baby girl

Now what’s that song about a baby girl.

Wow it’s been an eventful week. It’s Sunday night and finally there’s a breather to take stock.

30 Sept Sun – still felt stressed over other things. Amazing Sarah managed to reassure me. whew.

1st Oct Tues – felt like the achey spot on my chest is still bothering me. It’s been at it awhile and it’s just dragging on more than a week, even after the haze is gone. Decided to just get it checked out further, anyway it’s a relatively free evening, not too much work or baby prep to do. I still managed to go work, come back, make a quick dinner, eat, and then we went down to CGH A&E. Apparently not deadly sick huh. The wait wasn’t too long, triage was not bad, did an ECG, waited a short bit for the doctor, he was nice, and quite thorough. It’s been more than a decade since we’ve been to an A&E, and it’s not that bad. After being used to quick and simple GP visits, this is like so thorough and not rushed. Did some blood tests and chest x-ray as well. Might as well do the entire works since we’re here and it’s like a flat fee haha. Thankfully it was like practically all clear of bad bad stuff, it’s good to really clear up doubts and worries. Mental health is like half of it. got loaded with a ton of anarex and diflo. It all makes me just so sleepy.

2nd Oct Wed – unexpectedly on MC. We decided to go down to Parkway East Hospital a few days early to register for the delivery. Fairly smooth. Had our fave vietnamese food nearby.

3rd Oct Thurs – work. work. work. and annoying work. came home. arranged some stuff in the house. watch some tv. Sarah’s on leave this entire week, just resting before the due date.

and then woah water burst just after we went to bed past midnight. Of all times! The bad – we just had supper, so no c-section for 6 hours, we haven’t really gotten any sleep. The good – hey at least I’m at home and with her, so we could just pack up and go to the hospital, and we’ve thankfully pre-registered so that’s one less admin thing to worry about.

4 Oct Thurs – Reach hospital ~1am. (It’s nice to drive on empty roads. And amazingly I’m not drowsy from drugs) get into the labor ward, put on monitoring, everything still stable and ok, scheduled for 9am delivery. After all the fussing around and settling down, it’s like 2-ish am. omg need to wait till morning. I can’t sleep in the room, lobby has wailing sick kid, so I just lay down in the car – at least it’s peaceful and quiet out in the night and I can prop my leg up anywhere I want. haha. I haven’t had this night-out-camping-feeling in so long. It reminded me of those NS outfield days, in the cool and quiet night, awake for upteen hours for stupid reasons, chilling out and watching the quiet roads/sky, every normal person is asleep, almost no traffic but still some odd people driving about, and then the 5.30am first bus, early workers (poor things), and the traffic building up. Sheesh I didn’t sleep much huh. too much awakeness and adrenaline also made hungry. sitting in the wee hours of the hospital cafe eating vending machine sandwich and milo, realizing I arrived at the hospital with $4-$5 in cash and no posb atm card! shakes head. breakfast at 6.30am. going back up to the ward at 7. hanging around waiting for the doctors to come in. watching the machine monitor the contractions.

finally us going into the operating theatre. me having to change separately, sitting there waiting for a long time while they do the big prep with the epidural, drip, etc etc, finally being let in and not allowed to touch anything.

a big push. and then the baby is out! wailing at the top of her lungs. hahaha. what a happy sound after like 9 hours of worry and stress. Where did our easy scheduled c-section become!

And we have our super cute, super precious baby girl. After having her around in the womb for months, watching her squirm inside, kicking around, turning around, growing bigger and bigger, it’s so sudden to see her in real life. The incredible contrast between quiet sleeping and sudden wailing. Don’t you have a middle volume tier or anything!!? Not just 0%, 5%, 100%?

Then there’s the silent unconscious anxiety about administrative arrangements, checkups, feeding, preparing clothes and bottles, leave, health, naming. It’s an incredible relief as one by one many of them are settled and ticked off.

First 3 days in the hospital just went by so fast! With all the in and outs, nurses coming by for this and that, taking care of the recovery, medication, drips, meals, sleeping, feeding, diapers, visitors. It’s also a big thing to have both a wife that needs to recover, and a new baby that needs to be looked after! From 0 to like 2 dependents at a go!

And some really tender quiet moments with just the three of us in the room. Just us. Here we are now, in a nice contented peaceful family moment. If nothing else, this whole period has brought us even closer together, just having to do all the prep and stuff together instead of often being busy with our own lives and things.

It’s really nice.

baby girl

Pixel 4 leaks

It’s stunningly incredible how much the Pixel phones leak out each year, and in still debatably convincing ways. You’re not quite 100% sure it’s an engineered leak, although it is really suspicious.

How suspicious? Every year (and for many other phones), you get leaks of controversial changes, like removal of headphone jack, removal of fingerprint sensor etc, to soften the blow yeah, and also some general physical design stuff like shape, size, colors.

But, importantly, there are always some pretty fancy tricks that aren’t revealed or properly leaked out until days or the day itself. Which I guess, given the massive operational machinery and huge hype, is bound to happen.

Things that should get announced that haven’t yet leaked, and which we are eagerly waiting for:

  • price of Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL, and regional pricings.
  • New next-gen Google Assistant behavior, and functionality.
    Frankly, even announced Google features hardly come to everyone around the globe, much less unreleased features. LOL.
  • It’s going to be a #madebygoogle event, so there should be new Google Home devices, especially the Mini II.
  • Other new format Google Home/Nest family devices
  • New earbuds?
  • New AI-driven devices like Lens
  • New country availabilities for Pixels.
  • Pixel Stand II
  • ? Pixel Slate II – unlikely
  • New fancy phone/assistant features to rival Duplex/Call Spam filtering. Call Waiting assist is already rumoured but seems to be a later rollout, though possible to be mentioned.

What else could we hope for? Nothing very much actually, these are already pretty sizeable AI/ML chunks, if they could launch Live Captioning, Next-gen Assistant, Lens X.0, and all that on launch day, it would already be way more smarts than other 2019 smartphones – which only claim to have wider and more zoom lenses – meh.

Well, not to forget the Face Unlock (with all its reliability and security and privacy needs), and Soli, two main solid features worthy of a new phone and which we’re all already done and over with.

One more month to go. Looking forward to another 1am SG time keynote. ugh. At least most likely I will be on leave at that time this year! woot.

Pixel 4 leaks

Google Assistant

The forums are in a fluster after a recent spate of poor Google Assistant replies. The incoherent responses, whether it’s a severe mismatch in hearing, interpretation or action, is just pretty deplorable considering the answers or actions were plain wrong.

I asked ‘ok google turn off the lights’, and it turned off my phone alarm. Goodness.

As it evolves, Google needs to get this right. If Google Assistant / voice search is the future of Google (might be an exaggeration, Silicon Valley is prone to this), then it is the equivalent of Google Search. It has to work. Can you even recall a time when the great www.google.com ever went down and stopped working, even in a small area, that was due to google’s fault and not some broken internet connection, telco block, country block – I can’t.

Google Search stands for ‘is the internet working’, and ‘the gateway to find everything, in some way’. It can’t break, it can’t give you a very obviously wrong answer if you phrased it right. Therefore Google Assistant needs to get to the same level of dependability, consistency, transparency. It needs to hear you correctly, comprehend you correctly, answer you correctly, and if it doesn’t, it needs to give appropriate signs on what went wrong, or stop itself.

The virtual ‘entity’ that is behind Google Search and Google Assistant needs to do so.

Google Assistant

Sharing, communication, always-on

It’s such a controversy in the recent age – the worry of being always-on, always-connected, always-sharing, the Fear of missing out (FOMO), the Joy of missing out (JOMO).

Rightly so, people are concerned about the change in social dynamics and social interaction with people always being connected, always on their screens, and I am most definitely guilty of that.

Well but the thing is, is it necessarily a very bad thing? Society has evolved, constantly. From the old ages of writing physical letters, to having a phone in the house, being able to call people anytime from your couch, to having mobile phones, to have mobile phones that are mobile computers.

This has changed so very fast, in my lifetime! Wow.

Now we are holding mobile computers with (still only 1 day battery life), with mobile connections in the hundreds of megabits per second, almost always connected (at least in well-connected Singapore, but not so much in other countries). We, I, live in a city that is super well-connected, like it is nothing, like you can watch streaming youtube videos on trains and buses all over – and that’s not possible in other countries. It’s normal, and simple, for us. At not too high a price too. Incredible.

So are we, here, more used to being always-on and always-connected. Are we more adapted to this fast paced lifestyle than others in more expansive and spread out countries like Australia, USA, Germany etc?

We think that people these days are over-sharing on their social media accounts. But humans are always so afraid of change, the weirdest thing right now is that the tech community is the one that is afraid of change, and what society has become. That’s odd because usually it’s the other way round.

What if, I tell you, that in the future, people will be even more connected, even more and more sharing taking place. Could it? I think it might, in ways that we could not imagine right now, and what if it isn’t a bad thing? What if it’s a good way of being always connected to healthcare, a good way of being always aware of your partner and family. Aware in the way like feeling something is there, like how you know they are always on the other side of WhatsApp or other chat, of the ‘typing’ display, or the slow throughout-the-day messaging. A presence. And if you cut that off you feel all alone.

Tethered in a way. Or perhaps an awareness of how your house is functioning haha.

I think it will become more, in different ways, and then we will remark again that wow in 2019 people were so much less connected, they had to pick up their mobile phones, they had to put it aside to charge it, they didn’t have a mobile data plan across the globe. It’s just a matter of time, money, I guess.

Sharing, communication, always-on

HK

Wow the crazy news about HK’s anti-elab protests, and the entire situation, is entering into Week 11 and shows little signs of abating. This weekend protests have spread to other cities around the globe, and today the main flashpoint has been Mong Kok.

Mong Kok

The previous weeks and protests have been spread over many other areas of HK, from Central, to Sheung Wan, and more, including Hong Kong International Airport.

Of all these, HKIA I’m fairly familiar with, having passed through en route to USA, or just to enter HK itself. I’ve even registered as frequent visitor, though after that I didn’t get to use it much.

For many many years, as a Singaporean I’ve always heard of HK as a destination, but never been. And then I went once, to shop, and then many many more times in the subsequent 4 year period from 2014 to 2018, for work and leisure.

We’ve always preferred to be in Mong Kok, where we loved the vibe, and felt most comfortable. Never caught the hang of Central and Hong Kong Island. Kowloon is where it’s at!

We’ve also always preferred to stay in Mong Kok, only once in Central / Causaway Bay. From the first memorable dingy tiny AirBnB (our probably first AirBnB experience, but with lovely hosts), to our go-to hotel. Near to food, shopping, MTR, near to Pokemon Go hotspots, near (enough) to work, Local Guide meetups and more. Yeah I’ve literally walked the ground alot in Mong Kok and nearby areas.

Notable spots: Avenue of Stars, Star Ferry Pier, Hong Kong Harbor City, entire stretch of Nathan Road, Signal Hill Garden (up the darn hill), East Tsim Sha Tsui station, Hung Hom station, Whampoa station, almost every small street in TST, Chungking Mansions, K11, iSquare, Jordan MTR, Yau Ma Tei MTR (so much), CityView Hotel, Sai Yeung Choi st, the entire shopping area, Argle st, Argle shopping ctr, Langham, Prince Edward for food, Sham Shui Po for computer and hardware shopping, Lai Chi Kok Park (pokemon), Morse Park (pretty residential area), and so many many more.

So, I miss this HK, and my gosh the reality is that it’s going to change forever after 2019. It’s going to be so very very very different. No longer the peaceful, fun, delicious food destination. I mean, HK has never been super glamorous, or polite or beautiful in the made-up way, and it’s always got it’s direct attitude of the restaurant servers, the cramped seats, the table sharing, the quick meals, the gritty Mong Kok roadsides, the dripping aircons.

But it’s something that’s been so comfortable, and even gotten homely. I’m going to sorely miss that, especially knowing it’s going to change drastically. The undercurrents were always there. My HK friends worry about it and make plans, my colleagues tell me about the housing prices, cramped conditions. It’s really crazy of course.

But wow. All these memories of walking around at night in Kowloon / MK, all these photos, it’s really going to be history. I’m glad I got to experience a good amount of it before it’s gone.

HK

dix ans

It’s been a long, and crazy, ten years.

Well perhaps not crazy enough, but it had it’s moments.

Here’s to the next big ten years, which will be so very different. It’s about time.

Work, home, house, family, travel, tech, bake, and so much more.


Since school days I’ve liked this chinese song by Eason Chan 十年10 years . I probably don’t appreciate the lyrics properly, but I liked the tune. Anyways.

dix ans

Why the Pixel isn’t as great as it could be

As they say, focus, is the key to an incredible product. Search is Google’s focus. Search/Ads anyway. Everything else is and always has been icing on the cake.

If iPhones or S10s had an issue, that’ll be the top headline for Apple and Samsung. It’s such a central part of their identity. But Samsung is such a huge conglomerate with huge businesses in their TVs, home electricals, and even many many other industries. Apple naturally now derives most of their revenue from the iPhone base. Though there’s also substantial sales of Mac computers, iPads, Appstore purchases that are not small, but just dwarfed by iPhones.

On the other hand, big headlines about Google are about 1. freedom of speech, 2. human rights, 3. internet freedom, 4. privacy, 5. some china-US thing, 6. US politics, 7. LGBT stuff, 8. Cloud competition, and so many more. Mobile phones, especially Pixel line, is big, but not that headline hogging for a Google CEO, and naturally for the Google company and employees. Not to say that they aren’t attempting to work hard at it, but it’s on a whole other level when the entire company is aware and focused on delivering an excellent product, optimizing everything to get the profit margins, manufacturing margins, design competitiveness and every single aspect to a world-class competitive level that Apple and Samsung has made themselves into, in order to survive the competition over the past 10 years of mobile wars.

The only and biggest benefit Google has, is that they have the army of software engineers who made Android, so they can make the most perfect version of phone-android that any manufacturer is capable of. But still, as an entire hardware spec / service / price / everything package, the Pixel still has so much that can be squeezed out of it in order to be on the level of iphones and samsungs.

But you cannot deny that the deep pockets of Google has given a product where very little is held back in terms of user privacy, security, warranty. Privacy and security in the way that no additional loopholes other than the original Google metrics are added in. So currently, to me anyway, the price premium is about paying for this. The extra frills like Pixel-exclusive features don’t really apply to non-US customers anyway.

So, Pixel phones are still a difficult sell outside of US, the pricing difference between US price and International price is silly, the features are not well distributed, and the whole package, while vastly improved in 3 years, still has a good way to go.

We can only hope it gets better.

Why the Pixel isn’t as great as it could be

an oddly high class weekend

It’s most hilarious, and utterly coincidental that we had one of our more ‘high class’ / ‘high ses’ / atas weekends, while a survey report came out about perceptions of class and what high class entails.

So, first, our lovely weekend.

  1. Short films at Botanic Gardens

Heard about SAM showing past year Imaginarium shorts as part of Botanic’s heritage fest or something. We came down with our improvised picnic. Couldn’t and didn’t really prepare beforehand except for hurriedly digging out a picnic mat in the morning before work. Grabbed cheese and crackers from cold storage, sandwiches from Four Leaves, and apricots from NTUC. lol. cheap and fancy at the same time. It’s good that we don’t need to worry too much about having fancy food, but just simple selections of things we enjoy.

It was a lovely setup, cool and clear weather, free popcorn/potong/muahchee, and just a small comfortable crowd. Really haven’t had a picnic in quite long.

1.5 hours of different types of short films was really quite ALOT. Fun but also maybe a bit long. And then there’s that creepy part about leaving botanic gardens in the dark night time. Only my second time inside at night and I always found it creepy.

So yeah. picnic in botanic watching artsy film and eating brie. =)

2. Poetry Festival 2019

We looked at the lineup few days back but didn’t manage to find anything that really caught out eye. Rueful. The marketing was really horrible as well, it was difficult to get any details without logging into facebook or peatix. UGH.

Thankfully, on the day itself, S’s friend was offering up comp’d tix cause she’s like in the performance. Woot, here we go. Even though my knees and ankles were still so tired and painful from the previous day, I could not pass this up.

It was a really really delightful performance. I have to say I liked it more than I would have thought. It was a mix of singing, dance, musical (I’m starting to appreciate these more), a segment of spoken word (I miss our days going out to spoken word events. haiz. Oh to be young, careful, energetic and have all the free time again..). It was really nice. Loved it. Definitely love the vibe a bit more than the musical community. But maybe it’s a bit quiet compared to lit festival.

3. ArtScience museum

So friend told us about this free event, which I knew nothing about but just wanted to see ArtScience for once. Never felt it was worth the entrance fee to go in.

There was a fair crowd, but we survived the balloon madness. Ok it wasn’t that bad, still fairly chill.

So that’s our little weekend of surprisingly high class events, in a low class and low budget way. All the events were free, and we spent pretty little on food as well. haha.

It was a great throwback to the past years of us being crazy into stand-up, poetry, arts, literature, music, shows, museums, poetry slams, discovering spoken word on youtube, going for multiple festivals, night fests, going to comedy clubs in NYC!

In a way these are not that common activities unlike going to the movies, but they aren’t also that inaccessible (I feel / I thought), it’s not like $100 musical theatre shows at all, just that the content is quite more obscure – no-dialogue short films, poetry dance about immigrants, instagrammable moon balloon.

The other day I was joking about the quote about living on love and fresh air.

Sure all these are privileged pursuits, that don’t put food or money on the table, and not found at your neighbourhood community centre (which I do frequent as well!). Sure you need to have a great command of English to follow along the content, and american accents.

But it wasn’t expensive, gated, out of reach. You just have to dare to step in the door, listen, and just appreciate it a little.

And I’m glad we both, despite our other differing interests, can enjoy these beautiful moments together.

an oddly high class weekend

Are they listening

Saw a pretty good summary by a commenter on a forum:

ConcernedNot concerned
Don’t understand ML‘I bought this device and now people are listening to me.‘I have nothing to hide’
Understand ML‘How can we train models/collect data in an ethical way’‘Of course, google needs to label its training data’

Quite interesting way of describing it, and yes the situation is far from perfect, lots of overlaps, lots of confusion, lots of vagueness in the situation of what is going on, how much to trust etc.

The discussion and battling is good, it drives the industry forward, we’re getting better. The tech is getting better, the controls are getting better (hopefully), and people learn to live with it.

I guess this is probably the defining moment of the 2010-2020 period. The overwhelming rise of ML/AI pretenders.

I still get the number of people who say/joke that your phone is listening to everything and targeting ads at you. It’s most easy to show or explain or appreciate how pervasive the online ad profiling and tracking can be, nor do I really know how powerful it is, but I can imagine how it is sufficient to perform lots of ‘magical’ linkages to show you that relevant/irrelevant ad. Sometimes you just need to see how dumb the ad can be – eg showing you something after you’ve just bought it.

Are they listening

Why Sundar has failed Google

Wow ain’t that a controversial title, and perhaps a tad too much to blame it all on one person? But then, as the saying probably goes, it’s always the CEO’s fault isn’t it? At some point between the janitor and CEO, the reason stops mattering. or something.

What I’m about to say probably is more of a whole-google issue, or a company culture issue, and could just as well more be inherited from the original founders and leadership teams of Larry Page, Sergy Brin, Eric Schmidt and the top management, but now that Sundar is (kinda) the CEO of Google, albeit with Alphabet looming above him, he has kinda inherited the responsibility, power, and paycheck.

So what’s the problem with Google?

The symptom is that Google has lots of weird products, some successful, some unsuccessful, many of them poorly supported, not completed, and never seems to really dominate the product category despite being the big gorilla in the room and full of money and manpower resources. This has led to many people being frustrated and jaded about using Google products and apps, instead switching to other providers. It is the power and goodwill of Google’s branding that people even care and continue to give them a huge benefit of doubt.

Example: google+ closed down, google reader closed down, Allo, Hangout chat closed down, Google Trips app closed down, and so many more.

Lots of people have also remarked that the only really successful product that has made money is Google Search, while everything else were frills and hobbies that keep users in the Google ecosystem. Even Android and Pixel doesn’t make appreciable amount of money for them.

While we could go into the design behaviour and competitive landscape of each product and design flaws etc, it doesn’t really matter. The only reason that so many products can fail is that the culture and company structure is not appropriate.

Many have often said that internally Google engineers can only be promoted or rewarded when they demonstrate the launch of a new product or feature. Preferably product. This leads to older projects and products being abandoned. Products require continuous refinement, perfecting, improving, integration and polish in order to keep on being better. Google’s products are pretty good, but far from perfect. It is so obviously short, and so obvious what the next step is, and yet they don’t take it. Many easy products that just needs to be that bit better, where there are already lots of users, users who are willing to pay for it, but Google is not interested in the income, or the liability of supporting it, so they abandon it, close it down.

If the culture remains this way, Google isn’t going to advance. Other companies are just going to chip away at each segment one by one. We the users are forced to spread to other apps, in a fragmented way. Ouch.

If Google doesn’t recognise this as an issue, and so far I’ve not seen or heard any rumour of this indication, then it’s quite sad.

Free products and unimportant income streams just wouldn’t matter to a company, they wouldn’t care about you, and you wouldn’t get the long term dedicated support, growth and improvement that a competitive product that needs to keep their users happy and engaged.

eg. companies are willing to pay for Slack instead of free alternatives, pay for Zoom, pay for so many other alternatives which aren’t technically so impossible to create.

Microsoft turned their culture and image around drastically, can Google do the same with a new CEO and new culture change?

Why Sundar has failed Google