Friday, 16 May 2014

Days 126-127: New York with family

So our great US family road trip has gotten off to a rocky start. We've learned many lessons. Such as:

  • Be a traveller, not a tourist (i.e. don't buy a New York Pass, go on bus tours, or get around via the sightseeing bus). We ended up wasting a lot of time, and didn't make the most of our trip. Walking or subway is always faster!
  • Take the weather into account before going up the Empire State Building! Here was the view yesterday:
  • From the 86th floor. A patch through the fog...

    From the 102th floor. We bought the upgrade, not realising that it was zero visibility. Woops.
  • Shit happens! The weather was just not on our side today either, and my parents didn't even get to see the Statue of Liberty which they were really looking forward to since it was actually stormy. And then, when they tried going to another museum, they got there 2 minutes after it closed. So unfortunate. (I ditched them after the failed attempt at seeing the Statue, and went to the Museum of Sex instead - which was actually pretty legit!). But hopefully this means that the rest of our trip might go a bit more smoothly?
  • Try and see less, and see it better. I personally would prefer less photo-taking and more engagement.
  • I don't think I could live in New York. Just wayyy too many people (aka tourists like me :P). But I haven't seen enough of it aside from Times Square, which is not really representative, so I should reserve judgement!
  • US roads are so dark at night and pretty scary to drive on in the dark, especially with pouring rain. Even my dad, the expert driver, was finding it difficult to even stay in the lane!

But of course, there are always things that make me smile, like:
  1. The moment we drove into the parking lot at Princeton even though a sign said "Do Not Enter' (you were supposed to drive to the next entry) and my mum was just like, "Well, I guess we have to enter". LOL.
  2. Princeton is stunning.
  3. Chapel. Someone was playing the organ beautifully inside. A moment of peace.

    Dad and I under our Chinese zodiac animals.

    Awesome fountain. Photo does not do it justice.
  4. Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum!!!! So much awesomeness. I was literally confusing real people for wax models and wax models for real people.

  5. Getting a really helpful reply from an academic I reached out to regarding a book chapter he'd written. He generously sent it so I could read it since I won't have access to a university library till August.
  6. We had dinner at Hangawi, a Korean vegan restaurant!!! The food and the ambience made for an excellent and very satisfying experience. It was probably the highlight of my visit to New York this time. I will definitely come back next time I'm back in New York (I'm sure I'll have another opportunity to return). I recommend the stuffed shiitake mushroom appetiser especially.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Day 125: Goodbye, Philly!

What went well? 

  1. Managed to finish downloading journal articles for the literature review I'm part of, before my parents woke up in the morning.
  2. Took my parents on a tour of Penn. Then they helped me move out. Which went really smoothly. And we were able to waive the fee for the parking garage because we had move-out vouchers! Yusss.
  3. Bought a new bag and dress at Macy's. Wow. That place is HUGE.
  4. Had dinner at Mi Lah again. It was fabulous as usual. My non-vegan parents were impressed!

What did I learn? 

  • Macy's is huge. And the place to shop. Whereas The Gallery at Market East really isn't.

Day 124: GMH

What went well? 

  1. The postdoc I'm working with wrote me a really sweet thank you card. And we walked to the BioPond together.
  2. My professor is going to help me with the process of getting my term paper published - from revising it to teaching me how to write a submission letter. Just wow. I am so grateful that he believes in me (a lowly undergraduate!!) and is willing to give his own time to help me with it. He GMH. I'm so excited to move forward with this.
  3. My parents arrived in Philly! It was lovely to reunite.

What did I learn? 

  • My professor's mindset with judging the quality of work. Basically, we both know that my paper was unpolished (probably the least polished piece of writing I've ever turned in) - but he doesn't care!! He says that students at Penn are really good at polishing, when they should have spent that time actually researching. As he says, you can't polish nothing. So he looks for substance. I think that's a great mindset to have - vs. having marks taken off for an APA formatting error for e.g., in psychology.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Day 123: The "A" in my PERMA is particularly strong today!!!!

What went well? 
  1. Rocked up to my Buddhism professor's office to give him his thank you card. He didn't have time to chat today, but will see him tomorrow. But he did tell me that my grade was the only A+ he'd given in the course this semester!!!!! So that felt great, especially given all the grade inflation at Penn. It makes it feel like it was a grade that I'd really earned (and oh my god, I put a lot of effort into this course and that paper!!). He also said he reserves A+'s for work that goes beyond the course and is publishable...!! So we'll be talking about what I could do with my paper. It made my week. I am satisfied.
  2. Visited the BioPond again. Again, experienced the joys and peacefulness of being surrounded by and feeling connected to nature.
  3. Managed to hang out with a friend this evening. It was so lovely to share and catch up before we both leave Philly. Again, it's just, gahhhhh why do I have to leave now that I've established all these genuine relationships with awesome people!!?? At least the depth of our conversation made up for the short time...sigh.

What did I learn? 
  • It feels awesome to blow the curve.
  • More about my friend.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Day 122: Turtles yawn?!?!

What went well? 

  1. Woke up to some cute pictures of my dog that my friend sent me :)
  2. Had another relaxing day. Went and checked out the Penn Museum again, then sat by the BioPond and read and watched the turtles.
  3. Finished writing a gratitude letter to my Buddhism prof.

What did I learn? 

  • Turtles yawn?!?! It was the craziest thing ever. And so so so cute. Also, what else was cute was watching them struggle to climb onto the ledge from the pond. So much effort involved!

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Day 121: Vedge

What went well? 

  1. Checked out the community fair down in Clark Park this afternoon. It was a really wonderful sight to see so many people in the community there and enjoying themselves. Also, thought this jewellery was MASTERFUL:
  2. It's made of REAL FRUIT!!!!! 
  3. Had the most special dining experience ever, at Vedge Restaurant. It's an upscale vegan restaurant, and I highly recommend it!!

  4. Went back to my friend's place where I finally watched Pitch Perfect!!! Great movie.
  5. My parents landed safely in San Francisco!

What did I learn? 

  • Vedge Restaurant is amazing!! Have a look at their pictures:

Friday, 9 May 2014

Day 120: The (Official) End

Wow that went fast. I will write a more reflective post later.

What went well? 

  1. Had my last exam today, and it went really well!
  2. Had a really productive lab meeting.
  3. Checked out the BioPond!!! Finally!!!!! I can't believe it took me this long to go - it's only 5 minutes from where I live. And it was so peaceful and recuperative.

  4. Turtles!!!

  5. Skyped my parents :)
  6. Had a wonderful, wonderful and profound conversation with a friend. So excited to continue to keep in touch and hopefully collaborate in the future!!

What did I learn? 

  • I've realised that I have recently developed a serious sugar addiction. And that I need to break it now.
  • The end of exams is more anticlimactic than OMG FREEDOM WOO! It was more of an "Oh, that's it."

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Day 119: Final stretch!

What went well? 

  1. Finished and handed in my Mindfulness-Based Positive Education paper!!!! Felt great to get that done. (But I will edit it again in a couple of weeks before sharing it with the world on
  2. Got my Buddhism mark back (already!! 1 week turnover - prof is so efficient) - and am very happy!! I did invest a disproportionate amount of time and emotional engagement after all. Am especially happy because it indicates that my professor liked my paper - would have been mildly devastated if he didn't :P
  3. Met with a friend for dinner! It was great to see her before I leave Philly.

What did I learn? 
  • Oh my. The lecture slides for my exam tomorrow are even more disorganised and convoluted than I remember. I am definitely learning things about how to teach, just from seeing how different teaching styles are more effective than others. Presenting information as facts with no narrative, for instance, is not conducive to memory or meaningful learning.
  • Wow. I really don't care! It's amazing how little I care about this last exam. I don't know if this is "homeostasis" operating again, or if it's just me finally being able to be rational because this last exam realistically doesn't matter that much in the bigger scheme of things!

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Day 118: Over my head

What went well? 

  1. Went to a lunchtime colloquium at the PPC on future time perception. Most of it went over my head, but at the end of it I started talking to one of the faculty members there who researches spirituality, and we ended up having a really interesting and meaningful conversation about Buddhism.
  2. Alllllmost did a comprehensive edit of my paper. Well, at least I have all morning tomorrow till 2pm. I'm really forward to getting it done and polished, and sending it off to quite a few people who have expressed interest in reading it!
  3. One of our lab members provided really detailed feedback on a post-test survey and helpfully suggested a way for us to make the feedback process efficient. <3

What did I learn? 
  • Psychophysics is cool but the stuff today was so over my head. The gist, though, is that subjective time perception matters for temporal discounting. Also, there are really novel methods for measuring people's subjective sense of time (e.g. in millimetres!! or spatially).

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Day 117: So much better

What went well? 

  1. I have to say, I am super happy with how this mindfulness paper is going. Especially when compared with the STRUGGLES of my other mindfulness x Buddhism paper!!! I'm taking it as a good sign that perhaps I actually might kinda know what I'm talking about when it comes to mindfulness and positive psychology in education. So today, I finished my first draft, and did a complete overhaul of the introduction (so it's now 2 pages, not 6). Now the paper is sitting at 23 pages (excluding figure and table), which makes it a much more manageable piece to edit. I'm sure I can get it under 20 pages. Concision is good. It just makes such a huge difference having at least a whole day to edit it. To think that I usually prefer having a week to edit, my expectations have shifted since the Buddhism paper nightmare, and now having a whole day feels like a luxury!
  2. The brainstorm we did in our lab meeting last week was really good, because when I met with the post-doc I'm working with this afternoon, we were able to transform them into prose for emails we'll be sending to participants really easily.
  3. Also revised another lecture for sociology of mental illness.
  4. It was such a beautiful day outside today. :)
  5. Buddhism prof sent us this video of monks breakdancing. Forget the quiet, serene, peaceful stereotype! These monks are badass!

What did I learn? 

  • I relearned that writing and editing can be an enjoyable process. It is so satisfying and rewarding to transform very roughly noted ideas into something that's flows logically and coherent, is nicely phrased, and engaging to read. (Good) academic writing is a form of craftsmanship.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Day 116: Nearly there!

What went well? 

  1. Got another subject out of the way!! Handed in my sociology of education final. So, only one more paper and one more final to go.
  2. Got through two lectures revising for my sociology of mental illness final.
  3. Wanted to recognise how lovely my GA for our section is!! She keeps putting out study snacks for us and even baked us brownies. I was so impressed by her niceness!
  4. Saw this on Facebook and it cracked me up. So. True.

What did I learn? 

  • I'm constantly surprised by how lenient the systems for handing in assignments here are compared to at Melbourne. So I went to hand in my exam at my professor's office at 5pm, and all I had to do was slide it under the door (he wasn't even there, he was in his other office). No time stamp, no Turnitin for any assignments. So weird. Also, my professor for another subject just told us, "For those of you who really cannot turn your paper in on Thursday, you may put a copy of your paper in my mailbox by 5PM on Friday May 9th". I can't handle these constant extensions and vague deadlines!!!!  Definitely going to get it in on Thursday so I can study for my other final that's on Friday morning and be done with exams!!! I don't want to extend my exam period!!
  • Woah, so I thought today was productive, but apparently yesterday was pretty much my most productive day ever:
  • More evidence that doing fun things during the day helps you get stuff done.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Day 115: Don Giovanni

What went well? 

  1. Went and saw Don Giovanni for free this afternoon!! Thanks Open Arts Philly!! It was really interesting and there was some really good quality singing.
  2. And it was with a friend, and hanging out with great people is always a good thing!
  3. Wrote another ~2000 words for my mindfulness/positive education paper, and finalised my conceptual model. It's going well! Just have to write up the rest of the integration section now - maybe another 3-4 pages, max - and the conclusion, and then do a massive restructure + edit.
  4. Mindfulness-Based Positive Education: A Proposed Conceptual Model

What did I learn? 

  • (Mozart's) Don Giovanni supposedly had over 2000 conquests (i.e. women he womanised). And over 1000 in Spain alone!! He went to hell in the end though, so he definitely got what was coming!

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Day 114: No guarantees

What went well? 
  1. Finished my first draft of my sociology of education take-home exam.
  2. Found this amazing cover of Let it Go. I am so obsessed with it!!
  3. Cooked. So I officially don't have to cook again!!!!!!

What did I learn? 
  • Coffee doesn't guarantee productivity and focus.
  • I need to deliberately schedule in at least one thing, preferably with people, on empty days, because otherwise my productivity plummets - it's about setting healthy limitations!
  • In fact, looks like today was my least productive day ever...Wow.

Friday, 2 May 2014

Day 113: Let's go!

What went well? 

  1. Saw my friend perform a duet at her singing recital. It was so lovely and beautiful and uplifting :)
  2. Had a really productive lab meeting. We did a really comprehensive brainstorm of what we'll be including in our email tips to our study participants.
  3. Looks like I wrote about 2000 words towards my sociology of education final. Nearly finished the first part of it.
  4. Got dinner with a friend at a great vegan restaurant - Mi Lah Vegetarian. I've been twice and have been impressed with it both times. Will definitely take my parents here when they come!!! It is amazing. Highly recommend.

What did I learn? 

  • I'm pretty good at driving stuff forward - the flipside of mild impatience with vagueness and meandering - let's go, get it done, woo!

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Day 112: Presence

What went well? 
  1. Dr Michael Baime, Director of the Penn Program for Mindfulness, was the guest speaker (or rather, facilitator) for our mindfulness class today. I have never been so attentive in this class before. There was something about his presence that was compelling and just made you want to listen and pay attention. It was a real privilege to hear his insights.
  2. I am currently thanking myself for all the work I've already done on my (other) mindfulness paper. I just had a look after not touching it for three weeks and had completely forgotten where I was with it, but was pleasantly surprised to see that it's about 60% of the way there already. I think another solid day of thinking and writing and I will have a solid first draft.
  3. The check-out lady at Fresh Grocer is so genuinely friendly.

What did I learn? 
  • An interesting and effective way of facilitating a discussion. Dr Baime chose not to give a formal Powerpoint presentation ("the easy way out") but asked each of us what our biggest questions about mindfulness were. Then, he collapsed them into three big questions which he shared his thoughts on. A great way to address the interests of the group.
  • The effect of one's presence on everyone else's presence.
  • Sleep deprivation has adverse effects on self-control. I don't know if there's been research on it but I definitely felt it!