Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Missing Malaysian Food

No matter how many stars that michelin restaurant has, no matter how good that authentic tapas is... I still miss the oily, spicy Malaysian food. While you can get some pseudo-Malaysian food here, like char kuey tiao or satay made by non-Malaysians to extort money out of lazy Malaysians, you can never find those authentic mamak roti canai and my favourite...Roti Tissue! Oh dearie me...I have no idea why I kept craving for Malaysian food lately. I kept thinking about the sour and spicy Boat Noodles (RM1.90 per bowl!) and also the spicy, crunchy chicken only available in KFC/McDonald's in Malaysia. Looking at instagram just make everything worst - scrolling through my friends' food photos at 1am is the worst torture ever!

And...I am not even planning to go back anytime soon. How?! *cries*

On the side note, my project is going super well that it will probably end really soon. My first ever proper project. Glad to be able to contribute to the scientific community, even though it's just a tiny weeny piece of information.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Cups and cups...

A typical morning desk situation
Hazelnut latte 
I have a confession - I'm a coffee addict. (Ok, probably not worth a confession if you know me in real life)A day without coffee is like a day living in fog. I will be like a living zombie, walking around the town, go to lecture and talk to people, without really absorbing what's going on at all. When I miss my morning cup of java, it's usually the days when I wake up 15 minutes before lecture, and I know the day won't be splendid. It'll be fine, I mean, I don't have drug-addict like withdrawal syndrome. Oh wait, I do get really irritable and if I could, I would hang a card on my neck, 'you owe me a cup of coffee. Get me one, or get lost!' Whenever I am idle, my body fall into a default state of mininaps every few minutes, though this article says it's the key to success. *shrugs* I rather be sharp and less irritable. So since year 1,, no, since A levels, I have had this habit of drinking at least 1 cup of coffee every day. And I've been doing well keeping it to 1, or at most, 2, on the days I go out for coffee with friends. 

I've been living well with any sort of coffee for the past 5 years, you see. From the RM1.50 canned Nescafe from the vending machine during college years to the 40p instant coffee from the vending machine in Pathology tearoom, I was happy as long as the liquid in my cup tasted like coffee. Then these random coffee shops start popping up in UK and Malaysia, so I started cafe-hopping whenever possible. To enjoy the cafe ambience and to enjoy the good coffee. The thing is, a cup of latte costs around 2-3 quids. If I drink 2 per day, that's at least 6 quids... And we haven't even take into account the amount I spent on food! I have a hunch that if I ever become broke one day, it'll most probably be because I spend all my savings on food.  

So I tried to save by having instant coffee and milk at home. But once you go on cafe coffee, you can't go back! Somewhere in your mind, you'll know that you're missing out something! and that something is clear - a good cup of coffee. 

One day, a close friend's coffee machine broke down. (Many of us used to leech on this lawyer/barista's good coffee :p) He was looking for a new machine, and he was aiming for a 130 pounds one. I had a look at the review and did some maths (thank God for almost non-existing math skills). If each cup in the cafe is 3 pounds, and I have it twice a day, I can easily spend 130 pounds on coffee in a month. 

If I make le coffee on my own: 
  • Each Illy coffee capsule for the machine is 40p 
  • milk from Sainsbury/M&S 25p for a cup.  
  • Total cost for a cup of good Illy coffee, in the comfort of my room is only 65p. 
  • So I save 2.35 pounds for a cup. 
  • After only 55 cups, I would have covered the machine cost 130 pounds. 

That is so cheap! I get to enjoy good coffee anytime I like and also practise milk steaming and pouring skills to be a barista just in case medicine doesn't work out...

It has been 10 weeks since I got my machine. I'm learning bit by bit from my friend and from Youtube videos while experimenting different pouring skills and recipes on my own. The affogato's espresso was made from the Illy espresso and it's oh-so-good! And I bought a bottle of Hazelnut syrup from M&S today to make my first ever Hazelnut Latte and it tasted soooooooo good! Planned to go proper barista classes, but have yet to save enough for the classes after making a few major purchases for the past few months...but I'm definitely planning to go to for one! 

Investing in a coffee machine may not seem attractive at first glance but if you are drinking as much coffee as I do, and enjoy having good coffee. I said investment, because look at the amount of money and time it saves, and the amount of good coffee it brings! So, if you are in doubt, don't ask me, because you'll definitely buy one after you ask for my opinion. 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Something different every day

I just had lunch. Cooked dark soy sauce chicken with chilli flakes and some lettuce. When my bedder came in and saw the food hot from the hob on my table, 

'Looks really yummy!' I could almost see her drool coming down.
'Yes, they are. Thank you. You can hoover tomorrow.' And I sort of implied her that she's suppose to leave my room now before my food disappears in front of me. 

Dark soy sauce chicken is really the easiest thing you can cook if you couldn't think of any other way to cook chicken. I  mean, being Asian, we always have soy sauce lying somewhere in the kitchen right? I have been cooking chicken so often that I have no idea how else to cook them anymore. I only have about 15 minutes to cook a meal, so something complicated or takes a long time like ginseng chicken soup or curry chicken are no-no. There are only a few ways to grill or fry chicken. What else can you do? If you have some good recipes, share with me! :) 

I can really empathise with my mom and those housewives who cook every day now...How on earth can you come up with something different to cook every single day? I'm staying on my own, so even if I want to eat soy sauce chicken every day, it doesn't bother me. But what if you're cooking for the whole family? Obviously you can't cook the same thing every single day right? You'd want everyone to be well-fed and happy. You'd want to keep the table conversations interesting. Imagine how dull the situation would be on the table if a housewife were to cook dark soy sauce chicken everyday:

'Yum! Soy sauce chicken!'
'Oh yea, delicious soy sauce chicken, again!' 
'Oh darling, you put too much soy sauce today.'
'Dar, this chicken could do with more soy sauce.'
'Oh dear, did you dump the whole bag of salt into the pot?!'
'Did you change the brand of the soy sauce you use?'


*scurry to expand recipe library* 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Rationalise out of the defensive mode

Oh, look at how time flies! The last time I blogged was 2 months ago. And I just turned 22 last Christmas! :)

Ok the reason I stopped blogging for these past 2 months was because  I was busy saving the world right after the last post, I had a supervision with a King's College supervisor. I got the worst-ever feedback for my essay and some nasty comments on my language. It affected my self-confidence for quite a while. I almost cried but I thought, wait a minute, keep calm and take a step back. Was she trying to help or was she just enjoying the position to criticise a vulnerable soul here?

To be honest, it is very easy, as a foreign student, a minority in this society to take this as a case of racism. Every time when you not treated the way you wanted,  it is easy to feel you are discriminated against by a local. It is easy to go into that defensive mode and start crying wolf, or scream something like 'you racist th*at!' But if you take a step back, breathe and analyse the whole situation, very often it is not a case of racism. One, you can't always get the thing you want, regardless of race, religion, great wealth or background associated with the royal blood. erm...maybe you can but that's not the point. Two, there are rude and inconsiderate people in all communities! When they are rude, that doesn't mean they are against your whole race. They are just, being human. Unless you have a concrete evidence, explicitly or implicitly but very clear, that you are being unfairly treated because of your background, it is never a good idea to take things into the 'racism' realm, because it will never get your problem solve, and if anything else, it'll get blown up to a completely different argument, involving the whole population of two races. What's the point?

As the supervisor was rambling on how terrible it is for the College to admit a student like me, I thought why should I take these criticisms this way? She's trying to help here, and even though she could have put those criticisms in a more constructive way, her intention was clear - to teach me and to make me a better student. Listen to her words clearly, her criticisms were based on the mistakes I made on paper, and not any statement she made was against my background or my identity. It was clearly not a case of racism. So as these thoughts were running through my mind, I smiled and gave her my director of studies' contact details. She emailed him, he emailed me and we arranged another supervision to help me in improving my writing skills. I was extremely glad because I got my decade-old confusion in grammar resolved and an English language lesson from a Cambridge expert, tailored to me, for free. Hey, private language classes aren't cheap! (Still a Malaysian at heart!)

Note to self: When facing criticisms and accusations, we go into a hyper-defensive mode immediately and start denying and fighting back mentally/verbally every single thing the person says. But try to put ourselves into another person's shoe the next time: each of us has a very unique background and myriad of distinct encounters in our life; each of these pieces inevitably forms the filter through which we see our world. On top of our 'just brilliant' ability to communicate clearly in this modern world, misunderstandings are often a result of inability to see from another person's point of view. Empathy  is the way to go! However, to truly understand another person's point of view will take a hell lot of time and energy. And obviously, it is not possible to do that with every acquaintance. Knowing this fact, an easier way in getting around this problem is, not to let your emotions take control and dive into defensive mode immediately the next time you face criticisms/accusations. Take a step back. If you can't rationalise on the spot, then move away until you can think through the situation properly, then only go talk it through. So...when facing criticisms and accusations, it's a good time to practise empathy!

Happy Week 2!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Cambridge Medicine Interview: Round 2.

So what have I been up to?

Egg Benedict at Tom's Kitchen
Sloane Square 

Yes, I've been slightly drowned by work after a weekend of fun-fun-fun and no-work-at-all! in London but I'm not slacking a single bit on writing.

Remember I wrote an article on Cambridge Medicine Interview before? Recently, I wrote another article on Cambridge Medicine Interview for an organization called Malaysian Medics International (UK). You can head over and read it. Share it with any friends you think would appreciate it. And also, thank you my dear friends who volunteered yourselves for the interview. :)

Besides, I will (possibly) be facing my second med school interview soon! When I first got in, I thought this is it, I am done with the scary med school admission interview but when I arrived here, they told me, no, you will have to go through another round of application to get into Cambridge's Clinical School because we only have space for half of number of medical students in your year. 

Wth? Another round of cambridge interview?! I have only realised this very recently when I talked to my friends from Imperial and UCL. This only happens in Oxbridge. (They say, do your research before you go for any university. I obviously didn't take that advice very seriously.) All other London medical schools students don't have to go through this! No wonder our intra-species competition was so intense so the past 2 years because it all depends on your merits/results to stay. :/ 

And now everyone's scrambling to fill in their forms and preparing for the interview...*sigh*
Urm interviews, no please, please don't give me nightmares, again. KEEP CALM THIRD YEARS!

If any seniors who have been through it are kind enough to save us from this misery, could you please message me or comment below? We shall be eternally grateful for your contribution. Thank you. :) 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Affogato + Baileys


(Italian, "drowned")

an Italian dessert of vanilla ice cream over which espressohas been poured <The can be sipped slowly or eaten with a spoon and is a great way to enjoy dessert, coffee, and an after-dinner drink all in one. — Philip Johnson, Bistro, 2004> 
Taken from Merriam webster dictionary 
Another early day for me! There's something wrong with my bacteria in the lab, they seem to go really crazy for the past week and my supervisor is not around. So while waiting for the troubleshooting culture to grow overnight, I came home emo-ly early and made this super delicious tea time snack: Affogato with Baileys.
Prep time: 5 mins.

1. Illy Medium Roast Coffee capsule
2. One teaspoon of baileys
3.  As much Häagen-Dazs Vanilla ice cream as you like. (Oh so creamy!)

1. Just put everything into a cup and watch the ice cream melts. 
2. Optional: A few cheesesticks with poppyseed completely notched up this teatime. 
You can add something nuts/crunchy stuffs into the ice cream too. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

A spark in the lab

It was not even that late. The sun sets much earlier than usual because it was mid-November. Everyone scurried home way earlier than before to avoid the rain forecasted to start in a few hours time. But she couldn't go home because she needs to finish this procedure to get these batch of cells into the PCR machine so they can run overnight. He, obviously couldn't as well as he was seen busy pipetting solutions for the a few hours now. Who knows why he couldn't wait until tomorrow, everyone is so busy these days, it's hard to constantly keep track of what other's live is about. 

In the midst of the test tubes and the neon-coloured solutions, their eyes met. They were allocated seats on opposite sides of a bench but nothing this strong has stirred in their hearts before. Well, at least not in hers. But there is something about this moment...her breath paused and she could hear her own heart beating hard against her chest wall. His eyes, oh, his eyes were so beautifully created. It's as if he could stare straight into her soul, looking in her now stirring, no, melting heart. The blue flame from the Bunsen burner was the only witness to this magical moment.

To be continued...

Ok, how's my fiction writing skills? Can be the next best-selling author or not?

Hahaha....Let me entertain myself for a while because I was feeling a bit frustrated in the lab lately. I have been repeating the same procedure for 4 times, and without my supervisor around, it was pretty daunting to do everything on my own. But I did it! After consulting other senior researchers around, I finally managed to troubleshoot all the problems and got the right gene fragments for the plasmids (a.k.a. ring of genes that isn't part to your own genome).

Then the spark happened...

To transform the bacteria (transformation: bacteria are able to take up genes from surrounding and adopt it as their own), I have to use electric pulses to make these electrocompetent little things to take up the plasmids. I was so happy when the plasmids are assembled and I can't wait to put them into the E.coli. So after mixing the plasmid and the bacteria together, I put them into the pulsing chamber and pressed 'PULSE'. After a few seconds


I was utterly shocked. What just happened? My supervisor who just got back this morning was laughing at the side,
'Finally you've seen a spark in the lab!'
'WHAT JUST HAPPENED? Are they dead?'
'Yea, probably fried. You'll have to assemble new plasmids.'
He said while still chuckling. Not funny, not funny at all.

Ah, the beauty of science in reality! Experiments in school, college and the past 2 years in uni have just been too nicely choreographed to be fool-proof. Being in this research project really allowed me to have a real taste of science experiments. It's not a walk in the garden anymore, rather, problems always appear and even when you follow the procedure to the microlitres, things still won't be guaranteed to turn out the way you wanted it to be. One of my supervisors said even the machine operated PCR (Google: polymerase chain reaction) is a dark art.

On a brighter note, I can almost see the end of my project and it's week 6!
The sunset of Michaelmas Week 5 in Cambridge