Category Archives: Recent Posts

Second Exchange! Coming Summer Semester at Cambridge!!

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Disclaimer: This post is produced right off the confirmation that the writer received regarding his summer abroad application. A great deal of excitement and exclamation marks, uncommon in the writer’s style of writing, would be evident in this piece. Reader’s discretion is advised!

 

I never expected that HKU would nominate me for a second exchange. The reason why I call it a second exchange is because unlike other summer programmes, the one at Cambridge probably lasts the longest- for eight weeks during which I can not only take two courses from my field of study but also work on producing a dissertation under the supervision of a Cambridge professor! That means, including my twenty-two weeks at UCLA, by the end of next summer I would have in fact spent more than two semesters on exchange. Well, these justifications are for the most skeptic individuals who think summer programmes don’t count as exchange. What’s more important is that I am going to Cambridge!!!

 

Screen Shot 2016-12-10 at 4.29.24 PMI don’t know why reading the confirmation email on my nomination immediately reminded me of my humble upbringing. Growing up in a middle-class family in India and going to definitely not the top [read famous!] schools in town, life back there in Delhi was pretty mediocre- eat, sleep, pray and read; however, the past three years’ have been as exciting as the second half of the movie Deer Hunter (1978) lol! Leaving home at eighteen and from there so many interesting set pieces, one more exciting than the other, imprinted on the roll film of my identity. In my prayers, I always ask God do I deserve so many of such happy moments from going to Thailand to teach English to spending half a year in LA and now this opportunity to read at Cambridge!

 

Well, this post is not only about me and my feelings but also intends to be informational in nature. I highly encourage both current and prospective students to HKU to check out the summer exchange programmes that HKU has to offer at http://www.aal.hku.hk/summerinstitute/ because there are some great universities like Cambridge, Columbia and Stanford on list who have semester-equivalent programmes during summer. Some of my friends also transfer the units earned from taking some courses at the host institute during summer back to HKU. Although I don’t really require to do so (courtesy to the units gained from doing 10 courses at UCLA!) yet I hope I will be able to pool the units earned for the course on Metaphysics and Philosophy of Mind as an elective for Cognitive Science. Such opportunities are for those who would like to have a productive summer and to me what better way to describe my plan for the upcoming summer- going to Cambridge for a semester <3

Idiosyncrasies of Academic Writing

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Sometimes I wonder why it’s so challenging to preserve a structure, a narrative, to the flow of ideas in our academic papers. Why do we resist ourselves so much from drifting away into experimental prose while discussing, for instance, the implicature and not the explicit implication of affect states on unethical behavior? Is there no way to consciously drop certain rules of academic writing to produce a rich sophisticated text like that of Ulysses in scientific literature? Being someone who cherishes the resources that English affords me in terms of writing stylish and engaging text, I raise serious concern not with the stress of writing things that are worthwhile to be on print but instead with the way how we, as writers, are confirming to a phenomenon which I name poverty of perception.

This blog won’t be the right place to unpack what I mean by poverty of perception, however, I find idiosyncrasies of academic writing is a topic that, down the ladder, we all as University students grapple with. The nature of my attitude towards academic writing must not be mistaken as one that of whining or absolute despise but instead my concern is very fundamental as to how language use is constrained and off-putting in academic papers. Topics that I, as a student of human nature, wish to know more about, whether its computational modelling of hemispheric asymmetry in visual processing or lexical processing in the human brain, no matter which disciplinary perspective I adopt to fully understand a cognitive process, there always comes a point where it just becomes unbearable to follow not what or why but instead how the researchers are, for instance, manipulating the weights in the neural network or transcribing the brain activation levels to stark statistical figures represented in their research papers. How can I learn how did the researchers’ methodology of manipulating and recording the variables under scrutiny produce the results of their study? Mere reporting of statistical tests and significance of values obtained from such tests don’t calm an inquisitive mind. It’s the procedures from data collection to analysis that inspires a reader of scientific literature. After knowing the finding, it’s the question of how you arrived at this conclusion which is the most exciting and in fact the driving force of all subsequent scientific endeavors. Yet the part that’s supposed to be most lucidly described ends up being the most incomprehensible to the vast majority of readers including researchers working in the same discipline. The writers are partially to be blamed for adopting jargons and technical language in the methodology section of their paper, however, the greater problem lies in the culture of accepted practices and norms in the field of academic writing that fosters in us, from our first term paper at University, a restrictive outlook on the scope and readership of research papers and this is what I refer to as poverty of perception.

Maybe this is the right spot to loop back to my halt stage and let you, readers, to evaluate the issue I raise in my argument and dwell upon its merits and weaknesses. And for those who are equally concerned about the opaqueness in academic papers, there is an interesting take on this issue by Steven Pinker here-

Desi Survival101- Diwali

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We’re approaching that time of the year which makes every Indian’s smile a little wider, day a little brighter, and lungs a little more corrupted. That’s right, in case you forgot, Diwali season’s about to roll around the corner, and trust me, you will never feel further away from home than during Diwali season. Hong Kong is undoubtedly an incredible city, but for us Desis, there’s really nothing like the nights at home illuminated by ladis and mirchi bombs, with the air thick with that aroma which you know is terrible for you, but you love every moment of it.

Luckily, here at HKU, the South Asian Society has set up a number of events which help you make Hong Kong feel a little more like #HomeKong (One of my least favourite IG hashtags but whatever).

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Obviously since the traditionally festive time back in India is recognized as the traditionally midterm laden time over here, we can’t really organize an event exactly on Diwali. So around the period, the SAS (South Asian Society) holds an event called the SAS Cultural Night. The event actually goes on through the day at Global Lounge, and it celebrates and shares the cultures of the countries represented by the SAS – Bangladesh, Nepal, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The day starts with some traditional stalls like Henna Tattoos, Carrom, a photobooth with turbans and jewelry and other traditional clothing, and a bunch of other stuff. The night part of it is usually bigger.

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There are dance and music performances by the students representing their own country’s culture. Trust me this is like Bollywood Night without the hefty cover charges and middle aged people. It’s a hugely attended event. My first Cultural Night was so packed with brown people that it brought back memories of Rajiv Chowk metro station.

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The Cultural Night this semester is being held at Global Lounge on the 9th of November. Be there, we have free food. Since we can’t use fireworks in Hong Kong, your Diwali won’t be illuminated like it was at home, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be #lit (This one is definitely worse I apologize).

Halloween Month Special: My Favourite Horror Movies!

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Taking a break from writing travel blogs, this time I decided to share with you a bunch of scary flicks that ruins my sleep post watching one of them! I guess most of the movies on the list might be outrightly familiar to you so no room for anything called spoilers!! Since its Halloween season, I have decided to indulge in some guilty pleasure by revisiting some of the movies on the list and yeah let go of sleep :p

1. The Conjuring (2013)

Of course the ending is kind of cheesy but who can forget the clap scene from this old-school horror movie! I remember most of the people in the cinema were resorting to laughter during such tense set-pieces, probably trying to cover up their fear, while I simply stared at the screen, taking big gasps to stuff the fright inside me.

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2. The Blair Witch Project (1999) & Blair Witch (2016)

Forget the critics, I like the sequel more- the witch is more  powerful, time inside the forest is in her control and the last ten minutes or so of the film is very scary. This doesn’t discount its sensational predecessor as of a lesser movie in terms of thrills. In fact The Blair Witch Project is one of those few horror movies that terrifies me with its premise and ambiguity.

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3. The Witch (2015)

Ok, so this one you may not have heard about coz even in the states it got a limited release in 2016. I remember watching this late night in an almost empty AMC on Santa Monica Blvd. and the experience was emotionally draining to say the least. I think of it as an origin story of a witch but there’s more to this chilling piece of filmmaking that deals with themes of religious hysteria and social exclusion. And yeah it has one of the most shocking endings!!

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4. Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Implausible and absurd may seem the conception but it evokes in me this sense of paranoia for the mundane- neighbours, strangers and scrabbles!

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5. Mother Joan of the Angels (1961)

This one is a clearly lesser known film and I couldn’t find any gif image for it :p, however, I think this Polish film needs to be on the list for depicting an event which actually happened in the past with great realism that it even makes a Psych student like me believe in cases of demonic possessions. Highly recommended.

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6. The Exorcist (1973)

Of course this list would be incomplete without the supposedly scariest movie of all times! For me it is not necessarily the scariest one but definitely watching it for the first time late night on cable TV  gave me the creeps and a sleepless night lol!

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7. Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)

Imagine you are like 10 or 11 years old and have just finished reading an abridged version of Dracula not knowing that its a fiction and then you end up watching this movie! I can tell you its way more frightening than hilarious, in fact I was so scared by the first half of the movie that I stopped watching it that night and instead watched the whole movie the next morning, in broad daylight- with droopy eyes!

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8. The Ornate Lock (1993)

This film is from my hometown and I highly recommend it for those who like the mix of old-fashioned ghost story and scientific reasoning behind the cited unnatural occurrences. Being commercially and critically successful upon release it was later remade in various other Indian languages but I think the original version is the best- it doesn’t go over the top, has one of the best soundscape in Indian cinema and great performances by its cast. I have seen this movie countless times because its sooooo good and it doesn’t ruin my sleep pattern as it has a good dose of humour too!

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9. Suspiria (1977)

This last one doesn’t make a lot of sense in terms of its plot and characters but while compiling this list it certainly pops up to take its place over some of my other favourite horror movies like The Shining (1980), The Others (2001) and The Babadook (2014). There is something very strange about Argento’s film that even though I just saw it once probably like 3 or 4 years back yet I remember some of the spookiest moments from the film like the opening scene, the dog scene and of course the climax. This movie is certainly up in my movie-to-revisit-asap list lol!

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I will end my list on no. 9 and go get some sleep now.

Final edit – 2nd October, 2016; 6:48 am.

Media Courtesy-Giphy & Google Images

Leaving California: A Summer Odyssey on Wheels

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So another September  is almost nearing its end and this time I cannot stop myself from seeing these weird late afternoon dreams (yes, that means I am sleeping too much these days!) where, and this is absolutely true, a girl called Ishagaki calls me on the phone and tries to lure me into a marriage and yeah during one of the other dreams I find myself crossing the DMZ and entering North Korea, unharmed, untouched lol!! Maybe such glimpses into some illogically imaginable circumstances are fuelled by the restless wanderlust burning inside me. So before its reading week when this globetrotter flies to Seoul, let me try to get this tinker a bit nostalgic and let him relive the train trip that we took, post my exchange, through forests, deserts, mountains, prairies, canyons, national parks and yeah across the Pacific coast- from LA-SEA-CHI-SFO, so that he doesn’t make me dream of going scuba diving in the Bahamas without oxygen cylinders in the coming weeks!

 

Me: Hey Mo (That’s what he prefers to be called while travelling- easier to pronounce and remember than our full name!), remember the night before we left LA, it was our birthday! Remember the party at my professor’s house and the farewell chitchat with our friends from China? On my Birthday with Dr. Repetti and her grad student Galen- Birthday party at Dr. Repetti's house!

Mo: Oh yeah it was a really special night. I remember you were feeling really sad of leaving your friends and the university and also extremely worried of our trip. I told you la its gonna be fine, see now we both are here and wasn’t the train ride fun?

Me: Of course, not only fun but coz of you that journey made me more independent and brave. See now I love travelling solo! Btw what was the best part of the trip for you?13406926_1734322640177198_3955331438945240040_n

Mo: That’s so tough- to choose the best… definitely I loved the ride along the pacific coast, it was one of the top things I wanted to do during your exchange. Also I really liked Chicago- just made me go crazy to see in person all the elements of the city present in pop culture!

13501904_1735443566731772_5686283376359542423_nMe: Ya on one afternoon we were just hunting down and taking snaps of all the locations were The Dark Knight was shot, even running into some dangerous guys underground haha! For me the highlight of our trip would be the journey from Denver to Sacramento. Before Denver, it was just that same old grassland and farms, we had seen the better version of it, sleeping underneath snow in Canada, but OMG from Denver it was such an amazing ride! Day spent snaking through the Rocky mountains and towards evening creeping along the edge of gorges and canyons and waking up next morning to the sights of naked deserts of Utah and strange pink sand of the Salt Lake City and as the dusk dawns closer we say farewell to the lush green forests of Sierra Nevadas. Those two days were probably our most beautiful days in the states.13508972_1735942906681838_6324954922827751901_n

Mo: Whoa but how can you forget our days during the new year eve in New York?!
Me: There’s something really special about nature. New York was definitely fun and its my favourite city in the states but that tranquility of the sky, the innocence of the rivers and streams and the wisdom of trees is missing from the life in the city. You know life is already so stressful in HK and I had to work with OISE the next day right after I reached HK so those two days in the wilderness are very memorable and precious to me. I don’t how to explain it to you, those moments were simply beautiful.

Mo: I understand la. I feel the same but maybe not as much as you coz I love the cities, its rush and noise. Maybe that’s where I belong.

Me: And that’s why you brought me to HK for studying :p!

13412896_1731789770430485_2801883781945109810_nMo: Are you excited for the trip to Seoul?

Me: Yep! But there’s two exams right after the reading week.

Mo: Don’t worry, you will be ok.

Me: Hopefully… (speaking to myself- especially if you stop making me see those wacky dreams of yours!)

 

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