New to Owl Order? Click here for 2009's best posts! 00:00:00

Thursday, 25 September 2008

The Things We Did

It's been 18 years since we first met each other.

Frankly speaking I don't remember our first meeting, but I'm sure we did nothing that time.

Anyway, that doesn't matter. What does is that fact that we did almost everything together after that.

We slept together for years and years. That wasn't a good idea, actually. We would chat until the middle of the night and not falling asleep at all. If, in any case, we stopped talking, one of us would ask the other "hey, you asleep yet?"

We learned music from the same teacher, played on the same piano, practiced the same songs, and probably made the same mistakes too.

We've enjoyed the same computer games, shared the very one keyboard (there was one with all the faded keys - we were the only ones around who could use it), stared into the same monitor, and grabbed the very same mouse.

We did some household chores too (when we didn't have maids), but I have to admit that it was usually her who did more. XD

Oh, we also bickered and quarrelled a lot. More when we were younger, actually. You know, how one of us got a bigger slice of chocolate, how the other got a bigger angpau and stuff like that.

We shared food too. No, they're not just candies and chocolates. Whenever we eat at a Pizza Hut outlet, we would definitely share the same bowl of mushroom soup and the same cup of coke. We didn't mind sharing so much that we would get an extra straw for the coke, and both of us would suck on it together, occasionally knocking heads before stopping abruptly. When we grew older that trick made us look more and more like a romantic couple, and we decided to stop drinking at the same time, but that wasn't enough to stop us from sharing.

We didn't watch much TV, but when we did, of course we watched the same shows, shared the same can of chips (Pringles), and shared the small TV set between our four eyes (eight, if you count the glasses).

That reminds me of what good team we made. We aren't TV-goers because mum used to lock the TV set in her room for long periods of time, to deter us from watching. When mum was out we would "break-into" her room and smuggle it out. After watching we then sneaked the TV back in, putting everything in their original places and pretended nothing happened.

Years passed. Time flew.

When we got our offers to our own colleges, I knew it would be a turning point of our lives. More of hers than mine, actually.

What I never realised is that we will never be able to do much of those things together again, at least for a long time. And I have to say people don't really appreciate those things until they're gone forever, which is my case.

That doesn't matter much anyway. What does is that no matter what happens, no matter how far apart we are, we'll always be brother and sister.

Happy 18th to her.

Monday, 22 September 2008

SIghts of UNMC

Doctor Tom Cross, the Director of Studies for the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, said "if you ever come across a clocktower building behind a lake, check and see if it's a campus of the University of Nottingham."

Yes, all campuses of the University of Nottingham, in the UK, China, or Malaysia, have their administrative buildings sit directly beside a lake, and also a clocktower which chimes at the strike every single hour.

Located in the middle of nowhere (AKA Semenyih town), a hundred-acre-wood was cleared away for the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus (UNMC or UNiM). Before you think of Pooh, Piglet, and Eeyore, the wood was actually an oil palm estate.

No! This is not an oil palm.

The University of Nottingham in Malaysia opened its doors in the year 2000. In 2003, the university had less than a thousand students.

The bridge that links to the university. No! This is not the famous Nottingham lake.

But the school board of directors decided to take a risk by building a campus here in Malaysia.

The amphitheatre, in front of the administration building. Imagine a Malaysian girl performing in the middle of the hot sun. Only a true Westerner would do that.

In January 2004, the plot of land allocated for the Malaysia Campus was bare, empty, and dusty. But the campus started operating for the Autumn Semester in 2005.

That's barely 20 months. So much built within so little time.

Classic English telephone booth found here too.

Being the first and only UK university to set up a campus in the Malay Territory, I'm sure it is also the only to have an "Islamic Centre" too.

The Islamic Centre in UNMC.

The school toilets are so clean that it reminds people of the washrooms of hotels. For me, the lack of water on the floor and the smell of urine just disqualifies them to be called "toilets".

Can you believe that this is the men's room? Well you have to, because I didn't have the guts to enter the ladies'.

On-campus accommodation are also built. Three halls of residence are available, each named after the famous islands of Malaysia, Redang, Tioman, and Langkawi.

Tioman, Redang, and Langkawi Halls.

Upon seeing the real thing, however, I was reminded more of Prison Break rather than Baywatch.

Tell me this doesn't look like Fox River State Penitentiary!

Just a stone throw away from the halls (well, literally, depends on how far you can throw) lies the Sports Complex. It's a complicated (hence 'complex') structure which comprises of the swimming pool, two gymnasiums, several basketball courts (I could see at least 4 at one glance), two badminton courts, two squash courts, and two tennis courts.

Basketball courts. Full of energy!

Although UNMC only houses a total of 3300 students, the sport facilities are packed to the brim in the evenings.

A squash court. TARC had two of these too.

Looks like UNMC is not filled with nerds after all. I mean, TARC's KL campus has over 20 000 students, some 6 times the amount of student UNMC has, and yet I don't remember seeing 6 times the sport activity there.

Two indoor badminton courts, the only facility UNMC is losing to TARC.

In fact, the only facilities that are packed to their limits at TARC in the evenings are the swimming pool and the gym. In UNMC, it's rather different - the gym and the pool are rather empty. Maybe because students in UMNC are better at socialising and prefer team sports instead.

The canteen (or cafeteria) is the only thing I have against UNMC so far. Variety is limited, and prices isn't nearly as good as TARC's. In the latter, I could easily get a good meal at RM1.90 (mixed rice with three dishes, I can sense Singaporeans staring at the price with their mouths wide open). In UNMC, mixed rice with three dishes cost RM5, and I don't really fancy Indian mixed rice too.

The cafeteria. Big contrast to TARC's two big canteens.

This is a stark contrast with TARC's two canteens, a cafeteria, and a restaurant, plus two more canteens at hostel. Actually there is a restaurant at UNMC, but then I can't afford to spend RM10 for every meal.

The computer rooms are fantastic, though. Just last week they got rid of all their old computers (Pentium 4, 512MB RAM, Windows XP Pro, 17" LCD monitor) and got new ones. These new babes run on Intel Core 2 Duo, 4GB RAM, with sparkling new 19" LCD monitors and controlled by the new, expensive and controversial Windows Vista Enterprise Edition.

And, best of all, the computer rooms are open 24 hours daily! Woo hoo!

UNMC has hundreds of computers several times more powerful than mine! The tech geeks of UNMC are pampered to death.

Walking around, I spotted this.

A raised platform, with ladder at its side.

I figured I would be able to get a better view of the clock tower up there. But then I wasn't sure if students are allowed up there.

The ladder.

I looked at the ladder. There was a lid, blocking it halfway, but it wasn't locked. I took a deep breath, and started to climb. While climbing, I quickly formulated several lame arguments in case I was caught. If somebody tells me off by saying that they fear I would fall, I would retaliate with "I'm a university student, I know how to climb a ladder!"

The view from up the platform.

I quickly snapped a few photos and climbed back down. Thank goodness I didn't have to argue.

Oh here comes the Nottingham lake.

Ah... studying by the lakeside under the shady tree, with ducks quacking away, enjoying various activities such as swimming in the pond, fishing, water-skiing, canoeing, diving, surfing...

OK, before I wander too far...

Aw. Fishing and swimming not allowed. I can surely swim at the swimming pool, but then where am I gonna fish? Nevermind, I can still do some canoeing I guess, although I think it better to be tried after I have my degree safely in hand.

I wasn't kidding about the ducks though.

Over the hills and far away...

There ARE ducks in the pond. This got V. M. Saw so excited - she "hearts" the adorable ducks.

There's also a bridge across the lake, leading straight to the admin office.

The bridge. Across troubled water.

Beside hanging out with friends, the lake is also a favourite spot for a jog. Aha! A jogging track, something TARC doesn't have. But then the tracks are occasionaly covered with bird droppings though. You can guess which sort of bird. Well, at least they don't fly.

Well if you're not into any sort of sports UNMC offers, there's always an alternative. Just three minutes' walk away from the campus bridge...


Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Checked In

I'm entering a new phase of my life.

Just two days ago I registered myself into the University of Nottingham, Malaysia Campus (UNMC or UNIM) located in Semenyih. I'm now officially a university student! Yay!

Prior to this I studied Mechatronics Engineering at Tunku Abdul Rahman College (TARC). With the diploma from TARC, I am able to secure a place into the second year of Electrical and Electronic Engineering (or triple-E) at UNMC.

I also checked into my room at Semenyih. It was located at some houses just few minutes' walk from the campus, collectively known as "Edusquare". The Edusquare is newly built, and I'm among the first batch of students to move in.

Where I am staying now. My room is the one with window, beside the outdoor unit of the air-conditioner. Hang on, that fits for every single room. OK fine, mine's the one at the corner, with a blue towel hanging behind the window.

It is so new that the toilets have more dust than water.

My toilet. I'm the first to pee here. Yay!

I opened my door and looked around. Wow, nice view. I got a room at the corner of the house. I can even see the guard house from my room.

My room. Notice the window - I got a corner unit.

The next thing I noticed is that even the mattress hadn't been unwrapped yet. I was surely glad to be the centre of attention of the opening ceremony, but boy, it was tiring (and dirtying) work.

Oh, the mattress even comes with a warranty card. "Full refund if you have trouble sleeping on this," it says. In your dreams.

After cleaning up the bed and fitting the mattress with the bed sheet, I finally made my bed!

My dreamland!

I was then feeling hot and sweaty. So I turned on the fan. It worked OK. Then I decided to try everything, just in case something isn't working. Lights - checked. Shower heater - checked. Locks - checked. Windows - checked.

Air-conditioner - hey, where's the remote?

And then I went to have a look around the house. It was surely a nice house! I mean, they even bothered to get a TV for each floor (they were double-storey terrace units), and ooh, those TVs are bigger than what I have at home! Er, home as in my parents' house.

The living room, just three metres away from my door. Looks even better than the one I get in Klang.

But I was happy a bit too soon. It seemed like the antennas were too small to pick up the signals. Quality's real lousy. Well, there isn't much to watch on national TV anyway.

And oh! They also put up some stuff for decoration purposes. I mean, who would bother to hang those dummies on the walls?

Flowers. Feel like putting a small table here and have a candle-lit dinner with er... OK I've gone too far.

After meeting a few people from Edusquare, they told me their houses do not have these ornaments. Apparently they only cared to put these things up because my house was used as a showhouse.

The dining room, with pictures on the wall. That brown, flat, glossy thing is a table, and that black sculture behind it isn't a piece of art, it's a chair.

All in all, it's a nice place. Let's take a look at where I stayed just weeks ago.

Voila! My ex-room in TARC.

Hmmm. Something's different between my two places.

Can't really tell, though.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Nonsensical Googling, Nonsense Googling

Well, the kiasu parents are right, you know. Watching too much TV can plant false impressions about stuff on us.

We have all watched the many James Bond and Matrix and Transformers and National Treasure and what not. And we've all seen the fancy screens whenever there's a computer at work.

There's a very cool looking bar, with the title "transferring data" on top, with all the binary numbers and beeps and nonsensical hexadecimal stuff flowing at the background. And then there's the silhouette of two Razr phones, one filled with high tech blue lines, the other empty. As you watch, an arrow appear, moving from the line-filled-Razr towards the empty one, with the label "cloning device". Then a popup appeared "Cloning complete", with a beep.

Even everyday actions have been exaggerated. Googling a simple keyword brings astounding effects. Firstly the screen refreshes itself immediately. There's also the animation, a wipe from the top to bottom. And of course there's the never to be missed audible beep that accompanies the click of the mouse.

And I haven't started on printing yet.

I don't know about you, but the last time I tried googling, the beep was missing. Well, maybe I had lousy speakers. But then the screen didn't refresh itself immediately. Um, we don't expect the best from Streamyx. So what about the eye-catching screen wipe? Is there something wrong with my browser?

Anyway, I was trying to google names. You know the way in movies, where every single piece of missing information can be found from the internet? For example, need to know who Bruce Edelson is, just google it. And you'll get your information.

With the fancy beep, wipe, and the instantaneous speed of course.

So I typed in my sister's name. Ping! Two results appeared. They didn't tell me a lot about her, but then there was her name in the list of the winners of some sort of competition, along with the names of some of her ex-classmates.

I typed in my dad's name. Ping! Two pages of results appeared. I've seen several shops with his name on their signboards, but the entire two pages were filled with results relevant to my dad. Well, why would someone write about some cobbler online anyway? I mean the shops with dad's name, not dad.

I typed in my friend's name. Ping! Pages of results popped right in front of my eyes. After skimming through the many links, most of them based in Singapore, I found several pages which are definitely about him. Having a common name really generates rubbish results with not many options of narrowing the search.

And so I proceeded to type my name in. Rubbing my fingers together (the pages don't load instantly as in the movies, as I said, so I had time to rub my hands), I waited.


One page.

None of them related to me.

Hey wait, there's one. It belongs to the Facebook profile of my friend's.

Oh well. Happy googling. Remember to put your name in quotation marks while you search. Just remember not to spend the Mid Autumn Festival watching TV this time around.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Surveys - How True Are They?

Well, market surveys are really important. They give detailed analysis of the consumers' wants and needs.

Basically surveying a market is like spying the enemy in war. One simple survey can provide information so vital that determines the winner.

Well, I guess you've all watched enough Hollywood films to know the significance of spying.

The point is, recently, I've been contacted by an ex-schoolmate, let's call him John. He told me he's working for, say, TV3. And he politely invited me to take a survey.

Well, a survey wouldn't kill, I guess. I mean, people do those things so often. The only time my sister came back from Singapore, well, the first thing she did upon arriving home is to give out survey forms to my mother and me. And then on the way out to lunch, we stopped by a friend's house, where she passed out more forms.

Well, one may think she only came back to do the survey.

Anyway, let's go back to John's case. So I agreed to take the survey. But it came with something else.

John actually asked me to give a specific answer for a question. Let's say the question was "which TV channel do you watch the most?", and he requested that I answer "TV3". I was like, uh? Isn't this rather dishonest?

He called back seconds later, using presumably his company phone, and the survey begun.

Of course, John wasn't his real name. And the company he's working for isn't TV3. But I was shocked at how far people would go to boost the profitability for the company.

I also took another survey the very same day. It was an evaluation for the cashier of Jusco, and I was given the courtesy to fill the form up for buying a RM0.83 bottle of mineral water. I handed out RM50 to her, and she passed the small piece of paper along with a pen to me.

"How would you rate the service of the cashier?"

I glanced at the cashier. With her smiling menacingly and giving me the give-me-a-bad-review-and-I'll-keep-your-change look, I quickly ticked "excellent", filled in my name and contact number, and passed the form back to her.

Well, actually I handed her a RM10 note, but well, I'm willing to exaggerate for the sake of the dramatic effect.

And there are other obvious cases too. For example, Jay Chou recently advertised for the ellesse watch. But I doubt he uses them. And all those stick thin models on the posters of Osim may not even use Osim products at all. And you think all those long, silky, soft, and smooth hair of Sunsilk TV ad is a result of constant use of their products? If you think so, it's time for you to wake up.

So this is how the world go round?

I don't think I'd like be a spy in the future.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Moving On to Next Station

Two years at Tunku Abdul Rahman College (TARC).

TARC Administration Block.

Some liked it, some hated it. Some chose to stay, some chose to leave.

Sad to say, I'm among the latter.

Going up in TARC.

I still remember the first day in TARC. I was burning hot with a high fever, and had to find my way around the largest college in Malaysia.

There are always new things to look forward to in TARC every year.

I walked two steps, stopped, took a long draught from my bottle, and continued.

Several steps later I stopped again, thirst got the better of me.

Basketball court.

After a while I wondered where the toilet was.

The worst was that all three lessons on the first day were not held due to the absence lecturers and tutors.

I also remember recounting this story to my English teacher. She was so fond of the story she paid me the best compliments in class.

The fountain near Communication and Information Technology Centre (CITC).

I can't help but wonder why I never got satisfying grades for my English modules in TARC. Boy, the teachers at this college are sure hard to please!

One of the many gardens at TARC.

Well two years later I found myself graduating with a diploma. Diploma in Technology (Mechatronics Engineering), to be precise.

And, sadly, I find myself leaving the college. I've decided after much dilemma, more trauma, and even more drama, that I need a fresh start in a new environment.

New robot arm of automation lab... specially for Mechatronics students!

Not to say TARC's no good, hell, no. In fact, I was actually kind of sad making the decision to leave. The facilities aren't exactly top notch, but they are more than satisfying. The library is full of useful, albeit slightly old and outdated books. The food in canteen may not go well with everybody, but it's hard to find a meal costing less than RM2 nowadays. There are several good and memorable teachers around, many of which managed to recognise the potentials of talented students and hesitated no further in exploiting them.

Me getting my scholarship "certificate" from former principal, Ms Yoong Lai Thye.

I also managed to join a society for the duration of my diploma course. As the factory visiting manager of Mechatronics Society, I arranged two visits to Perodua Manufacturing Sdn Bhd's factory in Rawang during our second year. Many may think it wasn't enough, but believe me, arranging a single such visit takes months.

Group photo at Perodua. Great photo by S. H. Lim and Ms Kintan.

Other than the visit, I was also involved in the society's fund raising events as a rather unimportant salesperson. For the first fund raising event I helped the seniors sell electronic gadgets such as MP3 players, pendrives, memory cards, mice (the computer type), webcam, etc. For the second event we took the exact same corner and sold flowers and soft toys to visits to the graduation ceremony. We sold so much flowers the other day. Too bad the soft toys didn't sell that well.

Flowers for sale! Toys for sale! Anyway, why would a college student be buying soft toys? No wonder it didn't sell well!

I was also one of the six facilitators for our Programmic Integrated Circuit (PIC) workshop, also held by our society. Assembly language programming was never my favourite language, human or computer, but I did it for the participants', the society's, and also my benefits.

School in the forest, or forest in the school?

Then there's ProDEx. I still can't believe some people think that idiotic robot looked like Darth Vader. Being a Star Wars fan, I never thought it looked like Vader until the name appeared as the caption of the photo in the school magazine.

"Darth Vader" appearing on TV. The lady to the left was our principal, Ms Yoong Lai Thye.

We also played some "childish" toys too. Remember our Robocup? I truly enjoyed that assignment. How often do you get teachers who give you marks for playing toys?

Me and my group's Edubot. Whoever took this wonderful photo, thanks a lot!

There're also the countless times we made ourselves famous among students and teachers alike. It's just a sense of satisfaction when a lecturer says "that DMH2, EE2 group, never quiet!" Or a student mumbling, "you're from DMH? Sir says you guys are troublesome." And of course the usual quotes like "Bad! Bad! Bad" and "You look handsome today, Sir!"

Bowling session with Ms Bong. Bottom from left: J. H. Yip, H. P. Tan, Me. Top from left: M. W. Yeo, L. H. Ngue, Ms Bong, Y. L. Koo, M. J. Tiang with his girlfriend, and P. C. Soo.

I really enjoyed my life in TARC. However, as Ms Ng Foong Kee, one of my favourite lecturers in TARC, puts it, "friends are passengers of life, and life is just like a journey on a subway. Sooner or later you'll have to get down at a station, and bid goodbye to the fellow passengers around you." Or so I remember her describing it more than one year ago.

Good ol' hostel.

Well, I think I've reached my interchange station. I bid farewell to those who have sat and stood with me throughout the 2-year-journey in the train so far. So if I've left bad impressions on you, please forgive me, and you probably won't see me ever again. For those who liked me, I hope our journeys intersect again some time in the future.

Mechatronics Society notice board.

I wish all my fellow classmates (ex-classmates, actually) the best of luck in their future endeavours. So long, my friends.

Bon voyage. Credit of the photo goes to S. H. Lim.