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Attempted to write a quick tutorial today. This attempt was mostly borne out of my frustration with the tutorials/documentation that was publicly available. A lot of the existing guides failed to properly explain missing elements, making it a rather painful experience to implement a basic serverless authentication feature.

Writing this tutorial made me realize that it is not easy at all to write tutorials. There are so many things to consider, from language and clarity to accuracy and completeness. Makes one better appreciate the amount of time and effort that goes into these kind of stuff, especially when the topic is new and sparsely covered.

Anyways this is what I wrote – 2076511817. I have been wondering lately if I should start a technical blog, since writing more is one of my 2018 goals. We will see.

NB: I was really sleepy when I wrote it, hence it’s pretty crappy :3

On Migrations and Life

Just migrated this site and mypf to AWS Lightsail. Actually I wasn’t too aware that this site was down since around June. Hopefully moving to AWS will result in an improved uptime.

The migration to Lightsail was pretty smooth. Setting up the WordPress instances were a breeze and the DNS zones were very straightforward as well. Had to scratch my head a little to figure out how to migrate the whole site without paying for a premium plugin but some simple plugin configuration editing did the trick 🙂

Well this blog post is titled ‘Migrations’ instead of ‘Migration’ and rightfully so. Axie switched to a different team in January and he will be there until the end of this year. His immediate boss is pretty decent but honestly the office culture can get pretty political at times. He is getting a bit of exposure but honestly I don’t know if there is much for him to learn there. Well, at least there isn’t really anyone for him to learn from from a technical point of view.

I have meanwhile been working continuing my work with the UK startup. After a major frontend refactor and the addition of new blood, things will really started to take off. Weekly growth is in the 5-15% range and revenue has started to pick up. It has been fascinating working with such an early stage startup – it has been all about planning, executing new ideas, and throwing out shit that does not work. I really want to spend more time on statistics / data science / reading but at times I am just way too tired to do any of that :/ Been preparing for AWS’ SA certification but I am still a long way off from being ready for that.

It is a little too early to tell, but I feel like working has drained my soul in certain ways. I no longer have the same enthusiasm or idealism that I used to have. Only time will be able to tell what will happen next.

..

 

Every morning whenever I take the train to work, the one thing that crosses my mind is to jump on the tracks as the train hurtles down the tracks and just end this misery known as life once and for all. I am not ungrateful and unappreciative for everything that life has bestowed upon me, but sometimes I feel like this empty husk can no longer support the labour of going through the motions of living.

Working remotely has provided me with financial freedom but at the same time it has been a walking nightmare of stress and chasing deadlines. The concept is free, idle time is now lost within the sea of code writing and architecting. Once again, I am not not thankful for being afforded this opportunity, but it is killing me slowly. Or maybe I am just not mature and professional enough to juggle this.

In recent months, the sense of loneliness has also become stronger. It just feels like I have no one to talk to. I could talk to MY sometimes, and I do try to, but at the same time I dont think she can stomach the negativity that comes with it. And at the same time, I get the feeling that she finds my ranting uncalled for/unnecessary. Reminds me off those depression comics.

Ultimately, I am just so lost in life and I dont know what to do and frankly I have no one to turn to…

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Ah. The dichotomy could not have been sharper. While life returned to the earth with the gradual lifting of winter’s embrace, I found myself drawn deeper into the recesses of the library, forever engulfed by studying, or at least the act of studying. April was still kind of productive, from an academics point of view at least. Spent long (and mostly productive) hours in the library, thanks to a heavy dose of pomodoros. However I had failed to pace myself adequately and by May I was burnt out. I started questioning the whole purpose of forcing myself to learn subjects that I had no interest in (ie: monetary economics). By the time I finished my first two papers, I was totally burnt out. Studying monetary economics was one of the most painful things ever as I struggled with this almost existential crisis of motivation. Thanks however to Celestine for ‘forcing’ me to pull through.

Took part in AngelHack London in between papers. Although it was a crazily stacked team – ian, fuyong, wahloon and keng, we were unable to come up with a good idea and naturally things did not pull through. It was good to lose though. The (non-personal?) expectations of winning had been building up incessantly up to that point – always good to deflate these kind of unwarranted pressure.

Also attended Tech In Asia Singpoare. Was eye opening in terms of how bad the developer scene was. I am probably being a little harsh here and over generalizing / equating one conference to the general scene, but out of the 15 talks that were developer focused, only one or two had actual value. The rest of them were just grandiose sounding talks with important keywords thrown around but with little substance. Even more annoyingly, many of them were purely trying to sell their own companies or services than actually engaging in any meaningful transfer of knowledge.

June is here and finishing exams has been the most liberating feeling ever. I actually scribbled a short paragraph on the final page of my final paper to express how relieved and euphoric I was. One of the lines included “and now I am in this state of bliss where I am freed from the pressure of academic work but yet to be shackled to the chains of working life”. That is exactly where I am right now. There are so many plans that I have in mind – ML/stats/web/transportation/bots/qriousity. The list is excruciatingly long and am excited to get cracking on things.

Finally, thank you to this special person in my life. Love you 🙂

December/January

It has been quite a roller-coaster ride. I was supposed to write a single post for December, but thanks to some creative procrastination, I guess I have to settle for a combined post for both months.

After HackTrain in November, things have been moving swiftly on that front. The start of December saw our team’s participation in the post-hack reception (for HackTrain). We pitched our idea to a different set of judges and ended up as first runner ups this time around. This has translated into 25k GBP worth of accelerator funding. Have scheduled a meeting this Monday with the commercial director of one of the train-operating-companies and I have no idea what is going to occur. They seem rather open-minded to external sources of innovation, but my gut feeling is that the lines that they run do not require congestion easing solutions (should actually definitely do some research on this!). In any case, I am quite pessimistic about the chances of actually getting our project launched, but we shall see.

I apologize in advance for this laconic and extremely dry recounting of events. It is not that I do not want to better engage you, the reader, and also bequeath the future me a better understanding of the range of thoughts that I have had, but at this point I am plainly emotionally drained. It has been 7 months and 13 days, but yet I don’t think that I have really managed to move on. The two weeks or so have been extremely low points. There are many tasks to be completed and various responsibilities to attend to, but there are days that I just cannot muster the energy to get stuff done. I am doing things that excite me, especially in the machine learning field and coding in general, but sometimes i just want to curl up into a ball and not think about anything. I cannot fully pinpoint why I am feeling so depressed, but it mostly boils down to a general feeling of loss.

Spent about three weeks of December in the states with yinghang and john. Met up as well with wah loon, sheng, jyen, aaron, and patrick. The trip was slightly costly, but still pretty fun. Many days were spent coding, talking about various technology related topics, and chowing down amazing food. Could probably have attempted to see more the US, but I really don’t rue not having done so. Spent quite some time picking my friends’ brains apart. Each and every one of them have unique skills, expertise and perspectives, and I really wanted to learn all that I could from them.

Am in my third week of school now. It’s the last term of my undergraduate life and my schedule has been nothing short of crazy. Did a charity hitchhike to Rotterdam over one of the weekends (and reminded myself in the process that I really hate asking people for favours), started taking a graduate course on machine learning in school, worked on Qriousity (hmm there are organisation issues that I should really bring up), and I will be going to HackCambridge this weekend (have a few ideas floating around in mind, but considering the amount of code that I need to write for Qriousity, I might have to spend the time in Cambridge working on that instead, which is a shame).

Returning to the idea of Qriousity and startups (for want of a better phrase), one of the projects that I was working on abruptly (although not unexpectedly) broke down. Everyone just drifted away from the project and quietly moved on. What went wrong?

1. Expectations. The team had chosen to work on fashion and design, which was, to be honest, a topic that I had very little interest in from the get go. However I agreed to the topic because I expected one of the team members to bring in her machine learning skills. She didn’t, and naturally my motivation to contribute to the project declined. My unexpressed expectations remained hidden in the shadows, covered with a patina of toxicity.

2. Passiveness. When the project was being steered towards a completely unexciting angle of buying and reselling goods, I failed to express my disagreement. Instead I just turned a blind eye and told myself that ‘they will get it to work. I will let them lead the direction.’ Bad call on my part, and a lesson on being assertive well learnt.

3. The team. A well functioning team thrives on its diversity and upon the different skills that each team member brings with them. The artificial process that led to the creation of this team meant that a lot of us had very similar skill sets as we had all been trained in the same manner, and were pursuing similar degrees. There is no denying that my other team members are extremely talented, but, as a parallel comparison, even if we were to take the best chefs in the world and lock them in a room, they would be unable to solve a homogeneous differential equation.

It’s late. Till then.

October / November

It’s perplexing isn’t it? We always tell ourselves to live in the moment and to appreciate what lies before us. However in reality many of us fail to do so. We allow time to slip by, only to realize at the last moment that it is foolhardy to believe that the music does not end. Clinging desperately, we try to hold on to what remains.

This is the exact predicament that I am finding myself in. With roughly 8 months left in my undergraduate studies, the end is indeed looming in sight.

When I look back at my IB years, there are many regrets that I harbour. I wish I had been way less arrogant, less disrespectful towards my peers and more willing to take major risks. While obviously I cannot change what has occurred in that period of time, maybe there is still time left to mitigate the regrets that I will inevitably have of my time in the UK.

Cutting to the chase, one of the things that I do intend to do is to write a brief monthly journal of sorts to recount what happens over the next few months. So here it goes:

October. Was rather bogged down at the start of the month with hackathons. HackZurich was rather intense and was definitely a lot more competitive than HackGenY London. Although I didn’t win anything, I was pretty satisfied with the code that I was able to produce (Angular frontend). It also made me realize the importance of choosing one’s teammates carefully. Being in rather foreign territory and surrounded by a sea of people, I haphazardly agreed to join the first team that I met. This translated into a bad fit in terms of what I really wanted to do and what the team was set on solving. I ended up working on another refugee related platform project which was far less exciting than the hardware and big data hacks that I was interested in. Lesson learnt at least I guess.

The rest of the month was a bit of a wash. Back to back hackathons left me rather drained and I really did not want to work on anything. I wanted to spend time on improving code quality and reviewing some underlying principles that I glossed over initially, but most of the time I was too depressed to really get anything done. It is a little hard for me to recollect how I exactly felt during those few weeks. All I can say is that it was a mixture of disillusionment with life and hollowness as a result of the break up.

November. Three hackathons back to back. Snapped out of my lethargic haze.

      1. ProductHunt Hackathon: Built a site that generated random activity suggestions. Took up a technical lead role and had a lot of problems with code. JS Promises did not bloody work. Asynchronous processing created a huge mess. Horrible hackathon but expected considering the few hours that I had put into it.
      2. MasterCard’s Master of Code: Built an android app using react-native. Experienced first hand the importance of utilizing a mature platform with solid community support. Ian and I spent so much time getting the environment set up correctly and porting functionalities. Pair programmed with him on some parts and also wrote a simple API wrapper. Got lucky and made it to the top six finals thanks to some great pitching.
      3. HackTrain 2.0. I really did not want to go to this hackathon. Firstly, I was pretty burnt out. Secondly, this was an extremely competitive hackathon. Every one seemed to be either senior developers with years of industry experience or Masters/PhD students with backgrounds in CS or machine learning. The whole event was intimidating. Despite a really slow start, things worked out in the end and the team was pretty fun – everyone more or less clicked well.

Leading on from these slightly verbose descriptions of the hackathons, there is something that I want to slightly drill into, namely the functional value of business development people within the team (if any). While my first few events left me with a certain distaste of bizdev people (as they did not add any meaningful value to the project), Master of Code and HackTrain did made me change my mind. In the former, the bizdev person pitched the idea really well. The fact that he had the chance to get almost six hours’ worth of rest meant that he was on a totally different energy level to the other participants in the room when it came to pitching. In the latter, the bizdev person really pulled his weight in terms of defining a clear direction, asking pertinent questions and understanding the industry in great depth. He even managed to make the business model canvas feel relevant. Will definitely try to pick up some the techniques he used.

With regards to the rest of month, nothing much of consequence occurred. Worked on some Qriousity stuff. I am a little sceptical about the direction that the ‘AYTP Challenge’ is heading towards. The business case seems a little weak. But then, we will see.

I really need to start studying soon. That’s all for now.