Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Nervous Nelly

Listening to: 'The Look of Love' by Diana Krall [The Look of Love]

Oh wow, what a week. Three major things to report in three categories - work, friends, more than friends? - let me explain.

My office is ready!!! :D I'm so happy. I moved in today. OK slight exaggeration...it's not my office...I'm sharing it with 3 others. But still, I have an entire corner of the room to myself!!! I'm hoping to personalise it with lots of...chocolate chip cookies :D. The lab is also ready. So basically, the only thing stopping me from starting my experiments is...er...me. I'm so nervous. I feel like I'm on a diving board about to jump in to the swimming pool below...there are loads of people in the pool asking me to join them...but I can't remember if I can swim. I need someone to hold my hand...and there is no one. I'm going solo - that's what this whole PhD is about, isn't it? The butterflies in my tummy are at it like rabbits. I miss my lab partner.

Speaking of my lab partner, she was here this weekend with her boyfriend. It was AWESOME to see them both. It made me realise how much I've missed my ChemEng buddies. I didn't have much of a voice left for their visit (itchy throat + SL Soc Arrack 'n' Baila = no voice) but it was still a lovely weekend. It's so lovely to see such a happy couple.

Arrack 'n' Baila was 'eventful'. Had an amazing time...both during and (especially) after. Some would say that what was once on the backburner has been brought to the front. I'd like to be cautious, but I get the feeling I'm being swept off my feet (whether he who is doing the sweeping is aware of this, I do not know). Nervousness has taken over my entire self and turned me into, well, jelly. Why am I so bad at this? Ugh I find myself so annoying sometimes.

Anyway, it is time to sort out this room of mine. Saw Borat on Sunday which was HILARIOUS, and seeing Casino Royale on Friday...looking forward to some action!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Update

Listening to: 'Tear' by Red Hot Chili Peppers [By The Way]

OK this is going to be quick 'cos I really shouldn't be doing this right now. I woke up with fever yesterday so I took the day off - no fever now, but I've still got an itchy throat. So you'd think that I'd look after that and go to bed early, huh? Nope...instead, I chose to upgrade my blog to the 'beta' version. I'm such a glutton for procrastination! Anyway, now you've got a fancy-ish new template with funky labels. Enjoy!

Friday, November 10, 2006

In Search of Equality

Listening to: 'By Your Side' by Sade [Lovers Rock]

In a previous post, I mentioned my new-found obsession with Jorge Cham's genius comic strip - PhD Comics - Piled Higher and Deeper. I also included the strip Engineering Ratio as a sample. Now I added it 'cos as a female engineer, I find it very funny, and totally true. Recently though, I've been thinking about what the comic actually portrays.

The indisputable fact is that she's a female engineer, and therefore part of the minority. My question is...so what? Does the fact that she's the only female in the class mean that she's a freak? Does it make her a model woman who has achieved equality in a "man's world"? Personally, I think the low number of females in Engineering is more due to women not wanting to become engineers rather than them not being able to. As for her position as a role model to other women...is it more important to celebrate the fact that she's able to work in a traditionally 'male' field, or that she's able to do what she wants to? I think the latter.

The same applies with the male-female ratio of university entrants. So there are more guys than girls...so what? Apart from the fact that the guys are gonna have less girls to hit on, I don't see a problem. If the success rate of applicants was greater for guys than girls...then that would be something to look into. However, I'm too lazy to check if such an analysis exists online. Cambridge has a habit of investigating why there's supposedly a lesser percentage of girls getting 1sts compared to the guys - I'll tell you why...'cos we choose to waste our time crying rivers over stupid jerks who've treated us badly instead of studying, that's why! It's got nothing to do with our intellectual capacity as females.

Let's leave education aside for the time being. These days there's a lot of discussion about Niqabs, Hijabs, Burqas and 'freedom' (in a 'Western civilisation' context) for Muslim women. Now I won't pretend to be clueful on the religious requirements, but as I understand, it's largely a personal choice. So ideally, 'freedom' for Muslim women would be the freedom to choose which item of clothing they'd rather wear, and not be judged by society (regardless of location) because of that choice. Contrary to popular perception, not every woman wants to wear spaghetti straps and mini skirts ;-).

...Which brings me (almost cleverly, but not quite) to the point I'm trying to make. All these years, women have been 'fighting' for what we refer to as equal rights - the right to vote, the right to work, the right to be paid...the right to do whatever a man does. On the first point, we've done well. With regards to careers...apparently women are still paid less than men for the same work. I don't know how that result was obtained, but it's one that's used often. We're still in a society where a female engineer is labelled a 'freak'...and heaven help her if she's a computer scientist...(g)eeeeeeeek!!! In my opinion, while legislature may have changed, the mindset hasn't.

As it stands, the search for equality is more a yearning for everything that is masculine than a desire to be free to do what one chooses (if you're interested, try Ariel Levy's "Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture" - good read). The way I see it, it's far more important to ensure that every girl who wants to study (for example) Engineering and is smart enough has the same opportunity to do so as a guy in identical circumstances. It doesn't matter if there are only 5 girls who want to study Engineering...they shouldn't be denied the chance based on their gender. Gender shouldn't come into the equation at all. That, to me, would be equality. Not "I'm a woman but I can do anything a man can" but "I can do anything I want regardless of my gender".

Unfortunately, equality (like peace) is one of those lofty ideals that we dream about, but never genuinely work towards.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

It's Oh So Quiet

Listening to: 'Spanish Harlem' by Aretha Franklin [The Very Best of Aretha Franklin: Respect]

I'm bored. If it was Monday, I'd have ballroom dancing; Tuesday, Chinese; Wednesday, swimming; Friday, chores (!). But no, today's Thursday, and I have nothing to do. My night-owlish body clock won't let me go to bed early, so here I am, post-microwaveable dinner, listening to Aretha and blogging. Methinks a soliloquy is on the cards.

Supervisions

Gave my second set of supervisions today - 'supervisions' being the small-group tutorials that accompany (and hopefully complement) undergraduate lectures. I'm so used to being a supervisee that it feels weird being on the other side of the fence. And now I realise what a horrid supervisee I must have been! I'm half-inclined to write heart-felt apologies to my supervisors, but seeing as I now work with those very supervisors, maybe that's not such a good idea! I love it though. The more humorous side of my enjoyment is the sense of 'empowerment' with the red pen in my hand, when marking supervision work. I'm such a pedant! But on a more philosophical level, I find teaching deeply satisfying. When a supervisee says "oh I get it now", I get such an adrenaline rush! There's a lot of preparation involved and it is quite time consuming considering what I'm getting paid, but it's worth it. If only I could do this for the rest of my life...

Moving House

Well, not house, but lab...and considering I'm going to be in this lab for the next three years, it's kind of like a house. The new lab is ready. It looks so shiny! The past few days have been spent cataloguing chemicals and trying to find storage space for all the glassware. My plan is to somehow sneak a radio/CD player inside at some point...I need my music!!!

New Year's Eve

Yes I know there's another two months to go, but anyone who knows what Sri Lanka is like on the 31st of December will understand. The fact that I'm at home this New Year's is something I'm slightly apprehensive about. Here's the shocking confession: I've never been out on 31st night. I did buy a ticket for the most popular event one year, but the news sent my extended family into a series of panic attacks (the event is known for being home to a few well-publicised brawls), and I sold my ticket off because frankly, my family's peace of mind is far more important to me than an expensive party. The times I've been home since, I've spent with my parents.
Anyway, it would seem that going to one of these events (a more non-violent one, obviously) would be a good idea. But as with all 'good' ideas, I'm not convinced. These things always tend to be packed with people from my past - the same people who looked (and still look) at me as if I'm something the cat brought in. Now this wouldn't matter if I had a fun crowd to go with and I was able to avoid the condescending eyes. However, just as my luck would have it, my friends who can actually afford to go to these things are also friends with the beautifuls...so there's no chance of me avoiding them! Oh how I hate going home in December.

I guess it's time for me to catch up on some sleep. Thanks to Björk for the title.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

More procrastination

Listening to: 'En Aranjuez Con tu Amor' by Il Divo [Ancora]

Nothing much to say at the moment. I should really prepare for next week's supervisions but instead I've managed to spend the whole weekend doing nothing. Oh I bought a pair of boots - very nice. But yeah, other than that, nothing. I'm spending way too much time on Facebook.

I decided to move (well, copy really) all my poems from deviantART to a new blog, Mind Over Matter. Don't ask why, I don't really know...I think I was just trying to find ways to waste time. It also made me realise that I haven't written anything since March 2005!!! That's disgraceful. I really need to do something about it...I used to be such a prolific poet (if you could call me that). Hmm maybe now that I'm effectively jobless I can find time to write. Oh screw that, haven't even found time to start teaching myself Tamil yet! Grrr...

OK I'm fed up of procrastinating now. I will go and do some work. Promise. Just after I check Facebook........

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Side effects of Eye Candy

Listening to: 'Love Song for No One' by John Mayer [Room for Squares]

So this is where they've all been hiding - grad school. Four years after I decided that Cambridge is devoid of hotties, I find myself in a room with all of them! OK slight exaggeration - they're good looking (then again, my taste is questionable) but not amazing (i.e. no threat to Brad Pitt), and I wasn't with all of them, just four. But still, decent lookers with brains are hard to find!

Finally, there's something other than work to think about. This would seem a great improvement from the 'am I bothered?' attitude I had a couple of months back, but somehow it's not as comforting as I hoped it'd be. There are two thoughts that pop up frequently -
...Yeah but it's not like any of them fancy me!
...even if someone did, it's not like I'd actually go out with them!
Yes I know I'm being awfully schoolgirlish about the whole situation, but I guess when your only remotely pseudo-romantic encounter was an aeon ago, your imagination tends to work overtime. And that's another problem. All this eye candy has jerked my memory awake and sent it back to that fateful perfect moment...and it's depressing. I feel as though I'm a slave to that memory and it's painful. And while I'd like to say that John Mayer's Love Song for No One echos my current sentiment, there's a part of me that doesn't feel confident to step out of the gloom. *Sigh* my heart feels heavy. Lack of sleep doesn't help either.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Getting on the Flickr bandwagon

Listening to: 'Chega De Saudade' by Lisa Ono [Bossa Carioca]

Quick post 'cos I should've been in bed an hour ago. Just sorted out my Flickr account. Don't expect any breathtaking shots, but I've put up some that I thought are decent. Haven't put the Prague ones up yet, but I will do.

Oh yeah here's the link.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Fancy some cheese?

Listening to: 'L-O-V-E' by The Harvard Krokodiloes [Downstairs at the Upstairs Bar]

Much of the past week has been spent trying to find my way home. The cheapest option I was given was SriLankan Airlines...for a bit more than £800 - I'm sorry, not happening. But then, my parents came through (as always). For just under £500, I can fly to and from Colombo...from Geneva. And thanks to the very sweet Swiss Embassy (it's all that toblerone, I tell you) I don't need a visa to visit Switzerland...so Geneva, here I come! In all my geekiness I did contact the folks at CERN to check out the possibility of me visiting, and while they assured me that I wouldn't be exposed to any remotely dangerous magnetic fields, they informed me that there are no vacancies on the tour for the day I'm in Geneva. Boo hoo. Oh well, enough of other things to occupy myself with, I'm sure! I know zilch about Geneva apart from CERN and the Palais des Nations, so any suggestions for stuff to do in a day are greatly appreciated! I'm quite excited about exploring Geneva by myself.

In other news, my first supervision is on Thursday. No, I'm not being supervised...I'm supervising. Eek! It's so weird being on the other side of the fence, hoping that someone will actually understand what I'm trying to explain. Funny thing is, now I need to do past exam questions as preparation - and I thought I'd never have to do them ever again!!! Funny that.

Oh and I was in London over the weekend. I was tired by Thursday, but I decided to move my ass over to London on Friday evening. Met up with friends from school on Friday night (and slept at 5am), met my aunt Saturday lunchtime and met up with college friends for Pinky's birthday on Saturday night (again, must've slept at about 5am). Dragged myself back to Cambridge on Sunday evening, feeling quite awful. Who said you need to be drunk to feel rough? I think I've slept it off now though, which is good, 'cos it's still only Tuesday!

Well, swimming tomorrow night so if I want to prepare for supervisions on Thursday, I'm gonna have to do it tonight. You'll hear from me after that, if I haven't already been mauled by my supervisees!

Oh before I forget...check out www.phdcomics.com - move over Sudoku, this is my new procrastination aide!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Splashing out

Listening to: 'Finding Me' by Vertical Horizon [Everything You Want]

Just got back from swimming. Yes, swimming. Yours truly has decided to get some exercise that's not walking to and from the Chem Eng department. It won't be cheap, but I think it's worth it (and my father agrees...which is a good thing, considering it's his money!). Technically, I'm supposed to be able to swim - I have my '10m Front Crawl' certificate from primary school (I love how British schools give you certificates and 'star' stickers for every little thing). Practically, I can hardly float. I've managed to unlearn everything I learnt. D'oh! Thankfully the instructor is amazing and my 'classmates' are as clueless as moi.

Taking the advice of those who commented, I went and told the Safety Officer about my condition. The first-aiders will be informed so that in the event of an emergency, they'll watch out for me. My supervisor will also be told, so that I'm not asked to carry anything. Oooh and I get a pair of prescription safety specs paid for by the department! Maybe I should ask them for a new laptop while I'm at it, eh? ;-)

Oh and I bought 3 pairs of earrings today from Claire's - the only place in Cambridge with decent clip-ons.

Now I will end this slightly random blog post. I need sleep.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

To be, or not to be...

Listening to: 'Valerie' by The Zutons [Tired of Hanging Around]

The Goo Goo Dolls did a gig at the Cambridge Corn Exchange last night. It's quite surprising how many good rock bands actually play here, considering what a small place this is. I guess the student population makes it worthwhile. But yeah, there was a spare ticket...I could've gone. I've never seen anyone play live before, unless of course you count the time I saw Jason Donovan in Joseph - man I used to love him (yeah I know, I was young and foolish). LOL I remember 'practising' my scream, for when he appeared on stage...hey, I was nine, what do you expect?! My poor darling father paid a lot of money for that birthday present.

Anyway, I digress. Like I said, I could've gone. The ticket wouldn't have been too expensive either. However, I had to decline on medical grounds. Yeah I can tell you're confused. I think I've alluded to my condition in a previous post, but I've never explicitly explained it in BlogWorld. I'm not sure why, but it's possibly because I'm trying to maintain that I'm more than just the sum of my imperfections. Nevertheless, I feel I should be less vague about what is undoubtedly a major part of my life, so here I am (this isn't supposed to sound dramatic by the way, so I apologise if it does)...

When I was eleven years old, I was diagnosed with a condition called scoliosis, which basically means that my spine is an "S" shape instead of being straight, and my rib cage is twisted. I had corrective surgery when I was 12, where a stainless steel rod (about a foot in length) was inserted and clipped to my spine. Because the curvature was quite severe, the correction wasn't absolute, so my spine's still a bit curvy and my rib cage is still twisted. [Useless piece of info: Melanie Blatt of All Saints also has scoliosis]

So what does this mean in the long term? Well, almost nothing. Externally I look mostly normal, maybe like someone with bad posture. I don't have pain, and my scar is just a straight line down my back, which isn't too ugly to look at. On a personal level, there are some limitations. I can bend from my hips and knees, but not from my waist. My heart and lungs have less room to expand (due to the twisted rib cage) so I get short of breath very quickly. If I fall (or bend from the waist), the clips that fasten the rod to my spine might break, and I'll be paralysed. Hence any kind of competitive sport is out of the question; same with crowds (hence the 'no' to the concert invite). Oh and I'm not supposed to carry heavy things because of the strain on the spine. Finally, when I look in the mirror, I look like halves of two different people stuck together...which can be quite frustrating when I'm in a vain mood...but that's more a case of low self esteem than anything else. Thankfully clothing covers my sins.

In one respect, I'm really lucky. I have a condition that has been largely corrected, and I can live an almost-normal daily life. Compared to people who have more severe mobility issues, I'm cruising. As long as I don't go near a big magnet, I'm fine. Oh and by the way, airport security hasn't detected the rod as yet.

On the other hand, I'm slightly 'disadvantaged' (although that seems like the wrong word in this context). Because people (including, and especially, my friends) can't see my condition, they forget that it exists. They forget/don't know about the limitations that I just mentioned. They don't seem to realise that I can't do things like a 'normal' person. They forget that sometimes, I need help. Any complaint on my part gets the response "oh she's whinging again, bloody attention seeker" or "if it's such a big issue, why did she come in the first place?" and I can see that my presence is a burden. Sometimes I think it would be different if I was pretty, but that's another discussion altogether.

So what am I? Am I disabled or not (see, this is where the title ties in, kinda)? According to the UK Disability Discrimination Act, I'm disabled if my condition has a 'substantial and long-term adverse effect on my ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities'...does having to stop half way up every small hill 'cos I'm out of breath count? I don't think so either. So legally, I'm not disabled. But since of late, I find my actions more and more restricted due to my condition. Or it may be that I'm trying to be more ambitious and then getting upset when I realise I can't do what I want to. If I'm not disabled, I should be able to do anything I want to, and anything anyone else does...but I can't. So, I ask you again, what am I? Call me a scientist, but I don't like being in a grey area where I can't be defined. I want to know where I stand. Our department's safety session is on Monday - do I tell the Safety Officer that I have 'disabilities'? Are they disabilities in the traditional sense? Do I have a legitimate place at the bottom-end of the disability hierarchy, or am I really just an attention seeker?

I'm generally of the opinion that one shouldn't get into a situation where they are a burden to others. Others shouldn't have to suffer for my sake. But does that mean that I can never go on a group holiday ever again? Does that mean that I can never go to a concert, even if I'm given a ticket? Does that mean that I should never engage in physical exercise (e.g. walking) in case I fall and someone has to take me to hospital? Suddenly something that was initially a very mild disability has turned into a huge deal. Suddenly I feel like I don't belong in the world of the 'physically perfect', and that I should 'stick with my own kind' (i.e. those with reduced mobility). Suddenly, I don't fit in.

Please understand, I'm not looking for sympathy. My condition is just 'one of those things'. The purpose of this post is not to make you feel sorry for me. I'm not ignorant to the fact that there are many of you reading this who have your own imperfections. How do you deal with it?

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Elitism, Discrimination and the Curse of Cambridge...

Listening to: 'En Aranjuez Con Tu Amor' by Il Divo [Ancora]

...or "why I don't like to say I'm from Cambridge".

Let me start with a (few) disclaimer(s): I am in no way trying to rub it in your face. I do not think I'm better than you. I do not think that I'm the most privileged individual in the room. I am not some kind of alien who can't carry on a non-intellectual conversation. The fact that I'm a female engineer at Cambridge does not make me a freak.

Now let me ask you a question: do you believe me? Nah, didn't think so. And that, in my opinion, is where the problem lies. Stephen Fry, one of Cambridge's prominent alumni, said this last year:
The best thing about having gone to Cambridge University was never having to deal with not going there.
And essentially, I think that's what's happened. A kind of 'sour grapes' attitude adopted by some unsuccessful applicants has helped immortalise the 'Cambridge Elite' - something that (in my experience) hasn't existed for quite a while. On one hand, the university is trying its level best to appear more accessible to 'target' audiences - ethnic minorities, state schools, kids from broken homes. In the other corner, Cambridge graduates get the following reception when they go out into the 'big bad world' (these are things my friends have been told) -
"...is it because you're intellectually superior?"
"You're doing quite well at being approachable for someone from Cambridge."
And then of course there's the alpha female syndrome. Let me explain:
  1. Go to party with no other Cambridge people present
  2. Get introduced to Random Guy
  3. Random Guy asks you where you're studying
  4. You say 'Cambridge'
  5. Random Guy's jaw drops - OR - Random Guy makes some sarcastic comment to prove that he's not intimidated (see that's just not convincing enough to me)
  6. Random Guy conveniently finds a way to leave, with you standing by yourself looking like a mutt who can't carry on a conversation
Oh I'm sorry, did you get upset by the fact that I have a higher IQ than Britney Spears? D'oh.

And that's not all. Yesterday I learned the workings of Research Councils in the UK, and how universities get money for research. Bottom line: if the project is from Cambridge, it won't get any funding 'cos "otherwise the other universities will complain that the councils favour Cambridge". I'm sorry, what? What happened to Research Councils rewarding the most worthy projects? What happened to Research Councils aiding research??? I'm disillusioned already. I thought I avoided industry so that it wouldn't be about the money. And now I'm told that if I was doing the same project at a mushroom university, I'd probably get funding because it would 'make the council look good'. Ugh this makes me sick. Everything in this world is a bloody popularity contest.

So yes, hopefully now you understand the Curse of Cambridge. Hopefully now you understand why quite a few Cambridge people are reluctant to tell you which university they're from. Hopefully now you understand why Cambridge seems to be getting much less publicity for 'groundbreaking research' compared with past centuries.

Oh by the way, I passed Stephen Hawking on the corridor at Addenbrooke's Hospital yesterday.

Monday, October 02, 2006

"Workin' 9 to 5..."

Listening to: some random (but nice) song on Radio 1

So it has begun. I am a first year postgraduate student at the University of Cambridge. My work week will be officially 40 hours long, and unofficially...as long as I want it to be. I walked into the department at around 9.30 this morning and drifted out at about 5pm. Nobody knew, nobody cared. It's a weird feeling...like office work without office regulations (and without the pay). I've started with a read-through of someone's PhD thesis, and so far, so good. Admittedly, I've only read 10 pages.

Now I have to go downstairs and make some dinner (for myself). I'm beginning to see why PhD students are perceived as being unsociable creatures.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

"If you would thoroughly know anything, teach it to others."

Listening to: 'Last Request' by Paolo Nutini [These Streets]

OK the title isn't completely random: my mother gave me this calendar-esque "365 Motivational Quotes" thing and under September 28th, that's what it says. I thought it's quite fitting because at the end of the day, the objective of this PhD is to contribute to research, and possibly end up teaching. More on that later.

So yeah, I'm all unpacked. In the end it took a week, but oh well. Most of it was done by Sunday, and then I just took it easy. Now my room looks like...well, my room. Yes, MY room. And that's what counts. I still have to give some more clothes to Oxfam and put the posters up, but there's plenty of purple and Tatty teddy figures for it to be trademark PseudoRandom. It's helped get rid of the homesickness, which is another important point. And I still have too many clothes, but at least they now fit in my wardrobe!

I'm trying to think of the other things that have occupied my time for the past week and I'm only able to come up with Radio 1! I have to say though, there's a lot of nice new music on the radio. Muse, Lostprophets, My Chemical Romance, and many other bands have come out with some good singles. Even the new (dare I say) Pussycat Dolls single is quite decent!

Bang Bang's coming to stay tomorrow, which will be lovely. And then I start 'work' on Monday. My first assignment is to read a related PhD thesis - I can't help but think that I might not understand a word of it! I've also signed up to give supervisions to undergraduate students...poor them! Something tells me this transition from undergraduate to postgraduate is a more sudden version of the transition from adolescence (when you think you know everything) to adulthood (where you realise that you don't know anything). Interesting times lie ahead.

Oh and Paolo Nutini's voice is sooooooo sexy...I get goosebumps just listening to him! Too bad he isn't as yummy as he sounds.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Boxed in

Listening to: 'Twenty-Four' by Switchfoot [The Beautiful Letdown]

And so, the bitch is back. Reached Cambridge on Tuesday, and so far I've managed to do everything I wanted to -
  1. found my room
  2. met housemates (well, two out of the four)
  3. got internet
  4. moved stuff
Indeed, thanks to two angelic young men with biceps and triceps twice (or thrice) the size of my own, my room is now full of boxes that were packed by my father, back in July. At some point over the next few days, I'm going to have to un-box them and make this place liveable. There are 30 (yes, thirty) medium-sized boxes in my room, and I have a feeling that Oxfam's about to get lucky.

I've been away from home for almost 4 days now, and the homesickness is (very) slowly wearing off. I really didn't anticipate this level of homesickness. I guess moving into a new place by myself, new housemates, no Shorty (she's gone in search of bright lights and high salaries)...it's all a bit too much after spending two and a half months at home with my parents. Even though I'm technically back in my second home, I feel like I've been thrown back four years to when I was a fresher. Once again, I don't know how things work, I don't know what to expect, I don't know if I've made the right choice. The thought "what the hell am I doing here?" has crossed my mind on many occasions this week. There's an event in the MCR bar for freshers tomorrow, so hopefully I'll meet some others in the same position. I also got details of Health and Safety - oh the joy - lectures in two weeks' time (Venus, you'll probably have the same letter in your pigeon hole when you get here). Reading the letter reminded me that I'm here for more than just unpacking my stuff, which was refreshing. I can't believe I'm looking forward to Health and Safety lectures! I can't wait for things to get going. I know I'm gonna complain about having too much work later, but right now I'm thinking 'too much work' is better than 'no work at all'.

OK it's almost 9.30pm and I'm already yawning...I don't like jet lag. Maybe I should get to bed and give my body a rest. I've got a long day (of unpacking) tomorrow.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Chronicles of a lady of leisure

Listening to: 'El Negro Bembon' by Celia Cruz [-]

OK this post is mainly for Waz who seems to be devoid of reading material (see comment in previous post).

I'm supposed to go to the dentist tonight (yes, weird dentist works at night)!!! Haven't been to the dentist in so long that I can't remember how old I was when I last went. My braces came off when I was 12...assuming I had at least one check-up after that, I haven't been to the dentist in over 10 years????? Geez. I'm careful though, so there shouldn't be anything major to do.

Right...enough about my teeth. There's a huge spider in the laundry room. It gives me the creeps. It's been there for the entire week...jobless spider. Actually I kinda feel sorry for the fellow...it's probably lost. I don't think spiders like being inside laundry rooms.

I went to the cinema with my parents and saw Miami Vice. All in all I thought it was well done, even though the movie seemed kinda pointless...an extended episode of the TV series. I guess that's what a movie based on a TV series is, but I still think it's pointless. I also can't understand the logic behind casting a Chinese actress (albeit a good actress) with a very strong Chinese accent as a Cuban. D'oh.

I also saw Superman Returns at the cinema (can't remember if I've already mentioned this), which I thoroughly enjoyed. Can't wait to see K.A.N.K. tomorrow - I don't care what people say about it, I'll watch any movie with SRK in it! As you can see, the cinema has become my friend.

Angel is leaving soon. Hopefully I'll be able to keep in touch with her more frequently now that she's gonna be in the UK...the past four years have been difficult. Speaking of 'leaving', I've got 2 weeks and 3 days left...I should probably get my act together. Thankfully Cambridge is very generous, and no one's gonna have to sell their organs for money. So it's back to darling little Cam, with her miserable winters, glorious summers and way too many old buildings. I tried to quell Venus' fears about starting at one of the most prestigious universities in the world...but now I'm wondering if I should be worrying too. What if the other PhDs are really serious and geeky? What if they know stuff? What if I don't? Anyway, screw it...two more weeks of holiday: I'll be damned if I waste my time left worrying.

OK I'm getting hungry and my father's (presumably) on his way back from the police station in time for dinner and dentist appointment. Yeah, a slightly hurried trishaw driver decided to 'borrow' our side mirror on his way home. Hope the dent in the door isn't too bad.

So there you go...my 'take' on life. I'll get back to ranting about the international media's response to our security situation later.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Fun in the sun

Listening to: Father snoring, as usual

Despite my not-at-all busy schedule, it is increasingly difficult to find time to blog regularly. Hence this is a sort of update.

Pooooooooool!
Yup, I played pool for the first time. Now I'm guessing you're going "Huh? What's she been doing all this time?". Well basically, I can't bend my spine (for the same reason I can't fall). Although a few people have said that I should be able to play pool with a straight back, I've never been confident enough to try. On Saturday I went out with old friends from junior school and they practically coaxed me to have a go. I managed to hit stuff, but not well enough to actually get them in the pockets! Oh well. Getting me to join totally ruined my friends' game, but they didn't seem to mind. It was nice to be with people who were willing to take it easy in order to include me...experience tells me that's not often the case. I don't think I'll ever be confident enough to try bowling, but I guess playing pool is one step towards pseudo-normalcy.

Strike 2.5
It could've been strike 3 - the third bomb this month. Thanks to a vigilant police officer, the bomb disposal squad was called just in time. Lives have been saved.
And if that wasn't enough bad news for the LTTE, their goons have been caught in the States. Will the 'West' wake up now, at least?

Hello, I'd like a visa please.
So yeah, I went and got an application form for a UK student visa. It's changed a bit since the last one I filled in. A few of my favourites (my comments are in brackets):
  • When was the reference number? (I'm sorry, what?)
  • Section 9: Do you speak English? (Should I be studying in the UK if I don't?)
  • Has your sponsor, his or her spouse, or his or her children ever traveled or studied abroad? If so, please give details. (And how is that relevant?)
The new method is to give visas without interviews, so they've hired some human robots to do their dirty work (i.e. ensuring that all the documents are submitted) for them. I wonder sometimes, whether it's all worth the hassle.

Oh well, it's almost 3am. Better hit the sack.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

...back by popular demand

Listening to: birds

Wow, 'The Return of the Bomb' is a major hit! Into its second week now, it's even more popular than it was when it came out. The brave cameo performance by the Pakistani High Commissioner in Sri Lanka was a surprise. Apparently it's unclear whether some of the filming took place at an orphanage based in the jungle or at a terrorist training camp, but I guess what is seen depends on who's looking.

Apparently the West doesn't think much of the movie, and wants it banned. Thankfully they have no jurisdiction (I hope) over Sri Lankan cinemas. I wonder what the response would be if we wanted them to withdraw their movie 'War on Terror'?

*Sigh*...it's a sad situation. Increased military activity in the North and East leaves the rest of the country more vulnerable to terrorist attacks. Why? you ask. Well, it's simple: when the LTTE's getting hammered in the North and East, they retaliate by blowing up innocent bystanders in the more peaceful parts of the country and then accuse the Forces of targeting civilians (yeah, 'cos that makes sense). And obviously no one in their right mind would believe the word of an established military over that of a proscribed terrorist organisation (I'm rolling my eyes, can you tell?), so the international powers that be start shouting "negotiate, negotiate!". Yeah whatever.

Apologies for the sarcastic (and more or less one-sided) tone of this post. I'm confused as to whether I should be upset that the war's returned to my doorstep (and therefore I'm forced to actually deal with it, rather than say "oh yeah I think they're fighting in the North"), or relieved that the military's actually making some progress, albeit with more than a few casualties. I'm inclined to lean towards the latter. Personally I don't believe in a diplomatic solution to a conflict with people who don't act diplomatically. Complete and utter annihilation seems to be the only solution, even though I hate myself for typing the very words. My message to the international superpowers is this: Don't tell us what to do, we're not babies. If you're with us, then have faith in our ability to do the job the way we want to do it - we'll ask for your help if and when we need it. If you're not with us, then bugger off and leave us alone. Don't pretend to care.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Scaredy Cat

Listening to: 'Quando Quando Quando' by Michael Bublé & Nelly Furtado [It's Time]

My mother sent me out to the garage last evening to put the porch light on. The garage was pretty dark (until said light was switched on), and for some reason, I was scared out of my wits. It may have been my father's words "sometimes that bloody uguduwa (polecat) sits on the bonet because it's warm", or it may have been the fact that anyone could've been standing there in front of me and I wouldn't have known. Either way, I was terrified. Anyway, it made me wonder...what am I most afraid of? Flying insects, rats, polecats are high on the list, but how high are they? What am I really afraid of? I came up with these...
  1. Rape
  2. Falling
  3. Disappointment
  4. Cockroaches (the flying variety)
  5. Death
Death is #5 because I can do nothing to avert it. Every moment I am alive takes me one moment closer to my demise. Now you might say this view is quite morbid, and I agree. But it is a sobering thought that can bring me down to Earth in the most euphoric of times (not that there are many of those around!).

I'm less scared of cockroaches than I used to be. Now I let them scurry past if they're not in my way, instead of screaming for Daddy Dearest to 'do something', like I used to. Still, I find them revolting for some reason...and the fact that they can fly means I can't keep tabs on them - one could be about to land on my head and I'd have no idea - yuck!

#3 is less about disappointment associated with a lack of material ownership or 'not having my way', and more about the disappointment associated with the people I know and admire not living up to my expectations. I admit it's my own fault for idolising the people I love, but I guess we're all a little guilty of that, aren't we?

To understand why 'falling' has the not-so-coveted #2 spot, you'd need to be informed of my spinal surgery and the subsequent medical warning: "fall, and if the clips get dislodged, you'll be paralysed from the neck down". I have the utmost admiration and respect for those who live happy lives while resigned to a wheelchair or a bed, but I'm not sure I'd be strong enough to do the same.

Numero Uno should be self-explanatory to any female reading this. Shivers run down my spine every time I hear of rape...I'm feeling queasy even as I type this. Faced with rape, I'd probably ask the guy to kill me instead.

So there they are, my Top Five. Perhaps not in the order that most would expect, but it's the order that works for me. I guess once I finally get over my fear of cockroaches, either my fear of huge spiders or my 'beard-phobia' will take its place. Indeed, prickly faces are a big no-no.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The Return of the Bomb - now showing at a cinema near you!

Listening to: news

A bomb went off outside a girls' school in Colombo, about an hour after Sri Lanka beat South Africa in the 2nd and final test match of the series. Over the weekend, a senior police officer was killed in a claymore mine attack in Kandy, where the Esala Perahera reaches its climax tomorrow.

Feels like the '90s again.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Traffic jams and miracles

Listening to: 'Isabel' by Il Divo [Ancora]

I went and got my passport extended yesterday. The new passport office is actually pretty good! Never thought I'd say that about a Sri Lankan Governmental office :D. On the way back, my father and I were stuck in a traffic jam for about half an hour. OK this was office rush hour, but we were on the same road at the same time on the previous day, and it was definitely not as bad as this. Back home, while nursing my ears from the sound of horns from the various vehicles in the jam (you'll know what I mean if you've ever been in a traffic jam in Colombo), our neighbour gave us a possible reason for the block. Apparently, 'luminous rays' were being emitted by Buddha statues at various temples all over the city, and people were flocking to witness the miracle. You can read about it here.

Miracle, you say? Hmm. As it says in my blogger profile, I am a practising Buddhist. Now by that, I don't mean that I frequent the temple or make ritualistic offerings on a regular basis. I practise Buddhism by living by the teachings of Lord Buddha as best as I can. I don't believe in miracles. I believe in cause and effect, the Four Noble Truths, the effect of Karma and the impermanence of all material entities.

In my opinion, there are a myriad of plausible explanations for the appearance of the 'halo', mostly involving refraction and scattering of light in polluted air and the reaction of the human eye to such phenomena. A few simple scientific experiments would probably single one out as the most viable. However, while most Buddhist monks have rejected the 'miracle' theory, none have called for a full-scale investigation. Why? Some might say that they're afraid that it is a miracle - something that would go against the teachings of the Buddha. I think not. Such a reluctance to inspection in itself violates the Dhamma, which prescribes ehipassiko - "come and see". Instead, I feel it's more of a realisation that whether or not last evening's visions were due to a miracle, the incident is irrelevant to man's search for the Truth and key to cessation of Suffering. Buddhism does not, and has never claimed to be a 'religion' in the pure sense of the word, providing answers to all life's questions. It is a way of life that enables the follower to attain 'inner peace'.

As one monk said in the above article,
"If you really want to see Buddha rays, read the Dhamma and attain enlightenment. That is the only way. Now they are only causing traffic jams."
P.S.- Some might say that I'm preaching in this post...and that may be. In my opinion, I am merely stating my thoughts on an incident that was of great interest to many people. This is in no way a criticism of those who believe in miracles, or do not follow Buddhism. You are entitled to your views, as I am to mine.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Art of Terror

Listening to: the fan

Two months ago, this was the plan: my friend would come to Sri Lanka, and for two weeks, we would take her around and introduce her to the wealth of history, culture and natural beauty that my beautiful island is famous for. Then, we would travel to India, and she would return the favour by showing me around the Golden Triangle (Delhi, Agra, Jaipur).

One month ago, this was the plan: my friend wouldn't be coming to Sri Lanka due to the LTTE's penchant for suicide attacks, claymore mines and other destructive means. Instead, I brought forward my visit to India and extended it by a few days. Retrospectively this was probably a wise decision, considering the current petrol strike - who needs the LTTE when legitimate Sri Lankans are wreaking havoc all over the country?
When can I get my can full? (Front page of Daily Island 27/07/2006)

Now, this is the plan: my friend isn't coming to Sri Lanka, and I'm not going to India. Why? Well, Delhi happens to be on a Security Red Alert after numerous bomb threats etc. Luckily for the people of Delhi, all the threats so far have been hoaxes.

The hardships I'm facing due to the threat of terrorism are negligible compared those faced by my brothers and sisters in occupied regions, and this is in no way an attempt to belittle their plight. However, I'd like to highlight the three different types of terrorism I've witnessed over the past few months:
  • Terrorism by established terrorist organisations who like to blow people up to prove a point
  • Terrorism by Trade Union workers who like to cripple their own country's transport system to prove a point
  • Terrorism by sick creatures who like to make false bomb threats to 'have some fun'
Oh what a wonderful world we live in.

In other somewhat-related news, the 25th of July 2006 marked 23 years since Black July, when my countrymen went on a rampage and did who-knows-what to innocent Tamil civilians. If Sri Lankans want to be ashamed of anything in our history, we should be ashamed of this. News reports state that a commemorative event was held at Speakers' Corner at Hyde Park. According to this article, this event was more of an LTTE rally than a memorial gathering. I thought UK terror laws prevented this sort of behaviour?

Monday, July 17, 2006

Home is lovely.

Listening to: 'No Tomorrow' by Orson [Bright Idea]

Home is lovely. My father works till quite late but I won't complain 'cos I know he's doing it for me. My mother and I have been having awesome chats and it's nice to be able to rant without giving Shorty a headache! I've been eating like someone who's been starved for years...man I love fish curry! I saw The Incredibles (2nd time, for my parents' benefit), Water (which was absolutely amazing) and Must Love Dogs.

Home is lovely. I've been spending the past few days helping out my friends at the Chitrasena-Vajira Dance Foundation with preparations for a memorial exhibition and concert this weekend. It's quite a humbling experience to be in the company of such a great family. Quick plug: if you're in Colombo, and free on the 21st/22nd/23rd July, 'The Art of Chitrasena' will be on at the Lionel Wendt at 7pm on each day.

Yeah home is lovely...almost. If nothing pissed me off, it would be too good to be true, so I guess this is comforting, in a way. Now I've said before that my lovelife is on the backburner, and it is. And while I'm in England, with friends whose careers are paramount in their lives, I'm fine with being alone. I'd like to be in a relationship, but I don't need to be - I'm not that insecure. But less than two weeks at home, and I've already been subjected to "PR why don't you have a boyfriend?", "PR when are you gonna get a boyfriend?", "Aww so PR what are you gonna do?"! I'm sorry, did I hear right? What am I going to do? About what? The fact that I don't have a boyfriend is NOT A F***ING PROBLEM, DAMNIT!!! Why do people think of having a boyfriend as such a qualification? It's not like I've been beating guys off with a stick or anything. If and when I find a nice guy who's up for more than friendship, I'll give it a try. Until then, I'm not bothered. Why is that so difficult for people to understand? My mother says I need be more tolerant...I don't want to be tolerant, I want people to leave me alone! I hate being pressured. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH!!!

OK I'm calm. And hungry. Time for lunch, methinks.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Home is where the heart is

Listening to: the sound of the table fan mixed with the football commentary

And so I'm back (from outer space...). Yes, back in sunny Sri Lanka, currently 34°C (it's 12.07 a.m., mind you). It doesn't seem that hot though, compared to the weather I left behind in England. Still, there are more interesting things to talk about than the weather!

Visited my grandparents last evening...I don't need to tell you how glad I am that I managed to see them one more time. The phone has been ringing off the hook today 'cos people have realised that I've arrived. I feel like some sort of pseudo-celebrity! :D

Oooh I saw three movies on the flight. I swear the Etihad Boeing 777 inflight entertainment is the best! I saw Ice Age: The Meltdown, Failure to Launch and Tristan & Isolde - all very good inflight movies. Oh and at my friend's place in London, I saw Good Night, and Good Luck. and De-Lovely. I've got so many movies lined up for this summer (those of you familiar with Precious Video Store will know where I'll be spending most of my time!).

Anyway, I'm kinda tired now, so I'm gonna head to bed. Will update sometime soon.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Quick update

Listening to: my father's snoring

Just a quick post before I crash (i.e. I'm too tired to type a long post). Few things to update on:
  • Sri Lanka thrashed England in the ODIs. Whitewash, as hoped for. England eat your heart out.

  • England lost to Portugal in a penalty shoot-out, resulting in their departure from the World Cup - feel a bit sorry for them really, although I don't necessarily think they deserved to win. Also, France kicked Brazil out, giving rise to an all-European semi-final stage.

  • Agassi lost to Nadal, but Murray beat Roddick - Britain's solitary victory on this multi-sporting day, but my favourite is out of Wimbledon. Back to Federer, I guess.

  • I graduated!!! 'Twas very nice with family and friends (who came up from London especially for the occasion). Felt like a bit of a twat in my gown, hood and mortar board, but I guess graduation is a freakshow of sorts.
So yes, today's been a busy day. I'm off to London on Monday and then flying home on Friday, so the next post on this blog will probably be from sunny Sri Lanka. That said, today was 27°C when I finished my graduation ceremony, so I guess I should call this place 'sunny Cambridge'? Hmm now there's something to think about while I get ready for bed.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Sport, sport luverly sport

Listening to: banter on Radio 1

Cricket:
We've drawn the test series (mainly due to England's inability to keep victory/the cricket ball from slipping through their hands) and won the ODI series without breaking too much of a sweat. Two left to go...care for a whitewash, anyone? Apparently they've brought in Vikram Solanki for the rest of the series. Fair enough, I guess, considering that KP and Collingwood are limping around or something...but IMO all the batsmen in the world can't back up such wayward bowling. If they sort out Mahmood and Plunkett, KP won't have to score at least 50 in every match for them to have a fighting chance. I guess it's a blessing that Duncan Fletcher doesn't read my blog (I think) :D.

That said, we've got our own problems to sort out...but as long as Mahela and the gang can cover up the potholes with some superb individual performances, no one will realise that we've got a long way to go before West Indies next year and we'll go there and fail miserably again. GET YOUR ACT TOGETHER, GUYS!!!

Football:
So England are through to the Quarters. Some people say the performance was lackluster, some say it was solid. I don't know 'cos I didn't watch. But here's what I think...the winning team has to deserve to win...and if even one person thinks that England's performances are mediocre, they do not deserve to win.

Tennis:
Yay!!! My second favourite sport in the whole world :D. As expected, it rained on the first day of Wimbledon, while it was relatively dry everywhere else in London (I think)...I swear English weather is the worst thing about this country (or maybe it's the food). I usually support the underdogs in sports that Sri Lanka doesn't feature, but not in tennis...c'mon Roger Federer! Although it would be A-M-A-Z-I-N-G to see Agassi kick his ass before retiring. OK I've changed my mind...Agassi! Agassi! Agassi! :D.

OK meeting with my would-be Cam supervisor in 45mins...now might be a good time to go get ready. Oh and I'm drinking white coffee again...bring on the milk, baby!!! And my parents are currently in transit at Abu Dhabi en route to Heathrow...could today get any better? :D.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Cockles and Mussels

Listening to: 'Is It Any Wonder?' by Keane [Under the Iron Sea]

Yeah so the mussels have kinda ruined my weekend. I'm having strange cravings - I can't have anything with milk in it, but I get excited at the thought of eating rice...and muffins (not at the same time, thankfully). Very strange, I know. I think I want some grapes now. Hmm...

Other than that, life is good. Went punting yesterday with the old college crowd...nothing much has changed...it felt nice. Then watched the highlights of the 3rd ODI, followed by the Argentina v. Mexico game. Apparently England are 1-0 v. Ecuador. I think I've mentioned before that I'm not that into footie, but it's a bit difficult to avoid it when living in England! It would be nice if England go through, but I'm not really fussed. As long as we thrash them in the cricket, I'm happy :D.

Oh and I can't get that nonsensical Brittany Murphy single out of my head. Well it's not by her, but she's singing on the track. I don't even like that kind of music. Radio 1 pleeeeeeease stop playing it...you're brainwashing me!!!

Hmm now where were those grapes...?

Friday, June 23, 2006

What are parents for, eh?

Listening to: nothing (yet)

Just got off the phone (well, MSN video) with my parents. It's amazing how the words "what is this nonsense? grow up men!" can knock sense into the thickest of skulls (i.e. mine). I'm no longer droopy about my grades...it's now a case of "if I didn't deserve a 2.1, they wouldn't have given me one...so I must've deserved it". I can still recite the course backwards (not really, but I can give it a shot) so it's just that my question-answering technique is a bit shit. But who cares...I'm never gonna have a written paper ever again!

So yes, I've cheered up. I was to go to Norwich tomorrow to see some old teachers, but I'm gonna call them now and cancel 'cos my stomach doesn't seem to be able to manage anything more than cream crackers. Bloody mussels. Maybe it's like a revenge mechanism - "eat me and I'll take you down".

Anyway, thanks to the luck that Cambridge undergrads always hope for, I've scraped through and made the required grade...now all that's left is to show that I am worthy of the "Dr." I'm aiming for.

Also, good luck South Korea!!! Please please please go through to the knock-out stage. I don't really care about any of the other teams.

And it all comes crashing down

Listening to: 'In the Morning' by Razorlight [-]

Remember I wanted to see how I had done (i.e. in the class list)? Well I found out...and now I wish I hadn't. The term "scraping a 2.1" never had more meaning. I guess there goes my funding. So Venus, to answer your question...it doesn't mean I'll be in Cambridge. The conditions for the Cambridge offer were twofold:
1) get a 2.1
2) show us that you have £66,000 in the form of liquid assets and/or loans.
The first condition I just managed to satisfy. The second, well I can't satisfy that, period. If I received Commonwealth Trust funding it might be possible, but considering the sorry state of my breakdown, I doubt I'll get even a penny. As for UCL...hopefully they won't take the value of my 2.1 into consideration. Otherwise I'm totally screwed, and worse, my parents will be mortified.

Add that to the fact that yesterday's mussels haven't been treating my digestive system well, and today is one shitty day.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Spot the Sachin!

Listening to: 'I Can't Make You Love Me' by George Michael [Ladies & Gentlemen]

As promised, here is a photo of the Maestro himself, being 'shipped' back to the dressing room by security guards, while we stood by screaming his name :D. BTW I wasn't using the zoom.155 in 119 balls, with 25 fours and 3 sixes - pure and utter joy. I think I'm more elated about seeing him than I am about getting my results :D.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

News just in...

Listening to: nothing

Results are out. Yours truly has got a 2.i again, which means I'm all set for my PhD. They haven't put the breakdown online yet, but I imagine it'll be out soon. Either that or I'll find out on Friday. For now, it doesn't matter where I am in the class list...the fact that I've got what I needed is the main thing. A total of 16 out of 22 got 2.i's, which I think is amazing...only 3 got firsts.

I'm at Shorty's place at the moment so probably shouldn't waste time blogging. Will update when I know more about my breakdown.

Until then, I'm off to London tomorrow to get my Indian visa and chat with people from UCL. And maybe we'll go clubbing tomorrow night once I get back...*fingers crossed*.

Oh yeah in other news, I saw Sachin...like really close...I have photos but as I'm not at my computer, I haven't been able to upload. Will post a few later. Cambridge is such a happening place where cricket is concerned.

*sigh*...relief.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

PseudoRandom is an evil Babushka doll

Listening to: 'Barely Breathing' by Duncan Sheik [Barely Breathing]

The Museum of Communism in Prague has a very interesting advertisement, as displayed here. For some reason, I found the 'Vampire Babushka' doll quite endearing. Even more worrying, she reminded me of myself: traditional and essentially 'correct', but (or possibly therefore) bloody scary. I'm known to be quite snappy at times, and the explosions are almost always due to others not living up to my lofty principles (this has been discussed ad nauseam in previous posts).

I've always had this theory that anyone who becomes a good friend of mine is bloody brave (and crazy). I guess this impression has been fuelled by many people telling me (for example)
When I first saw you, I thought you were very proud.
and
At first you were scary and I didn't like you, but I guess now you're OK.
So basically, if my 'monster' exterior hasn't put you off after the first few meetings, congratulations! But then, my close friends would probably agree that my interior is as soft as a marshmallow. So essentially, that makes me some sort of Halloween sweet (?!).

This is a random post, I know...but I just wanted to show the similarity between Ms Babushka here and myself. Oh and apparently 'Babushka' means Grandmother in Russian...and apparently, I have a knack for mothering people...another coincidence? Maybe.

"Hi I'm PseudoRandom, and I'm an evil Babushka doll" - has a nice right to it, don't you think?

Sunday, June 18, 2006

I'm back!

Listening to: 'Art of War' by Vanessa-Mae (Sergei Prokofiev) [Best of Vanessa-Mae]

Flew in last evening. Wow, what a trip. I have to say, Prague isn't the most amazing city I've ever been to (Rome, Florence and Barcelona are way cooler), but it is up there with the best. It is also one of the cheapest - the whole trip (6 days), including travel from college to the coach station and back, cost less than £250...beat that! Luckily my visa was free...the Czech Embassy in London seems to like Sri Lankans for some reason. And of course how could a trip with two of my bestest friends on the planet not be amazing?!?!?!

So yeah, here are the highlights. If you're planning on visiting Prague, make a note of these. It helps if you're a student and have a student card - there are opportunities to get major discounts on touristy entrance tickets. That said, if you go converting stuff into Sterling, you're gonna be laughing your ass off the entire time...stuff is dirt cheap (e.g.-7 day travelcard for £7).

Prague Castle:
The main castle in Prague, seat of the Czech kings during the Middle Ages...I won't bore you with the Lonely Planet description, just Google :D! It's also a popular concert venue, so you might wanna time your trip accordingly.

Old Town:
It has a funky Astronomical Clock, which you can read about here. These days, the highlight is a big screen for World Cup matches.

Jewish Quarter:
There are lots of Synagogues in Prague...I had never been to one and I'm not too clueful about Jewish culture, so I found this quite enlightening. I found the Pinkas Synagogue quite a sobering experience.

Karlštejn:
Karlštejn is about a half hour by train from Prague, and home to a castle (bearing the same name) that houses the crown jewels (which we didn't get to see, unfortunately). It's not as fairytale-like as those commissioned by Bavaria's mad King Ludwig, but it's still quite picturesque.

Kutná Hora:
A quaint town about an hour by train from Prague, and once home to the deepest silver mine in Europe. Apparently the silver trade made town very rich (in the 15th century), but they had dug out all the silver by the 16th century, reducing the town to...nothingness: a perfect example of unsustainable industry! Now it has a funky Silver Museum and a beautiful Gothic cathedral dedicated to St. Barbara, the patron saint of miners. The town was hit by the deadly Plague, and one of the results was the Sedlec Ossuary - eerie, but amazing. The town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

There's a lot of other stuff to see, like Loreta, Petrin Hill and Vyšehrad, but the ones I mentioned were the ones that I liked the most. I also saw Antonín Dvořák's tomb at Vyšehrad, and learnt that Albert Einstein and Franz Kafka were thick buddies. I also found out that Johannes Kepler discovered two of his Laws of Planetary Motion while in Prague. Oh and I saw a century-old telescope used to observe solar activity...and it still works! The Philosophical Library and Theological Library of the Strahov Monastery (on Petrin Hill) were also quite cool.

We took lots of photos (about 500 between the three of us), although admittedly quite a few of them are a bit random - I swear Bang Bang is in love with her feet! I still haven't seen all the pics myself, but will hopefully venture onto Flickr once I've sorted all mine out...it'll be easier than posting everything here.

The 'girly trip' aspect was covered too - I've giggled more in the past week than I've done all year! We came to the conclusion that Czechs are very pleasing on the eye, especially those of the male variety. However, it's a tad difficult to see a guy's face when his tongue is down his girlfriend's throat. Oh well, they still qualify for eye candy (i.e. not when they're busy snogging)! We didn't shop, mainly 'cos we're perpetually broke students and also 'cos we were too busy sight-seeing (or sleeping).

There are loads of lovely memories from Prague, including lazing on the grass at the Royal Palace Gardens, singing on the train from
Karlštejn to Prague, and scaring the poor Americans who had to share a room with us - I don't think they'd met such giggly students in a while! All in all, a wonderful week with wonderful people in a wonderful city.

BTW commiserations to the Czech team for losing to Ghana (!!) - poor Petr Cech must be distraught! Oh and way to go South Korea for forcing a draw with France! I'm not really into footie, but seeing as one of my closest friends is South Korean, I can't really cheer for anyone else :D. Too bad Cha Du-Ri's not playing...he's cute ;-). As for the cricket...well if England keeps bowling badly, we can't help but win now, can we?

I guess I have to put at least one pic here, so I'll leave you with this night shot of Prague Castle, taken from across the river Vltava.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Heigh-Ho Heigh Ho, it's off to Prague we go!

Listening to: 'Follow You Down' by Gin Blossoms [Follow You Down]

Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!! Shorty and Bang Bang are in my room (both asleep in fact) waiting for the taxi to come and take us to the coach station. I'm really looking forward to this holiday - I've heard that Prague is beautiful, but I don't know much about the place, and I haven't been on a touristy holiday since September. I know that doesn't sound like long, but considering how busy this year has been, it feels like ages.

So yeah, you won't hear from me for awhile. I'll be back on Saturday, with lots of hopefully decent pictures.

Hope you have a peaceful week.

Friday, June 09, 2006

The End of an Era

Listening to: 'Say You Say Me' by Lionel Richie [The Definitive Collection]

No, I'm not back on a Lionel Richie loop...I didn't know what I wanted to listen to, so I let wmp decide for me.

So yeah, I'm done. Woo hoo...kinda. 4 years in Cambridge, 3 years in ChemEng...it's been one hell of a journey. There have been good times, brilliant times, bad times, and near-suicidal times - I've done the entire lot.

I've heard people say that as you grow older, the only things you regret are the things you didn't do. I'm feeling that right now (like the fact that I've been in Cambridge for 4 years and still not been to Girton!!!). I'm not gonna dwell on each and every little thing I'm going to miss, 'cos that'll just be daft. But, now that I'm by myself, I'm thinking...that may have been the last time I ever see those people again. Ever. Now it could be said that in certain cases, that wouldn't be such a bad thing...but still, I wish them well. But there are some people...certain people I will sorely miss. This isn't the first time I've parted from friends...but for some reason, this time seems the worst.

Apologies if this post seems a bit incoherent...I think I've been around too much alcohol (no I don't drink, but my friends were downing pitchers as if they were pints). I think I shall stop rambling now, and leave with a few words from that Queen of Pop, Madonna:
Take a bow, the night is over
This masquerade is getting older
Lights are low, the curtains down
There's no one here...
CET IIB 2006, you guys rock.

Here's how it all went down... [Parts 1-6]

Listening to: 'Don't Look Back In Anger' by Oasis [(What's the Story) Morning Glory?]

Hehe no, they haven't started yet - I have 32 hours and 49 minutes left (sorry, just felt like being pedantic). I just thought, seeing as tomorrow will be full of last minute revision, talking to parents, and other extremely important activities (like choosing my pens and deciding what to wear), I'll set the tone for this 'extended' blog post today...

I've always maintained that regardless of the topics covered in this blog, it's essentially a place for me to dump all my excess emotional baggage. So in keeping with that theme, I'm gonna spill the beans on how 'they' went as and when they finish...a sort of 'ball by ball commentary'. This'll serve two purposes - I'll be able to get over any disastrous papers with one short rant on this page and then get back to work, and anyone who asks the dreaded "so how did it go?" can be referred here for the lowdown. Aren't I a genius? ...yeah don't answer that.

In other news, we actually managed to get Kevin Pietersen out for under a hundred...way to go Lanka! Sanga please please please score...PLEASE!!! Oh and I've been rediscovering Oasis. Wow.

So yeah, this post will be updated throughout the week - I have 7 papers: 2 on Monday, one each on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and 2 on Friday. Friday's entry will probably be made on Saturday...or Sunday. I've got a heavy post-exam schedule worked out already :D.

Pre-Exam:
OK might as well start now. Ever get that feeling where you're stressed and calm at the same time? I do know stuff...but I'm not as confident about it as I'd like to be...so I need to consolidate my knowledge with some last minute reading. And yet I still find myself on Facebook, as active as ever. What the hell is wrong with me? No I'm not addicted to Facebook as such...and to be honest I haven't messed about much on it in the past few days...but it's soooo easy to waste time on the wretched thing. And I somehow find time to read every single article in the Entertainment section of BBC News. Angelina Jolie had a daughter. I swear everyone wants to be her or be 'with' her (or both, depending on your fancy). OK I promise I won't start jabbering about Brad Pitt (I'll dream about him instead). Speaking of dreaming, sleepy time has arrived.

Monday - States of Matter, Engineer & Society; Catalysis:
Oh goodness gracious me. In one word: bittersweet. Or maybe (chronologically speaking) it should be sweetbitter. The first paper, some would say, was a gift. I knew stuff...can you believe it?! I was so worried about it, but it wasn't bad at all.

Now the second paper, some would say, was a bitch. Again, I knew stuff, but the questions were worded in such a way that it made me think that I didn't know stuff I knew...and in the process I panicked and forgot the stuff that I did know that I knew. If you think that's confusing, you should try the paper. AAAAAAAAAAARGH!!!!! Oh well, what to do. I may have managed to salvage one question, but it took me an hour (instead of the 40mins it should've taken), so I have no idea what I wrote for the other question. The comforting thought is that all the others were suicidal after the paper too. At the end of the day, it's all relative.

I came back to college prepared to vegetate for a bit, but Murali was tearing through England and that had to be watched. 8/70!!! Unbelievable. The guy is a legend. And I have a photo with him. I feel cool. Please do not burst my bubble.

I have to do work after dinner, but I'm so knackered it's almost impossible. And Catalysis was supposed to be one of the better papers!!! Anyway, 60% of the marks for this year are done. Five more papers to go...bring it on.

Tuesday - Combustion:
Hmm...iiiinteresting. It wasn't awful. I ran out of time but I think it was, on the whole, OK. I was quite nervous 'cos I couldn't concentrate last night after the Catalysis debacle, so I'm feeling pretty decent today. Thankfully I now have an entire afternoon and evening to prepare for tomorrow's exam. This 'two papers a day' business sucks.

Oh and for those of you who are worried about the Devil, today's probably an important day! Apparently the entertainment world's jumped on the bandwagon, but that's nothing new. I hope the people who have exams today aren't too concerned! Apparently the technical term for fear of the number 666 is Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia. Quite a mouthful, eh?

OK...gonna chill for a bit and get back to work. Almost half way!!!

Wednesday - Fluid Mechanics & the Environment:
Oh crap crap crappity crap. Is it that I can't integrate? Is it that I can't read? Is it that I'm just too plain stupid? "Show that [-] = [$]" questions are usually the safest, if you know the theory behind it. And I did...or so I thought. I left the exam knowing that I had messed up, but not knowing where. Frustrating. And to add to all the misery, panadol in the morning hadn't been able to quieten the cries of my wisdom tooth. It has a habit of making its presence known every so often...and it chose today of all days. Not that it was unbearable...but it was annoying. I'm very irritable these days...not good for the blood pressure.

[Ed: 12.20 a.m. - I just figured out where I made the mistake in the question I mentioned above. Rookie mistake - I deserve to be shot. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG
GGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!
]


Luckily today hasn't been all bad. I practically ran from the exam room - not because I was upset, but because I had a hair appointment :D. Now my hair looks all pretty (hair straighteners are amazing), if I do say so myself. Then I exchanged money for the Prague trip. Then I met up with Shorty and had a hot dog lunch. Our chat brought to my life a certain level of normalcy usually associated with non-exam time banter. I strolled back to college, frappuccino in hand...and now here I am.

Oh I'm so fed up, I want it to end. My brain is screaming "torture!" and I just feel like collapsing on the bed and sleeping till graduation. Someone please remind me why I didn't just go become a rock star after school?!

P.S.- Please spare a thought for Venus and her family in their time of grief.

Thursday - Optimisation:
This is a tad late, mainly due to the fact that Blogger was down for maintenance for most of last evening. Anyway, quick entry before I go get ready for today. It was OK. One question was more OK than the other, but on the whole, I wasn't suicidal. Which, as I've come to learn, is good.

I'm exhausted though. Mentally and physically. Thankfully I'll be done in exactly 8 1/2 hours. Except that there's 3 hours of exams in that time. Fingers crossed they'll be nice to us for once. I'm almost there...but not quite. Finding it increasingly difficult to stay motivated.

OK I need to go now.

Friday - Rheology; Sustainability:
Rheology - now that's how a paper should be! LOL it's nice to leave an exam room knowing you've already got 40% without even getting it marked!

Sustainability was, interesting. I wasn't expecting to be able to answer anything, so being able to answer some bits made me happy. Anyway we'll see.

Yes I know I said I had a lot of post-exam celebrations lined up, but I seem to have somewhat jinxed it. That said, I did spend 3 hours in the pub and 1 1/2 hours at Nando's. Mmmmm I love Nando's. Anyway, now I'm back in my room, sorting out my seemingly endless list of things to do before the parents arrive. Wow I'm gonna be busy. But of course first, there's Prague!

BTW yes, it is anticlimatic...but more on that later.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

"Happy Birthday, Seeya*!" - An open letter to my Grandfather

Listening to: 'Someday We'll Know' by New Radicals [Maybe You've Been Brainwashed]

To my darling Grandfather,

Today, you turn 92. Today, you celebrate this occasion with your wife, children, grandchildren (except for myself, of course) and great-grandchildren. You have been alive to witness almost every world event of the 20th century. You have travelled the world, broken records (which you still hold) and battled illnesses; and you have seen other members of your generation around you age, and ultimately pass on. You may not understand the concept of the Internet, or be familiar with mobile telephones, but you, more than anyone, understand the fickle nature of life.

I am extremely lucky to have had you near me for the past twenty-three years. But for how much longer? As I wish you over the phone for this birthday, I can hear the toll that life has taken on you. You remembered who I am today, but will your remember tomorrow? Come this afternoon, will you remember that I wished you? Does it matter?

I also hear the pain felt by my Grandmother. She has stood by you for over 59 years... and now she watches you fade, unable to save you. What is my pain, compared to hers? What is my pain, compared to that of my father, my aunt and my uncle? What is my pain, compared to that of the sister who hasn't seen you for years?

You've lived a good life, Seeya - not without struggle, but not without celebration either. Today I will celebrate your life, and the joy that it has brought to so many... but at the back of my mind, I will hope, with every beat of my heart, that I may be fortunate enough to see you once again.

All is temporary...none more so than life.

Happy Birthday, Seeya. May the Blessings of the Noble Triple Gem shine on you always - in this life, and in those to follow.

I love you.

*Seeya is a Sinhalese term for Grandfather.
**Photo taken from the M.I.L.K. Collection.

Monday, May 29, 2006

It's the final countdown...

Listening to: the butterflies in my tummy

Oh crap. This time next week, I'll be half way through my 1st paper. Oh crap. Oh crap. Oh crap. I don't know why I'm saying 'oh crap' actually. Oh yeah...I don't know jack. OK that's not true...I do know some stuff, and past paper questions haven't been a complete disaster. But ugh I still haven't gone through the short notes I made for States of Matter - crystallisation, liquid crystals, colloids, nanoparticles, polymer and paste extrusion, SEM, TEM, AFM...why, Why, WHY?!?!?!?!?

I just want it to end. This time in two weeks I'll be in (hopefully) sunny Prague with two of my best friends, singing silly songs and generally making a fool of myself (I love the idea of girly trips). In three weeks I'll be partying it up (yeah whatever) or lazing on a punt on the beautiful-in-summer River Cam.
The river Cam
In four weeks I'll getting ready to drag my parents all over Cambridge making sure they see every dark and dingy corner before we leave. In 5 weeks I'll be *shock shock horror horror* a graduate!!!

I had a good birthday BTW, which I shall write about after exams. I love how my 'after exams' box has become a dumping ground for everything I want to do but know I won't get a chance. Oh and this was one of the many presents I got -
Ain't he adorable? Yes, I'm sort of a metoyou freak.

OK...breakfast, followed by revision. PseudoRandom, stop wasting time on the Internet. D'oh.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Every cloud has a silver lining

Listening to: 'Ways & Means' by Snow Patrol [Final Straw]

I'm on a *lunch break* from past paper questions. Went down to the post room as I do everyday at lunchtime, expecting to see an empty pigeon hole. As I've said before, I'm not a "my birthday" person, so I was caught completely unawares by the birthday cards I found! Even better was the fact that they were all from home. Never knew post could be this exciting. Why do phone bills and bank statements have to give it such a bad name?

I'm a good girl, so I won't open the cards until Friday... but it does make me happy that they're sitting on my desk in a neat little pile. I'm pretty amazed at the fact that it's made me so eager. Maybe I've found a good thing about birthdays afterall?

Speaking of birthdays, Happy Birthday Jr.!!! I'm glad the Weather Gods have been kind to you today, compared with the last few days!

OK I should really get back to work. Thanks to childof25, I'm indulging in some Snow Patrol. Bliss.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

PseudoRandom = not really random...?

Listening to: 'Panis Angelicus' by Andrea Bocelli [Sacred Arias]

I should go to sleep. I've never had any trouble falling asleep at night... until now. I just stare at the ceiling. I close my eyes, thinking that might work... but the tick tock of the clock is so loud it could be inside my head. I look at the damn thing... I've been awake for half an hour. It's unnatural for me. I'm the one who can fall asleep in five minutes flat; who can have a ten minute power nap... and now I can't sleep. I do fall asleep eventually... but it makes me quite tired when it's actually time to wake up.

Now this wouldn't be that much of a problem if not for the fact that I have my finals in two weeks' time. Yes, that soon. Stressful stuff... and yet I'm confused. I don't know if I'm stressed or not, and I find that immensely annoying. I think to myself "must work, must work, have to understand this stuff"... and the very next thought is "I actually have more than a week to do past papers... way to go!". Inconsistency may bring welcome excitement to a cricket match, but it's sure as hell not welcome in this context! It's not that I'm not nervous - I've had the usual warning signs that my body is not as calm as my mind... why am I not panicking? Why am I so calm? If I don't get a super-decent grade this year, my dreams of getting starting a PhD in October can be flushed down the toilet. Why am I not panicking about how important this year is? I'm confused.

As if exams weren't enough of an issue, I turn 23 next week. No I'm not fussed about the fact that I'm nearing *mid-twenties* - I've put my lovelife on the backburner for the time being, so the fact that I'm supposedly running out of candidates is not a problem (for now). Instead, my issue with becoming a year older is that it means I have a birthday. Yes, that is a problem. I've had lovely birthdays, I won't deny... but generally, I can't say I have a *best* birthday memory (OK maybe seeing Joseph at the London Palladium when I was 9), or that my birthday has been the best day in that year... or any of the things that you expect people to say about their birthdays. Make no mistake, this isn't supposed to reflect, in any way, the efforts of my friends - my friends are absolutely phenomenal when it comes to birthdays, you can quote me on that... it's just that I'm not an "it's MY birthday" person, I'm an "it's YOUR birthday" person. I would feel awful if I wasn't able to wish a friend for their birthday, but I don't mind if people forget my birthday... actually I find it quite amusing, and then I remind them constantly of their forgetfulness... evil me :D.

Another (less self-centred) theory is that I don't think much of my birthday 'cos I've almost always had exams around the same time... my reward for being born in the best month of the year ;-).

... And there's always the fear factor. I don't do surprises very well. I remember when I was wearing my plaster cast after my op, I went for a regular check-up. There were ~2 weeks more till it was supposed to come off, but Doc thought it would be good to remove it then and there (it was April in Sri Lanka, with power cuts everyday - not the nicest time for plaster casts). I was excited, but then as soon as he removed it, I fainted. Yup, I just plopped. Had to stay in hospital the whole day just so they could make sure I wasn't gonna collapse again. So yeah, basically... "SURPRISE!!!" isn't my best friend. That said, I don't faint everytime I'm surprised... most times, I just choke on my tears :D.

I'm not exactly sure what the point of this post is. I guess I just need to clear my head. I've been reading so much over the past few days (weeks, actually) that I think my brain's gone wonky. I miss my parents... but they'll be here in a month and a week, so all's good.

Oh yeah, I added a site feed to the bottom of the sidebar, so if you're jobless enough to read this regularly ;-), the link should work with any feed reader (at least that's what the website said... hehe). And I added a visit location monitor... it's supposed to get updated tomorrow so we'll see what happens. Don't worry, I'm not gonna hunt you down :D. Also, I changed the picture link so that you now have to be on Facebook to see the photos. Sorry, I just thought it's best. If you desperately want to see piccies, email me and I'll send you the link. Oh and I reduced the number of posts displayed on the main page, so there's less to scroll through. I don't think I messed about with anything else.

OK, time to say good night to Mr Bocelli and Mr Josh Groban (Mi Mancherai is amazing) and hit the sack. Hopefully I'll fall asleep before daybreak. And in case you were wondering, it's on the 26th .