In brief...

I'm a Nature-lover, aspiring conservationist, and wannabe traveller in search of outdoor adventure.
My interests vary from conservation to education to heritage to Nature (biodiversity & wildlife) to outdoor activities to life in general.
They occupy most of my waking moment.
Do read my blogs, follow me on Twitter (@jocelynesze) and friend me on Facebook (subject to my discretion). Visit my Nature blog, Nature Rambles, at http://natureramble.wordpress.com.

UPDATE 2 Apr 2017 - This site is no longer maintained, please visit jocelynesze.wordpress.com if you're interested in more recent writing.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Song for Sienna.

I discovered Brian Crain earlier in this academic year, and since then, he (and Yiruma) has been my companion when I attempt to study (because some studies suggest that 'plinky plonky' music help you concentrate best). It made me really miss playing the piano, something which was almost as constant in my childhood as going to church and studying was. So this academic year I've been to Peterhouse's music practice room to use the piano at least 4-5 times already as compared to none at all the first two years. I do miss the convenience of having my own piano at home which I can use any time I want (barring being a nuisance to neighbours).

Brian Crain's music is wonderfully soothing and emotive, and the song that I'm currently hooked on is Song for Sienna.



It's great music for when the snow is gently falling outside (that one time it did snow for more than 10 minutes), and when I just want to ponder life and not do any work. Which kinda defeats the point of study music probably.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Nat Sci pains.

Because we live in a different world.

'alien species'
Image taken from: http://www.hear.org/galapagos/invasives/topics/management/vertebrates/projects/cats.htm

'dating'
Image taken from: http://www.geocraft.com/WVFossils/DatingMethods.html
'modelling'
Image taken from: http://www.transmittingscience.org/courses/syst-bio/intro-system-bio/

Was trying to Google information about 'alien species' (which I usually prefer to call invasives for that reason) for my essay, and typed 'Why have alien', and Google suggested 'not contacted us' amongst a host of other extraterrestrial-related questions.
Which reminded me about how I was whining about a really boring lecture on dating fossils, and realised that the word 'dating' usually means something different. And also when I wanted to whine about having had enough of modelling over Christmas. Fortunately/unfortunately I only do the 'boring' kind of modelling, which involves a lot of reading mathematical/computational texts, running codes repeatedly (because I'm fail) and general teeth-gnashing and head-bashing. But I generally do quite like modelling, once I understand it. Just not the kind that requires me to be in public eye.



Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Week 5/Ash Wednesday/Happy Lunar New Year

Past the halfway mark for term, but honestly because I don't have many other commitments and my project isn't lab-based, I won't say I've been feeling week 5 blues. Took almost the whole weekend off last weekend, spending most of my time with friends. It's these friendships that prevent breakdowns and help one get through term/Cambridge, I think. And I'm so so glad as always to have such friends in my life.


I have caught some bug of sort though, so am feeling more sniffly/headachy than normal, and pushing myself to go for Ash wednesday mass at 8am and then some 4 hours of consecutive lectures (cos I'm #tookeen) then 3 hours of conservation talk/lectures (again #tookeen) was quite brutal. Still, I feel like I'm starting to get to grips with some of the lecture topics, and I've really been enjoying most of my lectures (especially mammalian evolution!) so I'm not really complaining.


Facebook and Whatsapp remind me that it's Lunar New Year, but as always, one can't really feel the 气氛(vibe?) here. I do have dinners with friends to look forward to, so it's not all too bad. I also realised that with the way things work out in the calendar, there is always a reason to reflect on life and what I should be doing. Academic year starts in October, actual Gregorian calendar year in January, and Lent is also a time for spiritual reflection which starts today. I can't say I've been sticking with my New Year's resolution particularly well, but well there's the Lenten season to try again.


Right back to productivity. Have a Happy Lunar New Year to friends who celebrate it, and a meaningful Lent to Christians.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Mountain films

So there's this Banff Mountain Film Festival that happens annually, and there's a UK & Ireland tour of the films. Came up to Cambridge last year, and this year twice for different screenings.

And cos I tweeted about the screening last year, I kinda felt like I should do it this year as well, at least as a quick reference record of the films screened. Was definitely a lot more keen about tweeting it last year.

Check them out here: https://storify.com/jocelynesze/banff-mountain-film-festival-2015

My absolute favourite is probably Drawn.

http://vimeo.com/100062478

Tashi and the Monk nearly made me cry as well, I think if I didn't do conservation, I would have done social work with orphaned/disadvantaged children. Cos mountains are really cool and inspiring and I absolutely love them; but it feels too selfish :/



And Valley Uprising: The Stonemasters was definitely the most hilarious. Most of the audience were just laughing their heads off at some parts. Definitely fascinating history of the whole rockclimbing/sport climbing movement that originated in the Mecca of rockclimbing, the Yosemites. Bucket list.


Update 11 Feb: I forgot to mention how there's only one film, ONE, among the many, which starred a female. I'm not counting Tashi in Tashi and the Monk cos that wasn't about the adventure/sports she was doing. And that one film was called Wild Women featuring Faith Dickey, a climber+slackliner=highligher. 



Which is actually part of a 8-women film that features other women, apparently.





I'm not gonna say Banff is sexist, or that there's some glass ceiling that women can never do adventure sports (absolutely rubbish) or rise to the same prominence as men (def not true too in fact it seems at least in present day, women's triumphs are celebrated more? People like Lynn Hill and Ashima and closer to home, lots of the super imba women climbers remain more of an inspiration to me than most of the guys ever will).

But most of the people in these films are guys, and I really don't get why. There are almost definitely more males than females in these sports. Is it cos women don't always push themselves to the same extent? That fewer women than men push themselves to these extremes. That fewer females than males, in the first place, try out these sports? Or is it just that males are just more likely to film themselves and get the whole sponsorship thing going and get a film out of it. Or, that women might start out in the sport and push themselves, but at some point, especially once they get married and have kids, are much more likely to then focus their efforts on their kids than continue pushing the limits of themselves/their sport than men. Because no matter what people say about gender equality and roles and identity, the biological fact still remains that men can't breastfeed (though of course mothers can keep the milk in bottles so fathers can feed the babies still or whatever.) 

Also, it's almost always white men as well. There was a Japanese climber featured last year in The Sinseh, but like this year, none. Again I'm not counting Tashi and the Monk cos they're not doing any adventure sports. Again, is it just that cos this film festival is based in Banff and most Asians/Africans/Latin Americans/all the other diverse broad categories of races don't know about it and therefore don't produce a film for it? Is it a matter of money and sponsorship? Don't think most of those guys are really rich and rolling in cash (except maybe the stonemasters from the 1970s who found that load of marijuana in the crashed plane), they definitely did get lots of sponsorship for the adventures they were undertaking. But to start doing those activities in the first place, you don't have to be really rich, but you do have to have some security in your life I guess. Which is perhaps a luxury that most others don't have. Another reason why I really liked Valley Uprising, cos those climbers weren't doing it to get sponsorship or anything, they were literally poor and homeless (by today's definition) but they did it cos they really enjoyed it. I guess they must have had some cash reserve somewhere, and probably did get some form of sponsorship, but it's by no means like today, when you could probably make a decent career out of adventure. Like, you might not get rich (though you could?) but you definitely won't be living out of your car and belaying for food..

It's a lifestyle choice too. Read Fred Beckey's story on WSJ, where the image was taken from.



Saturday, February 07, 2015

Nostalgia


Theme song for the Mediacorp channel 8 drama serial 孩有明天 (A child's hope)
为明天-光良
For tomorrow - Guang Liang

当 昨天画上句点
When yesterday drew to a close
何不就 让它悄悄无言
why not just let it stay silent (?)
看今天 更光鲜
Today will be brighter 
别忘了还有明天
Don't forget there's still tomorrow

选 你将来的志愿
Choose your future aspiration
一步步 再慢慢去实现
Step by step, slowly make it happen
不管路 有多远 有多险 有多倦
No matter how long the journey, how dangerous or tiring

在这无悔无怨的内心世界
In this inner world of no regrets (?)
我遇见了 美丽从容的脸
I've met a pretty face (?)
和酸甜苦辣 意义长篇
with all emotions (?) filled with meaning
但是我情愿 为感动 为明天
But I am willing to be touched, for tomorrow
  
痛 虽然有深有浅
Although there is deep and shallow pain
泪擦干 那就会好一点
Once you wipe your tears dry it'll be better
风虽然 看不见
Although you can't see the wind
但自由 无极限
Freedom is boundless
 
The original song in its entirety

当 昨天画上句点
何不就 让它悄悄无言
看今天 更光鲜
别忘了还有明天

选 你将来的志愿
一步步 再慢慢去实现
不管路 有多远 有多险 有多倦

在那很美很炫的童话境界
我还拿着青蛙王子的剑
来披荆斩棘 驱恶除奸 这感人画面
为幸福 为明天

梦 不一定要实现
心就会 有更辽阔空间
用想象 才能够 飞得高 飞得远

当 昨天画上句点
何不就 让它悄悄无言
看今天 更光鲜
别忘了 还有明天

选 你将来的志愿
一步步 再慢慢去实现
不管路 有多远 有多险 有多倦

在这无悔无怨的内心世界
我遇见了 美丽从容的脸
和酸甜苦辣 意义长篇
但是我情愿 为感动 为明天

痛 虽然有深有浅
泪擦干 那就会好一点
风虽然 看不见
但自由 无极限

Too tired to translate the entire song into English now but well it brought back memories. Used to watch the 7pm and 9pm? channel 8 drama serials pretty religiously in primary school. Lots of nice theme songs that I still listen to occasionally.

Friday, February 06, 2015

The killing of children.

Murder is wrong. Barely anyone is going to argue with that. Yet abortion is legalised in many countries, and what is that but the murder of the unborn? Many arguments could be had I guess, about when a foetus is considered a human, of having emotions and feelings and the like. I used to be a little tentative about that, but am increasingly adamant that life starts from conception. It's impossible to define when a human embryo is deemed 'human enough' that aborting it constitutes murder of a fellow human.

I attended a talk earlier on The Effects of Abortion in the Developing World: An African Perspective by Obianuju Ekeocha, who's a biomedical scientist from Nigeria. Her main points were that women in Africa are pro-life, and their culture celebrates life - every child is precious, from conception. But foreign organisations are opening abortion clinics even in countries where abortion is illegal (the majority of African countries) and with their huge budgets, slowly spreading and somewhat forcing abortion on these people. And that's western imperialism which shouldn't be tolerated.

The other things she brought up, which I'm rather incapable of stringing together at the moment so will just present as paragraphs of related things she brought up. Some of my own thoughts in italics.:

Don't most countries celebrate having kids and life too? Telling people you're pregnant usually induces joy and congratulations. Do people who are for abortion not think that undergoing such procedures is tantamount to killing the child? Or by using terms like 'termination of pregnancy' and being very medical/sterile about it, they are trying to remove the emotions and desensitise from the action?

As sovereign countries, they should get to decide their law without external pressure. But pro-abortion NGOs set up clinics in rural villages, usually together with other aid agencies providing education, and clean water, and start off talking about planned parenthood and reproductive health, to reproductive rights, to abortion. Even in countries where abortion is illegal.
And I wonder whether is this a parallel to environmental regulation pressures? Trying to get countries to lower their carbon footprint, or have tighter pollution regulations etc. Putting pressure on countries to do what we know to be right, or the best, but which... they might not agree, for unfathomable reasons?

One of the reasons for legalising abortion that's often cited is the 47,000 women who die due to unsafe illegal abortions. But Obianuju said that abortions now are already done by doctors and medical professionals off the books, outside their working hours, to supplement their income. So legalising abortion would just make it a high street thing instead of back street, and not actually reduce those numbers. Also quoted some statistics about how instead of maternal mortality being reduced (as one of the benefits of legalising abortion), it actually increased in South Africa.

In Africa, those who go for abortion are those who feel they have no other options, and usually coerced by males to abort. Not so much because they'd rather focus on their career than their family. African women are raised with the mindset that they should get married and have a family, and are safest in a family setting.
That sounds like more of an issue of women being able to feel safe and independent all the time though, and not be prejudiced against or afraid? So more support for single parent families? But would this be kinda 'corroding' family values? Then again in today's (western) society, it seems like 'family values' don't exist anyway. One can't even define a family anymore. Drawing a 'typical' family as having a female mom, a male dad and children might result in you getting labelled a 'whatever-label-people-use-I'm-not-even-sure'. Even gender identity is being called into question. I try not to get into all these discussions, cos I feel like I'd rather spend my time and effort on things like biodiversity conservation, or poverty alleviation, but somethings things all muddle up and go together. I do think girls just being given dolls and not lego sets is wrong (cos I didn't like dolls at all) but biologically speaking, women are women and are meant biologically to give birth and have kids and so pass on their genes etc? But anyway that's another discussion in itself. And for saying all that, I'll probably be called out for being discriminatory and prejudiced and being against other people who are different from me. Which goes into the free speech/safe space spiel

Should abortion be a right? Would that not be the same as making murder a right? Medical professionals aren't supposed to have to do abortions. But in countries like Mozambique where it is legal, by objecting to it you're breaking the law.

African healthcare is already lacking sufficient support and is under severe resource constraints. Even basic healthcare is an issue, adding abortion procedures into the mix isn't going to help things. There also isn't enough support for associated increased risks with abortion (higher likelihood of premature births, cancer, psychological effects of abortion etc), unlike in UK where the healthcare system is able to cope with it (and dispenses 1.5 million anti-depressants every year). Besides, women in Africa aren't demanding abortion, they want education, a better life for the children etc. They aren't weak or stupid, they march for what they want and they've marched for all sorts of things, but abortion.

The foreign organisations are pushing African women into a culture they don't really want, without the necessary post-abortion support too. International programmes seem to be of the opinion that everyone needs to subscribe to the ideology that abortion is a right and that foetuses are not human. And by arguing against it, you're stigmatising women and abortion. Is it even right to push abortion, support, sponsor and provide it in countries where it's not legal?

Africa needs healthcare, education, life and peace. Not abortion, against the will of the people.


During the Q&A one of my friends mentioned a horrifying statistic that more black babies in the US are aborted than white babies. While I'm not sure that that is because more (poorer) blacks are forced to abort compared to (richer) whites, or that it's some form of eugenics, the idea that poverty could be (is being?) eradicated by not letting the poor reproduce through enforcing contraceptives/abortion was just absolutely appalling.

I'm not entirely taking everything she said as the truth, cos it is just one side of the story, it could just be her opinion and I'm not familiar with these topics, but even so, it was very interesting and thought-provoking to hear that perspective. And gut-wrenching too.


Humans are so strange. Provide huge numbers and we somehow get a little desensitised. They shock, yes, huge numbers of deaths appall us, but barely anyone will shed a tear when they hear of such tragedies. Plane crashes, madman massacres, terrorist attacks, natural disasters etc. But perhaps it's not personal enough, and when we hear someone's story, a child suffering from cancer, a parent losing a child, a disabled overcoming odds, (or even just one of these Chinese New Year ads) it touches us in the heart and well, I cry, not sure about you. I guess legalising abortion is just playing into one of that - taking that personal, human feeling away and turning the unborn into a statistic.

I'm crying tonight for the millions of lives denied the chance to ever life, for the poor and those suffering, the lonely and those without familial support, for all those without a voice. I just wish we lived in a more equitable world.

Monday, February 02, 2015

The line between bold and arrogant.

"Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth." - Matthew 5:5
As a somewhat typical Catholic, I'm not much of a bible person. I can't remember and quote from the bible at will, but phrases and parables do stick in my head, and that is one of them.

I wouldn't call myself meek, for sure, and I doubt most of my friends would. (Though I also don't think meek is meant to be interpreted in that sense in that quote.) To some, I'm probably loud and brash, outspoken and willing to speak out/up in public, sociable and comfortable with people. To others (especially people in my college), I'm probably the quiet, somewhat anti-social (in the people-avoiding sense, not the disruptive-in-public sense) Asian who's always in her room. And I am that whole spectrum, more or less. I think a fair number of people are. It's not always a dichotomy between 'extroverts' and 'introverts'.

I will speak up for things I care a lot about, in front of a crowd if needed. I'm not painfully shy. I enjoy meeting new people and talking to them, about things. What's the point of conservation, what's wrong with our education system, why are some people mean, why we can never bridge the rich-poor divide etc. What I don't enjoy is small talk, talking about myself, or gossiping. Ironic perhaps, seeing as I maintain public blogs and as mentioned to me rather disconcertingly by one of my supervisors, I leave a very visible trail on the www. But I really don't like talking about myself, or the things I've done (unless relevant to the topic of discussion), because that seems a little arrogant. And maybe it's just my upbringing but I really don't like arrogance or want to be perceived as arrogant and full of myself. (Which is also why I don't like mentioning what schools I go to/have been, because sometimes people just make assumptions based on that.)

Well all that is fine, until I realised this year that networking is really important. And you have to put yourself out there, and kinda talk about how good you are, because that's how opportunities come up.

"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you" - Matthew 7:7-8
And I find that I increasingly have to tell myself, be bold. Just send that email to that professor, or just go up and talk to them. I've always felt like I have to have a very good reason, something intelligent to say, before I can do that. Because otherwise, I'd be wasting their time! What would they want to have to do with me, a mere undergraduate? But yes, sometimes all is needed is the guts, the thick-skinnedness to just start a conversation, and things happen.

I've been very blessed in my life thus far, that I never really needed to be that bold and things have happened for me. But I feel like that might come to an end, and I really need to start being more thick-skinned and ask for things for myself more. I just hope I never come across as being full of myself and always shamelessly self-promoting.

Studies in great tit personalities have revealed that it's good to be bold when resources are limiting and there's the need to be competitive (shy personalities are also successful, but it depends on the sex/resource) (Dall, S.R.X. 2004). Seems like in this extroverted-favoured world, one just has to deal with going along with the flow.