life

University

Usually I like to write private reflections that go into a lot of detail, including about the people that I’ve had the fortune (or misfortune) to meet. But, for a change, I decided to do my reflections in a more public setting, to maybe better distill what I’ve experienced and learnt throughout four years of higher education.

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A World in Chaos

It’s been quite a terrible 2016 for the world at large. The worldwide phenomenon of Pokémon GO and it’s uniting impact can’t hold a candle to countless terror attacks, increasing violence between protesters and police in the US, war in Syria and South Sudan, the Zika virus, and more problems to list than I can remember.

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The Meaning of Life

So it’s been a heck of a long time since I blogged about daily life. But here I am, near the end of my 3rd year as a university student, wondering what on earth am I doing with my life.

Someone once told me that for my course, students tend to find themselves disillusioned in Year 3 Sem 1, the busiest semester of our course. Now that it’s Sem 2 that’s the busiest for my batch, I think I’m struck with that same syndrome.

It’s been just a long slog of content-heavy lectures, 8am classes and tests galore. And I also took an elective on my one free day. If it were any good, I wouldn’t really mind. Instead, it’s been basically a useless time-suck that I’ve learnt barely anything from, and it’s just made my semester feel even lousier.

Of course, I’m still wasting my time frivolously on the internet as I do. But even then, it never feels like I have any time to just breathe and unwind. I’m just tired all day long, and weekends just never seem to suffice. I thought I could relax during recess week, but I ended up stressing myself over building my PC. I barely wrote anything for my fanfiction, although to be fair, I’m a little disillusioned over that as well.

I keep asking myself if all this effort is worthwhile. If doing this is what I want in life. If I’m actually capable of retaining even a shred of knowledge to bring to my future career. If I’ll even get a job in my field of study given the competition. And while these questions always popped up now and then, they’ve never been more prominent in my head this semester. Compounded by the very real fear of true adulthood, it’s just making me feel terribly jaded.

I mean, when I get back test results, I feel a brief moment of emotion, be it joy or sorrow or surprise. Then it’s back to apathy, where I really don’t feel much about whether I did well or not. Sure, I study when I have to, so I can do well on tests and keep up with the class. But it all feels so pointless.

I’ll probably look back one day at this post, at this moment in time, and find it funny that past me was so full of himself, and so wrapped up in his little problems and his tiny world that he would be disillusioned by university of all things. That real life is far worse, and university was probably the easiest time of his life.

But current me just wants all of this to end before he flips out.

World in Crisis

This blog started out with quite a barrage of current affairs, especially the situation in Ukraine. But I’ve noticed and pivately lamented the dearth of such posts since then, because it sort of reflects my misplaced priorities. So many posts to do with films and entertainment and sports and even inane Youtube videos, but not a peep about what’s happening around the world.

Oh, and nothing about my terrible studies too…

But it feels a little silly to be posting about a new situation unfolding because in the end, I’m going to say the same things over and over. That it’s a terrible situation, that things must be done, that governments should take a hard look at it and what they can do, and so on and so forth. I just can’t muster up the motivation to do something so repetitive.

And these things are happening almost all the time now. I’m really wondering if it’s merely an increased awareness or truly the beginning of the end. We see a crisis in Yemen, the rise of ISIS, the horrific shooting in Kenya, the insanity that is Boko Haram, and let’s not forget the very real Ukrainian situation that hasn’t been resolved, but has been shoved aside in the news.

Oh, and plane crashes. So many plane crashes. It makes it hard to believe the statistics that plane crashes contribute to less deaths per year than car crashes do per day.

Enormously glad to be in the bubble that is Singapore. A place with obedient citizens, a place safe enough that students carelessly reserve seats in the canteens with their phones and/or laptops out in the open.

Death.

As an atheist, I never really thought much about death. It’s a natural part of life, which most organisms have to face eventually. But a recent death has gotten me thinking about death, about life, about people, about rituals, about faith.

I have respect for, but have no inclinations towards appreciating the myriad rituals that accompany funerals. Given my knowledge of religion has just been broadened by an elective module I picked up recently, it’s become even more likely to me that there is nothing beyond death. After all, with every religion having their own version of the afterlife, does that mean they are all applicable? The odds for the converse are higher in my opinion.

But I realised that such rituals were made not for the dead, but for the living. It’s about comforting the people who have survived their kin, for them to feel like they’ve done everything they can for the one who’s passed. It’s about giving them a sense of closure, to provide them what crumbs of comfort there can be had. And when you see people break down into tears anyway, you realise it’s never enough.

In the end, death is more than just the end of life, of your journey. It’s also the end of your presence on others’ lives. I felt so wrong standing behind the immediate family as they shared one last conversation with the deceased. Voices raw and ragged, tears brimming at the eyes…it was heartbreaking.

At that moment, I wondered if I would be the same when the time comes for me to say goodbye to my parents. If there will be people who will be that way when I leave this world. It’s sobering.

SMUN 2014

Whew!

That was some ride.

I’m glad I decided to do the reflections on SMUN ’14 two days after the event actually ended. The annoyance and frustration that threatened to boil over plenty of times still simmered within, and only with ample rest and other things distracting me, did I manage to adjust my view of SMUN to a more objective one.

I can’t say that it was a great event on a personal level. Bogged down by covering Logistics and Events, it was a miracle we managed to make it through the event without hiccups on that front. Given that we were a 4-man team, often down to 3 or even 2 men, it was quite a feat from my perspective.

As part of the Events Committee, it’s obvious that I should first reflect upon what Events had been tasked to do. We were handed the opening/closing ceremonies, and the social night for SMUN. The planning stage started early during the semester, but tapered off as school became the priority. Only after the exams did we really sink our teeth into the planning, but by then it was getting really close to the event proper.

We were lucky to be able to get Kent Ridge Guild House for the social night for a great price, but the logistical needs of the ceremonies left much to be desired. With a limited budget, we can only do so little to get the things we needed, or hire the help for the ceremonies. And as with all events, problems kept cropping up, such as AV issues and having to beautify a functional stage.

The opening ceremony went off with little to no hitches, other than a lot of physical labour. Social night was not so, with a huge problem regarding the bag deposit plan we had enacted, but failed miserably due to a lack of manpower. The event itself wasn’t a huge blast either, but given the time constraints we had, I think we were pretty faultless in its execution.

Finally, the closing ceremony. What. A. Nightmare. A very late GOH, miscues, missing manpower, AV problems…the list went on. I’m surprised we made it out of there without calling it a non-failure. Given that the closing ceremony was under my jurisdiction, I felt responsible for its lack of success. But with the benefit of hindsight, it’s clear that if there is fault to be apportioned, I’m not the sole person to blame.

So that’s the Events stuff. Can’t say it’s very much different from other events I’ve done, apart from the crippling lack of manpower and the litany of problems that wrecked the closing ceremony. Otherwise, it was all pretty standard fare IMO.

No, what really killed me and the rest of the Events Comm was covering logistics. Without a dedicated Logs Comm (which was effectively non-existent a few weeks before SMUN), we had to cover all the logistical needs of a 260-delegate, 4-day event. From packing goodie bags to lugging them across NUS, it was all done by a few people.

Unsurprisingly, given that I have pushed aside other commitments to deal with SMUN until it was over, I was pretty much there for every logistical movement. Which was hell on earth, as we moved a ton of logs here and there. The pre-opening ceremony period was particularly insane, with just 3 people moving 250 goodie bags across UTown. It may not sound like a lot at first, but the physical exertion really takes a toll.

Then it was just a heck of a lot of running around to ferry things around UTown. The lack of sleep from preparing logs didn’t help either. At the end of the event, my feet were blistered and my shins ached with every step I took. But we made it, somehow.

Did I gain any satisfaction from completing SMUN relatively successfully? Not really. I never really got the satisfaction from planning events since my very first one, AYC ’09. After that was just firefight after firefight, as the organising committee had to deal with all sorts of problems. At the end of each event, there was just a sense of relief and exhaustion, and satisfaction was at a premium.

SMUN ’14 wasn’t particularly good, even compared to some of my worst experiences. It’s probably the physical toll that it took on me; I’ve never had so much to do for an event before. Well, at least now I know what I’m capable of.

But of course, one of the main things that happen during such events is the meeting of people. And while I shall not elaborate too much on the people I found annoyance with, let’s just say that they were targets of expletives during the more intense moments of executing SMUN.

But with the bad comes the good. I can’t stress how much respect I have for Andy, my Events Director and a good friend. He tanked so much work every night that when we woke up early to prepare for the day’s activities, we often found him snoozing from exhaustion. I think I lashed out at him once or twice during the event, when we were all stressed and really tired. But he took it in stride, continued to thank us for our efforts, and I have massive, massive respect for him.

Others include Cheryl, our Secretary-General. She was somehow more sprightly than all of us despite having less sleep, always ready to offer help even when she had little time outside of her other duties. Without her, the 4 guys in the Events Comm would have been pretty screwed when it came to doing artistic stuff for the social night. Her passion and dedication to the event was clear to see, and I’m glad to have worked for and with her in this event.

The rest of the Events team deserves kudos too. Shawn was there most of the time, a great source of idle chitchat that helped make the event go by much faster and better. He was also always there to help with the logistical work, and that saved Andy and I a ton of work. Ping Liang, affectionately known as TPL, was hamstrung by his internship, but while I during the event, I might have resented his lack of presence a little, I could easily recognise the pains he took to try and make the social night a success. His constant fretting over how it was going to turn out, the apologies for when things didn’t go well…I can’t resent sincerity like that.

Beyond them, I met Jonathan and Shaun. Shaun was eternally busy doing all sorts of things, and totally deserved his 5 lanyards with his numerous positions within the planning committee. Jonathan is a very intelligent person who has plenty of advice and opinions that have helped with how we executed the event. Without him, I think the Events Comm would have been happy just to get the event over with, instead of trying to make it good.

These were the people I interacted with the most, and I’m glad to have worked with them throughout SMUN ’14. Other than them, the Sponsorship Director, Cheryl Ng, was a chirpy, bubbly individual who was always asking whether she could help, and did so until bedtime. The rest of the organising committee were mostly Acad people, and so we had few interactions beyond hellos and me passing them draft resolutions and working papers hot off the press.

In the end, do I really care that Events seems a bit secluded and insular? Not really. We all had our jobs, and we did them to our best ability. I’ve learnt to an even greater degree that there are all sorts of people in this world, all with different attitudes towards life, work, duty, and responsibility. And I’m glad I came out of the event with a greater appreciation for the dirty work that goes on behind the scenes. It’s one of the reasons why I’m always doing Ops related stuff in events.

And I guess when the next event rolls around, I might end up doing that sort of thing again.

Teens Are Now Bombarding Airlines With Fake Bomb Threats

I’m sure I’ve done or said stupid things as a 14-year-old. But now, with social media, 14-year-olds can do it so the whole world can see. It’s probably what’s leading to the impression that the younger generation (that includes me, I think) feel self-entitled and are all brats. I sometimes see what kids do, and I wonder if I was ever that rude or immature. I’d always like to think I never was, but I definitely have rose-tinted glasses on when using hindsight.

Oh well. Someone should tell their parents so that they can smack some sense into those kids. Bomb threats may seem funny, but they really are not.

TIME

A bomb-threat joke made by a Dutch teen against American Airlines on Sunday has turned viral, with other Twitter users following her lead and presumably causing headaches for airline employees and security officials alike.

In a tweet sent Sunday, a Twitter user described as a 14-year-old by the name of Sarah wrote to American Airlines saying: “Hello my name’s Ibrahim and I’m from Afghanistan. I’m part of Al Qaida and on June 1st I’m gonna do something really big bye.” The tweet was sent from the now suspended Twitter account @queendemetriax_.

A tweet conversation with American Airlines officials followed, who replied “Sarah, we take these threats very seriously. Your IP address and details will be forwarded to security and the FBI.”

On Monday, Sarah was arrested in Rotterdam, but that seems to have done nothing other than encourage more pranksters to target more airlines.

https://twitter.com/ReinaldoMassa/status/455416834221948928

https://twitter.com/sprtdabes/status/455376647467065344

https://twitter.com/nonfreak/status/455765130085933056

https://twitter.com/KalenRiley10/status/455497932410605568

The…

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Gamer Dad Arrested After Toddler Dies of Neglect

Well, I haven’t been gaming for a while now, but I did have a phase in my life where gaming was a compulsion. It must be tons worse in Korea, where it’s a national sport and people can actually build a career out of gaming.

The guy is 22-years-old, and his wife is working at a factory far from the city? I’m guessing it’s not a planned birth then. I’m 21, and I can barely take care of myself, let alone a baby. Maybe he’s trying to escape from the difficulties in life via gaming? Some people think our generation are mentally weak because we’ve never experienced hardships before. I can’t speak for everyone, but I certainly don’t think I can cope with the sort of stress that comes with raising a family at a young age.

I obviously don’t condone abandoning your own child to play games and run away from your own life (especially that couple that did it to play with their virtual one), but perhaps some perspective is required when viewing the case? It can’t be easy to be a father this young, and your wife leaves the city to work.

Given that he tossed the body away (and probably kept on gaming), he might have been completely uncaring about his child, thinking he’s no more than something he no longer has to take care of. If that’s the case though, then this is surely addiction on a ridiculous level. Hopefully, this case will help the South Korean authorities push for changes that can help compulsive gamers and reduce their number.

TIME

A South Korean man has been arrested on suspicion of allowing his 2-year-old son to starve to death while he spent days playing online games at Internet cafés.

The 22-year-old, surnamed Chung, was arrested Monday after the badly decomposed body of a toddler was found in a trash bag near the southeastern city of Daegu, reports Agence France-Presse. The unemployed Chung took care of the child after his wife began working in a factory far from the city in late February.

Compulsive online gaming is already a huge worry for authorities in Seoul, where lawmakers are weighing up whether to classify the activity as potentially addictive as drugs, alcohol or gambling.

In 2009, a couple let their 3-month-old baby starve to death while they played a video game on raising a virtual child, in a case that horrified the entire nation.

[AFP]

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