Postcards From the Future: imagining a post-climate change Earth


‘The Gherkin’


Why you should visit this website: long before both North Pole and South Pole completely melt down, long before the rising sea waters flood away most of our planet’s major cities, long before climate change disrupts our whole patterns of life, you had better simply imagine, give a simple glimpse of thought, through these postcards Photoshopped by Robert Graves and Didier Madoc-Jones, of what this world could have been if we hadn’t done anything to reduce the flows of carbon dioxide emissions now already at an increasingly dangerous level. You wouldn’t expect London turning into Venice, Buckingham Palace turning into a huge refugee camp, would you?


Zen Pencils: Inspiring people with cartoon work

zen pencils


Why you should visit this website: wisdom doesn’t have to be judgmental; no human beings are born perfect, and we are all prone to making mistakes. But, one good thing about humanity, again, is our automatic tendencies to never cease reminding each other to learn from our misdeeds, to not repeat the same errors, and to live life with a wider perspective. Somehow, we also must realize that not all people are ready for feedback, in particular if it sounds harsh and superiority-inducing to one another. Gavin Aung Than, an Australian freelance cartoonist, has one creative approach to fill the void: make the fullest out of his passion – drawing adorable characters – to disseminate those messages of wisdom, preferably in a humorous and self-evaluating manner. And there comes Zen Pencils: with wise quoting by well-honored public figures, Gavin wants to prove, once more, that spreading wisdom doesn’t always have to be uni-directional. Thank you, Gavin!


Innovations for Successful Societies: Achieving a civic society

innovations for successful societies


Why you should visit this website: firstly, there’s no doubt that almost every person is always questioning whatever an authority is doing. Be it city management, corruption eradication, simplification of red-tape obstacles, provision of basic welfare services, etc, etc. No doubt that many people, as well, will oftentimes get disappointed with the governments. Nonetheless, for Princeton University, this is a healthy sign. A sign that people ‘participate’ in public discourse about issues pertaining to their countries, their provinces, or their cities. That they are concerned about anything that the authority is doing, and of course, as government itself is primarily consisted of human beings, too, they’re prone to mistakes and wrongdoings.

So, how do governments, particularly in developing countries and semi-democracies where people’s voices are oftentimes overlooked and repressed, respond? Here is where the university releases a public-policy studies initiative, titled ‘Innovations for Successful Societies’. Looking into hundreds of case studies spread over 56 countries worldwide over decades, this program attempts to disseminate positive ideas, creative methods, and out-of-the-box courage as already practiced by dozens of successful leaders in their respective fields. These are just a few examples:

1. How Joko Widodo (or Jokowi, now Indonesia’s elect-president) transformed his hometown, Surakarta (Solo), from a city once plagued by crime, poverty, and extreme violence, into a creative arts and tourism hub in Southeast Asia

2. How Bertrand de Speville spearheaded massive anti-corruption efforts in transforming Hong Kong, once one of the world’s most corrupt cities, into now one equivalent to Singapore in terms of financial transparency, economic freedom, and almost non-existent red-tape practices, in less than 4 decades

3. How a former British police commissioner reformed a once-decrepit police force in Lesotho, a country completely surrounded by – and dependent on – South Africa

4. How anti-corruption watchdogs are working to bust political cronyism in several former Soviet states

Get inspired and be participating in building up your society!


Culture Pub: the Internet’s ad database

culture pub


Why you should visit this website: it’s a very, very huge database of any kinds of weird, surreal, unique, creative, and oftentimes mind-boggling advertisements across the whole world (hundreds of countries, literally) you either have watched or thought you have watched it a long time ago, but have no ideas what they are advertising about. The only ‘problem’, though: it’s all reserved for les francais, or simply anyone living in a world of Francophone. But, still, as a solution of ‘last resort’, in case you can even hardly use your good guesses to understand some of these French phrases, you can rely on Google’s automatic-translation feature to let it interpret every word on it for you (but be prepared for typos, though).



Bonus: luckily they have the English version, as you can view it from their Youtube channel, The Ad Show.

Minorities at Risk – Assessing ‘the vulnerable others’



Why you should visit this link: when it comes to ‘minority’, what comes up in your mind? There may be numerous possibilities you can envision about: being secluded from the majority, or discriminated against for the distinct traits, either they are physical, social, historical, religious, et cetera, that you possess, or worse, being exploited on numerous paces or extents, ranging from having your assets confiscated, or your identities denied, or worse, get yourselves deported or even end up murdered. Okay, such thoughts may be overly distant, but as a matter of fact, as many as 283 ethnic minorities, numbered in nearly 1 billion people worldwide, are being faced with those existent forms of menace. Numerous historical examples have taken place, and, having been compiled by this University of Maryland project, are presented in this website. Unfortunately, though, for unclear reasons, this project only cites references up to the year of 2006, and ever since, has barely updated any information. Still, despite such cessation, you can still have a clear understanding by looking at the data from each of those 283 ethnic minorities scattered across dozens of countries round the globe.

Bonus: it includes assessment for Chinese Indonesians, altogether with a complete, well-detailed chronology covering from 1990 to 2006.


The Diplomat: know the Asia-Pacific, much deeper

the diplomat


Why you should visit this website: it’s an online magazine, about Asia-Pacific, not like any other you see; it provides in-depth insight (normally nearly 1,000 words long for each article) into numerous particular issues surrounding the region, with simplistic, convenient multimedia features, and a language particularly easy to understand. Another great fact from this website is that it allows international-relations wannabes (mostly Master’s or PhD candidates worldwide), altogether with senior fellows and other well-experienced analysts, to exchange words, facts, and information freely, giving it an exclusivity-free atmosphere you barely see in conventional, first-class global-affairs websites you frequently need to subscribe (another recommendation being Foreign Policy, but still, you can only access 8 free news articles each month starting from last year). Such humble face of this website provides great opportunities for the public to access these articles freely, therefore gaining rapid comprehension about current affairs taking place in the world’s currently most dynamic region.


Diffen: compare (almost) anything



Why you should visit this website: you can compare almost everything, with extensive details, highlights of similarities and differences among the two things compared in numerous aspects, and even detailed backgrounds of the stuff mentioned. Only, and if only, you keep the scope of comparison realistic and relevant (say, when you input two objects you want to compare, for example, don’t expect any results when you enter ‘democracy’ versus ‘antibiotics’, or ‘Han Solo’ versus ‘Barack Obama’).

But, as this website is relatively new, you may not expect this website to be your personal genie. There are a lot of things – with relevant topic for comparison – by which you find no results (they may simply ask you to refer to Wikipedia, while sorting out some important phrases related to the things you want to compare). The best suggestion, still, is to keep browsing other similar websites to get your desired results.

Personally, though, it is still a great website for you to discover new knowledge and expand your horizon.



International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM): exploring life’s undiscovered potential




Why you should visit this website: science doesn’t always have to be rocket-science.

What comes to your mind when ‘International Genetically Engineered Machine’, these four-word mantra, are read? Or ‘synthetic biology’, excluding the ‘standard parts’? What are you going to imagine with these highly technical words?

Well, for those who are yet to be acquainted with these terms, let me explain them in simpler vernacular wordings: synthetic biology is a hodgepodge of genetic engineering (where you manipulate an organism’s genetic materials) and engineering principle itself, with the aim of creating novel methods, or even new life forms, with better improved functions and efficiency which, as expected, can help solving contemporary problems we are being faced today. And iGEM is the main facilitator enabling such idea exchanges to flourish, which annually organizes an international competition with over hundreds of universities participating in exploring the potential of synthetic biology.

Still find it difficult to understand? Honestly, I’m still struggling with its very own definition as well. But I’ll give you some examples to have a better picture:

1. Manipulating a species of bacteria to enable them to detect if a meat product is rotting or not

2. Enhancing certain bacteria’s functions to solve oil spills

3. Inventing a new type of fat which, in complete reversal, helps reducing body weight

These are a mere handful of examples I’ve taken from some iGEM teams, but you can explore even more yourself in their wikis.

And, yes, honestly speaking, all the stuff involved inside is, indeed, honestly speaking, highly technical. When you look for every team’s project, you will be faced with an endless array of sophisticated terms, words that not even all scientific scholars will easily comprehend. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you will have to spend your whole time looking for science dictionaries to discover their meanings, though; that’s where iGEM’s strength starts to grow. Rather than entirely focus on in-the-lab work, all iGEM teams are required to implement ‘human practice’ as well – that is, in brief, to connect with the wider public about projects they have done beforehand, using simpler and more public-friendly terms. When you are interacting with the public (say, children as young as 9, or investors), it will be highly improbable to make use of all the scientific terms to explain your project, won’t it?

That’s the raison d’etre why science doesn’t always mean rocket science, as people will always perceive. Explore it yourself, and you will (gradually, I hope) start to have deep interest in it.



Bonus: truth be told, I am actually taking part in HKUST’s iGEM team this year. No, I’m not getting paid for ‘advertising’ this post (nobody even gets paid while in the team, indeed!); I only post it out of my own personal interest. But, open up your mind a bit, take a little precious time of yours to review some of these teams’ projects (forget about the technical terms, though, and you can jump yourself off into ‘human practice’), and you will get fascinated by the unexplored potential synthetic biology will promise in the future.

And, to be more honest, I’m actually considering a new blog category here to discuss about some iGEM projects I find to be of particular interest, but I’ll figure it out later. You will see it when you see it.

Savage Chickens: existentialism in a post-it note




Why you should visit this website: as though human beings were not vicious enough, put the blame – at least, some of it – on the chickens.

This existentialism-themed series of post-it-notes comic strips, featuring chickens and other chickens (supporting roles include Chuck Norris, Darth Vader, Alien and Predator, Godzilla, and the chickens’ corporate master, a heartless robot), was firstly devised by Doug Savage, a Canadian cartoonist who got showered by this inspiration after a tremendous ‘fed-up’ atmosphere of working in corporate cubicles. The 9-to-5 schedule, altogether the seemingly robotic and mundane office work, for Doug, was the underlying reason why he chose to resign from his job and instead focus on time on his own hobby, by which many on his surrounding doubted if his new hobby could supplement him with incomes.

After some time, though, it works. The success of Savage Chicken itself is not possible without Doug’s full-time devotion to his chicken bedfellows.

It’s pretty hard to remain optimistic while skimming through the strips one by one here. All the chickens are, essentially, savage by their very essence – ranting about corporate world, meaning of life, love, uneasy experiences, and things that are reminiscent – despite the odd supporting roles included – of our very own reality. Looking at Savage Chickens is no different from looking at how the reality is surrounding us; we oftentimes do weird things, act strangely, talk irrelevantly, but still, though, to err is human.

These chickens, indeed, are no more than reflection of ourselves. You don’t have to face existential crisis after reading through these strips though; just enjoy life as what it is, full stop.


The Curious Day of Mr Jam: guide to an absurd world

nury vittachi



Why you should visit this website: at first sight, you’re gonna assume it’s just like another kinda ‘that-another-weird-news-blog’ you always see on Google, with formal (very formal, indeed) wordings covering up a surreal content. Until it turns out the blog belongs to Nury Vittachi.

Nury Vittachi, a Sri Lankan-born journalist now based in Hong Kong, has an exceptional knack on things weird, surreal, and abnormal – and moreover, his distinction in creating ‘not-your-ordinary-weird-news-blog’ with his conversational and approachable tone, as though he were somewhere out there, anytime ready to tell you a very long story. Last but not least, he keeps his language simple, and practically easy to understand.