This week, we learnt to do a forum. We were split into teams of two to work on a forum together, using the kanban method. I think it’s a better method than scrum because it communicates clearly what’s in progress, what’s done, and what needs to be done. I don’t really like scrum because the daily meetings and sprints remind me of my time in an advertising firm and at the tv company. 

At the ad firm, we had daily meetings to talk abt the work, but it didn’t help if the problem wasn’t a lack of communication. The problem was poor sales. And the tv company, the problem was the workload/project was too much for an inexperienced team to handle and the main decision maker or client wasn’t regularly involved in the work progress. These led to tight crunches/many late nights as immovable deadlines loom and staff turnover was high. 

Anyway, we also learnt paired programming – how you work as a pair over a single computer, the driver verbalising his intentions and what he’s doing as he types his code and the observer checks and serves to improve the code through questions and suggestions. 

I want to improve my communication and my understanding of the rails and ruby code and architecture/system. 


Reflections: Model View Controller, Chatbots

Hi, it’s another week (week 3) down at Alpha Camp. This week, we learnt how to do an online photo album using Ruby on Rails, where the user can upload photos to the model(database).

I find this module a bit tough to understand because it introduces quite a bit of technical terms, you may call it jargon; it’s quite abstract and there’s a heap of folders and files generated. But I’m slowly going through it to understand what each component does.

I think what’s interesting is how Rails came to be. One guy who had lots of experience in designing/creating websites and databases saw how messy and repetitive it was, decided to come up with a framework (or library), and a way of defining the structure so that it’s not only faster to develop and get a website running, there’s also a common base for different developers to build on. So whenever you open up a rails site, even if it’s built by someone else, the folders still have familiar names which store familiar components, and you know which is which.

On another note, I’ve been thinking about what to do for our project. One idea I’m interested in is a chatbot. Sort of like Bus Uncle. When it first came out, I was quite blown away. Even though some of the responses were repeated, and even though the app wasn’t particularly quick in giving you the information you want (what bus coming at what time) and other apps can give you more than one bus’s info, I still used Bus Uncle more as it felt like I was engaging with a person. Even though I clearly know it’s a robot. But you know how people even talk to soft toys sometimes, we have a way of personifying objects. There’s an illusion or suspension of disbelief.

I think it’s amazing how far AI has developed in the recent one or two years. It’s almost by leaps and bounds. There’s AlphaGO playing GO against instances of itself and leveling up (sort of like Naruto who cloned himself so that he could get 2X or 100X results from training within a short time) and there’s computers playing atari games and learning from a blank slate through trial and error how to beat the game. Machine learning? I read that there’s also computers reading thousands of scripts so that they can come up with more interesting dialogue. That’s awesome. Although I do fear if computers are able to take over scriptwriting jobs one day.

Anyway, I think people have such busy lifestyles nowadays, and especially for older folks who have work/family and seldom meet up with their friends, there’s a gap for a listening ear in their lives. I know there’s facebook and instagram and whatsapp, but sometimes there’s certain things you’re unable to tell your friends or family. So perhaps if there’s someone you can talk to at your convenience (you don’t have to make an appointment like with a friend), it doesn’t matter if it’s a robot, as long as it can tell you a joke or make you smile – at your lowest point, that would be a most welcome relief anyway.

So maybe, if you have a chatbot that can ask you about your day and make you smile, and show that it cares about you (as it remembers your previous responses and references them), then when you give your answers and reflect on your day, you’re able to think things through and come out feeling more positive or lighter, that would be nice. It’s not a huge improvement, but it oils your day-to-day life.

Doors close and open, or they revolve

I haven’t posted here for some time, at least 5 years 4 months I think, since that was the amount of time I’ve been working at the broadcaster. Last Friday was my last day and i felt mixed about it. Sad that I was leaving a place with good colleagues and friends I’d gotten to know during the 5 years, the nice benefits scheme provided by the company, and the homely atmosphere where we were like family. Relief and some cautious optimism about my future.

When I entered the company 5 years ago, I thought this would be my last company. Having had a history of not lasting in workplaces for more than 2 years, this says a lot about how i regarded the place and the work.

I’ve worked in SMEs and MNCs, and I would say the atmosphere at the broadcaster was one of the best I know – a nice range of older and younger people, you could tell that some have worked here for years and are still passionate about the work, some are new but they are driven too.

But inevitably, times change. The workload got heavier, the system changed, I bonded with some colleagues on the same project but it came to a point when they decided to leave – for the sake of their health/personal lives – and I also began to wonder if it’s worth it – the late nights and burnt weekends. I knew I was getting burnt out. It was the same in some SMEs I worked in, invariably ad agencies.

Around my two-week break from work, my girlfriend got me a Nintendo Classic mini and I spent the time at home, playing games from my childhood and thinking about my situation. The NES homebrew community was strong and I recalled my interest in programming and tech. I decided to learn some programming languages online so that I may eventually go into that field, maybe. I studied CSS/HTML/Javascript on the train journey to work, seeing it as a respite from work stress – my way out.

Have you read the short story, The Ones Who Walked Away From Omelas, by Ursula Le Guin? I recommend it. It reminds me of the situation, where in order for the country/organisation to prosper, some individuals have to suffer.

So i thought about it, whether I should quit, and i saw that there was a full-time web development course coming up which i’m interested in, and i decided to take it up. I tendered, spoke to my boss about how I felt and why, and here I am. It feels like back to square one – in a way. I hope that i can still draw on my previous work experiences and leverage on them. Also, to avoid making mistakes I’ve made previously – like not speaking up enough. I’ll try to fix that. Alright, the future is unknown, but I will try my best again. Take care.

I am the crab pretender

Many years down the road, he would finally seek treatment with a psychiatrist to undo the years of damage of pretending to eat crab while struggling with the confounding mess of disembodied limbs encased in tough shell, (dammit if this is not evidence of inedibility), in order to seem normal and fit in with his friends in a social activity called the seafood dinner.

Yes, I am the crab pretender. I wanted to fit in. I wanted to fit in. But I can’t take it anymore. I wanted everyone to be happy at dinner. But no more, I shall not pretend anymore. Let this be said to the world! Give me your crab dinners and I shall go! Gladly! But I can’t pretend I’m a crab lover like the rest of the world anymore! Give me chicken, preferably deboned!

To Dhalsim, the fire-breathing yoga-practising Street Fighter

Dear Dhalsim,

How did u get this way?
You’re a fire-breathing yoga-practising street fighter, with elephants and elaborate carpet patterns in your white palace, your arms and legs they can extend so far and touch the other end. This room is not big enough for the two of us, wherever I run, I cannot hide. Because you like to shriek Yoga-Fire! and teleport right behind me.

Dhalsim, your AI is not too dull but you’re a sim. So after a few tries I learnt how to make you over-reach yourself too many times and I can jump over to you and give you my quad-hit combo that I practised many times twisting joysticks and banging buttons in dark empty arcades after school.

So now you’ve lost. And wow I finally beat you.

You’re mangled and bruised, your yoga powers spent, you hardly utter a sound, your head hung low.

But I realise even when I’ve beaten you, you still win me.

Because I can never make my knee touch my head like you. Nor teleport. Nor live in a giant palace full of riches inside a rickety wooden cabinet of electronic circuits and transistors forever.

Teach me yoga so I can beat Blanka please.

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