PS2203: Ancient Western Political Thought

Taken in:
AY16/17 Semester 1

Lecturer:
Prof Ethan Andrew Putterman
TA: Charles Brian Suresh (Bob)

What the module is about, briefly:
Aristotle, Plato and Machiavelli – political systems, human nature, religion and it’s link to politics, constitutional stuff, etc.

Texts:
Plato – The Republic
Aristotle – The Politics
Aristotle – The Poetics
Niccolo Machiavelli – The Prince

Workload:
Reading the texts (if you’re not used to this kinda more archaic language) can be a challenge when you start out, nonetheless I assure you that once that’s conquered it’s not too bad. You have sparksnotes/gradesaver/etc. not for nothing. There are no other readings, maybe because the weekly set of readings (which I highly, strongly recommend for you to complete before the lecture) is more than enough.

Format of assessment:
Midterms 20%, class participation + presentation 20%, finals 60%

Project/Presentation:
You’ll be rostered to present on a certain question from 1 of the 4 texts, you can present individually or in a group setting. My recommendation is do in a group setting where you can actually go further with the entire presentation and in my opinion it is so much better than just having barely enough time to regurgitate the text content or the lecture content which is boring and useless for yourself and the class (unless no one understood the lecture which is probably not the case).

Comments on lecturer:
He’s interesting and gives you comprehensive content, complete with real life examples in lecture. In tutorial it’s not the same story though – as it’s a presentation filled tutorial and he doesn’t say much unless there’s some heinous mistake made by someone. I’ve heard the tutor approaches tutorials rather differently, with more explanations and slightly more spoon feeding which is helpful if you’re new to pol science in general. Prof Putterman just expects you to work out things in your mind and then come to him with questions. He’s very friendly which is a bonus.

Exam difficulty:
Midterms – 1 compulsory question and one other question of your choice (can be comparison if you prefer)

Finals – three essays – one comparison, then one from Section B (comparison) and one from Section C (individual book)

Pretty manageable if you studied and thought through the texts, making sure you understand critical and vital concepts/made notes etc.

Recommended:
Perhaps, if you’re interested in foundational political/economic and social ideas that were in the incipient stages of discussion. Ideas of democracy and idealism vs realism are discussed at length and that’s something very appealing to me. Also, I think the module gives you a chance at expressing your analytical and critical skills in comparison because not much is told to you concerning comparing the political thinkers so that’s for you to go figure and explore which appeals to some.

Overall rating (/10):
7/10

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GET1029/GEK1067: Life, the Universe, and Everything

Taken in:
AY16/17 Semester 1

Lecturer:
Prof Loy Hui Chieh
6-7 other tutors (for tutorials). Mine was Theresa Helke

What the module is about, briefly:
It’s philosophy 1101, it’s the intro module so there’s a different topic covered every week and you get exposed to the various dilemmas of metaphysics, epistemology, applied ethics etc. The module is not heavy in that you have to do a lot of work, but there’s weekly brain work involved. Lectures are all available on webcast so if that’s your thing sure why now. Tutorials are an hour long, weekly. (Please note that Prof Loy is working on changes for the upcoming batch and therefore there will be slight tweaks to the next year/semester’s syllabus the next time the module comes out.)

Texts:
1 reading every week.

Workload:
Not much, just that enough effort is needed to understand the concepts explained in the lecture. It is worth doing the readings, anyway you should, because there are weekly quizzes and some of them are literally lifted from the readings. There’s a blog where answers to the weekly quizzes are put up and also other ‘further thinking’ material that’s rather interesting if you’re into philosophy.

Format of assessment: (lifted from IVLE)
Tutorial Attendance and Participation — 10%
Reading Quizzes x 10 — 40% (MCQ)
Special Project — 10% (in groups of 3-5)
Final Exam — 40% (MCQ; closed book)

Recommended:
I kinda died for all the quizzes because maybe I didn’t put in enough effort, but when it came to studying for finals I sat down and actually went through each topic in detail and I enjoyed it. I think the module’s contents are thought provoking and it is worth listening to the lectures/following the arguments. It is good as a philosophy introduction module although there’s much room for improvement which the prof has already recognized and improvement is in the wings!

Overall rating (/10):
8/10

EN3245: Feminism: Text and Theory

Taken in:
AY16/17 Semester 1

Lecturer:
Prof Chitra Sankaran/Prof Er Yanbing

What the module is about, briefly:
The title of the module is self-explanatory. It feels like feminism 1101 except that you have to do 3k level readings and workload. It introduces one to the theories and concepts in the varied aspects of feminism. You get to choose what you would like to write on for finals – you create your own discussion topic, essentially.

Texts:
Long(er) texts:
The Handmaid’s Tale
Herland
The Bloody Chamber
Dracula

Short texts:
The Blank Page
The Yellow Wallpaper
No Name Woman
Sultana’s Dream
Bandong

Film:
Avatar

Workload:
It’s a fair bit of work, but you can help yourself by spreading out the workload over the semester, so you do this by assigning the projects/group work/reading analysis in the roster to different weeks. So you don’t pack all in week 10 unless you wish to do it all at one go which is, not very recommended in my opinion. Other than that, weekly readings are not compulsory but they do supplement the lecture, although trying to keep up with the texts alone might be already tough for some

Thoughts about the profs/tutors:
Prof Chitra is pretty interesting and her lectures are engaging. She’s extremely helpful and friendly too, she will teach you how to write (if you’re looking for that). Prof Er gave 2-3 lectures, she’s into her niche area quite a bit but willing to help and discuss ideas too.

Project:
Form groups of 3-5 and present on any given theme in the module, you can roster your presentations so you can choose from week 3-11. My group picked fairytales and it was interesting. It’s only 10% though.

Format of assessment:
Critical Analysis of one reading + application to a text of your choice – 10%
Student Group presentation on a particular topic – 10%
Midterm Test (random feminism facts + two short essays) – 10%
Term Paper Proposal – 10%
Final Essay – 20%
Finals (open book) – 30%
Class + forum participation – 10%

Recommended:
Yes. It is good in dispelling myths and misconceptions that you may have toward feminism. It also explains the philosophical, sociological and literary thought with regard to this topic and understanding it from an academic perspective is a whole different experience.

Exam format:
Midterms had factual questions in it. I didn’t expect that, along with many of my friends. Finals was 2 essays from two sections, one comparison text and the other single text/film.

Overall rating (/10):
8.5/10

Impact: #PTL // Is Christ enough for me?

These are reflections on the last Impact of the Sem.
-Heavy religion related reflections-

Yesterday the songs were so hard to sing. When we started the first few it was already so cutting and hurting to know how much I grieved God’s heart by my actions of taking my life into my own hands. And yet for all that, He never let me go. He chastised me and made me realise what a fool I was and then showed me His way that was diametrically opposite to His.
Having said that, when I had to repent and let go, it was such a struggle. It was so hard to let go. I could not let go of my pride, and the idea of trusting in something that was intangible, someone that people said was powerful…I felt incredibly torn at my stupidity, I really wanted to trust Him but deep down I still thought highly of myself. But when Marcus said let go and let God, it just cut me once again. It’s not let go and let it die or let go and trust man, but let go and Let God take over the steering wheel of my life… He asked us what was the one thing that brought us peace and that we should take that and give it to God. I thought of productivity as my one idol. I could not let go of it. I let it define me that giving that up was giving a piece of me away. Feeling terrible for a good two weeks was terribly exhausting and disconcerting because I could not really do much things and I had no energy to live life fully as I usually had. But I tried to let go, I fought my desires to hold on and when Christ is Enough, by faith I let go, because it is when I surrender that I know Christ will heal my scars and take my heart and make it His again. The lyrics were so hard to sing because it sounded like it came from a very sincere person, someone who gave it all on the altar, but here I was stubbornly refusing the gift of His strength and life and choosing mine, my puny strength and clinging onto dear life over His might.

Anyhow, by faith I just sang the lyrics as a prayer.

Week 9 // Reflections

Random quick post but I am very thankful for everything that has happened and is happening up to this week.

  1. For stamina to go on. University is madness sometimes I wonder how college students aren’t dead from lack of proper sleep, and overloading on caffeine. But we are. I am.
  2. For discipline. Thank God for this. For the ability to be on time, on task, to be fast and efficient.
  3. For good profs – who bear with my crappy consults and constant whining about this and that and for reading my outlines and answering my (useless) questions.
  4. For a circle (or circles should I say), of friends I can rely on. when I am down I know they are there I know I have people to rant to, I know I have people who would not just be there but pray with and for me, for people I know who love me more than I ever deserve, to always remind me of what I am as a person and tell me not to lose my identity in this world.
  5. For church, for those I meet weekly, who bring me back to focus on what my purpose of life is, to remind me of my niche in this world, of my passion and love for God, to remind me who I am as a Christian, that I am His and not anyone else’s. To remind me to be faithful and consecrated to Christ. Also, for my Christian friends, I am very thankful for all of you.
  6. For the chances and opportunities given to me – clubs, societies, organisations, sports. places to grow, mature and understand the world and my society deeper and with more perception and gain experience in interpersonal relationships and leadership skills.
  7. For every other gift that I overlook in my every day life, for money and food and everything that has created a comfortable enough life for me to enjoy studying, for mom to provide me with whatever I need despite her difficulties, for a sister to love and care.
  8. One more thing I’d thank God for – is the gift of rest. This semester I learnt how to rest. As a workaholic it’s very difficult to not work and do something even if it be mindless tasks. Thank God for grace to CHILL, sleep, relax and be okay with that and not be guilty or something.

It’s been a great semester, a challenging one mentally, physically and emotionally. But unless we’re challenged, we don’t grow.

Recess Week // Midterm Reflection

It’s been half a semester. Yes, it’s that fast, I’m starting to wonder where the first 6 weeks went. It was like a blitzkrieg in some ways more than one. I guess God answered my prayer when I asked to be pulled out of my comfort zone. I really got thrown so far out I had to come crawling back at times. I felt emotions I hadn’t felt in a long while during these 6 weeks.

I suppose the first thing I learnt is that I don’t understand people as I thought I did. I assumed that everyone would get me and understand me and that in turn I would be able to understand them and there would be a mutual understanding. The thing that weighs heavily on my mind and heart till today is that I may not have understood people as they would have wanted me to and instead I imposed my assumptions and mindset on them and that in turn, hurt them. I felt really bad about this as I thought about how I could have hurt people and unknowingly so. To be honest, I came to acknowledge that yes I was a fast, intense, and occasionally impulsive person. But I did not know that this was a problem for others, that perhaps they weren’t able to actually keep up, and I ignored that completely. I guess it’s still a learning process to understand that what my strengths are may exactly be someone else’s weaknesses and to grow as a leader, a person and a friend, I must be able to appreciate the struggles of others and adapt myself to them. In this way, I will be able to bring out the best in them without pushing them too hard and also without hurting them and making them feel inferior. I have a long way to go to improve in this aspect but hopefully I will learn it.

The next thing that happened this half of the semester was that God taught me sacrifice by making the people around me go through hard times. Making me go through hard times is one thing, I’ll probably respond by gritting my teeth and push on, and even if I broke halfway I’d still haul my broken limbs down the finishing line and crawl past. But when the people dearest to me that are around me are hurt or going through hard times, I start to realise I cannot help them even though I try, for various reasons, whether it is because it is just not something I can assist with, or because circumstances do not permit me to help them. But in these cases, I am forced and compelled to look to God in prayer. These 6 weeks I have to say, God was real-er than ever, there were nights I just lay on my bed and cried because I had no idea what was going on, I was tired of helping or trying to and failing, I was tired inside because the more I tried the more I failed (and either got pushed away or had to back off), and then I just felt exhausted inside, so drained deep in my soul. I think the only time I felt living waters pour over my soul was really when I went back to His Word and to seek Him. It was when I surrendered that I realised God led me step by step to do things in an unconventional way. He showed me that trusting Him started by being weak, being completely helpless and down and out and that was the only time I knew that I could not do anything – and then I looked to Him and He came to my help. So it became real because the next time I wanted to do the same thing, I tried gingerly to pray, not knowing if it would happen and it did. He proved to me that He was the helper of the weak, the One who brings those who fall up, ‘for when I am weak,then I am strong’. In trusting Him and giving more when I could not for His cause, He rewarded me with strength, blessings and joy. I am content.

I also started to also see the gap between Christian life and school life close, I have always asked God to show me that these two were not separate worlds, that there would be some form of link. I saw it these 6 weeks. I take 20th Century Lit, Postcolonial Lit, Feminism, Ancient Western Political Theory, and Intro to Philosophy. I came to understand what it really meant when I am brought up in conservative doctrines and tenets and then I get another framework of thought thrown at me and immediately there’s this natural repulsion that comes out of me when I realise that it is in direct opposition to what I learnt as a child. I get told in class that everything is a social construct, I mean sure, it is but a postmodernist point of view, and people be like ‘oh you don’t have to be so serious about it’ (yeah even that’s a POMO point of view) but then it is different and it is not just something that you feel the difference in the intellectual aspect but it is a lifestyle, a way of thinking, an attitude toward the world. oh well. I’m still negotiating those boundaries but God please give me grace to stay sound and faithful.

Lastly, these 6 weeks I had to learn to live my profession of faith. If I was serious about bringing people to the Lord then I had to live it out in my life. I was compelled to change certain behaviours that I strongly didn’t want to change because now I realised that it wasn’t just about me but that it was also about those around me. I made some changes that are hopefully for the better. I struggle daily but I need grace to be strong and act on those little convictions, praying that He will give me more. In my weekly Bible studies, I feel His love and grace shining on me, I feel His approval and I want to carry on, it is ironic how it seems like I’m spending more time on spiritual things and yet I find I rely more and more on the never ending Source of strength, my Saviour. I am grateful for the pain, for the lessons.

Just to end, let me quote Blessings by Laura Story

‘Cause what if your blessings come through rain drops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near

What if my greatest disappointments or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
What if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are your mercies in disguise

P.S. Recess week was wonderful, I was behind/in front of the camera for 4/5 days and I loved it, so much. Thank you all who were a part of that rest.

P.P.S It seems God approves this post, as I typed this last sentence, Blessings comes on in my shuffled playlist hehe

Miracles

As if one miracle wasn’t enough I had two this week. It wasn’t large mind blowing or whatever, but small tokens of assurance, grace and encouragement. This week God affirmed to my heart that the God I believe in, He is real, true and powerful. 

So many things happened this week which caused me to be grateful and which warmed my heart. DG on Monday was the celebration of mommaaaa Gaozxc’s birthday and it was a touching scene to see her really appreciate the gesture which not just us but the community did for her. It was really touching for me too, to see the way the community rallied around her, to write her well wishes and love her deeply. She’s an amazing inspiration and her heart seems to have no limits. Somehow God taught me through her life what it is to have humility. I’m an egoistic person and she taught me how to be humble and learn from everyone. I note how she learns from everybody around her, and that’s something so rare to find in our day and age where a lot of us are pretty obsessed with who we are and what we can achieve and I personally feel that my ego needs to take a beating sometime. Anyway yes I was really warmed by her. I remember the verse in Acts in which the Pharisees marveled at Peter and John and it was found and noted that they had been with Jesus which made them the way they were, it reflected in their demeanor. I need so much more of such experiences.

Secondly this week also we learnt how to be sensitive. There was more than one occasion where I had to learn how to exercise Christian sensitivity and understanding both to individuals and to a community as a whole. 

Thirdly, my vision was rekindled this week. I was in the middle of sharing the gospel and things like this when I felt it occur to me what life really meant. I’m not discounting the worth of other experiences because I do go through many of them too and learn vital lessons but I felt God teach me that really I feel the most alive when I surrender faithfully to Him. I remember praying this prayer 3 months ago. I told God that I was going to willingly surrender a special friendship to Him, I was going to lay it on the altar and follow the Great Commission. Christ didn’t guarantee we’d be free from pain or sorrow if we obeyed Him, but He said He would be WITH US. That promise is true, real and alive. When I said I would surrender it all, I did, and I shared the Gospel unflinchingly, knowing fully well that it could go both ways. 3 months later God rewarded me, bountifully. One of the battles I had to fight internally with myself was that I was afraid this whole sharing the gospel thing would be a completely intellectual experience. That’s like partly the point but it would be not enough. But I ventured by faith. Then that day God showed me He’d been working through me and using me to breach barriers to bring Christ to the person. It’s such a great thing to experience something that you never knew would be possible, that you didn’t believe because you were faithless, that someone could be open to walking in Christ with you. It’s mind blowing. I am but in awe and wonder. 

This week’s classes also augmented my faith in God because I saw how modernism and other 20/21st century philosophies and maybe even non 20th century ones were different from the values I upheld. It caused me to be thankful for what I have been brought up in but learn to keep an open mind to whatever I learn because it is not just a theory but it is a lifestyle and a mindset that one upholds. Nonetheless, this week’s classes were interesting and thought provoking. I hope for more of these, it makes me very happy I took these modules. 

Just a check in :D

Just a check in;

Sleeping enough? Maybe not, could be improved. But for what it’s worth, I’m doing okay!

Eating enough? It’s getting back on track, on the road to getting back those gains.

Exercising enough? Yep, got back on schedule and started hitting the gym once more, body’s responding well, sore and happy days are in the offing!

Studying alright? Pretty much. It’s tough to keep up with readings but it’s quite a ride! Hoping for grace and more grace to grab those gold nuggets of knowledge (I think I’m half high)

Everything else? Church time’s okay. Could really give more though, I wanna go back to weekly gospel sharing sessions too bad it’s taken up by other things. Interviews are crowding the schedule so once I’ve cleared that, a lot of things should settle down.

Other notes: social battery percentage is about 70%, not too bad. Football season has started yay! Studyblr’s back in the zone, Cornell note taking has changed the way I study, which is a really good thing. (Why didn’t I discover this earlier?!?) 

I’m good, and thankful, it’s been 2 mad weeks but I’m alive and happy. 

a really bad day

On this day my body was confused. Why were so many things happening at one go and all in ridiculously quick, rapid fire speed. It was half awake half lost and mostly barely keeping up. To top it all off the great red beast reared its ugly head, on one of its countless monthly appearances and bodily wreckage began. My mind was too fast for my body. It could barely keep up. I was drained in every way but troubled about things in school, at home, in church… 

On this day, too many things happened, and me being me, I took everything into my hands. It sort of worked out and sort of didn’t too. I’m really bad at this teamwork thing I could use a little improvement. 

I nearly went mad but through the day I felt sustained. As I talked to people at different booths I felt the battery get charged and by the time AGM rolled around my heart was warmed and my whole system just felt a lot lot better, ironically and contrary to my belief. 

Sometimes abovementioned happens, especially when I’m on a sleepless night. 

My goals stared me in the face; why are you so weak why can’t you keep up? Didn’t you keep up last semester? And the semester before that?? What’s wrong with you. I don’t know either. 

I’m gonna give some acclimatization time I guess but I know I will get stronger. But I must also get wiser and maybe one day I’ll be able to find that balance between strong and wise. But for all this, I’m still thankful. There have been countless lessons taught to me and I am still learning. 

Semester 3/Year2S1 has just started and it has been nothing short of brilliant. For all my body can’t stand, people have been there, God used them to keep me sane, tell me things, help me grow. He loves and is so greatly merciful and kind. In my weaknesses He taught me how to be kind on myself and on others. 

I started to learn what a community is. The building blocks of it has started to be understood in my mind. Even as I see others and their examples, I feel inclined to come and pattern my life from them. In church, in school, God is teaching me through life, providence and experience how to be less like myself and more like my Saviour. I’m immature in many ways and have a lot to learn, especially how to channel my love and heart to where is needed and not overspend myself unwisely. 

It was a bad day, not a bad week, definitely not a bad life. 

Transition and growth // Goal setting, Y2

Getting out of one’s comfort zone is not a very pleasant way to live life, whether you are forced out of your comfort zone or you intentionally do it. But it is important. One thing I have learnt from the many small and large decisions I made in NUS is this, the moment you get too comfortable in something, you become stagnant and you stop improving.

Recently, I realised I needed to set some goals for Year 2. In Freshman Year, I decided on two goals, firstly that I play hard, everything that I did I wanted to make the best out of it, make the most friends I could ever make, whatever sport I played I wanted to play it well, and enjoy everything to the fullest. Secondly, I told myself that when I study, every module that I study, I do what I like/am interested in, not to have a herd mentality and follow a society that’s hell bent on and obsessed with getting good grades without consideration for one’s interests or aptitude. I think by God’s grace I did achieve both my targets.

With that in mind, I ended my first academic year thanking God for all His goodness and also being really grateful for all the lessons learnt (more here).

Over the summer, I experienced a few things that gave me a few ideas of how I wanted to set my goals for the upcoming semester (and academic year by extension). I enjoyed the month of May – it was slower than usual, well I met people for meals and stuff, but life slowed down from the pace of the semester in which I had events every week/every other week. May was slower and more reflective, I blogged more. June was church camp/precamp, then post camp, a good mixture of fast and slow and once again my identity in Christ was affirmed to my heart and also I think I drew closer to my extended family from which I wanted to start building even closer ties. July was a mixture of everything, from work to AMUNC, Euro2016 and a few camps here and there and meals with friends. So, that was summer.

Coming back to reality, I decided to go with two goals for AY 16/17.

Firstly, I wanted to do things that made me less comfortable and that took the routine out of life.

It sounds ridiculous, honestly, even to me. But I think I want to strive to achieve this. How I would do it, I’m not sure yet, but I know I want to do this. I’ve been living a life where I’ve been afraid to do things and make decisions that would impact me drastically, I’ve been always extra cautious about the things that I do, I think, oh, I’m not ‘like this’ or ‘like that’ so I won’t enjoy this or that activity/module/group of friends/sport… So I’m gonna try and do things that make me uncomfortable, that throw me into the deep end, things that force me to find my way through it. I have always learnt from past experiences that anything like this that happened to me, whether I intentionally (or more often than not, unintentionally) put myself through it, has never failed to teach me lessons that I hold dear to my heart. Many of these experiences were not pleasant at the start, some were not even pleasant by the time I reached the end of it, but I know for sure I learnt something from it.

So the first thing I did, was to quit regular powerlifting. I’ve been on hiatus for one and a half month now and I think it was enough time away from the sport to know that I needed to move out of it to do something else so my body would improve its fitness and not stay stagnant. 4 years into powerlifting and I’ve decided to do something else. I may come back to regular training in future but for now, it’s adios. The reason why I wanted to do this is because I realised that the reasons for why I trained have been accomplished and these goals were not outdated. I went into this sport as a result of something not so nice that transpired at the end of Junior College Year 1/ start of y2. I was angry, impulsive and bitter. Powerlifting offered me an easy and quick escape for it, lift until the endorphins take over and flood your brain with happiness so you can go back to whatever you were doing and feel better about life. However as I matured, I stopped getting angry so easily and even if I did, I learnt to deal with my anger and frustration through blogging/writing/speaking to people about it. Secondly I lifted because it was something that fuelled my inner motivation (because I was so low on it), every time I needed to push myself, I’d head to the gym and lift, and those pushing myself harder than I did the last training would convince me that I could deal with whatever came my way. Over time that attitude changed because I learnt to be less proud and ask for help (although I’m still working on that), and also, more importantly, I learnt to trust God. Along the way also I recovered more and more from the bullying saga that happened over the course of my high school days, and with the support of good friends, I think I reached a point of appreciating who I was, for me. I realised I didn’t need to be better than anyone else to be special/something significant. My significance was no more relative to someone else’s significance, but it was placed in God, and in the fact that I learnt that working hard and being okay with doing my best, the very best that I could do – that was enough. So lifting became more of a sport and less of a place to vent my anger. No doubt, I still love it, will always do. But I think it is time to pull myself out of my comfort zone and find other ways to push myself physically.

Secondly, I want to spend more time with people and less time on events.

While this seems to be ironic/not make sense, hear me out. Spending time with people in events and spending time with people out of events are two completely different things. I think that I did not spend enough quality time with those who are close to me last semester and I want to do that this semester. This includes my church community, family, close friends, DG girls, LitSoc peeps, etc. Also, and importantly too, my friends who I go out with on one-on-one lunch dates. They are as important to me as groups of friends, perhaps even more important. I would like to chill on the events and activities and not just spend time with them but actually make it count and not have to rush here, there and everywhere.

I guess for now that’ll be it. Can’t wait for the next semester to start though, it’ll be good!