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UPDATE 2 Apr 2017 - This site is no longer maintained, please visit jocelynesze.wordpress.com if you're interested in more recent writing.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Great mysteries of life.

As a biologist/zoologist/pseudo-palaeontologist/evolutionary biologist/ecologist, there are many mysteries of life we try to unravel and understand. Big questions like, origins of jaws and paired fins in vertebrates, of flight in insects and birds. Or why we see the distribution of the diversity we see on our planet, or how different species are somehow linked (in evolutionary or ecological ways). But I think the one question I would most like to have the answer to, is why are some people so ridiculously nice, while others are just so damn awful?

It reminds me of this video I watched, where some people were just so so so horribly mean to this guy. I don't even understand how.



I usually like to think that people aren't all that bad, perhaps they were just having a bad day, or they were just never exposed to certain situations and didn't know how to react, or something.

Anyway, there's no point focusing on bad energy and people who make you feel awful. That thought was just triggered cos I had a long and draining day today, with a revision crisis in the middle of it all. You know, the kind of irrational thought that seeps in, telling you that you're not smart enough for exams, or for life in general (or what I want out of life anyway). And I was just feeling quite tired and drained by dinner time. But I had signed up for soup run tonight, and it's not one of those things you decide to not go just cos you don't 'feel like it'. I do it cos I enjoy it, I like helping people and it keeps me grounded, reminding me of what truly matters in life.

And it's just nice when people say nice things that make you feel better, even when they don't know you're feeling shit in the first place. And good conversations. And when you unexpectedly get cake in your pigeonhole.

It might take a lot to make someone's day, but it doesn't take a lot to ruin it. We don't all have to go out and 'make other people's day', but you know, just being nice, and not just nice to your friends, but nice to everyone, that could make someone's day, and it definitely wouldn't ruin anyone's.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Creeping doubts.

If you haven't heard about the Nepal earthquake already, you should go read up on it. My oldest cousin is married and living just south of Kathmandu with her husband; thankfully they're alright, ran out of their building when the tremors started and stayed out overnight in a tent to be safe, with just water and biscuits. There's nothing that feels more real in a natural disaster happening miles away than having a close relative actually going through it. The media reports are terrifying - children playing outside in the alleyway, when suddenly, all's there is a pile of concrete rubble. And it's not much safer outside in the mountainous regions either, with avalanches having caused at least 17 climbers' death already. It's genuinely terrifying.

I really hope aid workers can get their work done safely and quickly, that it won't become more of a humanitarian disaster than it already is just because of ineffective/inefficient aid response (disease spread, hunger etc). But Nepal is such a difficult country to navigate, the terrain is just shit, and they aren't exactly the most organised country :/ I'm really just praying and hoping, there isn't much else I can do. My cousin/her husband are trying to organise aid in their home village, and her brother's set up a crowd fund to help.


Back in safe, isolated Cambridge, my main fear/worry/concern is not my life, at least not directly, but finals. It's not terrifying me to the same extent as the Nepal quake, but I'm seriously, seriously scared I don't get the grade I want. I have never studied so hard, so single-mindedly in my whole life, ever, not even for A levels. And I just feel like I can't make that grade, it's just out of my reach. I know, I tell myself immediately after that thought appears, that I haven't even taken the exams yet, and I still have a chance of shaping the result. But it just feels like it's out of my intellectual depth, it's not a matter of how hard I study, or how much I can even cram in my head. We've reached the stage where it's not just about the content, it's about how you argue and how nuanced your arguments are. It's about drawing links between things, and critically evaluating the evidence and perhaps, everything that I should have learnt to do at A levels for General Paper but never did. Because it's beyond me. I know, and fully accept, that some things are just beyond me, like physics. And mathematics. This though. It's just writing essays. Three essays a day in three hours for four days straight. Surely that's manageable.

I try to tell myself that my grade does not define me, and I can still be a perfectly good person without that 1st (class honours, not graduating top of my class cos that's impossible), but I have given up almost everything for this grade this year.

The sun's out now and so are the flowers and leaves, but I just can't properly enjoy them.

Came across this poem in my revision and thought it was just too beautiful not to be shared.


I did manage to see a cute little baby, just born to lovely parents from Fisher House, and that did make my day a little better though.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Back to bouldering.

Finally went climbing again after more than a month. It's crazy, I used to climb at least twice a week, then at least once a week, and now, barely once a month?!? Climbing's gotten so out of my schedule that I barely even give a thought to it; in fact I was intending to go for a run today when (halfway through listening to presentations), I thought, why not go climb instead? Considering how much I think of myself a climber (or perhaps I can only use the past tense now?) and how I kept climbing at least once a week (or the very least a fortnight) through the first two years of uni here, it is quite incredible that I barely climb now and don't even think much of it. When I first met people who do climb a fair bit (up to competition standard), but barely do it now, I was incredulous that they could just stop. climbing. Now, I kinda see how that happens.

I guess my main focus and drive this year has really been my academics and everything kind of got sidelined, even climbing. It also doesn't help that the climbing gym in Cambridge at Kelsey Kerridge is rather crap. Not only is it a pure boulder gym, the routes set also aren't particularly inspiring.
The routes set are all meant for tall people. Genuinely. Image from betamonkeys website


- an hour passes by trawling through the comics on betamonkeys -

Anyway, it was unsurprisingly a rather horrendous session, I would like to attribute it to the recent change in routes in which apparently the grades got harder, but I definitely got weaker so :X On the bright side I can at least do some routes...

I shall end off with some palaeo climbing comics and pretend I've been revising.
How fish got onto land - with useful/not useful beta. Image from betamonkeys
Not a dyno fan but definitely a dino fan. Image from Steven Weinberg Studios

Making better coffee?

As I go through the stages of life, my relationship with coffee grows ever stronger. It seems a pretty natural progression, one that many students take; stacks of books, hours spent on essays and cups/flasks of coffee often go hand in hand. Though I do have a fair number of friends who seem to survive even without this drug.

Sometime last year (I think), I discovered Rainforest Alliance-certified Kenco on Sainbury's shelves and have never wavered from their freeze dried instant coffee since. They even have eco refill packs, cos why would you need that additional glass jar?

What is the point of decaff coffee? Image taken from Kenco website

Tried these 100% premium ones as well. Think I prefer blended. Image taken from Kenco website

So I've been pretty happy with my instant coffee, taken strong (a huge heap of tablespoon) and black (no milk or sugar) and requiring no more effort or time than making milo. In fact, it takes even less effort cos milo needs to be stirred properly and thoroughly, but coffee dissolves much faster and evenly and doesn't need stirring (one less spoon to wash!).

For my birthday this year, I was given a cafetière (French press) so I can enjoy (presumably?) better coffee:) really exciting, but I had to finish my current stock of instant coffee before buying ground coffee. Sadly, Kenco doesn't have ground coffee, but Sainbury's did have one brand of rainforest alliance-certified ground coffee - Taylors.

I went for '6' Hot Lava Java cos what's the point of weak coffee? Image taken from Taylors website.


For once, I'm kind of ahead of my deadline (project presentation in about an hour's time) and I'm so done with statistical modelling (for the time being at least) that I felt I could take things at a somewhat slower pace today (just a bit more editing for the project report to go). So after lunch today, I thought why not give the cafetière a go?

Main thought: too much effort. I have to:
  1. boil the water (in the electrical kettle, fine, so not that much effort and I've got to do that for instant coffee anyway)
  2. pour the hot water into the cafetière with a spoonful of ground coffee, stir it with a plastic spoon (cos apparently a metal one might scratch the glass and cause it to shatter. I don't have plastic spoons except for a disposable one from some takeaway ages ago..) 
  3. wait for four minutes. Now, that's a lot of time or not much time at all, depending on the situation...
  4. very gently press the filter down (cos it might squirt out otherwise)
  5. pour it own into a mug and drink
  6. clean the filter properly!

Instant coffee takes me all of 2/3 minutes, however long the water takes to boil. Put the kettle on, while it's boiling pour out an adequate amount of instant coffee in my mug, once the water's boiled pour into my mug and yay coffee to go!

Taste wise, it is nicer I guess and the ground coffee does have less of a bitter taste, but I'm not much of a taste connoisseur. I can barely differentiate different tastes, let alone quality. Food for me is kind of split into terrible and acceptable.

Nonetheless, now that I've got my cafetière and ground coffee, I can be a bit of a coffee snob I guess :P 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

If

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream---and not make dreams your master;
If you can think---and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:.
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build'em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings---nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And---which is more---you'll be a Man, my son! 


Rudyard Kipling


I don't quite know why this is sitting in my drafts folder (from 9 Aug 2010 too?!?) but out it shall come into the light of the world wide web. Not that it hasn't already. I think a lot of that comes close to this Moral Bucket List article on NY Times. Most people strive to be better, I think (or would like to think), to become better versions of themselves.




Rudyard Kipling clearly did not have to deal with statistical modelling, or he would have said:
If you have p-values and AIC values that don't concur--and not give up on the whole project already
If you've run the codes on R way too often--and not think stats modelling is a pain
If you have completely insignificant and somewhat nonsensical results
But still have to write it up and do a presentation on it
And convince others it's a worthwhile project
You're a Part II student, that's for sure!

Or maybe it's just me :/ I think I'd like to call my project 'The Mysterious Case of the Missing Adders'. Or perhaps The Case of the Mysterious Models.

If projects and exams were over. Well this little rant has completely spoilt the mood of the poem, sorry! Projects and exams WILL be over (soon). 40 days.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

celebrating time.

The time comes round again, as it does without fail every year, when I add another year to my age and people send well-wishes. This time, I'm not on a field trip, and I'm not at home with my family - a first for me.

People seem to always send well-wishes along with a reminder of your age, as though one can't remember how many years on earth one has spent. To be fair, I sometimes confuse my own age, adding an extra year ahead of time. Perhaps that's why I always feel old, even though I offend many when I say that. But I realise people seldom say they feel young, especially people around my age. I think that's because how you feel is based on your life experiences thus far, and societal expectations. And you've only experienced the past; you can't experience the future. So I'm past my teens, and I feel like I can no longer behave like a teen, but I've only ever known the experience of being a child/teen. So I feel old, compared to all the people around me (who are usually younger than me). But I hope, once I've spent a couple more decades, that I will feel young, because I live as though I'm still in my 20s.

I guess we celebrate time, anniversaries, as an occasion to remember and reflect the path we've tread, to celebrate our earthly life. I'm tremendously glad and grateful that I have people who remember this somewhat random day, especially when I'm reminded that there are many others out there who don't have the same fortune. It recently occurred to me that, for all that I don't put on makeup or bother dressing up very much, I am still as vain as the next person, though perhaps wanting to look good is just a natural trait of humans and there is nothing wrong with it as long as it does not consume my entire being. It also occurred to me that, though I don't aspire to fame or riches for myself or own desires, I really do want to make a positive difference in this world in as big as possible a way. I am reminded though, to always pray for God's grace and mercy, that I never lose compassion or kindness to others, and never forget that we live not for things of this earth, but for eternal life in heaven.

Living overseas and spending a lot of my time alone made me reflect much more than perhaps I would have if I studied back home. And I realise that for all I define myself as someone who really cares about the natural world (and people who have no voice), and enjoys climbing and hiking, and really wants to do something useful in society, and am perhaps sometimes seen to be atypical and different from the average person, I am still pretty much just like a typical anyone who would fit that profile. And that was a lot of waffle that meant absolutely nothing, just like that famous Southeast Asian phrase 'same same but different'. Anyway, I have my project report to do, and I will get round to blogging about my trips (to Scotland and to Sweden) at some point.

Something worth leaving behind - Lee Ann Womack
Hey Monalisa, who was Leonardo?
Was he Andy Warhol? Were you Marilyn Monroe?
Hey Mozart, what kind of name is Amadeus?
It's kinda like Elvis, you gotta die to be famous

I may not go down in history
I just want someone to remember me

I'll probably never hold a brush that paints a masterpiece
Probably never find a pen that writes a symphony
But if I will love then I will find that I have touched another life
And that's something, something worth leaving behind

Hey Midas, you say you have the magic touch
But even all that shiny stuff someday is gonna turn to dust
Hey Jesus, it must have been some Sunday morning
In a blaze of glory, we're still tellin' your story

I may not go down in history
I just want someone to remember me

I'll probably never dream a dream and watch it turn to gold
I know I'll never lose my life to save another soul
But, if I will love then I will find that I have touched another life
And that's something, something worth leaving behind

Hey baby, see the future that we're building
Our love lives on in the lives of our children
And that's something
Something worth leaving behind




NB: Though I'm not on field trip this year, this post is still a scheduled one cos I'm a good girl now who sleeps early and wakes up early ;P