What now?

In the courses that I teach I often have consultation sessions with my students to give them feedback or allow them the opportunity to ask questions. Most of the time the 15-20 minute sessions are pretty straightforward but occasionally a session may end up being a counselling session — actually more of a listening session because I don’t have any advice or solution to offer the student.

One month ago, I spoke with three persons, all ambitious wanting to be in positions of influence that allow them the platform to make a difference in the field, but somehow find themselves stuck.

He is pursuing a master degree but he feels that this qualification alone is not enough of a stepping stone to garner enough respect and recognition to achieve his dream. But due to family and circumstances, pursuing a PhD is not a realistic option. But he believes that with a PhD, his message will be heard, and the population of people that he’s advocating for will get the support that they need. But the sacrifices that he and his family will have to make in order for him to pursue a PhD are too great. There are certain hurdles to pursue a local PhD – lack of research experience, the length and instability of a part-time PhD. But the cost of an oversea PhD is prohibitive.

He feels that he’s currently not in a position where he can have an influence in the school. He hopes a master degree will add weight to his voice but realizes that it may not make a marked difference because the din of tradition and preference for the familiar in the organisation drowns out the voices calling out for meaningful change. He doesn’t know whether in 10 years he’ll be in that position. He feels stuck but going to another organisation may not be a real way out. He thinks that maybe if he can get a position at the teacher training institute, he may have an impact as a teacher trainer. I joked that he’s talking about my job but I often don’t feel like an agent of change at all.

She is stuck in a position where she does not feel that she’s valued by her organization. Her annual appraisal makes her feel like she’s a mediocre worker in her organisation even though she puts in a lot of effort to keep the giant organisational mechanism running smoothly. But her own career progression are neglected because there’s not enough hours in the work day. She has given up trying to meet the unrealistic expectations that have been placed on her. She contemplates leaving, but lacks courage.

When I hear stories like these, I think back about the time when I first thought of applying to do a PhD in the US, and went on to pursue that and finally achieved that dream. Where did all my chutzpah come from? So bold and courageous. But I sense that this boldness and courage are slowly fading away…

I love books!


Today I moved the bookshelf from the living room to my “dry” room (room with dehumidifier). The pages of some of the books are beginning to stick together in this humid weather.


Based on my collection of cookbooks, I must be a domestic goddess! Or a domestic book collecting goddess 😛 I really like the Culinaria series of “coffee table” cookbooks. The most used cookbook is probably Momofuku for the kimchi and ginger-scallion sauce recipe. Some books like the French Laundry and Bouchon Bakery are nice to read but I will never attempt to use those recipes. Good as occasional bedtime reading material.


Some books are directly relevant to my work, like my books on writing. I think that copy of the Elements of Style was from the time I was working at MPH.


And some books are somewhat relevant to my work – books that inspire creativity or productivity.



Then there are those fun books. I like reading graphic novels. Over and over again.


Or books in the things that I’m currently interested in. I’m a firm believer that you can learn pretty much anything via books. You can even learn to train to run a marathon from a book. Or learn to be a semi-expert in taking care of pets. I forgot to take a picture of my ukulele books. I think that’s one of few areas that I didn’t learn to do well via reading 😀



And books in areas that I was once interested in. One time I was interested in making my own clothes. I think I have the capacity to be good in that. But I would need to get a sewing machine which I wasn’t prepared to invest in one. The interest died down soon after that.

I was also interested in movie making and photography. But those interests did not last long. Probably these are areas that you can only get better at from deliberate practice.

Anyway, all the books have been moved into the dry room.


I want to remember this day!


6 January 2016 – I want to remember this day!

My department went to Batam for a staff retreat. We had a super boring staff retreat last year, pretty much all-work-no-play. This year, we went on an all-play-no-work retreat. Things started out quite unremarkable. We were taken on a tour of a layer cake factory, keropok shop, and had seafood lunch, all the usual cheap Batam tour stuff.

Then we went to this place and the hilarity ensued. From this point onwards, it’s What-happens-in-Batam-stays-in-Batam. It’s only really funny now that I have had time to process. I have not laughed so much in a very long time. Whenever my close colleagues and I talked about this, we would laugh so hard till we teared up. I foresee that we would continue to bring up this matter for a while before we get over this. And at the end of 2016 when we start discussing what we would do for 2017 staff retreat, we are going to have another very good laugh!

Resolutions, why bother? Right?! (Part 2)

Read More

How do I get myself to read more?

Academic reading: I have accumulated so MANY journal articles, and research and teaching books, that I should read but I never found the time or I didn’t make time to read them. I’m thinking maybe before the start of every work day, before I check email or turn on the work computer, I should read one journal article. If I speed read, I could clear one in 30mins. I could even get a latte at the canteen and spend a “leisurely” hour of reading before going to the office. Sounds good 🙂

Leisure reading: Maybe 30 mins before bedtime, I should read something new and not my same old bedtime reading materials.

Bible reading: At least a chapter in the morning before I turn on the wifi or mobile data on my cellphone..haha

Write More

Blog writing: This post is evidence that I’m trying to write more 🙂 Writing about mundane stuff is good. Any writing is good. Not Facebook status or comment kind of writing. Kind of more deliberate, brain cranking kind of writing. I feel people don’t think as deeply or reflect as much nowadays. People react a lot, and are quick to share social media stuff, but, in general, most people don’t create new things (that takes effort) as much.

Academic writing: This is a killer. One sentence at a time. Building up to a paragraph. Remove the fear and anxiety that the piece is not good enough. Get the draft done and start on the revision. There is no other way.

My work appraisal is so tightly-linked to how much I can produce in this area, which is quite horrible. Since academic publishing takes so much time and just because you wrote something, doesn’t mean that it will be published. It may take several months before you find out that the work you spend months and years on has been rejected.

I’m still trying to understand this part of my work life and its impact on my self-esteem and self-worth. It’s just part and parcel of academia life. Cannot run away from it. It’s just that the expectation of my uni is just too high. A person will reach a point where it’s almost impossible to catch up and then “why bother?” creeps in.

At this point in time, after much reflection, I just want to do some meaningful research, with whatever time that I might have left, and I hope the research process and findings will have some impact on some people. And if my papers get published, I hope someone will read it and find it helpful. I hope to have an enjoyable and exciting time doing the research, and writing it up(!). Ruminating on the KPIs is just a waste of my time.

Resolutions, why bother? Right?! (Part 1)

It’s the new year. Time to reflect and think about the future in 2016.

I don’t remember making any resolutions in 2015, which is good – meaning I didn’t fail at keeping the resolutions, but at the same time, I didn’t achieve anything extraordinary that I had set my mind to at the the beginning of 2015 to be accomplished by end of 2015.

I’m not thinking about making any resolutions for 2016. But I am pondering on some things…

What would be some habits or practices that I could develop or sustain that would make my life a little better in 2016?

Read more

I think this would definitely expand my mind, help me develop ideas, and enrich my soul.

Write more

I think I only wrote many emails and documents that are work related. And there are not even critical work-related, except for the research grant application, all my writings were just administrative stuff.

Reading my old entries in Duhville brought back so many memories. And somethings that I had documented here I can no longer remember, like it went into my Memory Dump and fizzled and disappeared forever. Which is kind of what’s happening to my last 6 years of my life. I got too caught up in the busyness, and woes, of working life, that I no longer had the motivation to write much here. And everything that has happened is just like a melting pot of stuff and no memory is very specific or colorful.

Considering that it feels like more and more stuff goes into my Memory Dump at a faster rate, I should write more here. More for myself, so that my future self can look back and still see several colorful, descriptive, and perhaps emotional written paintings of my yesterdays.

Academic writing…sigh… No need to say, I have to churn out so many pieces this year to stay afloat.

Exercise more

Towards the end of 2015, I built up quite a momentum in terms of going to the gym or working out at home. Mostly because I started to explore strength-training by going for Body Pump classes and I found FitnessBlender youtube videos.

If I had a fitness goal this year, it would be to be able to do at least 10 proper push-ups, not the half push-ups, but the full push-ups.

Less social media

Research has shown that people are happier when they are exposed to less social media. Social media would have to go if I want to read and write more.

Less portion

I will definitely gain by eating less…hahaha. Health-wise, fitness-wise. Unfortunately I’m not the kind of person who says things like, “I was so busy I forgot to eat.” I never forget to eat. I’m not very productive when I’m hungry. If I’m too busy, I will be busy working and at the same time be thinking that I’m so hungry.

I just need to eat smaller portions and choose healthier options.

Life is boring?

Did my life get boring since moving to Singapore?

I think graduate student life in the US was more carefree. And I was using the blog to keep families and friends updated on what’s going on in my life. Now I just post an update of several words on FB. And I see what my mom cooked for lunch and dinner on FB almost daily. Apparently, FB food updates has become my family tradition 😛

I feel writing a blog post on what’s happening at work is just more work and the thought of writing about work is not even remotely motivating.

Although there are several rather interesting work projects happening right now.

I should write more. I feel the days and months and years are just slipping by….

iMovie – I’ve missed you

It’s been such a long long time since I worked on an iMovie video. During that long hiatus, iMovie ’08, ’09 and ’11 flew by, and by the time I caught up it’s iMovie 10.0 now. And the iMovie ’11 Missing Manual that I bought 2 years ago is obsolete.

I used my Canon Vixia HD video camera during my trip to Beijing in May 2012. Good decision? Bad decision! A handheld video camera in the hands of a beginner is a bad idea. Came back with “Blair Witch Project” motion sickness inducing videos. But I knew my mom and dad would like to see those videos. I gave all the raw videos to my dad and I think he actually would watch them 😛

Anyway spent most of last Saturday editing the 2-hour video of my trip to Tiananmen Square and Forbidden City to a 12-minute video. Took out all the vomit-inducing clips and spent minimal time trying to make it “beautiful” or coherent audio-wise. But I did have to re-upload the video several times to youtube because I spelled Tiananmen wrongly. It’s not Tiannamen.

My ideal job should include some imovie-making.

Perhaps this year forward I will move towards “Do what I love, love what I do.”

Life is Good


I like Life is Good t-shirts. I particularly like the little tag on the bottom left of the shirts: Do What You Like, Like What You Do.

Or do what you love, love what you do. Got to keep that in mind . . .