Nov 23, 2016

5 Wonderful Things to Do in Hokkaido

With its rich cultural heritage, spectacular National Parks, beautiful countryside sceneries, and tempting culinary traditions, Hokkaido is certainly a place you shouldn’t miss when you visit Japan. The country’s largest prefecture and second-biggest island offers a whole host of places to see and activities to do for travelers who are willing to look beyond popular destinations like Tokyo, Mt. Fuji, and the Kansai Region.

Here are some the best things that you can see and do while on the island:

Image courtesy of

Play Winter Sports – Hokkaido is a premier destination for winter sports enthusiasts, thanks to the powder snow that is created by the winds that blow in from the frigid regions of Siberia every winter. This snow is world-famous for its weightlessness and dryness. On the island, you can experience prime tracks and slopes covered in this snow in any one of Hokkaido’s many luxury ski resorts.

If you’re looking for a place where you can experience the best snow on the island, you can book a stay at the Kiroro Resort. The complex is conveniently located just 1.5 hours’ drive away from the New Chitose Airport in Sapporo and offers a wide array of dining, shopping, spa, entertainment, and ski and snowboard training facilities for visitors. It is also just 30 minutes away from the charming fishing town of Otaru. If you’re visiting Kiroro in February, make sure to catch the Sapporo Snow Festival and the Snow Light Path Festival in Otaru.

Jozankei Onsen 定山渓温泉
Image courtesy of

Bathe in an Onsen – Hokkaido offers an alluring array of hot spring baths knows as onsen. Sure, you can probably dip into a hot spa bath in your hotel, but for an even more authentic Hokkaido hot spring experience, you should visit some of the most famous onsen on the island. For instance, the Noboribetsu Onsen, the most well-known hot springs in Hokkaido, is within the spectacular environs of the Jogokudani “hell valley”. It may be called hell, but its natural hot water baths with different chemical compositions are said to provide heavenly relief to various bodily conditions. If you are looking for something nearer Sapporo, consider going to the beautiful Jozankei Onsen hot spring village, which can be reached after an hour-long bus ride from the city.

Sapporo Central Wholesale Market Crab Market 札幌市中央卸売
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Feast on Seafood – Hokkaido is like seafood nirvana to traveling foodies, and many visitors claim that the island’s seafood offerings are the best in the world. For the freshest sushi, sashimi, kani (crab), ika (squid), hotate (scallops), sake (salmon), and uni (sea urchin), go to Nijo Market in downtown Sapporo or visit the Sapporo Central Wholesale Market Crab Market. In the fishing town of Otaru, you can also enjoy a bowl of kaisen donburi—which is made with rice and seafood ingredients like maguro (tuna), uni, kani, and ikura (salmon roe).

Matsumae Castle 松前城
Image courtesy of

View the Flowers – Hokkaido is an amazing place to see the beautiful blooms of spring and summer. The time between early May and the middle of May is the height of sakura (cherry blossom) season on the island, so this is the best time to see Japan’s iconic flowers in full bloom. You can visit the Matsumae Castle grounds in Matsumae and the Goryokaku star port in Hakodate to see the best clusters of sakura. You can also go to the Kamiyubetsu Tulip Park near Yubetsu to see the tulips in a field known among visitors as “little Netherlands”. If you go to Takinoue Park, on the other hand, you’ll be able to witness the carpets of pink shibazakura (moss phlox) covering entire hills and fields. In July, you also can visit the towns of Furano and Biei in the heartland of Hokkaido to see their beflowered lavender fields.

Image courtesy of

View the autumn leaves – Alternatively, you can also go to Hokkaido in October and November to see the grandeur of Japanese autumn in some of the island’s most famous national parks. These include the Shiretoko National Park, the Daisetsuzan National Park,the Shikotsu-Toya National Park, and the Akan National Park.

In Sapporo, there are also many places where you can take in the sights of the fall season. For instance, you can visit the campus of Hokkaido University or stroll down the pathways of Nakajima Koen Park. The Takino Suzuran Hillside National Government Park, with its wide-open spaces and hilly landscapes, is also one of the best places to enjoy autumn in Sapporo.

Hokkaido is clearly one of Japan’s most interesting holiday destinations, so make sure not to miss out on all the wonderful things that it has to offer. If you love expansive natural landscapes and pristine wilderness environments, Hokkaido is sure to be one of the most magical places that you’ll ever visit.

Javin Tham A master's degree graduate in engineering, a musician at heart, loves playing with soft toys.

Oct 31, 2016

PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)

Soon after attaining my PMP® credential, my ex-colleague and I decided to pursue together the credential of PMI Agile Certified Practitioner, better known as PMI-ACP®, another professional designation, offered by the Project Management Institute (PMI). Agile is an iterative and incremental approach to project management. Despite knowing that its applicability is more towards software development, we are rather more interested in Kanban and Lean which are embodied in PMI-ACP, with topics such as Scrum, extreme programming (XP), test-driven development etc. alongside .

My PMP course was purchased from Udemy, so was my PMI-ACP course. And since we're familiar with Joseph Phillips' course, we continued to purchase his course for PMI-ACP - PMI-ACP Exam Prep, and you won't believe how cheap I purchased it - it was only S$15. Again as a PMI member, I paid US$435 (S$611) for the PMI-ACP exam. So the total cost this time was S$626. Similar to my PMP exam, I didn't get audited for taking the PMI-ACP exam.

It makes sense to get the PMP certification first before applying for PMI-ACP, being a PMP, 2,000 hours of general project experience are exempted, and I only need to clock 1,500 hours working on agile project teams or with agile methodologies, where I clocked with one of my JDI (Just-Do-It) projects and one of my Lean Six Sigma Green Belt projects in Cameron.

This time round I didn't use any other reading materials, only the course and some sample exams available online.

My ex-colleague was supposed to take the exam on the same day with me at King's Arcade (Bukit Timah), but somehow he had issue with his Prometric account due to some discrepancy error from his email addresses, so I headed down alone, took and passed the exam.

My results are as follow:

Domain Results
Agile Principles and Mindset Moderately Proficient
Value-Driven Delivery Moderately Proficient
Stakeholder Engagement Moderately Proficient
Team Performance Moderately Proficient
Adaptive Planning Moderately Proficient
Problem Detection and Resolution Moderately Proficient
Continuous Improvement Moderately Proficient

Results look very average, but my aim is just to pass the exam. Certainly glad that I've added another certification to my collection. This will officially be my 4th and last certification of the year (excluding JLPT N2). My next aim will be the Certified Six Sigma Black Belt (CSSBB) in January 2017.

Javin Tham A master's degree graduate in engineering, a musician at heart, loves playing with soft toys.

Sep 6, 2016

Project Management Professional (PMP)

Project Management Professional, better known as PMP® is a professional designation, a global certification, recognized internationally, offered by the Project Management Institute (PMI). Its respectability comes from a few factors. The PMP® certification scheme is accredited by ANSI against ISO/IEC 17024. Besides, every certification applicants or holders have a chance of randomly being selected for an audit when they submit their application or filing for professional development units (PDUs), where consequence of non compliance can be disastrous.

Kenneth (my colleague from another divisional plant) and I were interested in gaining this prestigious certification in aid of our career progression (hopefully). Together we have already obtained the Certified Six Sigma Green Belt (CSSGB) and Yellow Belt (CSSYB) from ASQ, kinda like my wingman for certification. It wasn't easy - we weren't project manager, but we've executed and closed some projects during our past endeavors in Cameron. As a degree holder, we're required to file 4,500 hours leading and directing projects. Moreever, 35 hours of project management education is a must before applying to sit for the PMP exam. The cumbersome part comes in when you're planning on clocking the project management hours, on top of having 36 months unique non-overlapping professional project management experience (so at the very minimum, one should have at least 3 years of working experience before even thinking about getting PMP).

Kenneth and I were lucky enough to found a PMP course - Project Management Professional: Prep for PMP on Udemy at S$49 taught by Joseph Phillips, which you can use to file for the 35 hours project management education as they are a PMI Registered Education Provider (R.E.P.), so never have to be worried about PMI's audit on the reputation of this course. I recommend this course if you're someone comfortable with online training, rather than spending thousand of dollars for a PMP course outside. I feel that it provides you enough information (not more) for the real PMP exam.
However, besides Udemy, we actually flipped through the most famous reading material - PMP® Exam Prep by Rita Rita Mulcahy, and realized that there are much more things not covered by Joseph Phillips. And the practice questions are so much harder.

I'll just be open with sharing the information of my application, shown in the table below:

Project Hours
Initiating Planning Executing Controlling Monitoring Closing Total
Heat Insulation
To develop a solution of heat insulation to isolate heat convection from heated item from welder and to insulate heat within the item space when performing welding/cladding operations.
100 150 200 100 50 600
Tool Crib 5S Improvement
To introduce and improve 5S standards to tool crib for systematic management of gauges and better visibility.
150 150 300 100 50 750
Production Listing Generation
To develop solution for better visibility of outstanding production listing for return goods for repair and new build products.
100 150 250 150 50 700
Throughput Report Integration
To integrate local throughput report with relevant to reduce manual data integration of master schedule.
100 150 200 100 50 600
Warehouse Picking Process Cycle Time Reduction
To implement warehouse relocation project (new high racking, reach truck training, line marking) with rack relocation, bin number standardization and semi gantry crane installation.
150 200 600 200 100 1250
Gauge Management Improvement
To improve quality of gauge room related activities.
100 150 400 200 100 950
Total 700 950 1,950 850 400 4,850

As you can see, since I come from a manufacturing background, many of the projects I was involved in are more related to process improvement with lean or six sigma driven methodology. Rather than delivering the typical products or services, my deliverables are more channeled to improved and sustained processes. The one with the heaviest load is none other than the warehouse expansion project as it literally involved building a physical warehouse with installation and relocation of racks, which was also my very first Lean Six Sigma Green Belt project.

One good thing about PMI's exam - you don't have to pay when you submit your online application, you only pay after you received the results of your application - either approved or rejected. And the unusual thing (to me) is that you only know if you're randomly chosen for an audit only right after your payment, NOT right after your application submission. For my case, I didn't get audited.

Like the typical way of exam payment, we registered as a member at US$139 (S$192) and paid the exam fee at US$405 (S$559), and my expenditure for PMP amounted at a nice number of S$192 (membership) + S$559 (exam fee for members) + S$49 (course on Udemy) = S$800.

PMP exam is delivered by Prometric testing centers, which are currently only available at NTUC LearningHub (Bras Basah) and King's Arcade (Bukit Timah) in Singapore. We went for the King's Arcade one as the NTUC LearningHub's calendar was fully booked. The testing center would prefer passport as an identification method because it is one document containing all required information including signature. You'll be asked to empty your pocket to perform a full body scan, signing in and out whenever you enter or leaving the examination room.

A 4-hour 200 questions computer-based exam has never been kind - it was simply mentally exhausting to sit in front of the computer answering questions which might contain more than one correct answers (you just have to pick the best one). And you really don't want to go through so many of the questions over again, because one question appears on one page, more clicks are required when you're reviewing more questions. As such, to a certain point I really wanted to submit my exam, it was around 3+ hours spent, and my pulse was so rapid and hard that everything I feel with my body is merely my heart pumping, even when I tried to remain calm while completing the survey after the exam on the screen. And the screen loaded, and loaded, and loaded... "Congratulations! You passed......", I forgot what came next but "Congratulations!" was the only word that caught my eyes. Seriously, no idea when was the last time I felt so relieved in my life.

As you know, PMI won't provide your exact score, neither will they tell you the passing score, passing is rather scaled and based on relativity, but I would say it's safe to get at least Moderately Proficient for all domains. And my results were as such:

Domain Results
Initiating Moderately Proficient
Planning Moderately Proficient
Executing Moderately Proficient
Monitoring and Controlling Proficient
Closing Moderately Proficient

I literally grinned and walked out of the room. 6 Sep 2016 was certainly a celebratory day.

It's actually fortunate to have passed PMP now because in 2017 PMI is releasing the 6th edition of PMBOK (Project Management Body of Knowledge), which might include additional material compared to 5th edition.

The next day I received an email confirming the credential bestowal and saying that the certification package will be delivered to my residential address in 6 - 8 weeks (for international shipping). Additionally I ordered the complimentary PMP lapel pin. They actually took 2 weeks to arrive though.

And I am proud to say that
I'm a PMP®

All this also comes from the Lord Almighty,
whose plan is wonderful,
whose wisdom is magnificent.

- Isaiah 28:29

Javin Tham A master's degree graduate in engineering, a musician at heart, loves playing with soft toys.

Apr 28, 2016

Module Review: IE5002 - Applied Engineering Statistics

Semester AY2015/2016 Semester 2
Program Master of Science (Industrial & Systems Engineering)
Module Code IE5002
Module Title Applied Engineering Statistics
Modular Credit 4 MCs
Teaching Staff Prof Goh Thong Ngee

This is one of the four foundation modules for the master's program, and it's kinda known as the killer module because who knows applied statistics can be so scary and hard core.

If Prof Goh is still the lecturer for this module when you're reading it, good luck. His notes comprise of a pretty generic collection of statistical analysis, and a lot of self-exploratory work may be expected, like reading up some of the books recommended in this module.

In the first lecture, it was outlined by Prof Goh that statistical analysis branches into:
  • Descriptive statistics
  • Inferential statistics
  • Mathematical statistics
and the focus of this module revolves around inferential statistics.

Student's t-test

Hypothesis testing, something that was rather new to me, was introduced, and by hand, we were taught how to perform Student's t-test (one-sample, two-sample, paired etc) at the start. Just remember the null hypothesis H0 always states that one mean equals another mean or a value.

Analysis of Variance

Analysis of variance (ANOVA) to me it's like t-test with more than two treatments, and to test if significant difference prevails across treatments. You'll need to understand how to read and analyze an ANOVA table (this part is not difficult).

Design of Experiments

Design of experiments (DOE), wow, what should I say, this is probably the hardest topic in the module. You need to be able to estimate the factor effect, perform statistical testing, and analyze the residual etc. 2k factorial design and alias structure of the design are something you need to familiarize yourself with before you call yourself prepared for the exam.

Study Tips

Go through all the tutorial/assignment questions and understand how he arrives at the solutions. Of course statistical software like Minitab is able to compute the results quickly and conveniently but the down-to-earth way of computing should be comprehended.
And since the exam is open-book, writing down the steps of arriving at each solution will be beneficial not only when you need to refer during the exam, but also when you need to get yourself familiarized with the concepts.


Open-book exam, but that doesn't mean that you should study less.
Guess what was the very first question I got during my semester of study, it goes like this:
You are teaching applied engineering statistics to a class at Ngee Ann Polytechnic, which book would you use to teach? Indicate the year, author and publisher etc of the book.
Epic right, never have I come across such stun.

I got an A- for this module.

Javin Tham A master's degree graduate in engineering, a musician at heart, loves playing with soft toys.

Mar 18, 2016

Stirling Bar & Grill @ Upper Bukit Timah

Stirling Bar & Grill
One of the legit reasons to visit restaurants and cafes along the Upper Bukit Timah Road is the new accessibility to the nearby MRT stations.

Stirling Bar & Grill is one of those lucky ones, located opposite Bukit Timah Shopping Centre and of walking distance from the Beauty World Station, thanks to the newly constructed Downtown Line.

You might be able to recall a vicinity called Stirling Road located in Queenstown, interestingly yes, the bar is named after this road because it's where the boss this bar grew up.

It was a post birthday dinner for me and Wilsen, my housemate whose birthday is a day after mine. I suggested this place simply because on one Sunday afternoon after church service, I patronized and enjoyed their cold brewed coffee by The Nomad, a mobile cafe serving coffee every weekend at Stirling.

A good and bad thing about the payment - there's no GST charges but only cash and NETS accepted. I guess if you sum them up it's still a better deal isn't it?


Apparently they're affiliated with a guitar school and there'll be guitar solo performance at night
If you enjoy listening to guitar solo, this is the place you should be patronizing, I mean, how many bars out there with such niche?

Javin Tham A master's degree graduate in engineering, a musician at heart, loves playing with soft toys.

Mar 5, 2016

SAFRA The Ultimate Voice 2016

SAFRA organizes an annual singing competition called The Ultimate Voice and we were in time to sign up for our very first singing competition as a 3-piece band. There're solo category and group category.

We're required to submit an audio clip of our performance, if I don't remember wrongly, the duration is limited to less than 2 minutes, where I had a hard time deciding which portion of our cover to be trimmed, we submitted "The Scientist" by Coldplay by the way.

Quarter Finals @ SAFRA Toa Payoh (20 Feb)

We're informed that we're in the quarter finals on 16 Feb, an awesome start for us. And later on I found out that one of our Temasek Hall band juniors, Yoke Ling was also in the quarter final, what a coincidence. Check out her blog entry about SAFRA TUV.

I think there were 19 quarter finalists from group category and 100+ from solo category! That's crazy, and no wonder they limit the duration to 1 minute 30 seconds per contestant.

We performed a mashup of "Shut Up and Dance" by WALK THE MOON and "How to Save a Life" by The Fray, it's random I know, and there's barely any link between the songs but somehow they key Gary sings these two songs in the same key of B♭ major, plus the similar tempo, ultimately I think we're just trying to be 'different'. LOL...

Thanks to Hannah for the video, and we got into Semi Finals. So did Yoke Ling.

Javin Tham A master's degree graduate in engineering, a musician at heart, loves playing with soft toys.

Feb 25, 2016

ShopBack - Shop Online & Earn Cashback

Nothing beats the desire of getting something at its lowest price when it comes to shopping. A little more time spent is definitely worthwhile when we get to save more.

You probably have heard of Groupon, somewhere you can buy vouchers at a cheaper price than what they really worth.
Well, ShopBack does it at an even advanced level. In fact, you can get even more out of Groupon deals with ShopBack!

So if you want to grab a coupon, or use an Agoda promo code, or even get info on the best gadget deals at the IT Show 2016, well the trick is, do it through ShopBack and you receive cashback right after your purchase!

Javin Tham A master's degree graduate in engineering, a musician at heart, loves playing with soft toys.

Jan 19, 2016

K.Cook Korean BBQ Buffet @ Orchard Central

K.Cook Korean BBQ Buffet is where we had dinner while bidding farewell to our colleague Boon Kiat, who came in similarly as a GRDP trainee with most of us, went through the highs and lows with us.

Located at the 7th level of Orchard Central, the dining experience is further enhanced with a rather scenic view of skyscrapers at an altitude, since we all know the experience won't be pleasant having dined at a Korean BBQ buffet restaurant. XD

Having noticed most of the waiters idling made me wonder if they were overstaffing, so I gave them some tasks to do, like asking them to help taking photos of us. LOL...

The entrance at Level 7

They got a huge screen showing some Korean shows with Korean idol groups whom I have no idea who they are, singing songs that I have no idea what they are.

Don't you think their colorful chairs are very harmonious?

The indoor, catered to couples

Try their crispy Korean pancakes and honeyed chicken wings

Free flow of drinks

Girls, tie your hair up before they get super oily

The Centrepoint, located at the northeast of the restaurant

Orchard Gateway @ Emerald, located the the northwest of the restaurant

All the best Boon Kiat! (he's the one on the left who looks like Andy Lau)

Price and Opening Hours
Lunch Mon to Fri (11.30am - 3:00pm) Sat, Sun, PH & PH eve (11.30am - 5:00pm)
Adult $14.90++ $24.90++
Child (4 - 12 y/o) $8.90++ $18.90++
Dinner Mon to Thu (5.30pm - 10:00pm) Fri to Sun, PH & PH eve (5:00pm - 10:00pm)
Adult $24.90++ $26.90++
Child (4 - 12 y/o) $18.90++ $18.90++

181 Orchard Road
#07-01, Orchard Central
Singapore 238896
Tel: (65) 6884 7282

Javin Tham A master's degree graduate in engineering, a musician at heart, loves playing with soft toys.