weekly thoughts #6

Some updates on my life:

I went to London + the Lake District on a solo trip at the start of this month! I’d always thought it would be a good idea to go visit London when I know people studying there, but didn’t act on it earlier so cecilia is no longer there D: But I managed to meet up with sean and we went to Cambridge and met 2 other jc classmates! And I also met an ex-intern who’s just started uni in London, but he had only been staying there for like 2 weeks+ so he wasn’t any more familiar with London than me hahaha.

Anyway I’ll write another post with photos of my trip soon, but overall it was a fantastic trip and a good adventure doing it alone hahaha. London has tons of things to see/do including all the Harry Potter stuff which were awesome!!! And the Lakes was a really nice break from the city- I love being in the “mountains” :D

My timing for this trip was kind of bad, cos I’ve been working on this personal alert button project (links) with a few others. And this period is the crunch time, where we have to make sure everything is working for our end-to-end and stakeholder tests before the buttons are deployed for trial! So I basically pangseh-ed my team to go on holiday while they were working weekends and late nights :X feels bad man. I tried to finish the part I was doing before leaving, but there was just too much and I only finished 2/3 of it? So I had to pass the remaining work to the rest when I left, but they were so busy with other stuff also that one guy did a bit of it but when I came back 1.5 weeks later I still had to continue on the same thing HAHA. Quite sucky to come back from holiday only to jump back in to the deep pile of work :/ I got back on tues afternoon, went back to work on wed, and stayed up late on thurs night to finish my web app for friday morning testing loool. Very reminiscent of last-min-project-chionging times at SUTD :’)

Oh yeah it’s been a year since I started work already!! I got a promotion woohoo :D (it’s a more or less standard, time-based promotion for fresh grads after 1 year but whatever, still nice)

Last update is that I’m trying to eat vegetarian! Because I think the conditions in which animals are raised and killed for meat are horrible, and I don’t think that the minutes of pleasure I get from eating meat per meal are worth more than the animals’ lives. Also trying to consume less dairy milk because although cows aren’t directly killed in producing milk, commercial dairy farming is pretty screwed up too. It’s been surprisingly easy replacing my dairy milk at home with soy milk! And cheaper too ><

Do we settle for the world as it is,

or do we work for the world as it should be?

I just finished Becoming by Michelle Obama, probably the first autobiography I’ve read and it was really good! It may be the most popular book on NLB’s ebooks site currently lol, there are 300 copies but the wait time is 26 weeks like wuuuut.

Anyway, there are some ideas in the book that I thought were very relatable/ that linked to things I’d already been thinking about.

[major spoiler alerts!! I highly recommend you to go read the book yourself first hahaha cos I’m gonna summarize some parts of the story below]

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weekly thoughts #5

Oops it’s been a while.

Had some recent meetups where I felt like I was quite “out” of the conversation :/ in the sense that I can’t relate much to what the rest are talking about, but I also can’t think of other good topics to bring up. I guess for the guys group it’s always been kinda like this cos they’re always talking about gaming (and last time it was always NS haha but at least that one was pretty interesting to listen to). And I’ve never known of all the “famous” people in rj in the first place, but going to sutd made me very cut off from any news about them, so when the inevitable gossip exchange starts I’m like “ok idk who that is” 90% of the time hahaha. Not sure what I should do about this….

Also last week I was talking to 2 friends who had/were having problems with their parents not letting them do something they wanted (for 1)/ being super overprotective about everything they do (the other 1). I suppose they have their reasons and their own circumstances that led to this but especially for the 2nd one, it’s really damn extreme lol and it’s sad that at 23 years old you need to consider what would your mum think for every decision you make and everything you do D: I was telling my parents about this and my dad said “it’s good training for when he gets married!” HAHAHAHA. But anyway thinking about this made me super grateful to my parents! For always providing guidance and support, but at the same time giving me and my sis a lot of independence in both day to day things, and in life decisions.

Why I’m trying to eat less meat

Consider this thought experiment:

Imagine a time in the future where an alien species comes to our earth. They are more intelligent than us in pretty much every way and soon gain control over most of earth. These aliens are perfectly able to survive on eating grass, but one day they realise that humans are actually rather tasty. They then round up a huge number of humans from the wild, put them in cramped cages, giving them the bare minimum they need to stay alive, and force them to breed all the time. Once males grow decently big, or when females are unable to bear more children, they get killed for the aliens’ consumption. Humans suffer by the millions, but the average alien doesn’t care. Why should it, when humans are such an inferior species compared to them?

Do you feel that this is perfectly reasonable? Is it okay/right for these hypothetical aliens to treat us in whatever way they want, just to satisfy their tastebuds?

If you don’t think it’s right for the aliens to treat humans however they want just because they can, then I’m sure you know where this is going. How is it then right for humans to make billions of animals live their whole lives in immense suffering in order to kill them for our pleasure?

This is an issue that I’ve been considering for a some time now, initially triggered by watching Food Inc, a documentary about factory farming, for one of my social sciences modules. It was pretty sickening :( and since then I’ve been trying to eat a vegetarian meal once a week. But recently I went to read up more about factory farming and the ethics of it, partly because Sapiens also touched on this. And I don’t see how we can avoid concluding that buying/eating meat produced from industrial agriculture is unethical. I’ll write about what led me to this conclusion below, but as someone who enjoys eating meat, I would really like to believe otherwise. If you have any good justifications for why eating meat is ethical, please tell me and we can have a discussion!

Basically the main argument is that:

1. Animals are intelligent and have feelings; in particular they can feel pleasure and pain. From what we can tell, they seem to have some level of consciousness. Knowingly and needlessly making an animal suffer is not really that different from causing human suffering. If we agree that causing human suffering is unethical, then so is causing suffering to animals.

2. In industrial agriculture (aka factory farming), animals are treated horrendously and made to suffer all their lives. Watch the video on this page!

3. By buying and eating meat from such companies, we are supporting this treatment of animals and playing a part in this suffering.

Hence, buying and eating meat that comes from factory farms is unethical. And if I add another point:

4. I want to be a good person which means doing things I think are ethical, and not doing things that I think are unethical

Then it’s pretty obvious that I should stop eating factory farmed meat, right?

It’s also pretty weird that we are kind of inconsistent in how we think about animals: If you see someone kicking a dog or mistreating a rabbit for fun, you would probably think that’s wrong. You may also be appalled when you hear about people eating dogs or rabbits (or say horses). But what makes a these species so different from cows, pigs and chickens? Nothing inherently. It’s just that culturally we are used to seeing certain animals as “food”, and not as “animal lives” I guess?

The rearing animals for food also is super bad for the environment. Animal agriculture is responsible for more greenhouse gases than all the world’s transportation combined!! It also uses far more water and land to feed animals for meat, compared to if we just grow plants to eat directly. See this for more facts about meat and the environment. Apart from ethical reasons, environmentally our consumption of meat is totally unsustainable. This was actually what originally motivated me to try eating less meat, not the ethics of it – although now I think the ethics part is a much more important reason.

There’s another question of whether it’s just the suffering part that matters (so it’s ok to eat meat if the animal was legitly raised humanely on small farms and lived a good life), or is it unethical to kill any animal for food, no matter how well it was raised? Also what about non-meat animal products (eggs, milk)? I’m not quite sure of my stand on this yet. But I suppose pretty much all the meat and non-meat products we get in Singapore are from industrial farming.

Ignorance may be bliss, but now that I know more about this issue, I can’t “un-know” it or just do nothing. The thought of all those animals crammed in cages or sheds and getting slaughtered makes me sad and disgusted :( And now that you know a bit about this, I hope you give it some thought and hopefully are inspired to take action too! It doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing (ie. eat meat or become vegetarian), maybe just try the once-a-week vegetarian thing too for a start (there is actually a campaign called “Meatless Monday” and it just happens that monday is my designated vegetarian lunch day too hahaha).

I used to think that I can’t live without eating meat, and a meal without meat is not a proper meal (like if I order caifan I would always get at least 1 meat). But even my once-a-week vegetarian meal has made me feel that I don’t actually need meat that much. And since it’s also better for the environment and my health, that’s even better! So yup, I’m going to make an effort to eat less meat-heavy meals and get vegetarian stuff when I can.

See these also for more perspective:

Pls let me know if you learnt something from this post or are interested to talk more about this issue! I promise I won’t try to pressure you to change what you eat if you don’t want to.

weekly thoughts #4- 10 habits I’m working on

Just got back from my 2 week San Fran + Seattle roadtrip! It was great and really a perfect break from work (thx to Eugene for helping to handle the stuff that suddenly came up). We spent around half of the trip being in nature + driving a lot, and the other half sightseeing in Seattle, and I think the two parts balanced out really well :D will post more about my trip but for now it’s back to work! Below is what I writing started before the trip but didn’t finish and post.

Work is pretty different from school in that after I leave the office, I (usually) don’t need to do any work-related stuff anymore! But because work takes up so much time, the few free hours at night and on weekends are super precious. So I’ve been reading a bit on productivity advice and trying to cultivate some habits to make good use of my time and money, and also to stay healthy. Here’s my 10 habits and how they’ve been going so far:

1. Read on my commute
I realised that it’s super easy to get stuck on my phone- by browsing insta, looking at stuff to buy online, or playing games. Instead of wasting my 1h commute every day doing these things that ultimately don’t really add value, I use this time to read. Ever since my discovery of NLB ebooks on overdrive + getting my new kindle, I’ve been reading a lot! On average maybe 1 book every 1-2 weeks, with a mixture of fiction and nonfiction. But I always end up finishing fiction books much faster because I’ll be v engrossed in the story and keep on reading at night after I get home hahaha.

2. Do knee exercises at least 2 times a week and a long run once a month
Part of my knee recovery plan is to do strengthening exercises every 2-3 days, and to go for a longer run once a month. Currently the max I’ve run after my injury is 4km, but I want to slowly increase it by adding 1km every month. Idea is that by scheduling a longer run every start of the month, I will be motivated to run on other weeks also to prepare for it. It also helps that my department has a “jogging group” and we go for runs every Thurs after work.

Was keeping up with this plan pretty well from start of the year to Apr but this month has been a fail πŸ˜– I will catch up and slowly increase until 10km by the end of this year!

3. Record my daily expenses
I’m proud to say that I’ve been consistently recording all my expenses since I started working in Oct! It helps me be aware of how much I’m spending (biggest portion always goes to food, esp when I eat out more often) and makes me think more carefully about whether something is worth the price. If I just calculate based on my “normal” daily expenses (food and transport), my expenses should be v little actually. But one thing I’ve realised is that every month is an “abnormal” month- with just one or two “one-off” significant expenses that end up bumping up my spending by $100+ eg. my kindle, earphones, archery lessons, new shoes. I’ve been pretty successful in staying within $600/month excluding travelling and giving my parents money, an amount which I think is sufficient but not overly restrictive.

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weekly thoughts #3 – workplace culture

One thing I’ve been enjoying and feeling very grateful for is the chill culture at my office.

Just yesterday, we had a steamboat for lunch for almost 20 people at the level 10 open area. It started from one guy who was like “let’s have a steamboat in office!” and tbh most of us didn’t take him seriously at first, but he convinced another guy to bring his pot and they went to ntuc to buy ingredients so a bunch of us joined in last week for the first “trial run”. Our boss was like “yall serious ah?? Ok go ahead, but if anyone tells you off I’ll just pretend I didn’t know this was happening” hahahaha. But everyone who saw us was v amused and nobody told us off so the trial run was a success! We bought another pot from ntuc to expand it to more people for this round xD

I think my boss is totally the opposite of what you’d think as a typical boss stereotype. He’s an engineer and a teenager at heart LOL and he’s damn good at table soccer so every other day when he’s free he’ll jio us for a challenge. At first even our 2 best guys playing together lost to him playing alone! But they improved a lot and so he decided he needed a partner and recruited me for a few times HAHA.

We also recently got this AGV (autonomous ground vehicle), basically it’s a robot that can move around on its own and is supposed to be part of our smart office. It was named Elsa through a poll πŸ˜‚ which everyone now regrets because our boss got very into programming the robot….. to go around making frozen jokes. Eg. it’ll move around to beside someone and go “hello *name*, do you find the aircon cold? *pause* I think it’s fine, the cold never bothered me anyway” and “hey *name*, how is work going? stressed? sometimes, you just gotta let it go” followed by….

etc etc and it’ll play the entire song so loudly that the whole dept can hear. Then after the song ends, he’ll make it go up to the next person and repeat the whole routine.

There was one day that I was rly damn annoyed cos I was already stuck trying to figure out something in my code, then this robot keeps playing the stupid song and boss was just sitting there amusing himself with everyone’s reactions πŸ˜‘πŸ˜‘πŸ˜‘ other colleagues were not amused also and one of them said that once he hears the robot start talking/singing he’ll just wear his noise-cancelling headphones LOL. Which also has the added advantage that boss won’t make the robot target him. I was complaining to Joe about it, but he pointed out that it was kind of nice, to have a boss who’s so friendly and human, rather than one who’s v distant from the people below him. Which is also true! I do appreciate that we can just talk to him normally and he will joke around with us. It helps that he’s an engineer also so he’s quite in touch with the work we do, and he likes to ask us questions to really understand what we’re doing and get involved if he can. From what I can see he also gives people a lot of trust and hence freedom in their daily work and how they manage their teams. Although he does sometimes make decisions that not everyone agrees with, and is a bit over-optimistic on how many projects we can take on haha. I haven’t been feeling the consequences of this directly but there are a few people in the dept who got pretty stressed from decisions he made. On the other hand, he has been spending the last week programming the robot to do a “dance” in sync with some opera music and then making everyone watch it and give a score…. LOL. Much waste of time but well, I guess it’s a happy problem.

Another person who’s been v significant for me at work is my reporting officer (aka my direct boss)! He’s a much more experienced software engineer than me but he pretty much treats everyone in our team as equals when we’re working. I feel like I have a lot of freedom for the projects I’m running (including freedom to work from home which is awesome, idk why nobody else seems to do it but I’ve been wfh-ing once a week and I’m v productive at home), but he somehow stays on top of all the projects and he’ll review the progress once in a while. Oh yeah both of us actually started work on the same day and sat next to each other! But I reached earlier and choped the window seat hahahaha. We went to shanghai for some training also and I had fun laughing at him at the theme park xD sadly he moved to another table now and he seems to be perpetually v stressed cos of the amount of projects that are coming up… and he still likes doing actual programming but as the boss of our team, he has to go attend external meetings every other day also plus sometimes there’s internal project meetings or stuff he helps us with individually, so he’s always working until damn late :( feels bad man. But it’s cool to know that you can progress in your career but still do actual programming. Normally it seems like developers are only at the lower level but to progress you basically have to go into management, not v sure if I would want to do that…

My office is “open concept” ie. no individual rooms or cubicles, I think most companies’ offices are like that nowadays? Don’t really know if I like it though, there’s both good (easy access to other people to ask them stuff) and bad (when people come and talk to your neighbour which makes it super hard to focus). Some people also like to walk around and loiter behind my area for some reason… so once I notice their presence there I’ll think “should I talk to them them..?” and even if I don’t, my focus is already disrupted D:< I guess one advantage of headphones is that it’s a clear signal to tell people not to disturb you haha

(Wow this post is on just one topic and it’s already 1k words)

[mulu 2019] caves, camping and pinnacles

During the March holidays, my family went on a 5-day trip to visit Mulu National Park in Sarawak. Before the trip I’d only heard of Mulu from my uncle’s family, who had gone there previously and enjoyed seeing the caves and bats (what Mulu is famous for). But, my parents decided to up the challenge by adding in a trek up to see the Pinnacles, which is this surreal-looking limestone formation:

Image result for mulu pinnacles
from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7-rxMLx_Qls

For the trek, we would have to stay at a base camp for 2 nights and bring+cook our own food, so before the trip we had to plan out and buy all our food supplies for the days at the camp! We also read that the trek is pretty intense so the sis and I got dragged to bukit timah hill/ macritchie for training on a few weekends before the trip…

Day 1: arrival & bat exodus

Mulu is actually not very far away from Singapore if you look on a map, but there’s no direct flight so we had to take a flight to the city of Miri before changing to a smaller propeller plane to go to Mulu. The flights took a total of less than 3h and before we knew it, we’d reached the tiny airport in Mulu!

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