2016

Wow… this post took ages to write.

I’m not used to talking about myself this much I suppose, especially when almost nobody reads the blog anyway.

Disclaimer: This post is full of trashy opinions and writing. I do not take responsibility for any deaths caused. Please read at your own risk.




Happy new year! 🎉

Man, 2016 feels like it was just yesterday. I can’t believe 2017 snuck up on me like that, but I’m not too disappointed in leaving 2016 either.

I was planning to rant about the bad parts of 2016, but I don’t think it’s good to end the year off on a bad note. I’m not good with summaries (I have a pretty bad memory), and I’m no philosopher, but I’ll try my best to write about my take on 2016.

The World’s 2016

I believe 2016 was a particularly shocking year for everybody. Many wondered if 2016 was the worst year in the history of mankind. It’s hard to not see why.

The terrors of terrorism ran rampant in everyone’s minds, in part due to the media blowing the news up as usual (no pun intended, really). We encountered the refugee crisis in the Middle East, Islam extremists and bombing attacks. We saw the events of Brexit and Donald Trump’s election as president of the United States, events that truly highlighted the role of “fear” and “anger” in our society – how both can unite as well as destroy.

Truth be told, it was difficult visualising what a terrorist attack or something similar would feel like. I think I’ve taken my safety in my country for granted, since we have an effective police force and no rights to bear arms, there’s not much room for any large-scale coordinated attacks in my opinion. Even though we certainly should be prepared when something like that happens, but after all, no news is good news; we’ve got to applaud our Ministry of Defense for doing a solid job maintaining the peace.

As for the Brexit and Trump events, I’ve gotten so sick of seeing Stephen Colbert joking about “today’s Trump news” and American media bringing Trump into the limelight that I’ve stopped following politics completely (there isn’t as much politics going on locally and good heavens I’m thankful for that).

I’ve spent about 3 months studying about the causes and impacts of globalisation in Social Studies last year so I’m quite worried by the brewing anti-globalisation sentiment to be honest. Globalisation has been developing a sense of xenophobia among people in the west, and for them to pursue an anti-globalisation, isolationist policy would cripple us in Asia, who heavily depend on exports. I believe Trump aims to raise trade traiffs with Asia, which would drive the prices for goods produced here up and diminish demand for our products. For us who heavily depend on international trade, we will stand to lose out.

Please don’t make us suffer… >.>

Online, I’ve seen tons of drama happening last year, blown up by the news and social media. Reaction videos are still alive, some Youtube channels try to be political, and then we have the whole episode concerning DramaAlert (top-grade irony right there) with some other prominent YT celebrities.

Truth be told I’ve also stopped caring about Youtube ever since it decided to mess up my recommendations with shit I can’t care less about, which makes finding stuff I like even tougher. But for me to even acknowledge something like this? I’d say my main takeaway from last year is now that I’ve become a consumer of news and events that are happening only in the US, I’ve pretty much neglected stuff happening in my region, which is pretty troubling.

Nevertheless, I’m glad that there were some enjoyable memes last year (Although Leonardo DiCaprio helped to open up the year with his Oscar win, and hence, resulting in the death of the meme, congrats, Leo). I’d dare say that 2016 was the year where we saw an evolution in the way memes were being used, once again thanks to their sensationalisation by the news and social media. Memes were used to comment on news (Melania Trump), cope with deaths (Harambe, the Russian ambassador assassination, I know the second treads on a delicate line, but we haven’t seen much sensitivity last year anyway), and as usual, an unrefined and self-indulgent sense of humour (PPAP, Damn Daniel).

We also managed to clinch our first Gold medal in the Olympic Games last year as well. Joseph Schooling, you’ve done us proud 😭

I’m no reporter or journalist, but even though there are tons of sites out there giving you better quality summaries of the events of 2016, no “happy new year” post is complete without a subpar recollection of the previous years’ occurrences anyway + the opinions of yours truly.

My 2016

Here’s my thoughts on 2016.

2016… was a messy year for me. I suffered from depression, breakdowns, and strained relationships. Didn’t help that there were some family issues as well, but I’ll leave that to another day.

January

I spent my first 10 weeks being a House Committee Member for my Year 3 juniors who were boarding in my school. Being part of a planning committee and having to take care of juniors were refreshing and pretty enjoyable. But the memories that I brought back weren’t.

I was firstly busy as hell with schoolwork and programming. Being the shy and anti-social idiot I am, I found it hard to socialise with the people with the juniors staying on the same floor, who were mostly jocks. I don’t really click well with that specific group of people. But I learnt a lesson in judging people by their covers – it turns out they were friendly and approachable. Sure, they maintained that sense of arrogance that most jocks have IMO, but they were cool to hang around with.

(There was a small segment here where I was commenting about how I messed up a relationship with one of my fellow house committee members. I realised soon after that I was pretty much just shittalking about him behind his back, and since it’s not nice, I removed those paragraphs. Sorry.)

March

My memory of the subsequent months is pretty hazy, but I remember being obsessed over writing code and neglecting my studies. I joined the FNG Discord server, where I met David and Falzar, the Tatsumaki team’s old guard. I soon became part of the team, and was preoccupied with making a “revolutionary” core rewrite, which I think took a large toll on my health and academics.

We did get the job done though - I rewrote all of their code stinks, modularised the structure, and abandoned the original bot core it was using. We managed to reduce overall memory usage while simultaneously tripling our guild count (10k to 33k).

Pardon the dev talk, but that was particularly important in helping me realise my flaws and limitations, especially as an amateur dev. I also received a lot of shit from people on twitter because “hurr durr js sucks nodejs sucks you should go kys”, which made me question what I was trying to do with coding and my life in general.

I didn’t touch my notes at all until pretty much half a month was left till my final exams.

August

So, our school has this 9-week holiday GAP semester, a journey of self-discovery, where we get the opportunity to sign up for courses that allows to fly overseas for immersion programmes, join work attachments, etc.

I originally signed up for the Bali culture programme because, well:

  • culture
  • arts
  • music
  • lots of nature
  • feedback was pretty good so why not?

Due to the looming threat of ISIS in the region and some festivities going on at that time which weren’t welcoming to foreigners as well, our trip had to be cancelled pretty early on. I respect the teachers’ decision and unwillingness to risk our lives, but I couldn’t help but feel really really salty, especially since I gave up a trip to the Silk Road to participate in this.

Beggars can’t be choosers - I had to replace the 2-week slot which the Bali trip originally filled up with some other courses. This was my final schedule:

GAP courses


Week 1

My first week was a Biochemistry course about “exploring the world of molecules”, offering extended coverage of our organic chemistry and immunity system modules, the latter of which was removed from our exam syllabus. I suck at Biology, but I feel these two subjects complement each other well (or should I say, they have good chemistry) and it was a rather interesting course at least. There were a lot of hands-on activities too - we made plastic from milk (because of the casein present) and played some card game about viruses and bacteria

For all of our GAP semester courses, we students have to complete some sort of assignment or test (to show that you’ve been paying attention in class) in order to get your passing grade. Normally it’d be pretty easy, but I had to miss the first lesson for a dental appointment, and how unfortunate - the very lesson I skipped was spent covering all the course materials. Yet somehow I managed to pass in the end, even though I only flipped through the notes. wewlad

Week 2

I had an Economics course for the 2nd week. I think my classmates didn’t particularly like it, but heck I really enjoyed myself. This course was taught as a fusion between Economics and Geography, which I honestly feel is probably the best complementation of two subjects. We learnt about various economic principles, the motivations behind the creation of transnational corporations, their various components and their decisions in choosing locations for expansion; not to mention the impacts of such impactful multi-national organisations and their impacts on the lives of people and the environment.

Maybe I’m just interested in money, how it works, how it affects us and how it’s moved around…

We had to complete a written assignment about Maquiladoras. It wasn’t graded, so we all technically passed. Here’s a link to the original unpolished copy if you want to read it: pdf

Week 3

Calculus.

Yeah, I picked up a introductory course for calculus. I thought I needed an introduction to the Maths syllabus in JC.

Fortunately I still could remember a little from my Math classes on differentiation and integration so it wasn’t too difficult. But being in a class full of nerds who clearly shouldn’t have signed up for this course because they’re already 3 years ahead of the JC syllabus was a little irritating. I mean seriously, just because you study ahead doesn’t mean you should get the teacher to match your pace - it’s an asshole move, and it just looks like you’re trying to show off. Y’all should know I don’t care about whatever Laplace transform, I just came here to learn about differential equations.

Still, I found the lessons pretty interesting. I ended up passing the post-test too.

Week 4

I actually regretted choosing this course after I pressed the submit button, because I thought it would mean that I actually chose 3 Maths courses (including the Calculus one and a preparatory course for A Level Maths in the final week) which is kinda stupid considering you’d normally aim to have a diverse range of courses to try new stuff.

But heck, I enjoyed this course as well, since all we did was to sit in an air-conditioned room and play some iPad games. Oikonopolis (what the course was named after) looked like those shoddy city management games except it’s heavily centered on economic policies and generating $$$ for your “space colony”. We had to form teams of three to manage our city - team effort, boys.

We began rather poorly - unable to leave the bottom of the scoreboards - but I realised it was because we were being too conservative with our resources, so I ended up spamming tons of farmland to boost population growth and happiness + factories for economic growth and production. We quickly ascended the scoreboards to reach the top 3 for a couple of minutes. But we did it too quickly. Our mentor noticed and said something memey like:

Achieving growth is easy. Managing growth is not.

That pretty much sums up what happened - we couldn’t manage the growth and built way too many buildings, which left us with a deficit of funds and happiness, reducing production and bringing our glorious city into a severe recession. wew

Bottom of the scoreboards, boys. No assignment for this at least, so it’s a pass for all of us this round.

Week 5

I think weeks 5-6 was the peak of my GAP semester journey. It was an incredible experience to be honest, and I’m extremely grateful to be part of it, save for the fact that I didn’t get paid for this.

They were occupied by a work attachment programme to Timbre, a franchise of gastropubs that sports a centre stage where local bands and musicians can perform as well. They normally have their in-house bands performing, which I think is awesome - they don’t have to worry about finances and at the same time receive musical training at the Timbre Music Academy. Best of all, they can actually sing and play really well, which came across as quite a surprise to us.

The work attachment started off on a really bad note - I was late to the briefing after getting lost, and since my shoes were being washed, I had to wear sandals instead of normal covered shoes. Then I was also late on the first day because I mixed up the restaurant’s entrance with another building - although I was just 5 minutes late, the other 2 in my group were 20 minutes early, so it seemed like I was super unpunctual. 恥ずかしい

Anyway. There were about 20++ of us, so during the briefing we were assigned to various outlets and different roles. I was assigned to be an Ops member - “on the floor” serving and cleaning, and occasionally behind the bar - at Timbre @ The Substation with 3 other folks, 2 in ops and 1 in kitchen.

Timbre @ The Substation

Our jobs were pretty simple for the first 2 days - since we were new, we just had to arrive in early and prepare for opening - cleaning and rearranging the tables, preparing the cutlery and plates, etc. We were also given a quick rundown on the table numbering, and the process for serving food (from the kitchen) and drinks (from the bar): Organise the tabs that come out from the printer, then sign and spindle them when the food/drinks are ready.

Heck, the first day we arrived, there was only a single customer until the band members performing that day were on stage, to which the band was rather surprised and mentioned how it was their quietest evening. Well, it’s to be expected I guess - you don’t often see many customers on a Tuesday.

For the subsequent days, our working hours were longer - from 5pm to 2am - with transport and supper provided. I didn’t particularly mind, since I was pretty much nocturnal already, and it was a pretty good bonding session for us and the employees who worked there.

The other employees who worked there were all really nice. There was Rakesh, one of the part-timers (a true bro), who was helpful, kind and funny; Hanafi, our bartender, who was enjoyable to be around, could sing really well when he was dragged on stage to sing with the band, and he taught me a lot about bartendering when I worked with him for one night; and several others whose names I really can’t remember (I’m sorry!) although I can fondly recall their antics.

Things were a little complicated with my other 2 Ops schoolmates since there were both jocks, and while they were fun to hang out with, sometimes it was rather pressurising when they put on a kind of mocking attitude. Most of the time it just seems like they’re bent on trying to embarrass me, and I let that happen since I’m a shy idiot anyway. But they were good guys, and good workers, so while our personalities clashed I think we did a pretty good job overall?

It was hard for me at first since I’m pretty socially awkward and shy, but as time went by the three of us could handle the customers and orders pretty well even though there were some slip-ups - table number mixups, the kitchen staff mistakingly making 3 extra pizzas, and my failure in remembering to pass a customer a bottle of Tabasco sauce because I was really busy at that time which made him quite pissed. 本当に恥ずかしい

The three of us Ops members were given the chance to learn and actually make a mocktail of our choice. I would’ve loved to make a cocktail but our teacher-in-charge kept reminding us ever since day one that if we consumed alcohol, Timbre would’ve lost their liquor license. :c

Anyway, here’s the Mango Margarita that I made.

Super Duper Mango Margarita


On one of the nights, I also had the chance to visit another outlet to substitute one of my schoolmates who fell ill - Timbre @ Arts House - which is probably the coolest outlet, but also the busiest. I remember having a pretty large shock when I saw the difference in the number of customers: even on Saturdays (Timbre’s most hectic day) Substation was manageable, whereas on the weekday I went, the band was playing to a full house, and drinks had to be served in trays. I guess it’s the latter’s positioning in the business district, compared to the former which was tucked away from the city.

I also ended up committing some terrible mistakes during my time working there. First off it took me a while to confidently use the credit card billing system which ticked off one of my managers. Timbre also has this ongoing promotion for UOB cardholders which grants customers a 10% discount on food, and I didn’t check which card a customer gave to me until they came to me asking “where the discount was” on the receipt. The mistake would’ve cost them around 30 bucks? (_ _|||)

Overall, the Timbre experience taught me a lot about humility, adaptability and perseverance. Serving your customers with sincerity, putting up with the long working hours and difficult crewmates, and admitting your mistakes when you make them are all part of the package when you’re working, and I’m glad I had the opportunity to experience the working life + nightlife.

Also, workplace crushes are cute to watch.

Week 7

I took a 1-star Kayaking course, which I obviously passed, and got pretty tanned in the process.

Although I was unfit as hell, I picked up the techniques somewhat quickly, and managed to balance reasonably well without capsizing at all - except during the capsize drills.

Week 8

The next course, which I like to refer to as The Coffee Course, was about food’s relationship with our history and cultures. There were two parts - one where we explored stuff like food taboos (insects, snake bile, and I-don’t-even-understand-why-but-this-seriously-shouldn’t-be-here Durians) in certain cultures, along with a course on coffee appreciation, brewing, and its political and economic impacts on the region as well as globally.

This was a rather Geography-centric course and I’m not exactly a Geog student (long story) but it was an, uh, eye-opening and fascinating experience. It also turned me into a coffee fan which my mum isn’t too happy with.

The most memorable parts were the coffee outing, where we got to try out all 3 waves of coffee present in Singapore - Nanyang Gold Coffee, Spinelli Coffee and some hipster coffee store at the void deck of a building - while burning a hole in our wallets.

The teacher came in one day carrying a container full of fried worms, but holy shit were they delicious! They were very well-marinated aside from a certain “weird” flavour that I’ve attributed to the actual taste of the worm. If I were to compare the taste with another food, I’d say it’s like smaller but more chewy prawn crackers crossed with ikan bilis.

Week 9

I didn’t pay attention at all during this course ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

The stuff taught were the more useless topics supposedly to “free up” some of my time spent on Maths last year, but heck I’ve forgotten it all lol.

Don’t know how I ended up passing this one, but I did.

October

We studied our butts off for our O Level exams, a nation-wide examination that most students my age should be fretting over. I did not, however, since I was only taking the Chinese paper, which decides whether I have to take Chinese as a subject in JC. That was a fatal mistake.

I don’t think I did well, but I can’t blame anyone but myself for not studying as much as I could have.

November

For some reason, it’s harder to remember what I did two months ago in November than a year ago…?

I pretty much wasted my life away coding I guess. I revived haru and put a new Discord bot core on it, named iris after, well, someone.

My friends from my Discord server (Ming Dynasty (Season 2)) also watched 《君の名は》 which I feel may have been Makoto Shinkai’s best work yet.

I loved the artstyle. I loved the music. I loved the story including its plotholes. I loved the character, their designs, I loved the scenery, the level of detail in every single frame of the movie. In short, I’m very very very glad I didn’t torrent the 480p version with bad Chinese subs.

December

Ah yes, my family and I visited Bangkok, Thailand for a few days. We didn’t actually do much except (window-)shopping, mall-hopping and food-testing. The best dish I had there was this small bowl of green curry, which was hella spicy but I took the challenge of not having a single sip of water until I was done with the meal. I would have preferred to stay at home though.

Recently, I published v0.2.0 sylphy, which is my first NPM module. As you can probably expect now, it’s yet another Discord bot framework - a rewrite of iris, with a new modular system and gizmos and cool stuff.

2017

Here are some things I look forward to next year:

  1. Donald Trump’s presidential term
    I’m actually pretty interested in seeing what Trump has in store for the Land of Freedom.

  2. Operation Riajuu
    Honestly, I haven’t touched anime in such a long time I have no idea what my Twitter timeline talks about 90% of the time. But I’m planning on either being a closet weeb, or completely stopping all anime activities this year. I’ve gotta study to make up for my shitty EOY results.

  3. Movies and some anime
    Okay, I know I literally promised a paragraph above that I’ll at least reduce my anime intake, but seriously, look at the list:

    • 聲の形
    • クズの本懐
    • 政宗くんのリベンジ (Inorin is voicing the maid in this!!)
  4. New classmates, new me?!
    Deprived of the opposite gender, I’m not only interested in what new personalities my friends will put on in the company of the females, but I also kind of wonder what I’ll do, being a socially awkward loser and all.

Conclusion

If you were to ask me about my key takeaways from my entire year, I’d probably give you what I learnt during my GAP semester: the importance of managing relationships, adapting to and persevering in new environments, and maintaining humility during adversity.

Those 9 weeks granted me the opportunity to further explore the world with an open mindset, and I think these 3 key points are rather important if you’re thrown into a new environment suddenly (say, post-graduation) and have to cope with an ever-changing world.

Managing relationships is kind of about gaining friends, allies, mentors and rivals - all are important on one’s journey, be it one aimed at success or simply the struggle to keep afloat. Friends and allies help one other through difficult times, mentors help guide you with lessons and advice, while rivals serve as friendly competition and more often than not a good benchmark, someone you can learn about your weaknesses from.

Adaptability and perseverance aren’t talents or values - they’re skills cultivated from habits. When you’re not afraid to dive into unfamiliar surroundings, your perspective on dealing with the unknown changes, slowly forming a different habit and mindset. But it’s easier said than done - you’re still required to take the first step. I mean, just look at me, someone who wouldn’t even dare talk to customers - by the end of the Timbre work attachment I was pretty confident in my service, whether it was clearing or serving tables of customers, but I had to began by initiating with a simple question “Would you like me to clear your plates?”.

Finally, maintaining humility is very important as well. That involves admitting to, apologising for and reflecting upon our mistakes. It’s a simple gesture that actually means a lot more. When we apologise, we reflect upon our actions and come up with ways to prevent the same mistake from occurring. On the other hand, if we do not acknowledge the fault, then there will never be room for meditation. It’s not an action but a behaviour - understand that in a new environment, if we do not commit to self-reflection, we will end up causing our own downfalls as we refuse to learn from past deeds.

Anyway, like every single year, I’d like to give thanks to the people around me who’ve been encouraging me all the way:

  • My senior and mentor, who probably doesn’t want to be mentioned, for always being the listening ear even when I’m such an annoying brat, and providing mature advice for this young childish one;
  • My friends in Ming Dynasty for being comic relief;
  • My mother for lecturing me whenever I fuck up so that I can “wake up my idea”;
  • My friends in Twitter for putting up with my idiocies, and
  • My classmates for being part of the scenery.

Thank you everyone for a great 2016.

Here’s to an even better 2017.

I’ll be in your care. 🙇🏻

– a.