Cambridge

Losing everything is not the end

In the early December 2014, one of my best friends shared with me about her worry. She learned that her parents are likely to lose a major proportion of their savings due to unfavorable investment.

She asked me to pray for her parents, I will be praying everyday! My prayer list is getting very long, but as I have lived longer, I have witnessed that some of my prayers have been answered miraculously. Thank you very much!

servicefromheart the praying hands of baby Ren never lose hope

I know her parents. They are honest and hardworking people, who started from zero and have become a hero and a heroine for their children, their past customers, their subordinates and their suppliers. My friend once shared the secret of their parents being given opportunities by their suppliers: reliability. They always pay their business loans no matter how difficult the circumstances are.

Her mother is a very frugal lady who bought only new clothes for the new year. Nevertheless, when the family went out with friends of their children, the parents would generously treat others.

Her father is in his 60s. In recent years, my friend felt that it is better for her father to enjoy the fruit of his labor and hardwork done over the past years and decades. However, a single turning point in life has changed everything. He left with much little of what he has saved a-dollar by a-dollar, if not cents by cents over years and decades.

I also empathize with my friend and feel her pressure. She belongs to a sandwich generation. She has to support not only two generations before and after her: her parents and her children, respectively, but also her younger sibling. I am proud of my friend, showing the quality of filial piety. I tried to encourage her that bearing a great responsibility is a privilege. Only the capable and the trustworthy are shouldered with such great tasks of life.

We love to and must take inspirations from the past generations who are able to turn adversity into something positive (逢凶化吉).

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Among many inspiring talks that I attended in Cambridge, UK, was a talk delivered by the extremely intrepid Christina Dodwell, a British explorer, travel writer, and lecturer.

She vividly described her 1975 trip to Africa with a girlfriend and two men. The men stole their jeep, leaving the women stranded with nothing. Her remark, “Losing everything is not the end,” echoes in my mind that is subconsciously searching for stories to encourage my friend. Christina and her friends then found two wild horses to ride; they survived!

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Another story that I first learned from Hui, is about Lim Tow Yong 林道荣 (1925-20120407), a legendary founder of Emporium Holdings that owned Oriental Emporium (英保良) retail business. Lim lived a roller-coaster life of fortune and success, yet he always show tenacity and never-say-die spirit.

With a humble beginning as a farmer’s son in Suatow (仙都乡), Jinshizhen (金石镇), Chao’An (潮安县), Chaozhou (潮州市), China, Lim ventured to Nanyang in 1940. Hardworking, visionary, charismatic, and a talented polyglot (English, Mandarin, Malay, Hokkien, Cantonese and Hainanese), Lim grew his business, spreading all over Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei and Hong Kong. It was thriving until 1985.

In 1988, the 63-year-old Lim Tow Yong was declared a bankrupt by Singapore high court. Most people would have given up but not Lim Tow Yong.

In 1990s, Lim started another departmental chain in Sabah, and later Brunei and Labuan, with sheer determination and hardwork. In 1999, Lim Tow Yong was finally discharged from bankruptcy. He sold his business in mid-2000s and became a millionaire once again at 79.

Losing everything is not the end, as long as you are still alive.
Losing everything is not the end, as long as your love, hope, ideas and wisdom are alive in the heart of people whom you care.

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All these three stories also made me reflect on investment. I was asked by two men older than me, “if you know any safe investment with good return, please let us know.” The eldest, who is going to celebrate his 41st birthday tomorrow, aims to have USD 1million.

You don’t know about real loss, ’cause it only occurs when you’ve loved something more than you love yourself.” ~ Good Will Hunting

After thinking and reflecting, I conclude that the best investment is on yourself. Seek knowledge. Master unique skills. Use your knowledge and skills to serve others from the bottom of your heart. Be creative and productive.

You want to transform yourself into a precious talent, such that as you grow older, you become more valuable than ever. As days pass, you become highly desirable to give positively-impactful advice to ordinary people and Fortune 500 companies. As years go, you are wanted for your unique talent and tremendous creativity. As decades change, you give your best to the world, and the world will shower you with more opportunities to make your investment grow many folds.

Invest in goodwill. Love people. Help others and do favors without expecting a favor in return. The power of the universe will do you favors especially when you need it, in unexplainable manners, in unexpected ways.

With love
ServicefromHeart
20141204

Interview: Professor Athene Donald on connecting people and interdisciplinary scientific fields

In 2009, I helped a student-run publication to interview and photograph Professor Dame Athene Donald. When I embark on a (lifelong) project to learn about being creative and transforming our creativity into a reality, I strongly feel that her story of connecting her body of work is inspiring courage and creativity in others.

In her office at the legendary Cavendish Laboratory in West Cambridge, she generously shared her insights (some are applicable to life) and hopes for our future creative generations, especially those who are interested in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

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ServicefromHeart interview Professor Dame Athene Donald Cambridge Cavendish Laboratory

In the 800th anniversary year of the University of Cambridge, Professor Athene Donald of the Cavendish Laboratory, has received the 2009 L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Award. The awards established by the cosmetics company L’Oreal jointly with UNESCO, on the premise that the world needs science … science needs women, have annually celebrated the achievements of five leading women scientists – one scientist from each continent. Dubbed as the Nobel Prize for Women in Science, the award aims to change the perception of women in science.

Could you please tell us about your scientific contributions which have led to your L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Award? 

Athene: “I found this a very difficult question, because I think it’s a lot of different thing and it’s the sum of all that I do. I have had a career where I have worked in lots of different area, and my strength is making connections between different fields.

I have done lots of works in electron microscopy, developed a technique known as environmental scanning electron microscopy (ESEM) for samples which are traditionally very difficult to look at using an ordinary scanning electron microscope, which works in a vacuum.  If you are looking at wet or biological samples, you have to do a lot of sample preparation first. ESEM allows you to look at biological materials without drying them out and killing them.

We have also been looking at how native proteins stick together. When we deliberately denature proteins, they unfold and start to behave like synthetic polymers (plastics), which formed part of my earlier career. We use the ideas of polymer physics and apply them to biological materials.

By moving from traditional physics to non-traditional areas, you open up a lot of new opportunities. One of the things that I am very proud of is that we used Small Angle X¬–ray scattering to study the starch granule. We developed a structural model for how the starch granules are put together, and at one point this was being taught at Part IB Plant Sciences. I thought it was wonderful to be able to bridge into a different discipline!

How do you nurture inter-disciplinary collaborations? 

Athene: “Within the university, we have a lot of brilliant people. One of the challenges is finding someone to spend some time talking to you to the point that they understand what you are saying and vice versa. Sitting in committees with different people has helped to find new contacts. It takes time to do inter-disciplinary work. A key thing in my inter-disciplinary work is finding people who you like, who share ways of thinking about the world, and who are prepared to commit the necessary time.”

Athene is also the director of a newly-established Physics of Medicine Initiative in the University. She continued, “We try to bring physicists, biologists, and clinicians together. The traditional medical physics discipline is aimed at developing techniques, such as MRI and ultrasound, and to apply them in clinics. That’s what I would refer to as Medical Physics, and is not what we are doing.

We intend to take a different set of tools to solve biological problems, for example to use lasers to deform cells in order to distinguish healthy from cancerous cells. This is one step back from the clinic, but will give us a profound insight into what is going on. This is rather different from traditional medical physics. It is harder to find clinicians than scientists, who are willing to share what they need with us.”

Her secret is to be constantly innovative.

“I have never stayed working in a single area for very long. I always started working in a new area before I drop one. For me, I have never wanted to know absolutely everything about a very small area. I am much more interested in taking a broad approach. It’s risky.

Sometimes I am not always successful, but that way you get new ideas and new challenges. I started researching starch in 1986, it went on for 20 years, and now I am not working on it at all.

Knowing when to stop is important. Now, I am working on proteins, cells, and also photovoltaics. My projects tend to have about a ten-year lifespan. We take a technique, start off in a very simple system, and then make it more complex.”

How can we attract more female students to pursue science? 

Athene: “The first challenge is in school. Science is not a very popular subject, it seems hard and people don’t know what it can be used for in a career.

The second challenge is not to lose women at the later stages, when you are 25 and upwards. You talk to up and coming female researchers, who ask how can I manage to have a family and an academic career?

You don’t necessarily get your permanent position until you are in your 30s. There are too many people out there saying you can’t do it.

We need to counter that view, and there are many different ways of achieving your goals. If you want to be an academic scientist, it’s very hard work, you probably have to give up other things like much of a social life, but it’s not impossible.”

How do you combine family and work?

Athene shared, “my family is very important to me. My husband is a mathematician, so we can understand each other’s science up to a point. My husband has been fantastically supportive.

As a woman and a scientist, you really need a supportive partner. My husband actually stopped his career, he became the primary carer. Not every couple will find that solution acceptable, you have to find the right solution for you, and that’s going to vary for everyone.”

On renewable energy, Athene thinks that we need to do a better job in researching on energy, because the world is going to have problems if scientists can’t solve that. If we don’t solve the energy crisis, we may end up having to go back to living in something like Victorian-time conditions.

In the next ten years, Athene will continue to use microscopy and microrheology (a non-invasive technique to analyze the visco-elastic properties of complex fluids) for understanding particle diffusion in cellular systems.

At the time of this interview (200902), Athene and her collaborators, Viji Draviam at the Department of Genetics in the University of Cambridge, have just begun a project to make patterns on which to stick cells and to investigate on how the patterns affect cell divisions and the implications in cancer.

You may be interested in their 2013 publication on live imaging of the spindle orientation during cell division (mitosis) to determine the function of LGN – a protein that is critical for spindle positioning.

A final take home message : Athene advised that everyone should know that it’s okay to ask questions. Most people need help.

This piece of advice also reminds me on a Chinese idiom 不耻下问, which literally means No Shame To Question.
Never feel embarrassed to ask and learn.
♥♥♥

Many thanks
ServicefromHeart
201406

Postcards from Marina Bay Sands, Singapore

Thanks to MRT Downtown Line (coded in blue), the first visit of baby Ren to Marina Bay Sands (MBS / 滨海湾金沙) was a realization. Except for the transport fare, the visit to The Shoppes (shopping mall) in MBS – the world’s most expensive building at US$ 5.5 – 5.7 billion (as of 2010) – is free.

“Everyday is a journey in our lives, and an MRT ride can be an interesting journey.”

每天是一个旅程;乘坐地铁可以是一个有趣的旅程!

Travel Journal to world most expensive building Marina Bay Sands Singapore by ServicefromHeart

Spacious seats of MRT serving Downtown Line make us happy! Thank you MRT.

Travel Journal to world most expensive building Marina Bay Sands Singapore by ServicefromHeart

We took the MRT Downtown Line from Bugis via Promenade to Bayfront station.

Travel Journal to world most expensive building Marina Bay Sands Singapore by ServicefromHeart

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Designed by Moshe Safdie (an Israeli/Canadian architect) with an inspiration from card decks, MBS is a unique icon of Singapore. “Does it look like ancestral tablets (tombstones)?” a taxi driver once asked me. To me, it looks like an ancient Chinese scholar’s hat (古老的中国学者的帽子).

A canal inside the Marina Bay Sands reminds us on the Venice (Italy) and River Cambridge (England).

Travel Journal to world most expensive building Marina Bay Sands Singapore by ServicefromHeart

A tea break by the water side beneath the Rain Oculus created by Ned Kahn – famous for transforming an invisible aspect of nature into visible, is pleasing and relaxing. That day, I had a snack leftover that I bought from near Lavender MRT station whereas baby Ren had grape cuts and a bottle of breast milk.

Travel Journal to world most expensive building Marina Bay Sands Singapore by ServicefromHeart

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Luxurious brands … offer a pleasant opportunity for window shopping! They are sources of inspirations: the creative designs (创意设计), the careful attention to details (精心细节) and exquisite craftsmanship (精湛的工艺).

Dior 

Travel Journal to world most expensive building Marina Bay Sands Singapore by ServicefromHeart

A different kind of worlds …

Travel Journal to world most expensive building Marina Bay Sands Singapore by ServicefromHeart

Are you interested to hire baby Ren as your little model?

Travel Journal to world most expensive building Marina Bay Sands Singapore by ServicefromHeart

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I remember …

When baby Ren was in my belly, my maternal grandmother, Dad, Mom and I had a memorable early dinner at Ding Tai Fung (鼎泰豐), Marina Bay Sands. It was a good decision so that we did not have to queue for a table. I did not feel significantly inflated prices as compared to other outlets of Ding Tai Fung, given the posh location.

My family encouraged me to eat more xiaolongbao (小笼包) – my favorite dish. I also like the chilli oil dumplings.

Xiaolongbao was originally from Shanghai and Wuxi, China. Their mini sizes made them so delicate and cherishable to savor.

It is not only about the food, but also the people whom you dine with and the people who transform our food into food art.

“I choose to collect memories instead of things.” ~ Elena Levon

我选择收集回忆,而不是东西。

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What’s next?

1. visit Sands SkyPark that connects the 2 hotel towers and is large enough (1.2 hectare) to park four-and-a-half Airbus A380 jumbo jets. Plan your visit at the end of the afternoon before dusk to enjoy the view during daytime and at night. It costs a visitor SG$23 to get to the Skypark by high speed elevator of the middle tower. The ticketing office is not accessible by lift, and a friendly staff kindly offered to carry my pram / stroller, but in the end I decided to visit Sands SkyPark next time.

2. Alternatively, you can take the free elevator (Tower 3) to Ku DÉ Ta Lounge to enjoy some drinks and scenery of Singapore’s cityscape and skyline. PS: casual dress is not allowed, no shorts, slippers, singlets and tank tops plese.

3. swim @ The Infinite Pool on the 57th floor – the largest elevated pool in the world, which is only accessible to the hotel guests.

4. watch Wonder Full: Light Show and Water Show. Each show starts daily at 8pm and 9.30pm. On Friday and Saturday nights, there is another show at 11pm.
To watch the Water Show, be at the Marina Bay Sands side.
To watch the Light Show, cross the Bay.
Please remember to bring your tripod for taking blur-free photography / video.

Address: 10 Bayfront Ave Marina Bay Sands, Singapore 018956


Other travel posts that I love:
♥ Ku De Ta by Journeys of the Fabulist
♥ SkyPark Infinity Pool by Escape with Style
♥ Light and Water Show by Rosie and Edmund Tay
♥ our #travelxp posts

With love,
ServicefromHeart
2014