Two more for the analogue team

Some time last year I found a cheap DIY TLR camera. It was fun – I brought it with me to a friend’s wedding in KL, and again later last year to a conference there (but didn’t have time to take it out). Images from it were…fuzzy. I know it’s hipster and all to take horrible pictures but man, they were really unusable and un-show-off-able.

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It’s still a nice table deco though…

While taking out what must be only my second roll of film from it, I noticed that the shutter spring isn’t working as well as it should. It IS cheap enough to get a new set and make another one, but eh, I won’t bother. After my parents saw me working on this toy, my dad gave me a Ribena camera that came along with the cordial drink from waaay back. It’s pink, plastic, funny and embarrassing all at the same time, haha! But I’m gonna keep it for kids who wanna take pictures with me in the future. (Yes, I actually keep things for kids I hang with when the opportunity arises.) My mum was also clearing out her work drawers and found a legendary Olympus mjμ-II with film still inside. @_@ Aaand, a Lomo LC-A came in the mail last week! :D

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I initially got an instant back for the LC-A to take instant photos with, but unfortunately the camera is so old (apparently as old as me?) that the screws were jammed in with rust and I couldn’t mod the back…which is fine. Lomography has awesome customer service and I was able to exchange it for a Fujifilm Instax Mini 8!

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So, many film cameras, very little time. Hopefully once I’ve finished my thesis I’ll have more time to go around snapping pictures and – as my mum describes it – “waste more money”. I still want a TLR (Yashica Mat 124G, I’m looking at you!) and a rangefinder (hello, Olympus 35 RC!) but these do just fine since I don’t have that much money to “waste” and opportunities to actually take pictures with film.

Onwards to more analogue adventures post-thesis! :D

All good things have to come to an end

I finished all my lab work in April and cleared most of my stuff in May, but I left most of my surviving corals and lab pets in the aquarium, maintained by kind lab mates. Today, however, it’s been decided that the tanks and filtering equipment I’ve been using would be used for another research on ocean acidification. Therefore, the lab pets will have to go as they may not survive the project. :(

Jenny, Diana, Emily, Samson and JiaNI

Jenny, Diana, Emily, Samson and JiaNI

The fishes and crab were named after people I’ve worked with in the lab. I feel like a foster parent who failed the adoption process. As I type this, they are being transported to an aquarium shop where they can be adopted by (hopefully) better owners.

Edit at 4:10 PM:

Outpouring of grief on Facebook. Those fishes touched our lab lives! (╥﹏╥)

The Pale Blue Dot, revisited

A few years ago I was watching a talk entitled “Indescribable” by Louie Giglio, about the glory of God through an image-rich journey through the cosmos, allowing us to peer into God’s universe to discover the amazing magnitude of His greatness. Okay, so I copied parts of the previous sentence from the back of the DVD. However, as a Christian scientist, I did find it amazingly uplifting to see how wonderful the universe is through a Christian perspective. Within the talk, Giglio shared this famous picture of the Pale Blue Dot - a photograph of planet Earth taken in 1990 by the Voyager 1 spacecraft from the edge of our solar system, a record distance of about six billion kilometers from Earth:

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(Photo credit: NASA JP)

Can you see us? You can’t possibly miss it. :)

Now, just a few days ago NASA unveiled new pictures by the agency’s Cassini spacecraft at Saturn, which once again shows Earth as a tiny pinprick of light amid the haunting rings and glowing sphere of Saturn.

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(Photo credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

This time, you really can’t miss it because there’s an arrow pointing to where we are. And no, giant white arrows do NOT float freely in space…not that I know of anyway. Gotta look it up in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Will update this space once I actually find the guide.

Now, I’m not going to write a long essay about these two pictures because I’m pretty sure you can find more info via Google and Wikipedia, my two best friends. It’s just that seeing the new picture of Earth reminds me of this passage written by Carl Sagan in his book, “Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space”:

From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest. But for us, it’s different. Consider again that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity – in all this vastness – there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known, so far, to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment, the Earth is where we make our stand. It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.

The first paragraph pretty much sums up what I felt upon seeing the dot which is us. All our worldly troubles suddenly seem so small and petty. We are but a mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam. To use a pretty hipster phrase, all our “first world problems” dim in comparison to the much larger scale that is the universe. Can’t get McDonald’s Happy Meal Minions? It’s not the end of the world. Can’t agree on who gets the rights to the world “Allah”? God ain’t gonna smite you down with a bolt of lightning (at least it hasn’t happened yet). So you’re fat? Yeah, Tee Lin Say is a disgusting bully, but then again, you won’t die from a healthier diet and more exercise. SwanQueen isn’t canon? Go live it through the volumes of fanfiction available on the Internet. I can go on to more serious problems in the world today, but I won’t as it would be in bad taste. What I mean to say in this short break from writing my seemingly never-ending thesis is that there’s more to life than the problems that’s right in front of us. The pale blue dot just proves it. We just need to step back, hopefully not millions of kilometers away, see the bigger picture, and make the most of what we have.

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View the entire cartoon by Zen Pencils

Turtles have a special place on my…wrist!

Almost half a year ago I was talking with a few friends about the idea of getting a tattoo. I even blogged about it here and promised myself that if the idea sticks after six months, I’ll actually get one done. It’s been more than six months, and I still felt like inking myself (partly inspired by the abundantly tattooed Tegan and Sara), so I got it done.

In case you can’t tell, it’s a turtle.

I know this isn’t terribly science-y, but I didn’t really want a scientific drawing of a turtle on my wrist because I think it would be ugly. A scientific drawing will probably look good if it’s big, but since this is my first tattoo, I didn’t want anything too big. The original design can be found on Tattoo Tribes, with a minor modification by Arth Akal of Monkey Tattoo Studio.

So why turtles? In case you’re too lazy to read my old blog post, here’s an excerpt:

They helped me form my passion in marine biology when I was feeling a little lost in my first semester and started off everything for me – opening up many opportunities to learn, travel and meet people who played important roles in my life. Without turtles, I won’t be who I am today! :)

Well, what do you think? I thought getting a tattoo on my inner wrist would hurt really bad, but it was surprisingly alright! The pain was sort of like a pinching pain, but it’s bearable and the tattoo artist took many brief rests so I can recover from the pain if it gets too uncomfortable. I’ll see how the healing go and might get another tattoo on my other wrist when I finish my MSc.! :D

Isolation on agar plates

This appeared on my Facebook newsfeed and I was tickled pink by it. This picture will stay in my mind forever and I’ll be thinking about it the next time I embark on isolation projects. :)

Anyway, this is just a little something while I figure out what to write. A proper blog post might appear in the middle of this week, just before I journey across the South China Sea to the other piece of Malaysia for an ex-room mate’s wedding.

Testing out the upload feature

A few days ago I got myself a Keep Calm Avengers t-shirt because I thought it was fun. It then got me talking with my lab mate, Jessica (who was watching me debate whether to buy the tee or not) about the popularity of Keep Calm posters and tees that are appearing around town lately. Knowing that it was a British poster back during World War 2 to keep the morale of the British public in the event of an invasion but recently rediscovered and commercialized by various companies as souvenir items, it’s been rapidly parodied with the help of a Keep Calm generator, one of them being the Avengers tee which I got for myself. :)

While playing around with the generator, I made a small poster which I have stuck outside my lab, alongside the biohazard signs (not sure why because it’s not like we are growing zombies or vampires…oh wait, maybe we are) and all:

The lab techs have not noticed it yet, but I’m waiting to see their reaction to it since they’ve been taking just about everything I posted up on my door down whenever VIP visitors come over for a walkabout. :(

Testing out WordPress

So, hi!

I had a brief chat earlier with Ben about websites and what not, and he mentioned that he maintains a WordPress blog/site which is pretty awesome, although not as customizable as Blogger. Not that it matters since I’m too lazy to customize XHTML (which I’m assuming is what Blogger is using these days).

Here I am, testing out WordPress. Again. No, this isn’t the first time I’m here. Judging from my dashboard, it would seem that this is the third time I’m here, making a new blog and trying to inspire myself to blog more about things that matter. Is it working? Yes, somewhat. I’m just not sure if it’s WordPress being cool because it’s different from Blogger, or if it’s because I just finished the first half of my Masters’ bench work (hip hip hooray!), or if it’s because I’ve been reading too much Thought Catalog. There’s a slight pressure to write proper thought-provoking pieces of literature online to support my bid to establish myself in the field of marine biology (*looks at self in mirror* REALLY?!)…but knowing myself, I tend to just blah out almost everything else on blogs.

But I’ll try. It’s just more awesome to be able to add in a website on one’s name card when attending conferences and such – “Ohai, I’m so-and-so and here’s my name card so you can contact me if you like me enough to rope me into your research group for a PhD, and look! I HAVE A WEBSITE!”.

Yes, you get the idea. :)