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?

 

 

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….

LET IT GO~
LET IT GO~
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)

weekly thoughts #2 – the weekend is too short

Sianz it’s Monday already?!

I had my second archery class on sat at telok blangah archery club! The coaches have been teaching us the steps to shoot consistently but it’s really hard… I always try to do the same steps for every arrow but sometimes they’ll just fly off somewhere random lol.

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For our first introductory session they gave us these huge targets

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For this class I somehow ended up on the rightmost board and the coach switched us to using these tiny ones!

Archery is cool I guess and I do want to practise more to improve my shooting. But I don’t think it’s a sport that I’ll really get into doing regularly cos the aim is to be able to do the exact same thing over and over again… not very exciting hahahah. Joe says he likes it cos it’s calming and makes you focus. But I think I’m normally very calm and focused whenever I do anything already so I don’t need archery for that HAHAHA

Yesterday we went to try VR gaming at Sandbox VR. They combine VR with motion capture technology (the silver balls on our guns, headset, wrists and ankles) to make a damn legit whole body VR experience! You see your friends in VR also and have to fight off enemies together. It’s really immersive gaming and everything is so responsive that it feels quite real and you won’t get dizzy! The guys who always play games loved it but tbh I’m not a fan of shooting games hahaha. Would wanna try a VR game that’s more like an escape room or anything other than shooting.

Recently I also went for 2 sessions of this volunteering program by GovTech where we teach kids to code using Scratch, a drag-and-drop coding program that’s meant for introducing kids to coding. I saw some of the stuff my cousin made using Scratch many years ago but I never tried it out until now, and I have to say I was impressed by how easy it is to use, while at the same time there’s a lot you can do with it! I made a falling blocks game in 10min hahahaha you can try it here. We were teaching primary school kids 1-to-1 and it was kinda sian for me cos my kid was not that interested in following the class. At the start of the first class the teacher’s laptop got disconnected from wifi so the chrome “no connection” screen came out, my kid saw it and kept wanting to play the chrome dinosaur game for the rest of the class X__X I gave in and let her play for a while hahahaha

May is gonna be an exciting month, with diving trip and team integration and having an intern and US trip! Ooh and getting my first bonus :D Can’t wait!