(Not) Writing and Stuff

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Almost exactly one year ago, I was one-quarter through my Science Comm programme, finishing up the intensive two-week workshop at the Science Centre, complaining about the haze and excited about Wimbledon (hence a relatively active month for blogging in June 2013.) This year, I have one semester of my Masters left (hopefully), not much of a haze in sight (blessed be!) and STILL excited about Wimbledon (Andyyyyyyyyyyy). ‘Tis good.

I have yet to start on writing my thesis and it’s that singular piece of homework that you know you have to tackle but keep procrastinating with excuses that one’s actual bill-paying job is keeping one busy. That is partially true; even though it is the semester (“summer”) break at NUS, there are quite a lot of revamps in certain modules that will start in August which means lots of prep work and rewrites of experiment guidelines. But there is some downtime in between when I probably should start looking at the survey data I collected over the last few months so that I can think about the direction of the thesis. But no, the sheer enormity of the task is completely putting me off! I should get to it within the next few weeks. Probably. I hope.

Moving on: Wimby season always coincide with my most productive crochet season. (Yes, I’m secretly an old lady because I like cats, early nights in with the television and old-fashioned wool crafting.) The reason is simple: tennis matches are relatively long and not every single point or game warrants one’s full attention. Since I can’t really change channels to watch anything else in the meantime, I will be pulling away at yarn with a crochet hook making nice patterns while listening to the thwack thwack thwack of racquets hitting balls in the background, and then looking up when a huge cheer or groan goes up. Plus, in the last year and a half with the intensive work needed to be completed for the Science Comm programme, I didn’t have time to really do much craft when I had there is an assignment to finish every week or so. But I’ve finished all my module requirements (hence just the thesis) so yay for a bit more free time!

I do more crocheting with yarn rather than lace or thread, mainly because I like the substantial feel of yarn and it is easier to handle, although I do like the intricacy and delicateness (is that a word?) of lace/thread. My lace/thread projects are really small so far, just a couple of fully complete doilies. My yarn projects always seem more exciting because I see all these gorgeous designs on the web and I really want to try them out, but the truth is I’ve only really completed ONE big project. A couple of reasons: 1) I’m a slow crocheter, and 2) I get bored with the pattern if I work on it too long. So I have half-finished projects which I’ll return to after a certain period of time when I’m interested in doing it again. The projects are at an easy level in terms of stitches, nothing too complicated, but because I tend to go for big afghans or throws, it’ll take awhile to complete and put together all the portions. The two I’m in the middle of now is a square by square throw and what is called a “lapghan” (Red Heart has a lot of really nice patterns). Although frankly I’m probably half-mad to be crocheting large, warm throws when I live in a tropical, humid country. The humidity was 90% just the other day, for goodness’ sake. But they’re preeeeeety.

This will probably my last post for a while as it is clear from my posting history: my last post was in March! But if I get the urge to start writing my thesis I might leave a few updates. Or if the haze comes back and I have to complain. Or something. To sign off, may I direct you to some singularly wonderful writing by my friend Catey Miller (@beingfacetious) which was recently published in the two separate publications:

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Buloh-ing about

I need a break from all the reading that I have to complete for BIOL8021 (Health and Disease in a Changing World) — which is the ANU module I am taking this term — so here I am posting some photos from Sungei Buloh.

I went for a recce to Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve earlier this month for one of my teaching modules (aka the Thesis Project target class), and it was still during the prolonged drought that Singapore was suffering, so everything looked very … sad. Sad and dry and brown and some looked almost burnt-like, like this dead Dillenia suffruticosa in the foreground:

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One “good” thing (or not good, if you are the tree) about the drought was that the salt glands in the mangrove plants were working overtime, trying to get enough water, thereby displaying large amounts of salt crystals on their leaves which we could see very clearly:

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Salt crystals on Avicennia officinalis leaves across the main bridge

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Salt crystals on Sea Holly (Acanthus sp.) leaves along the mangrove boardwalk

The “proper” mangrove plants like the Rhizophora, Bruguiera, Sonneratia, Avicennia and Acanthus seem to fare well even in the hot weather. Compared to the plants higher up the back mangrove, like the Fish Tail Palm and the Sea Hibiscus, which were struggling during the drought, it was an interesting observation of how adaptation to saline conditions (and the tide that comes in everyday) allowed the “proper” mangrove plants to still grow well even in the dry conditions.

Fortunately, heavy rain fell on the days following the recce, making the environment cooler, washing the early haze away and letting green grasses and leaves appear again. This new wet weather pattern did treaten to throw a wrench into the works, because our field trip would have had to be cancelled in the event of a thunderstorm. But we were blessed with good weather with just a few drops of rain on the day itself (while NUS itself was right in the middle of a thunderstorm!). Rain also washed away all the salt crystals so there weren’t any left for the students to see; we could only show them pictures from our recce.

I shall end this post with a funny/not-so-funny story about something I taught during the field trip. Because of the extensive reading about smallpox that I had to do for BIOL8021, I actually told my students that the stipules (leaf-like appendange) of the Rhizophora were called “pistules”. PIS-TULES because I read about “pustules”. I only realized this near the end of the trip. Fortunately there was time to correct the mistake! #FAIL.

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Red stipules (not pistules!!) of Rhizophora apiculata

The Mystery of the Disappearing Plane

It would sound like a Poirot mystery title if it wasn’t a real-life event unfolding in our timeline like a nightmare you cannot wake up from. By now, the world has seen the news of the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 and the joint efforts to search for the plane and survivors between the coasts of Malaysia and Vietnam. At the moment of writing, search and rescue have spotted 2 large oil slicks that are commonly associated with plane crashes. The plane has been missing for 20 hours, and the lack of contact of any kind, not even a distress signal, is silently deafening.

While it is obvious that these disturbing events are tragic in any context, it strikes a little too close to home. My home country is making the world headlines for all the wrong reasons for the past two days: yesterday with the political and legal conspiracy surrounding the opposition leader, and today a vanishing Boeing 777. It’s also made me slightly jittery all day because my own family member is travelling from San Francisco back to Singapore today; it’s not an MAS flight but all that time spent in a metal carrier flying over the Pacific for over 20 hours just makes it a bit nerve-wracking. Prayers and thoughts are with the families of the passengers on MH370 as these unimaginable events unfold.

What’s Done and What’s Next

What’s new on the Science Comm front? Well, December passed uneventfully as the ANU modules were completed without too much fuss: the final Ethics essay was completed in November, and grades soon came out and were pleasing enough. Much to my astonishment, I scored best in Ethics than in Public Policy or the Creative Teaching workshop that I did in June. I haven’t spotted any flying pigs yet, so apparently I can write my way out of Ethics??? Truth be I told credit it to a lot, A LOT, of heavenly grace. I sure didn’t come out it on my own strength.

The next round of ANU modules start in February where I’ll be taking only one module: Health and Disease in a Changing World. This doesn’t mean we’re all play and no work though; NUS itself has started its January term and our calendars are already filled. I am also planning to carry out my thesis project this semester, designing and collecting survey data from students throughout the semester. I do hope they cooperate and actually do all the pre- and post-field trip surveys I’m asking them to complete, so I have a healthy enough sample size by the end of May.

Speaking of Australia, it’s tennis season again and the Australian Open is just brimming with mouth-wateringly glorious primetime matchups. Tomorrow evening, there’s the much anticipated quarter final match-up between Andy Murray (Anddyyyyyyyyy!!!) and Roger Federer (The GOAT aka the Greatest Of All Time). (Sidenote: Read PseudoFed’s blog about the quarter final, it’s hilarious as always.) I’m torn. I want both of them to win. Can we do that, Aussie Open? I’m really glad there’s live streaming on the official website itself so I can watch at work, but I probably won’t be able to finish watching because … you guess it … I have tennis scheduled tomorrow evening. OH THE IRONY.

A Letter to A Show

Ah, my show.

What a joy it has been to watch you.

I first knew you during the heady days of Russell T Davies’ tenure, managed by the divine Julie Gardner, and I’ve watched countless wonderful actors give their best to bring to life the curious blend of wonder, imagination and emotion that only this show can bring.

We’ve explored numerous worlds and met so many memorable characters, seen explosions on Mars and tears in the Earth rain, werewolves in Scotland and aliens in Downing Street. We’ve seen long coats and leather jackets and bow ties and oh, oh, the hair! But most importantly, we’ve seen stories of love, courage and friendship where our hearts are broken and renewed with every new splendid adventure.

It’s been quite a ride. Though some years have been difficult, the magic and joy of watching you still remains.

There is simply nothing else out there quite like you.

So here’s to more wonderful years to come, my show.

Happy 50th Anniversary, Doctor Who.

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Almost there!

3 months, 8 online classes (I managed to get to 3!), 7 opinion pieces, countless lit reviews and comments later … we’re at the finish line! Final class of SCOM8027 Science and Public Policy is over and done with.

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What have I learnt? Besides all the issues about science and public policy (so so so so many), it’s been great to wield the pen (read: electronic keyboard) and write and write and write. The assignments were not easy, and there was quite a lot of reading to do, but I can honestly say that I have truly enjoyed the writing, both the challenge and the actual act of writing!

And now, one final big Ethics essay, and the second semester will be over. Woah.