Thursday, September 30, 2010

Recent updates

Hello all,

I have been very busy lately with the endless tasks of packing, writing, planning parties, making gifts, planning trips, measuring plant weigh, preparing exit seminar, reading, watching Netflix, selling stuff, throwing stuff, buying stuff etc.

Thus I really don't see many, if any opportunities for me to update this blog over the next month or two. I will try to upload some pics and stuff from the "Dr. Law and Mom's Travel" event that will take place in October.

Yes, Dr. Law. That's me.
Interim Ph.D. diploma. Very lame looking.
Fading printer toner. The real one HAS to be better!!

Also did this to celebrate my Ph.D.
"Lileath's Arrow" is a skill in the online game
I was playing intensively for 2 years.
I put it there for an online friend :).

I have never wanted to do sky diving. Ever. In fact, I told myself I would never do such a thing. In the end, I did, and I went alone to the place. I was the only non-pro sky-diver this morning. I did it this morning at 9am. I didn't tell my family. Okay, now you all know :). The sky diving was over the skies of Davis, see those fields? We jumped at 13,000 ft, free fall for slightly more than a minute. I was supposed to pull the parachute but got so excited that I forgot. Good thing Sean (my instructor, the guy strapped to my back) did it for us haha.

Also ate this today.

Kumitaa's cheesecake. I will miss these. She put caramel on to say "Eat Me". She's cute. Thanks Kumi.

Took these pictures today.

"Yeah, what you want?"
Praying mantis on Kumitaa's bike. The bottom pic is definitely my new favourite picture.

Also finally took Hanayo's picture, and of her Yaris too.

Hanayo is without doubt, my best friend in the Entomology Department and one of my closest friends here. In fact, I would go as far as to say that Hanayo has (unknowingly) helped me relieve my stress and depression more than anyone else in the past four years. Everyone likes Hanayo. There's just something about her. Thanks Hanayo.

Monday, September 27, 2010

leaving and returning; a small man.

I am leaving Davis very soon.
And I am looking forward to it.
There are things that I really want to just close the cover on, call it "The End", and never have to pick it back up again.

I am returning to Malaysia very soon, and most likely for good.
And I am looking forward to it.
There are things that I have really wanted to do for some time, some people whom I wish to hang out with for such a long time now that it's almost unbelievable that the time is near.

Yet I know that leaving Davis will make me very sad.
I am not looking forward to it.
The same things that I wish to be rid of have also defined me over the past years.
Like an ugly backpack that I have been using for years
--how do I let drop such a backpack, though it be ugly and hurts my back?

Returning to Malaysia will also make me very uncomfortable.
I am not looking forward to the helplessness I will certainly experience.
Things will be so different, my life style will be so different,
the air I breathe will be different.

I know myself very well.
The only way that I can avoid missing what I have here now and learn to re-love what is waiting for me in Malaysia is to be swept off my feet by passion.
Passion, that may come in the form of
- teaching students
- a romance

Of these two, I hope that it's the first and not the second.
Romance is real, but sadly most people treat relationship as a game of win and lose, of getting the better of the other, of always going after that which you don't have, not that which you need.
I have never doubted my love for my students, or hold back on my effort or attention for them.
And you know what, even the worst of them students appreciate and understand my effort.
-Just a selfish lot.

 I have a picture of Boddhisatva Guan Yin in my room. Every time I wake up, I see her; before I go to bed, I see her.
I never cease to ask myself "How are you so great, and I am so little?"
"How can you love all without reserve, yet I can't even learn to love one person without expectations?"

I will be getting my Ph.D. in a couple of days,
but it means nothing.
I am still so far away from being the kind of person that I wish to be,
I can't even see the day that I would attain my goal.

Friday, September 17, 2010

My new sunglasses

I finally bought a pair of sunglasses that look good on me.
(or should I say, a pair of sunglasses that make me look good?)

Over Labor Day weekend here in California, Kumitaa and I went shopping at the nearby Vacaville Premium Outlet stores. I was planning on getting a pair of shorts since I have been wearing the two same pair of shorts EVERYDAY for the past few months.

In the course of browsing through the stores, I forgot about the pants and instead decided to look at sunglasses again. 'Again', because I have tried on many sunglasses before this but never found one that was satisfactory. Furthermore, I could not justify buying one anyway...never really needed one.

After almost 30 minutes of trying on sunglasses one after another, Kumitaa picked a Giorgio Armani for me that was really good. I found a MARC by Marc Jacobs that was softer, which I really liked too. Juggling the two for another 15 minutes, I decided to go with Kumi's idea and took the GA.

Ever having wanted to buy something forever, bought it and then immediately regret it?
Well, that never happened to me. Hahahahha. I like what I bought.
Too bad however, that adorning my sunglasses over the next few days as I biked around on campus and downtown, I didn't notice any noticeable increase in the attention from girls and guys. Maybe it's because I was already catching so much attention BEFORE the sunglasses, it would require a gargantuan effort to get more.

Anyway, it's safe to say that I certainly didn't experience any benefits from having the sunglasses. I am quite comfortable with strong glares~the sunglasses are really just another delicate article that I need to be aware of now.

Then, it happened.

With my sunglasses on, I was biking to an intersection in downtown, saw the STOP sign. I noticed that there was no traffic, and so I crossed without stopping. Approaching the STOP sign, I was thinking to myself "Wow, if there's a cop standing against the bushes, it would be hard for me to see him with these shades on".

Of course, there was a cop there waiting against the backdrop of the bushes, and he kindly beckoned me to halt. He was going to give me a ticket for not obeying the STOP sign.

I was laughing like mad inside.
"Hahahaha~ just exactly what I was thinking! And wow, four years of biking in Davis, countless times of ignoring the STOP sign, and now I am to get a ticket in my last month in Davis? Awesome."
"Damn Giorgio Armani, didn't get me anything but another financial bomb"
Cop: Why did you not stop?
Me: I don't know. I checked the traffic, there were no cars, so I thought I might as well crossed.
Cop: I saw you checked the traffic. Were you catching up to somebody?
Me: Nope, there was really no reason for me to not stop.
Cop: Okay, tell me why I shouldn't give you a ticket.
"Erh..there's no reason you shouldn't give me a ticket. It was my fault, and I deserve a ticket."
Me: (silence)
Cop: What about 'I am not going to do that again'?
"Huh? I can't say that. I will definitely do it again. I am not going to lie."
Me: Well, I surely won't have many chances to do it again. I am leaving soon.
Cop: To where?
Me: Out of the country. I am graduating sometime next week and will be out of this country by the end of this month*.
Cop: Okay, well the ticket is $170, and you don't want that.
"Eh, only $170? I thought it's like more than $300? $170 not too bad ma..."
Me: Nope, I definitely don't want that.
Cop: Right, just make sure you don't get yourself run over before you leave the country.
Me: I will remember that sir, and thanks.
Cop: Have a safe trip.
Me: Bye!

I was laughing like crazy as I biked away. Of course I stopped at every darn STOP sign for the rest of the day. (To be honest, I have never rushed any STOP signs; I have always checked the traffic carefully.)

So, darn you sunglasses that gave me nothing and almost took away plenty!

Monday, September 6, 2010


Just a creative piece of crap before l head off to bed.

 No, it doesn't mean anything in particular. Just wanted to draw a face.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

First publication~!

Oh yes, finally my first publication.
It comes in my last month as a Ph.D. student. Cute.

I used to think that I would have at least three, four publications by the time I graduate. Well, currently I only have two papers accepted (including the one above).
If the editors weren't so demanding for one of my other behavioural studies, I might have one more accepted. Hehe...that poor behavioral paper was rejected by one...two..three journals, though the third journal expressed interest and encouraged me to resubmit with some additional data. I really wanted to publish in the first journal (Proc. of the Royal Soc. B) but they said my data were preliminary. *Yeah right, I replicated my results over two years, and it's still considered preliminary*. The second journal rejected for what reason...hmm, forgot lah. Pretty glad that the second journal rejected though, because I found out about the third journal after that and would prefer the latter anyway.

Oh well, after four years of doing some pretty independent research, writing grants, presenting at conferences and writing papers, my experience is that doing science is more or less the following:
1. Observe something(s)
2. Wonder if there is a pattern, ask the Questions
3. Design experiments, recognize the strength and weaknesses of each
4. Conduct the experiments, smiling all the time because what else can you do?
5. Taste failure, blame it on your assistants/collaborator
6. Critical analysis, try again
7. Fail again, blame your assistants/collaborator again, contemplate changing the research team
8. Try again, after undergrad plead innocence
9. Repeat #4-$8
9.(secret stage). Manipulate data on password protected file. 
10. Finally, Success! 
11. Share success with others, get criticized, but remember to smile because no matter what they say, they don't know your biggest secret...(#9 secret stage), so it's all good.
12. Step back, look at your awesome data and plan on packaging it into a nifty story
13. Present story in (easy mode) conference, or (hardcore mode) publication
14. Conference-> you are the best presenter ever, but audience look like they were watching Avatar for the 27th time. Only one question was asked, and it was something slightly better than "what did you do again?"
15. Paper-> you are the best writer ever, and the first draft is already journal-quality. Six rejections and four revisions later, you no longer recognize your paper but it gets accepted with praises.
16. Somewhere in between, if you run out of money or suddenly you just want to indulge in self-inflicted torture, you stick a knife into your head and decide to write a research grant to get more 1)money, 2)recognition, 3)motivation, 4)pain. You are always successful in obtaining at least one of those four, guess which one?

HAhahahaha...this post very funny lah. Of course please don't take my above points's a mix of truth and parody. I will write a more accurate and honest post about my Ph.D. experience later, after I have really graduated.

Here's a picture of a female of the assassin bug (Zelus renardii) Abdullah and I studied in this first publication. She's just laid some eggs which look like a stack of beer bottles, no? Hahaha. The insect stuck to her hindleg was a Geocoris pallens adult that we fed to her. Geocoris pallens is actually the protagonist of my whole Ph.D. story, unfortunately this post isn't about Geocoris, so he/she remains a fodder in this case.

 And here's a video of the behavior we observed and study in the paper. When Mama finished laying the eggs, she applies a layer of sticky substance on the exterior of the egg cases. This behavior has been observed in other assassin bugs too. When the baby assassin bugs are born, they crawl out of their egg cases and then return to the eggs to gather the sticky substance. With their forelegs, the newly hatched assassin bugs apply the sticky substance to their bodies. We were interested in why do the babies do that? As in, are there any benefits to applying the sticky substance?

Short answer: Yes. Having the sticky substance improves the juvenile assassin bugs' success of catching prey (flies in this case), and also helped them resist higher windspeed (interpreted as improving grip on the substrate).

For the simplicity of the study and the fun I had while designing and conducting the experiments, this is arguably my favourite research projects so far.