Wednesday, December 30, 2009


I've been playing SimCity. City planning is tough business. Planning a city with good public transit is even harder. In fact, none of my cities have any public transit yet. Wasn't in the plan... I used to play a similar game called Caeser where you get to build an ancient Roman city. My city always failed due to bankruptcy. I think I'm faring better now with SimCity but it's still tough. An interesting dilemma that I've been noticing is that you always want to get wealthy people to live in your city. So what happens to all the poor people? Did they move out? Or did everyone get a better education, better healthy, and naturally get richer?

Anyway, right now I'm attempting to run 3 cities at a time. But my mainly industrial city is failing really badly. Probably because I gave in and decided that I needed some residents in this city rather than try to get people to work there from my residential city. The industrial city is running on a really large deficit, has a lot of air pollution because of the coal factory, and all the water sources are polluted. So... life is not good for those Sims...

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Random thoughts at a late-ish hour

Just had an urge to write something. We had a big food + friends and family event at my house again. There was a ton of food. Turkey, ribs, veggies, pizza, sushie, fruit, and a ton of other stuff. People dropped by throughout the day and we had a big crowd around early evening. One of my friends from Stanford dropped by for a while too.

Not many of my friends from MIT have visited my family in Oakland. I guess it was hard since people are from all over the place. But I didn't really have very many friends visiting during high school either. I think it makes a difference though, once you've visited someone at their parent's home, somewhere where they tend to be more relaxed and act like themselves. This reminds me of a comment that international students made in the book, "My Freshmen Year". Many of them said that Americans seem distant and never ask about how things are at home. There seems to be a separation of live - outside life and inside life. Somehow they don't mix. Or at least, they don't have to mix. Is this healthy? I feel like there are people who I've spent a lot of time with but don't feel like I really know on a deeper level. Something to think about, I guess.

Going off an unrelated topic, I watched Sherlock Holmes today. I've never been into the stories so I didn't know what to expect. I thought it was a pretty interesting movie in that there was suspense and had some intellectual value. I watched The Princess and the Frog the other day and that was pure brain-dead entertainment. Anyway, I bought a really nice collector's edition of "Great Cases of Sherlock Holmes" many years ago at the Bookmark Bookstore. For those of you who like bookstores, the Bookmark Bookstore is one that you have to check out if you're ever in the Oakland area. It's a little second hand bookstore near downtown Oakland. It sells books for really cheap and the benefits go to the Oakland Libraries. They have 2 sales a year (April and October) where books are discounted even more. You can come away with an armload of books for $10. Anyway, all this is to announce that I have one more book I want to read in the next week of break.

I think I might try to go running on Monday provided that it's not raining. I'm hoping my knee is healed now. Even my shin splints have all gone away, I think. I've been feeling shin splints since the second week of starting to train seriously so this is good news. I need to burn some of this turkey calories and get feel the endorphins again!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Time to read for fun

I think I've been averaging a book a day so far. And I think I need to maintain this if I hope to finish the pile of books I borrowed. I've realized the topics are so random that I don't even know which one to read next.

I started a book yesterday called, "American Nerd, the Story of My People". I had heard the author of this book speak (about the book) on a podcast. It sounded interesting so I borrowed it. Good thing I didn't buy it though because other than the first chapter, I don't think the rest of the book was very interesting at all. The author defines a "nerd" as someone wh likes rules and regulations and reminds people of a machine. He claims that the usual definition of social awkwardness applies to more than just "nerds". Anyway, half of the book was specific cases of kids who grew up in very chaotic households and therefore liked playing Dungeons and Dragons with other nerdy teenagers around the neighborhood because the game had very specific rules, unlike their lives. And then the book made a lot of references to Pride and Prejudice, which I read in 12th grade but didn't find it particularly interesting. So I didn't understand this author's particular obsession with the P&P crowd.

Today, I started a book called "The Looniness of the Long Distance Runner - An Unfit Londoner's Attempt to Run the New York Marathon from Scratch" and it has been very enjoyable to read. The guy is really funny and he basically writes about his training to run the New York Marathon. I thought it would be pretty dry to read about someone's "adventures" in the gym but I like his humor. He's a writer and has coupled this marathon with writing a book about it. He starts out his training in the gym and his "methodology" is to find out how much the daily charge of a gym is and then immediately pay for a year's membership. Then every time he goes to the gym, he would calculate how much it costs him. So if the yearly membership is $300, then the first time he goes, it would be like spending $300 for the gym. The second time, it would cost $150, and so on. He figures that by the time you get down to less than the daily charge, then you can stop going and have reaped some sort of benefit from it. His own first time to the gym consisted of using the shower because his hot water was not working. During his second time in the gym, he gets on the treadmill and successfully spend enough time that the digital display ticked off the first mile. And then (in his words),

"Just as I was feeling quite pleased with the effortless ease with which I have vaulted this first psychological barrier an annoying small voice inside my head says, 'How do you know they're miles? They might be kilometers.'
'This is Europhobe Britain', I retorted jingoistically. 'They have to be miles.'"

Of course, he finds out right after this that all the machines have been changed to metric. He actually does pretty well after a few months of training. His first half marathon, he ran in well under 2 hours (1:44) which is way better than I'm hoping to do for mine. Maybe I should've let myself trained longer before my first half marathon? Hm...

I haven't ran very much in the last week because my left knee is still bothering me. I was feeling better Tuesday morning but my knee starting hurting after about a mile. Maybe I should just take this whole break as a holiday from running? I'm worried that I won't be able to get back into shape when I get back to school and end up overtraining again... Oy...

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Reading Nonfiction

I like looking at the 'new books' collection at the library. It offers a sampling of all of the different sections of the library in one area. I sat there in front of one of these shelves today and picked out a stack of interesting books, most (all?) of them nonfiction. The Oakland Libraries, due to budget cuts, are closing from Dec 24th to Jan 1st. So I stocked up on books.

I discovered the world of nonfiction books in 11th grade. My history teacher showed us a book called "Lies My Teacher Told Me" in the beginning of the year. I thought the title sounded interesting and later that year I asked to borrow it and then spent most of the weekend finishing it. It's a book about how high school history classes glorify "heroes" and teach inaccurate things. The topics in the book are very interesting. The big thing that I've associated this book with though, is that it opened the world of nonfiction to me. Nonfiction for kids is limited to picture books that contain "facts" and always seemed very dry to me. Before that book, I always wondered why the library was filled with mostly nonfiction books when the fiction books were all that I read. Anyway, just wanted to share a milestone moment of my life.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Pictures and Memories

One of the things I want to do this break is to organize my picture and stamp collections. I think the picture collection is a lot easier than stamps.

Most of my pictures from the last four years are still in a box. Actually, they're in scattered everywhere in bunches. The last four years, I've ordered a lot of pictures and had most of them sent home. But there were ones that I wanted to keep in smaller albums, taped to walls, and in other random places. I was just going through the France trip pictures when I realized I have another pile of France pictures somewhere else. I like to put the pictures in the album in some sort of organized way so this is turning into a big project. So many memories! I guess I haven't done this in the past because I end up spend hours reminiscing about the past. Sometimes I get caught up in thinking about regrets.

Speaking of pictures, I think I need to take more pictures. It's been one quarter now and all I have are pictures of places and pictures from the camping trip. I need to get some pictures from some people but I don't think there are very many.

The stamp collection is an entirely different matter. I have boxes upon boxes of stamps that need to be put into albums. I guess I have time to undertake such a project. But I think I need to find where I stashed all my stamp supplies first...

Back in Oakland

I'm home! I just spent the day sitting around the house and eating. I went to my high school for a little while but didn't stay too long. There and back within 2 hours. It feels weird to be back now. All the kids look so young.

I was debating when to come home until Lena decided to have a birthday celebration at her house. So I spent Thursday doing laundry, finishing food, last minute cleaning, taking out the trash, returning library books, etc. This taking out the trash thing is actually a lot of work. We have 2 recycling bins and 2 trash cans in the kitchen. Another trash can in the bathroom and one in my bedroom. I didn't even have the time to take out the recycling in my room. Now I know why the household section at Walmart is so big. You're always in need of that special product that will make your life easier. Specialized cleaning solutions for every item in the bathroom and kitchen. Air fresheners for different places.

For the record, I actually did do some studying the past few days at Stanford. I managed to go through several chapters of one of the books for foundations. Well, most of the book is filled with charts, figures, and formulas, but there were some interesting stuff. I wish I had time to go through all the chapters and move on to reading another book that was more theoretical. But between going to the gym, hosting dinner parties, and just hanging out with people in general, I didn't have time. I think I managed to get through so much of the book on my own because of my past internships. I encountered a lot of the concepts and formulas at my internship this summer and everything makes so much more sense now.

I've been obsessed with reading about marathons lately. I've been going to the gym and using the elliptical lately because my right knee can't handle any running. I think I will take the next two or three days off completely, mostly because I don't have access to a gym. I really want to run a marathon this upcoming year. The Big Sur Marathon looks amazing! But the entry fee is on the expensive side and there are many hills involved. But the course is really, really nice. I always thought it was far away but it's actually just a little bit south of Monterey. The race shuttles will take people from Monterey to the race start. And apparently, there's a bus that goes from San Jose to Monterey. So it's only about 1.5 hrs on public transit to get from Palo Alto to Monterey.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Studying During Break?

Wow, the days seem to go by so slowly when you're not in a hurry. Let's see, Saturday, I went for a run in the morning. Then went shopping at Walmart and picked up a few things for the house. I came back and a friend asked if I had any dinner plans. So this turned into another dinner party where I cooked for 3 other people. The food turned out okay. Not as great as last time. The two guys that came over both juice and soymilk. I seem to be accumulating food instead of finishing food... After that, I spent some time cleaning the apartment. I sprayed the shower with some mildew fighting bleach and got ride of all the pink stuff and other build-ups. I think I used way too much though because the bathroom smelled like the pool for a couple of days afterward. It's definitely a lot cleaner though. I also vacuumed. The apartment feels so much cleaner now. Then I skyped with Yalu for a bit. After that, there was a pizza event at my neighborhood. We ate pizza and played Taboo. I'm so terrible at this game...

On Sunday, I ran into a rainbow. It was a full rainbow. Very nice. Didn't managed to find any gold though... I took the shuttle to the Stanford shopping center. I've never been there and thought I should check it out. The stores there are crazy upscale. Macy's is the cheapest place there! I walked around for hours before getting 2 Christmas gifts. I attempted to make hash browns again and didn't burned them this time. They were kind of mushy since I didn't have the patience to let them dry out. They were still good though. I went out to dinner with a couple of guys who are still around. Most people left already but there are a few people sticking around to do research or studying for quals. One of the guys was still hungry after the dinner so we went to Trader Joes and picked up a pumpkin pie. I got a bag of sugar snap peas for later stir frying. We went to one guy's apartment to eat the pie. I only managed to eat a small slice. The guys finished half the pie! The guy whose apartment we were in is leaving in a couple of days and has a bag of onions he and his roommate got from Costco. They're definitely not going to finish it before leaving so I took two of them. So definitely accumulating food. I've been saying that I would go home when I finish all my food. But at this rate...

Today (Monday), I went running but my right knee starting hurting after about 2 miles. I think it's from all the Dish runs and the couple of attempts of speed training on the track. No more speed training! It's boring to run around the track anyhow. I always feel so dumb running in circles. The night before I wrote down a list of books for my winter quarter classes and I went to check them out at the library today. I got a few books on foundation engineering. I've been going through one of the books. I don't know how long this motivation for self study will last though. I really want to do well in this class though so maybe that will be some extra motivation. Need to do well so I can TA it next year!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Hanging out with people

It's pretty good to be done with finals and just hanging out here. The past few days have been gloomy and rainy but has been pretty interesting for me. On Thursday, a few of us were supposed to go out for dim sum together but due to bad planning and logistical issues, that didn't work out. So I walked around campus for a bit to return books and doing some errands and decided to go to Trader Joe's again. This turned out to be a really great idea since I picked up frozen pizza and brownie mix. I made the pizza and invited Mahalia and Lauren over for a study break. And then Joanna dropped by for a little bit to chat. Then I got a call from a couple of guys who I was supposed to go to dim sum with. One of them had wanted to go bowling. But we settled for brownies at my place. So they came for brownies at around 5pm. I had planned to cook for a couple of people at 7pm so the guys ended up staying for dinner too. So basically, I spent the entire day eating and chatting with people, which was great. That's one of the things I regret about going on that camping trip over Thanksgiving. I think a lot of people were around and I could have hung out with them. Oh wells, camping with undergrads was fun too.

Friday was another mellow day. I woke up, went running, showered, and made an omelette. This omelette was really amazing. It had mushrooms, peppers, ham, and cheese. Definitely making the same thing tomorrow! Then I played around online and attempted to clean my room. The cleaning part wasn't really successful. I got tired and decided to nap for an hour. I woke up and one of my neighbors asked if I wanted to go for food since he just finished his take home final. So I went with him and couple of his friends. We attempted to go to In N Out but the traffic was really bad so we settled for Chipotle. That burrito really good but I had major food coma after that. Then Mahalia and I went to San Francisco for a MIT NorCal reunion, which turned out to be a big Course 1 reunion. I think all the Course 1 people in the area came out. It was an interesting trip. We got there late by a hour or so because the Stanford shuttle we wanted to take was early and then the next one was late. So frustrating to be living in suburbia without a car. Anyway, we still had fun and managed to get back at a decent hour.

Hopefully, it won't rain too much tomorrow. I might to go Walmart to buy a shoe rack. Need to clean my room, register for classes, talk to Yalu, and hang out with more people. I still have brownies!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Intermission... time for popcorn!

Wow, I feel really tired after the final. I think the test went better than I had hoped... Ah, well, nothing I can do about it now. My room is such a disaster right now. There's stuff all over the place. Our kitchen is also a disaster. The dish rack is empty because nothing has been washed since this morning.

I think a bunch of us are going out for dim sum tomorrow. That should be fun. I think I will go running tomorrow too. It's been so cold out lately. Freezing. Like literally. Having a few friends over for dinner tomorrow. Speaking of which, I should go marinate the pork!

This quarter has been interesting. I feel like I've learned a lot. Even though none of my classes builds directly on stuff from undergrad, I'm only able to learn more because of the stuff I learned in undergrad.

A couple of coterms I know have continued their summer internships as part time jobs into the quarter. I thought about doing that too but mine would not have been with the same group so I guess it wouldn't have been the same. My schedule didn't really work out. It could have though. My schedule next quarter will feature 11am classes all 5 days so that won't work out either. Maybe in the spring...

Anyhow, there's really no point in this post other than to say that I'm done. Going to marinate pork now!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

End of 1st Quarter!

One of the great things about the end of a quarter/semester is that all the student groups blow their budget and put study breaks with great food. There was a dim sum study break on Sunday by the Asian American grad association. Rains had three nights of study breaks in a row: Krispy Kreme, cereal, and cookies. The Krispy Kreme one was very well attended. I think that must have used up most of the money. They ordered a crazy amount of donuts. I also had a lot of eggnog at these events. The cereal one was very poorly attended. I guess people just thought it was lame. I had fun though. I ate a bunch of sugar cereal that I haven't had in a long time. I probably could have grabbed a few boxes at the end if I had chose to stay on longer. But I don't eat very much cereal these day anyhow. I've switched to oatmeal these past few days. This steel cut stuff is not bad.

This time tomorrow, I will be very happy. I would be done with finals and the first quarter of graduate school. *I'm trying to think of something non cliche to say here but is failing. I'm sure once the next quarter starts, I will be wondering where the Christmas break went. But right now the thought of having 3 weeks of break seems like a lot. I think I want to spend some time studying this time around. Look over stuff that I didn't get a chance to look over during the semester, do some previewing for next quarter, read some of my professor's papers, figure out a research project, etc. Exact details to be worked out after my final. I really need a good grade on this final.

I'm going to spend Thursday catching up with some friends. There's a MIT alumni get-together thing Friday night. Not sure if I'm going to go. It's kinda late and far away (in SF). But there will be a lot of Course 1 '09ers there. So it might be good to see how these people are doing. I wonder how the real world is treating them. School is such a sheltered environment.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

8 miles!

I ran 8 miles today. I had planned to do 6 miles but then I overshot where I was supposed to turn and ended up at SLAC. When I passed SLAc, I knew I had gone way too far. This run took way too long because I after I realized I had missed the turn, I spent some time running around a parking lot looking for a way to go east without backtracking. This turned out to be impossible. And the route made me cross a lot of streets so I had to wait for the light at some points. I did manage to run nearly all of it though, which is quite the accomplishment. I think running Dish loops which has a net elevation gain of nearly 500 ft over 3 miles has trained me well. It's so easy to run on a flat course now.

So, I think I want to run a marathon next year. I think that will be my new year's resolution. I think I can definitely do a half marathon. I think it will be do-able to train for a full marathon. Oakland is holding a marathon this year but the full marathon course is uphill for the first 10 miles and then it goes from 700 ft to 0 in about a mile. This scares me. The SF marathon route looks tame comparatively. Anyway, I think I'm definitely going to sign up for Bay to Breakers, which is a 12k. It's something I've been wanting to do ever since high school. Bay to Breakers is a quirky SF road race where people dress up and do crazy stuff. Seems like it would be a lot of fun. I think I'm addicted to running. I've been cranking up the mileage and it feels good to feel myself physically improving by the week. I think I will try running a mile on the track sometime just to see how fast I can run a mile. Hopefully it will be under 10 minutes. ha!

Anyhow, classes are over! I have a final on Wednesday night and a take home final that is also due on Wednesday. I seriously need to start studying. I couldn't do anything today after running so much. I did make brownies and invited some friends over though.

On Friday, the structural group had a winter party. There was lots of good food, which was much appreciated. The Blume center is kind of small for this type of thing though but I guess it's easier to bump into people and chat with them. It's really good that we have some kind of event or happy hour every month since I really want to chat with these people but I always feel like I should keep the conversations short because they might be busy. I think it's really important to get to know people better. I've made it sort of a policy that I will grab the chance to chat with people rather than say, spend more time studying. Given the chance, I would rather walk back to the grad residences with people and even take a detour if it means I get a chance to get to know them better.

There are two second year Masters students in my program. One is applying to stay for a PhD and the other is going to work. Both of them are very smart and interesting people. The one who's working is going to work for a very small startup in Portland. His company sounds interesting. That another summer option for me!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Assembly Required Toys

This article is so funny. It's about toys today that require assembly and all these parents complaining that they're too hard. There's even a mention of a store that will assemble these types of toys for you for a fee. I tend not to buy any toys that does not require assembly for my brother and cousins. I think these parents just need to find toys that are appropriate for their kid's abilities, teach them how to read directions, and slowly increase the difficulty of the assembly-required toys. It'll be better for the kids ultimately. I mean, who plays with action figures anyway?


I think this is the latest I've stayed up doing homework this quarter. It's been an intense week. All the homeworks seem to be super long and hard to get through. I think I might have had an easier week if I had not gone on the hiking trip and stayed at school to study. But... there are more important things in life than just studying!

I had a homework due this morning (Wednesday morning) at 9am. I usually go running on Wednesdays so I ran over to turn in the homework and then looped back. Ultra-efficient multi-tasking. This running thing is starting to take up a lot of time. Running the Dish takes 45 minutes for the loop. Getting to the Dish and back takes ~10 minutes. And then I have to shower afterwards. I'm not sure what's going to happen when I want to do even longer distances. Anyway, I'll see how my next quarter's schedule works out, I guess.

Time to get some sleep before more intense homework sessions!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

More pictures from hiking

One of the highlights of the trip was Mono Lake. Mono Lake is the site of the LA water wars. Basically a bunch of rich people wanted to develop the San Fernando Valley and LA area and built a bunch of infrasture to divert water from all the tributaries of Mono Lake down south. The lake receeded a lot before the courts put a stop to it. This exposed some calcium calcite columns that are known as toufa columns (the tall things in the picture below):

This is a hot spring that was not very hot. Mono Lake is in the background. On the third day, we went to some hot springs. Some people jumped in. I waded. It wasn't very hot and kind of slimy. I'm sure it was worth it but I didn't feel like being cold because it was 30 degrees out.

Another thing I was really happy about was that I got to see what glacial till is (picture below). I worked on a few projects in New York and Canada this past summer that was on glacial till and I had no idea what it was. It's basicaly sand and rocks. But I feel much better knowing what it is and have more confidence next time I run across a project that involves till.

If you look closely at this picture below, you can see some people. We hiked and climbed all over these rocks. In the background, you can see the Sierra Nevadas.

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4,000 Year Old Trees!

The world's oldest trees are not redwoods. They are the Bristlecone pines that grow at 10,000 ft. They're actually really pretty if you take a close look at them.

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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Pictures from hiking!

We just came back from a day of hiking around in the mountains nearby. We were up at about 10,000 ft so we were all huffing and puffing from walking uphill. We talked about the geological history of the surrounding area. Pretty interesting stuff actually. Makes me want to take the introductory geology class. Anyways, here are some picture.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

On a geology trip!

There will be some awesome pictures coming soon to this blog! I'm currently on a geologic hiking trip with the School of Earth Sciences. We left Stanford at 7:30am this morning, drove for about 8 hours and are now here in Bishop, Ca. We drove through the Sierra Nevadas and are now on the east side of the mountains. Apparently, the west side gets all the precipitation and the east side is totally dry. It seems like it snowed half a foot on the mountains yesterday. We saw some really amazing landscapes coming here. A couple of the guys in the car were really into taking pictures. My camera was buried in my backpack in the back so I didn't take any. But I'm sure there will be lots of chances on this trip to take cool pictures.

Today was also the day of the Big Game (Stanford vs. Cal). Stanford lost by a narrow margin. They were doing really well in the first quarter. The game started at 4:30pm. We got to Bishop at 4pm and went into town looking for some place that would show the game. There was a bar that was advertising the game but they wouldn't let us stay because not everyone is over 21. We basically walked around town and ended up coming back to the research station that we're staying at. We were able to get the game on the internet. So we ate dinner while watching the game.. Dinner was really good. We have a cook here. Looking forward to the next few days.

I'm amazed that last week wasn't as stressful as I thought it would be. I had 6 homeworks due even though I'm only taking 4 classes. I managed to sleep like I normally do and got 7-8 hours of sleep every night. I even managed to run the Dish twice. I think this trip will be good since it will give my legs a chance to recover from running up and down hills.

Friday morning, I woke up an hour early (at 7am) to run the Dish because I thought it would start raining at 9am. But it didn't. Oh wells. It was still a good run. I took care of a few things during the day and there was a happy hour at the Blume Center in the afternoon. Friday was the birthday of two of the people in the program so we all sang happy birthday to them. I'm glad the department has money for things like this.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Watching water drip

This is the project that I've been working on for the last month:
It's a model of 1 dimensional infiltration of water into unsaturated soil. Basically, it's how water flows into dirt, while raining. This project felt like doing research. I guess it's a very guided version of research (training for research?). Anyway, I'm glad my model decided to work. I've been hacking away at it for the last month. I had most of code written (all the calculation bits) but just needed to make arrange them such that they gave me what I wanted. And tonight was like do-or-die. Everything started coming together at around 10pm. It's still not perfect. The bottom of the first two graphs should not have bands like that. But that's something that has to do with the data interpolation and not the code.

Anyway, this is kind of satisfying. I did this in Matlab. Given that I didn't know what a 'function' was or how to write a 'for loop' at the beginning of the quarter, this is pretty good. All my other classes feel like undergrad classes with many assignments that are very guided. The hydrology class makes me feel like I'm actually in grad school!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Intense Day!

I ran The Dish Loop ( this morning! I decided to do this before going to sleep last night. I think I live about a mile away from the start of the loop and the entire way there, I was trying to decide if this was actually a good idea. The path is very scenic and but the elevation changes are a killer! There are some very steep hills all along this 3.3 mile loop. It took me 43 minutes to jog+walk the entire thing. It was intense.

But I really enjoyed it so I think I will try to make this my weekday run from now on. For the past few weeks, I've been running a 1.7 mile trail that goes up a small hill on a dirt trail. I've extended this to 3 miles with a couple of additions but it's getting boring running on the same path over and over again. I liked it because it was quiet and I encountered very little traffic along the way. The Campus Drive loop (3.8 miles) is nice but I am only going to do that on the weekends because there are too many cars on weekdays. It's funny because the amount of traffic here is nothing compared to NYC but I find it more enjoyable to run in a quiet setting.

After the morning run, I proceeded to do finite element stuff for the entire day. I just got back, actually. I worked on a finite element assignment for my hydrology class with one of the guys in the class. We managed to finish it before class! So that's one less thing to worry about. After the hydrology class, I proceeded to work on my finite element class. There are two assignments due so a few of us just spent the last 6 hours of so working through the assignments. So that was one intense day.

This being on the same time zone as my family thing is not working out. I used to be able to call home when I'm done with stuff. Even if I'm working with other people on homeowork until midnight, I can still call home. But now, I have call at a reasonable hour for both parties. Such a weird concept.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Weekend Activities (start of week 8)

This weekend has been intense. This is measured by the fact that I did work on Friday! Very impressive considering how little motivation I usually have on Fridays to do any work at all. I visited the shopping center nearby for some stuff on Friday morning. I've passed by this shopping place many times now but never had the opportunity (excuse) to go visit. It's actually pretty nice. There were outdoor cafe tables and all the stores were close together so it's not like you have to cross a huge parking lot to get from one store to another.

I went to class after this and then went to the Blume center so that I can be in a productive environment (vs. my room). And I found people working in the lounge area and the offices. I couple of people I knew were doing some major psetting.

After a couple of hours of cranking out a pset, I went to play frisbee with some friends (mostly Rains people). It's been pretty cold out lately. My fingers were numb afterward. But it was fun to spend some time outside. Last time I played frisbee with these people, the group was all EE except for me. The department balance was better this time but the gender balance could have been better! haha.

The graduate Asian American club hosted a karaoke night with American and Chinese songs (mostly). Shuo and I went for an hour or so. I was very impressed the snacks that they got. I think they bought out the snack aisle at Ranch 99. It was fun. I came back early enough to still do a couple of hours of work before going to sleep.

Saturday morning, Shuo and I went running. We ran/walked my usual 1.7 mile trail. We did weren't really satisfied by this because we walked a lot of it. So we decided to go run Campus Drive (3.8 miles) too. We ended up walking part of this too. The run felt really good though. We were going pretty slow and I felt like I could keep going at that pace for a long time. I wasn't breathing hard at all. We went for brunch after this and ate a lot of food. By the time we got back, it was already noon! I spent an hour skyping with Yalu, finished doing laundry, and proceeded to spend the entire afternoon studying.

At some point in the afternoon, I got an email from a next door neighbor inviting Shuo and I for dinner. There are two guys who live diagonally across from us who go to Ranch 99 every week. This Ranch 99 gives you $1 coupons at their hot foods section for every dollar you spend at their regular store. We went with one of them last week and gave them our coupons. So this week, they managed to get half a duck and bbq pork with the coupons. They had enough coupons that they didn't have to pay at all. So they invited us over for dinner. I contributed a shrimp and snow peas dish. The guys both took pictures of the food. They said they cook every day and take pictures of all the food they cook. So funny. I wonder what they do with all these food pictures. The dinner was fun. So glad we chose this dorm!

After this, the neighborhood had a s'mores 'study break'. Actually I don't think they call it a study break here but that's what it amounts to. The CAs had a fire going in a pit and had a ton of marshmallows, gram crackers, and chocolate. I love roasting marshmallows. It was super cold out though. I had on a sweatshirt and the jacket I usually wear in Boston. After an hour, I was wishing I had on snow boots! I was super tired afterwards from the sugar crash.

We went running Sunday morning as well. I managed to do some work before making lunch. I invited Anna over for lunch and the three of us got a chance to chat. She graduating this quarter and is looking for a job. It's actually pretty hard to look for a job right now. Many engineering firms don't even post their graduate openings until the spring.

I napped and did a bit of work after this. Then I went over to a neighbor's place to work on that hydrology class. We worked 3 hours on the newest homework and I think we finished it. It's funny because we're not sure if we're finished or not. One of the questions seemed to simple. I came back, ate dinner, and wrote up the homework. Again, really like this dorm because it seems like everyone is here!

And... that was my weekend. Another typical weekend (I hope!).

Monday, November 9, 2009

Transitioning from undergrad to grad

[updated Sunday 11.15.2009. Original entry written on Monday 11.9.2009]

Feeling a little burnt out from all this work right now. I guess it's good that Thanksgiving is coming and I'll get a break from school stuff. I've spent a couple of weeks now working on a project for the hydrology class that required coming up with a matlab program that solves a partial differential equation. It was officially due last Monday but only 3 people managed to turn it in. These 3 did not include me. My program is currently spitting out extremely unreasonable values. I think I need to tweek both my program and my understanding of the problem. The cool thing is that I've been working with someone else in the class and we've made very good progress cranking this project out together.

But seriously, Matlab has definitely taken over my life (in addition to my computer!). I feel kind of unprepared for this. I feel like I should have done more computational stuff in undergrad. But then again, a lot of people come into grad school without any experience with numerical methods or computational stuff. So I guess I've at least used the program before and 1.00 (Java) has helped with understanding how programming works.

This gets into a topic that I've been thinking about for a while: "How well has my undergraduate education prepared me for graduate school?" I don't know if I should be looking at this question in a general sense or more a more self-specific sense. None of my classes this quarter builds on what I have learned in undergrad. I'm taking all my classes outside of the civil engineering department. I think the general idea for graduate school is that you're supposed to learn, in more detail, in a field that you're interested in. But it hasn't really been the case for me so far. I think this quarter has been more about filling in the gaps and learning more tools that will help later on. So instead of individual subjects, I guess this quarter has really pushed me fall back on some "skills" I learned in undergrad that are relevant to grad school:

Math. I'm glad I took 18.014 and 18.024 because after having gone through a year of trying to do math, I really got a feel for theoretical math. I still can't do "real" math for my life but it has helped a lot in understanding finite element lectures. At the very least, I'm not sitting there wondering what those upside down As are! Two of my classes this quarter is very focused on solving partial differential equations with finite element and finite difference methods. I'm really glad I took linear algebra. I took that class for fun but I think it should really be required for civil engineering. I mean, operating Matlab requires some knowledge of linear algebra! So I guess in conclusion, I think I'm fairly prepared for the math I'm seeing so far, both theory and application.

Programming (Matlab). There was an attempt back in sophomore year to get us (civil engineering sophomores) to use Matlab. But I think they abandoned this idea after we all got extremely confused and overloaded with work. I don't know what they're doing now but I think it could have been more structured and we could have gotten more out of it. But we were required to take 1.00 which taught Java and basic programming things. I have to admit, I can't program Java at all anymore but I did learn how programming works in general. I think it would be 10x harder to learn Matlab without having gone through 1.00 or a similar class that teaches programming instead of just using the language as a tool. I mean, at the very least, I know that "x = y" does not equal "y = x". So I guess I'm semi-prepared in this category.

Geology. I have no preparation in this area whatsoever. Geologists are required to learn about engineering stuff like stress and strain. But engineers don't have to learn geology. For my field of engineering, I really need to learn geology. But there way that civil engineering programs are set up, there's very little time for this. Freshman year is general classes. Sophomore year is general engineering concepts. Junior year we get to learn a little bit of structural and geotechnical engineering. Senior year is where we get to take one or two advanced analytical, engineering classes but we also have to take senior design and project related classes. So I guess going to grad school is giving me the chance to fill in this gap.

Hydraulics, hydrology. I think that one fluid mechanics class back in sophomore year has held up pretty well for me. I also took a class in Cambridge and I think those notes will be useful at some point. I think I could have used more preparation here but there are also plenty of graduate courses in this area that assumes nothing more than basic fluid mechanics. Again, for this topic, grad school is giving me the chance to pursue an interest that I didn't have time for in undergrad.

So in general, I think my undergrad has given me a pretty good background to work off of. I've definitely been well trained in problem solving and thinking skills. I guess I've come a long way since graduating from high school. I've thought a lot about the high school to undergrad transition as well. But I think that warrants a separate post.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Week 7 (out of 10)

It's the middle of week 7 and I've just finished all the work due this week! Yay. Okay, there were only 2 real assignments due this week and I probably should have finished them over the weekend. Next week though, will be one of these five assignment due weeks. Actually, it's more like 6 since one of my classes require us to turn in corrections. I think the week after that will be the same deal. But it's okay because in 2 weeks, it will be Thanksgiving. And I think things will calm down after Thanksgiving. In fact, I will be basically done with one of my classes before Thanksgiving.

My advisor forwarded me an email this morning that was advertising another ASCE (American Society of Civil Engineers) seminar. This time, it's a 2 hr lunch time talk on excavation shoring and underpinning methods. Glad he thought of me when he got the email. This is the monthly meeting of the San Jose chapter of ASCE and I wasn't on their list. I didn't realize how close San Jose is from here. I've always thought of it as this far away place! But it'll still take me an hour or so to get there by public transit. I think it will be worth the effort though. Another opportunity to collect business cards! Actually, the talk is being done by two people who work at a local geotechnical company called Cornerstone. I had sat next to one of the principals of this company at the last ASCE seminar. And I recently found out that one of my classmates in hydrology worked there for a year. It's a really small local company but I guess it's not so small when you look at the size of the geotech community!

I feel like I'm eating all the time these days. Probably because of all this exercising. The question of the day has become "Do I run tomorrow morning or not?" Mahalia and I checked out the pool yesterday. We went at 6pm because the pool is only opened on M-F from 10-2 and 6-8. It was dark already and I really thought that it was going to be empty. But it was packed with people. There was a high school swim team practicing, water polo team, diving team, swimming lessons, and lots of people doing recreational swim. The water was salty. Yeah, weird. But I didn't get any allergy reactions though. Whenever I swam at the MIT pool, I always got a huge histamine attack right after. It basically felt like a bad case of seasonal allergies. But it didn't happen this time so I think it's definitely something in the Z-Center pool.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The week after the midterm

The weather here makes me happy. Blue skies, very warm. It's so unreal. This week's workload is more manageable than last week. I only have two things due at the end of the week but I have a couple of assignments early next week that I really need more make more headway with.

I got a more detailed itinerary for the Owens Valley trip that I'm going on during the first part of Thanksgiving. It seems like a really awesome trip. We're basically spending 3 whole days hiking through parts of the Sierra Nevada. I'm really excited for the trip. But it basically takes up the first part of Thanksgiving break, which I was planning to do some work. I definitely won't get much done at home. So hopefully, I won't have much in the way of stuff due right after the break.

This morning I went out for my 4th consecutive day of running. I usually don't run everyday. I think it's a good idea because I haven't managed to hit 3 miles for the past couple of days. I just felt really tired. My muscles feel really tight. Tomorrow I'm going swimming with some people so hopefully that will help my muscles relax. I haven't been to the pool here yet. It seems like a very nice and well-kept pool. We're going at 6pm though because the hours are limited. Hopefully it won't be cold tomorrow night!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Yesterday was the end of a week of craziness. Well, crazy as in I didn't get as much sleep or get as much work done as I would have liked. So I basically decided I wasn't going to do much work on Friday. I tried to do stuff in the morning but got stuck and just gave up looking at it. I had class and then went to Y2E2 where I chatted with some structural people. We were in the middle of talking about bars and different types of alcoholic drinks when a camera crew filmed and took pictures of us from outside the conference room we were in. The conference rooms in Y2E2 have glass walls. So ironic.

After they left to go to a review session, I went to bug my advisor again. We chatted for about half an hour where he told me about an international civil engineering conference that will happen at Stanford in the middle of June. So I should probably stick around for that. He said that the department has some money for its own students to attend the conference and that if I was going to be around, I wouldn't have to worry about the registration fees. I thought that would be a given but for some reason he found it necessary to tell me. I mean, I would've asked for it to be waived or something anyhow! He asked what my plans were for the summer and that if I wanted an internship, I should start looking in the winter. I was like, uh, at this point, if I wanted an internship, it's just a phone call or email away. Or I said something along those lines. He remembers the seminar I had just been to and said that they usually try to push their students to go to these ASCE things so that they can network. But I had asked about going to this previous seminar myself. I think he was impressed. I'm not so sure he's impressed by me dropping in unannounced every now and then but whatever, I don't want to make an official meeting just to chat.

After this, there was a small Halloween party held by the administrators of the department. There were lots of snack food and they raffled off bottles of wine. I think they were raffling them off at half an hour intervals so that people who drop by can have a chance to win. I chatted with someone in one of the environmental engineering who is working part time for the Arup SF office right now. She went to Stanford for undergrad so she's going to finish her Masters degree in 2 quarters!! We went to an ESW (Engineers for a Sustainable World) talk. The speaker is a Stanford MS grad who did Peace Corps in Honduras. He helped some communities build water infrastructure and talked about his experiences (successes and failures) there. He's still very involved with some of those communities. He was an undergrad at Cornell and worked with the AquaClara group while in Honduras. I almost went to Cornell just because of the AquaClara program. Almost...

Then I headed back towards the dorm and saw some people from Rains playing frisbee on Wilbur field (the field with the underground parking lot). One of the guys organized it and sent out an email but I knew I would be late because of the talk. Anyway, I joined them and met a few more EE people. They're a really big department here too. It was such a nice day out! The western sky is always red at dusk. We played for a while and then I invited them to come to Blume for the structural group's Halloween happy hour. There were four party size burritos! They were really awesome looking. Wish they had given some salsa to go on the side though. The burritos themselves were a little dry, I think because they didn't want the entire thing to get soggy. We also had cake for people whose birthdays were this month and during the summer. It was really good cake.

I went back with the EE people who I played frisbee with. I kind of wanted to stay to talk to the structural eng people but then I figure I'll see them around more than I would see the EE people. So I walked back to the dorm with them. I was pretty tired after all this. I didn't make it to the Rains Halloween party. I think I just played some games and watched a couple of YouTube videos and went to bed. I don't think I managed to go to bed before midnight all week so this was good.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Pictures of Campus!

The building below is the "GeoCorner." It's one of the buildings on the corner of the main quad. I think there's a Math Corner and History Corner. I don't know what the other one is. The geology department is here and I have a couple of classes on the second floor. It's a pretty nice building overall. I think they're renovating the grad student spaces so there's no good place to hang out. The undergrad lounge is pretty nice though. The computers there are kind of dirty though...

This is not a very good shot of the Mitchell Earth Sciences Building. I don't have classes here but there is a computer lab where I print most of my stuff. The computers there are pretty nice. This building also houses the earth sciences library which I frequent a lot.

This is Wilbur field. It's actually an underground parking lot. The field is pretty big and it's to the right of this. The next picture is a shot of the field from across the field. It's a pretty nice use of space. There are usually people playing frisbee and soccer on the field in the afternoon. There are also BBQ pits. Things like this ensures that I will have a job when I graduate! haha.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I should have taken the shuttle!!

My alarm clock went off at 6am this morning. I had to be in downtown Oakland by 8:30am (at the latest) for an ASCE geotech seminar on liquefaction. So I got up way before the sun was up. I contemplated taking the shuttle but I decided I couldn't make it on the 6:25 shuttle and so I decided to bike. I had sort of decided to bike when I thought this through last night because it would give me more flexibility and there would be no waiting for the bus. Except:

It was super cold out. I wore a fleece and a windbreaker but my hands were freezing. And it was dark out. I don't like to bike in the dark. There were actually quite a lot of cars around since people were going to work, I suppose. At one point, I looked down this one side street that I've ridden down before and it was pitch black. Pitch black as in I couldn't see 10 feet into the street. There were no lights at all. And this isn't some dirt road. There's actually a lot of parking on that street. Of course, I did not ride down that street. It took me 20-25 minutes to get to the Caltrain station on my bike. I didn't expect it to take that long at all! It also took me a while to find the bike rack. After all this, I still managed to get there too early for the train I wanted to take. I ran into someone who I met during orientation at the train station as well. She's doing a masters in environmental engineering and she works twice a week at Arup! I could have had a schedule that allowed me to do this but I think I would die from missing office hours and not having time to study.

Anyway, I got to the seminar place just when it was starting. In retrospect, it might have been good to get there early in order to network. I never realized that these seminars are probably one of the best places to network. There were probably about 70 people there, all professionals working in the geotech field in the Bay Area. Crazy networking opportunity. I sat down in the back, looked around, and immediately spotted my former supervisor and coworker from PB. I was like, wow, this is way better than anything I had expected. I saw an empty seat near them and tapped my supervisor on the shoulder as I walked by. I think he did a double take and was really surprised to see me. They both thought I was still at MIT. He, having two degrees from Berkeley and an avid Cal fan, couldn't believe I turned down Berkeley. If that wasn't enough, I think he definitely shook his head when he found out I worked for a competitor over the summer. Anyway, it was good seeing them. We chatted for a while during lunch. I also saw the two geotech guys I met at the earthquake seminar I went to a few weeks ago at Stanford. I guess the geotech company is very small (and full of guys!). Anyway, I managed to network a little. Talked to a few people. Collected a business card. It was worth the effort, I think.

The bike ride from the train station to my apartment took around 20 minutes again. I was so tired towards the end. I managed to find a path that made me go slightly uphill. I chose this because it was on campus instead of on the road with lots of cars. There were lots of cars driving too fast for my comfort. I did manage to snag one of the extra lunch boxes before leaving the seminar though. Not that I need to think about food for the next few days since my parents brought over a ton of food.

Anyway, I'm going to take a nap now, before starting on some major homework crunching and midterm studying!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Homecoming Football Game!

This is my third Stanford football game! I went home Friday night and brought my brother and cousin over to Stanford to watch the football game. It took us quite a while to get to Stanford because the weekend Caltrain stopped at every stop. We ate at a dining hall that night before going to the game. I thought there would be more people since all the alumni are around for homecoming. But the attendance was about the same as for any other game. I probably didn't have to buy tickets ahead of time. Oh wells. It was a fun experience!

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Half way through first quarter!

I usually have a board that shows me what's due for the upcoming week. I think towards the end of senior year, this board held 2 weeks worth of assignments so that I can look ahead. Now with this quarter system, I think it's necessary to have a few more weeks written out. So of course, I did this for the rest of the quarter. I think I will be really busy until Thanksgiving. The red is stuff due and blue are events.

New desk setup! This allows me to use both the my laptop screen and external monitor. Why didn't I think of this before?? Notice the calendar of things due is right in front of me. I also have a minimum of 2 cups on my desk at any one time - one for tea and the other for water. The all important clock is sitting above my computer along with notes, paper, and books.
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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Pictures and Conversations

It was an amazing day outside. Walking around there was no question in my mind as to why people live in this earthquake country. It's so beautiful out. I took some pictures around campus. But can't post them because I'm at home and don't have my usb cable for my camera with me.

Now that I've started to take pictures again, I took a quick look at some pictures of the past 4 years. Most of the pictures I've developed are in a box actually. They haven't managed to make it into an album. This is mostly because they I only developed a semester's worth at a time and half of them would be at home while the other half stayed with me at MIT. And sometimes I would put the special ones in frames or tape them to walls. So they're just one big mess that I need to sort out. I would like to have them in albums though because it would make flipping through them so much easier. Most of the pictures from my summer in Europe are in two albums because that summer was especially long due to the short English terms.

Four years went by really quickly. And now I'm counting the weeks of these quarters. I feel like I didn't manage to get to know some people in undergrad as well as I would have liked. This is partly due to time budgeting issues and partly due to me not asking personal questions and really trying to get to know people. I would like to think that I've improved on all these accounts. I think I just wish that my everyday conversations can be less academics oriented. Because in the end, conversations about psets don't really matter. And I've been getting better at making small talk. But there are definitely forms of small talk where the conversation topics are irrelevant too. One of my neighbors commented Americans can talk forever about nothing at all (he's from Japan). And I think it's true. I would like to have better conversations where I get get to know the other person instead of random chatting. Maybe I should make a list of questions to ask!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

More pictures!

The start of this entry is a bit awkward but I just want to comment on this. There's a lot of guys in grad school, especially in engineering. And I mean a lot. I bet you my facebook guy:girl ratio has gone way skewed by now. How do you check this btw? I know it's possible to check... Anyway, it's just kind of weird sometimes to realize everyone around you is the opposite gender. I guess having lived in McCormick didn't help this situation either.

Anyway, I'm going on a camping trip with the School of Earth Sciences over Thanksgiving break! I'm excited. We're going to Owens Valley and going on hikes around the area to learn about geological formations. The area looks really beautiful and it would be really educational for me since I've never had the geology background as an undergrad. So it would be good to see some of these formations that we're always talking about in my structural geology class. Maybe I will see why there is this need to classify them physically.

I took some more pictures around my dorm today! I will get around to taking pictures on the actual campus at some point.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Halfway through the quarter (almost)!

Quick entry before I go to sleep! I felt really bogged down by homework this past weekend. By the time Monday came around, I was totally unmotivated to do any more work. Mostly because things weren't really going anywhere.

But I spent about 4-5 hours today sitting in the Blume center cranking out the latest finite element homework with some people and we got through the entire thing. We're not really finished but there's just small bits and pieces missing. So I'm pretty happy with that. We're going to office hours tomorrow to get some answers to those questions. This finite element class is crazy theoretical. I don't think it can get anymore theoretical than what we're doing. We've literally just started on Chapter 2 of our book! I bet if I were to look at any other finite element book, what we're doing would still be in Chapter 1. We've barely begun to solve any problems. We spent a couple of weeks just learning how to define problems so that they can become finite element problems.

So far, I have to say that the structural geology class is the easiest one. If I just read the book, I will understand what's going on. The problem is finding time to sit down and work through everything in the book. It takes me a few hours to read through a chapter. I can't just read the thing either, I have to copy the stuff onto a notebook. This helps me learn but that's where the time consumption comes into play. Anyway, this is one class where I think I understand what's going on and can do the homework with fairly little difficulties.

I've started running again. I think I will try to run every other day. I think I will get too tired running every day. I might try to go swimming on some days. But the pool is far away and I hear they don't provide towels? Not convenient. Anyway, I've been running in the suburbs south of Rains. Part of the route I've been running involves dirt paths which I prefer to paved roads actually. On Monday I decided to add a little more to the loop I've been running to make it longer. Except, I managed to find the most steep route ever! It seemed like it was uphill the entire way and at some point there was a sharp descent. It took me almost 30 minutes to get through 2 miles. I also got a little lost but still... I think I will do the same route tomorrow but backwards. I hope that will go better.

I've stopped going to the classes that I've been auditing... I can still pick them back up but I don't know if I really have the time to do this. I got a little discouraged when I found out that the dictionary I got for Vietnamese has IPA for the English entries but not for the Vietnamese entries. Clearly I got the wrong dictionary! Language classes might be worthwhile though since they tend to cost a lot.

Speaking of things that are worthwhile to go to, there's an info session for Arup tomorrow. I certainly don't need to go for the information but might be a good networking opportunity?? Don't know... I'll see how my day goes.

Anyhow, this weekend should be fun. I'm planning to go home on Friday and bring my brother and cousin to Stanford on Saturday to watch the homecoming football game. I should go buy tickets soon. Next week will be a busy one. I have 4 homeworks due, a day long seminar on Tuesday, and a midterm on Thursday. The midterm is for finite element and it's the only midterm I have. My other classes don't believe in exams (no really, they're all based on homework). My midterm is open book, open notes, etc. So I think I should be fine... I'm used to working on problems with people though. Exams should just be one big team effort!

More pictures of the campus coming soon.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Highlights of Week 4

Weekends here are so fun even when it's filled with work. Yesterday I went with some friends (neighbors) to Costco and Ranch 99 (asian market) and stocked up on food. I think I have enough food for 2-3 weeks now! I had also gone grocery shopping on Friday but that was for mostly perishable foods. I went over to Mahalia's place Friday night for dinner because her boyfriend was visiting. We had a pretty nice dinner. I brought over corn, bread, and grapes. They were well received. I should get pictures of the dinner from them!

Friday afternoon, I went to the library and grabbed 5 or 6 books related to groundwater and modeling of groundwater problems. I'm currently going over one of the books and it seems to have a pretty good explanation of using the finite difference method for solving groundwater problems. This is why I'm blogging now. There's hope for this hydrology class! I think I will be well prepared for the computational poromechanics class that I am going to take in the spring. Actually, I think I will be well prepared to take on any other hydrology class after this...

Last Wednesday I went to see Rent in San Francisco! It was really good. We got there just in time. We sat down and the show started. We had cheap tickets so we were in the rear balcony. Really far up. But it was still really good. I think I would have been a bit lost had I not seen the movie before. It was really awesome to hear the music live though.

This entry is not going make sense chronologically. Recapping the highlights of my week. Yesterday, my "neighborhood" had another dinner thing. There are a lot of neighborhood events. There are a couple of graduate students who get money to throw these events. I think they have $5 per person per event. I met someone who is from Singapore and had gone to LSE for undergrad. We started talking about the differences in the English and American education systems. Pretty interesting conversation. The first years I met at Cambridge are graduating this year since their programs are only 3 years long. I think some of them will come to the US for PhD programs. It would be cool to see them again.

This morning I went for a run. I looked out side the window and there was fog! I thought about Cam the whole way. There were a few days in Cam when it was foggy the entire time. Here, the fog only stays for the morning. But over there, when the fog comes, it stays for 2-3 days straight! So strange.

Oh, last Tuesday, it was pouring rain the entire day. I walked to class instead of biking because I didn't want to get sprayed with water because my bike doesn't have fenders. Turns out those things are really useful if you don't want water and mud all over yourself. Walking wasn't all that much better but I had waterproof things and they dried out really quickly. I didn't get wet at all.

So yeah, I started running again. I think I will try to run consistently in the morning. I've been getting really lazy and getting up later and later in the morning. I don't have morning classes. But I just end up wasting a lot of hours in the morning. So I think if I wake up around 8am and go for a run, I would actually get some work done before going to classes at noon. I work better at night (less distractions) but it's not healthy to stay up that late. So we'll see how long this lasts. haha.

The quarter is almost half way over!!!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

More pictures of the apartment complex!

So there's not too much in the way of fall foliage but there are a few red trees. There are better ones near the road but I haven't gone over there with my camera yet. I think I'll go take more pictures this afternoon just to take a break from studying.

There are also lemon, orange, and persimmon trees around here! I should grow my own herbs and veggies here. I think they will do pretty well. Start a vegetable patch outside my apartment. haha! just kidding. I think I want some potted plants though.

Pictures of my apartment!

I realized that this blog has been extremely picture-less for a long time. I got tired of taking pictures after coming back from Africa. But I thought I should have some pictures of my life at Stanford so here they are. Plus it's been really beautiful outside everyday. After spending a summer in NYC, living in suburbia is definitely a change.

So here is the view from my room. This is a picture of one of the apartments in the grad apartment complex that I live in. Notice the blue skies, green grass, and red roof. All the apartments in this complex are 3 story low-rises with a grassy courtyard in the middle. There is a beach vollyball court just to the left of this.

This is my messy room... It's especially bad since I took this picture on Friday (end of the week)

The kitchen is squashed in a corner of the living room. It feels very cramped but I guess it's functional.

Here's a shot of the living room. We have a couch, dining table (not shown), and e

Monday, October 12, 2009

Recap of Week 3

I got sick last week. I'm still recovering but feeling a lot better than last week. Last Monday, my stomach started hurting in the afternoon. My throat had been feeling a little bit irritated after eating a lot of BBQ the weekend before. And then of course, I decided to fry dumplings for dinner and then it just all went downhill from there. My throat started hurting a lot, had a slight fever, body ached, and was just generally not feeling well the entire week. So I spent a lot of time last week just sleeping. I skipped out on all my non-essential classes. I would get up in the morning, eat rice porridge, and go back to sleep. This would make me feel better in the afternoon. I was still able to do homework in the evenings when I felt more awake. Thursday was especially bad though. I went to Vaden but they said it wasn't strep throat and didn't give me any antibiotics. I even went back on Friday and another doctor claimed that I have the flu even though I really don't think my symptoms were indicative of the flu at all. I even got a flu shot a couple of weeks ago. Anyhow, I managed to keep up with classes and teach for Splash.

My brother and cousin came for Splash! I think they had fun which is good. I took them up the Hoover Tower during Sunday lunch. Apparently, it's free even for my guests. I mean, it's only $2 for adults and $1 for kids under 12 but still, it adds up if you have a big family or a lot of friends. I taught origami and stamp collecting again. I swear some kids are super spoiled and come from places where they always have everything they want. I had a limited amount of paper for my second origami class because the first one used them all and this one kid was like "is there any way you can get more?" even though there was clearly still enough paper for everyone. And then when we were folding this ring thing that needed 8 pieces of paper, she kept wanting to get more pink paper even though there wasn't any more. And some kids just can't wait for their turn to be helped. Don't they understand that they're not entitled to always be helped first?? The girl mentioned above didn't have the patience to finish making the ring and spent the rest of the class drawing on the board. While I'm at it, I feel sorry for some of these homeschooled kids. I'm sure they're learning a lot more academically than public school kids but they would not survive in a public school since they're used to having things done their way. You learn a lot of social skills by going to school. School is not just for academics. In fact, I think MBA students would admit that a big part of their motivation to do an MBA is to network.

So being sick and doing Splash all translates to being behind in studying. I've kept up with all the homework that was due but I didn't managed to do anything beyond that. I think grad classes have more outside reading and you're really expected to do more than just the prescribed exercises. I need to go to the library again and find some good reference books for my hydrology class. I am so lost in that class. The next homework involves coding. Not only am I not sure I understand the hydrological concepts, I'm not sure I understand the finite difference method that we're supposed to use to solve the problems. Not to mention my Matlab skills are still very limited.

Other news: I'm going to see Rent (the musical) in SF on Wednesday! Our dorm got tickets so a bunch of us are going. I'm excited. I saw the movie in LSC back in sophomore year and liked it a lot. I hear the musical is a lot better! And now that I've lived in NYC, things should make more sense. The New York Times make so much more sense now. Before I would just ignore all references to neighborhoods but now I have a much better sense of all the references.

This Saturday, the MIT Club of Northern California is organizing a bike trip. This sounds really cool but I don't know if I'm going to make it. I might have to do some major studying...

Thursday, October 8, 2009

More about classes

I'm blogging again because I just finished everything that's due the rest of this week (Thursday and Friday)! Yay. Last week I finished all my work for the week around mid-day Wednesday. This week was going to be worse but then one of our assignments got postponed until Monday because the professor was getting ahead of himself. Anyway, I wanted to write about the 1 unit class I'm taking.

I'm taking a class in the geophysics department called Exploring Geosciences with Matlab. This class basically assumes you have absolutely no previous Matlab experience (which is great!) and teaches you to use the program. It's offered for 1-3 units so I thought it would be a really good idea for me to take it for 1 unit. I'm learning a lot of useful stuff so far. Except that it's not really helping me in my other classes. Apparently the "exploring geosciences" part of the course focuses on plotting thing. I guess that's mainly what geoscience people do: collect data and plot them. (Well, okay, knowing what I know now, this class would have helped in my hydrology class but more on that later.) Anyway, my finite element class also uses Matlab for computational assignments. But there's no plotting involved. That class uses Matlab to assemble finite element matrices and solve them. There's a Matlab class offered in the civil engineering department that I think is more focused on the analytical side of using the program. I just find it funny how these things work out. I guess I really didn't know what geologists, earth scientists, and geophysicist do and as a result I didn't realize how differently different disciplines treat a programming tool.

Now, this surface hydrologic response class. Honestly I decided to take this class because the professor is very funny and tells some great stories, and I was tired of trying out classes. I didn't feel like getting up to go to a 9am hydrogeology class to give it a second chance. And also, this hydrology class isn't offered next year while the hydrogeology class is. Anyway, it's now the third week of classes and I have no clue what's going on. I mean, I know what I'm supposed to be learning (which is a start) but I don't think I'm actually learning very much. This is one of those classes where the professor hands out a ton of notes and self reading is necessary in order to understand everything. So basically I need to put some serious work into that class. I also need to remind myself what Laplace and Lagrange things are.... All that aside, we got back our first assignment today and I got a perfect score, which is a big relief. I got to class a little late so I missed whatever commentary he had on the homework. Probably something like, "everyone who handed it in got a 100%." He would totally do something like that. I worked on that thing the entire weekend and basically ended up with something that looks really simple. So I was kind of worried. But I guess this means I'm not failing the class (yet) so there's hope. The next homework is less fuzzy (it involves math) and is due on Monday. So I'll see how that goes.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Matlab and classes

All four of the classes I'm taking uses Matlab. I have a feeling that I will become very good at programming with Matlab by the end of this quarter. I hope I will anyway. When I took 1.00, I seriously did not really "learn" how to program. I just did things by example. As in, take the example and apply it to my situation. I do not understand 'for loops' for the life of me. I spent 15 minutes yesterday explaining to one of my TAs that I understand perfectly what's going on mathematically but just can't write the for loop. My brain just doesn't think that way...

I feel lost in a couple of my classes. I really need to sit down and read the material and go over stuff on my own. I can't learn anything listening to things once. I have to re-write all my notes in order for things to start to sink in. But my hydrologic response class goes pretty fast and it's getting to be a lot of material that I need to go over.

So of all my classes, the one that is remotely related to geotech is the structural geology class. But after attending a couple of week's worth of lectures, I don't think I like structural geology. The scale of things is always too large. Maybe it's just all these geology terms that I don't understand and I don't see the point of all this projecting coordinate system business. Another part of this class focuses on rock mechanics. I hope we get to do more of that soon. I was so happy when I got the rock mechanics book in the mail. I flipped through it and realized that it was an engineering book! I can't describe how happy I was to see an engineering book instead of all these math, geology, and hydrology books I've been reading lately.

Splash is this weekend! I need to find out where I can make copies and such soon... And since I'll be really busy this weekend, I need to do put in some major effort to do more work before the weekend. I still can't believe all my classes give weekly assignments. I feel like grad classes should give assignments every two weeks instead. I don't mind if they're harder. It's difficult to have time to go over stuff and do independent reading if we have to keep meeting these deadlines every week. We got an extension on one of our homeworks today since the professor was getting ahead of himself.

I'm going to an ASCE geotech seminar in a few weeks. The topic is advances in soil liquefaction. I'm excited since the topics seem really interesting and it will be a great networking opportunity. Hopefully I can repeat what happened last Friday (find out about a local geotech company, get business cards, and possible internship offer)! My department is going to reimburse me for the registration fee. Good things happen when you ask! Anyway, I have to miss a couple of classes but I'm sure I can get notes from other people and I think it will be worthwhile.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Week Two: The work starts to pile up

Maybe I shouldn't number the weeks. I think it was fine for the summer but for the academic year it's kind of scary. But it's easier to see what happened when if I ever decide to look back at these entries. Anyways, get ready, this is going to be a long entry. Maybe I should blog more often in the future??

Monday. I got my computer fixed. Well, the guy came and put in another motherboard, which works. The actual problem of seeing lines when the computer is plugged into the external monitor hasn't really been fixed. I still see the lines for some colors. But at this point, I don't think it's worth getting fixed anymore. Actually, right now I have my old computer plugged into the external monitor and there are no lines. Seriously, that old computer is a really good one. I probably could have gotten a cheaper new computer. Anyway, a good side effect of all this is that my old computer can now connect to Stanford's internet. So I have two fully functional computers again.

Tuesday. Tuesdays and Thursdays are really long days for me. I have classes from 12:15pm to 7pm. Not all the way through but I usually stay on campus the whole time. And I usually leave my room at around 10am so that I can go print stuff out, use the library, etc. I was kind of stressed on Tuesday because I haven't really made as much progress on all my homework for that week as I would have liked. After going to all my classes, I went to an ESP meeting. They seem to be doing pretty well. They have a couple of new people, which is good. I felt really hosed so I didn't volunteer for anything. After that, I met up with a couple of classmates to work on homework for my finite elements class. I think this class is very easy for people who have very good theoretical math backgrounds. I met up with Eleanor and Andrew today (Saturday), who are computational math PhD students, and they said the class was easy. They both took it last year and Eleanor got a perfect score on the midterm. Seriously people, this is supposed to be an engineering class. Why are all these math majors taking it?? There are two other people from my department who are taking the class and we got help from a second year PhD student who is also taking the class. She works in the Blume Center. The Blume center is where the structural and geomechanics PhD students' offices are. We had lunch with a couple of them afterwards.

Wednesday. I've been using the geocorner's undergrad lounge as a place to chill. I'm in that building a lot and they have nice couches in that lounge. I also discovered a microwave in there that I didn't know existed because it was tucked away in a corner. There was also leftover pizza from some event so I helped myself to some. In the afternoon, I went to an Engineers for Sustainable World (ESW) meeting in the afternoon. They work with NGOs in a couple of countries on specific projects. There is a class that you have to take in the spring to be on the team. They fund 2 people to go to the site in the summer for each project site. I think this year, the projects are in Mexico, Indonesia, and Kenya. But I'm not entirely sure how things. We sat through this 40 minute presentation where they didn't really explain the mechanics of the program. I hate it when this happens. You have to guess how the program works. I guess for people who've worked with the program forever, that part is just too obvious to explain. Anyway, the classes are in the spring so I don't really have to worry about them now. And I don't even know if I will have time to go on one of these projects over the summer. And it's just not satisfying to work on something like this and not go. I mean, you learn most of the stuff when you're in the field.

Thursday. I made it to one of the geosciences/geophysics seminars. It was pretty interesting. The speaker is part of a group that is trying to gather data on earthquakes and faults around the world in order to inform people about potential hazards. Even though I had a long day, it was more relaxing because I managed to finish everything I had due this week on Wednesday. So I was not as stressed out. After my classes, I met up with a friend to eat at one of the dining halls. The food was okay. I mean, it wasn't bad. Lots of choices. And it was all you can eat. The dessert was really good though. And I had a lot of asparagus. I really like asparagus but it's hard to find thin ones at an affordable price.

Friday. Friday is usually a really light day for me since I only have one class. But there was a day long Seismic Seminar hosted by the American Institute of Architects. I'm not sure there were all that many architects attending but they invited Stanford students to attend for free. I went because the first session looked interesting. I stayed for all but one of the sessions since I had class. The talks were somewhat interesting. What was really cool was that one of the sponsoring companies for the events is a geotechnical company. The company sent a couple of people to the event and I got to talk to them. Turns out they're a local company that's just down the street from Stanford. They're really small so they work on smaller scaled projects and do everything geotech related for those projects. One of the guys told me to contact them if I'm interested in an internship. This is really awesome because I think they are exactly the type of company that I would want to work for starting out to get some experience. I would be out on the project site getting experience at doing site investigations. Logging borings, rock cores, seeing piles go in, etc. I think it would be very valuable experience. I got both of their business cards so I will definitely keep them in mind. Networking was one of the things I had in mind going into the event. But this definitely exceeded my expectations.

Friday night. After the seismic seminar, there was a happy hour at the Blume center. There was a lot of food and drinks. It was good to chat with people and I met a few more people in the structures program that I hadn't had the chance to talk to. I left before it got dark and ran into some people at Rains when I was getting my mail. I went out to dinner with them. After dinner we went to a bubble tea place where I got sesame milk tea. It was pretty good and the cup was bigger than usual. We sat at the place for 2+ hours chatting. That place offers a ton of flavors and hot snacks. So it's a popular place to hang out and chat with friends. They were extremely busy the entire time we were there. There were high school kids, college kids, and families.

Saturday. I woke up at around 10am and called up a couple of friends about food shopping at the Milk Pail. The Milk Pail is a veggie and cheese market nearby. We've heard that it's a good place to shop so we took the shuttle there. The market was extremely crowded with people and loaded with all kinds of vegetables and fruit. Everything you could ever want. It was great. The produce was reasonably price. Some of the cheeses were expensive but I guess if you want high quality cheese, it's a good place to go. They also had a lot of freshly baked bread so I got a stick of baguette. Anyway, very good store. I like it a lot. Wish it was closer but it's still pretty convenient to get to. After this, I went to the football game for a little bit. It was against UCLA. Stanford won again! That's three games in a roll. Then I headed to Lyman (another graduate dorm) for their annual pig roast. It's nothing like steer roast. It's just more like another free food event. They had buns and sides to go with the pork. I chatted with Eleanor and Andrew for a while. I realized at some point that I hadn't told them I was coming to Stanford for grad school. haha, oopse.

After all that, I've been data crunching the entire Saturday evening. Hopefully I can get through this pset that I have due Monday sometime Sunday afternoon so that I have time to work on my other homeworks!!