Happy Lunar New Year, everybody! Chinese New Year... or rather "lunar";
I guess that political correctness has even reached this island... is a
huge deal in Singapore.
Almost all stores -- including food outlets -- are closed for two days.
Oh wait; that's for the "spring festival", which are the two days after
the LNY. Anyway, closed stores?! In Canada, everything's still open on
Christmas day. Well, maybe not quite everything, but certainly
supermarkets are. Not here! I had half a dozen warnings in the past week
that I had to stock up on food because all the food courts and
supermarkets would be closed.
Let's go back and do this approximately chronologically.
I cancelled the project meeting for my main project here. We were
supposed to meet on Sat, but the professor had a paper deadline coming
up a few days after that, and we weren't ready to give a demo. A week
ago I'd promised that if we gave a demo there would be no technical
problems, and I take that kind of thing.
Aside: the phrase "curse of the demo" drives me crazy, especially in
computer music. You'd think that performers would realize that a
performance is a performance and that nobody wants to see somebody
screwing around with computers -- well, nobody outside of some really
wacky performance art funded by the National Arts Council -- so they'd
make sure they had everything in order. But apparently not; things not
working is quite accepted in this field. :( This becomes a
self-fulfilling prophecy, of course -- everybody "knows" that the "curse
of the demo" will make stuff fail in concert, so why bother putting in
the effort to make sure that nothing fails?
I'm not trying to claim that I'm perfect on this account. I've had stuff
fail just before giving a seminar (I made some "trivial" changes to the
code, went to lunch, then discovered that it wasn't working 10 minutes
before the talk. Fortunately I was using svn and realized I could just
revert to a previous version). I've had things suddenly fail just before
showing them to my supervisor (I forget what I did then). But I never
blamed magical gremlins -- computers don't work like that. That's why
computers are awesome. Other than certain highly improbable hardware
failing, all problems are caused by somebody screwing up. When something
I created fails in a demo, I blame myself. Even if I didn't write the
particular softare myself, I still failed to adequately test it.
Anyway, during the first demo of our project, one of the group members
"helpfully" wrote a chuck.bat script (on windows) which had the
command-line arguments we wanted. I'd written them down exactly on a
piece of paper so that we wouldn't forget anything, but he thought we
could avoid that problem by having a script.
Except that he thought of this after we'd finished testing stuff. Now,
what happens on windows when you have a chuck.bat which attempts to
run chuck synth.ck server.ck ? Sure, there's a chuck.exe in the
path... but chuck.bat responds to chuck, so it goes into an
infinite loop. I did not enjoy that demonstration. I was relatively nice
to the guy who did it, though. I wanted to (metaphorically) rip his head
off, but he's a first-year PhD student (which means "a first-year grad
student" here, since everybody starts off doing a PhD) with no
experience doing computer music, so I was merciful. If anything happens
again I'll go berserk, though.
I went shopping on Friday and Saturday evenings. I found more things in
the supermarket, including ketchup and "cheese". I say "cheese" because
the only type they appear to have is plastic processed cheese. You know,
Kraft sliced cheese? This is an issue, since I normally eat cheese by
the chunks (or grated and added to rice... but still a significant
amount of it). Oh, and I haven't found any macaroni and cheese either.
I also haven't found any fresh bread at the local supermarket. There's
some sweet desert/breakfast rolls that come in plastic bags, but no real
bread. My roommates agreed that bread was really hard to find in
Singapore... but the next day they gave me a baguette! There's a bigger
supermarket father away from our apartment, and while they were there
they picked up an extra loaf for me.
My "tourist" thing for this Sunday was going to a real Lunar New Year
party. OK, that wasn't a "tourist" thing; this was an honest "graduate
students celebrating the most important holiday of the year together"
thing. Almost all of the students were Chinese, but there was one grad
student from India there. He'd recently visited Vancouver (for ACM-MM
2008), and when he heard that I was from there he exclaimed that it was
"so, so beautiful... we are now friends for life!".
This was also the first time I'd been to an HDB apartment. That's the
public Housing Development Board apartments; something like 80% of the
country lives in them. (BTW, my apartment is privately-run)
The rooms were a bit smaller than mine, but bigger than I expected from
looking at the apartment from the outside. There were about a dozen
people there. The main dinner course was chinese dumplings, which were
interesting to watch being made. There were about half a dozen people
helping with that task... they offered to let me try, but since they
were using chopsticks to put the filling in the pastry and I'm only up
to 6 chopstick-usages in my life, I declined.
Dumplings were the hardest thing to eat with chopsticks that I've tried
so far. They were bigger and heavier than anything I've tried, and the
outside was slippery. I persevered, though. I used a spoon briefly, but
gradually got the hang of the chopsticks so ate them like that. They
also made a vegetarian kind-of omletty thing for me. It was quite
doughy, so maybe it was the dumpling pastry fried instead of boiled. It
was also quite good.
Games played were Uno (the Western kid's game) and a game called
"Killer" and possibly one other game. I thought that this other game --
based on the war of the Three Kingdoms, and in which the cards looked
similar to Magic: the Gathering cards -- was called "Killer", but
hearing one person's story of the game later made me question whether
they were actually the same game or not. This other game looked more
interesting than Uno, but it was all in Chinese and looked a lot more
After dinner, the Indian guy and me started a game of charades. We
noticed that there was less social cohesian than at Western parties --
before we started the charades game, one person was surfing the web on
the hostess' laptop, one person was watching TV, two people were
tallking on cell phones outside, and the rest were playing Killer and/or
the Three Kingdoms game. The Indian guy commented that in India,
everybody does the same thing at a parties, so I commented that Canada
was in between -- big parties still split into smaller groups, but never
groups of 1, and any cell phone calls are kept short. Not that I'm a
huge party-goer, of course. :)
Today I went to university to proofread another paper for publication.
The deadline is tomorrow, and they left the writing much too late. I
spent a few hour correcting English mistakes -- yes, there were that any
-- while one person kept writing the final sections. They (him and the
professor) were very thankful about my help (they bought me lunch and
gave me chocolate, some of which I'll share with my roommates in thanks
for the bread), and they clearly needed aid with the writing. I don't
begrudge them that. What I'm miffed about is that they left it so late.
If you're writing in a language you don't know, you should be finished a
week before the deadline!
At the very least, the first half of the paper should have been finished
weeks ago. I mean, the "related work" isn't going to change in the last
month. And you did the literature search before starting the programming
(right? right?? *cough* *cough*). Sure, writing that stuff sucks...
but it has to be done sooner or later, so you might as well get it
finished early. Especially, and I know that I stress this a lot, if
you're not familiar with the language.
I think I'll write the first two pages of my paper for next week. The
deadline is April 17, but I want to set a good example. And show off, of
I'm not going in tomorrow (it's still a public holiday, and my normal
bus is still cancelled), and I've done my required tourist stuff, so I
can finally spend a day in my bedroom. Don't laugh; all this
"interacting with people" stuff takes a serious toll on an introvert
like me. Even taking a bus or MRT is a chore -- I'm even luckier that I
could bike to UVic than I realized at the time.
Mao, I could really go for one of those quiet bike rides. In a light
drizzle, 10 degrees centigrade, at 11pm at night. Absolutely no traffic
in my area. With my battey-less front bike light, guided by moonlight.
Or not. I was still fine on overcast nights with no moon.
Mao, I guess this is homesickness. I managed to avoid it until now.
Interesting that it's UVic that triggered it, rather than Vancouver.
Anyway, I could really use a day to catch up on email, write another
blog post with any remaining misc observations (I keep on writing stuff
in a notebook, but I add the filled pages to my desk which is full of
other stuff so they get lost), etc. Oh, and unpack. I still haven't
unpacked. I want to be all caught up on stuff by the end of the month.