Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Spring Break

It's really strange to have to think about finishing college. It's really scary to think about all the packing I have to do in a couple of months. I've accumulated a lot of junk. Good thing my parents are coming to help me bring all that stuff back. We probably have to ship some stuff, like books and notes. And I might be working in New York this summer so that just makes it a lot more complicated. I have this image of Yalu and I trying to pack, the room is a mess, and two sets of parents trying to help, and friends stopping by every once in a while. And of course, it will be really hot. It's always hot whenever I move.

I'm leaving tonight for Cornell. This was a short stay home. I usually try to drag out the days so that I get a couple of weekends. And I was visiting schools so I haven't had time to really relax and read magazines, organize pictures, defragment the home computer, and do random stuff that I usually do when I'm home.

I came home last Wednesday, visited Berkeley on Thursday, and Stanford on Friday. We had good weather both days. Sunny and warm. Mahalia and I met up with two other MIT students when we got to Berkeley. It felt kind of weird to be looking at Berkeley as a potential school. I've been there a lot but never seen it as a place that I would go. I guess I thought about it for undergrad but I found out about MIT before I seriously had any thoughts about college. I kept thinking I would bump into people I know but of course I didn't. It was different at Stanford. I had only been to the campus once before and never to the civil engineering building. The civil engineering building at Stanford is pretty awesome. It's new and very nice. Lots of study spaces and places to hang out. And even though I knew a lot less people at Stanford, I managed to run into someone. The architecture at Stanford is much more cohesive. Everything is made to look like Spanish style missions. Anyway, beautiful campus and first year graduate students are guaranteed housing.

I hope it won't be too cold in Cornell. It might rain on Thursday. I hope it rains after I get on the bus to Philadelphia. The head of the fluids mechanics department at Cornell is arranging meetings for me. I wish they had a open house day. It's nice to meet all the other prospective students and see what kind of people they are and where they're from. I wonder why there's no open house.

Anyway, not looking forward to the 8 hour bus ride to Philadelphia. But after that, I'll be at Yalu's house. Yay. We can hang out and talk about where I want to go to grad school. hehe.

I hope to finish all the readings for my anthropology class over this break. I don't want to think about other classes. I really should. I have so much work to do in all my other classes. This one is the most manageable. Anyway, I've already finished 2 of the remaining 4 books so I'm in good shape. Hopefully, I'll have enough time to quickly outline them so I don't forget when we finally discuss them. And maybe I can write 2 reader responses too. Sunday night and Monday will probably be panic days, especially since I'll be flying back to California for Stanford Splash the next weekend!

Friday, March 6, 2009

On writing

Woah, I just spent a lot of time reading manga and doing absolutely nothing useful....

Anyway, during the first week of this semester, two of my lecturers (different classes, same day) mentioned that writing is very important to civil engineers. One of them said that his wife was an English major and that he has written way more stuff than she has. Slightly shocking... But it makes sense, I guess. As an engineer, you have to communicate with a ton of people. And different people too. Other engineers, architects, contractors, construction workers, finance people, "the public," etc.

This is all to say that I wish I can write better. Humanities classes definitely help. At the beginning of last semester, I felt really rusty when I had to write history papers. In fact, I don't think I did so well in my first linguistics paper. My writing got better as the semester went on. I was out of practice. This is kind of scary since it happens every semester. I feel really rusty in the beginning. Usually it's really bad in September because I hadn't done any writing over the summer. But I've been keeping this blog for a while now and updating it regularly. It's not the same type of writing but you'd think you should help. So maybe I need to ramp up the contents of this blog. Write about more meaningful stuff? (what if there's none to write about...? heh.)

I used to think that I'm self conscious about writing emails and speaking to technical people because I don't know what I'm talking about most of the time. I'm not sure that's true. I mean, it would help to know more technical things but communication skills is not something that can be improved just because you know more about something else.

Actually, I think this anthropology class that I'm taking this semester will help. Instead of writing responses to readings all the time, we also get to write about fieldwork. I really like writing about fieldwork. We did some of that in linguistics class. It was great because you have data to write about. But the stuff I wrote about last semester was a bit dry since it was like "the adverb goes before the ...." Anthropology is different though because you're asking people about their lives, their work, etc. and then you weave a story out of their stories. It's pretty interesting work. Pushes me out of my comfort zone.

That's another thing. I find that things that pushes me out of my comfort zone give me the greatest satisfaction. Sounds reasonable, right? But does that mean that's why I do it? Sometimes I think about these things for a long time before I do them. I wish I could hesitate less. Does it get better with practice? Sorry if this is vague but I'm mainly rambling to myself. What I'm trying to say is that I think sometimes I do things just because it's pushes myself out of the bubble. I do it because it's satisfying afterwards and I can say that I've done it. This brings be to an entry that I've been working on.

Thursday, March 5, 2009


I've been going to a lot of architecture talks lately and I've noticed a few things.

1) They all have notebooks. Moleskin type things, smaller than a paperback size, i.e. "pocket size." And they are always sketching in them and then writing very neatly beside these sketches. On one hand, I think it would be cool to have one of these things to bring around and jot down notes or whatever that comes up. On the other hand, I'm no good at sketching and would just end up writing randomly all over the thing. And then probably abandon it after a couple of pages. Even though these Moleskins look sophisticated and all, I think I would rather have spiral bonded graph paper. I think people use Moleskins because they're nice paper to write on. I agree. But I like 8.5"x11" and I especially like spiral bonded notebooks.

2) The PowerPoints almost always have black backgrounds. And the pictures area always arranged very neatly. It's such a contrast to PowerPoints by engineers were the background is usually white or some Microsoft theme with some squares in the corner and pictures placed hapazardly. I think the black background thing is cool. Especially if you know you'll be in a dark room and your projector does it right and you end up with only your pictures on the screen. Ther are exceptions though. When I took 11.001, the TA was a landscape architect and his slides had a white background. To this day, I still don't know what was so special about his slides but they looked really, really nice. Professional, elegant, and simple.

Anyway, I'm starting to think structural engineering might not be as boring as I thought. It would be kind of cool to work on things that people see. I've been keeping an eye out for summer opportunities to work with structural engineers. Just to try it out.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Three for three

I was sitting on the couch, reading for my anthropology class. I usually keep my laptop open (as opposed to having the cover closed) when I'm in my room in case someone wanted to talk to me or I get some important email. And when I'm on the couch, I would look over once in a while to check if one of these two things happen. At one point, I noticed that there was an email but I thought it must be some kind of junk and didn't bothered to get up to look at it. After an hour or so of reading, I wanted a break and got up to check this one email. The email was titled "Berkeley Application Update." My brain was still trying to decide if this meant good or bad news when my hand clicked to open the email and scrolled down to the message that began with "It is my great pleasure..." So that's three letters so far, all acceptances.

I never knew how excruciating this whole waiting process is. Undergrad was not like this for me. I got accepted to MIT early so I stopped applying to any other schools. And I had only applied to the UCs and Stanford at that point. Not that I cared about any of these schools after getting the letter from MIT. So the whole process ended right there. No waiting. Just a big happy surprise.

So now all I'm waiting for is MIT. Do they want me back? We'll see...