Real news

I was in a Lyft ride in San Francisco city this afternoon when the news of the school shooting in Florida broke over the radio. Spawned from my ensuing conversation with my Lyft driver, a black woman in her 40s, about gun ownership, I started thinking about the way the news was reported over the air waves.

The reporter interviewed someone who knew the shooter personally and said person gave an account of the murderer that I’m sure most Americans have unwillingly become familiar with. Unsociable, always having trouble with all his teachers, and known to occasionally do weird things like throwing a rock through the classroom window for no apparent reason. I found that all too familiar, and I don’t even live in America.

But it got me thinking. What if this wasn’t really the case? What if a shooter is a really normal kid, with no visible angry undertones to his/her life, and is actually kind of popular in school when he/she opened fire? Would the media report as it is, knowing that it might unleash pandemonium, since even conventionally good kids are committing atrocities like this?

Let me be clear – I’m not saying that this particular shooter is not being accurately described for what and how he is. I don’t know that, and I don’t know him. All I’m wondering is whether such news will ever truthfully surface when it happens.

I’d personally find it a lot more disturbing and become much more concerned about gun ownership if the interviewee’s account of the shooter was like this:

“He was a perfectly normal guy. We just had dinner the other day and I feel like he’s just like any other student in our school. He’s happy when there’s something to be happy about, emotional when something is upsetting, and he’s never exhibited any violent tendencies.”

Wouldn’t that be scary?

I did notice my Lyft driver nodding and mm-hmming as she heard the person who knew the shooter described him as a socially awkward troublemaker. It reinforced her confirmation bias – the news is giving her what she wants to hear. I just hope that she, too, questions whether this is a representative account of the shooter. Because if it’s not, then obviously something else is wrong other than unstable students.

News must always be taken with a pinch of salt and a healthy dose of scepticism – in my opinion, that just bodes better for any society. As for gun ownership and the laws in America, it will take more than a 10-day trip to San Francisco to understand and evaluate.

My problems are mine to bear

sunset glowing horizon nickang blog
Somewhere in Oakland along Market Street.

I’m currently in the San Francisco Bay Area for a short vacation. It’s been a fun trip so far and it’s also quite fruitful as I’m meeting friends who are based here who are mostly working in tech.

As an outsider with my own cultural lens, I can see that Americans are indeed much more individualistic than people in most Asian countries (though I’m generalising a bit, but am probably not too far off). Individualism is the hallmark of American culture.

Openly disgruntled

I’d only been here for 2 proper days and have already encountered a number of Americans (they may not be San Franciscans) who wear their emotions unapologetically on their faces and channel them into their actions. This manifests as unfriendly and aggressive behaviour that is rare-ish in an Asian society, like Singapore’s. An example will help.

In Singapore, if a service staff is feeling overworked or tired, it would be uncommon for her to act like she’s entitled to “being herself” and anyone who interacts with would be better off learning to deal with it. Here, I’ve already had two interactions with service staff who just can’t be bothered and expect me to deal with their foul attitude.

In Singapore, although not as much as Japan, people tend to manage themselves and not let their negative energy spill over to their work and people whom they’re serving. The burden of suffering is for that person him/herself to bear – not for others to deal with.

Read that last sentence again. It is by no means a superior way of being a person and for a society to behave collectively. Keeping emotions pent up and unreleased will wreak havoc on people’s psychology and overall wellbeing. That’s why Japan has so high suicide rates and loads of unfathomably fantastical, dark, and morbid manga.

I’m merely pointing out and recording an observation while it’s fresh. I’ll be in SF for 10 days in total, and I know from experience that that is enough for enculturation and transforming my perspective.

For now, I continue to value being a team player, a responsible partner in a conversation or transaction. My sadness, anger, and fatigue is mine to bear, not yours to tolerate!

Bite Size Programming – How programmers are like doctors

BSP programmers are like doctors nickang blog
Photo by Piron Guillaume on Unsplash

Some days at work as a programmer, I feel like a doctor trying to resuscitate software.

Drawing from a recent example at work, we realised that our machine learning algorithm was taking up quite a bit of memory.

In fact, it was taking so much memory that there wasn’t enough for the process to complete when there was a huge store using Metisa. That sometimes made our server crash and auto-restart without finishing running the algorithm.

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