Tuesday, August 26, 2008


I did it! I took the GRE and got fairly decent scores on the verbal and quantitative sections. Since it's a computer based test, I got the scores immediately. I'm glad I found out immediately because I would've spent the next few weeks doubting myself otherwise. I honestly did not think I could do as well as I did. I went in not expecting anything because the recent practice exams that I have been taking have given me such mixed results. I knew I had improved on my vocabulary but since we're only given 30 questions for the verbal section, it's really a matter of luck. If you happen to know the words, then you're in luck. If not, then... well... too bad... Anyways, I think after a month and a half of studying flashcards on BART and doing practice exams after work, I managed to give my verbal score a 100 point boost. I did not need so much help with the math since the math itself wasn't challenging. But I did learn some idiosyncrasies of the exam that helped me a lot. For example, even if they say "approximate" for data questions, the correct answer will always be exact. So if the answer that you came up with is not one of the choices, don't round, check for mistakes instead. Now I can only hope that my writing score is also decent enough. I think it will be okay though since I was really worried about the Issue essay and thought that I managed to write a pretty good one.

Anyways, now that that's done, I can't believe my summer is over. I didn't get to do anything other than work and study. I can't believe I'm flying out tomorrow (later today). It just all seem so unreal. I guess it just never ends. Now that I'm finished with taking the GRE, I need to actually apply to grad school: fill in applications, write essays, ask for letters of recommendations, pay application fees... And I need to start studying for another test: the FE/EIT. This one I really need to pass the first time. It would not be good for job interviews if I don't have this by the time I graduate. And since I'm taking it in April of my senior year...

Speaking of tests, I think I will also take the GMAT. I've been asking civil engineers about the value of getting MEng and MBAs. I think I've gathered that the MEng is important especially in structures and geotech. As in companies won't even consider you as a real candidate unless you have one. And down the road, when management roles are up for grabs, the MBA can be a deciding factor in who gets the job. So now I'm planning to do one of those part-time MBA degrees. One of the engineers I talked to said that she once considered switching to doing business and her sister convinced her that if she wants to do an MBA, she should go full-time because of the networking. But I don't want to switch, or at least, I don't think I do. But having the MBA would be really useful so I think the part-time degree would be a good thing.

And then, most likely while studying for this MBA degree, I would also be studying to pass the exam for SE (structural engineer) or GE (geotechnical engineer). These licenses are not necessary but hey, neither is the MBA. I know, it's not the same, but if you want to go far, these (usually only one of them, not both) are a must. So it never ends.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Caius Reception

A few days ago, I got an invitation to go to a Cocktail Reception for the Master of Gonville and Caius College (the college that I was a part of at Cambridge) hosted by John Lehman and his wife at the Knickerbocker Club in NYC. Now, I'm pretty sure that this John Lehman is THE John Lehman and this club is on Fifth Avenue. I guess one of the perks of the CME program is that you get alumni status so I get magazines, phones calls asking me to donate, and invitations like these. Anyways, this seems like great networking opportunity. I don't think I've even been on Fifth Ave. I don't even know what I would wear to an event like this. What do they even do??? Maybe I'll post the aftermath on the Cambridge blog. Or, uh, ask if it can be posted since they'll probably change the password and such. Man, I didn't even manage to finish writing that "A Day in the Life [engineering]" post. What a loser...

I hope I can keep in touch with my friends at Cam. I wish I had gotten to know them better. If I had only stayed in the room I was assigned to and not moved, I probably would have... Sigh... I don't know why I decided to move. Not much good came out of it and I feel like I missed out on a lot by moving. The first room was so nice. I swear that that second room had bad feng-shui...

Monday, August 18, 2008

Last week

Last full week at home, last week at work. This Saturday, I have a wedding to go to, which I have yet to purchase a wedding gift for... On Monday, I take the GRE. And then I fly back on Tuesday. Right now I'm taking a break from practicing for the writing part of the GRE in order to.... write more.

This summer, I finally got to do what I've been wanting to do since senior year in high school, work for an engineering consulting place. I'm pretty sure this is the type of thing I will be doing once I finish with school. I'm still not sure what I want to specialize in. Everyone at work has asked me about what I want to specialize in at least once. I still don't know. Actually, I don't think it matters all that much. I value the people that I work with much more than the projects or the things that I'm working on. I want to work for smart people. Everyone at work are trained to design, have taken similar classes, and can do calculations. But there are definitely a few that stands out in their ability to plan ahead, using their judgment, and produce results that are unquestionably superior. Seriously, it's not that difficult to design a box. But it's the way that you present your results, the way you answer your emails and inquires, and the problems that you anticipate that counts. I really hope that the first group I work for is filled with people who are smarter than I am. So that I can learn to think like good engineers.

Yesterday, I got an invite from the manager of the civil/highway group for a farewell lunch with some of his group and his interns. We're all leaving this Friday. I think I will be eating out a lot this week. This lunch is on Wednesday. Their group goes out to lunch on Fridays (more like every other Friday) but I'm sure they'll go this Friday also.

Anyways, I'm pretty sure I gained a few pounds this summer. All this sitting and no exercising is no good. And watching the Olympics doesn't help either. It's true that you get pretty anxious while watching Michael Phelps win by 0.01 seconds. But it's no comparison to swimming yourself. Just kidding!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Snowball... sitting

Isn't he cute??!!! He's sitting up!

People on BART

This is something I found really bizarre when I first started working. People waiting for the trains would line up! I guess part of it is due to the fact that the trains always stop in a definite spot. The black spots you see on the ground is where the door will be. So people line up while they wait in order to go in first and get a seat. I found it really weird. I've never seen anything like that before other than maybe the commuter rail in Boston. But BART is not really a commuter rail. It's sort of something between a subway and commuter rail.

Anyhow the thing that I found really annoying though, is that everyone lines up regardless whether or not they will be taking the next train. The station at work has 2 platforms, one going to the East Bay and the other keeps going south down the peninsula. There are 4 different trains going on the East Bay platform and most people need to take a specific train. There are electronic boards that update you on when the next trains are arriving. But people line up regardless what train is coming. This is really annoying, especially during rush hours because if you want to get on a train, there are people in front of you that would move towards the door but then stop. I would always think that they're waiting for people to come out before going in but they're not! They're just waiting for another train. And you would have to go around them to get on the train.

Anyhow, I just think it's really weird how people line up. And annoying..

Monday, August 11, 2008

Potsdam Picture!

Yalu! It's this one! This is the picture of the street in Potsdam. It was warm and sunny out. We ate at one of the pastry shops. There was an outdoor market where I got my brother a coke clock and a boat thing. We walked to that church at the end and back.
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Sunday, August 10, 2008

Is it almost the end or almost the start?

Last Friday at work:
Me: It's so quiet today.
M: Yeah, it's Friday. Most people are sleeping in their cubes.
[M pokes his head around as if too check on people in their cubes. So funny!]

So only 2 more weeks at work. Having switched cubes in the middle of my internship, I've come to realize that where you sit makes a big difference. In my previous cube, I near the wall and therefore very close to all the offices. I could hear the conversations of all the managers and higher level engineers as they complain about the project and how people use fancy words to describe "kindergarten" concepts. Now, I'm in the middle of my section and almost surrounded by the structural engineering group. I hear a whole different set of conversations and have gotten to know these people a little more. Part of me still likes the first cube since I felt like I was in touch with the progress of the projects. Now that I can't hear my manager's phone conversations, I feel less in tune with the bigger picture and just focuses on my own work. I feel like my summer would be a whole different experience if I had not moved that 20 feet.

I went out to the field on Wednesday where we hired a company to check for the Hayward fault. We climbed around in a trench and walked around to see where the alignment will be. Almost satisfying to actually see the project site. We really didn't do much. Also checked on a archeology group who were checking the site for Native American burials. They had 2 test locations and were digging a 1x2 meter box, going down in increments of 10cm, screening all the dirt, and going down to some depth. Everything is done very precisely. I didn't realize how scientific the work is. That was interesting to see.

Anyhow, non work related stuff. We watched the replay of the opening ceremony on NBC on Friday. It sucks that no one else is allowed to broadcast and since we don't have cable, we can only watch what NBC shows. I mean, we can find this stuff online but it's not the same as watching it in the living room, on the big screen, and sitting on the nice sofas. Our computer screen is only 17" and it is located in my room and the only sitting arrangement would've been rolly chairs or my bed.

Anyways, the opening ceremony was amazing. Very, very well done. Now that I've worked on fine tuning AutoCAD drawings for a few weeks now, I really appreciate the amount of work that must've gone into making these performances happen. Making sure everyone does what they're supposed to do must have taken a lot of work. Coming up with the idea is nothing compared to all the tedious planning, directing, and executing. There must've been countless revisions to get those all those drumers to get the countdown right. Computers can only do so much. Someone had to think about every single drumer and their every movement. I mean, for our AutoCAD stuff at work, we have to check every line, every word, and it doesn't even involve any people, just lines on a computer. Man, I almost feel sorry for the British who have to host the next Olympics. Everyone will be comparing.