The star u gave me..
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Saturday, November 8, 2008
sun set at 10:37 PM

The end of Chapter 1...

Time flies. 12 weeks of fun, learning, sweat and anxiety went by, bringing the semester to a near close. Looking in retrospect at my first lesson, i recall coming to class wanting to enhance my communication skills at both the technology and personal level. The importance of maintaining an effective communication in these 2 aspects have not changed in me. The only change I saw is that i sensed a greater urgency in perfecting these 2 aspects after the course.

In the very first lesson, an impact have already been struck. The icebreaking exercise showed many of us that by keeping quiet, one will never learn in this class, be it learning more about others or learning about ourselves. After this first lesson, an engaging and interesting structure of lessons followed which largely covered the 2 aspects I was looking for. In targeting the technology aspect, I was taught to apply the 7Cs effectively in formulating letters or reports. I was also taught to identify our weaknesses and present writings that reflects my thoughts exactly across to the target audience. In targeting personal communication level, the class was given the chance to attend mock interviews to allow us to face very real situations in professional communication context. Applying skillful personal communication skills is important here. Other than that, the class also had the chance to practice conveying passages in groups of 3s and having the 3rd person interpret and observe the body language and the conversation. This allowed feedbacks on little actions which I took for granted to be highlighted to me, allowing myself to make good use of non-verbals in my communication.

Thus overall, I have had a very positive learning experience in class. The skills and techniques learnt in this course have definitely helped me greatly in achieving my initial aim for coming into this course. It have also allowed me to present myself in any form of communication with a higher level of confidence. With the end of this course, the start of professional communication in my life opens. I know my learning path will not end here, and I hope that the skills obtained in this course will act as a catalyst in my ever learning path to achieve effective communication with people all around the globe.

Sunday, October 19, 2008
sun set at 1:34 AM

-=BioData=-

I was born in Singapore and attended Kong Hwa School, Temasek Secondary School and Temasek Junior College (TJC). Since secondary school, I have been instilled with a great sense of responsibility and leadership. I was entrusted with positions such as the Vice President of our Students’ Council (2000-2001), the Head Coordinator of Sports’ Captain (1999-2001), House Captain of Griffin House and the Company Sergeant Major of my CCA, National Cadet Corps. Upon promotion to Temasek Junior College with 8 distinctions, I pioneered a research program, now known as P.R.I.M.E.R. (Portal for Research, innovation, Mentorship, Entrepreneurship and Reaching-out). In the research program, I was given the opportunity to partake in the biannual Singapore Youth Science Festival (2002) and Singapore Science and Engineering Fair (2003) which earned me a gold and bronze award respectively. This period fostered my interest in research work. Furthermore, being the Vice President of TJC Science Council, I helped conceptualise the first Science Park (now known as Kinetic Garden) in TJC.

Carrying on my emerging passion in research, I enrolled in National University of Singapore (NUS) pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Life Sciences. My passion for research was given the opportunity to expand further with my acceptance into the Special Programme in Science. Under this programme, I underwent a rigorous scheme writing review papers and experimental papers covering areas within and outside of my major (within the Faculty of Science). This allowed me to approach Science with an integrated perspective. SPS also allowed my leadership skills to mature with my successful election as the President of SPS (2007-2008). With this, I took on more active roles in the planning of SPS activities and in the design of several experiments in the module SP2170. I also took up mentoring in SPS allowing me to share and vocalise my experiences with the junior batches. I am currently attached to Evolution Laboratory, doing a novel study on quantifying the genetics of a pre-copulatory behaviour observed in Sepsis Punctum under the supervision of A.P. Rudolf Meier.

Thursday, October 9, 2008
sun set at 11:51 PM

Reflections...

It is always nice to take a break and look back at how we started out yes? Looking back at the project, everything had been fast paced and efficient, leaving little time to really enjoy the process. However, for my case, after sitting down and putting all my assignment due dates aside, I realise the project have actually been a very enjoyable ride thus far. Even till now, I am still unable to explain our group dynamics of how amidst our busy schedule, we never fail to get our things done on time. This has always been a problem in many of my previous group projects, where teammates fail to cooperate and always having the thought that “other members will do my part for me anyway”.

In the reflection of the group project thus far, I definitely benefited from a positive learning experience. Some of the key factors that drove me to this conclusion include that of efficient planning and effective communication. In the planning system of our group, we adopted flexibility in the delegation of workload. Thus, in the event of upcoming tests, group members will cover up for each other to let the affected member "study in peace". This system may sound as if the job boundary is not clearly stated (due to ambiguous delegation of workload) but it works wonders for us. This is mainly due to team members being self motivated and dedicated to finish the scheduled portion of work. This system also allowed us to work at our own pace and thus working more effectively as compared to working under stress. Effective communication in our group prevented misunderstandings from happening. Most of our group meetings are held in a face-to-face situation where we can readily understand each other through our tone of words and body languages. We hardly like to discuss major issues online, unless they are simple instructions which we used Emails to convey. With these two key learning points, exchange of ideas was enjoyable and the moods of our meetings were always light-hearted.

Thus, I had overall been having a positive experience in handling this project and am able to understand myself better through effectively communicating ideas between project mates. I have also learnt, through understanding myself better, ways to improve several of my weaknesses such as my hesitant nature in decision making or inability to verbalise my chain of thoughts concisely. Lastly, I am very thankful to Lyon and Tiffany for being such wonderful teammates in this project. I do hope that I have been as good a team player in their eyes.

Sunday, September 28, 2008
sun set at 1:03 AM

Rubbish Trouble

Thanks to the "green" project, I was able to recall several minor yet embarrassing incidences I had when I backpacked with my friends in a few countries.

First encounter: Japan.

Japan is a beautiful country; Beautiful sceneries, beautiful people and beautiful streets. Those were my first few impressions when I arrived at Narita Airport the very first time. However I will soon learn that maintaining Japan’s “beautifulness” in terms of its cleanliness is more than troublesome. I and two other friends arrived in Kyoto as the first stop to meet up with another Singaporean friend who had been working in Japan for the past one and a half year. We were warmly welcomed by his landlady when we entered their traditional looking “mansion”. (Yes, it was like walking into a samurai anime.)

That night, we had a little party in his room eating chips and drinking a few cans of beer. After that, in a “Singaporean style” I placed all our garbage into one plastic bag, tie it up and placed it at one corner of the room. My friend, after seeing what I did, told me to quickly pass him the garbage. He then pulled out a few slightly filled trash bags and started taking out all its contents. My two other friends then gathered around and asked him what he was doing. That was when he started explaining: “In Japan, people are very conscious about their garbage and they are always sorted neatly into different categories according to a refuse disposal guidebook given by the government. When I first came here, I did what you did too and never knew what I did wrong for a few months until I met my neighbour while clearing out rubbish one day.” He continued as he sorted our beer cans and chip packages, “She told me it was plastic collection day and why I was throwing out milk cartons. I was lost. She then continued “So you are the culprit that made the landlady sort your garbage every time haha”. It was only then that I learn that throwing out garbage was so troublesome here. Only on designated days designated garbage will be picked up and disposed off, and the worst part is that Japanese will never point out your mistakes as it is considered rude for them. I can only learn after making this mistake for a few months. No wonder every time I bring out my garbage in this semi translucent plastic bag, I was always closely watched by the others. It was so embarrassing.”

After his explanation, he even showed me the mini booklet of the garbage categories, ranging from combustibles to recyclables. I can imagine that if he were not there with me, I would have handed the mixed garbage to the landlady and never know what was wrong while she sorted my mistake quietly after I leave. I was so impressed by how the Japanese deal with the troublesome garbage disposal sorting (Singaporeans could not even handle three categories of garbage haha), but yet at the same time disapprove of their over “politeness” in not pointing out mistakes. I feel that if I were to really learn about their culture, it will take me a long time if I were to learn them outside books.

Second encounter: New Zealand

Similar to the above incident, I came to New Zealand some time later in the future. New Zealand is also a very eco friendly country and all their citizens are very careful with their garbage too. In their homes, they have a place for grinding biodegradable garbage which is connected to a chute sending the ground garbage to a collection container for making fertilizers.

This time I was on board a ship cruising out to sight see. An adult in his late 40s soon caught my eye. After drinking his can drink, he flattened it with his heels and placed the flattened can in his pocket and tied the straw on his waist belt. I felt a little surprised, but after seeing a few more of such case, I decided to walk up to the man to cure my curiosity. “Hello sir! Great day today isn’t it? May I ask, why do you keep the flattened can and the straw? Can you change it for something later on?” He gave me a puzzled look but soon caught on my friendliness as he smiled and answered “Why, it is for disposing them off later on of course.” Not knowing what he really meant and not wishing to disturb him further I spoke a few more unrelated sentences with him and ended our conversation. My answer only came when the ship docked and I saw him walked towards a recycling bin, removed the straws on his belt and cans in his pocket, and throw them respectively into the correct sections. It was only then that I realised my question was such a stupid question, but the man still answered my question warmly which I was very grateful. I feel that if the New Zealanders were to come to Malaysia (especially my hometown) it will be a bad shock to see Citizens dumping waste into rivers at the back of their homes.


Saturday, September 6, 2008
sun set at 11:06 PM

An Observation

"The air-conditioner uses the bulk of the electricity in a home. A fan uses less than 1/10th the electricity used by an air-conditioner! Use a fan instead of an air-conditioner to keep cool. Save about $50 a month or about $650 a year" Sounds familiar? Yes, this paragraph is taken from one of the many energy saving posters found on our public transports such as in trains, buses and even in taxis. These posters definitely caught my attention, and together with the recent 10% energy challenge campaign, made an impact on my energy consciousness. This rise in the number of public posters to create awareness of energy saving can infer two issues: First, there have been a rise in Singaporeans' electricity usage and it has been reported that an increasing number of Singaporeans unable to pay their electricity bill; Second, due to the outsourcing of electricity matters to private sectors, the Government wishes to create an awareness of Singaporeans' energy consumption before it can be a problem for the private sectors taking over.

However, even with these campaigns and posters being put up, I still do observe many NUS students staying in campus halls or residences not paying attention to the message sent by these posters. Many of them leave their fans or lights on even when they are not in the room, not to forget leaving their laptops on 24 hours a day even if they do not use it. Thus, I am very interested in wanting to know how much these campaigns have impacted students in NUS (not only to students staying on campus grounds) and what are their reasons if these campaigns did not work for them.

RESEARCH QUESTION:
Do the recent energy saving campaigns have an impact on the students from the Science Faculty of NUS?

PURPOSE STATEMENT:
Main objective of the research is to find out the efficiency of the energy saving campaigns by measuring the impact level it has created in the students from the Science Faculty of NUS. Secondary objective is to highlight some of reasons why these campaigns and posters work or fail, and how they can be better improved interms of receptivity. Moreover, by conducting this research, I also hope to raise the awareness level of the students from the Science Faculty of NUS in the area of energy conservation and it's importance to Singapore.

REASON FOR ATTITUDINAL SURVEY:
In order to understand the impact level of the campaign, a survey has to be conducted to gather statistics. Next, to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the receptivity of the campaign, opinions need to be gathered, and thus an attitudinal survey will best suit the task.

Sunday, August 31, 2008
sun set at 12:17 AM

The Thorny Path

Interpersonal conflict, be it direct or indirect, is a fact of life. Whether we liked it or not, it will always be there whenever people of varying characters rub shoulders or work together through everyday life. Even though conflicts can turn out to produce positive results if handled correctly, it often leads to a huge amount of unpleasantness in the process.

In my opinion, as stated above, I see interpersonal conflicts being direct or indirect. The former is usually easier to deal with as it often involves both conflicting party directly talking out and taking it out on each other face on. One such example may be the many quarrel sessions in meetings or project discussions where both parties expresses their unhappiness directly against each other’s conflicting views. However, the latter is usually much harder to resolve and can escalate to irresolvable situation for both party involved. So what causes or what are indirect conflicts? I believe this is very common in many workplaces or organisations. Gossips. This one powerful “tool” can cause two unacquainted party to hate each other or develop bad feelings against each other for no reason. Even for a third party, being in this situation will also put him in a very difficult and awkward position. For my next few paragraphs, I would like to share one such situation which I was caught as the third party and I did not really know what to do.

It took place in my army days (a period where many enemies or great “brothers” were found). It was the first day of my new posting and once we in process, we were assigned to 8 men bunks. We will have to spend 10 weeks together before graduating as medics. That was the first time I saw Alson. He was a rather quiet chap who minds his own business in unpacking his stuff into his designated metal cupboard in a corner of the room. Being a chatty person, I decided to walk over and say “Hi” to him, which he responded with a smile and a soft “hello” but continues to unpack his stuff. That kind of ended our first conversation. After the unpacking, our lessons started and days went by. Alson soon found himself fame as he aced all the medical tests and practicals, and this caused many people to start talking about him. “Hey, you know Alson from platoon 4 right? He scored full again! Wah, I heard his father is a doctor, must be what made him so smart!” “No lar, I always see him hanging out with our sergeants. I think he cheats in tests.” Conversations such as these were exchanging everywhere. Things went on until the fifth week. Throughout this time, he did have good relations with our bunkmates and his buddy but did not like to take part in alot of our conversations in the evening free time. Most of the evening time will be spent jogging alone. But things start to escalate in the sixth week. We were having a soccer match that week and Alson broke his ankle in the process. That caused him to be on medical leave for one week. During this week, I was very surprised to return to my bunk everyday to hear stories about him which I never know. “What you guys think about him? I don’t really like this guy. Every time we ask him out on weekends he always refuse, or give some excuses last minute stating he could not come” said my bunk in-charge. “Yah. I don’t quite like him too! I thought I was the only one having problem with him but I guess I am not alone. He likes to borrow my money during canteen breaks and either never returns them or short change me” said my buddy. Yes, remember he always talks about bringing snacks back over the weekend but he never did? All the medical terms he can remember so well, but not the snacks. After that he just conveniently shares with all of us like he contributed said his buddy. Soon the conversations went towards developing bad feelings about him and even for me who did not know him well, started to have bad impressions about him.

By the end of his medical leave, he returned back to his bunk expecting people to welcome him or at least help him. But what he saw was a different scene. My bunkmates start to ignore and ostracise him. I bet he was clueless as to why he was given such a different treatment before and after his medical leave. I tried to help him with his movements sometimes (due to his broken ankle) and was scolded by my bunkmates later. This dragged on for a few more days and finally he approached me one weekend and asked me what was going on after seeing that I was quite a neutral party. I told him what happened during the week he was not around and he remained expressionless. After that, I told him I do not wish to talk about the incident anymore as I know the feeling of falling prey to other people’s words. That was one of the last conversations I had with him. After that, my bunkmates virtually treated him as invisible, even after he tried to approach a few of the bunkmates to talk. This awkward situation lasted till a week before graduation and he asked to be taken out of course blaming on his broken ankle. Neither me nor my bunkmates have seen or talked to him after that.

Analysing the situation above, I really did not know what to do in the situation as a third party. I was of course not alone as a third party, but the gossips caught fast and it caused many neutral feelings to sway. If I try to talk to him, I risk conflicting with my bunkmates. If I try to talk to my bunkmates, I risk worsening the situation. Thus the best thing I did at that time was to observe, and see how gossips totally destroyed this “perfect” course mate and caused him to drop out of course. I can imagine how big a blow this might have caused him, but there was nothing I could do.

Thus even till today, I can resolve many direct conflicts by understanding what the other party is misunderstanding or letting things cool off and seek third party help, but when it comes to indirect conflicts such as backstabs, gossips etc., I remain clueless to its solution and tries to keep away from these “politics” as much as I can. The only thing I can do is trust in my friends, and the only thing I can console myself with if this happens to me is that this process will help me sieve out my true friends.

Saturday, August 23, 2008
sun set at 11:16 PM

The First Step

Communication, one major factor that determines humans from other species, has been constantly developed over our evolutionary history. Our ability to articulate and accurately flow our ideas from one individual to another makes humans by large a story telling being. Thus to be able to communicate effectively has become one of the more important aspect of our everyday lives. In every corner of the world, people are actively communicating with one another, developing ideas, sharing knowledge and learning from one another. Even hermits who chose to live at the outskirt of human habitats still keep their humanity as they still retain the ability to communicate.

The term “communication” thus affects everybody, and as humans evolve, people start to look at ways to achieve “effective communication”. Technologies are developed and many of these technologies aim to shorten intrapersonal distances. One such “famous” technology is the onset of cellphones. Looking at the cellphone’s sales figures, it is very easy to get a sense of how rapid this technology is affecting our lives. According to the statistics from the market database Wireless Intelligence, it took 20 years for the first billion mobile phones to sell worldwide. The second billion is achieved in four years and the third billion is reached in just two years. I recently came across an article titled: Can cellphone help end global poverty? (Sara Corbett, 2008) and was very drawn in by her discussion about how important telecommunications are not only to the more well-off population, but to the poor as well. In one of her interviews, it actually shocked me to know that in very poor families studied, even before they could meet their basic needs, they aim to fulfil telecommunications first above all other. And when these families’ income grow, say from $1 per day to $4 a day, their expenses in the information-communication technology grow much more than compared to housing or even health expenses.

This need for telecommunication is also very much seen in the part of the world that is better-off. Taking me for example, I recall an incident where I forgot to charge my handphone and it went dead midday. This caused a catastrophe to the rest of my day as I end up going late for meetings, missing out on urgent announcements and blamed for being uncontactable. The feeling of not being to contact anyone just makes me feel very out of place.

Thus with so many devices around us that enhances “effective” communication (such as internet, fax machines, handphones etc.) it is not hard to see the importance of effectively communicating with one another at the technology level.

Effective communication broadly looks at two levels. The first which was discussed above looks at how one can successfully “connect” to or reach the target of communication. The second looks at how an idea is accurately brought across to the target of communication. This second aspect is especially important for me in my field of study: Science. Science is all about understanding one another; Understanding each other’s thoughts, ideas and research. Communication in my field of study emphasizes a lot on accuracy and details. Misunderstandings may lead to very undesirable outcomes.

Thus both aspect of effective communication be it at the technology or personal level, are very important to me. One allows me to connect to my communication partner, and the other ensures my ideas are accurately conveyed.