Saturday, September 17, 2005

On a Lonely Friday Night

Life sucks. It’s the Friday before the start of the mid-term break. I am working in my Masters room alone and decided to make a trip to the library to return my book and zap some materials before it closes. There are many groups of students holding their Mooncake Festival celebration. Some are even carrying lighted paper lanterns. What a lovely sight it would make, except when you are feeling sucky, old, and deprived of a social life. =( But still, I take comfort in the knowledge that the Faculty grounds have yet to turn into a ghost town despite the late hours. That means, I still have much human ‘company’ around.

I think it’s important to take some time off to enjoy such ‘boliao’ activities in varsity. It makes a good reminiscing session when one’s mind is left to wander. I can vaguely remember my time as a Year 2 Entrepreneurship Society student, leisurely roaming the campus grounds on a full moon night, playing with some 50 cent lantern. Gone are the worries of impending term papers submission deadlines, and project presentations. It’s just me, the moon, the great company and my mooncake feast.

So, my advice to my friends who are still studying: Do nice things. Collect memories, live a very fruitful life. Interact with people. Enjoy your own solidarity moments, but get to know some people. Some people you meet will enrich your life and widen your horizons. And never, never just stick to your girlfriends and boyfriends. Have a life outside of your couple hood. Life is too short and precious to live only in the company of another fellow human being. That’s very limiting. Personal and social growth would be stunted and you can only do THAT much as a pair. (Disclaimer: Ivy is not responsible for conflicts caused by implanting seeds of discontentment in couples at large).

On a last note, I think NUS is really a safe place! I was in my Masters room and the campus security guard knocked and entered (I left the door opened, one shouldn’t be trapped in an air conditioned environment for prolonged hours) to check if everything’s fine. Nice to know that decomposing bodies will not be left alone for long in such an well patrolled environment. ;-)

Daily Trivia:
A fart is a combination of gases (nitrogen, carbon dioxide, oxygen, methane, and hydrogen sulfide) that travels from a person's stomach to their anus. When a person swallows too much air or eats foods that the human digestive system cannot digest easily gas becomes trapped in his/her stomach. The only way for this excess gas to exit the body is through the anus.

The gas that makes your farts stink is the hydrogen sulfide gas. This gas contains sulfur which causes farts to have a smelly odor. The more sulfur rich your diet, the more your farts will stink. Some foods that cause really smelly farts include: beans, cabbage, cheese, soda, and eggs.

A scientific name for a fart is flatus or flatulence.

Place to Visit: No particular place for today, just picture offerings of Topical Paradise from everywhere on Earth. Cos, the sun, sand and coconut trees makes good ol’ summer loving. And I am daydreaming of walking on white sandy beaches while freezing in a lonely small room.

The Seychelles

Maldive Islands

Matira Point, Bora Bora, French Polynesia (Good Honeymoon Destination, folks!!!)

Chill out in a Hammock, Maldives

Afterglow, Hawaii

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Happy Birthday To Me!!!

Gosh, I am 25 today. I feel like a dinosaur already. My only consolation is that I still get mistaken for a freshie on campus and get called a ‘Xiao Mei’ (meaning: little girl, in Chinese) by aunties. ;-) Maybe that’s because I am so petite! Not like it’s an asset.
Seriously, birthdays lose their excitement the older one gets. In fact, I didn’t even remember it myself if not for some reminders from a sweet dear!
However, birthdays are ideal times to take a step back and do a comprehensive evaluation of one’s life so far. To reflect on past resolutions and ambitions, take stock on the decisions and collate their worthiness.
As for myself, when I did the aforementioned activities, I regretted not spending more time doing personally enjoyable things when I was younger, and had more time on my hands as an undergraduate. I wished I had been more active and involved in campus publications (I love to write), wished I had done some theatre productions (I love drama and acting), took up dance and singing lessons. So, I decided on this momentous occasion to draw up a check list for the things I want to do/accomplish in my life. The items may change over time, and I may not finish all I hope to do, but the most important thing would be that I DID TRY.

Ivy’s list of “Things to Do Before I Die”:

1. Invest like Warren Buffet
2. Be a multi-millionaire
3. Be a CEO of a listed company
4. Be as inspirational as Stephen R. Covey and Anthony Robbins
5. Learn how to Dance (Hip-Hop, Jazz, MTV and Ballroom Dancing)
6. Travel the world (or visit as many places as possible)
7. Sing like Sarah Brightman (do a cover of her ‘Diva Dance’ in the Fifth Element well)
8. Rap like Jay Chou
9. Act in a musical
10. Alleviate poverty (help some Third world citizens personally)
11. Nurture beautiful kids (kind, intelligent ones)
12. Read at least 1000 good books! (whoa, speed reading required)
13. Play the piano as beautifully as Kevin Kern
14. Learn how to play Drums, Gu Zheng and Flute (master my piano)
15. Learn Spanish, Korean, French, Italian and Cantonese (not to mention brush up my Japanese)
16. Write a book (autobiography, children’s book or management book—any will do)
17. Own a Super Car (preferably Jaguar, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Lotus or Maserati)
18. Own a luxurious villa (with tennis courts, swimming pool and a library)
19. Invent a gadget/ technology that will improve the life of Mankind
20. Run for political office and effectuate sound policies

(All the above should be done with relish, and with a healthy body and mind).

I think people who read this would either: 1. Die laughing or 2. Faint in disbelief.
Oh well, I don’t give a hoot. Cos, it’s my list and it’s my life. Just let me die trying and I will have a happy smile on my face when my journey’s up on this beautiful place we call Earth.

Daily Trivia: No trivia. Nothing’s trivial on my big day (gives a narcissistic guffaw-Muahahaha). Here’s the lyrics of a song I really like instead. It dispenses out great advice!

Everyone’s free (to Wear Sunscreen)
Baz Luhramann

Ladies and gentlemen, of the class of '99.
Wear Sunscreen.
If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. I will dispense this advice now.

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they've faded. But trust me, in 20 years, you'll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can't grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked.

You are not as fat as you imagine.

Don't worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind. The kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday.

Do one thing every day that scares you.


Don't be reckless with other people's hearts. Don't put up with people who are reckless with yours.


Don't waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you're ahead, sometimes you're behind. The race is long and, in the end, it's only with yourself.

Remember compliments you receive. Forget the insults. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.
Keep your old love letters.Throw away your old bank statements.


Don't feel guilty if you don't know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn't know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don't.

Get plenty of calcium. Be kind to your knees. You'll miss them when they're gone.

Maybe you'll marry, maybe you won't. Maybe you'll have children, maybe you won't. Maybe you'll divorce at 40, maybe you'll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary. Whatever you do, don't congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chance. So are everybody else's.

Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Don't be afraid of it or of what other people think of it. It's the greatest instrument you'll ever own.

Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your living room.

Read the directions, even if you don't follow them.

Do not read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel ugly.

Get to know your parents.You never know when they'll be gone for good. Be nice to your siblings. They're your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.

Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.

Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard. Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft.


Accept certain inalienable truths:Prices will rise. Politicians will philander.You, too, will get old. And when you do, you'll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders.

Respect your elders.

Don't expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund. Maybe you'll have a wealthy spouse. But you never know when either one might run out.

Don't mess too much with your hair or by the time you're 40 it will look 85.

Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it's worth.

But trust me on the sunscreen.

Place to Visit: Greece-One destination on my near immediate travel agenda. Socrates and Plato, here I come.

Fira, Santorini, Cyclades Islands, Greece

Harbor Town of Yialos, Island of Symi, Greece

The Parthenon, Acropolis, Athens, Greece

Mykonos, Greece

Temple of Olympian Zeus, Athens, Greece

Sunset on the Island of Santorini, Greece

Moonrise over Santorini, Greece

Sunday, September 04, 2005

The Alchemist

Has anyone read 'The Alchemist' by Paulo Coelho? Or is anyone in possession of the book? It will be the next book on my 'To Read' list. Chanced upon its existence in a review. It does sound like a great read, somewhat inspiring and feel-good.
As of right now though, I have around 12 hours to finish 'The tipping point' by Malcolm Gladwell. Apparently, there's such a long waiting list for this book in NUS library that they are threatening borrowers of it a late fine of $1 an hour for overdue returns. Whoa...
Below is a review of 'The Alchemist' by Anna Hassapi. I am sure it will tempt you to check it out for yourselves. I have highlighted some personally meaningful segments in red.

Dreams, symbols, signs, and adventure follow the reader like echoes of ancient wise voices in "The Alchemist", a novel that combines an atmosphere of Medieval mysticism with the song of the desert. With this symbolic masterpiece Coelho states that we should not avoid our destinies, and urges people to follow their dreams, because to find our "Personal Myth" and our mission on Earth is the way to find "God", meaning happiness, fulfillment, and the ultimate purpose of creation.
The novel tells the tale of Santiago, a boy who has a dream and the courage to follow it. After listening to "the signs" the boy ventures in his personal, Ulysses-like journey of exploration and self-discovery, symbolically searching for a hidden treasure located near the pyramids in Egypt. When he decides to go, his father's only advice is "Travel the world until you see that our castle is the greatest, and our women the most beautiful".
In his journey, Santiago sees the greatness of the world, and meets all kinds of exciting people like kings and alchemists. However, by the end of the novel, he discovers that "treasure lies where your heart belongs", and that the treasure was the journey itself, the discoveries he made, and the wisdom he acquired.
"The Alchemist" is an exciting novel that bursts with optimism; it is the kind of novel that tells you that everything is possible as long as you really want it to happen. That may sound like an oversimplified version of new-age philosophy and mysticism, but as Coelho states "simple things are the most valuable and only wise people appreciate them". As the alchemist himself says, when he appears to Santiago in the form of an old king "when you really want something to happen, the whole universe conspires so that your wish comes true". This is the core of the novel's philosophy and a motif that echoes behind Coelho's writing all through "The Alchemist". And isn't it true that the whole of humankind desperately wants to believe the old king when he says that the greatest lie in the world is that at some point we lose the ability to control our lives, and become the pawns of fate. Perhaps this is the secret of Coelho's success: that he tells people what they want to hear, or rather that he tells them that what they wish for but never thought possible could even be probable.
Coelho also suggests that those who do not have the courage to follow their " Personal Myth", are doomed to a life of emptiness, misery, and unfulfillment. Fear of failure seems to be the greatest obstacle to happiness. As the old crystal-seller tragically confesses: " I am afraid that great disappointment awaits me, and so I prefer to dream". This is where Coelho really captures the drama of man, who sacrifices fulfillment to conformity, who knows he can achieve greatness but denies to do so, and ends up living a life of void.
It is interesting to see that Coelho presents the person who denies to follow his dream as the person who denies to see God, and that "every happy person carries God within him". However, only few people choose to follow the road that has been made for them, and find God while searching for their destiny, and their mission on earth.
Consequently, is Coelho suggesting that the alchemists found God while searching for the elixir of life and the philosopher's stone? What is certain is that the symbolism of the text is a parallel to the symbolism and the symbolic language of alchemism, and similarly the symbolism of dreams is presented as " God's language".
It is also symbolic that Santiago finds his soul-mate, and the secrets of wisdom in the wilderness of the desert. The "wilderness" is a symbol that has been used by many great writers e.g.. Austen in "Mansfield Park", and Shakespeare in "King Lear". In the desert, Santiago meets his "twin-soul" and discovers that love is the core of existence and creation. As Coelho explains, when we love, we always try to improve ourselves, and that's when everything is possible. The subject of love inspires a beautiful lyricism in Coelho's writing: "I love you because the whole universe conspired for me to come close to you."
"The Alchemist" is a novel that may appeal to everybody, because we can all identify with Santiago: all of us have dreams, and are dying for somebody to tell us that they may come true. The novel skillfully combines words of wisdom, philosophy, and simplicity of meaning and language, which makes it particularly readable and accounts for its bestselling status.

Daily Trivia:
The word "phobia" is a term that refers to a group of symptoms brought on by feared objects or situations. A phobia is a persistent, irrational fear that causes a person to feel intense anxiety.
Some phobias include:
1. arachnophobia: fear of spiders
2. altophobia: fear of heights
3. atelophobia: fear of imperfection
4. aurophobia: fear of gold (Anyone has this? I can help!!)
5. brontophobia: fear of thunder and lightning
6. clinophobia: fear of going to bed (not me...i love my bed!!!)
7. coulrophobia: fear of clowns
8. chrometophobia: fear of money (I can help!)
9. decidophobia: fear of making decisions
10. epistemophobia: fear of knowledge (what??? rolls eyes in disbelief)
11. enochlophobia: fear of crowds (yea, a certain extent)
12. homilophobia: fear of sermons
13. mycophobia: fear or aversion to mushrooms (giant walking mushrooms--shudder)
14. scopophobia: fear of being stared at
15. ouranophobia: fear of heaven (for people who prefers to 'go to hell')
Apparently, there's almost a term for fear of anything under the sun.

Place to Visit: Austria!!! Think 'Sound of Music'!! Absolutely charming.

Donnerbrunnen Fountain, Vienna, Austria

City Hall, Vienna, Austria

Salzburg, Austria

Tyrol, Austria

Salzkammergut, Austria

Schlaten Glacier, Hohe Tauern National Park, Austria

adopt your own virtual pet!