levelling up

So much has changed since my last post… all my free time is now gone and I’ve only exercised once in the last 3 weeks :'(

My dept has been working on a rather big project that is related to covid since the start of May, and wow it’s been 1.5 months already! Every week has been a mad rush to get everything up “ASAP”. Annoyingly, NOBODY even knows what the timeline and key dates are and they keep being delayed T__T

It’s weird cos I’ve been doing very little actual programming work over the whole project. I’m just in charge of this 1 small web app which is now done! But I’ve been super busy liaising with the people working on different software “modules” to eg. spec out the API between services, ensuring that the API that’s developed conforms to the spec, communicating changes in requirements to the relevant people, supporting my reportee who’s working on one major part (it’s a mobile app, so stuff like getting our PM to buy phones for testing, getting people to help test with different phones), sorta managing 2 interns, communicating with vendor, liaising with people in other departments cos we need to integrate with their services, handling in-between-modules stuff like authentication, getting our software modules tested and deployed, and trying to think of what else we have not thought of that needs to be done. GG lol thinking about all this already makes me tired. So ok la hahaha although it often doesn’t feel like I’m being productive (in the sense of writing code), I think I’m still doing significant work so yay that makes me feel better.

After the first few weeks of this, I felt like I “levelled up” in my perspective on software development cos normally I just need to work on my frontend app and at most poke the backend guy to help me add/modify stuff on the backend service. Working on PAB introduced me to the microservices architecture, but we inherited the whole project and just had to build on top of it. But this project had multiple frontend & backend apps, to be built all from scratch, and I was/am one of the main people overseeing and coordinating everything! So I pretty much know quite specifically what each of the modules are doing and how it interfaces with the other modules, but without directly doing the implementation.

Some takeaways from this project so far:

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virus things / grateful

This has been a strange and interesting period, with covid-19 and all the disruption it’s brought to the world.

Around this time last month is when things started to get really serious in Singapore and we finally decided to cancel our Japan trip (with yiqing and dawn who finally graduated from med school!! & to visit tiff) after weeks of indecision and uncertainty. Soon after that, I started working from home full time. And on 7 april, Singapore’s “circuit breaker” measures kicked in. I’ve only gone out of my house 4? times since then- once to office for a project that’s considered essential, once to dabao food, and 2 times to run at the park.

Honestly to me, the impact of covid hasn’t been tooo bad! Other than my cancelled trip and the shock of sean being infected and hospitalized after coming back from UK. But I’ve been enjoying working from home, and having a lot of time do my own stuff since I don’t have to commute/ meet people. This is a good time to be an introvert hahahaha.

I’ve been spending my freed up time on:

  • Exercise – been following youtube videos or running (but I’ve decided to stop going out to run) like 3 times a week! My top workout videos currently are athlean-x 7 min abs (mad intense but it’s over before you know it) / holly dolke 8 min arms (doesn’t look that bad but omg can really feel the burn!! I had to take a lot of breaks initially but getting better now) / emi wong 15min HIIT
  • Sketching – doing the circuit sketch break challenge which is to do 1 sketch per day, I’ve been lagging behind a bit but it’s been fun!! Can’t really tell if I’m getting better yet, but I think some of my sketches are not bad eh XD

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    a sketch of my work from home setup

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    pikachu + charmander = pikamander! cute right xDD I did this by multi-tasking during an ultra long department zoom meeting LOL u can see my bosses on screen

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Bye 2019

A little late for an “end of year” post haha, but I just wanted to think through and record down a summary of last year. It was really a big year for me – first full year of working, and all the adulting things that come with it, plus opportunities that it opens up now that I’m earning my own money 8)

Adventures

  • Mulu caves trip with fam – super shag climbing but other than that it was a chill trip
  • SF, Yosemite & Seattle road trip with Joe, staying in each place for 1-2 nights as we drove North. Yosemite was really nice and we did skydiving for the first time!!
  • My first solo trip, to London & Lake District
  • 2 diving trips to Tioman to do open water & advanced

Social/Relationships

  • 2nd anniversary with Joe, some fun times and ups & downs
  • Rediscovered & strengthened some friendships; didn’t spend as much time/effort as I’d have liked to on some others
  • Some fun times hanging out with friends both individually or in groups (sutd ppl, rj guys, gymmers, colleagues)
  • 10/10 support and fun times with my sis and parents, as always

Work

  • Had 2 interns! First time being “in charge” of other people, still getting used to balancing my own work and helping them/ enabling them to work productively
  • Completed(ish) RFID project with B and E, not the most exciting project but oh well. Hopefully it’s finally gonna be used for their operations this year
  • Questioned the usefulness/ meaningfulness of my work on the first few projects (lamppost, construction site/ crane monitoring, VC, RFID)
  • Planned and ran IoT workshop (twice, for kids & new staff)
  • Worked on PAB project since ~July? Transitioned from being totally lost when the codebase was transferred to us -> gradually understanding how it all works together -> chionging for acceptance test & start of operations -> pride in seeing it in action -> seemingly never-ending feature requests. Really good learning experience and meaningful project!
  • Good & bad experiences working with vendors/ partners. Learning to communicate better during meetings.
  • Overall enjoying my work – there are tiring days and annoying things but am still learning a lot and feeling useful haha. Super thankful for the trust and flexibility given by my bosses
  • Got an upgrade from my Lenovo laptop to a MacBook Pro!!! Has improved my productivity loads
  • Had my first ‘official’ mentor and mentee… good conversations but haven’t been driving them that much

Personal

  • Read quite a bit (kindle is awesome!), had a few book club sessions to discuss books and ideas – @any friends reading this, if you think this sounds fun and you might be interested to join the book club, let me know!! Add me on goodreads too if you use it!
  • Started doing some laser cutting for fun and $
  • After doing meatless monday lunch once a week for most of the year, I decided to switch to full time (mostly) vegetarian! It’s honestly been not as bad as I’d expected, although I’m not 100% strict also haha I’d say I’ve been eating vegetarian for 95% of my meals. Thankful to everyone who has been accommodating of this change
  • Tech changes – swapped to Fastmail for my email and started using a password manager. Both amazing decisions that I highly highly recommend!! Ask me if you wanna know more (maybe I’ll write a post on this)

Health

  • My meniscus tear knee is finally recovered!!! To the point where I can run normally without having to be extra cautious about it.
  • Jogged/ did random exercise ~once a week? Not a lot but decent enough for me, I’m not aiming for anything except to just keep reasonably fit and active
  • Tried out doing the one punch man challenge (situps + pushups + squats everyday) but gave up after a month? hahaha
  • Fell sick a few times :(
  • Played some frisbee! @ downtown lawn and with KR’s team

Finance

  • Started building my passive investment portfolio, roughly following Ray Dalio’s all-weather portfolio – tbh maybe I could cut down my % in bonds since I have a long time ahead for investing, and CPF sort of acts as a bond component
  • Started contributing to household expenses 😢 and giving some $ (token amount but it adds up) to parents/grandparents
  • Made some donations with the money I earned!

Other new/fun experiences/learnings

  • Learnt archery
  • Played paintball and bubble soccer! For team integration. Oh ya archery tag too
  • Learnt basics of ukelele
  • Played a ton of foosball at office ><
  • Had a few sessions of learning cooking with my nainai
  • Went for my first major concert (JJ Lin)!! Was fun but our seats were so far away :'(
  • Saw an annular solar eclipse!!
  • Tried VR gaming… it’s pretty cool but not something I’d want to do regularly?

 

 

[europe grad trip] green hills and blue lakes in Switzerland!

(Oops this post is like 1.5 years belated HAHA I just found it in my drafts. It only covers Bern & Interlaken, we also stayed in Lucerne for 1 night and went to Geneva which was pretty chill and nice. Zan and I also did tandem paragliding in Interlaken!!! No motivation to write about them in detail now lol so I’m just gonna post this.)

On to the country that I was most looking forward to and that looking back, was my favourite part of the trip. The country where the grass seems greener and lakes are always amazing shades of blue. Switzerland!!!

I can’t remember why but we stayed a day in Bern although it’s a very small city and doesn’t have many attractions. Saw the clock tower and bear pit, then randomly walked around the area a bit. Fun fact: Bern is the capital of Switzerland and the word Bern means bear. Their city mascot is a bear and they have a “bear pit” (that’s literally what it’s called) in the middle of town. 

We were just chilling by the river while Nick flew his drone, and once in a while we’d randomly see a group of people floating down the river! Cool stuff, like the lazy rivers at water parks but 100 times better.

At Interlaken, we stayed at Balmers Tent Village because it was the most affordable accommodation there. And affordable means ~50sgd per person to sleep in tents! Big canvas tents with bunk beds inside, not the camping kind. It was a bit cramped and the second night when it rained some bugs crawled into our tent lol. But overall I found it pretty okay, wouldn’t mind staying again given the price in comparison to other places. They had bbq pits too so we bought stuff from the supermarket across the road for our bbq dinner there!

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We got the Swiss pass and one of the activities covered was a boat ride in one of the lakes, so we figured why not?

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There were loads of paragliders!

The boat journey turned out to be quite long (it goes one round around the lake with multiple stops) so we decided to just get off at the first stop and take a boat back in the other direction. But before going back, we took a super refreshing dip in the water first 8)

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After that we went to Harder Kulm, the tallest mountain in Interlaken which isn’t actually that tall. But it has a cool lookout point where you can pretty much see the whole of Interlaken and its two lakes!

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This wasn’t included in the Swiss pass but it wasn’t too expensive, worth it for the great view and the rollercoaster-ish ride up and down xD

The next day was the big day, to go up the real mountains~ One of the main reasons why we got the Swiss pass is to cover the cable car up the Schilthorn, otherwise it’s really expensive on its own. If I remember correctly, the journey was like: bus to Interlaken train station, train to Lauterbrunnen, another bus to the cable car starting point, and then a couple of cable cars to finally reach the top. But all the public transport is v on time and efficient (the buses are timed to sync with the trains) so getting around was relatively painless!

There’s a revolving restaurant at the top, and everything is James Bond themed cos one of the movies was filmed here. It’s quite cool having the theme song being played as you go up in the cable car xD Honestly for these kind of places, I think photos can never do the place justice because it’s the 360degree view + the nice weather and windy-ness + the feeling of being on top of the world that makes it special! And with photos you’re only capturing one part of the view. But I still tried anyway hahaha, here’s my pano of the surroundings:

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The second-highest cable car stop has this adventure walk around the side of the mountain which was funnn. But not for the faint-hearted or those scared of heights!

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After that we headed over to Grindelwald to do the Pfingstegg Rodelbahn aka toboggan ride!!!!

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it’s kinda like the luge where you can control the speed of your kart, but the path is just this metal track
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It was mad fun!! I went first and damn fast so there are no photos of me hahahaha. These two photos are taken by joshua

Dark clouds were starting to gather as we did the toboggan ride, but it was so much fun that we all decided without hesitation to go for a second round! Luckily we were just in time too, they stopped the booth after we bought our tickets. This was one of the highlights of the trip for me heh :DD would definitely recommend it if you’re going to Interlaken or around the region.

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a random plot of graves that we saw on the way back. so pretty!! pretty sure their “spirits” would be content with such amazing mountain views too haha

 

[london 2019] part 2: lake district adventures + cambridge + warsaw

After 5 days in the city, I headed to the Lake District to spend 3 days surrounded by nature! Planning for this part was quite hard cos I really didn’t know what it would be like, and I didn’t want to drive by myself so had to rely on the infrequent buses around the area.

Took half the day to get there, by train from London to Oxenholme then transfer to Windermere. There are a lot of YHA hostels around the whole area, I stayed at YHA Ambleside cos it seemed like a nice quiet place & convenient enough to get to. I planned to do some hiking but didn’t know any specific routes beforehand; luckily the hostel staff helped suggest some routes around the area!

Lake District

Day 1: Attempted a walk up to Wansfell Mountain in the afternoon. The view along the way was nice! But as I got higher up it became very windy cos the mountainside was all exposed plains, and I didn’t have warmer clothes to layer on. Plus I didn’t see anyone around for a long time and the clouds were getting a bit dark… Didn’t want to get stranded there alone in the cold LOL so I decided to turn around and give up on reaching the peak.

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start of the trail, at some waterfall

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(possibly) the point where I turned around

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[london 2019] part 1: city & harry potter

(It’s been exactly 2 months since I came back from my trip hahaha but better late than never!)

I went for my first solo trip on 28 Sept – 7 Oct, to London and the Lake District! I’d always thought of visiting the UK while I have friends (ie. mostly cecilia and sean, plus some of my jc classmates in cambridge) studying in uni there, but unfortunately never got around to planning it until this year, when cecilia already graduated and left london. I asked around but nobody else was able to go during this period (all the rj guys on exchange) and I figured going by myself would be doable + less troublesome than trying to find other time that more ppl could go so… solo trip it was!

Anyway so overall it was a fantastic trip and a great adventure!! I spent 5 days in London visiting touristy places and doing harry potter things, 3 days in the Lake District chilling and hiking and appreciating landscapes, 1 day trip to cambridge with sean and meeting other old friends, and had an extra free afternoon in Warsaw, Poland as a stopover on my flight back. Each of the segments was pretty different but I enjoyed all of them!

London

Natural History Museum

I liked this so much that I visited it twice! From the gorgeous building exterior (I hadn’t expected anything cos I mean it’s a museum, you go for the stuff inside so I was really surprised by how nice the whole building is) to seeing the huge blue whale fossil when you first enter.

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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.