Monthly Archives: February 2014

Learning how to learn

I’ve recently taken on another big programming project, but without my mentor, Mr Sim. I’m working for AdaptAce on this project, creating an English test administration software.

It’s really a big jump from the last project I worked on. For starters, I’m not using the CakePHP framework. I’ve had to learn Javascript (JS) and Python, two new programming languages. On top of that, I have to learn Angular and Pyramid, the frameworks for the respective languages.

Also I’m messing around with XML, since we’re using XML files as our database, but it’s not technically a language; it’s just a plaintext format.

It’s now about two weeks into the actual programming work (the previous two weeks were for requirements gathering) and I’ve gotten the hang of Angular and JS. I was also introduced to Alertify.js, which IS SUPER COOL!! It’s just really sexy notifications so now I don’t have to use the browser’s ugly alert box.

I’ve come to realize that when you learn something new, there’s only three skills you really need.

1. Learn how to ask questions
Seems pretty straightforward and an obvious move for a newbie, right? The problem is, most of the time, the newbie doesn’t know what he doesn’t know.

Let that sink in a bit. If you don’t know what you don’t know, how do you know what to ask? The best way to learn what you don’t know is by immersing yourself in it. Eat it, drink it and breathe it for a few days. Study the ice berg. The questions will come naturally.

2. Understand the answers
Asking the right questions is not all. You’ll need to learn to understand the answers. By this, I mean you’ve got to know the lingo of whatever area your entering. Acronyms, nicknames, short forms and weird names, that sort of stuff.

You might want to make a list of all these words and phrases, so that you build yourself a small dictionary to refer to. After a while, (usually during the immersion stage), you’ll start to get the words and won’t need the list anymore.

3. Monkey See, Monkey Do
Sometimes, you just need to model someone or something in order to get off the ground. This is why step by step tutorials work so well; you’re essentially copying what someone else has already done. I find this part especially useful in areas where you have to develop your own style, like in art. Nobody has their own style of doing something immediately when they start learning it. It’s so much easier and more productive to start by copying someone’s work. First, this forces you to follow the process that the original person took and perhaps you’ll be able to understand why he/she did things in a certain manner. Also, as time goes by, you’ll start changing little bits here and there until eventually, you’d have developed your own style. It also works when you take bits and pieces from several people’s work and put them together, thereby creating a whole new thing.

Imitation is the best form of flattery.

For example, I learnt parkour from copying the basic moves like kong vaults, speed vaults and dash vaults. I never did anything creative with my moves until I saw this one guy jump on top of a ledge, do a leg sweep and shoulder spring off. I was determined to learn it as well so I imitated him. The more I hung out with other traceurs, the more creative moves I saw and emulated. Eventually, I started creating my own flow of moves and now I have a floor flow which links my handspring, kip up, forward roll and handstand together. Since I created it myself, it’s my style.

I had copied enough people to understand how moves could be chained together to form a flow.

That’s what you need to do: keep copying people until you intuitively understand how the individual bits fit together in any given field.

Once you’ve gotten these things down, you’re pretty much set. Any problems you face, just ask questions, understand the answers and copy people, and you’re well on your way to learning something new.

Another interesting thing I discovered about myself is that chillstep really helps me code. Some people like white noise, some prefer absolute silence, I like chillstep. It’s dreamy. It has several advantages for me. First it blocks out other noises and conversations. It’s semi-repetitive, so I can go on to autopilot mode. The beat and rhythm of the music keeps me energetic. Lastly, when I “resurface” from coding, usually after I solve a problem, I can have a little victory dance.


Can we love more than one person at a time?

This post was first published on LOLA’s blog on Jan 20, 2014. I’m putting it here as a backup copy. Click here to see the original post.

According to Dr. Helen E. Fisher, an expert on the biology of love and attraction, the answer might in fact be up to three people at once. In her book (Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Loves) she proposes that the human brain has evolved three core systems for mating and reproduction – lust, attraction and attachment – and that love can start with any one of these three feelings.

Lust is sexual attraction, the need for sexual gratification. The sex drive, or libido, evolved as the primary means of getting out there with as many partners as possible. We are, like all living things, designed and driven to procreate. This is probably the most common system we start with. Admit it, a guy probably strikes up a conversation with a girl because she looks cute or hot and he wants to get in her pants, not because he wants to take care of her (Attraction) or because he had a deep feeling of union with her (Attachment). This is what pickup lines are designed to do: initiate contact with the ultimate goal of hooking up. I’m not saying lust is bad; it’s just arguably the most common way relationships are started, regardless of whether or not the pair actually hooked up.

This also works the same way for girls too, okay!

Romantic attraction is the intense craving of a person and it probably evolved to consolidate and focus one’s time and energy on one partner at a time. When you’re attracted, the object of your attraction begins to take on special meaning and you focus entirely on him or her. This is where the “love is blind” saying comes from; when you’re so obsessed with someone you tend to ignore or disregard their flaws. Attraction takes time to develop. Perhaps if you’ve grown up with the person, you’re more likely to feel attraction than lust, although they’re not mutually exclusive!

The feeling of attachment is a deep sense of union with another person. This system evolved to allow us to bond and rear young together as a team. It’s a pretty good arrangement and makes sense; working together makes it easier to raise a child. This kind of love might develop between colleagues, perhaps they have a really synergistic partnership, but neither person lusted after or was attracted to the other until their strong partnership developed.

If these three core systems are out of sync, then one could potentially lust after one person, be obsessed with another, and have deep feelings of union with a third.

It looks like love isn’t just less than three (<3) after all.


5 Perspectives on Relationships that will blow your mind

This post was first published on LOLA’s blog on Oct 7, 2013. I’m putting it here as a backup copy. Click here to see the original post.

Many of us have a certain view or image on love and relationships that have been influenced by family and friends, the books we read and the shows we watch. We have an expectation on what love is supposed to be what it’s supposed to feel like. More often than not, these hinder us more than it helps. We’re left disappointed and empty when our date or relationship doesn’t go the way we want it to (i.e. happily ever after).

If that’s been distorted, imagine what other parts of love and relationships have been as well? I’ve discovered five quotes/concepts that have changed the way I think and I’d like to share them with you.

1. Shyness
A lot of people are shy when it comes to dating and confessing, and not without good reason. The fear of rejection is always there, isn’t it? How many of us keep playing the scene of rejection over and over and over again in our heads until the fear consumes us and we end up chickening out? Yeah, I did that too, until I came across this comic strip from The Optimist that was really profound.

01 The Optimist Shyness

“Perhaps your anxiety over how others might perceive you is just the coward’s version of vanity.”

This really rocked my world and changed the way I saw myself. I no longer saw shyness as an excuse to chicken out, but an insult to my character. I’m not vain (okay not really), and I certainly didn’t want to be a coward. Who cares what others might think? The only person whose opinion mattered was the one whom I was going after. I wasn’t that afraid of talking to girls or asking them out anymore.

Of course, I didn’t change overnight and become super confident and/or thick-skinned. The idea set itself in my head and slowly I became much more confident. It took a while, but every rejection I had just made me stronger.

Disclaimer: Just because you’re more confident doesn’t mean it will guarantee you the girl or guy you’re chasing. It just helps you take that first step and increases your chances of success.

2. Prince Charming
Where have most of our distorted views on love and romance come from? You guessed it: Disney movies. It’s all about the Prince Charming, the knight in shining armour come to defeat the dragon/monster and rescue the helpless princess.

How much farther off the mark of reality can we get?
(Okay, don’t answer that.)

02 Knight in Shining Armour

There (sadly) are no more real knights in shining armour. Even in medieval times, knights didn’t always have shining armour; especially not the good ones who have just done battle. A knight in shining armour is supposed to represent a flawless hero that saves the princess. Now this presents two views that, in this modern day and age, are now different.

First, not all guys are knights. Even if they are, they may not be shining (read: perfect). Ladies, nobody is perfect, so isn’t it unrealistic to think that you’ll find a perfect, flawless guy? Second, not all women are damsels in distress. Most women now are stronger, more independent, ambitious, and certainly don’t need saving. Even in chess, the queen protects the king. So ladies, don’t wait around for your man; go look for him. The poor fool may be stuck in a tree or something.

3. Finding the One
Most of us are on this personal quest to find The One, your other half or your soul mate. For most of my post-puberty life, my focus was really on finding my perfect partner. I had a profile of what kind of girl I wanted (still do, actually) and constantly made little changes and additions until I had the profile of my ideal partner. Well, it turns out that looking for one out of seven billion people is a tough challenge.

03 Being the right person

Then I read this and was thoroughly taken aback. Upon reflection, I realized that I had neglected to develop myself, both physically and in character. I was a weakling who couldn’t even do three pull ups and I sure wasn’t the nicest person in the world. No wonder I faced rejection after rejection.

Ask yourself: Are you the type of person who attracts the type of person you want? You can search all you want for your soul mate and when you do find him/her, are you going to be what they are searching for themselves?

4. You complete me
Many people, especially naïve youngsters, think that we need to find our other halves in order to be complete. This is why the metaphors of “missing puzzle pieces” and “opposites attract” work.

“The trick, kiddo,” his mom replies slowly. “Is finding someone who complements you instead of completes you. You need to be complete on your own.”
– The Fight, and Fate by the farofixer

If you buy into the “you complete me” perception, doesn’t that mean that without your significant other, you’re incomplete? It implies that you can’t function without that person. I’m sure all of us were functioning normally before we got into a relationship. If you really were “incomplete”, you would need a specific set of – shall we say – parts that would complete you. Your partner would have to be exactly that specific set of “parts” that complete you, meaning that he or she would be totally different than what you are. Doesn’t that seem strange?

Instead, complementing (and complimenting!) each other works out much better. You both are able to function as individuals, but can work together as a team to be something more synergistic.

5. The Endgame
If you’re single, have you thought about what you want from your future partner? Or if you’re in a relationship, have you ever thought about why you’re in it? Well of course, it’s because you love your partner, but what is your goal for the relationship? Are you in just for fun, or are you looking for a serious relationship? I think couples need to get this sorted out early, or it has the potential to cause problems later on.

04 Scary thing about Dating

Many people don’t really know what they want. They guess, they think, but they don’t know for sure. The main reason is probably because the thought doesn’t even occur to them. They just want to enjoy being together and not deal with the endgame. It’s really important to know what you want, because if let’s say, you want to get married eventually, but your partner doesn’t, then well, things may not go so smoothly.

So make sure you know what you want, because only when you know what you want can you work towards attaining it.


Learn to read your partner’s mind

This post was first published on LOLA’s blog on Sep 17, 2013. I’m putting it here as a backup copy. Click here to see the original post.

Whether you’re in a solid relationship or dating, how do you know he or she is the one for you? Most people probably would say it’s about how well the two of you could “click”. Some might say it’s the level of understanding and trust between you two.

Personally, I think it’s both. There are three tools here that I’ve found that might help you decide if you two are a good match or perhaps strengthen the bond between you two. I’m pretty sure there are more out there, but I’ll just share these three because they’re simple, fun and enlightening.

Who am I?
Question: How well do you know yourself? Think about that for a moment. If you don’t know yourself well enough, how can you expect your partner to know you, and vice versa?

Don’t worry, there’s still hope. Why not take the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality test? Once you’ve taken the test, you can read about your profile here. This is a personality test that has four categories, each with two possible types, giving a total of 16 possible combinations. I took the test and my profile was right on the mark. One of the most accurate personality tests ever.

Do note that this test shows you your preferences, not your aptitude or degree of strength for these. Also remember that your preferences can change. You’re definitely not the same person you were several years ago. Did you know that every seven years, all the cells in your body have been replaced? So, technically speaking, you’re a totally new person every seven years. It’s not that far-fetched to think that your personality will change too.

On the section of relationships, it will tell you who your natural partner is, although keep in mind that any two individuals can enjoy a healthy relationship. You’ll also be able to see your strengths and, more importantly, your weaknesses. If both you and your partner understand, accommodate for, and are aware of each other’s weaknesses, then you’ll have an easier time communicating with each other.

This brings me to the next part: communication. Communication is arguably the most important thing in a relationship. So many problems in relationships could be avoided if only both parties would talk clearly to each other, in a language they understand. I don’t mean languages like English, Mandarin, Malay or Tamil. No, I mean getting your point across to the other person in terms that person can comprehend.

Let me share with you the last two tools you can use to improve your relationship or decide if you two are compatible.

If you wanna be my lover
Love has different languages; five, in fact. The 5 Love Languages was created by Gary Chapman, author of the book with the same title. I strongly recommend you beg, borrow or steal buy this book. The 5 languages are Physical Touch, Quality Time, Acts of Service, Words of Affirmation and Gifts.

Not everyone speaks the same language of love. If you know your partner’s love language, you’ll be able to express your love to them in the best way they understand.

Guys, ever wondered why, no matter all the gifts you give her, she says she doesn’t feel loved? Her love language is probably not gifts. Perhaps it’s Quality Time and you ought to spend time with her, doing things together. Or maybe it’s Physical Touch, so hugs and cuddling might be more appropriate. Or what if she’s just plain mad at you? Doing the dishes (Act of Service) probably won’t free you from her wrath if her love language is Words of Affirmation.

This is where the second communication tool comes in…

The Canadian Way
The Apology Profile was also made by Gary Chapman and it’s in the same vein as the 5 love languages. It’s more on how you’d prefer others apologize to you, rather than expressing love. Guys especially should pay attention here. In an argument, saying sorry (and meaning it!) to her doesn’t mean she’s right. It means you value your relationship more than you need to be right.

The different ways the people receive apologies are Expressing Regret, Accepting Responsibility, Make Restitution (making amends), Genuinely Repent and Requesting Forgiveness. Click here to find out your profile.

I think this is probably the most useful tool here. Knowing your partner’s apology language is very powerful and also provides you with a guide on what to do when you have an argument. I’m sure many people would be at a loss as to what to do after a fight. It’s difficult to apologize, but if you know your partner’s profile, then you know exactly what to do to calm him or her down. Chances are, once you apologize, they’ll be more willing to help right what has gone wrong.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this post as much as I did writing it and perhaps learnt a thing or two. These tools will help you learn more about yourself too, so do take the quizzes even if you aren’t in a relationship. Also, this could be a fun first date activity and will give you and your partner plenty to talk about *hint hint*


Introducing the Introvert (me)

I am an introvert. I’m fully aware of that and I like it that way. I like peace and quiet, I like solitude, I like being independent. I don’t like crowds and unnecessary noises. I don’t like shouting.

Let me share my definition of “introvert”. An introvert is someone who is independent and prefers his/her own company more than that of other humans. What this means is that while I like being alone, I don’t want to be alone all the time.

Being antisocial means (IMO) purposely rejecting any attempts to socialize. An antisocial guy would answer in one word answers or short sentences, or treat the other person as if he or she was a distraction to whatever he was doing before.

But I am not antisocial. Not all the time, anyway.

We introverts have an energy store when we interact with people. The more people there are, the more energy is drained, and once that is used up, we become withdrawn and exhausted. Now we become antisocial, because we have to recharge. During this time, I like to recharge my “people batteries” by doing self-reflection activities like blogging and walking.

This is like the 7th Habit (Sharpen the Saw) in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Steven Covey.
End Aside

Introverts are actually very vocal in the right situation. When I’m with the right person or group of people, my carefree side tends to come out and I am so much more sociable. I’m very loud, crack a lot of jokes and generally make a fool of myself. My energy doesn’t deplete as much or as fast as when I meet people I don’t know.

Introverts are extroverts with only a select group of people. If someone who’s naturally an introvert becomes extroverted around you, consider yourself lucky, because it means he/she is incredibly comfortable with you and will tend be much more open towards you.


Overseas Student Internship Program (OSIP) Experience

This post was first published on the FBI (Financial Business Informatics) blog on Oct 25, 2012. I’m putting it here as a backup copy. Click here to see the original post.

Matsue National College of Technology (MNCT), Japan
23rd July – 14th October 2012

I was sent over to Matsue, Japan, on a Student Internship to study robotics. This was a 12-week program and it was one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve ever gone through. I mean, how often is it that you get to play with Lego-like toys AND still have it count towards your internship? Well, that was exactly how it felt like for the first two weeks. Using Bioloid parts from Robotis, I created several different sample robots, loaded in their respective sample codes and watched them work.

01 OSIP Japan Group Photo at Airport

This was just to get me familiar with building and programming the robots. Now the difficulty level increased a little. After the third week, I built a simple robot arm and had to program it from scratch. I was taught Kinematics and Inverse Kinematics, and I had to be able to construct programs that allowed the robot arm to move given either angles of the joints or coordinates within its reach.

Kinematics and Inverse Kinematics were basically trigonometric equations used to tell the robot what to do, but I hadn’t touched it in three years, so I was more than a little rusty. Kinematics, or Forward Kinematics, was about telling the robot what angles to achieve in its joints, then have it display the coordinates. Inverse Kinematics, obviously, is the reverse of this.

02 Hard at Work

One of the difficulties I faced was the simplicity of the code I used, Embedded C. It could process floats, but not display them. This was a little annoying at first, because I’d only see integers and wonder why I should have gotten decimal points. The solution we eventually arrived at was to concatenate the integer, a full stop, and the decimal part multiplied by 100 to become and integer. This wasn’t foolproof, as we had problems with decimals like .01 and .06, but it was the best we could do with such a simple language. I wasn’t too thrilled with that. Anyway, during the last month, I had to create an experiment task for the October intake of students. It was a simple report and my supervisor guided me through.

Looking back at this internship and comparing it to my friends’, I now see that it was not too difficult. It had its bumps along the way, but I would have appreciated something a little more challenging. However, this has brought me one step closer to my career goal of experiencing all non-obsolete programming languages at least once.


TP Campus Relay 2012

This post was first published on the FBI (Financial Business Informatics) blog on Jul 22, 2012. I’m putting it here as a backup copy. Click here to see the original post.

It’s that time of the year again. Students and lecturers from all over Temasek Polytechnic gather for some fun involving stretching, short sticks, and sweat. That’s right; it’s the annual campus relay! This year, I was lucky enough to take part to represent my course, Financial Business Informatics (FBI). There were 46 teams from the six different schools (and the SAA) this year, and since most of the teams each represented one course, one could say this was an inter-course competition. *smirk*

Bad jokes aside, this was a serious matter for my course, as we were hoping to maintain or beat our standing last year. Three weeks leading up to the race, we started training together and this proved to be essential at ferreting out the best runners. Mr Lim kept making changes to the groups and in the end we ended up having two teams for FBI, named F1 and F2. We did have a lot of motivation to run though; the pressure of doing well, Mr Lim contacting us to make sure we came and, of course, free drinks.

01 TPRelay Group 1
Team FBI F1 with Director/IIT

02 TPRelay Group 2
Team FBI F2 with Director/IIT

All that training eventually paid off. Although we didn’t improve our positioning (still 6th place), our overall timing improved by almost a minute! I feel that this was a great achievement, and I think everyone was quite satisfied, especially since we each got a shiny medal!

03 TPRelay Win
Our hard work paid off!

In my opinion, this is a great event for lecturers and students to bond, as well as a fun way to exercise. It’s not every day you get the chance to out-do your lecturer. Nor in fact, for your lecturer to out-run YOU!