Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Little Things In Life

What I've been going through these past few days has taught me one thing.

You may dream big, reach for the stars, and strive for excellence. But in the process, don't let the little things in life pass you by. You'd be surprised how beautiful they can be.

In the end, it's these beautiful little things in life that make it worth living.

On another note, I've been missing my newborn niece really badly. She's two weeks old and I've never met her. Is it strange to miss someone you've never even met?

Pak Lang loves you, Laila.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Let's hope this is not universal truth

Copy pasted from a comment on Reddit:
I've been with my wife since 1983.

Here's the ugly truth. What young people think of as romantic love has nothing to do with marriage. That is lust and infatuation. Marriage is about family. The way you stick by your parents and your siblings and grandparents. Your husband or wife becomes your FAMILY.

You stick by them when you hate them, when you love them, when you are angry at them, and when you are thrilled with them.


Because over the long decades, people change. Dramatically. She will lose interest in all of the things you thought brought you together. You both like hiking? That's nice. In ten years one of you will hate hiking. You won't have any artificial structures that helped create your relationship and bring you together.

You will have to do that all by yourselves. And how do you do that?

By not depending on romantic love to get you through. Not expecting to be "happy." Instead, do your job, do your best by them, and stick by them like you do your other family.

It's going to be a bad time, folks. And a great time. It's going to be all kinds of times.

Don't pussy out because you are disappointed that marriage wasn't fun. It's not fun. It's family.

This might be the most depressing thing I have ever read.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

This is why I need a therapist

For the past 3 weeks I've read so many thesis papers and scientific publications I seriously believe I am ready to do a PhD. No, really. Sometimes after I finished reading a 400-page thesis paper I'd be like, "That's it? It took this dude 3 years to do this? I could do this in half the time and give this dude a run for his money."

Of course that's just me trash talking to self-aggrandize myself while in truth, I'm pretty sure I'd flunk my PhD due to depression since I'd be isolated in a lab somewhere with no human contact.

The funny thing is, I always thought doing a PhD was something extremely difficult and almost unattainable. As a young boy, I always wondered what doctoral fellows actually did. What are they researching about? Haven't us humans discovered it all? After all, there have been billions of people on Earth before us, what makes us think we could just figure out something new after only two and a half decades of being alive? What else is there to find out?

Turns out, we are far from done with technological advancements. The human race still has a long, long way to go before we can finally say we've left no stone unturned. There are, literally, not enough people on Earth for us to discover every single thing about the universe. For a seven billion-strong army of grey matters, we are actually moving at a snail's pace. 

A doctoral fellow is basically someone choosing an extremely minute aspect of an already very specific field of study, and spending three to five years of their lives putting that minute aspect under a microscope, trying to make something out of it.

Am I considering taking on a PhD? Hard question to answer, as it just crossed my mind these past few weeks. I had never, during all these years of existence, thought the question would even pop up. Honestly, I never thought I could do it. But a Skype session with a friend changed everything. I told him all about my Masters results, and he told me, "With those results, it would be a shame not to do a PhD." All of a sudden, it's all I can think about. To top it off, I'm spending every day doing research at work with minimal supervision, reading and analysing scientific journals. My daily correspondences include some researchers in Luxembourg and Germany, and today I found myself reading a journal written by Japanese researchers. And I've never felt more alone at work. It's as if I'm doing a PhD already.

I really need to get over this phase. I promised my family I'd be back by year end. I can't possibly bring myself to tell them I'd be staying back in Europe for another three years to do a doctoral dissertation. I've given enough false hopes and broken enough promises, and I've had my time in the sun on this part of the world. And I've about had it with missing weddings and births and birthdays and Hari Raya and everything in between.

It's about time I went back.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Me 1 - Pizzaïolo 0

I saw the coupon. Tried to look away, but couldn't. It kept calling to me, pleading, in a voice of a distressed kitten.

"10.90€ instead of 18.90€ for a giant salmon and scallops pizza. Free delivery."

All I had to do was click where it said, "Order online now!"

One click. One simple click. And twenty minutes later I would be in seafood and cheese heaven. "Go ahead, you can do it! One little click, all it takes."

I didn't do it. Couldn't do it. Been a good boy for two weeks.

And I couldn't be more proud of my self-restraint.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Ship That Never Sinks

Truth is, it's been quite lonely here. The city is beautiful, the weather is great, the people are nice, their southern accent is endearing, the food is great etc. It is strange that I find myself missing the north very much. I have made some friends here, but it is still too early for me to feel completely at ease with them.

So I just got a call from a friend from the north. He and some good friends of mine are coming down all the way south to see me in two weeks. I know for a fact that flight and train tickets cost a bomb that particular weekend, given it will be Easter holidays and all. So I asked him how much they paid for the flight and train tickets, and his answer was, "A fortune, but don't worry about it. You are well worth what we paid."

Which silenced me for a bit. In every friendship there will come a point when money stops being an issue, and I think we have reached that point. I feel grateful to have met so many great people in my life abroad, but these guys are the very reason why, even after all these years, I still find life in France to be amazing.

Thank you, guys.

Friday, March 08, 2013


The past week and a half have been a turmoil. The move from the north to the south, the apartment hunting, the new job, my exam results, etc.

Everything went very smoothly, to my complete and utter surprise of course. As a pessimist, I was expecting everything to go wrong: I wouldn't get an apartment in the south so I'd have to go sleep in a barn somewhere. The new job would be a nightmare, with horrible bosses and grumpy colleagues, and everyone would be calling me "The Intern" as if I didn't have a name. I would be in charge of the copy machine hours on end as well as making coffee for everybody.

But no. The apartment is perfect. It's smallish, yes. But everything is spanking new, and it's really close to work and not that far from city centre which is a perfect compromise. My job is awesome, and I am on first-name basis with everybody. I am surrounded by extremely smart people all day long, and I can see airplanes take off and land all day long from my office. I serendipitously found out that the aeronautical town where I currently work is the twin city of the German town where I used to work last year, so I guessed it has all come full circle.

My colleagues are all young engineers, but amazingly a lot of them hold a PhD. Never in my life have I felt so inferior. There is even this one guy who cannot possibly be over 27 years old, but he is already referred to as The Expert because well... he really is an expert in thermal analysis of airplane interiors. The average age in the office is somewhere around 30-35, so the place is vibrant with energy. A young work environment means a lot of room for innovation and progress. I respect the elders, but they usually are set in their ways and leave no wiggle room for change because "I've been doing it this way for thirty years and it works fine". In an ultra high-technology industry as aeronautics where every boundary of science is pushed to its limit, everything is susceptible to constant change. New discoveries are made every day, new patents are being filed ceaselessly, and new groundbreaking ideas are thrown across the meeting table on a daily basis. The only aspect that can afford to be rigid in aeronautics are the security norms.

Well to be completely honest, work has been a bit stressful. Not because of my job scope itself, but because of this inferiority complex I am suddenly feeling. My bosses are super smart and experienced. My engineer colleagues are nerds who can point out exactly why there is a temperature difference of 4 centigrade between the cockpit and the cabin during the flight and correct it. Even their jokes are first-class nerd jokes that I do not get, and I consider myself a huge nerd as well. I mean, if you can incorporate the terms "thermal boundary conditions" in your one-liner and make it funny, you are a first class nerd. A funny one at that, though. Now I know how Penny must feel amidst her smart friends in The Big Bang Theory.

When I told this to a colleague, she said, "You'll be fine. In fact, if you must know, a lot of people applied for this job but you got it because F. (my boss) thought that you had an impressive résumé and your telephone interview was solid."

She thought she helped, but somehow that extra bit of information added more pressure. What if I don't measure up? What if I am only good on paper? What if they suddenly think that I am not cut out for this job and fire me?

It is all only in my head, I am sure. But there were times when I wished I was surrounded by dumbasses so I could feel like the smartest in the group and feel superior again. Yeah, I am full of shit like that.

Good news is, I just got all my final exam results, the last exams of my life. Verdict? Well, I don't mean to brag but my foot is sore right now because I kicked some serious ass! Looks like I am heading straight to Graduation-ville for both my Masters, and I couldn't possibly be more proud.

As per usual, this post follows my classic pattern of: jumbled up shit -> story development -> conflict -> arrogant ending.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Last Minute Man

If I were a superhero, my name would be Last Minute Man because I do everything at the last minute, almost with no exception.

No matter how grave the situation at hand is, I can never get things done without the help of adrenaline. Last Minute Man doesn't pack until 2 hours before having to leave for the airport. He doesn't board until the final call is announced three times. He doesn't go apartment hunting until 2 days before he has to start working in a completely new southern French city. He doesn't buy train tickets until all the second class seats are all snapped up and only first class seats are left. Well, Last Minute Man is also Comfort First Man, so a first class seat doesn't sound too shabby for him, especially for a 9-hour high-speed train ride from the north to the south of France. Think of all the extra legroom! And he made sure to request an island seat so he doesn't risk having an overly chatty neighbour with bad breath. If only there were a Kid-Free Zone on the train, he would have chosen that option too. They do have a Kid-Friendly Zone though, so Last Minute Man made it a point to steer clear of that.

Last Minute Man is starting work on Monday with a giant in the aeronautics industry, and he hasn't even started to read up about his mission. He thinks he has plenty of time Sunday to finish reading some serious thesis papers on a highly technical material physics stuff. Of course he does, because between the unpacking, grocery shopping, cleaning the new apartment, and some friends from the South hollering him for a meet-up downtown, he has all the time in the world to read thesis papers.

Last Minute Man is a pessimist, but when it comes to getting things done at the eleventh hour, he's the most optimistic guy in the world. And believe it or not, by hook or by crook, he always got them done just in the nick of time.

Last Minute Man is a true Malaysian superhero, because in his shoes, many would fall apart under the extreme pressure of juggling a million things all at once, but Last Minute Man just keeps going. He lives on stress, and he binges on pressure. Last Minute Man sort things out one after another, and by the looks of things, he's not going to stop.

Not now. Not ever. All hail Last Minute Man!