Friday, August 31, 2007

Knock! Knock! Can I come into your world?

There's something peculiar about studying in Cambridge. I just can't find the right words to describe it. Something that strikes a chord. When I said "chord", I really meant the musical "chord".

As an organist, when I play a C-chord, the G,C and E keys are pressed together. So when I describe a C-chord, I don't just say that it's pressing a C, or a G or an E only, but all three of them. I see Cambridge as that. When I try to describe my experiences here, I just can't pinpoint an event that can reflect the entire experience of studying here. It's a range of things put together.

Tonight we had a BBQ at Brendan's and was probably the last time I could meet some of my coursemates before everyone goes off to do their own things and get on with life. The moment of truth came when I needed to leave. The farewell hugs suddenly threw me into a sense of sadness. It was as if I was in this bubble called Cambridge and then *pop!* it burst. O gosh, I just hate saying goodbyes. I remember doing that in Japan and it was horrible. Now it's like reliving the whole experience, Part 2!

But it was really nice keeping in touch with everyone. Tomorrow is the deadline for our dissertation and almost everyone in the class has already charted their next plans in life; jobs, travel or PhD. Talking to a few of them bring me into another world, a world that I could only imagine.

Knock! Knock! Can I come into your world?
So what would you do next?
JG: I'll be back in the States to serve the Army. Yea, I'll be doing 5 months of school in the Army before I start.....**truncated** There's this 6 miles obstacle course that we have to do and it's really tough.

Knock! Knock! Can I come into your world?
So what would you do next?
JM: I'll be working in London until end of this year before I work in the New York office in January.

Knock! Knock! Can I come into your world?
So what would you do next?
OG: I'll be travelling abit. I'll start with India, maybe I'll drop by Malaysia before I head back to the UK and attend B's wedding in Argentina. Maybe I'll go to New York en route to Argentina.

Knock! Knock! Can I come into your world?
So what would you do next?
VH: I'll be working for 2 weeks in **this consultancy firm** before I travel to South America for 3 months.

Knock! Knock! Can I come into your world?
So what would you do next?
DR: I've got some offers. I'll either be based in Scotland or Reading. I think I'll choose Reading since ahemm, my friend is there!

Knock! Knock! Can I come into your world?
So what would you do next?
KY: I'll be travelling to Europe next week for 3 weeks before I return to help a friend to settle down in Cambridge. Then I'll return to my country and come back to work in Nottingham in **that consultancy firm**.

Knock! Knock! Can I come into your world?
So what would you do next?
BB: I will do some independent consultancy roles on water projects.

Everyone's impressive career path only reminded me of the type of people I'm studying with - the best of the best! I am so very sure these people will make it great in life! So what's peculiar again? The fighting spirit, will to succeed, positive attitudes towards life and great confidence.

Of course, it was a two-way conversation. I was also asked the same question...
Knock! Knock! Can I come into your world?
So what would you do next?
Me: Whatever you will read after this....

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Happy 50th Birthday, Malaysia!

Greetings from Cambridge to all Malaysians!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Finishing the last mile...

Colour printing at the Printing Area, Engineering Dept. Sent to the binders last Friday, hoping to get it back on Wednesday. Can't believe hard-cover binding is so expensive here! I ended up paying 31quid (from the cheapest 26) to get it hardbound. But it's okay. I just want to finish and get over with it.

So, that's it...after handing in my dissertation on 31 Aug, I'm done in Cambridge...

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

A Unique Article

I like reading the Financial Times because they always surprise me with articles that I don't expect. They are unconventional and they rock! Today they published an article written by a former terrorist in Palestine, Amitai Etzioni, who is now a professor of international relations at The George Washington University. Now, how strange is that!

Amitai gave a very different perspective about this whole terrorism thing and an insight of effective ways in tackling them. One of them, he suggested, "the first goal in dealing with terrorists must be prevention, not prosecution, which takes place after the act has been committed and is the way society limits criminality". This, he pointed out that grouping terrorists as criminals is merely an act of "changing label rather than the content of the bottle".
The root cause of terrorism must be known. What are they fighting for and most importantly, why are they using the more aggresive means to solving problems? To gain international attention? Or merely an act of retaliation from the suppressed hatred of their targets?

Amitai did not pretend that solving terrorism was easy either. One of the ways that he suggested was "prevention that requires questioning and even detaining people who have not yet violated any law." Now this statement struck a chord with the Internal Security Act (ISA) that has divided nationalists, policymakers and politically-interested people in Malaysia since the time of Mahathir and spilled over to the present administration. While the imbroglio of the ISA has caused discomfort to certain quarters of Malaysians, I suspect that this is more likely a dissenting sentiment of enforcement rather than the Act itself. The controversy of the ISA is closely associated with human rights. While Malaysia is fortunate that it is not a hot target of terrorists, the existence of the ISA has become a big question mark. The people now ask: "Do we need the ISA then?"

Personally, I see this more of a question of: "Why has the ISA become such a big issue that people want it abolished?" I did a quick search on matters pertaining to calls for the abolishment of the ISA and found that most of the reasons were centred on loss of human rights. If I can even bring it to focus, the main problem is the "misuse" of the Act.

Photo of Al-Maunah leader from BBC

Now, if the problem is misuse of the Act, then we should gear our solutions towards eradicating the misuse of the Act, not the Act itself. I am neither advocating for the preservation nor abolishment of the ISA but it's only logical that for once, we call a spade a spade. Repealing an Act is easier than bringing it back later. We really have to think hard. Do we repeal the ISA because it has been used too frequently where the line between political foes and threats to national security has been blurred or cannot be distinguished? Or because it's the right thing to do? Ultimately, we need to ask what was this Act for in the first place? Has it solved past threats effectively? Would the incident that the Act was meant to solve likely to recur in future? And if it would, why take it out when it has proven to be effective?

Amitai's testimony has only made me imagine, what if one day Malaysia is being infiltrated by terrorists or attacked by them and the ISA has been abolished, how then could we tackle terrorism through "prevention"? I think Amitai has the answer...

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


The Nakata family

Ikumi is my Japanese host mother. I used "is" because she has sort of "adopted me" into the family. She jokingly suggested that I should take the Nakata surname as well! We were choosing between Aruden Nakata or Nakata Yap. Somehow, we never got passed that before I left. I will just keep it that way for now so that when we meet again, we can continue our conversation from where we left off.

Today is Ikumi's birthday. I feel very glad that I still have somebody to keep in touch with in Japan. I don't know about my other classmates but I have stayed in contact with my host family even though we are now as far apart as I am with my family in Malaysia! Three things will always make me smile when I think about the Nakata family;

The three children showing off their junkfood

1. My first day in homestay. The three children bought loads of junkfood - the craziest Japanese junkfood you can think of e.g "mouth explosives"; beans that pop/explode in your mouth when they get in contact with the saliva! They divided the junkfood equally among themselves. Then I saw them whispering among themselves and re-arranged their junk food. The youngest came to me and said, "Aruden, this is yours!", as he handed me my share of junk food! Cute!

Unexpected appearance at the public presentation

2. My Japanese public presentation was filled with jitters. Ikumi and her children emerged from the crowd and surprised me. She said, "We are here to support you! Ganbatte ne!" They traveled 60km to do that and my presentation lasted only 20minutes or less. I am still very touched by that.

3. My last day in Japan. I was already in the bullet train waiting for it to depart. Then Ikumi and her children emerged from the escalator and were running frantically on the platform. Obviously they were looking for me. Imagine trying to look for someone in one of the platforms in King's Cross. You don't know which coach, which train and which platform. But they were lucky, I spotted them instead. I waved to get their attention and the eldest son spotted me. Then I stepped out to greet them. I looked at the overhead clock; 1 minute to departure. Ikumi apologised profusely that she was late even though she didn't need to. We didn't even plan to meet! "The kids couldn't wake up. That's why we were late. We came to see you off and wanted wish you a safe trip back to Malaysia," she said.

"You didn't have to do that. You could have just called," I said this to Ikumi while ruffling the children's hair. I was overwhelmed with guilt especially when I saw them panting and gasping for breath. The kids were still in a daze. Obviously they were. It was 6am for goodness sake, and it must have taken at least an hour to reach the train station. I would have cursed and sworn if someone dragged me out of bed at 5am to see someone off for a minute! The train was about to leave in less than a minute.". Ikumi said, "It's okay, don't worry about it. Even for one minute, it's worth it." I stepped back into the coach when the final boarding announcement came. The train departed and as I looked out the window, the kids were running and waving goodbye until they could no longer match the speed of the train. It was a touching finale.

It's easy to lose touch when you're no longer living in the country-now I don't talk, speak or read the language anymore. If there's any indicator to tell, my Japanese is getting from bad to worse. I have even forgotten the appropriate verbs to use when I wrote an email to Ikumi recently. It used to take 5 minutes getting a simple email across. Now it takes 15 minutes and most of the time were spent on deciphering the right verbs and words to use. More time are spent if I needed to check with the dictionary. Saying the wrong things to an old friend is the last thing you would want, especially if this old friend is also your host mother! That's why I go the extra mile to counter-check every verb I use when sending a Japanese email to her. For example, I nearly missed out on the verb "sending" an email or "submitting" an email. But that's not as serious as "doing" something and "dying" now, which I nearly made yesterday! It would have been a grave mistake to send an email like this on a birthday, wouldn't it!

I dedicate this page to Ikumi Nakata and wish you a very Happy Birthday!

Sunday, August 19, 2007


It was only recently that I got active in Friendster and Facebook, as the workload gets lighter by the days.**Fingers crossed, I hope nothing major will come up anytime soon. At least until I hand in my dissertation!**
It was only yesterday that I had the opportunity to look at what Friendster was all about even though the craze started years back. I did a profile check of myself; "member since 2004"?! of the early adopters of Friendster?! Haha..

I was merely a dormant member until yesterday. Looking through "my friends", I realised I have 18 friends! Woohoo...I have friends.

Obviously I didn't know who added me but I can only remember clicking "Yes" most of the time for friends request whenever a message pops into my Yahoo Mail account. And am sure I didn't add anyone! Oh! I also had the first snow in Cambridge photo which I must have uploaded when someone asked me to. I just read I had three birthday wishes dated 25 November 2005 and 1 in 2006. Aha! So, somebody did remember my birthday! I still have 5 friends request pending approval, which I must have overlooked, with two dated back to January 2006 and the rest some time early this year. Yay, I am back at speed with technology. Ta da! Now I have added 9 photos of myself and picked a dozen of common friends from my friends' friends to be added into the list.

So what got me into this Friendster frenzy suddenly? Facebook.

It's strange. When I was back in Malaysia in May, I spoke about Facebook. Not many Malaysians know about it. Most of them only knew about Friendster. Almost no one in my course knows about Friendster either except the few Asian students. So I guess Friendster is the network tool for most Asians, as what Facebook is for the Westerners.

I hardly update Facebook either, until recently. I started exploring what it has to offer and was really amazed at what it can do! First of all, Facebook puts my friends into a network e.g Cambridge, Chevening or Malaysians. The simple stuff. Then, I am able to tag photos, meaning people can do more than just viewing the photos. They are able to mouse-over the person's face in the photos that I tagged and the person's name will appear! This is useful when someone wants to make sure if that person in the photo next to me is a common acquaintance, a Jessica Alba or a look-alike! I haven't fully explored Facebook but if I am able to explore these few things in a few minutes, then I think it's quite user-friendly. I feel Facebook is more organised and do smarter things than Friendster.

Facebook vs Friendster

Friendster is too transparent e.g you can even know who viewed your profile. To put it bluntly, Friendster has more kiddie functions. It puzzles me and I am still clueless about the purpose of that function. Is that to make members feel that they are a hot shot and many people are viewing him/her? I just don't get the point.

Nevertheless, I will still update my Friendster account regardless of my preceding comments because that's where my friends from the other side of the globe are. So, that's going to be Friendster and Facebook, or more appropriately, Friends-book, for now. Until they are fully migrated to Facebook, I will keep the account. Moreover, I am little flattered now, after knowing 216 people have viewed my profile in Friendster when I only have 38 friends! Hahahahahahahahahaha.......

Quote of the Week

Quote from Fr Alban's sermon today, "....many temptations promise life, only to trade with death; but frail as we are, it's difficult for us to distinguish the two."

Friday, August 17, 2007

What's next?

I have not submitted my dissertation. I am still waiting for my supervisor to go through it and give his final "blessings" to print.

1 tonne to be shipped home, 2 tonnes to be left here, 0.5 tonne to the recycling bin and 3 tonnes of souvenirs to go back with me. Total 6.5tonnes of nonsense.

In the mean time, I have started packing without knowing when to leave. Things do accumulate over the year. I never knew I had so many things until I started packing. I threw lots of stuff too. Tonnes of course notes there!

I have not bought my flight ticket because I am still weighing several options post-Cambridge. As this will lead me to different things in life, I would certainly need to take some time to ponder and pray over it. I hope I could receive a feedback on one of the options by next week. I will be more decided then.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Internet surfing - only when you need to

I do not promote softwares but I must talk about this one. The new Google Desktop (GD) is really cool. It looks like a Windows Vista add-on but I would rather give this credit to Apple (am sure you'd know why).

Before I am asked the question: "Are you checking on my blog every minute? I just wrote that article and you have commented in less than 20 minutes!", I would like to clarify that I don't. It's just that I have found a more effective way of keeping track the list of cool blogs that I go to through the RSS feed offered by GD. Living in the UK, I definitely find the real time weather forecast an extremely useful tool.

You can customise the gadgets according to taste. There are live feed on NASA's satellites, real time news updates from BBC, CNN, etc. And am sure my Muslim and Taoist friends would find the position of the moon gadget, a useful tool, especially when it comes to festivals.

Sounds like a marketing pitch but GD has altered the way I surf and saved me lots of time! Now I only surf when I need to. I would certainly recommend this to everyone! It's already been out since June, so some or most of you may already have this in your PC/laptops. If you don't, it's not too late.

O wait, der_pacemaker and Raymond just updated their blogs....see ya!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Goodbye to the Roes

Farewell dinner for the Roes

It's coming. Everyone's saying goodbye to each other and I just hate it. I hate saying goodbyes. But it must come somehow, someday. As far as I know, four of my classmates have already left Cambridge and yesterday I cooked Chris and Melissa a Malaysian Hainanese Chicken Rice (farewell) dinner before their turn to leave (on Thursday).

Hainanese Chicken Rice; de-boned to make it easier for the Mat Sallehs to eat (Mat Salleh = Caucasian; a term I have already thought the Roes)

Then again, I am equally excited because both of them have decided to visit Malaysia in September, when I am back. Yay! If everything goes as plan, Owen too would be coming and it'd be really great to see them in Malaysia as I get to show them around KL and other parts of Malaysia!

I must attest I have taken alot of things for granted living in Malaysia. It's easy if you only need to tell the way to travel by bus from KL to Penang, but what about travelling from KL to say, Pulau Tioman? It's quite different living in the country and travelling there as a tourist. There were many things I didn't know their significance too. Every Malaysian is familiar with the Petronas Twin Towers and the Sultan Abdul Samad building, but it's a different thing altogether if you were asked, "Why did the British architect who designed the Sultan Abdul Samad Building ended up with an Islamic design when it was done in the neo-colonial period?" I have not (yet) been asked that question yet but these are the type of questions (inspired by The Star recently) that would make me google to find the answers.

Monday, August 13, 2007

High Standard of English in Cambridge

Yesterday's papers reported about the weak grasp of English from the undergrads in Imperial College. One of the tutors highlighted some of the blunders:

"...occcurs, ocour, occurence, occuring, occured and occures - all used in essays that were checked before being handed in."
"..herd instead of heard, fourth instead of forth, been instead of bean,"
"and many of the writers were 'hopeless at punctuation'. "
I thought to myself, "No, I won't make that kinda mistake."
Feeling confident was one thing but being pointed out that I was over-confident was another.
This is what happened...
I took my dissertation to be proofread by one of the English tutors in my College, Dr S, since I had some time to kill while waiting for my supervisor to come back from his long vacation. Besides, it will only benefit me by getting a second opinion for my report.

Dr S wrote me an email yesterday and told she has received my printed draft and may take some time to proofread the whole report. She added that it was a smooth read overall. (I can't believe she finished reading 15,000 words within two hours!!! That's amazing!)
This afternoon, I received half the report fully marked by Dr S. I was really impressed by her speed of marking. She probably thought I needed it done quickly. But whatever it is, I am sure she did not do it in haste just by looking at the level of marking on the papers! Each page of the A4 that the report was printed on were scribbled with corrections and suggestions. It turned out like an art actually. Hahaha!

"Don't be nice, Dr S. Be very strict in your marking and tell me if it's bad. I want to learn and improve."

Initially I felt horrible upon learning that my English was awful. My swollen confidence has obviously burst this time! But I was nevertheless satisfied and in fact, very happy to know the weaknesses and errors that have passed me for ages. Dr S managed to point them out today and I am so thankful for that. None on spelling errors, but many on punctuations, sentence structuring and articulation.

I pondered a while after reading the marked report, "My God...the standard of English in Cambridge is so high!" The almost impeccable IELTS score last year must have only qualified me to the kindergartens if Dr S's standards applied. Now I wish I have another year in Cambridge to "graduate" to Dr S's level of English, then I'd be more confident writing for next year's National Essay competition.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

You must be kidding, Mr Potter!

One part of the latest Harry Potter (order of the phoenix) movie tickled me crazy. If anyone of you have seen the movie...

At the beginning of the show, Harry was mugged at a park. In a fit of anger, he took out his wand and threatened one of the muggers. Dark clouds formed and the sky turned dark at an instance.

The mugger looked up the sky in fear and said, "What have you done?!"

Harry said, "I don't know! I didn't do anything!"

I laughed out loud (in my heart). I thought Harry should say, "What?! Are you mad?! That's how our weather had been for ages!"
Hahaha....and this photo I took at the Wilberforce Sports Ground in Cambridge last November came to mind....**isn't that similar to the one shown in the movie?**

Impulsive Demeanour

The weather yesterday was perfect. The papers wrote that UK is at its emptiest on the 2nd Saturday of August. But there were no plans for activities from my end. I thought it would be a waste if I just sat in my room and did nothing.

I left for London on impulse without thinking what I wanted to do there. It was afternoon and half the day was gone. But I didn't care even though I had to fork out 12 quid for the day ticket. I just wanted out of my room.

I reached London's King's Cross station and didn't know where to go. But it was exciting. That means I didn't have to rush for anything! So I took a bus to "no-where". Then I pressed the button to stop on instinct. I was in Camden Town! I walked around and up to Kentish Town. I continued walking and then I reached Parliament Hill near or at the Highgate Village, the upper class section of London. It was a great place to hang out. People were just enjoying the sun and there were lots of family activities. I read a book at the park bench. The sun was scorching and I had to apply suntan lotion. I never thought I would ever use such a thing in this country. But it's great to smell those stuff on the skin. It reminded lots when I used it at the beaches and triathlons in Malaysia.

I received a call from Winson on my walking tour to nowhere.

"Hey where are you?" he asked

"Erm, am in London!", I answered proudly as if I won a prize for that.

"London?! You must be kidding. I spoke to you a while ago and thought you wanted to join me in (Cambridge) town for coffee."

"Aw, too late. I'm already here. Do you want to come to London instead? What's your plan for the rest of the day?"

"No. I am not going to London. But I'd be going for a Shakespeare play in the evening with some friends. Are you interested? It's 10 quid."

"Sure! I'd love to! " I answered on impulse (again).

"Can you make it back by 6.45pm?"

"Sure. See you there!"

Suddenly I was locked in an itinerary. So I had to time my pace accordingly and check the timetable for the next train back to Cambridge. I wandered in Camden Town and bought some really cheap groceries at the 99p Store for the next hour or so before I decided to go home.

I reached Cambridge at 5.30pm, took a shower, grabbed a quick bite, checked the emails and left for the Shakespeare play at the Trinity Hall park. I went home after the play and watched another movie.

I have not taken in so much stuff in one day for a loooonnnnggggg time. It was certainly my shortest turnaround time in London and probably the ugliest side of me doing things on impulse for this one time. But it felt really nice.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Summer delight

I received a call last two weeks at 5am on my Malaysian mobile. Still in a daze, I answered the call. It was a lady who spoke to me in Malay.

"Hi Mr Yap, recently you submitted an essay for a National Essay Competition?"

I paused, trying to recall what on earth was this lady talking about at such an ungodly hour! O what the heck, I just answered, "Er, yea. Anything?" I thought it was the essay assignment for the Cornwall project. Maybe the department's online submission screwed up and some Malaysians got hold of the essay and liked my Disneyland Project idea. Now that I am awake, I realised how ridiculous my mind works when I am half awake. **Warning for all you prank callers**

"Okay Mr Yap, I would like you to attend for our prize presentation ceremony at this place and at this time..Would you come?", she continued.

"Erm, yea, yea..of course. By the way, what have I won? Erm, essay?", then I remembered I submitted an essay a month ago. I could hardly recall what I wrote in the 3000-word essay. I could only remember I did it in 8 hours! I wasn't serious about it but merely submitting it for the sake of submitting it. After all, Irene called all the way from Malaysia and coaxed me into it and dropped me email reminders at almost every hour a day before the submission deadline. Just write anything, "any $#!T" that you usually put in your blog and it would make up 3000 words. Oh right, that was really inspiring to get me started!

"So, what have I won? What placing?"
"Sorry sir, I am not allowed to divulge more information. You will know on that day. Would you come?"
"You see, I am currently not in Malaysia. I can send a proxy if you don't mind"
"Sure, just give me the person's name and email address"
I gave Irene's name since she was the one who told me about the competition. Obviously there's a fair share of success from her part.
"No chance of telling me what position I won?"
"Sorry sir, I can't. But I can only tell that I was given the instructions to invite the top three finishers. I can't tell more."

Lots of suspense for the past two weeks. But the goal to finish my dissertation was an effective antidote.

Today Irene called.

"Guess what. You are number one!"

Praise be to God!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Summer is here!

I couldn't confirm this until today. We had great weather on Friday and yesterday. I thought, well, let's wait for the third day to confirm this. Yes, summer is finally here. The temperature has soared to 28 deg C with the highest recorded at 30 so far. But 28 deg C here is different from Malaysia's because of the humidity.
Today is also the London Triathlon , and I think it's just perfect for that with this weather. Taking part in a triathlon here is more expensive than I thought. First of all, it is compulsory to wear a wetsuit to participate and this means extra cost. For prospective participants like me who doesn't have a wetsuit or left most of his stuff in his home country, there is a starter kit. The cheapest one would set me off £695 (RM4900). That's reasonable considering that the kit includes a road bike, a pair of Asics running shoes and a wetsuit. But as a student here, that's still too much for me. Like any other major races in London, this triathlon goes through a balloting system which means that you have to be chosen to be able to participate even if you could afford the entry fee of £74. I don't think I will complain anymore with RM60 (£8.50) entry fee in Malaysia, even if that's 1-to-1 comparison.
After having a "chocolate cake gathering" at a friend's place, I took off to Jesus Green Swimming Pool resenting the fact that I couldn't participate in the London Triathlon. The weather was also perfect for that! To my surprise, the pool was inundated with people and I had to wait for half an hour for the crowd to thin off. Before that, someone in the gathering was asking me, "Wouldn't it be crowded today?"

"Nope. Because the pool is big enough to cope with large crowds. Besides, it's more like a serious pool than for people to have fun", I answered confidently.

Looks like the weather has beaten me to that. Nevertheless I swam 1800m in a crowded condition and managed to avoid all swimmers in my direction. Triathletes will attest that one of the greatest challenges in the swimming event is to avoid the hundreds of swimmers around you and managing space to overtake others. Jesus Green seemed easy. First of all, the water was clear! Maybe swimming in a crowded condition is a good way to practice for a real triathlon race.

I just hope the weather stays like this for the entire month. Or at least a week if that's too much to ask for. I can now do more hard core training for my next triathlon race! People like Raymond who's reading this, be very afraid......I will beat your time soon!

Friday, August 03, 2007

UK Farewell Dedication

It has been the best one year I had in my life studying with the brightest and smartest peoples from all over the world. It is not only a wonderful experience but a great honour to get to know all of you. This video presentation is dedicated to you who appear in it! Hope you enjoy it.

Special thanks to Chris Roe for introducing me to a cool software to make all the funky stuff in the video.

Thursday, August 02, 2007


Working on a 15,000-word dissertation is like solitary confinement. There are two persons in me. The first person turns to hypotheses and anecdotal findings, while the other challenges all those assumptions and analyses and tries to make sense if they deserve a place in the dissertation. Insanity beyond the point of no return? Sometimes I think I am in that direction but how could I not if no one else is doing the same dissertation as I am and have no one to turn to.

I have also been trying innovative ways to make it less painful by switching locations to write; sometimes in the department's computer lab, sometimes in a train, in the plane or even in a restaurant! However, most of the time I'd end up in my room.
New places give new inspirations but moving around can be tiring and cumbersome if you have a laptop like mine that'd make you feel like you've done 15 sets of 20 on a dumbell, by the time you reach your destination to start writing again.

Cross-activities? Well, I do take a break to go running, swimming, a stroll at the park or a big cookout with friends.

I just can't wait for this to end. But the other person in me is also dreading the end of student life. Bidding farewell is always a difficult thing. The two persons in me are now lost at this crossroad. However, they agree that life has to move on.