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!