Walking Diary

By Hsu Shen On

Lent Notes

March 2022

Every year I have got into the habit of giving up stuff during Lent. For a very long time, it was just no non-veg on Fridays for the family. Some years ago I came to know that my elder brother had a family tradition. He had a family meeting before Lent and decided amongst themselves what each would give up for Lent. The kids usually gave up candies and Ko would give up Youtube. Learning from that I got into giving up Youtube as well, as with everyone I found that a lot of time has been spent watching Youtube. It has and still is very addictive for me. One of the years my niece, knowing I love Pokemon, told me to give it up!

This year since I have no interest in Pokemon anymore. I thought of doing something else. One idea was instead of giving up something. I got myself to do something every day. Which otherwise I would be lazy to do. So the idea came up to start writing at least one paragraph every day, on any topic.

I have started doing this every day, and so far so good. I have written quite a bit by now. Most of these are personal experiences and opinions. I will probably not share them, maybe a few on the blog, and a few more to the close ones.

I think writing in general is a good habit to cultivate. I am into maintaining notes both for work and personal. This helps as a reference and planning. Writing crystallises the thoughts into something more concrete which you can look at. It is one reason I started blogging a few years ago, it was supposed to be at least once per month. Doing it less frequently now but will try to revive it. The thing about writing is, it stays. Just like a photo it is a snapshot of the time. It might be interesting many years from now to look back at these Lent notes.

Free Week

January 2022

I had some pending leave, and so took the last week of the year off. Generally, when I take a long vacation it is usually for going on some trip. This time made no such plan, instead planned to stay mostly home and do some R & R(rest and recreation). Advice: It is a good idea to always take a break sometime from whatever you have been doing for a long time.

One of the things to do was to walk around and click some photos with my Fuji camera. It has been a long time since I clicked some photos with it. I love looking at photos, from time to time I like to take photos also. I would not rate myself, some photos come out nice from time to time. Am sure that if I put more effort(like learning to set the settings in camera) I could be semi-decent in it but too lazy to do that. I got my brother to set it once, but now I just do not play with it :). My philosophy about photography can be summed up with the movie dialogue “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen”. In a scene Sean Connery tells this to another character after seeing his shooting technique, “Very American. Fire enough bullets and hope to hit the target”. This is what I do, take multiple shots and maybe one will come out well :)

I thought it would be a good experiment to walk each day starting from one particular spot in one direction. So one day go West, next North, next East, and last South. Three days done, below is the link to the pics.

North: https://flic.kr/s/aHBqjzwE4z West: https://flic.kr/s/aHBqjzwyTm East: https://flic.kr/s/aHBqjzwUEn

The Office

July 2021

One of the things during the Pandemic is you consume even more streaming content. I have found myself spending long hours daily moving from Youtube, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hotstar, Sony Liv. Binge-watching long series has become a regular practice. One of the best ones, which I enjoyed from start till finish, is The Office. The 9 seasons have all been super funny and highly enjoyable to watch. I would say it’s probably ranked second in comedy series after my favorite Seinfeld.

Premise

“This mockumentary follows the everyday lives of the manager and the employees he ‘manages.’ The crew follows the employees around 24/7 and captures their quite humorous and bizarre encounters as they will do what it takes to keep the company thriving.” -IMDB

The way they show how the show plays out and in parallel, the characters get to interview the shooting crew explaining their opinions of the current situation. Then, in the end, it goes meta, where the show is showing the show which was shot during all the years. It is very creative and interesting.

Characters

All the characters and people who acted are great and interesting. The character itself is very different and interesting, plus the people who acted did their job very well. I love all of them. The mark of a great movie/series is that people remember the characters even after many years. I am sure Micheal, Jim, Dwight, Pam will remain with me for a very long time.

Writings

After going through more into the behind-the-scenes of the show, one of the main reasons for the success of the show is the writers. Many actors in the shows also double as writers and producers for the show. The storyline, the characters are all very good because they were written very well. There are only a few times when you feel that these episodes are not fun, that this storyline is no good. Almost all the episodes had a good story, that is saying a lot for a series that had 9 seasons.

Moments

There are many scenes that I loved.

Forever song for the wedding The whole scene was shot, choreographed beautifully with so much fun in it. Also if you go through the Youtube rabbit hole with this, you will find many people recreated this which are also fun to watch. Forever song

The roast of Michael Scott The episode when all the employees get their chance to roast their boss was funny. It is like everyone got their ultimate chance to take a dig. Roast

Goodbye Michael The episode when Micheal Scott leaves the show was done beautifully. It did feel like genuinely they all loved Micheal and gave him a grand farewell. Goodbye

First Aid Fail There are many crazy memorable scenes of Dwight. This is one such where he goes over the top. First Aid

Dundies Another interesting original idea that was introduced, to give ridiculous awards to employees for ridiculous reasons. Super funny. Dundies

Overall I loved the show, and enjoyed it thoroughly and it is totally worth bingeing and rewatching it.

Following sports by not watching it

April 2021

Don’t remember when I exactly stopped watching sports live but realized as much as love sport I actually watch very few matches live now. I still try to watch Arsenal matches whenever possible, but I do miss a lot of matches for various reasons. The main reason mostly is the timing of the matches. Most of the sports I would like to watch are played in different time zones. I used to watch Cricket a lot being a big Sourav fan after he left, my interest waned in that.

Nowadays, I follow a few sports by actually not watching any of the games, but by listening to the commentary, analysis on it, and watching the highlights. Most recently I started following the NFL due to the Tom Brady phenomenon, and what a season to follow him, he just won the Super Bowl! What a story that is, an old guy going to a new team that has not won in a long time, most people writing him and Tampa Bay off, and he and his teammates bringing the trophy home. That is the magic of sport I love, anything can happen. It was fun following it mostly on Youtube. I never watched a single match, not even the final!

I listen to the ESPN analysis team on Youtube discuss it. And the way they do it is actually both informative and fun. Like Stephen A Smith, that guy is special, the way he talks. Even though it’s BS sometimes you still love it. He is super entertaining. The other sport I follow religiously now is NBA, I have become a Luka Doncic fan, that youngster is something special. There are also so many other teams with their own special players making things competitive.

My favorite sport is Football, which is probably the only sport I still try to catch the odd match live. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy the excitement of watching it live, the super tackle, the special save, the beautiful pass, the wonder goal, all these if you do not watch live you do not fully appreciate it, even though later you can watch a highlight of it. It’s strange and I am sure I am not the only one who has started following sport this way.

Sandwich

December 2020

This one is a random topic selected by my family to write about. My brother is making his son write an essay on various topics since he has not been going to school due to the pandemic. So this is sort of extra homework. My nephew is quite creative and smart but seems like he is not currently enjoying the exercise after having done it multiple times now. So while we were discussing his writings, someone came up with the idea of all of us writing an essay on one selected topic. So the random topic was ‘Sandwich’.

My brother, his wife, and son have all written quite an interesting piece on this already. My turn to write something, this is a little challenge cause, the blog I have written is what I have chosen to write. So it is easier, now a topic has been selected and one which is quite random am not sure how to tackle it. When you want to write, especially when you know others will read it, you want to make it interesting. One way is to be unique, one way to do that is to have a personal experience/perspective to it. Since if you write it with a personal touch, it is of course going to be unique as generally that would mean no one else could write a similar piece.

Now I do like sandwiches, but it is not really a favorite. I have had very good ones, like Subways, the sandwich from New Market over the years. If I do not have it for a long time, it is not like I get a craving for it, unlike some of my favorite food like Biryani. So how to write about sandwiches if the food is well fine but not a whole lot interesting to me. (Side note for my nephew, see what I did here, when you do not have much material to write about the topic, I was just able to ramble along and just wrote half of the essay even without getting to the main topic!)

So the way I will tackle this is, to actually not write about the food, am going to write about the word ‘sandwich’ instead. Now sandwich as a word has been used in many contexts other than the food.

The sandwich as a verb: “to put something or someone in a small space between two other, usually bigger, things or people: ” It is a very common feeling especially for a smaller person, as a child to be sandwiched and believe me it is not something you like. Like when I was a kid traveling in a car, even though one would prefer to be near the window, you would be normally designated the middle seat, so being sandwiched between two elders. Another time, I remember being in the middle front seat, where I had to spread my legs cause the gear stick was being controlled in between them!!

Sandwich course: “a college course consisting of periods of study with periods of work between them so that students get practical experience” this in my opinion is a great idea, to be able to experience real work while learning for a degree is invaluable.

Sandwich generation: “a way of referring to the group of people who have old parents as well as young children, so they have to take care of both of their parents and of their children” Unlike westerners, Asians generally would experience this phase, and it is both a joy and huge responsibility. Kudos to the sandwich generation.

(Side note, so you see if you ever get stuck, think out of the box, with your creative head you will find a way to fill the pages easily, and remember to give your mum and dad a break, they are a sandwich generation :) )

Corona Diary: Hobby

July 2020

One thing being quarantined at home for so long teaches you is being creative about how you spend your time. I look at my dad’s routine, he basically just sleeps, eats, and watches TV/mobile/iPad, and very little of anything else. And that got me thinking that I need something other than just being a couch potato.

I am thinking, everyone needs to have some kind of hobby/interest to keep us busy.

I need to find one for myself. At various times I tried learning guitar, learning mandarin, doing some creative writing. All eventually either I gave up on or lost interest in. The only interest I have which has sustained me all these years is my love for reading but that again is a little too passive.

It has to involve some, even minor physical activity. I will keep looking else I will end up like my dad.

Corona Diary: Steer into the skid

May 2020

I was watching a TWiT podcast and one guest, Amy Webb, explained a new concept(to me) which I found very interesting. She called it ‘Steer into the skid’, which I later found is a saying people use.

She explained that if there is uncertainty we should not do what the initial normal reaction would be, and just try to stop immediately and try to return to normal. But instead to try to lean into the problem and accept the issue, and adjust accordingly and find a new way to deal with it.

Like if you are driving and suddenly hit an icy road and start to skid. A normal reaction would be to put the brake and stop immediately. This may make things worse but instead what you should do is, let it skid and try to slowly steer towards the road.

She said this in the context of the Coronavirus issue the whole world is facing currently. She explains that it is a wrong idea to just want to get everything back to normal. Currently a lot of countries have been in severe lockdown mode for a long period, and because of that economy has suffered badly. So a lot of people are getting restless and want the businesses to open up again.

This time we should not just try to go back to normal, business as usual. The better solution is to try and find a new solution( a new way of living), accept that this will go on for a year or more, and find a new way to cope with this. Once we accept the problem then we can start working towards a creative solution even though it would not meet our demand to get back to normal. We all must accept the new normal.

Writing tools

May 2020

Here is a list of tools that helps me write. It is ranging from simple note-taking to writing for my blog. What is common to them is that they are simple to use and are free tools( Since I am a cheap person 🙂) Most of them also work across devices.

 

OneNote

I love to take notes. I take notes for all sorts of things like the TO-DO list, for some information, for planning, organizing. Taking notes helps me in planning, decision making. Also useful for a quick lookup when the information is needed. This is my go-to application for note-taking. It is simple to use and since it syncs to the cloud, I can access my notes everywhere. I use it mostly as an android application on my smartphone. Since it is always with me, It helps me keep useful information available to me all the time.

 

Notepad++

Being a Windows guy, I used to use notepad a lot for short note-taking. Now I use this application instead. I use it basically for taking rough notes, so no fancy formatting needed, only just plain texts will do. It does provide me with certain extra features that notepad did not like: multiple tabs for taking different notes. It is also helpful when I need to do a small edit of HTML, code files as it supports multiple languages. I just like this because the application is lightweight and simple to use.

 

Google Docs

I used to use Office Word a lot earlier, but ever since I discovered this, I use this mostly. Firstly it is free, secondly, for my purpose, this is more than sufficient. It has all the main features that I require, like simple formatting, spelling, and grammar checking. It lets you download the document as Word file or as PDF.

I use this extensively for all my writings, like for documentation for any projects, notes, information details for various stuff. Study notes on various topics. My usual flow when writing a blog would be to first write it here, it provides me the basic spelling checks, grammatical checks, and suggestions.

This has also become my repository of all notes, documentations. Since I can access it any place across any device that becomes very useful.

 

Grammarly

This is a great tool to help you write better, it provides you with all the basic spell checking and grammatical checking. Additionally, it provides you helpful tips/suggestions to a written sentence. Though Google docs is pretty good, this application is even better in helping you with better writings. This has become my go-to now, whenever I need to write something important. I would put the text here and just verify what needs to be changed, and in general, I find I need to correct many mistakes.

Data analysis

April 2020

In today‘s world data is super important, those who have a lot of it become successful, like Google, Facebook, Amazon. The more data you have the better knowledge you have and so decision making becomes easier. For example, when a lot of people buy a product on Amazon, Amazon will get the information firstly to stock more of that product, secondly, since that kind of product is very popular, so introduce more of the same in the Store.

Individually also we must consume as much information(data) as we can. We live in an era where we have an abundance of it. We are constantly bombarded with it from everywhere. The Internet, the smartphone have made it possible for the free flow of data.

It is good we have a lot of data but equally important part is how you interpret it. A person can look at a set of data and interpret it differently than others. What is real, what is fake, how do you decide. Trump has made popular the term ‘fake news’. It has become far too easy to spread fake as real, and real as fake cause most people are not doing enough critical analysis of the data they are being given. They instead just trust the source. So a Trump supporter will believe whatever he says even if it is ridiculous.

Let me give an example of data interpretation and why it is important. A few months ago I went to church, and the priest gave a sermon. Generally, like many people, it is hard for me to pay close attention to what the priest is saying, my head goes to someplace else after some time :). Every once in a while you will find a preacher saying something interesting. This was that time, the priest was able to get my attention from the very beginning by the way he talked. He was a very good speaker.

In one part of his sermon, he said and I am paraphrasing here, that from one study the growth from the year 2010 to 2015 of ‘common-law marriage’ (a marriage without a civil or ecclesiastical ceremony, generally resulting from an agreement to marry followed by the couple’s living together.) has been 80% while normal marriage has been 40%. If you listen to it without thinking much, it looks like people just living together has become much more than who is getting married. Since the person speaking here is a priest, this is very bad news. Also, he is an important person to his listener, most people take it in and believe it.

The issue with that interpretation is this, the comparison is not correct unless you provide more context to it. Since the number of ‘common-law marriages’ against ‘normal marriage’ is very small, it will grow at a much faster rate than ‘normal marriage’. Here is an example with numbers. Say in 2010 the number of ‘common-law marriages’ was 10, and the number of ‘normal marriages’ was 1000. In 2015 the number of ‘common-law marriages’ was 18, that is 8 more people got added to it, which makes it an 80% growth. And similarly, in 2015 the number of ‘normal marriages’ was 1400, that is 400 more people got added to it, which makes it a 40% growth. So if you just look at the growth rate and compare the two, 80% is so much more than 40%, but in fact, in the 5 years ‘common-law marriages’ increased by 8 and ‘normal marriages’ increased by 400.

So the context here is important, I am not saying the priest is deliberately misleading his congregation. He may have been sincere in his approach, but failed to give more context to those numbers. But this is not always true for most people/organizations, we are constantly being fed some data/news to deliberately mislead us. What is important is to learn to do critical thinking (analysis of the data), don’t just accept whatever is being told to us.

On Education

March 2020

One of the things I was contemplating doing recently was joining Teach For India. It is a wonderful organization dedicated to improving education in India. They teach children and have a 2 years fellowship where you learn to teach and teach.

https://www.teachforindia.org/

To join one step was to write 3 essays on three different topics. Here is one I wrote:

I have always had a desire to get into educating children. Teaching for me is one noble profession. You are just not educating the children to be better at their studies, you are also giving valuable life lessons for them to grow up to become better human beings. Teachers are role models. I still fondly remember many of my teachers, from whom I have learned so much. They are one big reason why I have been successful in life.

I had an excellent education and I believe every child deserves the same. There is extreme poverty all over India and one big reason is education. When children do not have basic education. It is very difficult for them to improve their lives and those of their family when they grow up. Once you do not have an education you also lack ambition sometimes. The reverse is with good education you know you can achieve so much more. Basic education for me is not just when a child can read, write, do the math, learn about science, history, geography, etc, but also when a child can solve problems logically, use their brain creatively. The child has to be able to think out of the box, their thoughts should not be limited to certain textbooks only.

My background is in software engineering. I think my experience in software and current technology would benefit students greatly. I would be able to not only teach the course but also give a fresh perspective to the students. Just like in the software industry where you have to constantly be updated to the new technologies. I believe that the education industry has to constantly try to improve ( which Teach For India is already doing). One way is to embrace more technologies and have a better understanding of it to prepare the students for the future world.

My goal during the 2-year fellowship is to learn how to teach better and then to implement it and try to improve the education of children. After the 2 years, I intend to keep educating in some form and find other ways to contribute like using my software knowledge.

PS: I did not go through with the application eventually, tabling the idea for now.