A wedding, a homecoming

I suppose my update cadence has deteriorated to about once annually…

Went back for Philip’s wedding. Sitiawan ain’t the same, but I suppose that is to be expected. I drove past Nan Hwa before I realised I had trouble remembering how to get to Joshua (Lim)’s house. And all the back-roads I used to cycle are just a hazy mess in my memories. Still, although things are remarkably different, some things are still so familiar. It’s still Sitiawan. Saw a lot of people I haven’t seen in ages, too. That was nice.

Nothing really stands still, I guess. The town and its people will keep moving. So will I, I suppose.

I wonder when I can visit again.

catch up, illustrated (2013)

Previously, on ¿wat?: catch up (2011), the whole story

Season 13
June 2011 – April 2013

This season was called, “Welcome to the ‘Real’ world”. Yes, I know, I’m painfully un-creative at titles. I’m sorry.

But yes, the transition into this season is somewhat momentous. It’s the time of your life where you sever that life support umbilical and try to berdikari. It’s the time where you suddenly, “really”, become an adult. Sadly, just like the transition into university, no magical transformation or wisdom was conferred upon the donning of the penguin suit and mortarboard. Oh well.

Warning: Does not confer magical wisdom

Warning: Does not confer magical wisdom

The first order of business at the time (since a job had already been secured) was to get a place to stay. As tempting as it was to squat in hall, that was never really a sustainable or comfortable solution, at least for me. Six plus one of us found a nice place at Toh Guan and we moved in. I say plus one, because that plus one, who was my roommate, didn’t really come home much, but as I like to say, helped subsidize the rental cost of my master bedroom with attached bathroom.

Meanwhile in church, I decided that I wanted to officially transfer my membership in. I suppose I wasn’t fully cognizant of all the reasons why, but there was some notion of wanting to officially be under the umbrella of the church here. Quite likely, this is also the beginning of me settling down here. Then 100% came up, and it was good, and it helped me to build my initial network of young adult friends here. It was about then I realised I didn’t really know anyone else who wasn’t from or related to hall…

100% (2011)

D'Crypt SCADA Encryptor

I make stuff like this for a living

Anyway, the-job-which-also-happens-to-pay-the-bills was and is something I’m quite thankful to God for. Call it providence or luck, but my first (or second) attempt at getting a job went well, and it was pretty much what I expected and wanted it to be. Networks, micro-controllers, electronics, Linux drivers, and FPGAs agree well with my interests.

Another, perhaps minor, thing of note was Minecraft. I started playing this when the final final exams were over, and this eventually spawned a multiplayer server. I was pleasantly surprised that you can actually make friends through a game online. There are players on the game who are different, and there are players who are similar. And with this combination, our world’s pretty awesome, if I do say so myself.

After-caving-party party

After-caving party

And so the middle of 2011 flew by and the middle of 2012 arrived.

Then I decided to move. Well, my office decided to move first, then I decided I wanted to move too. So I parted ways with five of the six plus one and we found another guy to be our house-mate. When the dust had settled, we ended up in Commonwealth, and my office had shifted to Midview City.

I’ll admit, I got a severe case of renter’s remorse a few weeks after closing the rental deal, what with the smell, surroundings, and cockroaches. What was I thinking when I signed? Obviously not much… On the bright side, we had a fiber internet connection which consoled me long enough for me to warm up to the place… (Geeks will be geeks.)

And now, a first for me – I actually went on a holiday with friends. We decided to go to Perhentian because it was more affordable. We got sunburnt, some more badly than others, but such is the price to pay for playing in the sea at 2pm under the bright mid-day sun… But all in all, it was a good trip and it was a good break.

Perhentian Holiday

The seafood was gooood

I’m not sure what I was thinking, but shortly after that, I went for another holiday. This time with family, but it was to a foreign country! (That isn’t Singapore!) This holiday cost me a lot of leave, and the diarrhea we picked up was rather unfortunate, but the trip was good and well worth. It’s kinda refreshing to see… things you don’t normally see.

Example: Something you don't see everyday

Example: Things you don’t normally see

It now occurs to me that I really did go for quite a few holidays because in January, I went to Pangkor for a yet another holiday, this time with the EusoffWorks folks. Besides the fun of holidaying with friends and acquaintances, this trip brought me no end of nostalgia, in large part because we stayed at Bayview Resort at Teluk Nipah, where I attended countless youth camps and council retreats. It made me stop and reflect a little about the path I’ve taken growing up.

Meanwhile, work was going well. I started getting a bit more responsibility, and the company also sent me (along with three others) on a trip to the US. I extended the trip by two days and went to see San Francisco (it’s a nice city) and met up with some friends, one of whom I first met in Minecraft. My colleague said I was a real geek because I went to visit the Google campus and the Computer History Museum. But anyway, it was also a good time getting to know my colleagues better and it was an awesome trip, despite the extremely long flight.

Getting to know my colleagues better

Getting to know my colleagues better

…and that brings us to April 2013 and, thus, the end of this catch-up episode.

random spirit walk

I finished my reading through all my feeds again. That’s not particularly exceptional – it typically happens about once a week. When it does, I fall back to something mindless to occupy me on the daily commute – Art of Troll, or perhaps Failbook. But not today. I’m not sure why. Perhaps my phone misses my pocket.

These days, I rarely pay attention to my surroundings on my commute. I suppose this is one of the consequences of the era of pocket computers. Now that I was paying (slightly) more attention, I started feeling… random. Not having any games to want to play or TV shows to watch probably brought that on. It’s something I haven’t felt in a while. Perhaps I should pay it more attention – not having anything concrete to do did me good in high school. I wouldn’t have picked up my hobbies otherwise.

Anyway, feeling somewhat random, I took a detour on the way to the MRT. Everyday I see these HDBs, yet I’ve never actually seen them up close. I walked towards them, then among them. It was strange – somehow I don’t remember seeing so many tall HDBs packed so closely together before. It reminded me of that city Cobb and Mal built while in limbo. Even my phone decide to crawl out of my pocket to take a look.

Packed HDBs

Once on the train, I was in the midst of semi-day dreaming when I decide I should take a short spirit walk. I got off at Holland Village and decided to go find East Sussex Lane. The cars along the busy road gave me more auditory stimulation that I’m used to from a spirit walk, but it had roughly the same soothing effect nonetheless. The houses along the road were old and almost… rustic. Very much like those old houses in Malaysia. I peered into one of the houses and spotted an elderly couple at the dinner table. Their hair pure white too. I imagine they might have lived there almost all their life.

I was approaching what used to be the old railway, and I was thinking of seeing if I could get down to it. I’ve seen people go jogging there before, so it must be possible. Then from the bowels of my… bowels, I felt an unpleasant sensation. Looks like I’ll have to cut this spirit walk short and make it home ASAP. Ah well.

vita metam

The other day, someone asked me, “wouldn’t you take a higher paying job?” The implication being, if a job wasn’t being competitive in terms of pay and benefits, I could, with my skills, easily earn more elsewhere.

“If I wasn’t interested in the type of work, I wouldn’t.”

His reply, laced with incredulity and perhaps a hint of disdain, was, “you may say money isn’t important now, but we have responsibilities, cannot be selfish.”

For some reason, that statement seems to irritate me. I seem to have been hearing this notion in various forms since high school. In spite of that, I somehow have it ingrained in me that money is not the biggest factor to having a “successful” and “happy” life. I know, especially where it comes to job satisfaction, it really depends on what you are looking for, but I do feel offended because others seem to be telling me, “You are wrong, you will always need to have money, and if you don’t pursue money you can’t get anything else” or worse still, “you are being selfish.”

I suppose there is a half truth there. We will always need money to survive in this modern world. But perhaps it is the axiom of needing to “pursue money above all” that I reject. Yes, yes – you could say that I’m playing a straw-man here – the more palatable form of this argument is that the responsibilities life hands you will force you to have to prioritize money. I guess my contention here is where the dividing line of necessity lies.

I am reminded of this scene from “Fiddler on the Roof”, where the mother and father of a daughter, who just recently married a poor tailor, says, “they’re so happy they don’t know how miserable they are.” But even if we restrict ourselves to job satisfaction, I still have, anecdotal, and perhaps skewed data though it may be, evidence that some who have well paying jobs are dissatisfied, while others with dead end jobs and underwhelming pay seem very much satisfied. And perhaps there is more to this than just a anomalous readings.

Daniel Pink, citing a few studies, states that 3 factors cause people to be most motivated: autonomy (ability to self-direct), mastery (to build competency), and purpose (to be linked to a greater good). I note here that “compensation packages” are distinctly lacking from that list. In fact in his TED talk, he was explicitly making the point at external motivations, especially in the form of monetary compensation, do not work. And while motivation isn’t exactly the same as satisfaction, I would argue that it is harder (at least for me) to be satisfied if I am unmotivated.

Perhaps another reason for my rejection of “money above all” is from the lessons in computing history. The first significant and long lived operating system, UNIX, came into being as a “side project”. And the GNU/Linux project, which carried on its spirit, and without which we wouldn’t have much of the Internet and the many advances to computer science and its education, was started from the interest and spare time of hackers working for free. It has been sustained by continues contributions, free of charge. Especially of note is that a vital and important component of this system, the kernel, was contributed by a 21 year old Finnish undergraduate who decided to try something out as a hobby in his spare time.

In high school, a certain English teacher (whom I highly respect), once said to me, “you won’t earn very much money, but you’ll be happy in your corner doing your own thing.” I supposed I’ve taken that to be validation that I should pursue “happiness” and “success” through doing the things I like, and earning a respectable, though not fantastical, wage. If I do happen to get a fantastical wage, though, that would be a bonus. So no doubt, I will keep an eye out for opportunities to improve my wages, but all I’m trying to say here is that that isn’t the only consideration.

Yes, I do realize that it has been an incredibly long time since I blogged anything… almost a year and a half, actually… but time not only passes so fast these days, it seems that it has also become more precious.

Tanah tumpahnya darahku

In this nation of Malaysia,
Help us and remind us that all peoples are loved by You
– including those we prefer to hate.
May your will be done in this land,
so peace and justice is upheld.

So in Malaysia,
The place where my life began,
Let her citizens live in unity and progress,
Blessing and joy, O God, please bestow,
And let our king reign safely in peace.

In Jesus’ name,

Di dalam negara Malaysia,
Biarlah kita ingat bahawa semua manusia disayangiMu
– termasuklah mereka yang kita lebih rela benci.
Biarlah kehendakMu dilaksanakan di tanah in,
supaya kedamaian dan keadilan ditegakan.

Di Negaraku,
Tanah tumpahnya darahku,
Rakyat hidup bersatu dan maju,
Rahmat bahagia, Tuhan kurniakan,
Raja kita selamat bertakhta.

Dalam nama Yesus,

this tongue

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.
James 3:9-10

This was part of the passage for the sermon today.

“Let me ask you a trick question: what’s the inconsistency pointed out in this verse? Let me give you a bad answer – ‘praises for God and curses for people coming from the same mouth.’ Look at the way James puts it – ‘and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness‘. It’s like we are indirectly cursing God by cursing other human beings, who are in His likeness. The inconsistency is that you praise God one moment, then in the next curse Him. ……. So it doesn’t matter if they are Malaysian, Buddhist, or Muslim – they are all made in God’s image.” [Rough paraphrase]

This isn’t supposed to be something new… the pieces were always there… but it’s a fresh reminder…