Today

Its been a while since my last post.

 

And what better way to break the silence then with the proclamation that today is the 9th of June.

 

Happy 6th! =)

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On the road again

Its been over 2 weeks (to be precise its been 18 days, not counting time zone differences) since embarking on this leg of backpacking around Europe. Now that I’m comfortably lying below Jia En on the bunk bed in the hostel room, perhaps its high time to pen down my thoughts of the places and experiences thus far.

I haven’t been using Facebook much, preferring instead to tune out and open up to the country i’m in so apologies if I’ve missed anything there.

 

London

Just a quick stopover before the Europe backpacking, would have been a longer stopover if not for the BA flight from SIN that was delayed by over 12 hours. But shit happens, we eventually made it there to deposit our 5 months worth of supplies (school stuff, winter wear, food, utensils etc) and spent the night at YHA Lee Valley which was a nice cosy place to spend the night away from central London and yet not too far from Stansted Airport for the flight into Berlin.

 

Berlin

First taste of Europe was via Berlin, and boy was it a good first taste. Clean city, friendly people. Love the fact that they (and the whole of Europe in general from what I’ve seen) are environmentally friendly and cyclist friendly. Singapore has A LOT to learn in those areas.

Even their trains have specific wagons to carry bicycles. Would love to see such things in our MRTs.

 

Weimar + Dresden

Enroute to Prague, stopped by the sleepy towns of Weimar and Dresden for their art culture / historical buildings sightseeing.

Weimar was the birthplace of Bauhaus (yes I obviously learnt that from JE, hehe) so the Bauhaus museum was a must see. Found this really cool looking cradle with really functional design concepts applied to it. Circular frame for ease of rocking, low CG to prevent tipping over, mesh sides to keep the infant cool and primary colors to err… make the exterior not look too plain?

Prague

Spent just a brief amount of time here, but was sufficient to visit Prague Castle and wander around the city, comparing the differences in architecture of the buildings between the Old Town and the New Town. They said Budapest was the beautiful (major) city in Europe but I think Prague has a more authentic (rustic) feel to it. Perhaps it was the specific locations we wandered around, but nonetheless a beautiful city to get lost in.

Budapest

Found out that Budapest is actually the concatenation of the names of the 2 sectors within the city center. Buda (the hilly side) and pest (the flatter side). Huge ass castle sat atop Castle Hill, but its a pity they almost completely renovated it thus loosing its old charm value.

Vienna (Wien)

City with a strong arts culture. Loved the futuristic looking train station too.

Concluded with a long, relatively scenic, train ride from Vienna to Munich.

Munich

Absolutely loved how environmentally friendly Germany is. Not because many people here cycle (actually I see a ton of BMWs and Mercedes around, but this is Germany so go figure) but they have dedicated recycling bins all around and the culture of recycling here is strong (you actually have to pay for plastic bags). Again much for Singapore to learn.

This supermarket we went to even had those recycling machines where you put in your plastic bottles and it spits out a coupon to offset purchases from the store. You can see it in the center of the pic. Our 2L mineral water bottle gave us 25 cents off! Hehe.

Ok! Update again later when I am settled down somewhere.

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The Road to London

One item off the to do list.

 

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Sometimes You Just Have to Jump out the Window and Grow Wings on the Way Down

OCBC Internship is drawing to a close.

Its been more fun and challenging then I originally expected (since my interviewers did say that I might not find the work there very ‘challenging’). I still recall being hesitant, in part due to the fact that the Risk Management department took me in as opposed to the Tech department (which known as Operations & Technology in OCBC) and in part due to my utter lack of background in this finance industry.

But sometimes you just have to jump out the window and grow wings on the way down.

 

Its really opened my eyes more towards the banking and finance industry (and to an extent the global financial situations) and coupled with a supervisor that’s interested in making sure I learn something more then just, for example, how to program SAS scripts and the like, its been a rewarding experience.

Planning (and budgeting) for exchange and the month long Europe backpacking escapade has been underway for a while now. Lots still not settled, but yes, the quote above seems apt for it.

 

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Lets carpe the hell out of the diem

OCBC’s so far been a heck of a ride. There’s nothing more humbling then looking around (technically I’m poking around I guess but same difference) and realising how much goes on inside a bank and the orders of magnitude in terms of assets that a bank has to balance.

Although the amount of programming I’m doing is rather minimal; (read: I’m not hammering away on the keyboard every single working day), I’d still say this ‘Internship’ is definitely worth it.

 

Saw a (now going viral) commencement speech on youtube. Since I’ve been almost living in a cave the past weeks, you’ve probably already seen it. But i’m embedding it below anyway.

 

5 weeks of  internship left in OCBC’s Risk Portfolio Management department, and about 8 till the next exciting leg of education in a foreign land begins.

 

Lets carpe the hell out of the diem 


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Today

Today is the 9th of June.

=)

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Not good. GPA’s taking a bad curve.

Plotted out the graph of my cumulative GPA last week after the release of the results, and I am not liking it.  Its starting to take the shape of a parabolic curve, and I’m obviously not talking about one with a minimum point.

The academic workload last semester was per usual (based on a 3 year completion target, which is the expected time frame for Uni completion for my CS course assuming one has a related Diploma, takes IO instead of IA and studies a normal workload for the 6 semesters). Perhaps the reason I faltered was because I wasn’t completely ready for taking on 2 year four modules at one go the very first sem that I attempted any year 4 module.

 

Then again, in the wise words of Gustave Flaubert,

The most glorious moments in your life are not the so-called days of success, but rather those days when out of dejection and despair you feel rise in you a challenge to life, and the promise of future accomplishments.

Dejection and despair during the semester? Check.

The feeling of rising to that challenge? Sweet as can be.

 

So back to the recap of results and the semester as a whole. The module that pulled everything else down was CSC403 (Advanced Data Management Techniques). Which is frustrating given the good vibes I felt about the paper after walking out of the examination hall. Just goes to show one cannot count his chickens before they are hatched.

 

That said, I am extremely thankful (and frankly a bit surprised) for the grade I got for CSC419 (Machine Learning), which was somewhat of a (very rewarding =D ) challenge especially given my utter lack of statistics background which would have greatly aided in digesting the course material. Nonetheless, it was a tough battle from start to finish, and now my guts can happy proclaim to my brain ‘I TOLD YOU SO’ because it was my brain that wanted to make me drop Machine Learning during the Add/Drop period for fear of it being too tough to manage.

 

So, 4 semesters gone by in a flash. 2 more graded semesters (FYP) to go after my break for exchange. GPA (which is really the only KPI we have when it comes to academics in Uni) is down a little. :(

But its ok. Shall work on turning it into cubic curve instead when I’m back in NTU.

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One week into internship

So my second week at the 24th floor of OCBC Center has just begun, another 8.8 ‘official’ weeks to go till the end of the OCBC Structured Internship.

Since I found almost no material online when I searching for previous interns’ experiences in OCBC back when I was considering if I should take up the offer or not, I figured I shall contribute to attempt to fill that void.

Spent the first week under the Group Risk Management Division mostly reading and learning (a heck of a lot) about the Finance industry and specifically matters in the area of (Credit) Risk Management. Manuals, briefing slides, user guides, policies, and whatever else have you I happily digested.

Although I am a tad bit sore about the compensation ($50, 8.5 hours per day Monday to Friday) in all honesty it feels like I’m being paid to learn the ropes of this industry. Good thing about being in the Credit Risk section is that what I’m learning can be applied not just to banks but essentially any business about to take some sort of financial risks.

 

The office screened a documentary after lunch on Friday. ‘How the West went Bust’. Boring title, but definitely worth every second watching. It basically pit the crumbling / crumbled US/UK economy post financial crisis to that of China’s.

The differences are stark. One spends (one could argue) recklessly, the other keeps saving for a rainy day. The beautiful irony is that the purchases made in the UK were fueled by credit partially funded by the very country that was producing the goods (and thus on the receiving end of the dollar).

Yes we all know facts about the sub-prime crisis, ‘too big to fail’ banks and weak US economy but the documentary does a splendid job of tying everything together.

Go watch. Trust me it will be worth your time, unless of course you don’t really care about whats happening in the world around us. Which I must say is sad, because if we’re not careful, it could very well happen to us too.

Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gWtrbGWixRQ

Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2LZozsLYHD4

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OCBC Internship

Alright. 2nd day as an OCBC Intern in the Risk Portfolio Management division. I must say its a nice, interesting break from the mainstay Computer Science related work I am usually involved in. Although specifics of the project hasn’t been handed over yet, I’ve spent 2 days reading up on Credit Risk Management.

Thankfully my supervisor is quite trusting of me and after introducing the team members (a number of whom hold PHDs or at least a Masters) as well as having a conversation with the boss (3rd level management, 4th if you consider the CEO as 1 level), was pretty hands off allowing me to tear through the internal manuals, policies and guidelines that I’ve been reading up on these past 2 days (and by the looks of the number of documents there are, will be for a couple of days more).

RM is a fascinating field I must admit, and since I have no idea how much I am actually allowed to say (had to sign 2 separate Non Disclosure/Information and Data Privacy agreements on the first day) I shall stop here. But this I can say; The amount of new knowledge I’ve digested in just the past 2 days is just intense.

 

Really broadens the mind (I’m not Finance trained so yes, my mind is most definitely broadened) and has given me a fresh perspective of the various aspects of Risk Management (and believe me when I say there are MANY). Actually, come to think of it, not all of it would apply for my project but I figure the more I know the better I would be able to perform given I’m currently like a fish participating in a aquathlon. Sure the swimming section (computer science areas) would not pose too much of a challenge but to win the race, there’s the marathon section (Finance and RM areas) that I need to address too.

Heh. I feel its going to be an interesting attachment.

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Alvin Wang Can’t Get Into School (NUS). What a sham.

Seen a number of such campaigns online in recent times. http://googlepleasehire.me/, http://ithinkyoushouldhireme.com/, TwitterShouldHireMe.com (since been taken offline), another one that looked pretty similar to Alvin’s (style wise) that was trending on Facebook a few months back but I’ve lost the link. Now this.

 

My first thoughts? A Diploma With Merit polytechnic graduate and can’t get into a local Uni? You have seriously GOT TO BE KIDDING ME.

 

So taking a break from my mugging and having a bone to pick with a local university not admitting a Diploma with Merit holder, whom must have worked hard for his GPA, I dug deeper.

Apparently the deal is that this guy DID get into NUS. He is appealing to get into Computer Science instead of the place he’s already accepted (NUS Information Systems, offered by the same School of Computing but of a different ‘focus’).

This, essentially, is an appeal to switch from what he has got (and presumably asked for via listing it down on the application sheet when he applied) to what he now wants. Kind of contradictory to a statement made to TODAYonline where he stated that “If I simply enrol into any other course, I am not sure how that will benefit me.” (source).

To sidetrack a little, isn’t it a more straightforward process to do so through the school via an internal transfer from Information Systems to Computer Science? They are both, after all, offered by the same school. At least that’s how things work in NTU if say I wanted to transfer from Comp Sci to Comp Eng, not too sure how it is in NUS though.

 

Ok. Sloppy or lack of research done by online news publishers (TODAYonline isn’t the only one carrying the article) and a misleading viral website (I say misleading because of the large and in-your-face text proclaiming ‘HELP ALVIN GET INTO SCHOOL’ despite the fact that one has already been accepted by the said school).

What is the state of online media (in SG) coming to?

 

 

But in all fairness, perhaps he opted for Computer Science as his top choice with Information Systems as a backup 2nd choice should he not get his top choice of Computer Science?

Unlikely. [ But then again nowhere does he disclose what were his choices (or even state the fact that he was accepted into NUS Information Systems to begin with) so I shall elaborate on the reasons for my conclusion below. ]

 

From the data extracted from the NUS website (and archived versions of it from previous years), it seems (marginally) easier to get into NUS Computer Science then it is to get into NUS Information Systems.

Also, having a Diploma with Merit (meaning he is among the top 5% of graduates from the given course) would put him way way way above the cut-off grades regardless whichever first choice (CS or IS) he made, assuming a Gaussian / t / chi (or for that matter almost any other kind of) distribution of GPAs received by those accepted by NUS.

 

Below is the Indicative Grade Profiles (IGP) for Poly students accepted into NUS. (In comparison, the grade profiles for NTU Computer Science course is actually a tad lower then that of the NUS CS or IS courses, which means, all other criteria being equal, its harder to get into NUS Computing then NTU Computer Science based on grades)

 

Polytechnic GPAs of the 10th and 90th percentiles of Polytechnic Applicants offered places for courses at NUS in Academic Year 2011/2012

10th
percentile
90th
percentile
School of Computing
Computing (Computer Science)
3.66
3.96
Computing (Information Systems) 3.74 3.97
Extracted from http://nus.edu/oam/gradeprofile/sprogramme-igp.html on 22 Apr 2012.

I took the liberty of pulling up the previous years Indicative Grade Profiles too since it is stated on his viral site that he graduated 2 years ago, and thus could have applied to NUS either before NS (2010), during NS (2011) or after NS (2012). I threw in 2009 for good measure.

 

Polytechnic GPAs of the 10th and 90th percentiles of Polytechnic Applicants offered places for courses at NUS in UAE 2010/2012 [sic] I think there was a typo in the year when the page was captured

10th
percentile
90th
percentile
School of Computing
Computing (Computer Science) 3.63 3.96
Computing (Information Systems) 3.66 3.90
Extracted from the Wayback Machine on 22 Apr 2012.

 

Polytechnic GPAs of the 10th and 90th percentiles of Polytechnic Applicants offered places for courses at NUS in UAE 2009

10th
percentile
90th
percentile
School of Computing
Computing 3.63 3.96
 Extracted from the Wayback Machine on 22 Apr 2012.
(Seems NUS combined the IGPs in years prior to and including 2009)

 

If a Diploma with Merit (I’m going to go ahead and guess Alvin has a GPA of at least 3.8++ to 3.9) truly can’t get a local citizen into a local university, it is a sad sad day indeed (though thankfully this is NOT the case). FYI, Diploma with Merit holders are granted the privilege of applying for any course in Uni, not just one related to their Diploma and I’ve not heard of any being rejected or not getting into the course of their choice.

 

IMHO, this reeks (stinks perhaps?) badly of a publicity stunt. Coincidentally the only outgoing link on his viral website, other then his email address and the 3 social media buttons is, of course, to his website setup to solicit business for his freelance venture. But as they say, there is no such thing as bad publicity. All forms of publicity is ‘good’.

 

Maybe I should try such a stunt one day, let the media pick it up and enjoy my Andy Warhol 15 mins of fame…

Nahh.

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