Random Thoughts – 20 years from now..

Our kids will be able to scroll back in time and actually see what we looked like in our college years..

They’d be able to see what we did..

Would facebook still exist?

They’ll read our blogs and know what we were like when we were in our teens and 20s..

They’d be reading all this off their PHDA devices of course – a hybrid of phones, computers etc..

Actually, there may not even be such devices – the whole world would probably be one big digital screen. So, they could access email, read our blogs, check out our college photos on any wall or even on a glass top table..

There’d be so much information, so many options…

Would it make be better?.. or worse?

Just different..

We’ll think its definitely worse… after all, it was ONLY our generation that lived in the ‘glory days’..


This is probably inspired by my digital media module..

10 hours 55 mins to my last exam in NUS (assuming I pass all the others this semester of course..hehe)


NUS: I will remember(XVIII) the gang..

What would college life be without friends, eh? I’d detailed one post about friends outside the ‘gang’ and so here’s one for ‘the gang’. It’s been an amazing journey with these friends, one with lots of ups and downs and learnings as well..

1)The People: I’ve tried not to name people for some weird reason in all these NUS posts, and so, that trend shalt continue..

The Shadow: Likes all underground places. Loves the idea of living as a shadow, having your own space and being different from normal mortals. And if you ever want a human search function on YouTube, you know whom to go to..

The Dancer: Quite the Ms.flexibility with a passion for anything that gets life groovin’.. Oh, and this one is a not-so-apparent geek..

The Delicate one: Quite the sportsman. Averages atleast one fracture/ligament tear every 6 months. Oh, and this one can paint as well..

The Singer: Successfully dragged 8 other Indian classical music lovers (not!) to 8 paid classical music concerts.. What more can I say?

The Talkative one: Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Fills the airwaves, always.. ‘Nuff said..

The Bubbly one: Always full of energy, full of life.. And hence, always brought down by some constant rubbing the wrong way to normal human energy levels..

The Funny one: 3 things – Very tall, very thin, very funny. There’s gotta be one of these in every group..

The Mom-ish one: Has an interesting ability to bring up interesting biological facts and statistics – some say with a rather weird sense of humor, but hey, that’s a touchy topic..

The Ap-droid one: Would search for his dad’s name on Google on his phone if you given the chance on one hand and would wax lyrical about his rather icky looking white laptop on the other… tough choice..(These are replaced by others from time to time – we’re just going with the flavor of the season)

2)System attempts – Weekend, Dollar Tracker: Now, we’ve tried out various various systems and initiatives. I’m going to talk about a couple of things that did work..

Weekend System: This system meant allotting one weekend (i.e. Saturday evening) per person in a semester. And this person basically decided what needed to be done. As this was entirely person dependent, we had weekends spent playing Dumb Charades, board games, pictionary as well as weekends outside.. Was a fun initiative.. And saved us from spending hours on Saturday’s deciding what to do. This way, one person was god.

We’ve tried numerous numerous other systems to make our lives easier and to keep spamming each other on emails. Tried our hand with Dropbox and One Note (which was useful for planning trips), Google calender etc but one of the recent successes was an initiative called the Dollar Tracker.

Dollar Tracker: Now, we all owe each other some cash all the time. Often, these are sums ranging from a few cents to a few dollars to a few 100 in some cases. It got increasingly tiring to keep repeating every time we met each other that we owed each other stuff. That’s before the dollar tracker.. (in picture)

‘All amounts and characters are purely fictional. Any resemblance to real life characters is regretted’ :D

Keeping track has greatly reduced this headache. And given the increase in the number of jokes on this thing, I’ll definitely remember this one..

3)Music: I think music has been a big part of the glue that’s held together this bunch. And thanks to advice from the MIT Blog on 50 things for every undergraduate on burning a CD with all the songs for every period, here is a list. Some of these are just personal favorites during the period and others are group favorites..

Semester 1-> One Last Breath, Blue, Echo

Semester 2-> New slang, Honey and the moon, Ever after you, Only gay eskimo, Engel Kaisi paheli

Semester 3-> Hey there Delilah, Leaving on a jetplane..

Semester 5-> This year’s love, Sparrows over Birmingham

Semester 6-> Hurt so good, Say, Hurt, Bubbly

Summer Hols ’09 -> Hallelujah

Semester 7-> Love story, Super Trouper, Take a chance on me, Winner takes it all, Cloud Number 9, Ukulele Orchestra’s ‘The good, the bad, the ugly, Viva La Vida, Stu Song and Nakkamukka

Semester 8-> 3 Idiots – Sari Umar Hum, I’m Yours, Wavin’ Flag (Fifa 2010 song)..

There have been many many times when we’ve just sat all nights introducing each other to new songs.. So, here’s a tribute to all those late night chats usually followed by Mcbreakfast(how can I forget!).. :D

Another big part of time with the Gang was the trips we took, and that’s coming up tomorrow.. :D

4 days to go..

What you look for is what you see..

There was an incident once performed on 2 classes that had interesting results. I don’t remember the exact stats so I’m going to make them up.. It went something like this.

IQ tests were conducted on a class full of students and 2 groups were made out of them. The higher IQ group had an average of 120 while the lower IQ group had an average of 90. The idea was to give the smart ones special attention and the computer system grouped these into 2 separate classes for the coming year and in a funny computer error, mixed up the groups and named the ‘smart’ class ‘dumb’ and the ‘dumb’ class ‘smart’.

Now, the year progressed as per normal and IQ tests were again taken at the end of the year. What was observed was interesting –

-> The average IQ of the dumb class had gone up by a whopping 20 while..
-> The average IQ of the smart class had gone down by 10..

What made the difference?

The attitude of the teachers. When they were in the dumb class, they treated them as ‘slow learners’, never gave them the challenges necessary and in due time, dulled the mind while the opposite was done in the other class.

The stats may not be accurate but I think it communicates the point..

What we look for is what we see. Very often, external feedback, taints our opinion about a lot of things. I am not talking so much about reputation but more so about external points of view that keep popping in..

Feedback is always good and it’s important to listen to it with a balanced mind but it’s also good to remember that what we will see after absorbing these points of view is likely to change based on the color of the lenses of the spectacles we are wearing as well..

NUS: I will remember(XVII) miscellaneous..

Everything can be filed under miscellaneous‘ – Dilbert

This is a collection of some rather random things that made up university life. I’m sure I’ve missed many but I guess I’ll add them in as and when I remember..

Birthdays: I’ve had 4 very cool birthdays here. My 1st one – the 18th had Mom making her way here and all of us heading down for reverse bungee, dinner at one of the café’s at Clarke Quay, followed by Bowling and then cutting a cake and WCP. This was followed by lunch again with Grandparents.. And then seeing family off followed again by a movie with friends. Pretty action packed I must say!

Things got quieter in the next 2 years. Had a nice midnight celebration with work team in year 2 at Swensens followed by Bowling again with friends followed by dinner! And the next year was a nice nice dinner at Dempsey Hill (Must go place for peace and quiet). Was freaking expensive though – remembering paying 12 dollars for a bottle of water!!

This year was also up there in terms of celebrations. My friends got together everyone from the ArtVibe and Sparkz team’s down for an awesome midnight celebration. This was followed by a busy day buying a few things and then a trip to the CASINO! It was a real ‘wow’ experience and a nice way to celebrate becoming ‘legal’!

Mom visits: Always always really special. Mom always makes it for byte sized visits because of free air travel thanks to Grandpa having retired from Indian Airlines(This has drastically reduced post recession). So, the only costs being staying here meant a 3 day trip every semester for the 1st 2 years..

Every time was crazy. One of them was a trip to Langkawi (coming soon..). Nice memories also were trips with Mom and the work team to Seafood Centre among others..

Job Hunt: How can I forget? All the best for all friends still fighting the good fight..

EE Labs: There was something dark and dreadful about these things. Fighting the dreadful feeling about the thought of navigating a 3 hour lab is going to be one thing I am going to remember for a long long time..

Oh, and lab reports, ugh!

EE2001: I had to mention this project module as a friend and I teamed up with 2 others, who were friends as well. Together, it was a permanent 2 on 2 duel.. I made my mistakes during this project and could have done better as a groupmate but I learnt a few important lessons. Went through a hellish 3 month period to learn those lessons though..

Borrowing my 1st library book in my 5th semester: This was a funny moment. I had somehow gone by all of my 1st 2 and a half years without borrowing a single library book.. And the book borrowed was from the Business Library – I guess that says a lot about my ‘education’.. :)

You can imagine how much I laughed about this..

This Blog: Probably among the better things that happened over these 4 years. It’s been a wonderful example of the Daffodil Principle (see here).

And it’s nice to go back in time and look at my first post (see here). :)

Someday, I should probably read through all the posts. Maybe when I’m home this summer! :)

That’s all for the miscellaneous for now..

Sure there is a lot more.

5 days to go..


Tuitions: There were also lots of fun times giving IT Tuitions to housewives and others from Gen X. It was a nice way to make $30 in an hour and also nice learning on how to teach.

PS: A friend pointed out that this post lacks the people element and looks like it’s been written in a hurry. I’m nodding to both! :) Over to my big lab report due tomorrow.. :D

NUS: I will remember(XVI) the R15 system..

Now, this one is a newbie. This one popped up right at the end and has changed a heck of a lot in my final few months here.

How did this begin?

My mentor called me up in August last year and said I will try and do 5 tasks in a day for 5 days this week i.e. 25 in total. Now, the interesting part was that each point would be worth 10 dollars. So, if he didn’t finish a task – the 10 dollars would come to me..

‘Why don’t you just be my ‘boss’ and check on me?’ – he said. And so, it began. Soon, this system got better and better where we soon integrated lots of other tasks that needed to be done, made it 10 tasks a day @ 5 dollars each. The system got better and better and soon, I began to see the benefits. Further inspired by the book called ‘You don’t have to born brilliant’, I decided that it was time to get organized..

Why did I wait 5 months?

-> I had always subscribed to the ‘go with the flow’ ideal.
-> I thought being organized meant being boring..
-> I always felt life would be like clock-work..
-> Would I have time for leisure?

The R15 System I use:

So, I tentatively began with a close friend as my ‘boss’. I’ll run straight into the system that I use now (this is an evolved version)..

I have a target of 10 points every weekday between Monday and Friday. 50 points and 50 dollars at stake, so for every point short, I basically lose a dollar to my friend. (Technically technically, I lose 50 cents and 50 cents gets into a bonus container which accumulates and is used to pay out for great performance eg: exceeding my 50 point target)

I split this is 6+4/7+3 P, PC tasks.

P or Production i.e. all tasks that involve work during the day. For eg: classes during semester. Attending a 1 hour class = 1point, 2 hr class 2 points. Doing an assignment = 1 pt etc.

PC or Production capability i.e. tasks for the future. My PC tasks typically are 30 min book reading, tri-weekly emails to family, daily fruit and vegetable, sports etc.

I started with a few additions that helped greatly. For example, I was notorious for breaking small commitments. So, every time I missed an appointment, I gave myself a -1. This greatly reduced the number of times I broke commitments, and also made me think twice before saying ‘Yes, I’ll do/make it!’. I’ve figured out that pain works much better than incentive. So, if something has to get done, then it’ll work best with a -2 rather than with a +5. We humans hate the thought of losing..

So, I basically start the week with a plan for the week which blocks all appointments. Then every day, I plan out the points pool (of 13-14 potential points for the next day) and then try and get as many. There are a few small rules – for example, some times tasks can take 5-6 hours and it is very tempting to have +5 or +6 allotted every day to these crises. So, I have a 5 point limit for a crisis.

Another thing that helps is picking 3 WIG/ wildly important goals and giving them 2 points each.

Thoughts after using it for 4 months:

The results have been wondrous. The amount of real leisure time I have on my hands as a result of this always tends to amaze me. The funny point about getting more organized is that very few things hog bandwidth because there are fewer crises. Besides, everything has a box. For example, I’ve been able to sustain weekly lunch appointments with a friend, something that would have been outside my capability level a semester ago. It’s not the big things that have changed, rather, it’s the small things like keeping those small commitments..

This post barely does enough justice to the system. And I’d be happy to explain it in detail to anyone interested in implementing it(There are already 2 friends who are on it now..haha). It can be done in small bits – for example, 2 other friends have a mutual deal where they have 4 dollars at stake for 2 hours of exercise during the week. Money is the best pain container because we HATE losing money. So, generally things get done. It helps build discipline.. which, in many ways, is character building because our word/honor soon tends to subordinate our moods..

This R15 system has changed a lot these past months. I intend to continue using it once work begins. At the most basic level, it makes me plan the week ahead, plan tomorrow’s work today and makes sure I’m not losing sight of the important things..

Most importantly, it’s helped me become more disciplined. Now, who would’ve thunk?

6 days to go..

The ‘Ah Interesting’ Reaction..

The inspiration:

David was taking a walk in a park. He was walking behind a little girl and a Mom when he noticed a helium balloon in the happy 3 year old girl’s hand. A sudden sharp gust of wind took the balloon from the girl and David braced himself for lots of crying and wailing.

But, as the girl saw the balloon flying up, she gleefully said ‘Wow!’
Later that day, David got a call with an unexpected problem and just as he was about to say ‘Oh no!’, he remembered the little girl and said ‘Wow! That’s interesting. How can I help?’
Life ‘s going to keep us off balance by throwing unexpected problems. We can choose, however, to be frustrated or fascinated!

I read this story 2 months ago and thought it was VERY cool. I thought it was a reaction worth scripting as I was traditionally an ‘Oh no!’ person every time I heard of a problem. Besides, I have always thought my reaction to trouble could be better. As I have realized now, it takes a while for an idea to become a thought and the thought to become an action. Finally, over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been seeing some positive results..

This week, for example –
-> My laptop started rejecting batteries(which is sad as I have to go back home where fluctuations are common = laptop will keep switching off..)
-> My 300 Gig External Hard drive has gone into stealth mode i.e. unrecognizable by comp and I’ve to get it checked on Monday.
-> 1000+ dollars owed to me thanks to Sparkz is going to take another couple of weeks. Already starved of cash flow..
-> Realized some extra work that needs to be done for an 80% lab report submission on Monday..
among others..

The best part -> For every one of these, I went – AH! Interesting! and laughed about it. I’m still a distance away from the ‘Wow’, but hey, here’s to getting there!


NUS: I will remember (XV) classes and professors..

It would be a shame if I did graduate and did not think the one thing that I was supposed to in NUS had changed my life in some way/defined my university life. Let’s put it this way, in a way that they told me very strongly that I didn’t belong in the engineering world in itself was probably among the bigger learnings I could offer. More often, what not to do serves us better than what to do (eg: don’t play with fire versus play with a ball, play with a racket – you get the picture..)

Now, being a not-so-faithful Electrical Engineering student, I’m not sure who is/is not going to feature on this list. So, here goes nothing –

1st Year

i)Prof Rajesh Parwani: I remember vividly attending the first few classes of PC1431 or Level 1 Physics and laughing hard at a few of Prof Rajesh Parwani’s jokes. That’s where the memory ends.. But it probably shows the power of humor. Don’t remember too much of the physics part but I remember him telling us stories of how Isaac Newton could have fought for the prize of ‘world’s biggest jerk’..

ii)Prof Victor Tan: Prof Victor Tan was our life-saver for MA1505 or Level 1 Math. He was the Professor whose webcasts every one of us non-class goers survived on. (Even the class goers come to think of it..) A deserving to-be- Outstanding Educator. Was an amazing math professor!

iii) Prof Dipti Srinivasan: It seems like we had a whole list of pretty good 1st year Profs. Prof Dipti made a module that seemed like horror then (EG1108 – Basics of Electrical Engineering – should have seen it coming right then!) to something pretty approachable. Distinctly remember listening to webcasts at 2x – and remember muttering that she was a great lecturer!

iv) Prof Gary Tan: 2nd half of CS1101C – hardly attended any classes. When I did, very good!

v) Prof Tan Suntec: Hmm, another SoC Prof. And another very good one. Pity it was CS1102C which ranks among the most nightmare-ish modules any non-programming student could imagine..

vi)Prof Brett Mcinnes: Now, here was an outstanding Prof. Another math lecturer who taught us MA1506. I still remember his very cool sense of humor with frequent jokes on NTU popping up in his lectures..

vii)Prof Peggie Chan: One of 2 fabulous CELC (Centre for English Language and Communication)Profs I’ve seen. Handled Critical thinking and writing. Reminded me of the school teachers you read about in Enid Blyton books – a real task master, reminds you of a very sweet grandmom and someone you love spending time with and annoying once a while. Just caught up with her yesterday and we were remembering the fun times..

2nd Year

Funnily enough, this one’s a blur. All I do remember is that this was an absolutely nightmare year in terms of modules. All those 2000 modules – I’m glad they are belong to my past now.. (pardon the geek humor now..)

I only remember Prof Ashraf (2nd half of EE2006 – Digital Design) and remember nodding in understanding for a few of the concepts.

3rd Year

i)Prof Matthew Linus: HR Prof – a very very good one at that. I remember him taking a lot of extra effort to help us get better and also taking in feedback from us on how he could do even better. Most HR classes were lots of fun and that’s down to him..

ii)Prof Ha Yajun: Prof Yajun was the 2nd half lecturer of EE2007 – Microprocessor systems. He also happened to be my tutor for the module. A very good teacher and also someone who was very encouraging..

iii)Prof Charanjit Singh Bhatia: Prof Bhatia was our team’s supervisor for our EE3001 – Technology project where we were to brainstorm a technological product, write a business plan for it and present it. He was a killer supervisor in terms of demanding work – very precise and knew exactly what he wanted. But, I still remember the many long discussions we used to have with him about the world.. All in all, a great teacher.

4th Year

i)Prof Ashwin Khambadkone: 2nd Half lecturer for EE3505 – Electrical Energy Systems. Even though I don’t have the most positive memories of the module, I was amazed at how Prof Ashwin conducted his classes. He was probably the only Professor I’ve seen actually ‘conduct’ a 200 people class. He managed to engage the whole class, go back to basics and was always very well prepared. Formidable!

ii)Prof K K Tan: 2nd half lecturer for EE3302(Industrial Control Systems). I loved Prof Tan’s part just for the fact that it was extremely well organized. It was very easy to obtain all materials like lecture notes(which were again very well organized), labs and the like. More so, the part was also very interesting. I liked his organization so much that I followed him when choosing my design module. Pity he only handled one half of the design module as again, that part has been brilliantly organized.. :)

iii)Prof Brad Blackstone: Probably among the better teachers I’ve seen throughout my student life. Just for the one fact that he embodied that being a teacher meant being a learner first. Always flexible, always open to new classes, he’s among the few teachers who actually came down to the level of us students and then took us up! I’d recommend ES2007S to every student who’s reading this and wants to learn practical life learnings in communication..

iv) Prof Albert Liang (and Kai Tak Lam): Respect where it is due for my FYP supervisor and PHD mentor. I’d entered my 4th year as a student keen to work hard and make some amends in what remained of university life. While all other EE modules drew on past demons (i.e. 2nd modules), my FYP Prof made sure that I was up to scratch in terms of understanding of concepts. We spent the 1st 2-3 months practically only improving understanding and then got to work..

He was an absolute pleasure to work under. While he did extract a sizeable amount of work, it never felt as such because he had very clear defined always! And also assigned Kai Tak, my PHD student mentor, who is as good a mentor as I could have hoped for.

That sums up most of what I can remember from the various teachers in my university life. I’ve always thought Electrical Engineering was a well designed course for those very passionate and interested and it’s these Profs who made the learning experience excellent. Thank you if you are reading this! (Though the chances are probably very unlikely, except for Brad.. :))

7 days to go..