Patrick Lam

Thoughts and travels of Patrick Lam

Beyond Diet: on red pandas and doing better

This week I was busy writing code for a research project I’m working on here in New Zealand, so no travel pictures from me. Here is a red panda in the Wellington Zoo (photo credit: Marie-Pascale Desjardins, as well as for suggesting this tip). It turns out that red pandas and giant pandas are not related aside from both being cute animals. Giant pandas have a 99% bamboo diet, while red pandas are at 85% bamboo.

You also have to descend

Following up on last week’s tip, here’s a near-data-disaster from Rollen D’Souza: I decided when I started grad school that I would always keep track of my research and general course notes in repositories. This wasn’t entirely just for backup purposes. It turns out that when you want to work on three different machines — work desktop, home desktop, surface laptop — making sure they are all synchronized with your latest work is non-trivial without some automated or manual tracking software.

What's Your Backup Strategy?

This week’s tip: have and execute a backup strategy for your data. Here’s a picture of Mount Ngauruhoe (which stood in for Mount Doom). I’m sharing a picture from my phone (auto-enhanced by Google Photos) because the better pictures are on the camera that I spent an hour unsuccessfully looking for, and which my spouse was really unhappy about losing. Devices get lost or fail all the time. While truly irreplacable data is rare, some data is inconvenient or expensive to replace.

Bring less stuff!

Happy Reading Week! This week’s life tip is, for now, most relevant to those of you not from the Greater Toronto Area, if you happen to be going home for the week. Experience shows that it will apply to many of you in the next few years. Tip: Bring less stuff! There is often a skill versus stuff tradeoff. With more skill you can often improvise for having less stuff.

Look at the Details

This week, we went to the Rangiwahia Hut for a walk (“tramp”) and then to some caves with glow worms. We have seen glow worms at night in Wellington but we were here four hours before sunset, so no glow worms for us. Today’s tip: looking closely at things can reveal unexpected details.