Archive for the ‘NUS’ Tag

Where Toastmasters has brought me..

This post is a continuation from the last one, to talk about Toastmasters club.. And specically the kind of experiences and opportunities it gave me..

Being a semi-regular attendent of the club meetings (it was first year and I really didn’t have anything better to do), I was encouraged to take up the position for the club ex-co in my 2nd yr.. After much convincing I agreed, and together with my good friend who’d introduced me to the club, I stood for the ‘elections’.

I rememeber, due to some last minute changes, my election which was supposed to be a walk through (the old ex-co had planned it all), I had to stand up against my own mentor from the club. It was a wierd election speech if you’ve ever seen one. Finally, I was voted in as the SAA (Seargent-at-arms) and thus started another ride.

Being in the exco was fun and yet challenging. Managing people was hard, but successful meetings and growing members made us feel really great. We ourselves got loads of chances to become TME (Toastmaster of the Evening) and TTM (Table Topics Master) and as Evaluators as well. That was a great time to learn organisation, logistics as well as communications and public speaking.. Though we did not get to do many projects ourselves..

In my 3rd year, I went for exchange to Copenhagen. During my 6 months there, I managed to attend 1 meeting of the only local Toastmasters club. It was a bilingual club, with alternate meetings in Danish and English. I managed to attend the English meeting and take part in not only the table topics but also be the ‘Ah counter’. It was a very different experience.

The next few years were the busy years. With other commitments, my time in Toasmasters reduced to just attending meetings. Though I managed to attend quiet a few workshops, do a few more projects, take part in a few competitions, visit many other clubs. I was just trying to keep up with Toastmasters rather than acheiving anything.

Last year, two very enthusiastic ladies in my old company decided to start a Toastmasters Club inhouse. I was really excited. I attended all the meetings and was ofcourse nominated for the ex-co again having had Toastmasters experience before. It was great to see a club starting form nothing. We put in loads of efforts to spread the word, get more people in, get them excited, teach them the way of Toastmasters and make them grow.. We had to create the club culture, and induce enthusiasm into the members.

Toastmasters has really brought me a long way. The thing I learnt there don’t just stop at public speaking and communication, but are lessons in life itself. It is there I have heard some of the most motivating and also the most heart-breaking speeches.

If you’re interested in finding our more about Toastmasters, check out Toastmaster’s International. And here’s a list of clubs in Singapore.

How I started Toasting..

After listening to an episode of the The Public Speaker from the Quick and Dirty Tips network, I thought about blogging about Toastmasters.

Toastmasters

I joined Toastmasters in my first year of university. I remember going to the matriculation fair and seeing the booth. Although I did not sign up there. I did keep a mental note to revisit the club when I had a chance.

I had been very nervous of public speaking then. I remember being made to deliver an inspirational speech at a workshop in secondary school. We were supposed to inspire and motivate our groups with speeches, to get them to rise against the other group. While the ‘leader’ of the other group gave a great speech, I, having been “saboed” by my group to be the ‘leader’ made a complete fool of myself by copying the other leader’s speech.

4 months after joining NUS, I joined the NUS Toastmaster’s Club. The meeting was in a tutorial room in the Science faculty. I was warmly welcomed and quietly sat at the back of the room. Everything was going fine, the speakers introduced the club, and how things worked and started of the meeting. And then, they asked everyone to introduce themselves! I still remember the butterflies in my stomach when I it was my turn. I had prepared my introduction before hand and was rehearsing it in my mind. When it was my chance to speak, I stood up and froze. I couldn’t get any words out of my mouth. After muttering a string of words which didn’t make any sense.. I sat down.. This was going to be a looong ride..

It took me another 6 months before I did my first speech at the club and many many more to be loose the fear I had of speaking in front of an audiance. I also ended up taking up a role in the ex-co of the club and hosting many meetings. It was a great experience and it taught me not only speaking/communication skills but also made me conformable is many situations I’d have been otherwise very nervous in..

That’s how I started with Toastmasters.. :)

You can listen to the episode of the The Public Speaker here..

Jobs, Interviews and YOU!

It’s that time of the year again when semesters end and fresh graduates start looking for job.

There have been a couple of interesting posts about Jobs and Interviews on Ping.sg recently. Ridz talked about his experience of being an interviewer, and smallmoskito blogged about the Fresh Graduates and Reality Check. This post also has an interesting comment, which I find very to be very true.

There are indeed lots of people with degrees. I mean just in EE/CPE from NUS there are 500+ students from each batch. And probably a similar number from NTU. And most of them are well qualified and knowledgeable to take up any job in the field.

It is kind of scary when you realise that you have to compete against these 1000 of your batch-mates as well as many many seniors (who have experience), to get that same job.

What’s worst is when you see masters students, (I even saw my own tutor from NUS), applying for the same job as you. This is the kind of moment, when you give up all hope, because there is no way to compete against the person who taught you all the stuff you know in the specific field.

But, after my countless failed attempts at job applications (not even interviews), I believe I found a simple but useful approach to jobs and interviews.

When you apply for a job, along with the 1000+ other people, your resume and YOU have to be different from others. YOU should stand out. Now, standing out doesn’t just mean stating your almost perfect CAP in bold and caps on the front page of your resume, neither is it the mention of you being in the deans list or on the exclusive exchange program.

There can be 20 others who have the same CAP as you and 50 who were in the deans list, and a 100 who attended the same exchange program. So, these things don’t really make YOU.

What makes YOU are your interests, you knowledge, your passion, your understanding, your personality and most of all your readiness to learn and grow in your job.

You should try to show these skills of yours in your resume, instead of only stating your academic and pseudo-academic achievements.

Mention about your community service efforts, your passion for music, you interests in web technologies, your photoshoping abilities, your trip to help build a school in China.

Remember, the point is not to show that you are better than everyone else, but to show that you are different from the others, and that you will be able to do the job very well.

When it comes to Jobs and Interviews, another important point to take note of are communication skills. Though… I will leave it for another post…..

NUS Arts Festival. A round up.

I managed to catch month of the events under the NUS Arts fest. And here is a review of all the events which I attended.

Press Play by EML.

Apart from the little ‘adventure’ I had while getting the tickets at the door, it was a really fun evening. The theme of the day was machines, and they approached it in a chronological order.

Starting with ‘old machines’. These were mostly peices influenced by old school synthesied sounds like 8bit sounds from old Nintendo games or other classics like Contra. There were some really interestingly videos along with the sounds.

They followed with comtemporary stuff, including making sounds with vaccum cleaners and other interesting devices. Finally, they played some futuristic pieces, which had various flavours.

While it was not amazing or surprising, I was satisfied to get what I expected at EML. There were many interesting toys they used to create the sounds including a couple of Kaoss Pads and a GameBoy sequencer and lots of midi controllers.

Spectral Spaces by Kim Cascone.

This was a very hardcore computer music event. Kim played 2 live peices on him Mac. They were basically created in his own software based on MAX/MSP. The cool part of it was that the sounds which he used to create his peices were randomly selected from his huge library of random sounds. He then used a simple Trim-pot based controller and some buttons on his Mac to controll the sound.

His idea was similar to something they have in Indian Classical music. There is “freedom in discipline”. He’s free to express himself but his discpline is the sound which his program had selected. It brought about some interesting sounds, some melodic, others just noise. I was surprised that I was very much attracted to the melodic sounds.

Kim also conducted a 3-day workshop where the participants played with various sounds and at the end presented an interactive peice, which I must say was very well done. I should really be going for such events. :(

An Interactive Visual Art Concert.

This was basically a project by the Mixed Reality Lab, in NUS. The idea was that the movements and sounds of a triplet playing Er-Hu, Cello and Piano were sensed and used to create graphics.

While the music was interesting, I was unable to link the music and the vizualizations. I started thinking about mental models and intuitive controls. I though that the mapping between the sound and the graphics was not very intuitive. It did not conform easily with my mental models.

But then again, it was a good try. Some of the people in the team were undergraduates doing their FYP. I am sure it was a fulfilling experience.

It was interesting to see them use MAX/MSP on a Mac to grab all the control data from the sensors and the sounds, and pass it over to another computer to render or control the video. This was done over ethernet.

Hmm.. possible usage scenario for OSC??

Electric Sitar and a Robotic Tabla!

Let’s start form the basics. Sitar and Tabla are both Indian musical instruments, widely used in Indian Classical Music. So what has Electronicsand Robotics has got to do with it?

Everything!

Yesterday, I attended a concert by Ajay Kapur. It was a part of the NUS Arts Fest. It was not quite a typical Indian Classical Music concert, though it involved a Sitar and a ‘Tabla‘.

Ajay Kapur, the composer, the performer, the engineer, has wired up his Sitar to make it electric! And to make sure he always has his rhythms to jam along, he created a robotic drummer (Tabla).

Nope, this is not your electric guitar and a copy of Garage Band. His setup was much more complex, though it did involve a Mac. The idea was to have an interactive drummer, which was mechanical/robotic. Basically drum sticks activated by solenoids.

While the setup and the control of the Tabla using the Sitar, was a really interesting part of the concert, especially with my personal dabbling in it, what really caught my attention was the use of electronics and computers with Indian Classical Music. Not that it has not been done before, but his approach to it indicated that it is progressing to newer levels and allowing space for more expression.

Music, I believe is nothing more than a form of expression. Various kinds of music allow musicians to express different things. Newer and novel methods of music composition or performance allow newer forms of expression.

Now, I should really get back to working on my OSC implementation.

Back to where I belong.

Density, Sound Character, Genetic Algorithms, Ambient sounds, VST plugins, processed sounds, pd, Synthesis, cues, loops, Ableton Live, MAX/MSP ,Gene pools, Transcription, pitch control, frequency spectrum, stereophonic projection, samples, heuristics, morphing, mapping, interactivity, duets, Mating pool, sequencers, noise, collection, random processes, melody, flangers, compression, mutation, Texture, fabric, Tall Cappucinos….

Today, I went back to where I belong. It has been many days. I feel myself again…

Concert Craziness…

Concerts, concerts, concerts!

So it’s the 1st quarter agian, and time to go concert crazy again like last year..

I must say that NUS Arts Festival is really great. I think there are a lot of new and interesting artsist to be heard here. And furthermore, it’s cheap, hence my excitement.

Personally,  the concert mania start on this Sunday. Here is the line up.

Sunday 11th Feb – Private Concert featuring my mom!! (Indian Semi/Classical)

Monday 12th Feb – Sur-Laya Samvaad – A Musical Conversation by Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma & Ustad Zakir Hussain (Indian Classical)

Friday 2nd Mar – SpectralSpace by Kim Cascone (New Media)

Friday 2nd Mar – Bushmen Live! by Bushmen (Reggae)

Sunday 4th Mar –  Broken River and Beyond by Tim O’Dwyer Trio (Jazz)

Sunday 11th Mar – Digital Sankirna by Ajay Kapur  (Fusion?)

Monday 12th Mar – Stellar Regions: Tribute to John Coltrane by Tim O’Dwyer Trio  (Jazz)

Friday 16th Mar –  Harp On with Katryna Tan (Classical)

Friday 16th Mar –  The Mathematics in Music: A Performance, Computer Demonstration and Conversation with Elaine Chew (Classical + New Media)

Friday 16th Mar – Press Play 2007 by NUS Electronic Music Lab (Electronica)

Friday 23rd Mar – Hear the Art… watch the music… An Interactive Visual Art Concert (New Media)

And there are so many more. I also wanna go for some of the workshops which are part of the NUS Arts Festival, and possibly more concerts. But it will all depend on how time permits. I am surely going for the 1st one and I already have the tickets for the 2nd one.

Any other recomendations?

Getting most out of your University time…

Having gone through 4 years of undergraduate studies in NUS (I believe it applies for NTU), I realized that most students approach their university studies incorrectly.

Xsmatters had a very well written article about this. While the article is specifically directed at entrepreneurship it also applies generally.

Universities are great places for youths to learn, grow and do something worthwhile. They provide a lot of resources, both physical and psychological for students to use. But how many people actually take full advantage of it? Do You?

It is actually very simple to make most of your univeristy. The important ideas can be encapsulated in three points, three verbs, three action items. Create, Challenge, Communicate.

Create

Being in the university gives you access to the great wealth of knowledge, libraries, the faculty. And other resources like fellow undergraduates, and facilities like the business incubators. There are also many CCAs and clubs which lets students explore many interesting areas. Furthermore most of these are either subsidized or free.

University was the only time when I had the freedom, time and the resources to create something. I did not have any great responsibility, or pressing deadlines. Perfect environment to think of new ideas, work on some of your own initiatives, learn something new, start your own business.

Specifically, I believe that with any course, you can learn a lot more if you try to be creative, come of with new ideas, theories, concepts, and play around. Coming from the more theoretical and ‘stiff’ faculty of engineering, I felt the need to have more creative learning environment. But I will not direct this rant against the education system. In the given education system, the students should take the initiative to be creative.

Challenge

Students should challenge anything that they do not believe in or agree. This is something I saw when I was on exchange. In DTU, students were encouraged to ask question anytime during the lecture. While this might be true for most NUS/NTU lectures, there, most students actually asked questions. Many times the tutors and lecturers were challenged over their material. This might seem a little rude according to Asian culture, but I saw great benefit in it. During some of the courses I had really amazing discussions with the lecturers, providing great insights into the subject.

I believe, students should not accept anything given to them blindly. While this is rampant at secondary school level, university should make students think and come up with their own conclusions. The aim is to create graduates, not mindless sheep who can only follow the leader.

Once, you start challenging things, you realized how many redundant things you are doing. Do you really want to do this? What will you get from doing this? Is it really that important? Can you spend this time doing something more creative, which would help you achieve your personal goals or aims?

Communicate

This is one of the most basic, but most important issue I see in local universities. Again, I do feel its a cultural thing. Students can’t or those who can, don’t communicate.How many times has the lecturer asked a question during the lecture, and received a silence as a reply?? How many?? And the lecturer ends up answering his/her own question. This is just sad. (This is rampant in Engineering. What about other faculties??)

Students need to communicate well in order to get the most from their university education. They need to tell the lecturers what they understand, what they don’t. They need communicate with their peers to exchange ideas and discuss course work. They need to communicate with people around university to generate new relationships to grow and learn. But, we don’t. We prefer to stick in our own cozy cocoons and never dare to explore.

I have seen so many students, which great ideas or contents for their presentation, but just lack the communication aspect of it. Their presentation fell flat. Isn’t it sad, that while they knew what they wanted to say, and it did make sense, but they just couldn’t get their point across.


While these three points are not the mantra for getting into dean’s list every semester, I found them very useful in achieving a fulfilling experience during the final year. I did take many risks by challenging the norms, going beyond my comfort zone in many instances, and trying out different things. In the end, I had lots of fun, learned many things, made many new friends, and still managed to graduate at the end…

Control Strategies in Real-Time Interactive Digital Sound Synthesis

WoooHooo!!! It’s finally done!!!!

Almost 6 months after the deadline I have managed to complete my FYP Thesis according to my personal standards. Well…not exactly the best peice of work I ever created, but I am finally content with what I have done.

I was never happy with what I had submitted to NUS. I knew no one was going to read it, so I didn’t care. So I decided to continue work on it during my spare time. And as you know, time is one luxury I cannot afford.

After many weekends of procrastination and plain old laziness, I have managed to redo most of the Thesis. There are some mistakes in it for sure. I will try my best to iron them out. Right now it v1.5 and its “Internet Worthy“. So here it is!!!

Control Strategies in Real-Time Interactive Digital Sound Synthesis

I am not sure about publication rights for this. But since the content was created by me, I think I should be able to distribute it to anyone who wishes to use it for scientific and educational use!

Call me crazy, mad or whatever you wish, I don’t care! Today…I am Happy!!!

Education is free!

After paying S$5000+ per year for 4 year of studies in NUS, it’s hard to believe that really great education can be free! Not to say that the education in NUS was bad, but it could have been better.

But the important point is that it is free! Free as in gratis free. But still free is good, and I like free. :D

It seems that lots of lecturers are joining the web2.0 bandwagon, with podcasts! I had heard of of a few universities podcasting some of their courses, but I did not expect so many! I found this on digg.

There are 134 free podcasts and more from various US and UK universities, inlcuding some of the top universities.

Not only podcasts, I also found the open courseware project from MIT!

They have courseware for all sorts of courses from, some really interesting ones, like

Coding Theory

Acoustics of Speech and Hearing

Music Perception and Cognition

Neural Coding and Perception of Sound

I have been following a few podcasts, for the last week, and it’s a great experience.

I am glad, that I can continue learning about really fun stuff even after I finished my 4 years at NUS. Of course it is not the same as attending the lecture, but you do get to grasp a lot of basic concepts and look at things from various perspectives.

This is something which I’d say is missing from NUS. NUS tends to narrow your perspective about the various fields of studies, since they have so many restrictions. :(

Learning is always fun, and if it’s free (in both senses of free), it’s better.