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2013: A Year in Review

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It’s the last day of the year. And my last chance to do a review of 2013 for myself, to myself. It’s a chance to close some chapters, put the final say to the many many things that have happened in the last 365 days. I’ve been to 3 different countries, stayed 5 months in Taiwan, 1 week in Japan, went to Malaysia in between my Taiwan trip for a good 5 days, went back home even. To look at a year in comparison to the year before always leaves me in awe; so many things have changed. The year can be neatly sliced into two parts, Taiwan and Singapore. It’s the first year in my life that I’ve only spent 7 months here.

And so, the biggest change must have been from my exchange. Living overseas for 5 months, away from the environment I am so used to. I am never the adventurous person; but I knew I wanted to know Taiwan. And so I went. After many places, many new friends, thousands of photos and a burn motocycle scar on my right leg, I came back. And thought that the transition back to a Singapore life was going to be hard. But the semester whizzed by so fast and I didn’t realize how much has happened in the next span of 4 months. Then was exams and reservist. After which I was (and am still somewhat) preoccupied by the Room Improvement Program. That’s been going on pretty smoothly, except for a cabinet that takes ages to arrive.

And as I came back I stumbled onto two pet projects, the Esplanade one for Huayi and another one for the ConnexSCIons for the school. And my semester seemed like only doing these two things, along with many other things. Life was too busy for me to look at the sky and think about transitions. In fact at the start I was almost grateful that there were things to keep me occupied; being too free made me think too much about everything back at Taiwan. Flying back after so long overseas is always very abrupt, no matter how many goodbyes and recaps you make. There was a life I was living in Taiwan.

I have grown used to going to Sinyi Church in Hsinchu,
I have grown used to being beside a very close friend who accompanied me almost everywhere, I have grown used to taking the pink bus for free from Chianchung Road to NCTU.
I have grown used to grabbing a helmet and propping myself to the back a motorcycle and off I go to many many places, as if I have always done it like that.
I have grown used to cooking dumplings and noodles in two pots, and eating them while watching 康熙來了. But the trip back brought everything to a sudden halt.

Thinking back, I am grateful, at least, that the busyness of school quelled the thirst to go back. It wasn’t a gush of emotions, it was a slow bubbling one. That, I can live with.

Actually, I probably was too busy with life after coming back. I know there were a lot of things I did that were unprecedented for me. Like guest lecturing. Like attending an exhibition as an artist. Like doing what I call “real commercial work”.

And those other things that are so unassuming went beyond my memory but formed the bedrock of the months here. TGIF, my cell mates are always there for me through these months. They are the people I subconsciously go back to because in a way they are as close as kin gets in terms of the people I hang out with. Thank you TGIF.

Throughout the months when I was back, and even the first night when I touched down on Singapore soil 3/4 way through my Taiwan journey, I met Qinghong, Yongqing, I have known them for the longest, since my secondary 1 days. And together with Shuting, they form the core of my childhood memories; I count it a blessing to be able to live so many years with them, and I look forward to even more in the many years to come.

And of course, my parents who have graciously given so much of their own to fulfill my dream to go Taiwan, and even more so, Japan. It was an amazing journey there. I won’t be able to make it if Daddy hadn’t exchanged more Yen for me… Till now I still miss Japan, and I am a little proud that I managed to tour Japan alone backpacking like that. Contrary to what I feared at first, I didn’t go crazy not being to speak meaningfully to people for 7 days. Japan is an amazing place. Super efficient, so futuristic yet traditional. It’s a wonder how they are able to exist like that. And I also tried my hands at the capsule hotel. And experience definitely ahahha.

My social circle is really small. I only have a very limited capacity to be close to certain number of people, so while there are definitely more people I can list to thank, I’d do them personally. And there’s not like hundreds more. And I can live with that.

In the past few days, the last few days on 2013, I was suddenly troubled by events and people that made me question the purpose of my existence in their lives. I ask the perennial question: what am I here for? If I live just to die. If I walk this road a thousand times and then I disappear one day, what would that make of my life? What is the point of my life if it does not impact others? I know one day this life will be over, and the route I take and walk everyday, sometimes I find myself just walking and not have a clue what I was walking to or for. It’s a sombering and scary moment to suddenly lose that ‘focus’ on what I am living for, even if its just for a second. It’s like a bulb that receives a sudden jolt of absence of electricity. It’s shocking (my pun).

2013 passed so eventfully, so quickly, so quietly. It feels like I can never fully consolidate my thoughts for 2013, then 2014 is here. Is time moving too fast, or am I too busy to observe it pass me by?

So, this is my very conflagulated review of 2013. Very messy, but very true. It’s been a hell of a year, but a year that was so essential, so beneficial, so very life changing. I thank God for 2013, and with that I look forward to 2014. I’ll write some resolutions after I enter 2014.

Module Review (Part 4)

Yo guys, just got back from reservist and of course I have also finished my exams at NTU for year 3 sem 1. It was a hell of a sem (seems like every sem is). But this time around it was better towards the end because I had only 3 exams, 1 was S/Ued away, 1 was 30% only, the last one was open book. And also because I was already year 3 and didn’t have a lot of shit to give about my grades already.

And… as usual for convenience sake I will make these posts culmulative by posting all the past mods up as well!

— Y3 S1 —-

CS4073: Change Communication (Major-PE)

This is very enjoyable course with a very nice Mr Ferry who strives to make the lessons interesting by having guest lecturers and sharing personal stories about change and how difficult it is for change to occur in organizations. The examples are relevant and thought-engaging, the people you meet are very diverse as well. For me almost 1/3 of the class were exchange students from Switzerland, France, Korea, Sweden and they all have their own stories to share and add to the dynamics. It’s a fun mod to take. Course assessment includes a midterm group project, an end term personal report and 30% closed book finals.

CS4032: Communications Campaign (Major-Core)

Unfortunately this is a course that I am not exactly sure what it is about, but my guess is that its a built up from the previous course CS2058. Essentially we learn about how to create communication campaigns, how to use the media tools and concepts in theory to reach out to the audiences. Course assessment includes a group project with two presentations and a 50% open book finals of which you will roughly know the questions beforehand.

CS4029: Creativity and Copywriting (Major-PE)

This course can be considered one of the most polarizing courses I took in WKW, because it while it does ‘teach’ some things, most of the grades you’ll get probably has no direct correlation to the amount of ‘hard work’ you do. In a way it’s like art and craft, if the teacher likes it, you’ll get a better grade. Of course my course trainer tries to leave subjectivities out of the judgement, but I know people who get constantly demoralised because of the barrage of Bs and Cs they get week after week. Anyway, this is a very heavy mod with weekly assignments and even 2 group projects, one of which includes storyboarding for a sister mod. But you do learn to take criticisms at facevalue, learn to pick up yourself and not your pride, learn to work with others, learn to churn volumes of work. And the best part? No exams. Hell, it was enough already at the end of the 11 assignments I had to do. I personally didn’t do very well for any of the assignments, until there was one self-promo ad that I cooked up in 30minutes and thought nothing of it. And boy I was surprised when it was featured as the best self-promo ad.

CS2068: Newsletter Practicum / ConnexSCIons (UE)

This was my baby mod this sem. They say that in WKW we put in the most effort in mods that have no grades. I don’t know why, but I agree. I spent weeks to finetune the design. Before which I took on the role of team leader of the Alumni section, and I had to coordinate 10plus interviews among my 4 team mates who will go out to get their scoop. And then was the designing phase, and essentially it went quite okay because I had experience working with the trainer thru a previous mod before. I also had experience with mag publications and I was able to reap the benefits of an efficient workflow. Admittedly I sacrificed collaboration for efficiency, but I knew everyone wanted to get the mod over and done with so they can focus on the exams, and we worked seamlessly as a team, all 12 of us, towards that goal. As a result we became the most efficient ConnexSCIons team ever in its history, concluding the semester 2 weeks before schedule. No exams, Pass / fail module.

— Y2 S2 —- EXCHANGE IN NATIONAL CHIAOTUNG UNIVERSITY, TAIWAN

— Y2 S1 —-

CS2007: Communication Theories and History (CORE)

In every semester there’s GOT to be a module like this. This is the equivalent of CS0201, CS2008 in terms of work load, pressure and effort needed. It’s a challenge because of the sheer amount of information to process; this mod feels like a 6AU module taken at a 3AU credit level. But as a reward you learn a lot of useful comm theories from many brillant old men, some of which are useful enough to be taken out for an intellectual drive to show off to your non-WKW friends. In fact this mod is so amazing (in both good and bad ways), its the rite of passage of all WKW students. It’s the slap in the face for everyone who thinks WKW is very easy. Just tell them, “You take 207 and tell me lah.” Yep, that good.

CS0900: Communication Strategies for Sustainability and Social Change (CORE)

This module didn’t leave a very good impression in my mind from the beginning because we simply didn’t know there’s such a module. It’s the hidden ninja that popped out of nowhere and says ‘hey, sorry man, you’ve gotta take me muahahahaha.’. Not a good first impression. The workload wasn’t too bad, but there projects were certainly not welcomed by many of us. They had too high a weightage and the rubrics for the entire course, including the administration just didn’t cut it for us. Coursework wise it’s easier than CS0201; perhaps if it wasn’t for the suddenness of its introduction to us, we might find it worthwhile. You learn about how to communicate for a more sustainable life. Or something like that.

CS2023: Publication Design

Publication Design was actually a good course overall. I believe many of us learnt the most out of this course, and even though there was work to do every week, it managed to be fun enough for me not to mind doing it. And being a freelancer outside, it sure benefitted me to take this course, since I finally got to ‘learn’ design from a real person other than from videos or books. The instructor’s logic and taste, while can be really difficult to comprehend (as a person) at times, is still pretty solid. Many of the things he said were true, and correct. And of course, the open book exam means you probably only need to practise flipping for your notes only. One of the most enjoyable mods in WKW I’ve taken.

CS2065: Radio Practicum

Radio Prac is a dream for me, because I’ve always wanted to try out being a DJ. It’s good exposure for someone who wants to talk into the mic; whether people listen to you or not; that’s another question altogether. But still it’s a good experience to be a DJ. I think that’s the most valuable takeaway for me. Another one depends on your role in Radio Fusion; I was a web director, and in the few months I revamped the website, learnt a hell out of HTML coding (the copy and paste kind though), and I guess that allowed me a crash self-taught course in website design. But workload wise, this is really really an easy course to take. No grades, no exams, just AUs to give away.

CS2058: Integrated Marketing Communication

I must admit I am probably the worst student to ever comment on this, because I’ve hardly attended any of the lectures (due to the very early timing), and among other reasons haha. But… Okay. The exam paper is easy, because somehow everyone would have prepared the script before hand. The only thing the exam really tests you on, is your memory skills. Shan’t comment further.

— Y1 S2 —

CS2008: Fundamentals of Research (CORE)

This one of the nail biting courses I took due to the sheer amount of work we needed to do. There’s a term long research assignment whereby we have to submit sections of the impending research paper to submit every 2-3 weeks for a measly 3% of our grades. Not to mention the free labour we had to commit to ‘contribute’ to the school’s pool of knowledge and to ‘help pull up our grades’. On the bright side, however, you will learn how to write a proper APA format research paper that you can use for the rest of your uni life.

CS2002: Information Literacy (CORE)

Hmm, this is a course where I would have traded a bit of the professor’s niceness with more teaching efficacy. I have to admit I don’t really know much about this course other than cramming with the textbook, which, isn’t all that engaging after all. This course has a very very nice lecturer, but unfortunately I didn’t manage to catch much balls during the lectures. Very little work, except for a term paper that you have to work in groups to complete. My group just had to rush it thru cos we had tonnes of other mods’ work to do.

CS2006: Visual Literacy (CORE)

THIS is the holy grail of WKW. The module some had been waiting for with bated anticipation, while others simply cringe at the thought of it. It’s basically a practical course with little to no help rendered. It’s a time where you are thrown to the deep end of the pool and given to your own devices to save yourself. Our tutors are professional and helpful, and they know a huge deal. But much of the work, the concepts and your own. And of course your wonderful friends at WKW will be willing to help as well.

This is a course where hard work might not necessarily pay off in letter grades, but in activating an endearing passion for broadcast. This course included a 3 minute music video that you have to conceptualise and carry out filming on your own (with your group), It’s gonna be tiring, troublesome and very time consuming. BUT, at the end of the day, you will be more than amazed at the quality of work you and your friends can create. It’s worth the effort. This is a wonderful course.

CS0203: Media In Singapore (CORE)

If I may be blunt here, this course is all about this awesome lecturer / media scholar / celebrity called CHERIAN GEORGE. If you haven’t heard him teach before, you will not realise how awesome this professor is. You will willingly wake up at 7am, travel across the island JUST to listen to him teach. His critique of Singapore Media (Jounalism) is unparalleled by almost any lecturer you’ve heard before. Ask us WKW seniors about him, and we will tell you he’s good; if not one of the best in NTU. Or Singapore. I shan’t spoil it for you, but if you’re heading to WKW, you can be assured your choice is right, partially due to lecturers like Cherian George.

— Y1 S1 —

CS0201: Foundation of Communication Studies (CORE)

This mod really changed the way I saw my world. It worked like a mirror + magnifying glass. It alerted me to the way I treated people, the way I talked, and listened. It challenged me to be more serious when listening, more careful when speaking, more aware of relationships.

CS0204: Basic Media Writing (CORE)

BMW threw me into the sea of media writing. Just like any non-swimmer learning how to swim, everyone had to figure what kind of writing worked for them. As much as you have a ‘standard’ style to write, everyone writes with their own style and opinions. It’s like swimming; once you get it, you won’t forget how to write a good piece of news story, brochure or press release.

CS2005: Speech and Argumentation (CORE)

Among all the courses, this one stood out as one of the most time consuming one. But looking back, it helped me become a wee bit more confident when I speak, and I can only imagine the benefits when I do presentations in future.

The Art without an Artist

I’ve just watched Frozen and thruout the entire movie there were beautiful snowflakes, and I couldn’t help but remember this article. It doesn’t talk about God or Science (although the commenter would, obviously). It just displays photographs of snowflakes seen through macros. 

Many many years ago someone by the name of David once exhaled these immortal words: “He said the heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmaments show forth His handiwork.”

I’ve been a designer for 3 years now. People see my work and they know me. I haven’t left one name in any poster, book, or advertisement. I sign my work not with signatures but with extents. But my extent is not infinite, and I cannot lay claim to perfection. It’s something I strive towards knowing full well I’ll never get there. 

But then again I am as imperfect as any human, and I only edit to the extent the audience can perceive it. If I’m more anal I go to the extent that I myself can perceive. Different people can go to different extents, but who can lay claim to perfection? There are always limits to whatever we do.

And yet, when we look at human art it is precisely the imperfection that convinces. No one actually doubts imperfection. 

In fact people will only doubt if it looks too good to be true. We doubted Kyle Lambert when he painted Morgan Freeman because they didn’t believe he could finger paint to such precision. Yet it took another software to prove its imperfection — only then did (some) people believe it was human made.

Why is perfection so hard to believe? Perhaps it’s because life is so imperfect and imprecise, that we find find perfection so oddly strange; there is nothing within our capabilities to (re)produce, but there it is staring at us in the face, screaming its own existence. It takes faith to believe in God because we are not perfect.

We trust imperfection, because it represents what it means to be human, to live. If there was something perfect we probably won’t believe it. But if imperfection points to humans, perfection shouldn’t belong to us. Then whose is perfection?

I believe David said it best.

Exam Tips for Uni Students

After 2.5 years and countless exams I think I may have some advice to give.

1. Don’t plan your time according to the marks allocation. Short answer questions usually require way less time than you think.

2. The extra time goes into planning for your essay questions, NOT for writing longer essays. Which brings me to…

3. Don’t rush, don’t ramble on in your answers. Correctness > Length. DON’T BE A SMARTASS BY WRITING ESSAYS WHEN THE MARKER SAID AT THE FIRST PAGE TO WRITE 2-3 LINES.

4. Select your FOUR out of FIVE, THREE out of FOUR questions BEFORE you even start on any. Tick the questions you want, cross those you don’t, then start. You don’t wanna break the momentum by thinking about them 1hr into the exam.

5.Normally essay qsns are long winded. Circle command keywords in all the questions before you attempt any. E.g. Give THREE examples, list FIVE yadaya. EXPLAIN, LIST, DESCRIBE etc. Circle and write a (1), (2), (3) etc so you know how many parts there are to the qsn.

6. Include clear, numbered headers for every subpart of the question. 1 Paragraph = 1 header.

7. If you finish the paper with 1hr to spare, use the time to underline your headers with a different color pen.

8. Draw mindmaps in essay answers if it helps. It takes up meaningful space and makes your answer look more structured.

9. Use short forms liberally. Your prof probably actually can read them. For example, I use ‘Eco Develp’ to mean Economic Development. Its not english language or GP, no marks deducted for short form, but long and illegible scribbles might annoy the marker.

10. For essay exams, if you finish, you’ll know it. No need to deceive youself into thinking you may miss something out by sitting out the remaining 45mins in the exam hall doing nothing. You’ll be better off revising the next paper / or enjoying the holidays 45min earlier than the rest.

A befitting end x I can live with that.

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Today marks the end of another semester, and with this I wanna do a recap so I can put this chapter behind me. Funny how this sems feels like its over even though I still have 3 more papers to go.

It’s such a strange semester because it passed very fast, but yet it took so long to pass this fast. Feels like a complete contradiction isn’t it?

So many things happened in this semester.

• Obscured Exhibition
• Revamp of ConnexSCIons
• Esplanade’s Huayi Project
• Toh Kian Chui Bursary
• PI Internship application madness
• Guest lectured for the first time (as in, me being the lecturer, on Typography to a COM232 class)
• School work and life

Essentially I did more things in this semester than the last two combined. In return I was banking on the fact that the exams will be a breeze. And I kinda intend for it to be as such. For example, the 429 portfolio I have already submitted today. While I know I have all the way till 22 Nov, I wanted to get this over and done with, and I know that I can live with the results and the work I have done. In a way ever since I came back from exchange I knew this part of me has changed forever. Results and grades, they are just what they are. So while I am proud of what I have done for the mod, I know that I probably won’t be among the best in grades, and yes, I can live with that,

Which made today all the more special. Today I would have received all the assignments back from Tim, and boy was I surprised when he went, “At the top prize goes to…” And viola I saw my own Google self-promo ad up on the screen in front of the entire class. To be honest that was what I had secretly hoped for since the 1st lecture, for my work to be chosen and celebrated. And after a while I kinda resigned to the very plausible fact that it won’t be the case. But it wasn’t a negative emotion; it’s more like some sort of peace knowing that it’s better to not aim for that kind of recognition anyway.

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But ironically when I did my portfolio submission, I redid the Google ad. Yes, meaning that the A grade Google ad didn’t make it into my portfolio anyway. I must confess for a split second that perhaps I should go update that into the portfolio, but I knew I wouldn’t.

I redid the self-promo ad into a series of ads for a bid at Taiwan High Speed Rail. Of course, it’s as fictitious as the bid for Google, but its more realistic given that that desire to return to Taiwan was at least real enough.

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Even all that has happened in this semester, I just long to do something meaningful, for myself, instead of satisfying clients’ whims. It’s a part of me that just wanna fuck the world and self-indulge in myself and my dreams for once. Regardless the grades obviously. None of the items in my portfolio are A grade assignements. I’m lucky to have an A grade assignment now, but grades are not the most important thing anymore.

The common theme amongst all the ads in my portfolios are that they all took me quite a substantial bid of time to conceptualise. The Google ad was whipped up in 30 minutes. The point is I’m just not as vested into the Google ad compared to the 5 pieces inside my portfolio. And since I was no longer concerned about grades I had all the freedom to do what I truly wanted to do. And that, my friends, is truly liberating. And yes I can live with that.

Obscured was something I never thought I would do. But what I never did is done. The first time my work is one the public stage for people to look, gawk, scrutinize, criticize, pander, ponder. It was really unsettling a thought, but on that day I felt like a proud father looking at my children. None of the work was for a commercial client. Everything was of my brain, for people that mattered to me. If you design something for your client, that idea might be yours, but that product is the client’s. It’s with personal projects that I can really consider something truly mine. And because it’s mine I can live with that imperfection.

ConnexSCIons was something that started off as an afterthought; I wanted to redesign the magazine. Managing interviews and schedules was something I had to learn to do as well. I thought I knew enough, proves that I still have much much more to learn. Though instantly the next internal reaction was to say: who am I to redesign the magazine? But I did anyway. I used two weeks to come up with a concept that I would find decent and befitting of the content it contains, something that is elegant and uncluttered. My challenge was to elevate the level of design yet make it simpler and more flexible, more sustainable in the short run; it needs to be easily replicable and take on various forms, without losing its own identify or overly asserting it. The end product will be out in December, and I’ll be looking out for it.

To be honest I was half hoping Esplanade won’t call me, but they did, and it was in the thick of settling the Cnx work. But I knew it was a God-given opp and I had to take it head-on. What followed was weeks and weeks (and still on going) process of ideation. Due to embargoes and all I cannot comment on specifics, but I’m truly excited for the line-up and there will be at least one group that I want to go listen to. It’s a blessing to be able to listen to the music of an artiste while designing for them. It’s an honor, the crazy load not withstanding. And with a new client of course I get to learn how the commercial work works. Definitely an eye-opening journey with Huayi.

Professional Internship (PI) was another rollercoaster journey as well. I wanted to go to TBWA pretty badly at first; I thought God would open that door eventually, so I held faith to the end, all the while putting all the other rejections away at face value, though they all eventually came back to bite. I mean, who wants to be rejected 5 times anyway? But on the second phase, I went to OMD, and felt the good vibe. But reeling from 5 rejections in my belt I was more a realist than an optimist. I asked the interviewer (who is a very nice lady), when her company can give a response to I can know what to do (instead of mindlessly waiting and then get rejected and wait again — the sem was really eating into me then), and the next thing I heard was amazing.

“I’ll confirm you now. See you in January!”

That was the best moment I had in a long while. An interviewer who printed out my resume in color and looked at each line. She asked me about my faith, why I liked to write Chinese poems, noted my INFP personality, asked about what ‘social literate’ meant. I talked about some experiences studying the voting behaviours behind the Weetee competition when I was the marcom. Those things. And at no time did she ask about my designing capabilities. She wasn’t interested in what I could do, but more into me as a person. I thank her for that.

I am also grateful for the TKC bursary. Even though the blessing didn’t flow the way I expected it to; it is no way taking way the fact that God has blessed, and I’ll learn to be grateful.

I admit that this semester is so inundated by Huayi and ConnexSCIons that general school work, its projects have all taken a peripheral role. I can’t make everything my priority; I just hope I put in my sufficient best in school.

And now that the semester is officially over (what exams, anyway?) I just wanna wind down slowly and just continue breathing. Huayi is well on its way and I foresee the road ahead to be much much better than the one I travelled just a month ago.

There is still work. Exams need to be preped. Huayi needs to be completed. Body needs to slim down from the binge of eating through the sem and lack of sufficient exercise.

… and the best part is….

I think I can live with that.

[Review] OS X Mavericks in 5min: The Imperceptible Experience

Apple likes to throw buzz words these days, from “chamfered edges”, “experience”, and yadayada. And for the latest iteration of Apple’s “World’s Most Advanced Operating System” (yeah another one), I just installed OS X Mavericks yesterday. Let me give you some info about my experience using this spanking new OS. Or is it?

Introduction

The first thing you’ll notice about Mav is that it’s so similar to any thing post Snow Leopard. That is — unless you’re upgrading from SL, you’ll be hard pressed to actually notice rightaway the changes Apple has made to its OS. Some of the changes actually require some exploration to get into and (finally) benefit from, but let’s cut to the chase.

Installation

The 5.2gb file took me 2 hours to download. My suggestion is to copy the download .dmg file from the Applications folder to your own harddisk for safekeeping (also great if you have multiple systems to upgrade; beats downloading the same thing twice). If you don’t, your Mac will automatically delete it off after the installation to save disk space. 

Installing took around 20+ minutes on my late 2011 MBP with SSD, so timing can vary quite significantly, (likely take 30+ min if you your system runs on a SATA hdd instead). You can just leave your machine to do its thing; no input is needed until everything boots up in Mav. That’s the simplicity I’ve come to love about Apple products.

Boot Up: The Mavericks Desktop

The iconic waves of Mav greet you once the system boots for the first time into Mav. Congrats. Instantly I notice newly designed icons for the iBooks and Maps. I immediately hid the iBooks icon cos’ I knew that wasn’t something I see myself using. The maps icon didn’t get the kill; perhaps I felt it will serve a better purpose in future. Works exactly like the Apple Maps in the iOS. Not anything fantastic (or even trustworthy). Google Maps is still the standard to beat here. 

The Good:

1. Multiple Indepedent Fullscreen Spaces

If you, like me, have two screens to work with at times, it used to be ridiculously frustrating to swap between opened apps on the screen because the other monitor will simply display the black fabric. Makes no sense. But now in Mav, screens can swap independently on their own; you can work on your full screen Photoshop on your main screen, swipe to full screen Illustrator, and the finder window still REMAINS on the first one. Duh. 

2. Finder Tabs, Color tags

You can finally say byebye to 23872193 finder windows can trying to Expose them just to find the right one. Now finder works like Safari; different opened finders are all tabbed for easy switching. And you can tear them away by dragging the tabs outwards to form a new window. That’s actually useful. Color tagging now can be searched systemwide, and works like a “Smart Folder”. Great for items that belong in multiple places; say you have articles in a folder called COM432, another in the downloads, and some more in your dropbox that you need to read. Previously you make a note, duplicate them or just forget about reading all of them. Now, just right-click and color code them RED. And when you need to read, just search for RED coded items. Bingo!

3. iWork & iLife Vastly improved

Of course this one is assuming you already purchased the iWork and iLife suites. Only Mav supports the newly redesigned apps that were announced at the iPad event yesterday. I have yet to delve into them, but I will do so and post something here when I get the time to. But I feel that this is a gamechanger for the Apple ecosystem user because the iWork suite (Pages, Numbers and Keynote) are more streamlined than ever, up to the templates they offer. Which means that as along as you remain loyal to the ecosystem (or even drift outside sometimes), everything you create in the iWork world will work exactly as it’s supposed to. From the functions to the fonts to the exporting. Its value increases exponentially when you have the iPad. For example, you can start a Keynote presentation in your iPad and finish it up on your comp. Present it in school using iCloud. There isn’t a need for a thumbdrive or even Dropbox. And this latest iteration means that now, you can do even more of that with lesser incompatibility among the devices (they marketed it as ‘seamless’, so there’s a lot to offer here). 

The Bad? Or just weird?

The familiarity is also its key weakness. There isn’t anything mind-blowing here, (or should I say there isn’t something I desperately need OS X to have), but there are still inconsistencies here. Like the awkwardness of the super minimalist iOS7 interface clashing with the generally iOS6 era icons. Apple’s OSes are in the midst of transition, and this time around iOS 7 is leading that transformation. But then to what end? Will iOS and OS X eventually merge together is anyone’s guess, but for now you’ll get to enjoy the FREE (yes, Apple is crazy about Free things lately) new Mavericks. Enjoy.

10 Questions for a Designer

Tell us about yourself and what you do.
I am Jeremiah, I am a communicator that likes design.

What is the secret to your success?
By focusing on what I know I am good at, which is layouts, chinese typo, and not wanting to do everything I see others do.

What is the greatest hustle you have pulled off?
Doing a website for a school radio practicum. I am never a web person, so touching wordpress engines, html and coding was really a frightening experience for me. The previous web director told me that I was better off not changing anything; it was too much of an effort and too much buracratic fat to cut through. I shrugged at that.

How did you make it happen?
The website for Radio Fusion of NTU crashed (with all the data) the very night I took over the rights thereof. So I had to make it work. I was very lucky to have a great senior Ashraf help me reset the system (you know a genius when you see one). And so I began the process of rebuilding the website from scratch, import bits of information from Google’s cache, adding HTML5 slideshows, basically bring the website to the modern age. It was tough but tremendously satisfying.

What is a good trick you’ve learnt to get your way?
Most of us who are in design are here because we want to change things. Yet the clients or environment around us is at best cursory when it comes to talking about change. So we have to not just design something different. That won’t do. To get your way, market your idea, your design like a boss. Work for them like a collaborator, but propose your key idea like you are the damn boss. Have absolute confidence that your redesign will work, and it will be intrinsically better than everythin they’ve seen up till now.

In your opinion, what is the most important trait a designer should have?
The ability to manage expectations. Of yourself. Of your clients. Of your co-workers. We have heard of ‘under-promise, over-deliver’. But in essence, to provide at the level to which you promised is good enough, but never below. And in order to do that you have to make sure your client knows what you can do and more importantly, what you cannot do. There is no shame in being human about your shortcomings. I cannot draw artistically. I cannot take great photos. I can’t do web. I cannot do English typo. But I can do layouts. I can produce magazines. I can understand the situation. And I think I can help. If the client can’t get past that, you probably deserve a better client anyway.

What do you find most challenging about what you do?
The notion that I have to come up with something great every single time. But as I move along the design journey, I realise that not every work will turn into a masterpiece. Not every work will make it into my next featured portfolio item. And it doesn’t have to either. You can imagine how reassuring it was to hear my professor say, “no idea is truly original. the good copy. the best steal.” I am still constantly grappling with letting okay be good enough. There are some projects that I will put my 120%, but the rest? 80% is enough. You can’t just have 5 pet projects. One of them must actually steal your heart.

What is the most annoying question you’ve ever been asked?
“How’s the progress coming along?” Seriously. To such questions I normally give answers along the lines of “progress is good.” I still don’t understand what is the purpose of such questions. It’s like asking a pregnant woman, “how’s the baby coming along? I don’t know, I feel it’s really redundant.

Complete the sentence: when all else fails..
just get this over and done with loh. There’s always another project de what.

If you were a superhero, who would you be and why?
Magneto. Cos he can solve all computer problems.

Republished without permission, but full credits due to Chris Lee Creative Director, The Republic of Singapore, http://www.theasylum.com.sg

My Blessed Busyness

Someone once told me life is about choices, and that I could choose to not be this busy. I was a little moved at first, thinking of how I should reexamine myself and the way I live my life. But at the next possible instant I remembered that I wasn’t busy for the sake of it. It sure felt like I was working my arse off; the nights are crazy, the days are mad. The assignments come in droves, and expectations for each of them sky high. I missed my first cell group last friday and I was outraged by the fact that I *had* to choose between cell and work. But work won cos work had to be done.

But thinking back I knew that person’s comments made no sense to me. Because life isn’t about choices, life is about making the fullest out of your choices. And sometimes life doesn’t give you much of a choice. 

This semester, appropriately after 8 months of nearly zero brain activity in Taiwan and Japan and all, I am back doing. In fact this sem is much more of doing than reading, projecting, or whatnots. It’s a very hands-on sem. I have to think of ideas for adverts. I have to come up with designs for my school’s magazine. I have to get ready my resume, cover letter. I have to go for all sorts of meetings, interviews, yadayada. 3 of my days end later than 8pm. 

But this sem I am busy with the magazine I used to read during my NS days, fantasizing of the times I would be in WKWSCI. For the first time I am actually revamping the entire magazine in time for its fitting 10th anniversary.

But this sem I am busy with leading a team of 4 awesome people who do great work in getting stories and meeting tight deadlines. For the first time I get to lead people under my charge.

But this sem I am busy with YAYP ministry, to do up the visual for an upcoming bonding activity. For the first time I am involved directly with the YA.

But this sem I am busy with Huayi Festival, more specifically the InMusic section feature awesome indie music bands from around Asia, at the Esplanade. For the first time, I am doing something of such a scale and magnitude. 

But this sem I am busy with touring my home. I am blessed to have great friends to bring me around the island, to little known parts and just to explore this place. I learn so much. For the first time, I went to the Singapore Flyer and the Gardens By The Bay. It was an uplifiting experience.

But this sem has such goodness. I received a generous bursary from the Toh Kian Chui foundation from NTU that will go a long way to offset my expenses.

But this sem has such goodness. Today I hear that my group’s video for CS0900 got into the finals.

But this sem has such goodness. I was downloading some Hi-Res photos for artistes to work on the key visual for Huayi, and I was like, “OMG, I am actually doing this? This is for real?” I never imagine I will be producing stuff that will be on newspapers, stands and social media. There is nothing in this upcoming project that I have done before. It’s all new.

But this sem, indeed, has such goodness. I am actually able to decide the future for ConnexSCIons, and get the nod from both men in my course. 

This sem is busy, let’s not deny that. But make no mistake — I do not, and have not been busy-ing myself for nothing. There has never been a more meaningful semester in my university life, and for that I have only God to thank.

Before, After.

Singapore has changed since I came back. Or more like leaving Singapore for 5 months really changed me. It’s only been a few days since I’m back, but so many things have happened since I’m back.

I came back on Wednesday night, and since then I’ve been prepping for Matt and Serene’s Wedding. I was to be their emcee, in Chinese. It was a nerve wrecking time to be doing it for the first time in my life, with no official rehearsal opportunity with my co-emcee Amanda at the G2 Sanctuary. But thank God it turned out well received, and for that I am grateful.

Coming back, many things have changed. I came back to a Singapore what I can’t help but see in a different light. I find myself not being as judgemental towards foreigners, having been one myself in Taiwan and Japan.

I have also just finished packing my room, and cleaning it up. It took my 3 days to get it done, but now at least my room is neat, tidy and clean. It’s really helpful for my nose so I don’t sneeze so much. This time around the cleaning was really deep and thorough.

Being overseas really made me more independent and also more aware and responsible towards my own things. Like I will want to clean my room because a clean dust-free room directly benefits my own health and comfort.

Being overseas made me unconsciously much more confident when I’m using Chinese. That environment really forced me to not only speak, but think in Chinese.

Being overseas really caused me to rethink my design, to start off with no preconceptions of what design should be or is like. It made me realise how equipped I can be in my skills and yet lack so much in the soul of it all. There is so much of soul in Taiwan that sometimes I felt like I was thief ransacking through every crook and cranny of what belongs safely in their treasure trove. And I can say that no exposure is as good as immersion.

After: I am finally back.

After 5 months of wandering to and fro, amongst two countries: Taiwan and Japan.

I guess being overseas made me appreciate home more. The standards to which I hold Singapore to still stays, but the attitude thru which they are held in have been more humane than ever.

If I am to let exchange change my life, the last thing I need to do is to revert to what I was before I left. So today when I alighted from the bus, I said 謝謝 to the bus aunty, who seemed slightly taken aback to hear that, but she looked at me and beamed me a smile. At that point I knew that this is the route I will take, I will continue to bring the best of Taiwan back to Singapore where I live. That way, my exchange will never end.

這就是我 me

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