Friday, August 28, 2009

Saying Goodbye...

I spent an hour saying goodbye to everyone today. I got to work and basically spent the entire day clearing out stuff. I spent a couple of hours writing up memos on programs I've used and sending out emails about my work. Then I cleaned out my computers and saved my work. Then I spent a long time going through all my papers that I've collected over the summer. I kept nearly all the paper from all the projects I've worked on and have just been sticking them into a binder the whole time. So today, I chucked out all the duplicates and irrelevant stuff. I saved stuff that might be potentially useful in the future, namely calculations that I've done. I feel like I've actually done some useful stuff this summer and there are stuff that are actually worth saving.

The group took me out to lunch today. There were 9 of us total so pretty big group. We went to this Thai place that wasn't very Thai. But it was fun anyhow. We were sitting on these stools that were kind of shaky. Supervisor didn't manage to get a budget for the lunch so they all paid for their own means and chipped in some money for mine.

I also spent some time looking through the library of the guy whose desk I was sitting in. I found a really good book which I managed to download. I've been downloading some geo books and articles this summer. I feel like I need to start a collection and start using these resources. The first two years at MIT, I didn't really reference any books to do my psets. We just relied on each other and TAs. But then I went to Cambridge where I was way out of my depth and had to use the library and learn stuff from books on my own. And people there use the library a lot for school work. So I started doing that too. I think it's a good thing to do. The people at work are always flipping through books to find stuff. "So and so has a book on blah."

So at around 4pm, I figured I should submit my timesheet for the week. Turns out they had already closed my account and I was locked out. I ended up having to email my supervisor with the job numbers and such. I think he was a little disappointed that I didn't do very much today. He thought I was finishing up stuff for one of the guys and was extremely busy. But I had finished up everything for him yesterday. I was pretty busy in the morning though, writing up those memos and corresponding with people about my work.

Anyways, all the goodbyes got kind of sad after a while. I don't think I've ever felt this way about an internship before. I'm really looking forward to grad school but I think I will really miss all these guys. I said goodbye to everyone who's not in the group first. Those were easier. Those were just like all my other internships where we say the usual things and I leave. But saying goodbye to the group was different. They were all mentors in one way or another and good ones too. I hope that once I start working, I can find a group like this to work with.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Last few days of NYC

I ran 3 miles today without stopping! Did it in 30 minutes. Yay. I have been running 2 mile loops in Central Park for a while now. On Tuesday, I decided to do a longer loop but I walked part of it. I wasn't planning to do that loop again today but I felt good while running an decided to just go for it. At the end, my stomach started to cramp but I managed to make the entire loop. I don't think I've done this in many, many years... Anyway, I want to try to run the entire park before I leave. It's 6 miles if you run the Park Drive loop (this is not the perimeter of the park). Not sure how long that's going to take me. Pretty sure I'll have to walk part of it. But I've been running the park a lot now and haven't made it up to the north end of it yet.

When I get back home, I'll be running Lake Merritt. That's a 3.1 mile loop. I think that will be easier than what I ran today since it's really flat. Central Park has a ton of elevation changes. You're either going uphill or downhill. There's no flat parts. Anyway, Stanford should have great places to run. Looking forward to that. They also have an outdoor swimming pool and track. After being in places that snow for four years, I was really surprised to see the outdoor swimming pool on google maps. At first, I thought it was just blue because it was a swimming pool. But then I figured out that I was looking at water. It just felt weird at first.

Tomorrow will be my last day at work. I think I will really miss these guys. This summer's been great. Not sure what I'll be doing tomorrow aside from cleaning up all my junk. I'm writing up a document on a software that I've used but I'm almost finished with that.

Not volunteering this weekend. I've already done 38 hours this month! I think I can finish the rest of my hours in September.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The best meatloaf ever

No, I did not make meatloaf (don't worry Yalu, you didn't miss out). I volunteered at a soup kitchen today where they served meatloaf. This soup kitchen was started by two professors at UPenn who were doing a study on hunger. The soup kitchen is a little different in that they wanted to give the guests a more restaurant feel. In a regular soup kitchen, the guests line up with a plate and get served food as they move down a line. But this one, we had people busing and waiting on tables. Not that there's any choice in the meal. They actually serve meatloaf every week because it is something that they can make in mass quantity and nutritious at the same time. This week, they had meatloaf, meatballs and gravy, green beans, salad, banana, bread, and cake. Pretty decent meal. The volunteers got to eat before starting. I guess part of it is feeding the volunteers while maintaining that they would not serve anything that they would not eat themselves. I thought the meatloaf was really good. It was good to eat beforehand too since it turned out to be really busy.

The thing with this whole waiting on tables thing is that they need twice as many volunteers. People to put food on the plates and people to actually get the food out to the guests. They also had people helping to box up food if anyone wanted to take food to-go. I was putting salad on plates. I think it probably would have been more satisfying serving the guests. But I'm not sure I would have had the energy to do it since I had just come from another volunteering project.

So this morning I got up at 5:30am and went to volunteer for Summer Streets. Summer Streets is sponsored by the city government where they close down Park Avenue from Brooklyn Bridge to Central Park and let people walk, run, and bike. There is also live music, fitness things, free bike rentals, etc. They even gave out free bike helmets (I got one!). And they even made sure the helmets fit and adjusted the straps and everything. It was great. I hate adjusting the straps on these things.

So after getting out of bed before sunrise, I basically stood in the rain for a few hours. They gave us ponchos and I was wearing my Arup baseball cap. I'm so glad they gave us that hat. It's turning out to be extremely useful. It was still pretty bad for the first hour though. Water was dripping from my visor. My job was to stand at the intersection of Park Ave and 34th St, basically to remind people that there is through traffic on 34th. They not only closed down Park but also barricaded a lot of the cross streets so that people can run or bike in peace. But they can't close down big streets like 34th. So I held up a stop sign whenever the light changed. Most people stopped and waited. There were some people who either didn't see me (which was unlikely) or chose to ignore me and I had to yell at them for them to stop. Some people still didn't stop. There were cops at the intersection directing traffic too. Anyway, as the rain let up, more and more people came so my job because more important as the day went on. Which I was glad for because otherwise it would have been really boring. The organizers had promised us snacks and water which they were going to deliver at some point during our shift. After about two hours, I was feeling a little dehydrated so I called the zone leader. He said that they found the water bottles but couldn't find the water. Extremely lame. And the snacks never showed up either. Anyway, he showed up 10 minutes or so later with a couple of volunteers so that I can get water from Starbucks.

Anyway, I had another incident of "the world is so small" while volunteering this morning. One of my coworkers is going to Canada to help out with a project for three weeks so we said our goodbyes yesterday (Friday). Today, as I was perched on a jersey barrier, wearing a pink t-shirt with a high visibility vest, poncho, and a Arup cap, a pack of about 6 runners came up to my intersection. I noticed that one of the guys in front looked really familiar and I later recalled that he had volunteered at the half-marathon with me last weekend. I looked at the rest of the group and saw my coworker. We were both surprised and he said hi before running off. Crazy coincidence. I suppose I should have expected to see him but what are the chances he was going to run down my side of the road while I was there?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

One more week in NYC

Before leaving last Friday, my supervisor gave me the task of modeling three projects using this new software that the in-house software development part of the company came up with. Well, the program is not entirely new but it's been revamped to contain more features. Anyhow, it's a new program for the team since no one else has ever used it before. Anyway, I find it pretty impressive that the company has such a large software developing group. Their software is used by many other companies as well.

I've spent all week figuring out the program. I think I've finally figured out what it does and how it does what it does and all the special cases to go along with it. I've spent this morning writing up a memo on the special cases and even referenced my test files. I think the new hire will probably be using this program when he starts. Hopefully I won't get an email asking if I remember stuff because I probably won't remember. It looks like I'll finish all three models by the end of Friday. I think my supervisor will be like, "you're done? oh my god..." I think he mentioned something about the new guy picking up where I left off with these programs. Don't think that will be necessary. Which is good since I'm hoping to go see some borehole drilling next week.

This summer has been pretty satisfying. I got to work on a lot of different projects and really contribute to some of them. Made a lot of drawings and calculations. I think in the end, drawings are more important than calculations since everyone looks at drawings and only refer to calculations when things go wrong. lol. But it feels cool to actually do a calc because it means they trust me to actually produce something that makes sense. I mean, can't mess up sketches of proposed boring locations that badly. haha.

It will be sad to leave. But on the other hand, I'm looking forward to going home. I'm taking a flight that will get me home at 7:30pm local time. Much better than getting home pass midnight like I usually do. Made some lunch dates with people already. Anyway, it will be good to get out of this hot and muggy weather.

My potential advisor at Stanford is starting a NSF funded project and might have some opportunities for me. The project sounds really exciting. It combines fluids and soils, which is what I'm interested in. So it would be really cool if I get to work on it. And I'll have time since I'm taking a light load of classes. Unfortunately, he won't be around in September until the first day of classes. He's already approved my choices for classes though.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

2 weeks left!!

Only 2 more weeks left at work! I guess I switched over to counting down somewhere between having 4 or 5 weeks left in the summer. I'm here for 12 weeks total. I'll definitely miss the gang at work. I think I came at a good time, both for me and the team. The civil group's intern left on Friday. He went around to say good bye to everyone before leaving. They all went out to lunch the day before. One of the guys from the civil team moved into his seat as soon as he left. I was hoping to have more room but I think I will be sitting elsewhere for these last 2 weeks anyway. Might be sitting in the boss' seat for the next week if I can figure out how to get my computer over there. The new hire for the geo team isn't starting until mid-September. Too bad I won't get to meet him. He picked a good week to start though since 3 people on the team will be out of the office early September and will be coming back the day he starts. And since he won't really start until the afternoon (because of orientation and paperwork), they'll have some time to get their act together before he joins the team. Haha, I wish him luck.

I think I will be taking 3 classes plus a seminar in the fall, which is not a lot. And looking at my choices so far, it seems like I will only have classes Tuesdays and Thursdays. So I'm conflicted in wanting to either work part-time or do research. I don't want to discuss this too much at the moment because neither of which is very certain yet. But I think it goes back to the question of what I want to do with an engineering degree.

I've always thought I would do design (working in industry) after finishing school. I've never given doing research and staying in academia its fair share of consideration. I guess part of it is that I've never really been exposed to it, not really sure what it entails. Anyway, working in industry is (I think) more satisfying. Well, more satisfying as in I will get to work on different projects and (someday) be able to ride in a transit system knowing that I've designed the tunnels or excavation or whatever. I really enjoy working on local projects and be able to talk to other people about the projects. In fact, I chatted with the other volunteers today about the 7 Line extension and 2nd Ave subway. It's just really cool to be working on stuff that people care about. (I also saw the piles along the East River today on the way back from the Bronx.) Anyway, that's the perks of working in industry, I guess. As for academia, I don't really know. I guess the benefit is that I would get to work on what I want instead of things that make money.

Anyway, I think it is possible to do research while doing my Masters degree. I will definitely have the time to do it. I hope it works out. I don't know how this works but it would be nice to get paid for it too.

Volunteering: Homelessness and Hunger

I just came back from one of the best volunteering projects ever. The project (through NYCares) was to deliver food to homeless people with an organization called Deliver with Coalition. The organization basically collects food and runs vans to different neighborhoods in the city and distributes food at designated stops along a route. Yeah, I thought about this safety issues in all of this but there was definitely nothing to worry about. It was basically like a soup kitchen/food pantry on wheels. We hand them plastic bags and then put sandwiches, juice, milk, and fruit in them as they come up in a line. People are usually extremely grateful everything. The other volunteers were really cool as well. The team leader is awesome. I had met her in a couple of earlier projects, which was the main reason I signed up for this one. At the end we had some sandwiches left over and the driver packed three in a bag and took it up front with him in case he sees someone on the highway. And indeed, when we were going on the highway, there was someone standing with a sign "homeless, hungry." There was a bit of traffic at that spot so the driver just rolled down the window and handed the guy the sandwiches.

Like I mention in an earlier post, it's so much more rewarding to actually interact with the people you're serving. This morning I was doing a project where we were sorting out clothes for a nonprofit that helps women prepare for interviews and work related stuff. The work was pretty slow since we were just sorting out the things that people were bringing in that day. It was good but it's just not the same as actually working with the clients themselves.

I'm getting up at 5am tomorrow morning to volunteer for the NYC Half Marathon. No, not as rewarding as feeding the homelesss but it should be a fun project.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Weekend, Volunteering, etc.

Last weekend was a pretty busy one. Xiumin came to visit. She arrived on Saturday but I was volunteering until the afternoon and was kind of tired from volunteering. I had volunteered at the same place (a food pantry) the Saturday before and had gotten out early. The thing about the food pantry is that if you're packing food in the back, then the work runs out towards the end because they just don't need that many bags of food packed. So you can leave early once the work is done. But if you're working out front and actually giving food out to clients, then you basically have to stay the entire time. I was hanging out the big bags of food so I was pretty tired afterwards. I really enjoyed it though.

It's much more rewarding to be hanging out food to people instead of just packing food. I realized that it's much more enjoyable to work with the clients when I went to volunteer again on Sunday. Sunday was a soup kitchen type thing at the St John the Divine church. I stationed myself as one of the servers when we finally got everything ready to go. I know I would be much more comfortable doing backend stuff and never see any of the people I am helping out. I would be fine with that but it's just not as rewarding. Most people are grateful that you're taking the time to help them.

Anyway, Xiumin and I strolled along the Hudson and a bit of Central Park on Saturday. We didn't do much, just chatted. It was just like old times again (i.e. chatting about random things instead of focusing on psets at school). On Sunday Yalu got all of us into the MoMA for free. She waved her Citi ID around and bam, we got tickets. It was great. The museum is also very cloese to where we live so we just walked over there after eating lunch.

It's been a slow week at work so far. I finished a project that I have been working on since the beginning of the summer. So... now I really have nothing to do. There's also been a 2 hour training on a finite element program every day for 2 hours. That's been cutting into everyone's schedule so work's been slow. I played around with the program today and failed to get it to do very much. Anyway, hopefully there will be work for me to do tomorrow. I don't mind playing around with the program but I don't think I should be doing that the entire day...

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Running in the Park

I've managed to run almost every other day in Central Park for a few weeks now. I try to run at least 3 times a week. I would probably run more but it's been raining here a lot and I don't want to run in the pouring rain. I've gotten to the point where I don't get sore from running anymore, which is a big improvement over week 1. Not that I run a lot. I usually do a short loop of ~2 miles. Today though, I decided that I want to run a little more than usual since I managed to leave work at 6pm (that's early!). I usually enter the park from the south side and run north. Today, I decided to go more a little more north and turn around at the reservoir (as in, run to south of the reservoir). But after jogging along the path for a while, I noticed that the reservoir was next to me. I didn't realize this for a while because the path next to the reservoir is elevated, I guess, for when the water is high. So I ended up running way too much and spent a lot of time walking instead. Anyway, I guess it was good. Hopefully by the end of the summer, I can manage to run to the reservoir and back without stopping. I don't really care about how long it takes, I just want to work on the running for now. Anyway, might be sore tomorrow from all this running...

Other news, I've booked a flight for home! Leaving NYC on September 1st, with no plans of coming back to the east coast anytime soon. Feels a bit weird...

We had our last intern event today. It was an ice cream social where they invited four recent grads (who started last year) to talk about their experiences at Arup so far. One of them had worked as an intern before he joined. They had a lot of positive things to say about the company, which is to be expected. I wish they left more time for chatting after the event. Everyone just kind of left. They invited a good range of disciplines to talk about their experiences. I wish they had invited people who had worked longer at the company as well.

Anyway, there were a ton of toppings for the ice cream and they gave us all a lot of ice cream. I was stuffed. Half way into the talk, they wanted to move the ice cream upstairs because we all had enough and the ice cream was melting. When they asked if anyone wanted any more, I jumped up and grabbed the a bowl of M&Ms. No one else moved, which I thought was lame. Anyway, I shared with the people around me. Afterwards, there were still some bowls of M&Ms left so I refilled my bowl and headed back upstairs. I should have grabbed the bag of marshmellows that were sitting there and added that to the cookie drawer (my group has a cookie drawer). lol. Anyway, my group was very happy about the M&Ms. Too bad I couldn't save them ice cream. haha.

I think I will be one of the last interns to leave (if not the last). Some people are leaving at the end of this week. There won't be a end of summer presentation. Too bad... Anyway, three and a half more weeks to go. Too soon.