Life Logs: We Are Getting By

September 25, 2020

 It's been two months since my last log and a lot of things have changed (for sure) and still, some things remain the same. Unfortunately, one of the things that is still here is this pandemic that's been going on since March. And with just a few sleeps, the first -ber month is already coming to an end.

I guess this this is just me developing this much needed resiliency during these times. I don't know if this is just me being desensitized about everything that's happening or actually it's my way of adapting and trying to just get through each day. I actually cannot believe that this is just my second post for the month, when usually, since the quarantine started, I've been writing more frequently than ever. 

Well actually, I think I can answer that question myself. This month was so busy and stressful. I have this urgent project that needs to be done ASAP, and since we were just repurposing some legacy codes for this one, I had a challenging time revising it to make it at par with our team's standards (although I have to admit I am learning lots along the way). And then came that night shift week, which I believe is what wrecked my working schedule. I had this live class online training for that week (12AM - 3AM). I really enjoyed that class although I have to admit that the last hour of that second day really drained my energy. I was almost half-asleep during the latter part 😅. But for sure, I did learn a lot from that session and I'm really looking forward to applying the knowledge I earned on our actual projects. 

Through that class, I realized what my goal is for the next few years to come -- to be a software architect. I know that I am still far off from that goal, but I am doing things one step at a time *wink wink* in investing in my skillset to get there. Also, I'm discovering that even though I do love coding and developing software, I found it very interesting to step back from the coding level and zoom out more to see the bigger picture. I recognize that it takes years and years of experience to achieve the necessary level of competence for that, but I know there's no way but up, as long as I have this grit to do the hard work and thirst in learning more, I can go to wherever place that I wanted to.

With all the things that had happened in the past two months or so, I want to highlight here some takeaways and other stuff that I just want to share:

I realized that live interactive online classes work well for me.
I realized this when I attended the YouFest Summit, and the O'Reilly live training class. I realized just now that even as far back as those webinars I attended with Third Eye Wellness, I tend to absorb more information by being attentive and actually throwing questions to the instructor. Through this kind of learning platform, I realized that I am more engaged with the lessons and that I am more eager to ask questions. I remember that feeling of wanting to ask a question to my instructor in class back in college, and during those moments, lots of things are actually happening in my head -- 
  • I'm trying to find the right timing to raise my hand
  • I'm feeling self-conscious that I might sound stupid for asking that question, or 
  • I just didn't want to draw any attention to myself. 
With the online class settings, I didn't need to consider any of those factors anymore. 
  • I can just type away my question on the Q&A box and just wait for my instructor to notice my question and answer that.
  • Even though my question would sound stupid, it doesn't really matter because well for most of the online classes that I have attended, the instructors are very well-versed in answering their student's questions even if he just mentioned the answer a few seconds earlier. 
  • Most of the time no one really knows me in that class, so I can let go of any ego and just ask away. There's even an option to ask anonymously or privately to the instructor, which is a feature that I really really liked!
Retail therapy brings me fleeting happiness.
Because I was feeling stressful recently, I gave in to the urge of retail therapy -- I splurged away on Shoppee and just bought things that I thought I needed. Because it was oh so easy to click here and click there to order what I wanted, I ended up receiving a total of seven parcels for all the orders I made during the 9.9 sale. I noticed myself to be always looking and anticipating every status update that happened on my parcel, and was always on the look out on when the parcel would finally arrive at our doorstep. As soon as the parcel arrives and I open the box and inspect the item that I bought, the feeling of giddiness and happiness evaporates from that moment onward. I realized this is really how the human mind works. This is what the Hedonic treadmill phenomenon is about. 

It's a sad reality that we just have to face. One alternative for seeking that lasting level of happiness is finding gratitude in everything. I believe that is truly one of the purest and most powerful way to maintain positive feelings in this life.

It's very refreshing to experience being a beginner again.
One of the sources of stress that I had this week is this Machine Learning Hackathon that I joined at the office. It was a three-day event and we were given datasets to choose from and to work on. We were given free will on how to approach it and solve it as a Machine Learning problem.

I joined this hackathon because I really got interested with ML after completing that Coursera course last May. That course is one of the most challenging learning material that I've had in years, and it really stretched my analytical skills. In the end, I was left with awe on how Math can establish pattern out of unstructured set of data. Coincidentally, the ML hackathon was announced a month after I finished that online training. Well, I just knew that this is an opportunity that I had to take. 

I was the sole developer in our team, which meant all the coding work was in my hands. The dataset that our team had chosen was the most difficult one among the options, but we still went for it. I spent three nights mostly looking blankly at my computer screen, deeply contemplating on how to approach this problem. I visited several sites (and even Youtube channels) to gather more information about Natural Language Processing. Another challenge that was on me was the learning curve that I needed to overcome, because uh this is my first time to code on Python using KubeFlow. I found myself googling even the simplest syntax on how to construct a for loop. 😅 But I felt such a rush of adrenaline as I slowly formulated my solution. It was such a joy to experience being a beginner at something and successfully learning the basics of it.

At the end of the third day, I was still so far-off with my expected output, but I knew it's really a stretch to be able to construct a working model for that problem in just a few days. I documented what I thought was important, and despite having a half-baked output, I sent our ML solution to the committee with a feeling of fulfillment. Through this hackathon, I got my first exposure of actually solving a real-life machine learning problem. If in that Coursera training, I learned how to cook a specific dish by just following the cooking instructions (with all the ingredients already peeled and chopped up, I just had to throw it onto the pan), with this hackathon, I was tasked to cook anything that I wanted given the raw ingredients straight from the farm. 

It was really a fun experience. I think one thing that I wished happened differently is having another developer in the team. What fireworks could have flown while brainstorming solutions with a fellow technical person. I couldn't really validate if I was even in the right direction with my solution, so it would have been a more learning and challenging experience if I had another person to code with me and challenge my solution against other ideas.

I think I have typed a lot for this post. There are still a lot of things that I want to talk/write about but I guess I'll end this log at this point. I'm actually typing this on my newly-bought mechanical keyboard (yes I finally gave in) from Shoppee. I have a number of comments with this particular keyboard, so I guess I'll just save that on another post.

Thank you Universe for all these learnings I've received during this time. I will always be thirsty for new skills and information, because life will always be an on-going lesson. 🙏

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