Events and Stuff

Hackathon #1

It’s 3:10 a.m. and there is a dude sitting at the other table eating from a bag of cottage cheese chips while working. I’m as green (with envy) as that bag of chips is.

I do have something to work on – preparing how we would pitch tomorrow. And I decided to write here now because having several windows open with stuff you want to do on each one helps keep you awake. Well, hopefully.

It’s 3:14 a.m. and I can’t stop looking at the can of Pringles over at another table. It’s green, too.

I’m glad we’ve reached this point, and I’m glad it will be over soon, because this first hackathon definitely was not what I had expected. The team had decided to roll with a relatively difficult idea, and although I don’t mind challenges (else why would I even be in a hackathon in the first place, eh?), there was nothing I could do to contribute to the development of the idea; my skill sets weren’t compatible. I learned as much as I could prior to the hackathon, but it was not enough and we didn’t even use a shred of it. All I did was make a few minor additions to the interface of the web app (which I’m not even sure made the final cut, as of now), and I feel terribly guilty because one of the team members had did the bulk of the work on his own.

It’s 3:18 a.m. and I’m feeling a little more awake after that last chunk of text, thank God.

I’m writing now mainly to…

It’s 3:19 a.m. and I just saw someone I knew from a previous tech event, who had said she wasn’t sure if she was attending this hackathon.

Well, I’m writing now mainly to generate ideas for what I could write regarding the pitch. But maybe my brain has simply switched to emergency “Write” mode because I’m actually dead tired (but not going to think about it!)

It’s 3:26 a.m. and I haven’t even written the first paragraph and I was actually scheduled to sleep for another hour till 4:30 a.m. .

Oh well. No rest for the wicked.

(That last line was totally intended because Wicked is about a green witch, and being green was mentioned several times, and… right, ich werde damit sofort aufhören.)


Taking a German Placement Test (Goethe-Institut KL)

I finally signed up for an Einstufungsprüfung (placement test) at the Goethe-Institut in Kuala Lumpur, despite fears and doubts that my German ability had barely scratched A1. Like many tests,  it had three sections: reading comprehension / grammar, writing (50-100 word essay) and oral. I was allocated an hour for both the grammar and writing parts, if I remember correctly.

The Goethe-Institut uses the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). If you’re not familiar, an explanation can be found here.

Reading Comprehension & Grammar
This first section is multiple-choice, and is quite similar to some placement test examples you might find on the Internet, like this one from the Goethe-Institut itself, and this, and also this. It was a relief, as I was expecting A1/A2-style exams, with listening sections. However, having tried both the A1 and A2 sample papers, I think the A2 section on the placement test (not stated, by the way) was slightly harder than what I encountered on the model paper. Although this may be a biased opinion formed under the influence of nervousness and pre-test anxiety. I placed around A2 here, with some gaps in my A1 knowledge.

Having expected to write long, important letters, I was armed with my ‘Sehr geehrte Damen und Herren‘s and ‘Mit freundlichen Grüßen‘s, but it was a simple essay requesting that you write about yourself, how long you’ve been learning German, where you’ve learnt it, why, etc. I merely tried to explain how I used to study for about only 15-20 minutes per day for five months, before spending more time on the language beginning in December, after my school exams ended. I was quite pleased to be placed at A2.1, as I always thought my writing skills would be around A1, having almost never practiced them.

Nothing like the Mündliche Prüfung videos you might find on Youtube for the respective levels. You won’t be required to plan a shopping trip with your partner based on a given schedule, nor will you have to give any mini presentations. It was basically a general conversation. Let’s just say I messed up at this part. I’ve never spoken to anyone in German before (except myself), and I pretty much froze, and couldn’t even say a measly Auf Wiedersehen at the end.

That pretty much sums it up. The place itself is comparatively small, but that’s rather expected, given the level of interest in / engagement with the German language in Malaysia. It’s nice, though.


Academic vs. Practical

I joined this “coding movement” (as I call it) only about a year ago, and started with HTML and CSS. Since then, I’ve delved deeper into web development and picked up JavaScript and jQuery, and I’ve also tried Python and might want to start Java soon. At the same time, I’ve started learning Swift. I don’t think I’ll be giving up on this new hobby anytime soon (unlike my previous adventures with art), and all seems right with the world, but I can’t help thinking I might have a problem.

I learned to code with Codecademy. I still do, actually. I get a teaser of a new language from CA before I begin to dig deeper into this language through other sources and learn to apply it and all that. The thing is, most of the places I use to learn this stuff are sites that I deem “practical” and not “academic”. They’re places like Udemy, Codecademy, FreeCodeCamp, where you learn to do. I have reservations about whether or not this is the “right” way to learn to code. Wouldn’t it be better to learn from a course like MITx’s Introduction to Computer Science and Programming using Python, which I suppose would give me more of a better insight into the programming language I’m learning and not simply following a set of instructions to make a certain thing?

Of course I understand that most people take up coding in order to build something, and I can only partially relate to that (I have some ideas, but… they’re going to take a bit more time to develop). I suppose the best way for them would be to learn to do. However, for someone like me who might want to pursue Computer Science (like many high school students, I’m still not entirely sure), would it be better to go down the academic track?

I’ve sort of decided that I’m selfish and greedy and want the best of both worlds, so I’ll be continuing my iOS development course on Udemy while at the same time trying to find a way to cram the lectures from 6.00.1x on edX into my already-tight schedule. If anyone who actually read this has an opinion on coding/programming/computer science courses, feel free to let me know!

P.S. I know the two courses I’ve mentioned are for different programming languages, but I already have a working (kinda) knowledge of Python, and I’m still new to Swift. I was merely referring to the structure / environment / teaching methodology / nature of the courses.


RIP Bearville (2007-2015)

Build-A-Bear Workshop is a retailer of teddy bears and other stuffed animals which used to have codes printed on their birth certificates for an online game / word called Build-A-Bearville (later Bearville) that was started in 2007 and ended recently in March 2015.

I started playing in 2010 when I was 12 (around the same time when I started learning Italian, liked Tokio Hotel and was severely addicted to Winx Club). Bearville was my childhood even though I was pretty much entering my teen years at that time. I haven’t been on in a long time (1-2 years?) and when I realised that it closed down, I’d say it hit me pretty hard. And considering I only had my first visit to an actual Build-A-Bear Workshop store in London about a month ago (my nearest store would be in the neighbouring country).


It would be cheesy to say that I would always remember this world, but I will always remember this world. I don’t think I could ever forget how I traded away my own pair of Bunny Glasses because I didn’t know it was the unofficial gear of the ‘elite’ class in Bearville, how I was put off by the elite class in general but felt kinda jealous at the same time knowing that I could’ve been one of them (pre-teen girls. Ya know.), or how much I loved the world and the good friends I made there (I don’t know how far you could say ‘good friends’ considering you only know them by a username that consists of a pre-determined first and last name). The cool moves, and clothes and food, games, characters, occasional celebrities, the Fountain, etc, etc. THE TRAIN TO THE NORTH POLE AND… AND… the library, the university, and the fixed deposit thing at the bank (that was pretty annoying actually). My only consolation now is the music from the game which someone posted online (thank you!). Ah, the memories.

And for the first time in forever, I’m not yelling in frustration at my semi-malfunctioning computer… we’re just exchanging sad glances as we reminisce the time I played Bearville on it.

Goodbye, Bearville. A little late, but yeah.





Episode Interactive by PocketGems (Review)

Damn, my eyes hurt right now from having stared at the laptop screen for too long a period.

Here’s why.

If you’ve used Tumblr or game apps, you’ll probably have come across ads that depict a woman in a towel wondering if she should jump into the shower with her ‘bae’, or a couple wondering if they should kiss, or perhaps a couple who find out they’re pregnant. (I would include a picture here if I actually knew how) Because, what could be more attention-grabbing, am I right?

Episode Interactive by PocketGems is an interactive storytelling adventure game. I’ve always been a huge fan of games like this (which is why I love Surviving High School, but more on that later), so I didn’t miss the chance to check it out the first time I saw some of its early, not-so-explicit ads. The interface wasn’t so great back then (though I didn’t think that at that time, until I saw the new version), but it was still pretty cool in the sense that the characters are actually animated and they walk around onscreen while conversing.

Several stories were written by the Episode team, but the others are created entirely by users. This was a feature I appreciated – that we have the opportunity to write our own stories and animate our own characters. You’ll need tickets to play – you get 3 every three hours, and each one unlocks one chapter of any story, except the first episodes. And of course, as per Game Laws, you have to purchase more, or use a referral code.

Recently, Episode has revamped their design with the introduction of a new style called Episode Ink, where the animations are smoother and the character design are definitely more appealing. No offense to PocketGems, but the old version made the female characters look bratty and annoying while the male characters all seem dumb and passive. They’ve also teamed up with Demi Lovato and… Paramount Pictures? As in, they’re also featuring Mean Girls stories (that movie with Lindsay Lohan?)

So what has this got to do with my eyes hurting? Well, I’ve only spent like the couple of days or so working on a story. Of course, no one’s going to read it (just like this blog post/review/junk), but hey, I can indulge. I’ve always wanted to try my hand at scriptwriting anyway. Just so I can find out I suck at it before any midlife crises.

Should people play this game? If you like RPGs and stories and reading, sure, do try it out. But who am I to tell you what to do? Is there even anyone on this blog?

Oh well. I’ll just put an action for my non-existent character here, in Episode Interactive script syntax:

@LINDY is wave_extreme
LINDY (talk_sad_timid)
There’s no one here.
@LINDY is idle_sad

[Image src: Episode’s Facebook page]
[Link to game: // //