those who are obviously not as alien as you are. Someone who could comprehend your emotions and experiences without passing them off as episodes of mundane existence. Someone whom you could actually relate with without having to turn your full-body armor to maximum thickness, like you do with your everyday dealings with others in your office, etc etc etc.

I am lucky to have met you, V. Just when I have kept to myself my deepest thoughts for many months, when I thought that it would be a futile effort to try to create bridges that the other party would have scant interest in trying to reach out towards me with equal measure. I do not know how long our association would last, but I hope it would, for as long as humanly possible.

For now, I have to sign off. V: if you see this, you would understand what I am driving at.

For those who don't, well - you are probably an alien in your own right, but not the same type as me. No matter, you will have your own group of aliens to associate with too. After all, as I mentioned earlier, rapport building is very much a humanistic trait and instinct.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Japan Travelogue - Hailing from the Land of Instant Noodles

Remember my previous post on the first impressions of Japan? Those were some of the very new things that I have come to realized about the country - and refreshingly so. The next pressing concern upon touching down, other then lodging and accomodation? It's obviously food. Granted, there are already plenty of options when it comes to Japanese food here in Singapore, but there's nothing like having a first-hand experience of them in their own land is it? Tempted? Read on to whet your buds even more! ;)

The very first oddity that dawned upon me is the general absence of food courts, something that has been so commonplace to me. Rather, there was an abundance of food outlets, scattered all over the place. If you want something more posh, of course there are plenty of restaurants for you to choose from too - but be prepared to get your pocket burned. A plate of assorted sushi, containing six to eight pieces of them, already cost something in the range of $25. Even the 'normal' meals don't come cheap, with prices in the range of 450 to 650 yen ($7 to $10) being the norm, such as the bowl of ramen below:

A bowl of spicy ramen

Noodles and rice make up the bulk of Japanese cuisines. For the noodles, apart from ramen, there are soba (a brownish type of noodle that resembles the local yee mian) and u-don (thick, white noodles) for you to choose from. Not a fan of noodles? You can try out their rice too, as shown in the picture below:

Typical combo set

The main attributes of Japanese rice lie in their texture and size - first of all, the grains are generally more 'plump' but shorter; also, they appear to be more sticky than the rice I have been used to, such as the Royal Umbrella brand. Being stickier also allows it to be made into convenient dumpling-like meals, such as the onigiri:

Japanese bakzhang!

It's always handy to have a couple of these in your bag, especially during those seemingly never-ending Shinkansen rides. Two is enough to satiate your hunger, while having more is fine too - if you can take it. These 'bakzhangs' come in a variety of flavor, and the main ingredients are seaweed, rice and the core - which can be anything from salmon to mayonnaise tuna. And an additional plus to these 'bakzhangs' are its price - with everything else so pricey, having a couple of them at approximately 100 to 130 yen (~$2) seem like a catch!

Other than the onigiri, another type of food that might come in handy would be the bento, which is equivalent to the mixed vegetable rice locally. These bentos don't come cheap either, with prices ranging from about 400 yen to 750 yen normally. And an additional downside is, you can't customize your own dish - so you may need to depend on your luck in coming across one that you like. If you do, it is usually a wholesome and balanced meal:

Munching on one during rush hour

Being in Japan, it was almost an imperative to try out sushi, which I did on one of the days in the later part of my travels. As the conventional ones were too expensive, we had to do some leg work to land our butts in a sushi bar - the conveyor-belt type. The sushi there were much more afforable at 105 yen each and came in large varieties. Me and my friends gobbled down at the plates like hungry wolves and in the end, each of us finished about six to seven plates - and the total cost was still at an affordable $10-ish. However, sorry for the absence of pictures! Guess we were too engrossed then. Heh. :p

I bet you must be a bit tempted to try them out yourselves? Oooh wait. I think I forgot about something. What is it? That's right! The instant noodles! How can I not talk about them when Japan is, technically, the land of instant noodles? After all, these handy little stuff was invented by a Japanese guy back in the 1950s (I think) for convenience sake and it became such a blast later on. As with other food, their instant noodles are quite pricey too - selling at about 200 to 300 yen ($3 to approximately $5) per bowl. However, there is no reason not to try them, for all their flavors looked so foreign to me! None of the locally available flavors are sold there - there is just no overlap between the two. Rather, the flavors available for selection are very Japanese-based: salted chicken, milky pork flavor, dry noodles with soy sauce, etc. And it sure felt different when one is staying in a Japanese inn-typed hotel, slurping away at the noodles while donned in traditional Japanese robes and sitting on the tatami - very authentic Japanese feeling.

All in all, it's rather easy looking for food in Japan, provided that you are amply loaded and have some legs - 'cos the primary downside is, you have got to walk a bit if you want things on the cheaper end - and the maps are pretty bad in the sense that, only major buildings and road names are shown. Besides, there is an abundance of convenience stores located throughout Japan - and you would come to familiarize with them, such as the Family Mart links. There's also a wide selection of foodstuffs in their supermarkets, and you will find yourself dragging loads and loads of shopping bags home, if you do know where to go.

Of course, the genres of food don't end here - there are more of them, such as the grilled meat, herbal soups and such - but for the lack of time, I did not get to try them. But no worries! For the shortage in food, the load of cultural immersion and brushes with danger more than make up for this regret - and I'll show you why and how.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Japan Travelogue - Everything Peculiar

We come across many things Japanese in our everyday life - most notably, their game consoles, electrical products, etc. And not to mention, the NSFW stuffs that we could be all too familar with. But what is it really like to be personally in Japan and experiencing everything Japanese? If this intrigues you, then you have come to the right place! Here, you will find episodes revealing different facets of this fascinating country, courtesy of my ten-day trip. ;)

The very first things that dawned upon me upon my arrival are the peculiarities - and as the days go by, more and more of them were either overtly or subtly discovered. Firstly, it's the currency - the Japanese do not use cents. At all. Part of the reason might be because their currency is weaker compared to ours? Anyway, here's a snapshot of some Japanese coins:

Japanese coins

And Japanese notes:

Japanese notes - 10,000 yen

Speaking of currency exchange, 10,000 yen is approximately equivalent to 150 SGD, which makes product price range of a few to tens of thousands commonplace. But that doesn't make the coins useless! In fact, you will often need them while purchasing small items and tickets, such as the ones shown below:

A flurry of tickets

The Japanese seems to have a strong inclination towards use of tickets - lots of stuffs are being ticketed, including food (an example of one such ticket, is the one on the top left-hand corner - it says that I have purchased one set of fried pork with raw ginger)! However, I also have to say this is much more convenient than the queuing system that we have here in Singapore - and it minimizes the error in cooking the wrong meal as well! However, the food there is definitely not cheap - as you can see on the ticket itself, the set costs about $9. Speaking of food, I am sure you must be eagerly anticipating savory photos to follow, but nope! Not in this episode anyway, but stay tuned 'cos there will definitely be more to come.

Out of the airport to hit the streets! The first thing one would notice about the streets in Japan are its orderliness - the lands are divided into small plots, where major and minor roads are interspersed between these plots:

Street in Osaka

However, by observing closely, it can be seen that there are certain things about Japanese roads that are quite different from that of in Singapore. Firstly, the wordings on the road are in Japanese (DUH!!). And they have lots of zebra crossings - I means LOTS. Back here, the part where passengers are permitted to cross are denoted by two parallel white lines, but in Japan, they are all represented by zebra crossings - even diagonal ones. Some roads even have specially allocated bicycle lanes! In addition, their traffic lights have no buttons, so all you can do is to just stand and wait. Fortunately, the green man seems to appear more frequently than in Singapore, so waiting isn't really an issue.

What's another thing that you will notice that is markedly different from Singapore? It's the weather. Granted, I haven't really experienced how their summer is like, the temperature now is ideal for trips and living. It's temperature range is at a cool 15C to about 25C, which is on average, about 10C lower than what's in Singapore. Don't believe? See the weather forecast below:

Weather prediction board - found in a hostel!

Another good thing is, you hardly ever sweat! Unlike here, where merely making a trip to the supermarket would reward you with a sweaty T-shirt. However, the cold and dry weather might lead to symptoms such as parched lips and flaky skin - both of which had been experienced by me, and those are definitely downsides to the otherwise wonderful weather.

That was a lot of information, wasn't it? post is definitely insufficient to cover the vast amount of wonders witnessed there. I have to stop here for the time being, but I promise there's more to come. ;) Stay tuned!

Friday, May 8, 2009

It's all over - after 4 years

It is finally over. After a long journey of 4 years, my sojourn at NUS has finally come to an end - marked by my final paper yesterday, which finished at 3pm. The moment when I walked out of the exam room, I suddenly felt my shoulders are completely free of burden - wait. Free of burden? Not exactly true...'cos there are bigger things to do after this! However, I am just gonna enjoy this moment, which I have very much so earned it - after countless hours of mugging, headache, sleepless nights, late journeys home, and what nots.

Looking back at the four years in university, I can't really say that it has been an ideal experience, for many reasons. Perhaps mixed with a heavy dose of idealism, I have always wanted varsity life to be a colorful one - one that has many components to it: lesser focus on studies, work opportunities, chances to meet tons of people, partying, outings and stuff. However, after going through everything, I am sad to say that a major part of university life is still buried in books, notes, lectures and midnight oil. I consider myself to be quite hardworking already, but as the saying goes: "for a tall mountain, there is bound to be (at least) one taller than that". This feeling is amplified whenever I passed by the YIH study rooms when nearing exam periods - there would already be students 'camping' there to study, some of them even overnight. I am sure this is so too in other parts of the school. I have to hold my hands up though, that I can never mug this hard - and seriously, I don't see why I should despite knowing the perennial importance of grades here.

My experience with the chemical engineering course is also a relatively rocky one - there have been times when I was really struggling, the stuff that I was studying just cannot get into my head, or worse, look absolutely alien to me. There were a couple of modules that I nearly failed, or so I thought, but fortunately, I didn't. The multitudes of modules that I took did open my eyes to many things though, to the facets of chemical engineering and beyond. It is a very tough course alright, and to be able to make it through is, in itself, an achievement.

Due to the heavy academic commitments, most of the people I got to meet and socialize with naturally came from my course - and there are a few that are truly formidable in terms of ability. I am also being exposed to pseudo-political maneuvrings and undercurrents, which made me sick to the stomach in some instances, to still see some of them and be able to tide over the awkward moments with feigned smiles. Those that have been there before, you know what I mean. Not that I like it, no one does, but we all have to deal with it. It is, after all, part and parcel of the route of maturity and independence. But if you ask me whether I would select this course again if given a choice, I would give you a negative answer. Once is enough, I would like to try something else. For an over-engagement in mechanical stuff does make one lose a bit of edge in terms of fulfilment of relational needs and sociability.

That said, I feel that I have gone through a lot, and learned aplenty too. And as I hit my quarter life mark, things are chugging on faster than usual, I have noticed. But I have to bite the bullet and carry on. And to the one that I thought was the one, it was a short, bittersweet memory that I will never forget, forlornly so - just that fate does not ordain us to walk the same path. Anyhow, you can bet that one day I would emerge with the hand of the other. So long.

Monday, January 5, 2009

I was at the Bloggers' Calendar 2009 launch

In mid-December of 2008, I took part in the photoshoot for Bloggers' Calendar 2009. Two separate sessions were held then, and I went for the later one. The session, which was held in Willy Foo's LiveStudios, was a fun and vibrant one as I experienced for the first time what it was like to be a photo model (although I have to admit that I am not photogenic, haha). It also got me excited that my photo, along with approximately 20-odd other bloggers, will be appearing in the calendar itself. And needless to say, it also got me expectant of the formal launch itself.

The launch was held yesterday evening at Ice Cold B's in SMU. I was amongst one of the earlier ones to reach, and hence I also laid my hands on the calendar relatively quicker. It was packed in a neat little plastic casing as shown in the picture below:

Nice idea by the way, to have the bloggers lined up below - the only downside is, it's too small to be seen!

Anyway, back to the event. As I was sitting around listening and chatting to those who were there (e.g. Brennan, Robert and Mohan), the other participants gradually arrived too. As the place was rather small and cosy, we were sort of huddled up and split into small groups as we chatted. Dinner was served at around 7 plus, along with a menu of liquors that the outlet serves. However, not being a fan of alcoholic drinks, I didn't order any of them (reason being - I don't really like the taste of liquor, so I don't really understand how some people manage to finish a few bottles of it...well, to each his/her own). Anyway, the standard of dinner was good enough for me to help myself with two servings.

As the participants busy themselves with their meals and the discussions, I also noticed that there was one photographer who was moving around to take pictures - OK, that's probably pretty normal, you would say. What amazed me was the speed and precision at which the photos were processed - I was handed a couple of them with me included within minutes! Here's a snapshot of the 'freshly prepared' photos:

That was impressive, if you asked me. :p

At around 9pm, another guest arrived at the scene - and this one's not a human.

It's a gaming console - the Wii! I have a gaming console at home as well, but it's a PS3, so handling a Wii was yet another novel experience for me. The hot game of the night was the Rayman Rabbids - I have heard of it before, seen the screenshots but have not tried it. Now I could.

The game itself consists of several continents in the world, within which contains 5 different mini-games each. Up to four players could participate simultaneously, and a point tallying system is used - the player with the lowest gross total receives a roll of toilet paper (LOL). And so I managed to play in all the continents - the bulk of the game was based on a sense of wackiness, humor and novelty. There were a few that I particularly liked, such as the handphone-in-the-cinema and bumper cars mini-game. The fun was contagious as the audience had as much of it as the players.

In my opinion, the Wii is a nice alternative in the gaming market, although I personally still prefer my PS3. The former's useful for occasions such as friends' gathering such as yesterday's though.

The night drew to a close for me slightly past 10pm, although several bloggers stayed to carry on with whatever was left. And so I packed and left with fond memories and a copy of the Calendar.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

FYP report - done and dusted, lessons learned

This is it. It is finally completed after 5 months of blood and sweat (LOL OK, I am exaggerating here, but you know what I mean). After the submission of a soft copy has been completed, a hard copy is also required. And so it was properly compiled, printed and bound. Before parting with it, I decided to take a final snapshot of it:

FYP Report - 21 July 2008 to 18 December 2008

When I held this report in my hand, there was a deep feeling of satisfaction - not only does it signify that I, too, can be like any of the seniors, work and produce something primarily out of my own endeavor, but also signify that I am approaching the end of my tertiary, and possibly, my formal education. Whether or not there will be Masters or Doctorate following up, I am not sure, and I am not thinking about them at the moment.

Right now, I just want to bask in the delight of completing something so momentous, as well as share some of my experiences gained from doing FYP with my readers - particularly if you have not done one yourself:

1). Get a good professor

There is nothing like having a good, supportive and readily available boss. Hence, it is better to choose someone whom you know had, or will build a good rapport with you. Obtain advices from your senior as to which professor is better to work with. It's never a good feeling when you cannot find any help when you need them.

2). Persistence

FYP is likely to be one of your longest academic engagements as compared to all your other work, hence persistence is definitely needed here. Few people can land those titles which require only a month or two of work, so be prepared to tune yourself mentally for the long haul. There will be ups and downs, as with all other things in life - hence, it is crucial not to lose heart and focus.

3). Be clear of your path

Before you embark on the project, make sure you thoroughly, or at least understand the majority of what you are doing. Obtain a clear comprehension of all the big and small goals the project entail, but also bear in mind that sometimes, the professor might want you to change one or two things. Being flexible and negotiable are definite plusses here.

4). Consistency

This is probably one of the most important factors that would determine whether your FYP journey would be a smooth or a tension-filled one. Although it is part of human nature to procrastinate, I can safely say that six months, or even a year, is after all not a very long time. We all know how time flies, so try spreading out the work. Every little bit of progress is positive.

5). Communication

By communication, it can refer to anything between you and your professor, post-doctorate, or others, such as the course mates sharing the same equipments with you. Try keeping things polite and respectful, and they would be more likely to co-operate with you. Sure, there will be some people who don't fit into your good books, but not everyone does, right?

6). The final outcome

The unique thing about FYP is that nearly all of the students will be working on different topics, hence the bell curve grading system does not apply. Hence, what would the report be graded based on? If you are thinking that only positive results would get you a good grade, I would say not totally true. One thing of note is that a successful research usually spans over a period of several years and it can be a tad demanding to expect a student to yield marked discoveries over the period of six months to a year. Hence, the crux here is to demonstrate what you have learned and achieved, as well as a positive attitude throughout the course of the project.

Oh and, not forgetting to maintain a good relationship with your professor.

Hope you will enjoy your very own FYP journey!