Thursday, August 30, 2007

Harry PubMed?

Whoever says (Singaporean) doctors have no sense of humor better retract his/her words...

Interesting in- and outpatient attendances at Hogwarts Infirmary and St Mungo's Hospital for magical maladies.

Lim EC, Pomfrey PM, Quek AM, Seet RC.
Division of Neurology, National University Hospital, Singapore. mdcelch (at)

Ailments afflicting wizarding folk are underreported in the muggle world. The recent integration of muggles and magical folk with the return of You-Know-Who (aka He Who Must Not Be Named) may result in a similar affliction of inhabitants of both worlds. We describe interesting maladies afflicting muggles and wizarding folk alike, arising from the use and misuse of magic. We also provide a basic glossary of magical ailments, and describe their muggle corollaries. Further studies will hopefully result in the development of immunity against the unforgivable curses.

PMID: 16565770 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

Full paper here.

The first author also had another interesting piece.

Labor Day Vacation

San Francisco, San Jose, Berkeley, Napa Valley, Monterrey/Santa Cruz.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Mamma Mia!

Watched Mamma Mia! today at ASU's Gammage Auditorium.

The ABBA songs are timeless classics, although my all-time favorite musical is Phantom.

Money, money, money!

Her comments: Mamma mia! 真的好好看唷....而且還坐很前面..真開心!

Friday, August 24, 2007


This could very well apply to me too.

The evening took quite a surprise turn.

“Is everything okay?” she asked in concern.

“Yes I am. It’s work.”

Except it was not. It was not work I was thinking about. Perhaps it has been in me too long, how I had always sought shelter behind the facade I put up, that it had not occurred to me I was doing it unconsciously. Not that it had anything to do with the company present; in fact, the evening would go to end as a very pleasant one indeed.

I had you on my mind.

Which was why I was far, far away.



Only a few more weeks, and we will be far, far apart.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Innovation Video Contest - via Youtube

Got this in my mailbox:

The Task Force on the Future of American Innovation is sponsoring a "You Tube" video contest to highlight scientific innovation in America. Interested individuals are encouraged to create a three-minute video that demonstrates how scientific discoveries resulting from federally funded research in the physical sciences have changed our lives. Students are especially encouraged to use their creative skills and participate in the contest. The deadline to enter is the 10th of September.

The top five videos will be viewed in the U.S. Capitol on October 4, 2007 during the 50th anniversary commemoration of the launching of Sputnik. The grand prize winner will receive $1000 and an all-expenses paid trip to Washington for the October 4th activities.

The Task Force on the Future of American Innovation is a coalition of organizations from industry and academia which promotes increased federal support for basic research in the physical sciences and engineering. For more information about the Task Force and for complete contest rules, visit:

For a video presentation on the competition, visit:

As a tip to my readers who are interested in participating, I recommend this site as an initial reference.

School Quotes that I like...

Any of the ones below can be equally applied to my school/major. *Sigh*

The men here often complain that there are too few women here; if they took a look in the mirror, maybe they'd realize why girls don't come here - Stevens Institute of Technology.

There are lots of complaints about the attractiveness of the female students, but we females have our own saying about the guys at CMU: The odds are good, but the goods are odd. - Carnegie Mellon University.

Doesn't matter that we got no women. I'm never in bed anyway - Caltech.

Taken from the Biz of knowledge.

Sunday, August 19, 2007


(Dragon) Lee says Singapore needs more bilingual, bicultural talents.

...Besides nurturing more bilingual and bicultural talents in school, the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCCI) is also helping to promote Mandarin.

The Chamber is setting up a new club called 'Business China', which will bring together businessmen, professionals, young entrepreneurs and students who are interested in China, to network, interact and discuss important issues in Mandarin.

Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew has agreed to be its Patron and Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng and other ministers will serve as advisers.

I laughed. As I im-ed cognitive dissonance: "I learnt more about China and Taiwan (as well as improved my Mandarin) when I was trying to date girls from those countries, than from my 10 years in SAP schools".

I had to get out of the country to rekindle my interest in the Chinese language and culture. Isn't that great?


A compatriot hosted an alcohol tasting session for a group of us at his place last night. Wines, along with roasted peanuts, baguette and curry chicken (he had brought primataste from Singapore) made us happy campers.

We had loads of fun listening to theme songs from old school Chinese drama serials, watching a Singapore-made movie - Jack Neo's Just Follow Law and debating about our favorite characters from 金庸's 武侠小说.


What stood out was that all the Singaporeans present except one were guys, and their other halves (if they have one) were from elsewhere. It was an international (all Asian) group.


On the occasion of the National Day Rally, I dedicate this song to my Singaporean readers. I hope you still believe in the Singapore Dream.

星月 by Mavis Hee

在你怀中一起成长 我的世界 我的梦想
每次向天空仰望 星光闪耀月儿弯
牵引无穷尽的幻想 在我心中迎风昂然飘扬
我的梦让我勇敢 是你给我力量

星月照亮我前方 一路上永远有希望
像明灯一盏 越暗越是明亮
星月照亮我前方 于是我拥有信心和温暖
愿一切与你分享 星月常伴

在你光辉中我成长 我的朋友 我的家园
飞得多远心中依然 星光闪耀月儿弯
童年无穷尽的理想 在我天空迎风昂然飘扬
每个梦让我勇敢 是你给我力量

星月照亮我前方 一路上永远有希望
像明灯一盏 越暗越是灿烂
星月照亮我前方 于是我拥有信心和温暖
愿一切与你分享 星月常伴

我的梦 星月常伴

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Perpetuating the 'scholar' family

Two years ago, Mr Wang wrote:

Many, many years ago, the personal stories of our government scholars were an inspiration to the ordinary people of Singapore. We used to read in the newspapers about how a taxi driver's son or a widowed seamstress's daughter studied so hard and scored all the A's and won a President's Scholarship. The moral of the story was that if you worked hard, then there was always hope, no matter how disadvantaged your personal circumstances might be.

This no longer happens. It simply no longer happens. The typical profile of our scholars has changed. The vast majority of scholars come from very wealthy family backgrounds. Their parents are likely to be highly educated themselves.

I think that this is a natural manifestation of a highly competitive education system. Over the years, our system has grown ever more competitive. And in a highly competitive education system, every little advantage counts. To be rich is an advantage. To have well-educated parents is an advantage.

The rich kid spends no time on housework because his maid does all of it; therefore he has more time to study. The rich kid's parents can afford to send him for violin lessons and tennis class; therefore his CCA record looks more impressive. The rich kid's father is a doctor and his mother is a lawyer; therefore his father can help him with A-level Biology and his mother can help him with General Paper. The rich kid's parents can send him to the best independent schools which in turn lay the route to the best junior colleges.

These advantages accumulate over years, and in the end, we see that the most prestigious scholarships almost invariably end up with the rich kids. A President's Scholar is not made in a day. He is not even made in a year. I say that the process starts somewhere around the age of eight or nine, when his well-educated parents engineer his entry into the Gifted Enrichment Program by buying him books with MENSA IQ tests that he can practice taking.

I believe that it is still quite possible for the relatively poor Singaporean to succeed (say, to the extent that he enters a local university and graduates). I just don't believe that it is very possible for the relatively poor Singaporean to succeed at the very highest levels, and win the most prestigious scholarships.

Why is this significant? It is significant because only the relatively poor would be profoundly grateful for their scholarships. It is only the relatively poor who would think, "If not for this scholarship, I would not be able to attend university at all, let alone study here in Stanford. I must serve my bond faithfully and give something back to Singapore."

For the rich, the prestigious scholarship is more like a trophy. It is a symbol of achievement, something that looks good in a CV, something to be very proud of. But it is not something to be deeply grateful for.

In the end, it means that the Singapore government scholars of today, being affluent, and being less grateful for their opportunity, would tend to be relatively less committed to public service. This is in comparison to the poorer Singapore government scholars of yesteryear - those heroic sons and daughters of taxi drivers and widowed seamstresses. That noble breed is now extinct.

This was reported in the Straits Times on Friday:

Aug 17, 2007
President's Scholar follows in dad's footsteps
By Ho Ai Li

Image Hosted by
Shot at 2007-08-18
'I think the President's Scholarship is, more than anything else, responsibility. It tells you you can't slack off, but have to try to enrich yourself in as many ways as possible.'
STEPHANIE KO, 18, on what it means to be a President's Scholar. She is seen here with her father, Mr Ko Kheng Hwa, 52, who also received the scholarship in 1974. He is now managing director of the Economic Development Board. -- ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

IN 1974, then Raffles Institution student Ko Kheng Hwa received the President's Scholarship from the late Dr Benjamin Sheares.

Now managing director of the Economic Development Board, Mr Ko will return to the Istana tonight with his wife, Madam Hoong Suet Kun, to see daughter Stephanie, 18, receive the same award from President SR Nathan.

The Public Service Commission, which awards the scholarship, said Stephanie - from Hwa Chong Institution - is the first recipient to have a President's Scholar as a parent.

There are four President's Scholars this year. The others are Sergius Wat, 19; Kaan Hung Leng, 18; and Liu Chen, 21, all from Raffles Junior College (RJC).

Stephanie, who will study medicine at Cambridge University in Britain, said: 'It's the satisfaction you get as a doctor, dedicating your life to helping people.'

As former vice-president of the Hwa Chong Students' Council, Stephanie helped organise many events. She also represented the Singapore Chinese Girls' School in basketball.

Fellow President's Scholar Hung Leng also has a 'scholar dad'.

Her father, Mr Kaan Quan Hang, a senior engineer, studied in Australia on a Colombo Plan Scholarship. Her two siblings also went overseas on government scholarships.

Unlike them, Hung Leng is staying here and studying medicine at the National University of Singapore to keep her father and housewife mother, Madam Tan Bee Geok, company, she said.

Hung Leng, from Raffles Girls' Secondary (RGS), excelled in fencing and playing the piano.

Her former RGS and RJC schoolmate Liu Chen is also well-versed in sports and the arts. A national taekwondo brown belt champion, she also plays the piano and double bass.

She moved here from Shandong, China, in 1997 with her father, Mr Liu Luo Sheng, a business consultant, and mother, Madam Xu Bao Li, a private tutor.

'I had heard that it's hard for an ex-foreigner to get a government scholarship. I'm glad I proved them wrong,' said Liu Chen, an only child who became a Singapore citizen two years ago. She will study economics at the University of Chicago.

The thorn among the roses is Sergius Wat, whose father, Mr Wat Tat Chuen, is a general manger in a construction firm. His mother, Madam Ang Poh Choo, is a housewife. His older brother is a Singapore Armed Forces scholar.

Sergius, concurrently a Singapore Police Force scholar, said he wanted 'to help people in a very real way.'

Helping people comes naturally to Sergius, a scout and recent winner of the HSBC Youth Excellence award for his charity work. He will study government at Harvard University.

For all the crap these folks spewed in the interviews, how many still believe in them after several years or even within months of working in the Civil Service? I am sure you will know of someone who broke bond, either because of disillusion or in search of fatter opportunities in the corporate/private sector.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Leaving a legacy

I received 3 emails this month from my undergraduate alma mater (one was from the department), and I am surprised (because they had never sent me more than one per year; always asking me for money!). It turned out that the 5th Year Reunion is coming up. A survey was also included that asked for my philantrophic plans - and whether the university and/or department is going to be a beneficiary.

Wah lau, they start with the young alumni. As I had told AEG, I am unlikely to leave anything to my relatives and future descendents; the bulk will go to my alma maters (undergrad and grad schools) in the form of professorships/endowed chairs/scholarships if I end up rich enough. I won't want to see anything similar happening to my family when I am gone.

If I do have kid(s), the most they/he/she will get from me is a university education. After that, they will be on their own.

What's yours?


Save Dartmouth appeared on the online front page of New York Times today. They have a very committed alumni body, not like NUS.

What I liked was this part:

This is not about the recent election of “petition” Trustees. It’s not about divisive politics. It’s about keeping Dartmouth Dartmouth. Attending the College on the Hill today is a magnificent undergraduate experience, as it has always been. Changing the basis for Trustee selection could lead to a Harvard-style Trustee Board in which the voice of alumni/ae—and Dartmouth’s emphasis on undergraduate education—will be diminished.


...Dartmouth's proper mission is to be the very best undergraduate college in the world and not a second-tier research university.”

Hur hur. Making a dig at Harvard.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

How do you defy the physical laws of nature?

Sometimes I feel like quitting this team. This happens when you get a team leader who has no proper understanding of thermodynamics (Gibbs Free Energy, Nerst equation). I could get aneurysms just by trying to explain my work/experimental results to him.

Only the other day the chemist at the meeting told him straight - "I cannot defy the laws of chemistry!"

He: Collect more data. Make it work.

You just wonder how managers are selected. Stupid people exist everywhere, and make things worse when they impose their stupidity on subordinates who can see something's wrong.

Poor leadership, coupled with a weak understanding of scientific fundamentals, creates a very lousy work environment. I should request to switch teams if this continues.


"Lisa! In this house we obey the Laws of Thermodynamics!"

--Homer Simpson

Friday, August 10, 2007

Marriage no different from BGR

One of my JC classmates (S.) has separated from her husband. She was the first in the class to get married 7 years ago. She now also holds the record for being the first (and hopefully the last) to divorce.

tk says: How are you and your hubby? You two have kids?

S says: We separated for a while. Now divorced.

tk says: Oops, sorry to hear that.

S says: ok la, not much different, I am used to being alone. Our marriage was a long distance one for 7 years. But I think in terms of character he is still the best. I hope that one day we can be together again but it is too difficult.

tk says: If you don't mind me asking, is long distance the cause?

S says: Long distance + no communication at all. Well he is not my type - I am very talkative. Therefore even though when I called him he did not talk much. Long distance would never be problem if both parties cared for each other and have a common interest.

I didn't probe more. She is based in Hong Kong, while her ex-husband was one of the stat board scholars bonded for 8 years to the organization.

Am shocked. I mean - you read about the divorce rate rising in the papers, but the significance only hits you when you know a peer or a relative going/had gone through the process.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

What are imaginary numbers good for?

Like Greg Mankiw, I am also stumped by this question.

Especially so if I am asked by a layperson.

Are you, too? (Referring to my readers who are into engineering, math and physics.)

Research gems

I recommend this entry by YoungFemaleScientist. Good advice for all of us involved in, or about to go into research.

I think the key to navigating the sea of information is knowing how to evaluate what's reasonable and believable and what's not.

It's really easy to feel overwhelmed by the literature, for example, and not know what to believe, if you're in grad school or a new postdoc in a new field, and you're not armed with the basics.

I really think the least we can do for students is give them the tools they really need. I always say I've forgotten the vast majority of information I memorized for exams in school, but I know the concepts. I went out of my way to learn the concepts I knew I would need, and that guides me. I went outside the curriculum, I read things on my own, I did whatever I had to do. I didn't get perfect grades and I didn't care. But I learned a heck of a lot of useful stuff.

Most of the mistakes I see people making in lab- on a daily basis, mind you- stem from a complete lack of fundamentals.

Or, like what my prof in my sophomore Thermodynamics class said: When in doubt, always go back to the first principles, and work from there.

(Ed: The class was complaining that the cheat sheet for the mid-terms/exam did not include the Maxwell relations. There were many others excluded as well. Of all my undergraduate courses, this made the greatest impression on me. Not because I did well, but because I really felt I earned my 'B' grade. It was very helpful later for my graduate Thermo class as well as my Quals.)

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

If Love can be bought,

will you buy it? The video is available here.

"People look for love and will pay anything for it, even when they know they are being deceived and in turn deceiving. If you could capture the business model documented in this film into an online social network, you'd have something worth easily 10 times the projected value of Facebook." - Eduardo Sciammarella

Taken from Boing Boing.

(Ed: The guys look kinda...feminine, like straight out from animae. And they get the hot chicks.)

Sunday, August 05, 2007

How disconnected I am with the Island

She asked me about the good places to visit in Singapore. I struggled for a good 5 minutes to come up with a decent (albeit still short) list. It turned out that she had been to more places than I ever did in my 21 years (before I left for my tertiary education) on that island.

So lau kui malu.

I haven't even been to (that part of) Geylang, yet I had my fun in Ropponggi.

How many sides of Singapore have you seen, being a long time resident?

Friend: I am not surprised. You and most of your Singaporean friends are cocooned in a little ivory tower. Bet you don't even know much about the neighborhood schools' environment.


I am becoming a youtube junkie, searching for songs from my childhood and teenage years. This is my favorite from Chage and Aska (similar to 周华健's "让我欢喜让我忧").

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Daddy was the Apple of my Eye

It's not often that you go around telling people you like a song from an underwear ad. I found myself humming it (subconsciously) when it played on TV.


No castle in the south of France
But what we had were underpants
That made us feel like royalty
His hands were hard, his waistbands soft,
And in his deep red apple thoughts, he said,
‘Your fruit will be of the loom, not of the tree.’
Yeah, Daddy was the apple of my eye,
Like underwear he’s with me ’til I die
And the more that I peel back the years, the more I realize
He will always be, the apple of my eye.
A father knows a young boy grows
The clothesline of life sometimes blows
Brief memories that last forevermore.
He gave to me his fearless grin
His rosy cheeks, his tender skin
A comfort that runs straight down to the core.
Yeah, Daddy was the apple of my eye,
Like underwear he’s with me ’til I die.
And the more that I peel back the years, the more I realize
In that tangled family tree, he will forever be
The shining, polished apple of my eye.

On a side note, my mum was the one who chose my clothes (including underpants) when I was young. Heh.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007



Upcoming Weekend Dinner Korean lunch invitation, accepted;
The Simpsons Movie (Ed: last minute switch to Hairspray) on Saturday, accepted;
Long chats on the phone and MSN, becoming regular.

Continue to slog for the company. The moolah's decent, but I am getting disillusioned with the work.

She got the intra-company transfer offer - to relocate to a state to the west of mine.

她: 我的希望就是做米虫,真的,想得越多越发现不会思考;不去想太多,那是多么好的一件事! 就因为是工科博士毕业,做米虫又太浪费。早知高中毕业后就选文科当教师,一个平稳朝九晚五的工作, 又能留在台湾。



From: takchek's advisor (TA)
To: takchek

FYI - post doc opps at (national lab)


From: TA's friend [mailto:taf@(national-lab).gov]
To: TA
Subject: Post Doc Opportunities

I hope you are well. Don't forget to submit your abstract to the symposium!
We have a couple of post-doc opportunities up here at (national lab). If you have anyone coming down the pipe who would be interested, please let me know.



takchek, you have to choose again. Soon.

*The lab's on the east coast.

"OH, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet..."


What would you recommend giving the girl for her birthday?

Why is giving her cash/gift card a bad idea? They are most versatile and practical, no?

Female friend:

no lah..don't..insincere. give something flowers or accessories.

Sometimes I don't understand women. Really.


National Day is coming, and this song is making me feel emo. More so when I read these.


But, quoting BL:

Nostalgia is like a grammar lesson, you find the present tense and the past perfect.