Saturday, July 29, 2017

28 July

July 2017 will be remembered as a busy and hectic month. 
1.5 weeks after seeing off the family, Chevening organised a Farewell in London. The evening before we traveled, the Edinburgh/Aberdeen gang Chevening came to Glasgow for a night, taking advantage of the promo Virgin train tix from Glasgow - London at 14 GBP per way.
We had Hari Raya dinner at my place. I have an extra room due to the repairs on the old apartment.

Needless to say how it was
And I hadn't laughed so hard since coming to the UK. 
I always feel that the transition age of 29-31 range is quite special. There is still the 20s in us, but as we reach the great end of 20s, especially when we are professionals in our field or career, we tend to be more subdue and matured. It is special when you meet like-minded and frequency people. We made so much noise in the room until Jim, the security could hear us. Luckily, he's a friend of mine, as I work as a Living Support Assistant at QMR.
Pretty sure I will miss these uncontrolled laughter and jokes.

The Farewell (5th July) wasn't as glamorous and exciting as the Orientation. Nevertheless, Chevening has been really generous in sponsoring the 1800 of us.

Forever grateful - Will definitely serve my obligations
Credits to the hardworking peeps that brought the traditional clothes
I had half a day's rest back in Glasgow, before departing for Dubai on the 7th of July. We had IET YPCC meeting and EMEA CVC. It is fantastic to see and work alongside bright and young professionals. Volunteerism isn't easy, and it's even harder to find committed and capable volunteers. It's normally either-or.   

The most international and diverse team in the Institution
Important to establish our role - Advisory or operational
At the end, everyone had fun
And a stay at a 5-Star Hotel - Marquis Marriott (Slightly too posh though)
View from 72nd Floor - Vault Bar
Burj Khalifa on the left
Extended my stay for 2 nights after the meeting. It's my first time in the Middle East. I grew up reading about Arabian nights, or basically Aladdin, and it was pretty magical, and hot (40 degrees during the day).
Join the crew last minute on their safari trip. 

Not bad for a first dessert experience, though I was also undone during the Dune Bashing 
Camel riding was more subtle
Belly dancing with dinner
Everyone left after the dinner, back to town, except the few of us, who had signed up to sleep in the dessert overnight. The temperature was about right, with cold wind and warm sand.

Needless to say, I didn't sleep well
Still a great experience sleeping under the dessert sky near camels...
Went back to town, and stayed at probably the best/most affordable hostel (At the Top, near Marina). I had booked 3 nights via, and thought I had burned the 2 previous nights, worth around 28 pounds. But it turned out otherwise, as they only collect cash when we check-in. Since I didn't show up on Sunday, my booking was automatically canceled. 
So I just had to 'walk-in' and hire a bed, with Sam.

At 66th floor, the hostel had a view of Dubai Marina
And it was really nice
Upon the 2pm check-in, spent most of Tuesday afternoon recuperating sleep till 4.30pm, before catching up with K, a friend I made during my flight from Singapore to Dubai last September. This Malaysian lass has been working here for 10 years, owns a Toyota sports car, and was cool to act as a local guide.
Had a private/local tour guide who knew where the best views are
Couldn't help wondering the strength of oil-money, and the recent drop in price
Had Taiwanese dinner, which was really good
If it wasn't for the car, I would have spent the day indoors

So I was back in Glasgow, attending a host of workshops at the Business School throughout 3 weeks - Selling Yourself, Managing Change, Emergency and Disaster Management... And struggled with my dissertation of designing solar PV and battery systems. 
Thank goodness my supervisor Dr. Z assigned me one of his PhDs - QH, who assisted me with the most important part of Matlab codes.
At least, I have some primary results now. 
22 August is the hard bound submission, and with 3 weeks to go, I do need to focus and kick-start the regime. 

It's the last leg of MSc.

Last weekend, J, a Malaysian Chevener from London, was in town, and had the spare-room for 3 nights. We were mostly busy with our stuffs, but I manage to tag along to Dumbarton Castle, a tourist site (unknown to me) some 30 minute train ride from the West End.

Used to be the fort on the Clyde 
Basically a rock from no where.
Dumbarton stadium, and the town at the far end
Worth a visit, if you have visitors
Today, after meeting QH, and while it was not raining, I climbed up the Tower at Kak R's room. I was an engineer again, climbing a 'rusty' monkey-ladder, most probably around 3 stories high.

It was weird standing on the roof, looking at the Main Gate
Was rather worried that I will get caught by security.

So, everything is going fine, and I have booked my return ticket - 3rd week of September. Reality will soon hit, and I will need to get a job back home.

Negotiating for a job will be interesting
Hoping for a smooth final 2 months in the UK.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

30th June

June came and passed without a wink. It'll be July 2017 tomorrow.
Man... Where did time went?

The family came to town for a 12-day holiday. Everything went smoothly as planned. The important thing is that everyone is happy, though tired. We did a road trip to Isle of Skye (4 days). I was actually quite tired after only the second day of driving. But the Nissan Qashqai was a pleasant machine to have (and it’s manual!).
Taking the ferry from Dunoon to Greenock - cutting the time of driving
Isle of Skye - The wind was too strong
To be honest, I didn't really plan for the trip, and almost missed this famous landmark at Isle of Skye - Eilean Donan Castle

We took a flight from Glasgow to Belfast. An interesting place, Belfast is full of history and conflicts. Not sure why people mix religion and politics. We spent a day walking around town on the walking tour, and than check out Titanic Museum. 
Was quite nice
Wasn't on my wishlist anyway - Dublin is more interesting
Edinburgh, as always one of my favourite.
Carlton Hill
Scots Monument
Some good work-out for the folks - Arthur's Seat at the rear view
Some good shopping were done at Buchanan Street – MK purse of GBP135 was selling at GBP65.
Shopping day was wet, but the next day was great!
And my family took the effort to make sure I spend the next 3 months fulfilled...
After coming back, I gave myself a few days of rest, and travelled down to London for a technical visit to BAE Systems Intelligence at Blue Fin Building. The first night, we stayed at Cumberland Lodge Hotel, just outside Marble Arch. Slightly too small a room, but it's still a hotel. I extended my stay and bumped at Jon’s place at Mile End, near Queen Mary University, while coincidentally, he was staying at my residence in Glasgow, for a conference!
Took a stroll around Westminster on Day 1
After the stroll, our friend J actually lost her purse. Thankfully her passport was still there. Need to be really careful of pickpockets.

Extra security at Downing Street

I stayed at Mile End on Day 2 after the visit. On Day 3, I took a leisure (Saturday morning) stroll along the Regent Canal towards Canary Wharf. Totally changed my perception of East London. Canary Wharf was originally where the Port of London was. Extremely wealthy and important.
Spent 2 hours at the London Docks Museum. It was really interesting.

East India Company - Yup it is

Regent Canal
Still had time to creep into the Undergraduate Open Day at Queen Mary's
Left London Euston on a 4pm train for Glasgow.

Coming back to Glasgow, I felt the chill in the air. I conclude that the weather in London is way better than in Glasgow. (My friend says that's due to being closer to the north pole)
Had my first steamboat with a colleague. Not bad.

Xiangbala at Union Street
 On Hari Raya Day, visited R and Jay for a authentic Raya lunch. Couldn't be better!

Vegetarian Raya meal!!
Dinner was home cook food at E's place with LX and S
I was back to my dissertation project swiftly. Using Homer to provide data on Solar Irradiance and household load, I am now cracking my head to learn and use Matlab programming to design a suitable battery. I still have around 5 weeks to finalize my findings. Presentation is on 1st of September, 2 months away.
And, I am heading to London next Tuesday (again) for Chevening Farewell reception. In a week's time, I will be in Dubai for IET YPCC meeting and EMEA CVC. I have extended 3 nights, thinking of exploring Dubai. But with temperatures hitting 40 C and a low of 29 C, I am interested to see what happens to my Scottish acclimatization.

The biosensor project is a major letdown. I did my best, spent my time in the lab (consistently since January), but maybe it's my inability to produce meaningful output and work. There's no teamwork, team spirit and direction. Most probably not going to Eindhoven with a finished article. I detest last-minute work, and we are basically at the very-last-minute now. You could see that pressure is kicking-in. We had 6 months before this, and most probably did 10% of the work, with 90% left for the next 2 months, with all of us having various commitments. Now you could see free-riders popping up and making the loudest noise. I had been working (quietly), playing my role as an unnoticeable team member, which can be easily looked down on. I don't regret the hours I spent, most probably because I didn't produce the output I intended. But I believe we should know when to cut-loss, or abandon a ship (if it's sinking without hope). This could happen in a student-project, but never in working life, especially in engineering environment. Really, I am amused. Being quiet and humble doesn't mean my brain is empty. People tend to make judgement based on the surface.

I will most probably settle for a return flight around end of September. It's time to go home, get a job and settle down.

Monday, May 22, 2017

21st May

Finally, on the last day of EPL season 2016/17, Liverpool finishes 4th, thus qualifying for next season’s Champions League. It’s only the second time in 8 years, that we have qualified. Last season we finished 8th (and lost the UEFA Cup Final to Seville).
I grew up watching Liverpool challenging in the Champions League, especially during the Benitez reign. Thankfully with Klopp, we finally have someone who is talented and proven like Benitez. I like reflect football in real life. An example would be it has finite time and duration - a game is 90 minutes, and this is similar to our daily life, be it doing a project, preparing for an exam or planning a holiday. At times this season, Liverpool weren’t able to either kill-off (weaker) opponents, or even to score against them. The Anfield game against Southampton a few weeks back, that ended nil-nil was an example. You can’t blame Milner for missing the penalty, as you had 1.5 hours to score a goal. The Anfield games against Swansea and Bournemouth, which I sat and watched at Anfield Road wasn’t spectacular at all. All these missteps contributed to the hype for the final day fixture, with Arsenal looking poise to pounce for 4th place in-lieu of Liverpool.
In fact, though watching online, I could feel the anxiety of the stadium, with news coming in from the Emirates about how efficient Arsenal was scoring goals. Thankfully, Wijnaldum scored a rocket just before half time, which totally changed the half time team talk and the stadium atmosphere. After the break, with 2 more quick goals, Liverpool were playing more relaxed, and less tensed. You could see the players were showing skills, and weren’t too disappointed when chances go astray.  
Of course, finishing 4th isn’t something to celebrate. It’s more of a commended progress made. You don’t normally achieve overnight success like Leicester.  
I feel this is the same with things we do in life. Take preparing for a paper in university. You have the whole semester to understand and digest subjects. If you can’t at least grasp the courses during the 11 weeks, what makes you think you unlock it during study week? For instance, 10 weeks was given to conduct a feasibility study of wind turbine construction. The recommendation or final report should’ve been out 1 week before the dateline. Or, if you are given a tasks to develop a sensor-prototype, which has a 9-month timeline, it makes no sense to spend 2/3 of the time scratching the surface.
Thus, I have learned not to be too concerned and insistent, especially on group work or group projects which I have no power to influence. It makes me look stupid at times. I will play my utmost part, and that’s it. I have come to believe that not all cultures are the same, and that my principles may only sound legit in where I am from.
Living in a foreign land, I have get accustomed to the role of the backseat. Ideas aren’t accepted, though it’s blatantly obvious.  
Most students indeed do last minute work. Some are pretty good churning out work at the death, and most of them get away anyhow. Maybe, people here are more process-oriented, rather than being outcome-based. And there was also an irking realization of the marking schemes of essays and ‘assignments’. Essays can be so vague and distorted, but still be valued from a lecturer’s point of view. Maybe these students have more critical thinking and analyzing skills. However, when it comes to exams, there is no favoritism or helping hand. You either know the topic, or you are dead. Everyone has a week of preparation, and 2 solid hours with our brains. The papers are crossed-marked by 2 lecturers. That’s why, I am grateful that there is still exams around. If not, my MSc. transcript will most probably be an eyesore. Exams are still the best way to gauge an engineering subject, especially when you have assignments being marked with our names on the front cover. Assignments are basically writing skills with the internet and books as reference. I thought Power Systems 4 was a challenging but doable paper. I can’t see how you could train a power systems engineer merely on assignments and essay. It was also a very very interesting subject.   
To do well in exams requires strategy and preparation, just like any football match. You have 90 minutes to perform, and once it’s over, there’s no use crying over spilled milk.
It’s been 2 weeks since my last paper. I am reading well into ASEAN history, on people like Wiranto, Said Zahari and the Communist insurgency in Malaya from a British soldier's perspective. Interesting insights. Looks like it will be a pleasant summer with these books from the University Library. I hope to read on Pol Pot, Charles de Gaulle, Ho Chi Minh and Gorbachev. To read critically, I notice these books aren’t published in the host country. For example, Said Zahari, a political prisoner in Singapore for 17 years, published his book in KL.

The family is coming to town in a week’s time. As we grow older, family time together becomes more valuable. We will spend a few days in the highlands, catch a flight to Belfast, and then tour Edinburgh and Glasgow. Hopefully, they will enjoy the holiday. 

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

9th May

So my housemate gleefully showed me the military parade in the Red Square, Moscow. 72 years today, the Russian army defeated the enemy during WW2.
Today is also a meaningful day for me. I just completed Power Systems 4 exam, my last paper for the semester. It was really a pleasure learning from Dr M E F, who, as a guest lecturer from GCU, is most probably one of the best power lecturers in town. It was wonderful relearning power systems, fault current analysis, controls and generators. It’s the perfect postgraduate subject for someone from a power station.
Right after the exam, I headed to the library, and grabbed 2 books on South East Asia history (taboo in respective societies). Finally, the time has come to do some leisure reading.
Summer will be really exciting. I will have all the time in the world to the things I like, bar dissertation project, biosensor electronics and being a part time warden at the hostel. There are many seminars and workshops lining up.
The family is coming to at the end of the month, and I am looking at a short trip to Dubai in July (not sure if I could stand the heat).
There was no better way to end your semester with a bright and shining Glaswegian sun.
I’ve worked hard, and it feels good to have given my best shot.

The weather has been fantastic lately!

Like what Jurgen Klopp said after the Southampton game last Sunday, it’s not the end of the world. We should always continue working hard, and smart. 

Monday, April 17, 2017

Mid April

Can you believe it’s mid-April? Where did time went?
It’s also Easter. Happy Easter Holidays!
Today marks the end of spring break, a 2-week break after last days of classes. I mostly spent my time learning Arduino, a microcontroller for the SensUs competition, which is scheduled in September in Eindhoven. A team of university students developing a Biosensor seems like a tall order, considering not everyone is putting in 100%, be it due to constraint and limitation of time, commitment or ability. I sometimes wonder if the hours spent in the lab at Rankine Level 8 is well-spent. 
I attended a 3-day workshop on Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP) organised by Adam Smith Business School last week. It’s a Western scientific skill to influence and network. I feel that most of the elements are practiced in the East, but not as quantified. 
I would call it realistic psychology-networking skills. There are a few takeaway points:
-          - Deliverying powerful presentation
-          - Reading social situations
-          - Building rapport (mutual trust)

The first skill is to ‘match’ your counterpart. You could act and speak alike, following the pace, mimicking her/him. Humans are with energy, and you need to send and reflect it. We have 3 brains: The cognitive mind (divided into conscious and unconscious mind) and the sematic (our stomach brain / instinct). It is important to communicate with our counterpart’s 3 brains.
We will also have to understand a counterpart’s sensing preference, which is divided into audio, visual and kinesthetic. Most people are visual and/or kinesthetic.  
And there is a point on managing challenging people. Actually, the challenging thing is the inability of me to build rapport. It was interesting to meet students from around the world. A few friends concurred that NLP was at times unrealistic, and that at times, you need to fight fire with fire. I feel there’s some Buddhism and Confucius in NLD.  
Key NLP Principles are:
-          - You choose and control your own attitude. No one could make me angry. I make myself angry.
-          - Take responsibility of your results.
-          - There is no failure, just feedback.

In a nutshell, I think NLP encourages us to always be positive, or to always look for positives in a challenging situation, and to leave things in good terms. Make more friends, rather than enemies, because you never know what the future holds.
Overall, David Potter gave us a wonderful 3 day workshop.

Although I slipped off on Day 2 to catch Liverpool’s home game against Bournemouth.
I had to come, because I have never sat at the Kop End - Didn't manage to seat anyway
Only seating down during Half-time Break 
Still a fantastic but tiring experience at the Kop

During the week, Hiew was in town for a day-trip from Dundee. And I had the pleasure to for a free-ride. It was good to catch up with old friends. He’s also a friend I met through IET, 10 years ago, when we were still undergrads. How time has passed, but friends still remain. I remember the days we went over to UCSI for Transmitter Hunts and they came to Uniten for BBQ Night Out. 
It reminds me that nothing beats having sincerity and pleasant relationships with people around us. 
Vincent Van Gogh's at Kelvingrove Museum
That's my uni
George's Square
The statue in front of the Museum of Modern Art - The traffic cones wouldn't disappear! 
I admit I wasn’t productive for the past 2 weeks. Some pitiful revision on Power Systems 4 doesn’t look promising. I had just downloaded Past Year Exams for Energy Storage and Energy from Waste. And I have just realised the challenge of engineering exams! It's always a tall order, and I would need to start doing the hard work now.
End of May, my family is coming to town! As of now, I have completed all accommodation and logistics booking. We will have a road trip to Isle of Skye, tour around Belfast, Edinburgh and Glasgow in 12 days. Hopefully the folks back home will enjoy.