Smelting Yourself

Smelting Yourself

While driving towards home with my family, my younger sister asked me (to make sure I don’t fall asleep), “What is your New Year’s Resolution?“. I paused to think, then replied “I don’t have one and don’t believe in it“.

Explaining further, I told her that changing ourselves should not be tied to a specific date or time. We can start changing ourselves the moment we determine that it is the best course of action.

I do understand the logic behind New Year’s Resolutions: the new number on your calendar is a daily reminder of the things you promised yourself at the start of the year. However, if you find yourself procrastinating on those changes and saying, “I’ll just wait until the new year comes around”, then that is not a good habit. read more

The Way to Wealth

The Way to Wealth

Benjamin Franklin is not only an American patriot, but his writings are also influential in the personal finance space. His annual journal called the Poor Richard’s Almanack contains gems on how to manage money and how to build your wealth. He summarized it in his essay in 1758 called The Way to Wealth. Here, I will highlight some of the items in his essay that resonated with me and helped me in my financial journey.

“Friends,” said he, “the taxes are indeed very heavy, and, if those laid on by the government were the only ones we had to pay, we might more easily discharge them; but we have many others, and much more grievous to some of us. read more

“Nini Ke”

“Nini Ke”

“Mommy, Daddy has a new car“, my daughter said as the new car went in our garage. Our old green car, a 2000 model Ford sedan, was left outside the gate as we only have the space for one car.

When my daughter was only learning to speak, her word for green was “nini” and her word for car is “ke“. So she calls our green car “nini ke“.

First car

We bought green car a few months before my wife and I were married. The owner was living in the same condominium building that we were renting at that time. Originally I planned to buy a second-hand Honda or a Toyota, and I was not really impressed when I first saw the Ford sedan. My wife liked it though and so we decided to buy it.

It has been our primary mode of transport through the years. My sister borrowed it after our wedding to go to the province. When my wife got pregnant, green car was there for every doctor’s appointment. When it was time to deliver my daughter, green car was also there.

My daughter grew up knowing that green car was our car.

I didn’t expect my 4-year old daughter, or my wife, to be very emotional once the reality loomed that our old car is going away. Our garage only has space for one car and we will not have the time or the money to maintain another one. We decided that we will only sell it to a relative or a close friend so we know that green car will be taken care of.

Memories

We have been with green car for 6 years, and has made some memorable events with us.

I have only learned how to drive a few months before we bought green car, and I have used it to fetch my wife to and from work. Combined with having to park daily on a multi-level single lane parking space, it forced me to increase my driving skills.

First (and only) parking mishap

One evening while parking (backing), the rear side of the car scratched the parking column resulting in large scratches. Since then, no other parking mishaps happened thankfully.

First traffic violation

One day while going to the hospital for a doctor’s appointment, I made an illegal turn on a left turn lane and got apprehended by a traffic enforcer. Since my wife is expecting, I said that my wife is about to give birth (which she did one week later). The enforcers let us go without any fuss.

First provincial trip

On our way back home from the province, there was a funeral march in the provincial road which caused very slow traffic. It forced me to level up my clutch and gear skills as not to stall on the hilly road. I had trouble learning those skills while on driving school.

Beach accident

En route to a beach resort, I made a wrong turn on the wrong resort, resulting in my front wheels being stuck in the sand. I tried everything but the car won’t move and it dug the wheels deeper in the sand. Thankfully some kind locals helped me by digging the sand around the wheel and putting water on it so it becomes compact.

Flood

Going home, I saw that the road was gutter-deep in flood. I made a risky decision to go through it. Thankfully the car didn’t stall but the next day I was not able to start the engine. It did start after a few tries though and didn’t have any long-term damage.

Screw in tire

While driving in the province I heard a loud noise from one of the rear wheels. I continued driving for a few kilometers before I was stopped by a motorcycle driver informing me that I was driving flat. Later we found that a screw has embedded itself in the tire. Thankfully no one was hurt and no damage was done on the wheel assembly.

Moving On

They say that a car is like a family member, which is true from my experience. I spend at least an hour washing the car which also serves as my meditation for the day. We made sure the car is maintained at least once a year, replacing any old or worn out parts.

When green car moved away from our home for the last time, it felt like losing a beloved pet. It was hard, but knowing that the new owners appreciated it made it better. Thank you for your service, nini ke!

Should you take an online course?

Should you take an online course?

The internet can be used as an effective learning platform, usually done through an online course. One of the most commonly-touted advantages of an online course is convenience and accessibility. The ability to study a material in your own time at any place sounds amazing indeed!

I enrolled in an online course offered by the University of California, Berkeley called Foundations of Data Science. This is an actual university course that they converted into an online course format. As the topic of data science interests me, I decided to give it a shot.

The course is composed of three parts with each part lasting for 5 weeks. To learn the material, you need to watch video lectures about a topic every week. A free online book is also available to supplement the video materials. At the end of the week, you need to finish a practical test (laboratory) using a Jupyter Notebook.

After 4 months, I have successfully completed the course. Here are some things that I learned about my experience completing an online course.

Technology is wonderful

As this is my first time taking an online course of any kind, I was wondering how they can assess what I have learned. Surprisingly, technology has advanced far enough to make it easy for teachers to assess students online.

In the data science course, we use Jupyter Notebooks to run examples and to take exams. This is basically a web application that allows you to run Python code in the browser and display the results in real-time. This allows the student to experiment using actual code and actual data without installing Python or any additional software on the computer.

The web application also allows teachers to use auto-grading software to assess the student’s exams. This means that they no longer need to manually check each individual student and instead the application handles it for them automatically.

The best part of this is everything is done in a web browser! For students, this means ease of use and accessibility. A modern web browser is an integral part of computers nowadays, and having it as a web application means that students can learn and take exams anytime and anywhere that has an internet connection.

Paying for it has advantages

One dilemma that I encountered when I was enrolling for the course is whether to purchase a certificate or just do it for free. The course is also offered for free to the public so there is an option to learn the same things without paying for anything.

Online course providers list several reasons why you might want to pay for the course. Main reasons are to support the teachers and making sure the service is running smoothly. For me however, I opted to pay for the course due to the following:

  • Motivation – unless you are a self-disciplined autodidact, there will be times when you will not feel like studying or taking exams for the week. Paying for the service helped me to curb this feeling by thinking about the money that I spent. I admit that this helped me more than anything to push through the end of the course. Looking back, if I had taken the course for free, I would have quit mid-way as I don’t have that many “chips on the table”.
  • Verified Certificate – another reason for me to pay for the course is that they offer a “verified” certification for completing the course. This will allow me to link the certificate in my resume or my portfolio and an external service can verify my accomplishment.
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    Time Letter

    Time Letter

    Taking a quick rest in my bed one evening, I suddenly remembered about my time letter. Back in 2008 I decided to write a letter to myself that I intend to open ten years later. I quickly searched for the letter in my computer, and opened it for the first time in a decade.

    July 13, 2008

    Hello Marvin,

    “Good morning, me.
    Did you sleep well?
    And did you wake up well?
    Does the light and the wind,
    the air and the smell,
    all feel brand new?
    Is each and every cell in your body awake now?
    Today, you are who you are today.
    You are a newer version of me.
    Myself ten years from now…
    That’s so far away for me that I can’t even begin to imagine.
    Am I alone?
    Or is there a wonderful person next to me?
    Well, knowing me, I’m sure I am troubling
    a lot of different people.
    But that’s all right.
    There’s no problem.
    I will always be cheering you on.
    I am no longer here
    But I’m here today, and Ill always be
    cheering for you right here…
    Cheering for you, my only self.” read more