Thursday, July 09, 2009

Goodbye Cambridge

I hate moving.

Well, I don’t exactly loathe the act of transferring myself from one place to another. In fact, the whole flight journey back home was quite pleasant. It’s actually the preparations that are making me anxious. Emptying drawers that are usually filled, clearing shelves that are usually adorned by souvenirs from countries I visited, throwing away stuff that I’ve used over the years, looking at the sight of a bare room… it can get too much sometimes, more so than the actual leaving.

I’ve always liked the student life. Of course, spending those years in the best places (MCKK, Atlantic College, and Cambridge) doesn’t hurt either. But now, since I’ve graduated with a Master of Engineering and everything, guess I have to move on to the next phase in life. This reminds me of what the Master said during the graduation dinner (which happened to be my birthday as well):

People always refer to life after university as the real world,” he began, “but there’s nothing shadowy or unreal about the time that you spent in Cambridge.”

Might not be an exact quote, but close enough.

I started the blog after being prompted by someone (I think it was you, Adam) and because I thought it was nice to have a little something chronicling my life in Cambridge. Of course, I didn’t get to jot down everything mostly because of time constraint or laziness in my part. But then again, it was good enough of an effort. However, what this also means is that I don’t think I’ll be continuing this blog afterwards. Several reasons: firstly, I don’t think the blog’s meant to go on forever and while it’s nice to have my Cambridge life documented I’ve always thought of finishing it after graduation. Secondly, when I’ll be working I don’t think the company appreciates it if I give every little detail of what I do day after day, might be giving away company secrets you see. Also, I think my life after being a student will probably be less… eventful compared to university. Although at the moment that’s not yet true, considering in the past few days I’ve just tracked my lost baggage from Heathrow to KL, got involved in an identity fraud and having to go to the station to make police reports, but let’s not get into that.

So anyway, I guess this is where I’ll stop maintaining a semblance of regular postings. I’ve been toying with the idea of having infrequent, once-in-a-while kind of updates but hmmm… don’t think that’ll happen. Therefore, this is it then, the last post. Although, I most probably will be tempted to start again if I managed to land a place for PhD in a university somewhere, so wish me luck for that. In any case, I’ll still keep the blog up on the web in the off-chance that it might be useful to some people.

Well then, it’s been nice sharing and filling this space.



Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Getting Used To a Mac

Right, so I’ve had my MacBook Pro for over a week now and I must say, it works great. Really, really great. Maybe it’s because I’m comparing it to my four-year-old Dell laptop but still, it’s nice to not wait over a minute for startup and having to close background applications for the more demanding programs (I used to have to close McAfee and Samurize everytime I wanted to play games). The transition is not all smooth, of course, and I miss some aspects of Windows but overall, I must say I’m loving my Mac.

Several things/issues that I’ve encountered:

· Transferring files from my PC to my MacBook Pro went without much trouble, thanks to my 320 GB external hard drive. Moving the iTunes library between the computers went alright, thankfully. I used to transfer iTunes between PC’s and that just involves replacing the whole iTunes folder with the one containing your music (I used iTunes to manage my music files, so all the files are located in the iTunes folder instead of scattered all over the computer). However, I found that this doesn’t work when I transferred my music from PC to Mac. So what I did instead was to transfer the iTunes Music folder (just the subfolder containing the music, not the parent folder with the library files and everything) to my MacBook Pro. Then I transferred the iTunes Library.itl file and rename it to just iTunes Library, without the itl extension.

I found that this method retains my original playlists and play count (which is the most important thing). However, it doesn’t keep the album art. This is not a problem though, since I just made iTunes re-download the album arts from the iTunes Store. That took care of most of them. For album arts that aren’t available from iTunes, well, I made a habit of keeping them in the album folder itself, so I just looked for and re-added them manually. It’s just a bit of a hassle but not that much of a deal, since my play count is what matters most and if that’s intact, then it’s fine.

I found the above method in the comments section of the Lifehacker website. I don’t have the link now but thanks to whoever suggested it.

· Since I’m switching from a 17” to a 15” laptop, the smaller screen size bugged me a bit in the beginning, ESPECIALLY with the dock taking up some precious screen real estate. So I made the dock hidden, at all times. In Windows I used Launchy to launch applications and open files and folders, which explains why I hardly have anything on my desktop, and why I rarely use the Start Menu. I used a similar application, Gnome Do, while I was using Ubuntu. So of course, on my Mac, I installed Quicksilver and forgo the dock completely.

Quicksilver is AWESOME (just want to put that in)!!!

· I’m still trying to get used to the keyboard on my MacBook Pro. When I started using it, the first thing I noticed is that it doesn’t have a Delete key! Noooo! Nor the Hash key (#), nor the Home, End, Page Up and Down keys. I do realise that some of these keys are available on the full Apple keyboard, but until I buy one of those, guess I’ll just have to make do. For Delete, I use Cmd+Backspace; spacebar and Shift+spacebar for Page Down/Up. I’m not sure whether to remap the Return key for opening files instead of renaming them or stick to the Mac way of opening files with Cmd+Down. I know a lot of people will say things like if you’re changing to a Mac, you should stop trying to do everything the Windows way cause otherwise you might as well stick to Windows but still, I use ‘open file’ more than ‘rename’ and no matter what people say, one key is more convenient than two, especially if they require both hands.

I missed the Hash key because I use Gmail often and now to delete an email I have to reach for the mouse and press the delete button instead of using the keyboard. You can get hash on the MacBook Pro but it doesn’t function as a keyboard shortcut anymore.

· Finally, I miss the ability to cut and paste files. On a Mac, you can cut and paste text but apparently this function is disabled for files. When I went to search about this online I found some (very patronising) Mac users who said things like “Why would you want to have such a stupid feature on a Mac? If you cut a file and then forget about it and you cut another file, then the old file will be lost. So be glad you don’t have that dangerous Windows feature.

What the HECK?!

I thought everybody knew this, but apparently not. When you cut a file in Windows, apart from the file being greyed out, nothing will happen to it. So if after that you shut down your computer or cut/copy another file, the initial file will remain where it was. It’s only when you use the Paste command that the file will be moved. Seriously, some people should really stop, think and do their research first before criticising something.

In any case, I miss the Cut/Paste feature since it’s more convenient than drag and drop. Not sure how likely, but I hope Apple changes its mind on this. At the moment, I use Quicksilver to map the ‘Move To’ command to a keyboard shortcut, essentially acting like a Cut/Paste command, though this only works for folders indexed by Quicksilver. I still use the drag (and Cmd) and drop for the one or two odd cases.

Those are several quirks that I encountered while changing from PC to Mac. Even so, despite them I haven’t regretted buying a Mac since my new MacBook Pro is AWESOME! Guess there’ll always be some transitioning issues when you change to something new, so I just have to adapt.

Oh, and just to mention, the iPod Touch that comes with the Mac is wonderful. I’m still trying to get used to not having easy access to the buttons (I had a Shuffle before this) so I have to take it out of my pocket to pause it whenever I need to talk to people. But it holds my whole library, so I don’t have to make a separate playlist on what I wanted to put on my Shuffle like before. I haven’t used much of its other features though. I wanted to surf the internet the other day while I was in Starbucks but then I found out that you have to pay for the wireless. Drat!

Just bought a new Sennheiser in-ear earphone to go with the iPod Touch. In retrospect, maybe I should have chosen an earphone that’s more towards rich and detailed sound rather than bass heavy since I don’t often listen to the kind of music with thumping bass but, oh well, this is good too. It is true when they say you can hear things that you can’t hear using normal cheap earphones. Also, now I can listen to music in trains and other noisy places since it tends to block outside noise. Yay!

The only downside: I have a feeling I need to be more careful in crossing busy roads. These earphones can be a bit life-threatening like that.


Friday, June 26, 2009

Marks Breakdown and Graduation

So yesterday morning my Director of Studies placed a sheet containing my marks breakdown for the final year exam in my pigeon hole. And from this sheet of paper apparently my best subject is Rheology and my worst is Electrochemical Engineering. And I did far better in the research project than I expected. And, to my delight, I was ranked 8th in the year (out of 45) which I think is the highest I’ve ever gotten in Cambridge. Yay, go me!

I also had my graduation yesterday, which was quite an experience. In Cambridge, graduation is done according to college. Trinity is one of the first ones while some other colleges will not have theirs until Saturday. At 8:15, we all gathered in Nevilles Court to take a graduation picture, and then we formed a procession for the march towards the Senate House. The M.Eng people with their gown and gold hood (actually it looks more copper-ish to me) were at the front, followed by the M.Sci people with their pink hood, some vet and medic degrees, and finally the B.A. people. At 10, we walked from Trinity through the streets of Cambridge before finally entering the Senate House. The ceremony was a bit weird and involved finger-pulling, kneeling and the Master clasping my fist while reciting some phrases in Latin. After that, we were released onto the Senate House Lawn where we took pictures, mingled around with other people and their families, and paid for expensive photographs and frames in which to put our degrees in.

So after the ceremony finished, I ended up with two degrees: the BA and the M.Eng.

Yay to the fruit of four years of hard work. Hope this is worth it.

Yaz, M.Eng.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Formal Breakfast

This might have been mentioned before, but I was part of the Trinity breakfast club. Well, it’s actually a bunch of people who are usually hungry in the mornings so we tend to go to breakfast everyday. And of course, it’s cool to refer to ourselves as the breakfast club. We even got a facebook group, heh heh.

Anyway, since the year is about to end, and me and some others are going to leave, we thought it would be nice to have a bit of a formal breakfast on the last Saturday of term. So, on Friday night, an email was sent around, telling people to wear formal attire and gowns as well to Saturday’s breakfast. Now, there might be rules against wearing the gown for totally made up formal events but heck, screw it anyway.

So we went to breakfast with suits and ties (dress for girls) and gowns and generally looking very formal and academic. Unfortunately not many Trinity students were there, this being end of term and all, and those few who were weren’t that fazed by a bunch of people in gowns. Drat! (Yes, we secretly crave the attention). Anyway, it was a good breakfast nonetheless, and we stayed there for quite a while until the kitchen staff started giving us glares which means get out of here already so that we can start cleaning the place! So we moved on to Starbucks. Yeah, in gowns and all.

Since it’s Saturday, more townspeople were up and about and giving us strange stares (which we secretly liked) and we relocated to Starbucks, taking over some of the sofas, drinking coffee and frappucinos and the small blueberry cream thingies that they gave out for free, which most of us don’t like except for me but maybe that was because I have a sweet tooth. And it felt nice being able to do this. Just chilling about with friends drinking coffee before we start the day (well, technically this is late morning so the day has pretty much started but that’s not the point) and I wonder how it’ll be when I go back home and start working. We’ll see.


Friday, June 19, 2009

Of May Ball, MacBook Pro and Cancelled Volleyball Tournament

Right, quite an eventful week. Now, where do I start?

The Trinity May Ball was held last Monday night. In preparation for that, I've been staying up until about six for a few nights before. Yeah, you can tell how excited I was. The last time I went to the May Ball was in my second year, and since this is my final year I won’t have any other opportunities to go after this. Not with people I know also attending, anyway.

The May Ball went well, despite some slight rain when I was queuing. When we entered, I went straight towards the oyster stand to have a few. In retrospect, I guess I should have gotten more of the oysters, and the sushi, and the stuff from the chocolate fountain, since you can eat as much as you want. My appetite is just not voracious enough at night compared to during the day.

There was a firework display early in the night, with music and all. Unfortunately this year, for some reason the smoke was obscuring the view to some extent, so we couldn’t see the firework in its full glory. I’m not sure what caused it, maybe it was the rain. Still, it’s nice to watch anyway, and you can see the number of people in punts on the river who gathered to watch them (who are not paying, I might add!).

We had a one day volleyball tournament yesterday. Or, at least, we’re supposed to. Unfortunately, only me, Lennart and two other teams (out of about six) turn up, so we ended up just going home. It was a pity, but I guess the tournament was organised at a very short notice, and yesterday was the last day of term anyway so most people were busy packing and leaving Cambridge. Oh well.

Finally, my MacBook Pro and the iPod Touch arrived yesterday! I’m really, really thrilled. If I haven’t told you before, I ordered them a day before Apple announced new models for the line. However, when I went to cancel it, I found that Apple has automatically upgraded my order to the new model. So now I got a 3.06 instead of 2.99 GHz dual core processor and 500 instead of 320 GB hard drive. It worked out to be around £30 cheaper than if I buy the new model in the first place.

Heh heh, so now I’ll be spending the day playing around and configuring my new Mac. Guess my next post will be from that =D


Friday, June 12, 2009

Yay, Happy, Yay!

Apparently, the day after I ordered my MacBook Pro, Apple had announced new models for the line. Talk about bad timing! I really should have paid more attention to these kinds of things. In any case, my friend advised me to cancel my order and just redo it again.

So I went online to check the order status and cancel it but, lo and behold! They have upgraded my order to the latest model. I was pleasantly surprised. That’s very considerate of them. For some reason I don’t think this will happen if I were to buy a PC. So yeah, my respect for Apple has gone up some more.

On an unrelated topic, my final year exam results were supposed to be out today (Friday). I was preparing for the worst, considering my anything but satisfactory results last year. However, a friend of mine called yesterday, saying that the results are already out at the Senate House. That’s a bit earlier than expected. Now, guess what I got?

Ta daaa!!


Heh heh heh, a first class degree from Cambridge. Although that’s not quite true. Cambridge degrees don’t have classes associated with them, so it will just say that I graduated with an M.Eng, full stop. The B.A. degree doesn’t even have a subject associated with it. Nevertheless, since a lot of people e.g. potential employers will probably ask, it’s much easier to quote the final year results than to go into a lengthy explanation. Which is why I think having good final year results are quite convenient.

So anyway, I’m really, really happy right now, and I can finally enjoy the May Ball in bliss. Yay!


Monday, June 08, 2009

An Indulgent Investment

My laptop that I’m using right now is four years old. It was my first computer ever, bought using my computer allowance money the summer before I went to Cambridge, because at that time I thought all university students should have one and also because I can’t stand the prospect of a whole summer without something to occupy myself with. The laptop is a Dell Inspiron 9300 and it served me well enough for the past four years. However, three or four years is the typical lifetime of a laptop computer, I guess. Are there actually people who use their computer for more than five years?

So in any case, I was thinking of buying a new one to be my second laptop. Guess what computer did I chose?

Ta daa!

It’s a MacBook Pro! Yeah, I know Macs are a bit more expensive but considering that I’m probably gonna use it for the next four years, I think that’s a good investment. Plus, my internship money from last year was sitting untouched in the bank anyway, heh heh.

I did a price comparison between buying it in the UK and back home in Malaysia and it turned out that it’s cheaper here. Two main reasons: Firstly, after the economic crisis the pound was less high with respect to RM compared to what it was before (did you know you can use Google to check the exchange rate? I knew they can convert units but currency as well? Wow!) Secondly, the Apple store gives around 15% discounts for university students here in the UK. So overall, it works out to be cheaper. Plus, I’ve never tried it but I heard you can claim VAT at the airport for stuff you buy in the UK. If that works then I can probably reclaim around £250 or so.

I was thinking of getting a 17’’ screen since I’m used to one (my current laptop is 17”) but a few people advised me to get the 15” one, which is about £200 cheaper, and used the money saved to buy a 20-plus inch external monitor instead. I think that’s a good idea, but I might buy it in Malaysia instead since I have to consider shipping if I buy it here.

So yeah, I just ordered my MacBook Pro yesterday and I really can’t wait for it to arrive. That and the iPod Touch (they have a £145 rebate offer if you buy it with a Mac). Hell yeah!


P.S. It’s June but Cambridge is getting colder. Why, why?!!!!

Monday, June 01, 2009

A Dorm Reunion

When you went to a boarding school in Malaysia, it’s hard to see your friends outside of term because they’re all over the country.

When you went to an international school in Wales, it’s hard to see your friends after graduation because they’re all over the world.

Add the fact that I’m really bad at keeping in touch, you can imagine what happens.

Luckily, not everybody is like me. My former dorm mates at Atlantic college organised a reunion last Saturday since we all happen to be in the UK (usually three of us are here in Britain, only one is going places). I was free after my exams are finished, so I dropped by at London to meet them.

I arrived early so I bought some lunch and ate at Hyde Park. It was a nice day and lots of people were lazing about on the grass. There was a French family sitting next to me and one of them was having her birthday, so they had lots of cakes and stuff. They offered some to me, and though I politely declined, they really insisted on me having some. So yeah, in the end I was basically force-fed by some French people.

I met up with my dorm mates shortly after. We prowled the British Museum (don’t ask!), went for a pizza, chilled out at Leicester Square and visited a pub afterwards. It was nice meeting them, especially since I won’t be in the UK much longer so it might be impossible to meet up after this. There were also talk about organising a trip before I left, so hopefully that will happen.

Countdown for leaving UK: 1 month 3 days.


Saturday, May 30, 2009

My Final Exam in Cambridge…

… has finished about 18 hours ago.

So with this, I’m now done with the chemical engineering tripos. No more lecture notes, reports, or research projects. All that’s left now is to get my degrees: M.Eng. in Chemical Engineering and also the overdue B.A. Degree.

The exam went okay, I think. For some reason I don’t feel very excited when it’s over. Maybe it’s because I did average on all the papers, which is enough to get me a 2.1 but probably not a first. Some of the papers were okay (like Rheology and Catalysis) but some were unexpectedly quite hard (Fluid Mechanics and Colloids). In any case, the results will not come out until after mid-June, so until then I probably shouldn’t worry too much about it.

They organized a punting post-exam celebrations for us part IIB’s yesterday. It was good, except for the fact that they only rented three punts from Magdalene College, which is not enough for all of us. So I had to go back to Trinity and get two more. But apart from that, it was fun. Not a few people fell into the river yesterday, and some even did it purposely.

Now that I’m free, it’s time to catch up with my computer games, watch some films etc. I’ll probably drop down to London at some point as well. Yeah, good times!


P.S. My 4-year-old laptop has been emanating some strange whirring sound from the hard disc. Maybe it’s time to buy a new laptop. Should I get a Macbook Pro or wait for Windows 7?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Exam in Two Weeks!


I just had the final year report deadline last week and now that that’s out of the way I still have the exams to worry about. Yup, it’ll be my last exams in Cambridge ever and it probably influences my job offer, so I’m really anxious about this. And I’m especially keen not to repeat last year’s disaster, so I’m gonna be working hard from now on.

Postings are probably gonna be sparse from now on, if any. Wish me luck!


Saturday, May 02, 2009

Summer Cuppers

Today, the long awaited event for Easter term (to me at least), the summer cuppers is starting. For those who don’t know, the cuppers is a competition in league format between the Cambridge colleges. Trinity sent one team this year and we are placed in division 1 with several other strong teams but today we beat three of them. Yay!

I feel a bit guilty playing all afternoon since I still have two reports to be handed in next week, but come on! Volleyball beats working every time.

Hmmm... where have I heard that before?

Due to some circumstances, I was appointed the temporary acting-captain for the Trinity team, even though I have my final Cambridge exam ever coming up and I’ll be graduating soon. But yeah, it seems like we don’t have any new faces this year that can take up the captain mantle, which is quite unfortunate. And being acting-captain is quite unnerving when most of the people in the team are more skilful than you.

Oh well. In any case, the cuppers will last for four weekends, so I’ll blog about it from time to time.


Saturday, April 25, 2009

Punting beats revision every time

Yay! I’ve finally finished writing the 1st draft of my research report. This is the first time I’m using LaTeX for a coursework, and I can safely say that it turned out well. I needed to keep the documentation nearby the whole time so that I can refer to it, but it’s actually quite easy to use. The only trouble I had was with the nomenclature, though I suspect that has more to do with me using the command line in Windows wrong (Windows and command line aren’t exactly synonymous). In the end I just manually made a table for nomenclature, so that’s one problem sorted.

The thing with LaTeX is that it is supposed to typeset documents beautifully, and I must say I like how my report turns out. However, I visited a friend the other day (who also uses LaTeX) and I saw that his report is much, much more beautiful than mine. Damn, how can that happen?! Guess I’m still a novice after all.

The weather was very nice this whole week. It’s warm and sunny, but the downside is that I realised my room is sweltering in this kind of warm weather, up to the point where it’s really uncomfortable to study. Hence, in appreciation of the nice sunny day, I went punting! Yeah, I did felt guilty of not using the time to do work but, come on! Punting wins every time.

Yarr, matey!


Saturday, April 18, 2009


Yay! People are coming back to Trinity.

Boo! Holiday’s almost over.

I can’t believe the break is about to end. In fact, the new term will start next week. That’s so soon! Well, technically Easter term has already started on the 10th but the full term will only begin next Tuesday. Where have all the time gone? My report is only half complete and I haven’t even been procrastinating. No, I want the holiday back!

On the plus side, Cambridge is getting lively again. And then there’s the volleyball summer cuppers to look forward to.

On another note, people who have been reading this blog for a while will have known how Trinity Great Court looks like. I’ve put the pictures up often enough.

See how nice it looks?

Even in the snow...

How majestic, how grand...

How amazing...

Okay, that last one was actually from Vienna. But you got my drift.

My point is, sometime before the break there was this construction going on at a corner of Great Court. People I spoke to said it is a temporary shed or something for the kitchen which is currently under refurbishment. Still...

I can imagine tourists walking into Trinity, taking in the view of Great Court (and taking pictures, like they always do) and suddenly exclaimed, “What the heck is that!”

Yes, the orange doesn’t exactly mesh with the rest of the building. I hope the kitchen refurbishment will end soon.


Sunday, April 12, 2009


What holiday?

Hello people! Sorry for not writing anything for the past week. It’s just that since now is the Easter break, there isn’t much going on. Adding to that, I’m busy with reports and revision, so I’m at the department almost every day working. It’s basically like term time but without the lectures. For the life of me I don’t know how all those people who went back home manage to cope with the amount of work. It’s just insane.

For my main research report, I’ve decided to use LaTeX this time. For those who don’t know, it is a typesetting program and document preparation system. Whereas in Word whatever you type on the screen will appear exactly the same way when printed out, using LaTeX you just type your report and let it handle your formatting i.e. you don’t have to worry about layout, image placements and the rest. It will do it for you. LaTeX is known to supposedly produce beautifully typesetted documents, so we’ll see how it goes.

On an unrelated topic, you guys noticed recently there’s been an inundation of stupid quizzes on Facebook? They are annoying because they clutter my news feed and make it harder to actually notice other real and more important feeds. Honestly, nobody cares how Malaysian you are or which superhero is most like you. This is just like the time when applications were newly introduced and people got bombardments of invitations to become zombies, vampires, werewolves etc. Remember those?

In any case, this tip is courtesy of Imran a.k.a. Black. First, you need Firefox with greasemonkey installed. If you don’t use Firefox, then why the heck not? Unless you use Chrome, in which case... have they rolled out add-ons like greasemonkey yet? But anyway, once that’s settled, then just install a blocking script like the one found here:

Finally, on another unrelated topic, the punting station of Trinity should be open by now. Unfortunately, the weather this week seems to be gloomy (doesn’t it always?) but if it gets nicer then I think I’ll organise a punting trip soon. In the meantime, gonna build up those arm muscles, heh heh.


Monday, March 30, 2009

Favourite Subjects pt.2

Ta daa!

That’s Ubuntu 8.10 for the uninitiated. As you might know, my computer is a four-year-old Dell laptop with Windows on it. Until last year, I had no reason at all to use Linux on my machine. However, this year I’m taking the CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) course as one of the subjects for the broadening materials option (the other subject being French). The CFD software resides on some high-speed Linux servers in the department, which means that if you want to do the work in the comfort of your own room, then you have to use Linux or a Mac to connect to them. Windows computers won’t work.

One way to install Linux (Ubuntu in my case) to a laptop is to partition the hard drive. However, my laptop doesn’t come with a Windows recovery CD when I bought it. Instead, it has a hidden partition in the hard drive that can be used if I want to restore the laptop to factory settings. The problem with this is that I don’t know if the hidden partition will still work if I make a new partition to install Ubuntu, so I’m not taking the risk to find out.

Hence, I’m doing it another way. I installed Ubuntu on a virtual machine and run it from there! For those who don’t know, a virtual machine is like a computer inside a computer. Whatever you do in this virtual computer will not affect your real computer. The downside is that you’ll only be able to use a portion of your total RAM, but for me it doesn’t really affect performance that much.

Anyway, back to CFD. For those unfamiliar, the course is basically about using computers to solve fluid flow problems, because doing it by hand or analytically is virtually impossible except for really, really simple cases. This course is probably my second favourite subject of the year after French, mainly because I get to play around with computers and also produce these kinds of diagrams:

A side effect of CFD is that I’m also getting familiar with the basics and workings of Linux. So now I won’t just be staring blankly when people are talking about the command-line or shell-scripting or the jaunty jackalope. Who knows, maybe it’ll be my main OS later in the future.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Next Step in Life

Hey ya! How’s it going? Here, it’s the second week of the Easter holiday and a lot of my friends have already left, but there are still numerous things that kept me occupied. For example, today and yesterday I went to London for an interview. Nothing much really, just an interview that will determine the next ten years of my life...

Yeah, notice the sarcastic nonchalance. In any case, this is my final year in Cambridge, which means that I’ll be leaving this place soon. Gosh, can’t believe it’s already been four years since I stepped foot at the Drummer Street bus station and was handed a map of Cambridge by the overseas welcoming committee. It was such an enjoyable time, being a university student in Trinity and Cambridge. I mean, how can you not be reluctant to part with a nice room...

... and a grand college...... and a nice view of the river and the backs...

... among other things.

Well, I suppose people will have to move on eventually. I’ve applied for a job as a researcher, and I think the interview went well, since I emphasized the fact that I did a fair bit of computational modelling before and the interviewer mentioned that the company probably needs somebody who’s good at that to ensure smooth plant operation, and he gave an example of how they managed to fix the problem with a urea treatment column using computational modelling. I sure hope that’s a good sign for me.

So yeah, that’s how it goes. I’ll not know the results of the interview until much, much later. So for now, let’s just not worry about it, shall we?


Friday, March 20, 2009

Favourite Subjects pt.1

If somebody were to ask me what my favourite subjects are this year then I most certainly have a definite answer. In the 4th year Chemical Engineering, apart from the compulsory core subjects and six optional modules, we are also required to take two broadening materials (subjects which might not be strictly related to Chemical Engineering). My most favourite subject is one of the broadening materials that I’m taking: Foreign Language, more specifically, French.

Cambridge University has a language centre where you can learn foreign languages in small classes, but you have to pay. However, there is also a Language Unit in the Engineering Department, which is more geared towards the scienc-y bit of the languages instead of aspects like literature. Us 4th years have an option to do a foreign language for free here. It’s examinable of course, and if you want to learn more than one language then you do have to pay for it. I chose foreign language because I don’t like the other choices: entrepreneurship (eurgghh!) and product design. It turns out; this is the best decision I’ve made this year.

The course lasts for two terms, Michaelmas and Lent. Considering how I learnt Arabic in school for six years and am still unable to speak it in the end, I don’t know what to expect from this course (although to be fair, I think it’s more of the teaching method in my previous schools that are ineffective rather than anything else). However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I enjoyed the course. A lot. And frankly speaking, after six months I can converse far better in French than in Arabic.

One thing that really helps, in my opinion, is the abundance of resources on the web. There are translation tools, French dictionary, French Wikipedia etc. The one that I use the most is probably the BBC website. It has a language section and for French, there are several flash slideshows/videos depicting everyday situation, together with grammar notes and vocabulary exercises. I’ve finished the beginner’s bit of the French section and now I’m moving on to the post-beginner one, Ma France. So if you’re learning French (or German, Spanish and others) this is a great complementary material.

We had a written and an oral exam last week. I think I did alright in them, though you can never really tell. Also, that means the end of the formal classes. I’ll miss them, but I’ll continue learning on my own, I guess. And since I’m still at beginner’s level, if I get the chance to go back to Cambridge again I’ll definitely go and register for the intermediate class. Come to think of it I’ll register for the Japanese class as well, since that’s the second foreign language that I want to learn.

That’s all for now. I’ll tell a bit about my second favourite subject in the next post.

Au revoir,


Sunday, March 15, 2009

They Have Something Against Me

Last Friday marked the final day of Lent term in Cambridge, which means now is officially the Easter holiday. A few of my friends have already left for their respective homes while some are staying here for a few weeks to do a bit of revision. For me, I wouldn’t really call it a holiday since I have to write a research project report, a CFD report and finish some supervision work, not to mention I have an interview coming, but for once it’s nice to study without having lectures crammed into your timetable as well.

Anyway, let’s get back to last Friday. In case you don’t know, Trinity College has this thing called the Commemoration Dinner, held annually, in which we propose a toast to the college for all its contributions and the things that it provided us with. Another name for this event is the Scholar’s Dinner since from the whole student population, only Scholars (Junior and Senior) are invited. Well, usually they do have a few extra spaces so they might invite some other students, but that’s a minor point. And Research Scholars are most probably invited as well, though I don’t know any so I’m not sure.

Because I was a Scholar since my 2nd year, this year is my third year attending the commemoration dinner. And the way the event is held is like this: Trinity has this great hall that it used for dining, so most of the attendees are sitting in here. However, there’s also this smaller room nearby, called the Old Kitchen where the rest of the dinner attendees and the choir sit. The disadvantages of being in the Old Kitchen are that you can’t enjoy the dinner under the grandeur of the Great Hall; you only get to listen to the speeches from a speaker since the important people will all be in the Hall; and lastly, you have to move into the Great Hall during the intervals if you want to listen to the choir singing, since they will sing from a balcony there.

The seating in the Commemoration Dinner is supposed to be random, so in some years you might be in the Hall and in other years you won’t. However, the number of people seated in the Old Kitchen is far less than in the Hall, so you’re more likely to end up in the Hall. However, in all the three years that I attended the Commemoration Dinner (and in my Matriculation Dinner as well, so that makes it four dinners in four years) I’ve always been seated in the Old Kitchen. Every. Single. Time.

So yeah, I think they have something against me. Grrrrrr...

Sigh... oh well. At least the food was good. I remember this one time they made some smoked salmon with orange sauce for starter. That was dreamy. And this year for the main course I had mushrooms in some herb sauce. It tasted delicious, albeit being too rich so I didn’t managed to finish all that’s on my plate. Maybe it was because they put too much there, since most other people chose the non-vegetarian option, so they have a lot of the mushrooms left. And I drank three cups of the coffee served at the end, which probably explains my tossings and turnings in bed later that night.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

I want a sports centre!

My sentiments exactly!


Sunday, March 08, 2009


In case you don’t know, the Part IIB students (that’s fourth year Chem. Eng.) have to do a research project this year, either alone or in pairs. This is really one of the more interesting aspects of the final year syllabus as it exposes us to research in general, and for most of the projects we also get to meddle with novel technologies or new applications in chemical engineering. However, apart from a report at the end of the year which will constitute a quarter of our marks, we also need to prepare a poster presentation about our project to other people in the department. Not surprising, since most PhD students have to do it as well after their first year of research.

How it works is that every group will have to make a 4-minute PowerPoint presentation summarising their project and trying to entice people to go visit their poster. After all the PowerPoint presentations are finished, each group will stand next to their A0 size poster, the examiners will go around asking questions and everybody’ll try their best to answer them and defend the poster.

In order to prepare for this, last week has been very busy for most of us. However, it was quite fun too. We made our poster using PowerPoint, printed them off A3 papers and laminated them. See the laminating machine below? First time I used one of them. We had nine A3’s to laminate; I did seven while Alastair did two. I told him he doesn’t have dainty enough fingers to do the job quickly, heh heh.

After laminating, we put them all together and hang them on a board using Velcro strips. That’s my hand that you see in the picture.

What strikes me as really amazing is this: throughout the year when we did our own respective design projects, I always heard some people having problems with their projects. They’ll be like, “Nooo, the rig’s not working!” or “The apparatus is broken. Now I have to wait ages for a new one,” or “Damn it, the data doesn’t come out quite right! However, looking and listening to everybody’s presentation, they all sound really... professional, and well-researched. All of them are presenting their projects really well and you can never guess the difficulties that they’ve gone through in the year to get the final results. It’s remarkable, really.


Monday, March 02, 2009

Things Detrimental to Your Health

At the moment, there are a few things happening in Cambridge that are definitely not good for your health. The first one is the norovirus. Apparently around 80 people in Sidney Sussex College had been infected. The symptoms, according to TCS (one of the student newspapers) include diarrhoea and explosive vomiting. I was laughing when I read that description, but the thing as a whole is certainly quite serious. Especially considering the measures they now take: you have to use some alcohol hand wash before going into the hall for meals.

The second detrimental thing is mugging. There has been quite a scare recently with reports of mugging incidents near the Burrell’s Field area. In fact, I received the same email about mugging from three different sources. The college started to provide a minibus service from New Court to Burrell’s Field, which I think is probably a bit too much, considering they’re just like, what, one and a half minutes away from each other? Oh well, it’s not like the college doesn’t have enough money to spend anyway.

Finally, we have the research project poster. It’s definitely not good for your health, and the reason why I’ve been so busy lately. I and Alastair (that’s my research partner) were in the department until 5 a.m. last Wednesday night to finish the poster. We also had to produce a PowerPoint presentation as well. However, the end result looks good, don’t you think?


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Week 6

Apparently it’s week six tomorrow in Cambridge. I’m not sure why, but for quite some time I’ve been unaware of when in the term I am exactly. Might have something to do with supervisions not being regular anymore. Instead of it being once every two weeks or so, this year we have more leniencies in when and with whom we are having supervisions with. Which reminds me, I need to finish the last rheology supervision leftover from last term.

I just came back from a talk about Gaza. This one’s organised by the Cambridge University United Nations Association and it focused on the international law and legalities of the conflict in Gaza. Quite an interesting talk and though as usually the case with law people might end up more frustrated or have more questions than what they start with, it does raise some good points and provide some insight. In fact, I think one hour is too short for the talk, and considering we ran over by about twenty minutes I guess it doesn't take a genius to figure that out.

In another news: last Friday night. Volleyball match. Lots of people can’t come. I pleaded on Facebook. Still not enough people. We lost. By default. Sad.

Oh well, I’ll be sure to recruit some more people in advance for next time. Especially for the match with Leys School. We lost to them the last time, and losing to a secondary school team doesn’t bode well with me. Grrrrrrr...


Sunday, February 15, 2009

Winter Cuppers

Last Saturday was the volleyball winter cuppers in Cambridge. As usual for the winter cuppers, it was held indoors at Leys School.

(Slightly off topic, but I wish the University of Cambridge would just build a sports complex already so that we don’t have to borrow other places’ facilities to host events like this, or to have to swim with the local people in a packed pool. Didn’t they just raise at least £800 million for the university’s 800th anniversary? What the heck are they waiting for?)

Anyway, back on topic, Trinity entered two teams for the cuppers. However, due to reasons which may or may not have anything to do with the fact that it was held on a Saturday morning which happened to be Valentine’s Day, only me, Lennart, and four other people from Trinity were there. Hence, we had to withdraw one team from the competition. But apart from that, it was great fun. We beat Pembroke and one other team (was it Emmanuel?), which means we’re qualified for the semifinals next week.

The cuppers only lasted until midday, but I had volleyball practice in the afternoon, so at the end of the day I was all sore with bleeding thumbs and everything. Not that I can escape the practice, seeing that I’m the one in charge of the balls. Nor would I want to, as I have a lot of things to say about this year’s UCCMixed attendance record, but we’ll save that for another day.

In any case, it was quite a fun morning, and it made me really look forward to the summer cuppers in Easter term. Can’t wait!


Monday, February 02, 2009


This was what I was greeted with when I woke up this morning.

The weather forecast did mention that it will get very cold this week, but I never imagine it would be like this. The snow fell sometime yesterday night and now it’s the afternoon and it’s still snowing! This is certainly better than anything we had last winter break.

This is how the Trinity Great Court looks like this morning. I arrived early enough for breakfast that they haven't started shovelling the paths yet.

Talking about snow and winter, the volleyball winter cuppers will be held in two weeks time. I always thought it’s funny to call it winter cuppers when it’s in February, but now it sounds fitting.


Thursday, January 29, 2009

A Week Chock Full of the Middle East

Right, so… since last Wednesday there has been a lot of things going on in Cambridge related to the Middle East. There was a talk on Friday evening by someone from ‘Jews for Justice for Palestine’ in the Cambridge Union, which I attended. There weren’t as many people there as I expected, but that was probably due to another event about the Middle East on the same night. And later on the ‘occupation’ in Cambridge started. You might have heard how similar occupations happened in other UK universities, in which the students occupied a certain place in the university and made demands for the university to take actions in the recent Gaza conflict.

In Cambridge, they occupied the Law Faculty. It was peaceful, of course, and there aren’t just Muslims or Arab students taking part. In fact, last Tuesday there was a reunion of my former school (the UWC’s, to be precise) and somebody suggested that we should meet up at the occupation and take part in it, since it is the sort of thing UWC students get involved in anyway. We didn’t go in the end but it’s good to know a lot of people are aware of these sorts of things going on. As for the occupation itself, I felt quite uncomfortable with using this method to get the university to accept the demands, but I think that’s obviously not the point. They are basically taking the piss out of the real occupation, drawing attention to it and proving to people how annoying an occupation can be to the people being occupied. Of course, ‘annoying’ is putting it really mildly.

Yesterday night there was a talk organized by the Israeli Society titled “Understanding Israel” at King’s College. I went there with an open mind to find out the Israeli perspectives on this issue, but to be honest, I don’t think the speaker convinces me that much. She mentioned that Israel has a right to defend itself from the thousands of ‘warheads’ and ‘missiles’ being launched for the past eight years, but she didn’t put this into context. She didn’t mention that not all of them were unprovoked attacks and she also didn’t mention the decrease of rockets in the ceasefire. The gist of her talk is basically that Israel has exhausted its means and now has to resort to war to defend its citizens. I very much doubted the ‘exhausted its means’ bit, but still, assuming that Israel does have a right to defend itself, it doesn’t mean they have a free permit to do whatever they like.

Just as an exaggerated analogy, if let’s say in school you have been bullied for some time by somebody, then you fighting back is probably understandable. But retaliating by say, maiming or killing the person is definitely overstepping the bounds. The same applies here. You may started out by saying that you’re defending yourself but you reacted using bigger violence and at some point you’ve crossed the line and what you did is not justifiable anymore.

Today there was an event called ‘Phonecall to Gaza’ in which basically we called the Head of the United Nations Development Programme in Gaza to ask about the situation there. Needless to say, it wasn’t very good… with people dead, injured and infrastructures destroyed. I asked him the question, “What is Israel doing to help rebuild Gaza?” The answer he gave was “Nothing.” He even mentioned that some of the aids supplies can’t get through because of the constraints that are imposed by Israel in getting them across the border.

So there you go. A lot of things happened this week. I think there’s one more next Monday about a debate on one-state vs. two-state solution, and I’ll probably go to that one.


Monday, January 19, 2009

Gaza Protest and Cambridge 800th Anniversary

On Saturday at noon, there was a protest in front of the Cambridge Guildhall about Palestine and the events in Gaza. It was a peaceful protest, obviously, and there weren’t just Arabs and Muslims holding the banners. They were all chanting, “Free Palestine” and after an hour, the protestors marched along the streets of Cambridge. I’m very delighted that there are people in Cambridge who make their voices heard about the massacre that’s happening.

Behind the protest lines:

In the evening, the Cambridge 800th anniversary celebration started. Pictures were being projected onto the Senate House walls and the St Mary’s Church bells are rung. The rings are composed by a Cambridge alumnus, though to my untrained ears they don’t sound any different compared to normal bell rings. There was a huge crowd, with old people, students, and little kids on their parents’ shoulders. The light show was on repeat about every ten minutes so even though it’s crowded, people are coming and leaving all the time and I was able to watch the whole of it, though of all the pictures, the only one I understand well is the one of Newton sitting under an apple tree.

Yeah, the fence is somewhat getting in my way.