Friday, 7 February 2014
I think one of the lessons I learned going to university was that you don't have to like everybody you meet, and they don't have to like you.
The harder lesson, though, was that even if you don't like the person (and they don't like you), it's actually possible to work with them AND treat them with respect and fairness.
One of the first difficult people I encountered in university was a lady I was assigned to work with. She was difficult in the sense that she was very controlling and also very uptight about many things, which was very hard for me because I could be the same in some aspects. I used to get into 'trouble' with her every week because she would get her knickers in a twist every week because she was not happy with the way I cut the strawberries: she was upset when I cut them into halves, upset when I cut them into eighths, upset when I cut them into quarters, and after a while, I gave up.
One day, maybe after some 10 weeks of going round the bush of cutting her upset because she was never happy with my strawberries, I finally had a conversation with my professor...
Me: I really don't like her; she's always picking on my strawberry-cutting. They're strawberries!
Professor: Finally! I was wondering when you would realize that.
Me: I don't have to like her. Right?
Prof: Right. You don't. She's difficult. You don't have to change that.
And ironically, once I accepted that and stopped fighting, we actually worked together much better. For one, if she had problem with my strawberry-cutting, I gave the strawberries to her and told her to cut them.
Good thing I learned that in university. There's many a difficult people out there.
I don't have to like them all, but that doesn't mean I can't work with them or respect them.
In fact, I would go as far as to say it's one of the more important lessons I learned.
Sunday, 17 November 2013
Whenever people ask me what I do, I always tell them I assist the professor in her research. Which is true, in many ways.
But I gotta say that I didn't quite appreciate that I would be using a lot more than just research skills when I took on this job (yep, naive!).
These past two years, I have done everything from playing counsellor (do you know how much heartache there is in academia?) to building bookshelves and sewing puppet clothes.
|Yes, that is me sewing puppet clothes...|
|And here all the puppets are now dressed!|
It's quite funny in some ways, because when applying for research jobs, we go out of our way to show how skilled we are in doing all things research-related: understanding study-design, subject recruitment, data collection, statistic skills, data analysis, report-writing. And then, of course, there are the study- and research-specific skills, like MATLAB programming, experience with fMRI, qualitative coding, and the like.
But we often forget that a big part of getting research done sometimes relies on softer skills, like talking to parents of young children to bring them to the lab, the ability to get a 3-year-old to cooperate with you and sit through the entire task, being able to problem-solve (they don't sell puppet clothes that fit your need? ok, so sew them!), and sometimes just getting down and dirty with whatever needs to be done.
So, yes, I assist the professor in her work. Sometimes that means ploughing through stacks of publications to find the information she wants, and sometimes, it means picking up a hammer and putting together bookcases for our lab's overflowing supply of books.
Therapeutic? You bet.
Thursday, 29 November 2012
I was reading this piece about choosing supervisors on U of T's website and had a good laugh.
I guess I'm lucky. Through the years, I've had supervisors who did everything listed on the "best" to "worst" scenarios. I think the supervisors described was an amalgamation of all my supervisors' good and bad traits.
U of T was probably writing it tongue-in-cheek, but hey, I've had supervisors who:
1) Visited me in the hospital (two supervisors, mind you)
2) Called the family practice to find me a doctor, and dug up numbers for a chiropractor when I injured my back
3) Dealt with all the bureaucracy for me and all I needed to do was get them signed
4) Tried to tell me who my "secret examiner" was since "everyone else knew theirs."
1) Supervisor who is never around!
2) Supervisor who always showed up late for any meeting, and then tried to rush me off!
3) "Makes you feel nervous, stupid, isolated or angry"
4) Supervisor who could never make up her mind and everything was "good." Or on the flip side, supervisor who could never make up her mind and everything was "NOT good."
Thankfully, I haven't had a supervisor turn on me...yet.
And I hope we don't go there...
Tuesday, 11 September 2012
I think something is wrong with the education system when university students think it is perfectly fine to "place" a friend at the head of the line for the bus and later have the whole group saunter in and join that ONE friend who was place-holding for a group.
Why should a group of 5-6 people get ahead of the line simply because they had a friend arrive early? When buses are full, 5-6 people is sometimes enough to make you wait for the next, next bus!
And this seems to be very normal thing when university students are around. Another group of people who love to cut queue are the elderly.
Now, I almost always let old people behind me get on the bus first. But it irks me that they think that their age gives them the right to walk to the front of the line. I am all for wheelchairs and strollers going first, but people who walk to the front of the line because they're old is another issue altogether...
We seem to be getting better at teaching our children how to count, read, and write...but we're not getting any better at teaching them respect, consideration, and manners.
And we also seem to teach people that when it comes to what is right, there is a double standard.
Monday, 16 July 2012
|Sheba and me enjoying the sunshine...|
|More sunshine with my furry poochy friend!|
|Getting a brush at home...|
Sheba is quite a celebrity too. The professor's students love her as much as I do!
|Together with Joanna, we spoil the poochy...|
There's something about dogs and smiles here. I am very happy to approach people whom I don't know to say hello to their dogs, and most owners are perfectly happy to talk to you about their dogs and share a pet and lick. And compared to Malaysian dogs, the ones here are sometimes super humungous! Which I like! I've met dogs that weight almost a whole me and another half...
Sheba's been away for almost a month-and-a-half at "doggie camp", and I've missed her tremendously. I can't wait till she returns to work! :-)
Sunday, 13 May 2012
So after a long hiatus from the world of blogging, I return to say I just came back from Malaysia. It's been 2 years since I returned home, and my tummy was the one planning the vacation!
My one grumble...Malaysians only had one thing on their mind: To remind me how fat I've become since I last returned. Sheesh. They couldn't even let me enjoy my vacation without commenting about my weight...directly.
"Wah, so fat!"
"Wah, put on weight!"
"Your face very big already lar"...
Sheesh...I come back once in two years, let me eat in peace lar, ok?
Top on my list of must-eats was:
Durian (see pic)
Ipoh Kuey Teow
Char Koay Teow (with the cockles and Ipoh taugeh)
And almost everything else Malaysian...
Oh well, the tummy was happy. The weighing scale was not...
And then when I returned to Vancouver, my classmates and I went to eat: Malaysian food! Haha...
|Daphne's empty coconut at the Malaysian restaurant in Vancouver...|
Returning to Vancouver did not earn me any weight-comments; the Vancouverites were more fascinated by my "gorgeous tan". I had a good laugh because I managed the tan even with all the hiding from the sun!
See for yourself! The durian picture was taken the first few days I was back in Malaysia, and the coconut picture was taken a few days after I returned to Vancouver...
Sunday, 22 January 2012
There is bound to be one everywhere you go--the ubiquitous pengilap kasut (shoe-polisher) or a**-kisser as my new close friend in Vancouver calls them. Even after meeting many and having to work with them at some point or another, I still have not completely gotten used to them.
They make my skin crawl.
I don't know how they do it. I am very patient, but pretend to like you and polish you up is something I just can't make myself do. If I don't like you, it's pretty obvious (thankfully, I don't dislike many people), although I've gotten better at being civil and not just avoiding you.
I have to kind of work with one currently. The first time I met her, my skin crawled horribly. She started by telling me she needed to "teach you how to handle people." Now it's not arrogance that's making me not like her--I'm the same girl who let a fresh first-year undergraduate "teach" me how to read a journal article while everyone looked at me incredulously for a whole half hour.
When the girl (nice thing!) was done and had left, people wanted to know why I hadn't just told her I know how to read journals. Well, she was beaming when she sat to teach me, and if it makes her day, why not? And it did make her day, although she was rather sheepish a while later when she found out I had graduated, but she thanked me profusely for not telling her off. I told her I was fine with it if she ever wanted to practice "teaching" anything, and she was even happier with that!
So what's with shoe-polishers? Is this an evolutionary skill of some sort? It can't be just culture, because they can be found across the world!
Ergh, geram only. Guess that's the working world.
Sunday, 18 December 2011
Wahliau. I have ignored this blog for a very long time!
The good news is, I've survived 3 months of work! So what have I learned in this past 3 months?
1) I could work for Xerox some day...or the Manuals for Dummies book...
|The time machine...|
My boss has also put me in charge of writing manuals for everything in the lab. Her reason was I have to learn from scratch anyway, so I might as well put it in writing so people that come after me can benefit.
So if academia fails (touch wood!), I might be able to work for Xerox...or the manual for dummies people.
2) You can take a Malaysian out of Malaysia, but not the stomach...
|Nasi lemak! The whole works...|
Malaysians naturally look for Malaysian food everywhere they go. And if they can't find it, they cook it themselves. The above was a product of 3 Malaysians coming together to satisfy our Malaysian taste buds, while introducing Malaysian food to a Persian family.
And lucky for me, there's a lot more Malaysian restaurants in Vancouver than Toronto. In fact, for our next lab outing, we're having Malaysian food at a quite-pricey joint! And the boss is paying :)
3) I want to learn how to ski...
|At the Peak-to-Peak Gondola at Whistler-Blackcombe...|
I went to famous ski-slopes Whistler for a visit with my cousin. Felt kind of silly at parts as we were a few of the only people who didn't know how to ski or snowboard. Really want to take it up, but heck, it's expensive! And there's the issue of me being quite injury-prone...
Which leads us to point 4:
4) I cannot avoid the injury-proneness...
The doctor at urgent care who saw me for my back injury took one look at my back and said: "Uh-oh, that doesn't look right." When I came back from getting treated (our lab is right next to urgent care, which is very convenient, teehee), my boss asked for an update.
When she heard what the doctor said, she snorted and said "I can tell something is wrong just by looking at the front!"
5) I cannot resist animals...
|Sleigh-ride at Whistler...|
6) A warm drink with whip-cream is the perfect thing for a cold winter day...
|Hot peppermint chocolate...Yum...|
Starbucks is making a profit from the cold, that I can tell you. I'm usually too cheap to pay for a drink as the cost really adds up, but in the winter, I make a beeline for hot chocolate and specialty drinks to warm up. It's nice people notice and I've been getting gift cards for Starbucks for Christmas (that and a co-worker gave me and another co-worker a gigantic Starbucks mug)...
It's amazing how popular this chain is in Vancouver. Torontonians drink a lot more Tim Hortons. But geez, I can barely find Timmies here for some reason. Walk into the lab any day, and you'd find practically all the regulars there holding a cup of java from Starbucks. Come to think of it, I might be the only one who doesn't...
Tuesday, 25 October 2011
Yesterday, I followed the people I stay with to Costco (it's where you buy everything in bulk). As usual, I was looking for food.
Found some Ferrero Rocher for a good deal, so got some. And while I was wondering around aimlessly, I saw some coats on sale. Now, I needed a rain coat, and have had good experience with a winter jacket I found at Costco so I went to look.
Incidentally, this lady who was totting her little baby in a carrier around her back was also looking at coats. We both liked the same coat and I tried mine and was on my merry way.
Then I realised this lady could not try on her coat because her infant was strapped to her. I asked if she wanted someone to hold the little tyke and she was so surprised, her eyes nearly popped out.
But she accepted (oh, she did ME the favour--I've been dying to hold babies). So I had this super cute baby who's all of 5-months to play with for a while while mummy tried on the jacket. He just looked at me with this oogy-woogy eyes and kept smiling. Such lovely temperament!
Mummy and I got to talking and it turns out she came from Tanzania last year.
And before we parted ways, she gave me her phone number and told me to give her a call and I am welcome to come visit her.
Yes! Now I feel more like me...I made another friend...:)
Monday, 10 October 2011
I love Vancouver! Rain and all too, although it's nice to grumble about it...
I'm getting settled into my work (and love it!), I've gotten quite used to my new supervisor, made new friends, know my peers and colleagues, know my bus routes to my most frequented places, and have already popped my knee. Once I've hobbled in a place, I know I've settled in.
Everything seems perfect, but I feel like my life is somewhat empty.
Why? Because I have not done something for someone else...Favours don't count.
No volunteer work anywhere.
This is ridiculous...I feel like I'm going through withdrawal.
Tuesday, 20 September 2011
|I feel like Paddington Bear...|
Vancouver is well-known for its rain...Everybody who heard I was moving here gushed about how beautiful it is, and it was immediately followed by a comment about the rain.
My thesis-supervisor told me to buy a BIG umbrella and she warned me I would be looking for Noah and his ark come November because it would have rained so much...
Indeed, it rained the first day I worked. When I came for my interview, the weather behaved and I went home thinking people might have been exaggerating. But true enough, it rained my first day. And I had no umbrella (in my defence, I wanted to know what kind of rain they had before deciding whether I wanted a folded or standard one--I've learnt I might need both). Good thing my co-worker lent me his, and another found me a spare one she kept in her car.
I bought an umbrella from the university bookstore immediately.
Now I need rain boots and I need a rain jacket.And I feel like Paddington bear...
I've been playing Bobby Vinton's "Rain, Rain, Go Away" the past few days, and today, I wrote my own on the way home on the bus...
Monday, 12 September 2011
I was in Peterborough recently for a visit--Peterborough is where I attended university. It was nice to just go back and visit, see friends and some professors. That place has always felt like home and it will remain my first home in Canada.
I had coffee with the puppet coordinator of KOB-CMHA (Kids on the Block-Canadian Mental Health Organization) and he then asked if I will go back to the office and say hello to the volunteer coordinator with him. I was more than happy to go as I had not seen her in a while, so follow him I did.
While we were there, a lady popped her head in and proceeded to do some photocopying (the photocopier is in the room we were in) and she ended up staying to chat.
After about 10 minutes, I realized I hadn't introduced myself, so I extended my hand and introduced myself.
The minute I said my name, she said "I know!" with this look of realization on her face as if it just dawned on her.
I was surprised because I've come into the office only a few times.
And then she said "you were really nice to my daughter in the hospital when she was ill. You're the Scooby-Doo girl! The minute you put your hand out, I knew who you were!".
Oh wow. I remember this kid. She had come in for strep-throat and was such a cheery kid that I stopped to chat with her and brought her popsicles and a drink for her throat. We then got to talking and somehow the conversation of puppets came up and I mentioned I actually worked with them. And then she found out my name and instantly said "Like Scooby-Doo!" and we had to help describe Daphne from the show to the mum as she confused Velma and Daphne up!
Who would have thought? Her mum said she just got a job at CMHA and remembered me when passing the puppets. And she told me her daughter was doing well, which is always a great feeling.
This is something I will sorely miss about Peterborough. The comfy, homey feeling of knowing the people around you.
Tuesday, 30 August 2011
It has been a few years since I came to Canada, and I have been amazed at how different I have become.
Given, I wasn't a bad student when I was back home, but I wasn't the best either. I will say I was slightly above average, but nothing spectacular. And I'm pretty sure you would have found a few teachers who would have said "she can try harder", or "she's not applying herself".
But things have...changed.
I now work my behind off for my grades, and it won't satisfy me till I know I got the best grade I could have gotten. I will review all exams and assignments during my professor's office hours even if the score was as perfect as could be. In fact, I've had a couple of exams where I scored higher than perfect because the professor felt I deserved some "bonus" points.
I think it was because I found something I enjoyed. I actually enjoyed the subject material and I enjoyed the way things are structured.
I enjoyed that I could ask as many questions as I wanted, I enjoyed that I could experiment with my own hands, I enjoyed that I could discuss "taboo" subjects without fear of prosecution, and I enjoyed learning that it was okay to share your accomplishments without being labelled a "boaster".
Am I the brightest crayon in the box? No...
Am I the most talented? No...
But I am hardworking and I don't give up easily. And if there's one thing I learned in Canada, it's that it's ok to speak of your strengths and weaknesses.
In fact, my supervisor in university said one of things that helped me land a job was because I could acknowledge my weakness to my supervisor-to-be.
I've also learned that it's ok to aim far, but you should be prepared to work for it.
Does anyone owe you a living? No.
But someone might just take a chance on you if you work hard, just like they took a chance on me.
Friday, 19 August 2011
After my posting about the job, I got an email from a reader of this blog (I'll keep her unnamed since she didn't publish the comment and emailed me instead) sent me an email offering assistance. She is a fellow Malaysian who moved to Vancouver a few years back. We're now already talking about furniture and where to go and eat when I get to Vancouver, and she has even offered to pick me up from the airport if I need it (thank you! I will keep that in mind if I get horribly lost).
|Balloons from cousins to celebrate the Snoopy-themed presentation I did for the interview.|
My colleague-to-be has also been of tremendous assistance with accommodation and services in Vancouver, which I'm very grateful for.
And then my cousin's friend's friend heard of a Baha'i family doing homestay on the bus-route to UBC. So I will be staying with this family, and having home-cooked food three times a day!
And then I go on to find out that my supervisor/professor stayed in BC for 6 years doing her MA/Ph.D. and had some ideas about life in Vancouver and had some valuable advice about certain things I hadn't thought about.
Now it's just the nitty-gritty paper work and waiting for the work permit to arrive (argh!)...
Sunday, 7 August 2011
|About to cross Capilano Bridge!|
I just got offered a research-tech position at the Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience Lab in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver. Was in UBC for a few days for an interview and just enjoying Vancouver. It is a beautiful city, with gorgeous greenery and beaches.
I am very excited about the position as I would be able to put to use many of the skills I learned in Trent--I am still finding it hard to believe that I found a lab that I liked that much! I felt at home the minute I walked in (ok, so I am very young at heart)!
Now, I'm stressing about the second big move in three years or so. The first was, of course, moving from Malaysia to Canada. And the first step is to find accommodation...which is ridiculously expensive in Vancouver...
Tuesday, 19 July 2011
I never thought I'd say this, but it is impossibly hot in Toronto!
We've been having temperatures feeling like 40 degrees (or more, maybe, I haven't listened to the news every day) with humidity. The 'actual' temperature is around 27 degrees.
I've been huddled up like a hermit crab, and indeed, it does feel like the homes have different weather zones with the basements cold and the upper floors like an oven!
It's become a chore to go for daily walks as the heat has been excruciating. We keep hearing on the radio of warnings about the heat and we're asked to check on our elderly friends, family and neighbours. People are advised to stay indoors, wear loose clothing, apply sunscreen and use a hat, or go to the shopping malls.
Interesting how extreme the temperature is in Canada. The winter is freezing cold that entire rivers can freeze and in the summer, it is so hot people can die. And for some reason, the people here are not very good at adapting to the heat. After all, we don't hear of warnings like this in Malaysia. And I know for a fact that humidity in Malaysia is much higher than here and the 'actual' temperatures are higher too.
How did we do it in Malaysia?
I know my heat tolerance has drastically dropped. So much so that I get a headache just going out and start getting drowsy just by getting into the car because I feel like there's too much trapped heat in my body.
How did we do it?!? When I think back to the days where I wore blazers (with lining!!!) to school as part of my Prefect's uniform, with a tie! I'm amazed I didn't collapse of heat stroke when I consider my tolerance now.
Wednesday, 29 June 2011
I was watching Private Practice online last night, and I randomly clicked "Wait and See" from Season 2. One of the patients was a child who was born with ambiguous genitalia as a result of 11β-Hydroxylase deficient congenital adrenal hyperplasia.
The parents went through a turmoil trying to figure out what was the best for their child (i.e., sex assignment surgery or not, which would indirectly lead to gender assignment), and it was clear that so many things go on in a pregnancy. The parents were lead to believe during baby ultrasounds that their child was a male, and they had even named him Matthew. And that was the identity that they had already created for their child.
The father was having a particular hard time accepting his child, and insisted on the surgery to make him male. This, despite the caution from the doctors that only 30% of children born with this condition orienting towards male. The doctors were sure he would choose female, given the probabilities.
He even said at one point:
"Imagine being a 6-year-old boy with a vagina".
But the doctor had a reply (obviously):
"Imagine being a 20-year-old woman without one".
And the mother who had until now agreed with the husband about choosing 'male' clearly had a moment there where she realised what her decision might do to her child. And she began to identify with the female side of her child, and it hit her as a woman.
It's interesting how we create out entire identities around our sex. We identify with so many things because of our sex, and our gender. And how your entire existence is challenged because of this.
There was a case in Toronto just recently where the parents of a child has refused to let the world know the sex of their child so that he/she could develop his/her own identity. The child has been named Storm.
What do you think? Would the parents be doing harm or good? In this case, the child has genitalia. But what about children who are born with ambiguous genitalia?
I know my parents gave me freedom to wear what I want. There was a period of time when I abhorred skirts and/or dresses (I think Malaysian school uniforms was one reason, lol). Having to attend functions where it was more the norm for a lady to wear a dress was a particular chore, because I didn't have any! I even remember one where I did manage to find a skirt that I actually liked and wore it and everyone was so shocked I wore one!
Things have changed, for sure. I love dresses now, although I still love my jeans and slacks. But I definitely am very comfortable in skirts and dresses now, and would definitely balk if anyone made me change the way I dress.
When did that change happen? Was it because of society? Or was it because I had to learn to grow into my own body as a woman, and love it?
Friday, 10 June 2011
Daddy, me and mummy...
My parents are in Canada! Woo-hoo! They came for my convocation last week, and will be staying till the end of the month. I finally sorted through my convocation pictures last night and thought I'd post a few of them up. Many thanks to my cousin, Ee Lynn!
Mummy, Aunty, me, and Ee Lynn...
Me and the Chancellor, Tom Jackson...
Wednesday, 4 May 2011
I had my first dog when I was 5 years old. It was from a friend of my mum's. She was white, had one blue eye, and was a mixed Dachshund-Spitz. We named her Pansy, for her blue-ish eye.
Pansy was later joined by Bronco, a mixed Dachshund-Dunno-what. When Bronco got hit by a car (it was a hit-and-run), we got another dog named Sheba, a mixed Dalmatian-Dunno-what. We subsequently had Princess, a pure-bred Dachshund and then Hazel, another pure-bred Dachshund.
Pansy led a long-life of about 12 years. Bronco's life was shorter-lived, as was Princess, who died as a puppy. Sheba is now about 8 years old, and Hazel is about 7.
In between all this, we had Baby, a cat I inherited from my aunt when she moved. Baby lived with us for about 6 years before we had to euthanize him because he had oral cancer.
As you can see, I've had animals nearly my whole life. Moving away to Canada was difficult for one reason in particular: I missed having them around.
I always stop and look whenever I pass all the dogs wherever I am, whether in university, in town, or out on the nature trails. I will even play with them if their owners look friendly enough that I can ask.
I love visiting homes of people who have animals. If they have cats, I will happily snuggle up to them.
Now that I've moved out of university-residence, one thing keeps popping into my head. I want an animal-companion. I know I can't afford a dog and I know I don't have the time to keep walking them...
But a cat...Cats are, by nature, more independent; I don't have to walk them and they can use a kitty-litter. They also cost way less by virtue of the fact that if you're gone for a whole night, you don't have to board them (just leave enough food and fresh water all over the place and fresh litter), and also because they eat way less.
I know people will say I'm nuts for getting something that I'm completely responsible for (cost, health, boarding when I'm away etc.), but I am actually considering this because I miss them terribly. And I am definitely happier when I'm around them.
I'll have to eventually get my own place if and when I get a job (I'm now living with my aunt). Is it that crazy to come home stressed out from work wanting to cuddle with a cat? Sure, cats can be very aloof, but if you start them young thinking you're their companion, it works!
Honestly, the ONLY issue I can think of right now is if I were to go home or anywhere else for a vacation. What do I do with my cat then?
Saturday, 30 April 2011
Home for the past year...
I left the lab for the last time today...No more punching codes to get in...No more working late nights in the lab where the only people walking the hallways are security to check who's still around...No more singing in the hallways at night because I feel like it and I know no one can hear me...
A friend caught me on camera coming out of the lab. Well, at least I have this picture to remind me of how it looks like...
Printed and bound!
And finally, my thesis. Oh dear lord...I'm broke just printing alone (FOUR copies!)...But it's been the most worthwhile task in my undergraduate career...The autonomy, the pride in actually finishing it, the sense of accomplishment, and the skills!
And the culmination of the thesis was the department poster presentation. Each student is required to present to 3 faculty who will grade your work, and anyone else--faculty, staff, student, public--who came by who was interested.
It was the weirdest feeling having to present to your supervisor. Especially since she knows everything there is to know about your project! But it was definitely good practice!
Along with my fellow lab mate (each faculty takes on 2 thesis students), I will be presenting my thesis at the 72nd Canadian Psychological Association conference in June. It's pretty cool both our thesis got accepted! So any practice is good...
But yeah! I'm done!