Semester’s over!!…well almost…

crunch time mess

There’s a rock that doesn’t move
It hasn’t moved
It’ll never move
Even though the waves come crashing down.
~ Solid Rock by Delirious?

This song is great crunch time music.

I finally completed the working draft of my dissertation proposal. The first edition but with many editions to come in the months to come. At least, I met the deadline to hand it up as a class assignment. I’ll have to reread it again tomorrow just to make sure the things I wrote at 2am still makes sense at 2pm. There will be a 15-minute mock proposal presentation this Thursday, then Spring semester is officially over.

Proposal (1st ed.)
31 pages without references (7393 words)
40 pages with references

University Life: Malaysia vs United States

or more accurately University Life: UPM/UM vs Lehigh.

A friend of mine wanted to know what’s university life like here in the US compared to Malaysia. I can’t really do a direct comparison, too many variables exist. It’s harder to compare life now to UPM days, UM days a little easier to make some direct comparison but generally UM days were quite boring. So I’ll take a shot at it, here are some differences:

==Addressing the professors==

US: Many students address professors by the professors’ first names. I tried it once but it was so absolutely unsettling, so it’s still Dr so-and-so. I may refer to the prof by his/her first name when I’m talking to another student but never directly to the prof.

Msia: I never even thought of addressing a prof by his/her first name…ever! Hmmm, no I’m wrong, I did address them by their first names but only with the Dr or Prof in front of it.

==Food in the classrooms==

US: Students at Lehigh are allowed to eat during class: Salads, soup, soda, chips, etc. I’ve sat beside another student who brought her fruit salad tray and I could smell the sweet scent of peaches and that can be rather distracting. Sometimes at the beginning of class, I’ll hear soda cans being opened all around the class. And during class, occasionally I’ll hear chips being munched and sometimes it’s me doing the munching. Once there was a food cart selling the items mentioned above during the break in between the 3 hour class, and after the break in the classroom, most students will be eating their soup or sandwiches while attending to the lecture. And many times, at the end of the semester, the professors will order pizzas and sodas for the whole class.

Msia: I don’t remember ever eating openly in the lecture halls at UPM or UM. And I don’t think I was allowed to.

==General dress code==

US: When I first arrived at Lehigh, I was quite surprised to see students wearing shorts and slippers to class. However, it may just be a Lehigh thing.

Msia: I remember my UPM roommate was barred from entering the UPM HEP building because her skirt was deemed too short by the security person 🙂


US: There’s no official dress code during the commencement ceremony. So students are in shorts and slippers underneath their graduation gowns. The commencement is held in the open-air football stadium and anyone can come and go as they please, no invitation cards needed. There’s noone selling bouquets of flowers outside the stadium. There’s no “Pesta Konvo.”

Msia: Convocation is a very formal event. But I think the festival atmosphere during convocation at UPM was quite fun. But then UPM had, I don’t know, over 25,000 students, while Lehigh only has about 6000 students.

==Library rules==

US: I’ve seen students jumping on the sofa in the library. Noone will catch you for sleeping in the library (unlike in UPM). Generally it’s slightly more relax and casual. Librarians and library staff are more friendly and helpful here.

Msia: Definitely more sterile library atmosphere. More policing, no sleeping.

==Students weight gain/loss==

US: Generally undergraduate students here gain weight due to the rich dining hall food during their first year in the university.

Msia: I would say most first year students lose weight due to the Maggi Mee, and not so great dining hall food. Plus all the walking and biking.

==Hanging out==

US: Thursday to Saturday nights are big hang out nights. I hear kids walking pass my apartment drunk at 1-2-3am. The campus newspaper always reports the names of students who were cited for underage drinking. On average, I think, at least 5 names will appear during each issue. Should I mention that Lehigh was rated the 3rd top party school in the US two years ago?

Msia: Mamakstalls reign supreme.


US: I’m not sure if it’s only my experience but I find the grading here is so lenient. Once a Malaysian professor here invited the Msian students over for lunch and when I mentioned that it’s easier to get As at Lehigh, they looked at me like I must be crazy and just brushed off my comment..hmmpphh! Hey! Among that group, I’m the only one who has been through a local Msian university, and not just one but two universities, and for a total of 6 years, so I know what I’m talking about.

Msia: I got so many Bs at UM, I began to wonder if special ed was really for me. And at UPM, it was work, work, work to keep a good CGPA.

Two April 25th-s

It’s amazing when you’ve been a blogger or journal-person long enough you can look back and read the things you wrote one year ago on the exact same date.

April 25, 2006 (one year ago)
May 4 is the official last day of the Spring semester for me, and Fall semester starts sometime end of August. In between that I’m taking a one week intensive summer course on Development and administration of special education programs. I’ll also have to intensively work on my qualifier project. I can’t believe I procrastinated so much on that and to make matters worse, someone else published an article that almost answered all of my research questions. I sort of had to reproposed my proposal and I WILL get it done before summer is over.

April 25, 2007 (now)
May 3 is the official last day of the Spring semester for me this year. I guess my “I WILL get it (qualifier project) done before summer is over” did not work out, since I only finally completed it February of this year. I won’t be taking any summer classes this year. Instead I’ll be concentrating “intensively” on (a) writing up my qualifying paper for publication, (b) studying for my comprehensive exam that’s in september, and (c) revising my dissertation proposal. And I WILL get all these done before summer is over…hahahaha.

(One year ago)
It’s spring now and flowers are blooming everywhere. Pink and white all over.

It’s spring now but not all the flowers are blooming everywhere. Most trees are still bare with some visible buds. Some pink and white somewhere. The weather has been crazy this year.

(One year ago)
The deadline for Operation Summer Car (June 21, 2006) may have to be pushed back around 2 months. All the conferences expenses and reimbursement procedures is messing up my finances at the moment.

Surprisingly, the deadline for Operation Summer Car was not pushed back too far and I finally got my car on June 30, 2006. And now, due to the rising gas prices, the warmer weather and the broken a/c, I’ve decided to reduce driving and increase bus-taking. So currently, the car is parked in a nicely shaded prime spot and won’t be moving much.

(One year ago)
Today I attended a session by this Apple senior support personnel who gave what he calls a presale presentation. Bootcamp, Rosetta, parallel-something.. it’s amazing how user-friendly some of the applications are. I’m thinking of making a photo presentation with background music and commentaries and then burn it on a DVD and send it back to Malaysia and mom and dad can just pop that into the DVD-player or maybe just podcast it. And if I really have time to spare I can even have a version in Cantonese for my aunt. I’m even thinking of working on some sort of video-modeling intervention for my dissertation. But first I’ll have to get both the hardware and software. And that may be another reason why Operation Summer Car will be extended another 2 months.

I now own both the hardware and software required to do all those amazing stuff but I have yet to do any of those things that I proposed. No photo presentation with background music and commentaries burnt on a DVD. No cantonese version of the same DVD. No podcast. But I am currently working on my some-sort-of-video-modeling-intervention dissertation proposal.

(One year ago)
Oh..the Apple presenter even gave away free iPod Nano magnets!

Oh..I now have a free and real iPod Nano 🙂


A comparison of a G1 iPod nano (black) and a G2 iPod nano (silver). I like the finishing of G2, the G1 is susceptible to scratches and fingerprint marks. The perks of being a courier-person, I get to test out everything that I’m called to bring home with me…even shoes!

Heroes is back tonight! Yay!!!

Manhattan in one evening

I’m not sure where to start since it has been several days since the NYC trip. I was going to write about it earlier when everything’s fresh in my mind but I’ve been somewhat busy and busy procrastinating.
Because of TM’s busy training schedule, we could only squeeze in an evening rush-like-crazy trip to NYC on Tuesday afternoon.

3.30pm – Drove out of Duh’s parking lot and then remembered that I had forgotten to bring my NYC map so turned around to get the very important map.

3.40pm – Left Duh for real

4.45pm – Arrived at Piscataway and picked up TM from his training office, and then using Google map printout, drove to the Dunellen train station. There was an even closer train station, Bound Brook, but as I mentioned before TM brought along with him some really bad weather and flooded that particular station.

5.10pm – Finally arrived at the train station parking lot, and spent several minutes fussing about parking permit and not sure where to park legally. The parking permit machine wouldn’t take my money so I assumed that since it’s getting close to 6pm maybe parking is free. And there were noone around to ask about that. So what to do? Just leave the car and hope for the best-lor.

5.25pm – Aboard the RARV (Raritan Valley; $5.50 to Newark Penn Station) train. TM mentioned that the conductor on board the train reminded him of Tom Hank’s animated character in Polar Express.

6.11pm – Arrived at Newark Penn Station, transfered to the PATH train ($1.50 to Exchange Place, Jersey City).

6.30pm – arrived at Exchange Place station. This was where the picture was taken. We could have taken the train right into Manhattan but I thought this view of Manhattan was worth the extra running around. So there we were, two very touristy-looking people taking pictures after pictures.

7.05pm – On board the NY Waterway ferry ($5.50) heading towards Pier 11/Wall St terminal. I was hoping that the ferry would take us slightly closer to the Statue of Liberty, unfortunately we were nowhere closer to it but at least TM got to see her and made the usual tourist comment, “I expected it to be so much bigger.”

7.20pm –
Arrived at Wall St. I tried to find my way to the NYSE without looking at my map after several moments of uncertainty, we turned at one corner and saw it with the big US flag draped across the front of it. There were also the usual barricades and a NYPD truck parked near it.

Oh yeah, before we got to NYSE, we bumped into a some-sort of celebrity sighting. There was a brightly lit tent and many photographers and two very well-dressed person being photographed. People were shouting to the nicely-dressed lady, “Melucci (or Minna or something else- I don’t remember what now) turn left, turn left!” So I went ahead and took a photo of the celebrity too.

Then trying to find my bearings, we headed north on Broadway. I wasn’t planning to bring TM to the WTC site, mainly because I wasn’t sure how to get there, and we didn’t have much time. But as we were walking north, I noticed the WTC site one-block away to our left, so we made a detour and spent some time there taking pictures. It was slightly past 8pm then and time for dinner. We continue walking north towards Canal St/Chinatown. After many blocks, we arrived at Canal St, we were probably at a not so busy area of Chinatown because it was a rather quiet area. We went into the first Chinese restaurant that we saw. Chinese food? Not my choice, TM wanted chinese food. I would have taken him to a roadside hotdog stand.

8.30pm – Warm and cosy in the restaurant. They had roast pork and vegetable on their menu, and I thought the roast pork was “siew-yuk” but it was “char-siu” instead, so I guess I have to wait till I get back to Malaysia for the “siew-yuk” fix.

9.10pm – Left the restaurant, headed to the nearest subway station and took a train to Times Square. Took pictures again and visited a nearby souvenir shop where TM bought a FDNY t-shirt for his wife. I was looking at my map in the store…so much to see, so little time. I wanted to go to the Rockefeller center, the 24-hour Apple store, the Empire State building, but we have to catch the 10.41pm train back to NJ. So I decided we’ll go to the Rockefeller only.

10.15pm – After taking some pictures around Rockefeller, I realized we were dangerously closed to missing the train. We quickly found a subway station, unfortunately the train from there didn’t go directly into NY Penn Station, but we had no choice but to take the train to a station that’s two blocks from the NY Penn.

10.27pm – Arrived at the 34th St station, looked at my map….ok, Macy’s on the right, so Penn station should be straight ahead. We ran two blocks and then turned one corner and everything looked so unfamiliar to me, “Oh no, I think I made a mistake, Penn station is supposed to be right here.” Then I looked across the street and to my right I saw a big PENNSYLVANIA sign, well I guess I was right after all. We rushed across the street into the train station, bought our tickets ($8.50each), found the right platform and got into the train.

10.37pm – Whew, we made it. We got onto the NJCL (New Jersey Coastline) which will take us to Newark Penn station where we will transfer to the RARV train towards Dunellen. So there we were in the train, happily pondering our sheer luck that we managed to get on this train.

11.00pm – The train stopped. I looked out the window and it was rather dark outside and it didn’t look much like the busy Newark Penn station, so we continue chatting.

11.07pm – The train moved on and the sullen conductress came back and checked our tickets again. We showed her our tickets and she said, “What are you doing here? Your stop was back there.” AHHHHHH, we missed the stop!!! We had to get off at the next station, Newark Airport station, walked across the other side and wait another 30minutes for a train to take us back to Newark Penn station. Because we missed the 11.07pm RARV train, we have to catch the 12.07am RARV train. Why did we even rush to catch the train when we were going to miss our transfer? We could have spent another hour in Manhattan and TM might get to see the Empire State building up close. So two defeated people sat at Newark Airport terminal for 30 minutes till the 11.38pm train came and took us back to Newark Penn, and we made it onto the 12.07am RARV train. And while we were in the other two trains, I noticed that they made announcements before every stop but that particular train with the sullen conductress, no announcements were made at all!

12.50am – Arrived at Dunellen. There wasn’t any parking fine on my car nor were my tires clamped.

1.00am – Dropped TM at his hotel and continue on my way back to Bethlehem.

2.00am sharp – Arrived home.

The Devil Wears Pagoda!

This morning I woke up exceptionally early (7am) to go to a supposedly great flea market (an hour away) with a small group of grad students . I think everyone had such high expectations. It didn’t help that although it was very bright and sunny, it was also a very cold morning. The flea market turned out to be a very poor “pasar malam” and disappointed everyone. At least pasar malam-s have more food items. The flea market had many fake purses and handbags; for example, “Pagoda” handbags instead of Prada. There’s just something so wrong about using a Pagoda handbag; that brand brings to my mind very strong mental pictures of Pagoda singlets and Pagoda groundnuts! Nope, no pagoda handbags for me. If I am to spend $10-30 on a handbag, I’d rather buy not-so-well-known bags from a retail store.

I ended up buying a pot of 6 purple hyacinths ($3; for the living room) and 2 avocados ($2) from the “great” flea market. I should have slept in instead.

It seems TM brought along with him the strongest Spring storm-system in years. Besides heavy rain, or even wet snow, in the whole mid-Atlantic and New England area for the entire day, NYC is under severe weather alert (coastal flooding) tomorrow, so this Sunday’s NYC tour has been postponed to maybe Wednesday.

Why bad habits are so hard to break and good habits are so hard to make

As I am sitting here trying to catch up on my writing as the impending friday deadline is looming ahead, I wonder to myself:

Why do I keep on procrastinating, knowing full well of the consequences?
Why is it so hard for me to keep my goal of writing 3-pages a day?

Lehigh will be inaugurating its first female president this Friday. To celebrate this event, we are having a full day Inauguration Symposium with distinguished speakers with numerous awards (e.g., the Nobel prize, the National Medal of Science). One of the speakers will cover this precise issue:
“Why bad habits are so hard to break and good habits are so hard to make”
And she’s approaching this issue from the neurobiology perspective and not the behavioral stuff that I’ve been indoctrinated with. I’ll try to get to her talk tomorrow.

As if I haven’t procrastinated enough, I discovered Plumb’s website today. Her song Cut is pretty good, I even bought the remix version of that song from iTunes and plan to set that as my power song on my iPod+Nike. As I ended my run today, I heard this on my iPod, “This is Lance Armstrong. Congratulations! You have just recorded your personal best for the mile.”

There are links on today’s entry but there are not obvious. I’ll have to ask techy tai-lo if he can change the color of the links.

Self-monitoring of writing behavior (cummulative record):
2427 words (still 10 pages!!)

My rat partner is coming to town

My former biomed coursemate, TM, is coming to the US, specifically Piscataway NJ, for some training this weekend. Many years ago, both of us worked together in our respective final year projects under the same professor. Between us, we fed, cleaned after, and tortured 80 rats in that 3-month process…all for the sake of finding a “cure” for diabetes. Not forgetting, we also made MANY rat cages out of welded wire because our professor would not spend RM2500 for the standard-laboratory rat cages that we needed. And there were days where we were almost ready to strangle each other!! 🙂

This Sunday, I’ll be driving to NJ to pick up my rat partner and then we’ll take a train to Manhattan and spend the day touring the must-see (and free) sights of NYC.

Self-monitoring of writing behavior (cummulative record):
2235 words (10 pages)