Wednesday, 19 July 2017

What's up so far

السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته and good day!

I know you want me to continue with my big apple stories, but before we get to that, let me tell you what has been going on so far. 

1) I have passed my Late Stage Review!!

This is by far the biggest news. If you don't know about PhD, or specifically PhD at Imperial College London (ICL), we need to go through two different assessment levels. The first one is after 9 months of registration, there's the Early Stage Assessment or some people might call it as PhD upgrade. That is when you need to defend your project, sometimes a proposal, presenting your initial data (if you have any). So the late stage review comes after 18-24 months for ICL students. Here, they will assess your progress, your future work, whether they think you will finish on time. Some people call this transfer. Meaning that if you pass, you'll continue as a PhD candidate. If not, they might either transfer you to MPhil or stop your registration completely. The harsh way of saying it is that you failed. So I passed it last Tuesday, thankfully. After a year and a half of banging my head on the walls, God knows how much hair I've lost, I finally did it!!

2) One of the people that helped me a lot since the day I've arrived has gone home. 

Another one from the many..many that have gone home before. It felt a bit more lonely in London nowadays. A lot more have finished their studies and gone home. No new postgraduates anymore. I guess the batch after me will be the last one if things don't change in Malaysia anytime soon. 

3) Eid Festival

Because my bestie and I spent our Eid in Lisbon, Portugal this year, we only get to feel the festivities during the Eid festival. This year the festival was sponsored by Lebara. You know how in Malaysia kids will get money packets when they visit, in London, they give you raffles!!! hahaha...I got a selfies stick (awesome!) and my bestie got a mug (boring...=P). But the best part of all, I get to have a selfie with the good Mayor of London, Mr. Sadiq Khan. #pleasebejealous

4) Canada 150th Celebration

The day before the Eid festival, there was another festival, which is the Canadian 150th Celebration. My bestie has been in Canada, so I'm a bit jealous of that. Even if I haven't been there, at least I get to taste a lot of their food, such as the maple syrup waffles, cookies and even drink! 

5) Royal Naval College Painted Hall

This was the most recent, but I've bought the ticket months before. The painted hall in the Royal Naval College in Greenwich is undergoing restoration (they prefer conservation) work from July to September this year. They haven't done this in 60 years. So while the people doing the work trying to conserve the paintings, they also open tours for people to go up and look at the paintings up close. If you have been to the painted hall before, you'd know that the paintings are from top to bottom. So with this tour, you get a chance to see it up close (if you're tall enough, you can even touch it; but not recommended since the oil from our hand may destroy the paint). They hope this conservation work will last for another 100 years. So if you miss this, just pray you'll live for another 100 years to see it. The Times magazine calls it as a once in a lifetime experience

The tour costs £11 per person. You need to wear hard hats and reflective vests for safety since it is a working site. You'll go up about 70 steps while the guide tells you stories about the paintings. The painted hall was painted by Sir James Thornhill. You'll be amazed by the accuracy and the detail of the painting. One particular example; there is a painting of a date of an event occurring a year ahead of its time. Meaning that their astronomy at the time was so accurate, they can paint it a year ahead. 

There are a lot more stories behind it, you should go and have a listen and look at the paintings yourselves.

It has been an eventful month. But the month has not ended just yet.

Until next time...

Thursday, 6 July 2017

The Big Apple-Cold Spring Harbor Lab

السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته and good day!

My first time ever in the states, being in the gorgeous Cold Spring Harbor, it is a surreal feeling. 


After a somewhat good night sleep, I had to wake up early and get ready for the early morning session.

This place sure is beautiful and quiet. But I won't get enough time spent here near my accommodation. I was placed in the worst looking house (I guess that's where they place the PhD students) because of all the other ones that the shuttle went to pickup the others looked more like a mansion.

The funny thing about the shuttle system here, the first shuttle is at 7.10am and the last shuttle for the morning is at 9 am. Breakfast ends at 8.30am and the session starts at 9 am. After that 9 am shuttle, the next one would be at 12.30pm. So if you miss the 9 am shuttle, you will miss the whole morning session.

Not only that, the afternoon shuttle ends at 7 pm and begin again at 9.30pm. So if you go back to your room to rest, you have to make sure to be back by 7 pm, or you'll miss the whole night session including dinner. 

After you've paid a lot of money to be here, you cannot miss a single session. Plus, it's not just about the money, you would want to learn as much as possible.

Being in this beautiful place, walking the same path that Nobel prize winners, laureates, great minds of Sciences did, it gave me motivation.

Taking in the amazing view with the fresh sea breeze

While enjoying a delicious hearty American breakfast.

The view was amazing! Sometimes, if you are lucky, you can see a bald eagle because they have a nest here. The bald eagle is the America's national bird. You can see it in their national emblem.

Who wouldn't want to work here?

It feels so good to just walk around

Mind you, the conferences here in Cold Spring Harbor is quite intense. No minute was left doing nothing. I could only eat my food (more like inhale them in) as quick as possible so that I can have some time to rest and enjoy this place.

These buildings here are actually wet labs. They are not homes. huhu..

It is a home for these cute guys here though..

This building is the best of all. It looked as if it came from a horror movie.

On one of the afternoon, they held a cheese and wine party in front of it. I only grabbed some cheese and went to the waterfront to enjoy the view and sea breeze.

Beautiful stream 

These blossoms were in front of the mansions I mentioned before. Lucky them.

This was my first opportunity presenting my poster. I couldn't go to the previous conference that I was supposed to go at Orlando, Florida due to visa problems (the problem was the US Visa people decided to screw me over by delaying the process for no good reason). 

In the programme, they arranged if anyone wanted to join a walking tour around the campus. One of the PhD students took us around. The architecture here is quite exquisite. They designed the buildings according to the accomplishments made, or the main research done in it. For example, there's a bell tower shaped like the protein synthase.

They also arranged a concert on the last night. It was interesting, that's all I can say. 

Try listening to her on youtube. You'll be surprised.

The best part; lobster dinner!!!

All in all, I am very grateful to get the opportunity to present my poster here. The people here were very nice and friendly. I made friends, expanded my network and gained a lifetime experience.

There were a lot of great suggestions, comments an even a collaboration offer that truly boosted my confidence and gave me the drive to keep moving in this soul sucking journey they call as PhD. May God help me.

Until next time..

Sunday, 2 July 2017

The Big Apple Day 2

السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته and good day!

How long has it been already? A lot has happened in the past few months. Let us continue with my NYC trip in May. 

I stayed at Grand Hyatt hotel on the first night before I go the conference in Cold Spring Harbor Lab. Lucky for me, they held a rooftop tour for the Chrysler Building view, which is located beside the hotel on the day I check-out. So I woke up early, packed my bags, went out to get some breakfast at a nearby Pret-A-Manger and waited at the lobby for the tour.

I don't think they held this tour every day. And they didn't start doing this until a couple of years ago.

This is the stairwell going up to the roof. The door is usually locked so you wouldn't be able to access it on your own. of the iconic structure in NYC. Many people confused this with the Empire State Building. Chrysler Building is easy to distinguish with the Hawks head and the top that were featured in many movies such as Spiderman, Ironman and the Ghostbusters. 

I took my time at the rooftop since I won't know when I will get another chance.

The steel and concrete forest. The high good they name it twice, New York, New York!!

Right next to the hotel is the all famous Grand Central Station.

This station is so big, even the basement takes more than 5 minutes to walk around it. 

There's a walk through that I made using the Ricoh Thetha 360 camera for you to enjoy.

Afterwards, I walk towards the nearest park, which is Bryant Park.

If you look at videos explaining this place, they will tell you not long ago, this place used to be the place for drug addicts and vagrants. The community turned it around into something so beautiful and perfect for the people to sit and relax. 

They have many activities centers around the park such as reading areas.. 

Table tennis/ping pong

A loooooot of seating areas,

The purpose of this game is to knock down your opponent's wood on the other side by throwing your stick.

Board games...

an old school carousel..

If you can see at the back is NYC public library, which used to be the house of one of the elites; The Astors. So the Bryant Park used to be their yard. When NYC was being developed, they had to move a lot of the mansions around the city that were just as big as this library. 

A few meters from the park is..

no...not cartoon network..


You'll also see a lot of these yellow school bus around the city.

There's this big red staircase located at one corner of the Times Square. 

A lot of people were seating here, but there are still room for you to go up and take a decent picture of The Square.

When I was there, there was a shooting of some sort at the area. It turns out, there was Dakota Johnson (the actress in 50 Shades of Grey, 50 Shades Darker, How to Be Single and many more). I followed and since there were hardly any people around following, I get to stood next to her...hahaha!! I became a paparazzi for the day. 

There were also these lounges around. Awesome way to chill and relax after a tiring walk.

A closer view of the tall screens. If you can see (maybe not) there's actually a big ball on top near the 2017 sign. At New Year's eve, the ball will be on top of the pole, and after the clock struck 12, the ball drops back down. You can see all this in youtube. It'll be a lot better than being there live. Waiting for hours freezing your tuckus off, then only get to watch the fireworks and the fiesta for 15-20 minutes. Maybe just once in a lifetime, would be more than enough.

Moving on...near the Time Square is the all famous Broadway..

Try and get a show here if you can. They say it used to be very cheap, around only $10-30. Nowadays, the cheapest is rarely less than $100. But if you are lucky, try to get a last minute ticket near the red stairs. They say the tickets will be sold there at a cheap price in order to fill in the empty seats. But don't hold your breath for famous shows such as Phantom of the Opera, Chicago and such for a cheap price since these shows are almost always full.

This picture is not to show the Mets, although they didn't suck as much as the Yankees this season. If you look closer...

It's Carlos Bake Shop!! If you watched The Cake Boss that are usually aired in TLC, you'll know what this is. Of course, this is not the original one, just another chain from Buddy's family store. I guess you should go to the one in Hoboken or Jersey City, since those were the ones being aired in the shows.

There weren't really a lot of people here than what I imagined it would be.

The staff was super helpful. However, there aren't a lot of desserts here that I can eat.

 The original cannoli has pork, some of the cakes has alcohol. So I just bought a cookie and cream cannoli and an iced latte.

There's an open window for you to observe the workers baking. The smell is uuuuuu...goood...

A few meters away, it's the New York Times building. A lot of news happen here. =P

At the 31st street is the Madison Square Garden.

Under the Madison Square Garden is the Penn Station. Another big train station in New York.

Next to it is the NYC Postal Office. It is huge!

If you walk along the Madison Square Garden towards the 33rd Street, you can clearly see the Empire State Building.

Are those London phone booth? hmm...

Beside the Madison Square Garden is the New York Rangers team center. You can also watch a hockey match in the Madison Square Garden. Actually, they held a lot of sports event other than the NHL, such as the NBA. There are also numerous concerts played here.

On the day I came here, there was actually a game being held that night. But I needed to go to my conference, which started at the same time.

So I only managed to join in the exhibition. It was fun!! A lot of activities being displayed here.

I get to try playing ice hockey for the first time. Don't get me wrong, I tried grass hockey when I was in primary school, so I do how to hold the stick. But still, the techniques and skills needed are completely different. 

See you next time New York Rangers.

I'll come to your game next time....if I can...

Opposite the Madison Square Garden, along the 33rd Street is the Pennsylvania Hotel. I booked this hotel during the times I was to come here for the first time, but US embassy screwed me up by delaying my visa. This would be a great place to stay since it is just opposite of Penn Station, and a walking distance to many attractions especially the Madison Square Garden and The Empire State Building. Next to it is Hooters...people who watched Big Daddy might know. haha...

If you walk straight through the 33rd street from Madison Square Garden, you'll find the tallest building in America.

That's right! It's the Empire State Building. There's a lot of souvenir shops around here. Surprisingly, the price is quite cheap as compared to other places.

After a looooott of photos at the Empire State Building, I walked back towards the hotel, passing through the Public Library again.

This time, I decided to go in and have a look.

New York Public library is the second largest in the US and the forth largest in the world!! It has many branches all over New York.

The Astor family: the founder of New York Public Library. 

Since the 1872, the New York public library was endorsed to be a reference and research library; its books are no allowed to circulate. 

The old arrangement of the library and the capsule used to transport manuscripts from one place to another using vacuum.

The library housed manuscripts, music sheets from many renowned artists and composers.

There's a lot of halls in this library. You can get lost in here.

They still maintain the old design.

The reading and quiet area. It's a nice place to read.

Finally back to the hotel. It's time to take my luggage and get my conference on. 

I took a train from the Penn Station to Syosset. Then the shuttle from the Cold Spring Harbor lab came and pick us up. The direction given to us via email was not that clear. They told us to cross over the bridge and wait at the opposite platform (westbound platform-without mentioning the platform's number). So as I arrive, I immediately went across. Luckily, the attendant helped to carry my heavy luggage. After almost an hour waiting, the van actually waited on the side that I arrived at. It turned out, the trains sometimes changes platform, especially during peak hour. My arms were hurting for a week after having to carry my luggage up and down the stairs hastily.

Anyway, after we arrived, we couldn't get back to our rooms immediately because the session was about to start. So we left our bags and our poster tubes at the reception.

Then I head to the cafe quickly to get my dinner. I've requested a halal or kosher meal before I arrived. However, the taste was not to my liking. It's a good thing they provided fish meals as well, so I could have a choice on other days.

After dinner, I ran to the auditorium quickly. This conference is not like any other conferences that I went to previously. There's only one auditorium, so obviously people will notice if you entered late. But they do provide an outside screening at the patio. It was nice as the weather was breezy.

The session ended almost at 10.30pm. Then we had to take a shuttle to go to our rooms. Little that I know, there's two different shuttles going to two different locations. Some people were placed at a hotel. I've only realized I was at the wrong place after the reception told me. I waited for another shuttle to come. I asked the driver whether he could take me back. At first he said no because he's not going back to the lab, and he told me to wait for the next shuttle. But then I asked whether I can make it for the last shuttle, which is at 12am. I guess the driver felt sorry for me and just asked me to come with him and he took me back. They kept telling the story of this girl who got on the wrong shuttle for days! It was an honest mistake because no one had told me that there were two different shuttles.

It took 10 minutes to arrive to my room from the lab. After I arrived, I just wanted to sleep. Set my alarm on the clock radio (so american) and dozed off after one second.

I'll tell you more of my conference in the next post. 

Until next time...