Updates (again)

I have to admit — the past months have been hectic due to schoolwork and a part time research project, which explains why this site has been dormant for a whooping 6 months (or is it just a cover-up of the fact that I lack writing inspiration?) The fact that I’m not attending school (physically) should then mean that I better get my writing muscles on again, so here we go as a warm up:

  1. The COVID-19 pandemic that dominated the headlines of my news feed affects every single one of us: in particular, universities suspend in-person teaching and students are to continue their studies online. While the restructuring of the course outlines implies a significantly slower pace of workload, we’re all overwhelmed by the immense uncertainties amid keeping ourselves abreast of the current situation that evolves rapidly.

    Endless monitoring on the official site aside, we students need to cope with the many things that will no longer go along with our plan (e.g. the cancellation of a scheduled GRE test), the adjusted routine that minimizes the frequency of leaving my hostel, and more important, the well-being of people around us (friends, families, and ourselves). It’s only wise if I can use this opportunity to do things that I almost never have a chance to do regularly (like reading), and figure out the directions of my life (academia vs industry, math vs CS) that has been abandoned in the middle of schoolwork.

  2. Adding to the previous point: I originally have an internship lined up in the States but the travel ban imposed by both Canada and US necessitates some change in this plan (as minimal as “working remotely”, hopefully). I’m not alone. We’ll have to wait for things to unfold for the weeks to come.
  3. Fall 2019 term. The beginning of the term saw me pulling two all-nighters for the 2019 Hack the North, which I wowed to be the last hackathon that I would pour all my soul in for more than 24 hours in a row. Due to the part time research and the heavy nature of one course (Operating System), I reduced my course load from the my 6 to 5 (though a friend said “come on 5 is the usual not 6!” šŸ¤£). I did well in those courses, those in retrospect I wish I spent more time to actually understand the content of certain courses instead of finding the “most efficient” way to gain good marks, and to produce more for my research during that period.

    Screen Shot 2020-03-21 at 11.05.31 AM
    A note from my instructor on the algorithm course šŸ™‚
  4. Winter 2020 term (to-date). My part time research continues, and I think I did better with better direction and knowledge in machine learning (though the output still fell short of what’s required to make a conference submission, alas). I think I enjoyed the courses better than last term’s, though it might have to do with the theoretical and mathematical nature of the courses too.
  5. Contests. I have to admit I’m getting increasingly less obsessed with math and programming contests (there’re other more important things like school, jobs and research, aren’t they?), but I’d do it for the pure sake of having fun. Without intensive practice, I probably won’t see a phenomenal increase on my Codeforces rating for time being like what happened over the 2018 summer (in fact I can’t even secure the orange rating right now :/ ). The miracle of doing well on the 2018 Waterloo ACM locals and ECNA regionals did not re-occur in 2019 either. I’m simply happy, though, to score another Honorable Mention on the 2019 Putnam competition, with a respectable ranking. šŸ˜€

    Screen Shot 2020-03-21 at 11.45.23 AM
    Screenshot of my score
  6. Activities. Currently, travelling has become a luxury. This makes the 2019/20 Boston vacation more memorable where I finally checked off the MIT/Harvard visit off my bucket list and enjoy the great seafood over there! (More details on vlog, stay tuned!) Earlier in the term I had the pleasure to travel to Ottawa and Gattineau park, and this winter (before COVID-19 became a pandemic) I visited a local ski resort at Waterloo as part of my indulgence for winter activities.

    IMG_3203
    Just learned skiing, really

TL;DR the past 6 months were great, thanks to the people around me: research project colleagues, the Data Science club execs (including both the activities and socials), Malaysian society for the informal potluck and end-of-term celebrations, and several schoolmates that I’ve known since the start of my undergrad. Now it might be in our best interest to stay away from each other physically and connect via electronic media to practice #socialDistancing

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