Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Reduce, reuse, reminiscence, recycle.

That big exam, the climax of a student's student life, the final examination which a student's entire life in school has been building up to all these years, the SPM examination, has finally come to a peaceful close. For most of us, anyway. Some of the gang still have Accounts and Literature tomorrow, but they just end one day late. Anyway, cue the confetti!


Now that we've got all those colorful bits of paper out of our system, time for me to tell you about my day. No, I won't tell you about the examination, that stuff's boring. I'll tell you about what I did when I got home. School holidays, of course, actually started several weeks ago - for most students. But not us Form Five students, ho no. We still had our big exam to sit for. But not anymore. For the Form Five, our school holidays have officially started! Unfortunately, I've already used up all my confetti.

Anyway, now that the school holidays have "begun", it's time to go through the same old year-end clean-up procedure that we go through every year.

All the backpacks are turned upside down, their contents are picked up, and sent to be recycled. Of course, first we have to do a little reusing as well. Here's how it goes: All of the half-used notebooks are placed in a pile. One by one, we take a notebook off the top and open it up. If the book is more than half-filled with writing, then the clean pages at the back are neatly chopped off with the paper cutter and placed into the "scrap paper drawer". We've never had a shortage of scrap paper all my life. On the other hand, if the book is less than half-filled, then the pages in front with writing are chopped off, and now we have a clean and perfectly reusable more-than-half-left book, which can be used next year, or passed down to future generations. Everything else goes for recycling.

However, it occurs to me that now that I'm leaving school, this will likely be the last time I ever do this fun little activity again. I'm starting to wonder whether it's really all right to just decapitate and toss out all those papers. Hence, the title of today's blog post. When I think about it, we've spent countless years (okay, it's actually 10 years) going to school, filling books with writing, and tossing it all out at the end of the year. But the last year is different. This is the year that actually counts. Our teachers put in so much effort, and we put in a lot of effort as well, to fill these books wise words, invaluable information, and world-changing formulas, and now is it alright to just throw it all out? (Of course, I have no doubt that equal amounts of effort were put in by the teacher and the students in all the other years as well, but this is the year that actually counts.)  I wondered to myself, how would my teachers feel if they knew that all their hard work was going to be recycled into a receipt at Tesco or a paper napkin at Kopitiam.

But I thought about it for a while, and in the end I came to the decision that recycling these papers is the best thing to do. After all, in Biology, they teach us the importance of recycling. In Moral, they teach us how to recycle, and the importance of recycling. In English and Malay, they ask us to write essays on how to encourage the society to recycle more. When I think about it like that, the only logical thing to do now with all these papers is to recycle them. After all, our teachers put in all that hard work to drive those lessons into our heads. The best course of action that displays the best respect towards our teachers would be to recycle all these papers. Do not worry, teachers, your teachings shall not be forsaken!

That's why this whole box is going to the recycling center.

Also, the English Chairman part of me says that I should mention that Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle are all verbs, whereas Reminiscence is a noun, thus being inaccurate and not quite fitting there. Oh well.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Difference between Mass and Weight (a rough analysis of)

I feel like blogging today, so you, my kind readers, get two posts today, whether you like it or not. After all, the first post was kind of cheating. Mostly cut and paste work.
So! What is the difference between mass and weight? This question was thrown to me by Google Instant. Try typing typing "The difference between" in the Google Search Bar, and you'll see what I mean. Coincidentally, I'm also studying Physics right now, so this doubles as a kind of revision for me. Although, all of my friends who study Physics already know, when answering quesiton, what the difference between mass and weight is. If you want to find the weight of an object, multiply the mass of the object by 10. So simple. And yet, so very inaccurate. We'll get to that in a moment.
First, to get a definition of "mass" and "weight", we turn to our old friend Wiktionary. According to Wiktionary, "mass" is "The quantity of matter which a body contains, irrespective of its bulk or volume." In other words, "mass" measures how much there is in your body. Fair enough, right? On the other hand, Wiktionary cites "weight" as meaning "The force on an object due to the gravitational attraction between it and the Earth." In short, how much you feel gravity.
Let's keep things nice and simple, now. "Mass" refers to how much "flesh" you have in your body, for want of a better term. "Weight" on the other hand refers to how much gravity affects you. All nice and clear now, right? In Physics, we can say that "mass" is a measurement of matter, and "weight" is a measurement of force. But that's just Physics, of course.
Before I start boring you with a lot of Physics, let me get right down to the main point: The difference between mass and weight. Mass will never change wherever you are, since it measure your "flesh". Your mass only changes if you put on some fat, or have some of it removed. Your weight, on the other hand, depends on gravity. If gravity were to suddenly become weaker, your weight would be less. But your mass, or "fleshiness", would still be the same. You haven't burned any carbs yet, after all. In short, if you were to go to the Moon where gravity is weaker, your weight would decrease. You've still got all your flesh on you though, so your mass does not decrease.
It would be great if you would keep on reading, but if you feel like you've learned enough, now would be an okay time to exit the blog. However, if you decide to leave here, please scroll down to the "important note" before you do.
Then what is the relationship between mass and weight? For that, let's take a quick look at the law of gravity. Wikipedia: "Gravitation, or gravity, is a natural phenomenon by which physical bodies attract each other with a force proportional to their masses." In the layman's terms, big objects attract bigger objects better. The Law of Gravity hence states that the greater your mass, or "fleshiness", the bigger the effect of gravity on your body.
So how do we arrive at calculating weight out of mass? Well, Earth's gravity is fixed at a certain strength, and all objects on earth experience a "gravitational accelaration" of approximately 10 meters per second per second - or m/s^2. In other words, if you were standing still in a helicopter in the air (not falling at all), and you were to step out onto thin air, you would accelarate at approximately 10 m/s^2. In short, if you were to walk out of a helicopter, 1 second later you would be falling at about 10 m/s, and another second after that you would be falling at about 20 m/s, and another second after that you would be falling at about 30  m/s... and so on, until you reach a maximum speed (or terminal velocity) of about 195 km/h, or 54 m/s. That's gravity for you. It's one of the few laws that cannot be broken.
But I'm dawdling, aren't I? Let's get back to getting weight out of mass. The formula for finding force is: Force is equal to mass multiplied by acceleration, or F=ma. Also discovered by Newton. Now, take a close look at that equation, and compare it to what we have learned so far. Force = mass x acceleation? Hey! Weight is gravitational force, isn't it? And that's what we want to find! As for mass... well, that depends on the object we're looking at, right? Let's take me as a sample. My mass is around 60kg. Not that you should tell that to the whole world or anything. Now, our equation says my gravitational force, or Weight = 60kg x accelaration. But wait! Weight is about gravity, and gravitational acceleration on Earth is 10 m/s^-2, isn't it? Well, let's put that in there! Now, my Weight is equal to my Mass multiplied by gravitational acceleration, or Weight = 60kg x 10m/s^-2. That means I weigh 600! But 600 what? Force is measured in Newtons (what? him again?), or N. So my mass is 60 kg, and my weight is 600 N.
For all practical purposes, acceleration due to gravity is always 10 m/s^-2 anywhere on earth. So when finding the weight of an object, you only need to determine it's mass, and multiply it by 10, or the gravitational acceleration. Now, what if you were to go to the Moon, where the force of gravity is weaker? The acceleration due to gravity on the Moon is only 1.6 m/s^-2. But remember what I said about you still having all your fleshiness on you? On the Moon, my mass would still be 60 kg. But when you multiply it by the gravity, 1.6, you find that I only weigh 96 N, less than a sixth of my weight on Earth. My mass has not changed, because mass is not affected by gravity. But my weight has decreased to a mere fraction of its previous reading. But I'm still as fleshy as ever as 60 kg, so even though I can say my weight has decreased, it doesn't mean I can quit my diet yet.
Important Note:
According to Physics, if the question asks "What is the weight of Ali?", your answer should be in Newtons, and if it asks for his mass instead, then you give your answer in kilograms. However, in modern everyday usage, people will ask you for your weight, and yes, they are referring to your "fleshiness", not your gravitational force. This slight inaccuracy of terminology is allowed because it has become the norm over many years, and when people ask you "How much do you weigh?" You are expected to give your answer in kilograms. Feel free to say "I weigh 60 kilograms", because even though it is technically inaccurate, it is expected in most social circles. Please do not say "Oh, you want my weight? Well, while I'm on Earth, I weigh 600N." That will just make you socially awkward. Of course, it still makes a good joke to tell your Physics teacher.
That's the end of the important note. Now, since you already know the difference between mass and weight, here's something for you to think about: When I stand on a weighing scale in an elevator, it gives a reading of 60 kg. The elevator then moves downwards with an acceleration. The reading of the weighing scale decreases. I do not need to tell you that my mass has not changed a hair. But the question is, has my weight actually decreased?
Well, the answer to that can be both yes and no. For instance, consider that after jogging, your legs feel tired, and that's when you really feel the weight of your body stressing on your legs. But you're not actually feeling the gravity on your legs. What you're feeling is the "reaction force" of the ground on your legs. This is what weighing scales measure. Consider the scenario of falling out of a helicopter, and that of standing still on the ground. In falling, gravitational force acts freely on you, and you're legs won't feel so tired. But when you're on the ground, the floor supports you with an upwards "reaction force" that prevents you from going any lower. It is this reaction force that you actually feel as weight. Meaning that when you are falling out of a helicopter, you don't feel any reaction force, and hence, you don't really feel weight. This is where the term "experience weightlessness" comes from. If you were to jump out of a plane with a weighing scale under your feet, you will find that you weigh 0 kg. A perfect dream.
But that's if we look at weight as the reaction force. The weighing scale actually measure reaction force, which is why it reads 0 in a free-fall, when there is no reaction force. In the scenario of the moving elevator, the downwards force of the accelerating elevator acts against and decreases the upward reaction force, thus creating an illusion of decreased weight. But in point of actual fact, the force of gravity acting on your body hasn't really decreased, has it? When you're falling from the sky, you don't actually feel any weight. But you're still falling aren't you? Because of gravity. Gravity very much still has power over you and is exerting downwards force on you, towards Earth. In that sense, you still weigh the same as you did when you were standing still. This become especially evident when you hit the ground travelling at 195 km/h. So much for experiencing weightlessness.
In conclusion, to recap: Mass measures fleshiness. It does not change on the Moon. It is represented in kilograms. Weight measure how much gravity you feel. It decreases on the Moon. It is represented in Newtons. But when people ask you for your weight, you tell them your fleshiness, in kilograms. Don't tell them your gravity. Unless you really want to.

P.S. I almost forgot to mention something very important. Weighing scales do not exactly measure your mass. They measure your weight, and then divide by Earth's gravity to get an accurate measurement of your mass, in kg. I don't know if there is any elaborate scientific apparatus that lets you actually measure your mass at a sub-atomic level, but hey, science can do anything.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Reminiscences of the Japanese Occupation of Malaya (1941 - 1945) by Madam Wong Mei Lan

Reminiscences of the Japanese Occupation of Malaya (1941 – 1945)

written by Madam Polly Wong Mei Lan
reposted with permission from the same.

When I first heard of the bombing of Pearl Harbour, 8th December, 1941, I was nine years old soon to be ten next January. In my young mind it did not seem to matter very much as the affected place seemed so far away but when I heard that the Japanese were going to be at our very doorstep I began to feel excited mixed with feelings of fear. If we were conquered, though the adults said that the island of Singapore was “invincible”, what would the Japanese be like as masters? I had heard very little about the Japanese except that they made and sold very cheap toys and at that age and being in a small town like Malacca I did not remember having seen any Japanese. Well, I was soon to see and know quite a lot about them.

To avoid any bombing of Malacca town we evacuated to Nibong Tebal, eighteen miles away, and which seemed a long, long way from home. I remember feeling very excited, and took with me my favourite things which I found did give me a sense of comfort every time I missed home. At that time to me it was great that when school was supposed to reopen I would still be on holiday, a holiday that I eventually found to be far too long, that I could feel myself panicking in case the British never came back to rescue us.

Life in the rubber estate where we had gone to stay with some very distant relatives of my paternal grandmother was a totally new world of opposites. We had not servants now and communication with our kind hosts was reduced to only nods and smiles as we spoke only English and Nonya Malay. Chinese was a foreign language to us then! However, we survived life in the countryside, running into the forest whenever news of the Japanese reaching us came. That was when I learnt of the atrocities of the Japanese soldiers, how cruel they were. Then, I really started to have feelings of fear, of what they could do to us.

Being able to return home in Tranquerah Road was indeed a great blessing for us. Never had I loved my home more than when I could finally sleep in my very own bed with a proper mattress and clean pillows. Also, we could now begin our “social” life again with people we could really talk to. By now my mother was very keen that both my sister, Lily, and I should learn to speak our own language, Chinese, and though the school selected was easily 2 miles away in town I found myself walking to Yoke Bin Chinese school every morning. Lily was still too young then to walk all that way. My three Chinese friends who could only speak Chinese found me strange and would laugh at the way I struggled at my Chinese, but I did learn then and could even scold the boys who tried to bully me in Chinese. There again I was in a totally different environment from what I was used to in an “English” school. However, it was my gain being sent there because I had learnt how to mix with those I tended to “look down” on previously. Before the war we always tended to think that those educated in the Chinese school were “inferior” to those of us who were English educated. I learnt early enough that that way of thinking was certainly wrong.

Because we had no servants we all had to do the necessary and till today I hate having to do housework for at that what we consider “tender” age I can say that I had done it all, cooking, washing, ironing, scrubbing. I even had the humiliating job of selling my cousin’s cakes. Imagine me carrying a basket of cakes and going around not only my but other areas. I was supposed to call out my wares and yell as loudly as I could to attract customers but must have done a poor job because after that I was never called again to sell cakes. What a big relief it was.

Time went by and one day the much dreaded thing happened. My father was detained by the Japanese soldiers for what they considered an offence, selling some merchandise without notifying the authorities. After all the horror stories of what they could do to you in their custody, like being given the “water treatment”, a form of horrible torture, I certainly prayed as I never did before, that my father would not be detained long, especially since he had a wound on his knee which needed cleaning everyday. To our great joy he was released after a few days and looked none the worse for it. We were grateful that he was spared from what we thought could have happened to him. At that time I felt that God was indeed great and was certainly looking after us.

Another incident that left an indelible imprint on my mind regarding the war was when my grown-up girl cousin and I were at our neighbour’s house, a bakery. We had gone there at night to look up some friends who were working there when there was a shout that some drunken Japanese soldiers were there. They must have gotten wind that there were some girls at the bakery. I, young as I was, could feel the fear as the girls all ran to the back of the building, helter-skelter, and started climbing onto the roof of the bakery. That was surely done in record time, and no sooner were they safe there when the Japanese soon came. As I did not join the others, I was with a young mother with her newborn baby in a room, hoping the Japanese would not find us. It was a miracle to me, that when I was expecting the worst, word came that some high-ranking Japanese officers had turned up and taken the drunken Japanese away. These two occasions (the other, my father’s detention under the Japanese), made me feel that war was indeed both horrible and sad. How I wished for the “good old days” to come again.

We were getting to be impatient for relief from our “masters” and it was strange that I was just yearning to get back to my old school. Then, without prior warning, we were given the news that the atomic bomb had hit Hiroshima and that quite instantly the Japanese war was over. How happy and relieved everybody felt in our beloved country cannot be adequately described. Of course, at that time who could have imagined the horrors of the aftermath of the bomb on the Japanese. Served them jolly well right? No, no human being should ever have that thought in his mind. We did suffer during the Occupation, some little and others more, but I think I learnt a lot from it and I always feel that I am a better person than what I would have been if not for the experiences I went through.

(Note from the blogger: Today, Madam Wong Mei Lan's current age is not for me to disclose, but she leads a very mild life in Taiping, Perak. She is surrounded by family and friends, and also has a servant of her own now, so she will never have to do the housework she hates again. She goes to church every Sunday, and on most afternoons she has a nice game of Mah Jong with some friends - a number of which also went through the Japanese Occupation. Occasionally, when she experiences problems with her computer [such as, for example, being unable to print out a certain story that she wrote about her personal experience during a certain historic event], she calls her young grandnephew, who lives next door, to come over and help her out with all this newfangled technology. Whether or not the Occupation left her as a better person, is for the judgement of those who know her personally. However, she has welcomed Japanese guests into her home before, so I am inclined to think that the Occupation brought her more benefit than harm, as she has clearly put the past behind her. As the saying goes, "let bygones be bygones.")

Saturday, November 3, 2012


I was hoping to come up with a more interesting title for this post than "SPM", but right now that's the thing that's occupying most of my brain space right now. I'm having trouble thinking of much else. The SPM (or Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia) examination starts on Monday, and it's affecting me a little...

First of all, I am aware that I completely forgot to do an English section this week - I think I was super-saturating myself with Sejarah that day - and right now I really don't think I can focus enough to do one. However, I'll share a little bit of English at the end of the post.

Second, I won't have any time to do any more blog posts for the whole of next week. Yay. Well, actually, I probably will have some time, since there are several days of rest in between exams, but right around that time I will be, yes, super-saturated with all sorts of subjects, so chances are anything I write at that time will be, well, garbage.

Thirdly, I wish the best of luck to everyone sitting for any kind of important exam around this time of year.

What is the difference between "imitate", "simulate", and "emulate"? According to Wiktionary, "imitate" means "to make a copy, counterpart or semblance of", or, in short, "to copy." For example, you can imitate Michael Jackson by learning to moonwalk. On the other hand, "simulate" means "to model, replicate, duplicate the behavior, appearance or properties of". For example, you can simulate fog by using a fog machine. Lastly, "emulate" means "to attempt to equal or be the same as". Wikipedia says "emulation" means "An ambition and effort to equal, excel or surpass another... especially through imitation". For example, you can emulate a cartoonist by learning and enhancing his style of drawing and humor.

In short, "imitate" is to copy a thing, "simulate" is to recreate a particular situation, and "emulate" is to imitate a person to try to be better than them - in a context of rivalry.