Friday, December 31, 2010

2010: Highlights, Milestones, Reflections

2010 has been an eventful year. The highlights include:
  • running two half marathons and Bay to Breakers
  • going on a cruise (first time!)
  • going to Indonesia and Southeast Asia
  • flying around the world
  • working part-time while doing grad school
  • baking bread
  • figuring out what I want to do after graduation
One of my resolutions for 2010 had been to run a full marathon. But I think that was over ambitious so I'm going to have to settle for completing two half marathons. I think I was too enthusiastic when I started training. This sport can get a lot more complicated than just running. Shoes, clothes, food, even can make a difference. I think I've started to eat healthier or at least watch the types of food that I eat and how my body responds. 

I started working part-time in the middle of winter quarter. It took a while to adjust to working many hours and while going to school at the same time. Despite being busy, I thought I had a pretty balanced academic life spring quarter. I managed to bake my own bread once a week, go running several times a week, get all my work done, and slept at least 7 hours a day. 

The Bahamas cruise was fun. It involved a lot of planning though. I guess my friends and I are just that kind of people. I had been thinking about going on a cruise ever since traveling Europe. Not sure it was our type of vacation though. I think it was too chill and we just all ended up eating a lot. But it was fun. Glad we went. 

I've been reading about the Chinese zodiac lately because next year is the year of the Rabbit. Several websites and sources have said that rabbits tend to be lucky people. So far, my luck has held out. I got my wish to go to Southeast Asia, something that I have been wanting to do for a while. Such an interesting region.  I'm also really glad I got to work on an interesting project that uses my skills as a civil engineer. I hope these projects keep coming my way. 

My summer concluded with flying around the world. It was one epic adventure. So now I'm making up for it by staying local this winter. The fall quarter was one hectic one. I attended two conferences and ran a half marathon. Helped out with the Indonesia project and now a Peru project. Took a structural engineering class and am really glad that I am not a structural engineer in real life.

As for what I'm doing after I graduate in three months, I've almost got it figure out. In short, I don't think I will be staying in the US for the first few years. Mostly likely going abroad and learning geotech in a more fast-paced construction environment. One of my friends at Stanford predicted this a month before I started hearing from potential employers. Still waiting for things to come through though.

I hope more of this luck will come my way in 2011. Happy New Year!

After holiday sales and last day at work

Wow, just spent a few epic hours at Walmart. We had just finished dinner and I was taking a nap when my cousin called and asked if we wanted to go to Walmart because they were having their after-holidays clearance sale. We didn't end up getting very much stuff. Got a cat scratcher thing that is supposed to dull the cat's claws for half the original price. We didn't even know it was on sale until we got to the register. It's essentially hard cardboard. Can you believe we were willing to buy cardboard for $25?? Anyway, the cat has yet to dull his claws on this thing so we'll see if it's even worth all the effort.

The head of infrastructure treated all of the infrastructure group out to lunch today. Very generous of him. We filled three tables. It was hard trying to keep the geotechs separate. We had too many people to fit into one table to begin with.

I left the office relatively late today. Later than everyone else in my group. Leaving gets harder and harder every time. Anyway, we got an email in the afternoon saying that we can leave at 3:30pm because no one seems to be doing any work. This was not true for our group. I was really rushing to finish up stuff but didn't managed to do everything I wanted to do. Still made pretty good progress though. People came to say goodbye as they were leaving. No one seems to doubt that they will see me again but half of them were wondering if and when I will be joining the SF office as a full time employee. .

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Wrapping things up

Tomorrow will be my last day at the SF office. I still have so much work to do! I think this is mainly a byproduct of not really knowing what I'm doing in the first place. Had to get a lot of help from other people. One person in particular was very adamant about reducing the work and not wasting time. Wish he had brought up these points to begin. Instead, we got slammed with some new perspective just as I'm about to leave. Better late than never, I guess. I just hope that I can make some good progress tomorrow. Even though the other intern is helping out a lot, it's tough to hand out work. I really want to explain the geotech and engineering aspects of what's happening to him so that he's not just doing random data entry. But this all takes time and I end up not being able to do my own work.

Almost want to say I miss the days when I'm just doing work that has been handed down to me with instructions. Didn't have to figure things out on my own and realize three days into the project that I've done everything wrong. But I am definitely learning a lot and feeling more and more capable of doing engineering work as I fix my own mistakes. Really hope I can find a good mentor when I start to work full time. Of course it's nice to have many mentors but I need that one person who I can always go to for help.

Can't believe I start school again next Monday. People at work are shocked that I'm not taking any time off between working and starting school again. Definitely a workaholic. I've been ignoring all school related stuff for the last three weeks though. There are a few things I need to take care off before or as soon as school starts. But I feel like I can't focus properly until I get back to my dorm room. It's all about the environment. I know some people study for their PE exams at work (after work hours) because it's just easier to concentrate.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Last Monday of the Year

Last week of break. Going back to school next week. Starting classes again next week. Seems a bit unreal. I feel like I have been out of school forever even though it has only been two weeks. I think it's been really good for me to do something during the break. Working always makes me more motivated about going back to school. I always end up feeling like I have a lot to learn and am more eager to go and learn it. 

Today was an interesting day at work. Two new people started instead of just the one person. The other person is an intern who will be with the group for the next three weeks. I saw the full time person waiting in the lobby and introduced myself. I think I should've done the same the week before but I think I was in a bit of a rush that particular morning. 

I managed to help out with the new intern. He's only a sophomore and hasn't taken any soil mechanics so it's tough to explain things to him. I really don't think geotech reports make much sense to him. They barely made sense to me after taking soil mechanics. We had a lot of computer problems in the morning though. Anyway, I managed to give him some work. Hopefully I didn't confuse him too much. 

I realized I have a lot of work to do. I was bogged down with some calculations and graphing work last week and didn't really look at the whole scope of what I was supposed to be doing. Anyway, I feel like I have a much better idea of what's going on now. I feel like I've been doing more and more open ended work that are not necessarily prescribed step-by-step. Really feeling like I'm almost there in terms of being able to realize what is needed to be done and doing the appropriate things. Just need a bit of guidance. Can almost let go of safety lines and think on my own. Almost...

Had dinner with a friend. It's so good catching up with people in person. I feel like we're all on the threshold of something. Or maybe life is supposed to take us to many places. I always thought that once we graduate, we would all pick a career and stick with something for a while. But it's more like we've been released from four years of undergrad and now we're free to bounce around. Maybe we're supposed to meet up with friends after months and years and go, you've been up to what?? 

Lots of people doing after-holidays shopping in SF. The downtown area was packed with people with lots of bags from Macy's, Forever 21, etc.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

This holiday season can be characterized by me eating a lot and getting fat. The house is filled with so much food!

I got out of work early on Thursday and did a little bit of shopping in downtown SF. The BART was pretty quiet in the morning. I even got a seat on the train. It's usually impossible. The office was pretty quiet as well. I moved over to another desk to make space for the new person starting on Monday. Can't believe we're getting two new people at the end of the year. Anyway, the IT people had his laptop, computer screen, and Blackberry all ready in the morning. A couple of the other guys wandered by and were eyeing the laptop and phone, wondering if his was better than theirs. There was talk about swapping out his stuff. He can't miss what he doesn't have! haha. The guys at work are so funny.

I went running with my brother on Friday. We went around Lake Merritt in about 35 minutes (3.1 miles). We stopped twice but this was a lot better than last year. Last year, we walked most of it because my brother didn't have any endurance. One of my friends came over and we attempted to make bread. But her yeast didn't work (expired in 2005) so we tried going to the stores near my house to get some yeast. But apparently Chinese and Vietnamese people don't use yeast. All they had was baking powder. We went to 3 or 4 stores before giving up and going to Lucky's. So after about 5 or 6 hours of baking, we finally had some dinner rolls.

The family was invited to a dinner party in SF. The dinner party was held by a long time friend of my mom's. They have a big extended family and someone always cooks for either Thanksgiving or Christmas. We haven't gone for a long time. The kids are all around my age and it was kind of strange to see the younger kids all grown up.

We made our own turkey on Christmas day. We started kind of slow with just turkey and sweet potatoes. I made cake and pre-made pies. Eventually, people showed up and we had a good gathering of people to eat all the food. My cousin and I tried to play the Super Mario Galaxy game on the Wii but found out that we suck. Advancing through the levels was so painful... I think I ate too much food in general.

Snowball was really scared the entire day for some odd reason. We think it's the smell of the turkey cooking in the oven. He was hiding under the bed for a long time. My mom convinced him to come out with some dried squid but he refused to go into his room and hid behind the TV. But dad opened the door to the bedroom and he zoomed under the bed. So he stayed there until really late at night and didn't eat, drink, or use the bathroom the entire day.

It's back to work tomorrow. I need to iron shirts tonight. This will be my last week at the SF office. For real, this time. It should be a quiet week though. Pretty sure I'll see all these people again and keep in touch with them over the years. But sometimes I still wonder why I am giving up my spot here. Already too comfortable, maybe?

Monday, December 20, 2010

random thoughts

My arms are tired from playing the Wii. Don't even want to type now. Some of these Wii Sports things are not that great. Kind of arbitrary as to what happens. The games we ordered should come tomorrow or the next day so that's exciting.

I'm so glad my Discover Card gets me 5% back on travel purchases between Jan-March. I think it's because people usually don't travel or plan their travels during those months. But I always do... Last year, I maxed out the benefits. There's a cap of $800 of purchases. That's a maximum of $40 cash back! The card has different things that you can get 5% cash back every quarter. I might have maxed out this quarter's which is restaurants and fashion. You can get quite a bit of money back if you manage to buy things at the right time. Speaking of which, I should really get rid of my American Express card since I am no longer a frequent flyer of Jetblue. It did come in handy when I was purchasing southeast Asia travel stuff though. Apparently AMEX is favored at select locations.

Argh, this waiting-to-hear-back-from-job-offers thing involves constant checking of emails. Okay, I do it anyway but now there's more suspense. I don't know why things take so long. Don't they have these letters all ready and all you have to do is insert name, salary offer, benefits, and other details? I should really figure out what the HR department really does. I feel like I can learn a lot about how the company functions.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas is near!

Family just got a Wii today. I tried to convince them to buy it off of Amazon in order to avoid paying taxes. Things a little bit cheaper there too. Instead, we went to Costco and got the console and a charger. Then went to Walmart to get an extra remote. We also got a big screen TV as well, great for gaming. My mom wanted to do this in case we needed to return it for whatever reason. Costco doesn't have a restocking fee and they're generally really good about taking things back. Anyway, we ordered a couple more games online after we got back. I have to say though, the Wii Sports and Sports Resort is keeping us pretty busy. I totally owned ("pwned") my brother at the boxing game.

I went to work most of last week and will be working most of the next two weeks. We have a new persons starting tomorrow and another new person starting next week. It's kind of exciting for the group. I think everyone is looking forward to meeting the new people. At least, I am. The group is not so big that it makes a big difference when there's a new person. It's always a question of how they're going to fit in and what projects they will work on. I think the first few weeks is tough for everyone because people's roles have to shift to accommodate the new person.

Anyway, while I really enjoy working, I'm kind of glad I'm not doing this ridiculous commute next quarter. Never living 36 miles from work again! I'm going to be taking 10 units again, TA-ing a class, and helping to run a seminar. So I'll be pretty busy. But I think I'm going to try to take some more chill classes so that I can have a more balanced life. I felt like last quarter was not balanced at all. I didn't have time to do anything else other than studying and working on projects all the time. Didn't do very much running. Hardly baked. Didn't hold any dinner parties. Maybe it's because I had all these conferences in the beginning of the quarter and it threw me off of having a schedule. Last spring, I had a project class, worked, but still managed to bake bread for myself and work part-time two days a week.

I think next quarter I am going to start up my marathon training again. Running a marathon was my new year's resolution for 2010. I don't think that's going to be resolved this year. But I did managed to run 2 half marathons so I guess I'm not too far off. I'm going to try to do a marathon next year (2011), preferably in the spring. The Oakland one still scares me (first 10 miles are up hill) but I suppose it's something I can train for. I would rather start out with something flat. These hills make a really big difference.

Most of my readers should know about the status of my plans for after graduation by now. It something I really want to write about but don't think I should be announcing these things before they're final. But don't worry, once I've decided, I'll be writing about my preparations.

Can't believe Christmas is next week. Still need to get presents!

Monday, December 13, 2010

TA-ing next quarter

I think I'm officially a TA now. Had a meeting with the person who is teaching foundations engineering today. I think it will be an interesting class. The class is listed as a 2-3 unit class. If you want to take it for 3 units, you need to participate in a project. The students will act as geotech consultants for a land slide project, run analysis on what happened, and make recommendations as to the remediation scheme. I think it seems like a pretty interesting project and I think the students will learn a lot about geotech engineering. But it seems like a lot of work for me. I can see myself answering questions from students all the time, especially towards the end of the quarter. It will get a bit crazy, as always.

I think my internship experiences will come in handy for this class. I had a feeling this was going to be the case. I knew he would be bringing in some stuff from industry. So I was not so surprised to hear about the project part of this class. Anyway, hope I will learn something too.

After the meeting, I met up with a friend for lunch at Ike's Place. It's a sandwich shop that moved from SF to Stanford. The sandwiches are pretty interesting. Maybe I should have gotten a gift card from them today since they were half off. Another friend of ours walked by and the three of us sat there for a long time chatting.

Ike's Place is located in the Forbes Family Cafe of the new Huang Engineering Center. If this sounds familiar, that's because there's also a Forbes Family Cafe at MIT (Stata Center). There is a huge monitor and video cam set up that is currently displaying something along the lines of "We at MIT congratulates you on the opening of the Huang Engineering Center. Look forward to talking to you." So I think they're going to set up some kind of streaming so that people at the two Forbes Cafes can talk to each other. It would be pretty weird to see friends walking by on the other side.

Packed a bag of mostly work clothes to take home. Feels weird to have to think about what to bring home. It's usually the other way around. Anyway, going home after work tomorrow. Don't really want to lug all my stuff to work but I guess it's necessary.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Failed attempts at cooking

I think something/one is trying to tell me to either go home or eat out. I've had the worst luck in making food this weekend. I really think it's luck and not skill. heh. That apple crumble and crab cake I tried to make failed. And then I tried making hash browns this morning but for some reason, the potato in the middle wasn't cooked all the way through. 

Later today I tried to make carrot and mushroom soup. Very simple, just cook the carrots and mushrooms and dump into blender.What could go wrong? Well, apparently you can put too much water, salt, and pepper. So I had a salty, hot soup. It wasn't inedible though but I had to run out to buy some bread to go with it because it was salty to eat by itself. It was also too watery to be a meal. So I guess the soup deal wasn't too bad. 

I went running in the afternoon. I took my MP3 player along and managed to run Campus Drive without stopping for breaks. I guess I'm back to being so out of shape that I need to have music with me. It's really awkward though, to have things in your ears and wires flying around. I would rather not have them but they do help with motivation. What I really need is a live band that travels with me. Wouldn't that be nice? lol. I might make use of the gym tomorrow since I wouldn't have access to one at home. 

Highlights of today include washing my bedsheets, watching lots of Conan, registering for winter classes, and making a to-do list for tomorrow. Registering for classes is always anti-climatic. I always spend a lot of time trying to find interesting classes. But I can't really decide what to take until I've tried them out the first week. So for now, I've just put in enough credits to be a full-time student. Technically tomorrow is a weekday so hopefully I will be more productive in terms of getting academic things done. 

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Done with autumn quarter!

Officially done with the Fall Quarter. Turned in my take-home final Friday afternoon. I feel like the end of this quarter has been a lot less dramatic than the past. I guess it might be because I'm still working on ESW projects. But I guess things in life don't finish either. I think it's such a privilege to be a student and be able to turn things in without really having to put up with the consequences. The worst thing is a bad grade but what does that translate to in real life??

This morning, I slept until around 8:30am, which is late for me. I went out for a run and found that I am very out of shape. I just felt so tired during my run. I took a lot of breaks. No pressure to make the run quick so I took my time. I think my body performs better in the afternoon though. I tried to make crab cakes when I got back. They didn't turn out to be very good though.

One of my roommate's friends brought over a crab. But my roommate was too freaked out by it and refuses to eat it. So I boiled it and had some of it. It was very good. I left it out but no one else touched it. It had been it the fridge for a few days so I thought it wouldn't taste very good anymore. So I tried to make crab cakes. I think I put too much flour though. I'm not entirely sure what crab cakes are supposed to taste like. It always seemed like a waste of crab to me to make them into cakes. Anyway, it's dungeness crab season over here and all the supermarkets and restaurants are selling them.

After failing at crab cake making, I tried to make apple crumble with the leftover apple and pears we have. That didn't turn out very good either. I think it's because I used whole wheat flour and that absorbs more water than white flour. Sigh... Not a good day for cooking overall. For dinner, I had dumplings (pre-made, came out of the freezer).

I finished doing laundry and decided to go walk around downtown Palo Alto. It was a really nice day out. I was outside in short sleeves. I didn't do much but it was good to go walk around. I really enjoy being able to go to a busy or semi-busy place and just wander around. I don't know how people live in quiet suburbs.

Haven't done much today. I figured I should let myself relax a bit before taking care of stuff that I have been putting off.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


I had the hardest time falling asleep last night and staying asleep. I woke up at around 4 or 5am and could not fall back asleep. I read a bit from a book that I borrowed about networking. It's a pretty interesting book. I'm not sure all of it is applicable but I would like to give some of the tips a try. Anyway, what I really should have done is read the papers for my take home final. As soon as I started doing that, I had no trouble falling asleep! haha.

It's been pretty nice out the last couple of days. I think it might rain Wednesday and Thursday though. I wish it rained Monday and Tuesday instead. Then I wouldn't be tempted to go outside. Now I'm sitting in my office because I just felt the need to leave the apartment for a little bit. It just gets too depressing to be sitting in my room all day. Especially since my room doesn't get very much sunlight. I really hope that the stuff I learn will be put to use in the next few years.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Whew, the quarter is almost over

I am so glad I am not a structural engineer in real life. I don't think my buildings would do very well. I just took the final exam for my structural analysis class. It was a traumatizing experience. Anyway, it's over. I ate lunch with a friend who had also just finished a final exam. The two of us just sat around in the sun and chatted for a long time. I came back to my room afterwards and took an hour long nap. Now I just have a take-home final to finish by Friday. I'm hoping to finish it by tomorrow night though.

It amazes me how rapidly things spread on Facebook and YouTube. Lately, I've been seeing friends from (literally) different parts of the world posting the same articles, notes, videos, etc. It really amazes me that my friends who are completely unrelated could be reading about the same things. Somehow, everyone is talking about the same article or making comments about the same video. And these things are not like world headlines or anything. I wonder how all this social networking will change the future of people's social lives.

Next quarter will be my last quarter at Stanford. I will finally get to TA a class! I'm looking forward to it. I mean, it will probably be a lot of work but it should be interesting. I can now justify having an office in Blume. haha.

Sunday, December 5, 2010


I went to sleep last night thinking about how school is ending soon and I have to move on with life. I've been talking to my "career mentors" lately. I'm really thankful for meeting a group of people who have been great mentors. I thought about what makes them different from any other people at work. I came to the conclusion that they're people who make it a point to give me advice and help me out without me asking them directly. I think everyone at work will help me if I asked them to. But I've been extremely fortunate to meet people who look out for me.

I started a little notebook with career advice. Yesterday, I went to Borders and got a couple of Moleskin notebooks. I went because I got $5 on my Borders account. I think it's a holiday thing. Anyway, armed with this $5 and a 33% off coupon, I was able to get a two-pack Moleskin notebook for $1. I also got a Piccadilly notebook but the quality is just not as good. It's always the little things but the overall workmanship is just not the same. Anyway, I feel like I get some great advice from people and I should write them down so that I can revisit them once in a while.

Hopefully I'll have the chance to pay it forward and help out younger engineers. I suppose I can do that already with undergrads who are just starting out in civil engineering. Civil engineering is not as specific as some people might think. It's really a category of related jobs. And you can be totally lost as to what to do with an undergraduate degree in this field if you haven't found what you want to do.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Hello December!

Too many things happening these days. Extremely busy the next 1.5 weeks. Homeworks to turn in, finals to take, wrapping up projects, and working. I got up at 6:15am today (Tuesday) and got back to my apartment at 8pm. Not sure why I still have so much energy. I don't seem to be as tired from working as I used to be.... Must be a sign that I'm not doing enough. hahaha.

Sunday and Monday were long days. I got back to Stanford on Sunday at 3:30pm, after eating dim sum, going to Costco, and Ranch 99 with my parents. I headed over to Y2E2 to finish up a programming project with my partner for the structural analysis class. Again, I am so glad I am not analyzing frames for work. I think I would go crazy looking up properties of W whatever beams. Anyway, we worked on the project non-stop until nearly 6pm on Monday, when it was due. I only got 4 hours of sleep Sunday night. All (mostly) because of one negative sign. We spent a lot of time debugging and playing around with things and finally got the program to work properly after going back and checking one of the original files. I can't believe I didn't catch that error earlier...

I can't believe it's December already. In about 3.5 months, I will be done with school. Not sure how I should feel about this. I mean, I know what it's like to go to work everyday (e.g. summer internships) but I'm always thinking about going back to school in a few months. It's like swimming in the same waters but now I'm letting go of the guide lines. Eh, not sure that's a good analogy.

Not entirely sure what's next but I've been extremely lucky all my life. I seem to always get what I ask for. This is usually a good thing. I am usually convinced that I know what's best for myself. It may not turn out to be the best decision in retrospect but somehow I always get what I want. I should seriously think about buying some lottery tickets...

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Food, movies, and more food

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Felt a need to write about my life again. Just spent the whole Thanksgiving day at a relative's house. I think this year we had more people than usual and it got kind of crazy after a while. I ate so much food! I've definitely gained weight this quarter. I think it's partly due to doing too much stuff and the food lag after the half marathon. Not training but still lots of eating.

Finally watched Avatar. I was too cheap to go pay nearly $20 to watch it in 3D when it was out. And when I saw the trailers and/or read about it online, I already knew what would happen. Such a Pocahontas story. There were no surprises other than a few "huh? what? why?" moments. I feel like I'm on a movie lag. Haven't watched any movies or even trailers in such a long time. I don't even know what people are talking about these days.

Watched the new Harry Potter movie this morning with brother and cousin. I feel like I don't remember anything about this series anymore. I only have vague memories of what is supposed to be happening. This movie in particular had a lot of background info that the audience is supposed to bring with them. You would be sooo lost if you haven't seen the last movie or read the book. I'm really not sure if I've seen the last movie. I think there needs to be a HP movie marathon before watching the last movie. Otherwise, I won't appreciate it as much. It was nice to watch something on the big screen after a long hiatus though.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

FEM at work

Oy, I seem to always find ways to keep myself busy. Instead of just sitting at home all of this week, I'm working again. Oakland is soo much closer to SF than Palo Alto! The commute is so short. No need to look up train times and rush to the train station. I am never living so far from work again. Kind of feels weird to be back at the same office. It feels like a lifetime ago that I was working there, last school year, before Indonesia. But I don't think my coworkers see it that way. I don't think it seems as long for them. Anyway, despite the holiday season, they seem to have lots of work for me to do.

I've been working on some finite element modeling at work. Now that I've had 1yr+ of finite element classes, things make more sense to me. But it's still frustrating to be sticking things into a black box. I wish I had someone to discuss FEM stuff with at work. My coworkers understand the soil parts of it but they can't help troubleshoot the mechanics modeling parts. Anyone from my program could have been so helpful. It always helps to talk to someone about problems.

Eating a lot of candy since I got home. My teeth have been annoying me lately though. I put on my retainers Saturday night and they made my teeth move a bit. I forgot that I usually have to switch between my different pairs of retainers to get my teeth to align properly. This takes a few nights. But now I'm home and didn't bring my retainers with me. So my teeth are just misaligned and it's super annoying.

Been home for a couple of days but still haven't had time to get cendol at the local Vietnamese shops. The lack of food options at Stanford always annoys me. I think for my first apartment, I want to be close to public transit, short commute to work, and near a Vietnamese sandwich shop. haha. That would be so perfect!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Currently Reading

Currently reading "Aung San Suu Kyi: The Voice of Hope." I went to a talk recently about the Burma elections. It was really interesting so I wanted to learn more about recent Burmese history and who "the Lady" is. I picked up some books from the library (okay, I took basically all the books directly related to Aung San Suu Kyi) and started reading. I started with a book that explained some history, mostly about her father Aung San. I didn't want to start reading this current book The Voice of Hope because it's essentially a series of interviews. I thought that it was important for me to get the background picture first. But yesterday I read a few chapters on the Caltrain and her words are very enlightening. She is such an awesome person. I feel like every sentence is a sentence of wisdom. Anyway, if you don't know who Aung San Suu Kyi is, you should read about her. Nobel Peace Prize winner and the voice of democracy for Burma (Myanmar).

I really miss reading. I have a sudden urge to go to the library and pick up some well written fiction or non-fiction and read for a long time. There are just too many interesting subjects out there that I don't know where I should spend my time on. If anyone has any suggestions, I'll take them.

Rainy day

Cold and rainy day outside. I think there are a lot of people watching The Big Game right now. Somehow, I'm not so excited about being out in a cold, wet, windy stadium that is sitting on a major fault line. I might stop by somewhere to watch the second half though.

Yesterday was cold as well. I basically woke up and started on the journey to SF to give a presentation at Arup. I know there's 30 miles between Palo Alto and SF but it shouldn't take so long to get there by public transit. It was really relaxing to get there by bus and train though. No directions, left hand turns, or parking to worry about.

The presentation itself went okay. I think we were both out of it. I'm not sure we made a whole lot of sense. And again, there were less questions than we expected. But maybe there's just so much information that people are overloaded. Need to work on this communications thing. Anyway, I'm going to work again starting next week. Just got my first paycheck from Stanford CDC. Very small paycheck, I have to admit but it's nice to have some sort of income. I'm not sure why but I've been using a lot of money since getting back from Indonesia.

We wandered around SF for a bit. On our way to Old Navy, this Green Peace guy started talking to us. By us, I mean Greg. He was talking to Greg. I don't think he even realized we were walking together when he first tried to start a conversation. I swear I would have never been approached by these people if I wasn't with Greg. People tend to be more comfortable talking to people who are like them. And when you have 2 seconds to decide your next target, well, I think you get my point. I just think this is funny. When we went to get cookies from Specialties later on, the cashier asked if we wanted our cookies in separate bags. I really think that if I had been with someone who is Asian, the guy would not have asked. Just pointing out things in my daily life that I think is amusing.

On my way back to the Caltrain station, I passed by this tea lounge that I've never noticed before. The store front is small but I'm not sure how I missed it all of last spring. Anyway, it's a really fancy place where you can have tea and small snacks with friends. I looked on their website later on for prices for these "afternoon teas" and it was super expensive. Not sure who goes to these tea lounges. There were no customers when I walked in. They had loose leaf teas for sale though. And you can open the containers to smell them, something that I think is missing from places like Peets and Coffee Bean. I mean, how can you properly choose your teas without smelling them?? I ended up buying two bags of teas to try out. I've been meaning to get a chai mix for a while and they had a really spicy one. Now I have a pretty good collection of teas. I just need the milk...

I got back in time for dinner with some friends. Eric, who I visited in LA, came to visit and organized a dinner with all his friends. They're very funny and friendly people so I enjoyed the dinner. We went to a Thai place that had really good tom yum soup. I've only ever had Americanized tom yum soup before and didn't know it could be so good. It came in a pot that had a fire thing in the middle. The soup had all kinds of sea food in it as well. Very impressive and definitely worth it.

Watched some Detective Conan and Stargate when I got back. Really wish I had someone to watch these things with and comment on the ridiculousness of things. I watched an episode of Star Trek Voyager this morning. Not sure how I ever got into the series. Everything sounds so scripted and unrealistic! Okay, fine, I still like it. Not for the bad acting and such but because I really like sci-fi.

Still have a lot work to do during this "break." I'm hoping to get some work done today and tomorrow before I go home. It's a futile effort to try to get anything done at home.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Thanksgiving Break!!

Haven't actually written about what I have been up to for a while. That's because I've been up to too much stuff!! Maybe I'll have time to catch up during this week of break. Well, this week of break is quickly turning into a week of not-break... Let me explain.

I've been trying to work part-time again at my last company this entire quarter. It's partially my fault for not pressing them but the paperwork just gotten done so I can work again. So I'm going to work Mon-Wed next week. I think I can only work for a total of about 6 weeks because my winter quarter schedule doesn't look like it can handle a part-time job. And it will be my last quarter at school so I should probably try to take advantage of being at school and audit classes, go to talks, etc. Anyways, I'll see how that goes. Part of me kind of wish I can just take a break since this quarter has been super busy. But I don't think I would mind having something to do over winter break.

Yalu came to visit last weekend! She had a ton of stuff planned for her "vacation" so we were quite busy. Hardly spent any time in my room the entire weekend. I went up to SF on Thursday and Friday. We had some ridiculous adventures in the city, involving buses, cars, and food. We basically spent an hour on Thursday failing to get to the Golden Gate Bridge. I should have known it would take forever. Actually, now that I think about it, there might have been faster ways to get to the bridge... Anyhow, we managed to get to the Art Museum, which I've always wanted to see up close. I had to go back to Stanford because I had class Friday morning.

Friday was ridiculous. One of my friends had an interview in the city so he took out a Zip Car and drove me up there. I found out about this earlier that week and realized this could work out very well for both of us. It ended up working out pretty well for me anyhow. I got a ride up to SF and bought some things that I've been meaning to buy at Borders and Ross. I felt like the whole trip was orchestrated by me. haha. After my friend finished his interview and I had done my shopping, we got the car out of the garage because the garage was costing us $3/hr. No one had any idea of where to go for dinner so we debated for a while. I suggested this buffet place but we couldn't find the price (it's $20.95 for a Friday dinner, btw). So then, I suggested the food truck festival.

This food truck festival took a while to get to but at least there was free parking. It was packed with people and food trucks, mostly selling tacos. There were tacos of all kinds, not just Mexican. But things were pretty small and pricey. In short, we did not eat enough for dinner and was coming up with some crazy ideas of what to do for dinner. The list included cooking back at my place, cooking at Javi's place, ordering pizza, there might have been something else. We settled on finding food in the "new Chinatown" near Javi's place. I don't know why we didn't do this in the first place... We got there kind of late. It was difficult to find parking but we managed. We ended up at this little Taiwanese place that served us more than enough food for a very good price. There's a lot more to this story but seeing that I haven't gotten to the weekend yet, I think I'll just keep going.

Stanford Splash has this past weekend. So we basically spent two days in the Main Quad, running around. The weather was great. I was really worried that it would rain. There was no rain plan. I think I'm becoming too old for this Splash thing. I don't mind helping out at reg or maybe teaching a class. But sticking around for the whole day is really tiring! I managed to come home with a collection of fruit though. There's always a ton of food at Splash. I really appreciate the fruit because I'm usually too cheap to buy fruit unless it's at the Milk Pail.

Yalu and I taught a class together. The class itself went well. But we had a small crisis. We got to our room and was waiting for the class inside to finish. But... it turns out they were in the middle of a 2 hour class. Somehow, our classes overlapped by an hour so we didn't have a room for the first hour. The classroom next door was empty and the teacher for that class was in there. He was teaching in an hour and let us use his room. We were going to move after an hour so that he can have his classroom back but we ended up swapping rooms instead. We also forgot to check out a VGA cable and he let us use the one he checked out. So basically, the crisis was a small one because we happened to meet this really nice guy who gave us his classroom and VGA cable. Didn't even managed to get his name...

I had every intention of escaping after teaching the class so that I can go back to my room and do some work, or at least laundry. But I ended up sticking around and went to dinner with a bunch of Splash people. We went to a fancy Indian buffet that wasn't too expensive. Yalu and I hung out a lot this weekend, which is good. I was worried that she would be doing LU stuff all weekend. On the way back from dinner, one of the people from Chicago, who I've never met before earlier that day, asked us who was older. I heard her the first time but was a bit shocked. Yalu answered that I was older but was oblivious to what she was implying. I couldn't think of any better way of clarifying this situation other than, "you know we're not related, right?" Naturally, Mshaw thought this whole situation was really funny.

I got roped into helping with lunch on Sunday. That was hard work. I think I got enough sun that day to last me for a while. I was really tired out from helping bring pizza from the Oval to the Quad and regulating the pizza line. So I didn't have very much energy to help Lena out with her palmistry class. Her class was really interesting. Some kids were more into it than others. I never knew that people's hands were so different. I guess it's not something I usually notice.

So after a weekend of ESP stuff, I switched over to taking care of some ESW stuff. I took my time finishing a homework for structural analysis. I am really glad I don't do structural analysis in real life. This stuff is so boring. Anyway, I think I could've done the homework in much less time. But I was feeling kind of burnt out this week. Too many things going on and not enough time to do them all properly.

Okay, need to go to sleep before I throw off my sleep schedule. I think I missed a few things about last weekend, including the frog in the apartment. But maybe Yalu will write about this. Uh, once she finishes with her Splash tour, that is.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Shooting Poverty - video competition

Very well done and interesting videos about poverty and armed violence around the world. I watched a couple of them and they are about regions of the world that I've never really thought about. It's amazing how we can ignore the rest of the world when we want to.

For my French speaking friends, the video titled: "Biggest Bang for your Buck" is about Burundi, a country that speaks French. The entire video is in French. Highly recommended.

For people who have been following Aung San Suu Kyi's release in Burma, the video titled "April 6th" is pretty interesting. It's about Manipur, a region in India that borders Burma (Myanmar). The video talks about how terrorists in Manipur is able to get access to weapons through Burma. The fact that they get a lot of Chinese weapons from Burma is no surprise but the availability of American weapons is something else. The US is supposedly not supporting the military regime there by having a ban on all investments in the country. So... how are US weapons getting there?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Humanitarian Aid Article

Interesting article about effects of humanitarian aid. Are we prolonging or even facilitating conflicts through foreign aid?

Can you provide humanitarian aid without facilitating conflicts?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Where did the week go?

At some point today, I was shocked to realize that tomorrow is Thursday. If you're looking for that more thoughtful post that I promised, this is not it. Sorry. I also write when I'm stressed. I spent a good part of a lecture today making up my to-do list. Then, when I got out of class, I proceeded to do things that were not on the to-do list. I hate it when that happens but it always does.

I made food for my roommate and one of her friends the other day. And this other friend kept remarking how healthy all the food was. I had just cooked my usual meal of stir fry veggies, rice, and meat. The meat this time was salmon. I suppose it's all very healthy. Not sure what else I would be cooking up though. I think I eat a lot these days. I usually make a pretty big plate of food, mostly veggies. I don't actually eat that much rice (or not as much as I used to). Proportion-wise, I think I eat more meat during lunch if I make a sandwich than during dinner.

I had taken on the project of creating a wiki for the Indonesia project. It is a lot of work! I really want a space where there are organized files for the project. But I'm running into roadblocks just organizing my own files! I have a ton of files, some of which I've never read, not even sure what they are. So... lots of file management happening right now. The wiki itself is not even being worked on because the file organization structure will determine the wiki structure. And I'm finding that there are a lot of stuff that should be a part of the wiki and everything is screaming to be put onto the front page. But I can't overload the front page so... not sure what the best way to do all of this.

Speaking of ESW projects, we starting a project on seismic retrofits of schools in Peru. Really need to get going on this project. We're just planning the winter seminar right now, which will consists of mostly presentations from outside speakers. It will not be a very work intensive seminar for the participants. Not sure if this translates to more or less work for the organizers. Maybe we should make the participants do more work instead! haha! Also need to find someone to take on a leadership role for this project in the spring. Need to find someone worthy.... so hard to let go of these things...

Monday, November 1, 2010

Another month!

Wow, it's November already! Taking Thanksgiving break into account, we have about a month of classes left in this quarter. I just took a midterm this morning and it's such a big relief to get that over with. I wonder how well I did... I swear I was making up some laws of physics on that test. I think I'm going to put on the final in big bold letters, "Not a structural engineer." That should help when they're trying to decipher why I did things the way I did.

I went to a talk about Burma today. It was centered around the elections that the country is having on Nov 7th. There is a lot of dissatisfaction with the current regime and talks of how this coming election is a sham, that there is no democracy at all. The rest of the talk was highly political and reasons why the nearby countries are all secretly (or openly) supporting the regime in order to get natural resources. It's not really stuff that I want to get involved in. Politics are not for me. But it was really interesting nevertheless. I've gotten a lot more interested in SE Asia lately and Burma is a country that I don't know very much about. I just finished browsing wikipedia about the country. It seems like there are many opportunities there for people like me to do work in. I think it's a plus that I can fit in and not attract a ton of unnecessary attention. Hm... something else to think about for the future.

I went to the EWB West Coast Workshop on Saturday. It was very interesting. People are working on some really great projects out there. But such being a part of such a big organization has its drawbacks, for example, the amount of paperwork and bureaucratic stuff they have to deal with. I mean, it makes sense for the national organization to keep track of their chapters and make sure that their brand doesn't get used inappropriately.

Anyhow, the workshops were interesting and I really enjoyed chatting with the people there. Again, I wish organizers of these events would get the hint that people want to talk to people who are working on the same topics. I went to a water related workshop and they had three 20 minute presentations (Q&A included). People were asking questions during the presentations and the presenters had to ask that they keep the questions until the end. And at the end of every presentation, 10+ hands immediately shot up. They were all very relevant and interesting questions. You can tell that people are asking questions because they have run into similar problems and want to know what other people have done. I think it would have made a whole lot more sense to have just one very short presentation and then do a more extensive Q&A session. It doesn't have to be project related either. There could be a breakout session on water that consists of one short presentation about a project and then discussion of technologies used, best practices, etc. And if there are more specific interests, people can break into smaller groups to talk to each other about solutions. Much easier to facilitate networking and sharing of ideas this way than to try to make it happen during the breaks.

I've got a couple more blog entries in mind that are more thought provoking. I just thought I should write about some current events in my life before launching into other topics. Stay tuned for more "Lucy's views of the world" posts!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Why I Care (about developing countries)

I gave four, almost consecutive presentations at Oakland High about developing countries on Tuesday. I came to realize that I'm getting old and my daily life is pretty far removed from high schoolers. It's hard for me to think about what they know and what they don't know. There were moments when I didn't even realize they don't understand something that was seemingly obvious to me. Anyway, class periods are so short. I don't know how any teaching and learning get done. I really wish I had time to talk about "why we should care," especially with this group of students. I'll write about it here so that I can flush out my thoughts. Maybe I should have done this before going to talk at the school.

Honestly, I did not care about developing countries when I was in high school. I didn't care until probably senior year of college, when I did D-Lab. I felt that there were so many problems "at home" and that we should really focus our energies helping people in our own backyards rather than spending resources on people far away. It's so much harder to care about people far away.

That's one of the reasons why I joined ESP, actually. I volunteered with a bunch of different organizations freshmen year, all of them focusing on outreach to nearby communities. I stuck with ESP even though there wasn't a whole lot of underprivileged outreach because the people who ran the program were cool. I consciously and unconsciously avoided all the talk, hype, and clubs that involved global poverty issues. And then I did D-Lab.

I actually signed up for D-Lab because people who I went to Cambridge with were really enthusiastic about it. They talked about the program's uniqueness and that it's something you can only do while at MIT. So I went to the first class and wrote a pretty convincing application for the class and got in. I went to class and worked on the projects but still treated everything as a class. I mean, I cared about my project (rammed earth) a lot but I didn't feel its connection to society until I actually went to Sierra Leone.

At some point either during or after the trip to Sierra Leone, I had a realization that the problems we were trying to tackle were strikingly similar to problems "at home," namely income security, food security, education, shelter, and nutrition. The problems are the same, all having to do with basic human needs. The details are different but those always are. The question is, what about the solutions? How do the solutions differ?

I really believe that by traveling to different countries and experiencing other cultures, you learn much more about yourself and your own culture. I had many eye-opening moments while in Germany (my "first" abroad experience) about myself and the culture that I subscribe to. By putting myself in a places where I didn't know the language, don't understand the culture, and have no clue about the religion, I really appreciated the kindness and understanding of other people. I became much more aware of what "culture" is and the assumptions that people make about how life should be, how things should work, etc. I (would like to think) am much more sensitive to other people's needs because I have been in situations where I couldn't articulate my own needs.

Through these experiences, I realized that I can't necessarily relate to the situation "back home." I had thought that I understood the issues that immigrants to the US face. I thought that since I had experienced it first-hand, I would be best suited to help solve these issues. But after my travels, I realize that this is a false assumption. I really don't know what other people are going through and shouldn't try to pretend that I am an expert on their experiences. There is no one formula to alleviating the problems that are entrenched in underprivileged neighborhoods in the US. And the best people to work on solving those problems may not be people who had experienced them first-hand. While these people bring with them, some sort of assurance that they understand and care about the people that they are serving, they are also the most likely to "think outside the box."

I am much more likely to think "outside the box" (since I am coming from "outside the box") on issues pertaining to people in a different community than the one I grew up in. I don't deny that I would have different emotional attachments to projects involving Chinese Americans in the Bay Area vs. Africans in Sub-Saharan Africa. But I really believe that working on projects in the developing world has made me much more capable of working on problems in the developed world. They are, in essence, the same problems.

I wish that people working on problems at home can come in with the humble open-mindedness that is so important to international work. By going into a community and admitting right off the bat that I don't understand the culture, the people, and their problems, I have a lot more motivation to try to understand the situation before proposing solutions. I am much more sensitive to the real needs of the people rather than what I think they need. Again, this last point is relevant for projects everywhere.

I hope this made sense. It's something that I have been thinking about for the past few days. I certainly don't think I have it all correct. I would love to hear what other people think about this.

Sisters and Happiness

Very cute article:

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Tsunami in West Sumatra!

Recent tsunami in West Sumatra, Indonesia. Luckily, it was too far offshore to affect Padang. There are causalities though. About 4 villages were swept away and the death toll has climbed to almost 300 people now, with many still missing. The villages are on a chain of islands offshore of Padang. Some are only reachable by a 12 hour boat ride. The weather has also hindered the search and rescue operations.

I subscribe to USGS earthquake notifications and saw the email for this particular earthquake. I clicked on the links to find out about possible tsunamis and found that a warning was issued and then canceled. This was on Monday, around noon. Some of us on the Padang project emailed and texted each other about this and we were all relief. But then I came home on Tuesday night after a full day of talking about Splash at Oakland High to find my inbox full of stuff about a tsunami.

I was shocked for about half an hour while I go through my inbox while searching for articles about the tsunami. It's still hard to find much information about it because of a volcano eruption in Central Java. Found lots of articles about Australian surfers though. I'm hoping to read more scientific information about the tsunami in the next few days, specifically, if this earthquake released any stress on the fault. Hopefully, this will mean more funding for tsunami preparedness in the region.

I talked to a couple of friends in Padang (via facebook) and neither of them felt the earthquake. But here's a quote from one of them,

"The people in padang is okay but a little bit panic. But in mentawai is so terrible, There was 13 meter high tsunami hit islands. there is 272 people died, 412 people missing and 40 people injured, 4000 people evacuated. Pray us! We stay alert."

I'm also really glad that some of my friends who are unrelated to the Padang project have emailed or otherwise contacted me about this tsunami. These are all people who I have talked to about this project. I'm so touched that they thought to contact me about this after reading about it on the news.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Week 6, more than halfway done

It did not rain as much as I expected this past weekend. I was looking forward to the sound of pouring rain outside the window all weekend. I basically sat in my room and did work the entire weekend. I mean, I took some breaks to watch anime but it was still quite minimal.

I can't do this "no sleeping" thing anymore. I went to bed at 2am and got about 5 hours of sleep before having to wake up for an 8am class this morning. I also realized that I've been drinking too much caffeine. It's all in the form of tea but I think drinking dark tea with every single meal and maybe in between meals was too much. My stomach has been feeling a bit queasy in the mornings lately. Anyway, refraining from drinking tea excessively should help. I swear I used to only drink one cup of tea a day with dinner. I'm sure I was also getting like 6 hrs of sleep a night fall semester of senior year...

Going to Oakland High really early tomorrow to talk about Splash and give a Splash demo class. Still need to work on shortening the real Splash class into a 30 min session. It'll be interesting. I hope we can really reach out to some kids and they will make the effort of coming to Stanford. I'm doing a trial run of the class I'm teaching with Yalu in Nov. We've never taught this class before. It's about developing countries. Sort of a comparative study between countries and what are the main issues involved. I hope it will give the kids a start on thinking about the rest of the world. Can't be that frog that sits on the bottom of the well all his life.

And we'll also see how skilled I am with this teaching thing. I think teaching, tutoring, and related things are some of the best ways to do community outreach. I realized a while ago that it's not really my thing. I don't think I'm patient enough. I've seen people who are really good at teaching and tutoring and I definitely can't compare with them. But I'm okay with this. Don't need to be good at everything.

Big earthquake near Padang a few hours ago. It was far away though and there was no tsunami generated. There was a warning issued initially but it was lifted a few minutes after. There were several pretty big aftershocks as well. I wish we can tell the earthquake/tsunami gods that they can't come yet because we're not ready. Hopefully, they'll just never come...

Friday, October 22, 2010

Work, work, and more work

Working a Friday night. I'm actually glad that I can work on a Friday night. I spent the last couple of Friday nights not at Stanford. This is the first weekend I've had in my room in a while. I literally didn't know what to do with myself this morning. Only had one class and one meeting. I came back, watched some Conan, napped, went to the store...

It's going to be a rainy weekend. It was misting this morning. It's also alumni/homecoming weekend. There are a ton of alumni here, many with their families. I feel bad for these people coming on such a weekend. It will be sunny again during the week. But there's a flood warning this weekend, that's how much it's going to rain. Anyway, hope this doesn't ruin their memories of Stanford.

I'm almost caught up with homework and such. Need to do more studying though. I usually write my notes twice. But my classes this quarter are all powerpoint. So I'm re-writing the PowerPoint notes. That seems to take longer because they cover more stuff with all this technology. Oh wells, I need to put in this extra effort because just attending lectures and reading the notes doesn't cut it for me.

Lots to do this weekend. But fear not, I got chocolate today! Been missing this treat. I think it really gives me a boost, especially after meals and before launching into a note writing or psetting session. Oh and the persimmon trees in Rains have a ton of fruit on them. I picked a basket full and just waiting for them to ripen now. I hope the rain doesn't destroy the trees this weekend. The tree branches are pretty fragile; I broke a few with no effort. 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

After Graduation Asia Trip

I've added a SmartyPig widget on the left side of the blog. For all you RSS feed readers, you have to actually come to the website to see this. I recently opened a SmartyPig account because it seemed like a good way for me to save for my after-graduation-Asia-trip. recently added a Goals section to their services but SmartyPig lets you make widgets like this so that other people can contribute to your goals!

I want to go to Asia after I graduate in March. I haven't been back to China since after graduating high school. So I think I should go back to see family. And then I want to do some traveling around in East and Southeast Asia. I feel like I know so little about Asia. Really looking forward to going to more places and learning more about other cultures, see historical sites, eat good food. Not sure how all the logistics will work out yet. Really hope I can travel with someone. Or even meeting up to travel with different people along the way would be fine too.

Anyway, feel free to contribute to this fund! I'll repay the favor when I get the chance, I promise. It all comes back in the end. I've deposited an initial $100 to this fund. This will be used for the buying the backpack because believe it or not, I don't have one of these backpacking backpacks. I've realized I'm pretty efficient at packing and I think I can pull this trip off with one big and one regular sized backpack.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Cats Rule

The kitty owns you! hahah. Actually, I think all "cat owners" know this already. Thanks, Lena.


Snowball sniffing out my suitcase after I came back from Southeast Asia. Maybe he likes the food there too.

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Halfway through fall quarter already!

Totally slacking on keeping this blog up to date. There's just too much happening these days. Unlike when I'm traveling, there's not really a coherent theme to things. Speaking of traveling, I opened a SmartyPig account to save money for my after-graduation-Asia-trip. They have better interest rates than my Discover Bank account O.o!

Did laundry, vacuumed, and cleaned my room yesterday. Didn't manage to do very much homework or studying. One of our geomech friends who graduated last year came back to run the NWM and came down to campus to visit us yesterday. So we spent some time chatting with him. I'm feeling very behind on my classes though. I mean, I'm not actually that behind on doing the homework. But I usually like to read the notes before I start on doing problem sets. I need to read the notes a second time, at my own pace to absorb the material. Looking forward to later this week when I have time to do this.

I want to write a bit about last Saturday because it felt like an epic day. The DFI conference had ended Friday afternoon and my flight out of LAX was at 2pm. So I had some time to chill before the flight. One of the guys I stayed with made pancakes for breakfast. We sat around talking for a while and then decided to go to an In N Out that is really close to the LAX airport. This place is apparently very well known in the aviation industry because you can sit outside and watch the planes come in. It was super cool because the planes were really close and you can even see the vortex and air condensing on the wings. And there were planes landing every few minutes. This would be such a cool place to bring a family for lunch and easy entertainment.

And then I went on a plane myself. The security line was a bit annoying because it was a big bottleneck and took really long. And it felt a bit chaotic. After the security line, it was great. I boarded the plane right away so there was no waiting. I really thought my backpack would get lighter after the conference because I had packed sandwiches and such. But actually I ended up collecting a lot of stuff at the conference and LA.

Once I got to SF, I started calling my friends to figure out what's happening with the marathon. I managed to miss the BART leaving the airport because the people in front of me on the escalator were blocking the entire thing and not feeling urgent about catching public transportation. Anyway, it gave me time to call people and I got to the race package pickup with plenty of time to pick up stuff. The line for the race packet pickup was super long but moved pretty fast. I met up with Mahalia and Ben on while standing in line.

I came out of the tent with another bag to carry. I was already carrying my backpack, sleeping bag, and another bag with clothes. At this point, we really should've gone and dropped off stuff (as planned) but we decided to go for dinner instead. I was all for going to Chinatown because I wanted a haircut (wasn't all that interested in getting food there because I don't know any places). Anyway, we ended up dragging our stuff all over town and got to friend's place after they left for dinner. So we didn't see them until the next morning.

Since I started the LA trip, I've been having a lot of dream filled nights. They've stopped after I got back to Stanford. I guess there's just a lot going on and I literally feel like my brain is working 24/7. Anyway, really glad to be back in my own bed now.

I feel like this quarter I've really gotten more involved in student organizations, especially ones that start with ES(something). I'm not sure how all this happens but I seem to find myself volunteering for a lot of things.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Another half marathon!!

Currently in recovery mode! This will be a short post because I need to get some sleep. Ran the Nike Women's (half) Marathon today. Finished in 2:19. Not entirely satisfied with the time but at least I ran the entire way. Hopefully I can still walk tomorrow! I got some pineapple juice today. I hear it's good for soreness; breaks down the lactic acids.

Really need to catch up on life. Need to do laundry, do some cooking and cleaning, and homework! I have junk everywhere. The good news is that I don't have any plans for this weekend. I don't think I even have to go grocery shopping because I went with my roommate earlier tonight. So I'm going to really looking forward to being able to focus and do some quality studying.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Conference in Hollywood

Yes, the conference was right in the heart of Hollywood. From the balcony, I can see the Walk of Fame, the elephants statues, and the Hollywood sign. The conference itself was interesting. It was on deep foundations technology, challenges, and related issues. People had some really interesting projects to showcase. I expected more people to attend though. Or maybe there were a lot of people but not everyone sat in on the sessions. The conference had a lot of technical sessions, committee meetings, and exhibits by companies. Maybe people hung out at the exhibits more.

The conference ended before lunchtime on Friday so I had a bit of time to walk around Hollywood. I walked around the mall area a bit trying to find an interesting place to eat. I was hungry and was about to give up on this search when I saw the Lard On food truck. Of course, I had to go. I got the BLT off of their lunch menu. The buns were heated on the grill, bacon was extra crispy, huge slices of tomatoes, and blue cheese. I thought the blue cheese was a bit weird for all this but it works. When I was trying to pay, the guy saw my US Navy wallet and asked if I was in the Navy or if it was a free wallet (ha!). At this point, I realized I was standing in front of a US Armed Forces recruiting center. I told the guy I did a military youth program back in the day and he asked if it was the sea cadets! Turns out the guy was in Bryce Canyon, one of the big units in this area. Actually the LA area has a quite a few big units, I think. I was a bit shocked. We chatted for a little bit but he had to take more orders. So random.

I brought my sandwich to the Coffee Bean. I was wondering why they were all over the place when I found out that it started in this area. It's like Peets in SF Bay. I got a tea latte which was overpriced but really good and made use of their free wi-fi. After refueling, I walked around Hollywood Blvd a bit but there wasn't a whole lot to see. There's about a block or two of "attractions" like the Chinese theater, Egyptian theater, Ripleys, Wax Museum, upscale clothing stores, etc. And then it becomes hooka bars, fast food joints, souvenir shops, and other stores with no one in them. I got tired and took the metro to downtown LA. I was planning to walk around there but sat at another Coffee Bean instead and used their wireless again, made some phone calls, and just sat around drinking my tea. I don't think there was very much to see anyhow.

I'm staying with a couple of friends from Stanford and we all went out to a Korean place nearby. This neighborhood has a lot of Korean and Japanese food places. Apparently Toyota and Honda has offices here. The food was amazing!! I've never thought Korean food was all that great but this was so delicious. All the other customers were Korean. They even served side dishes of kimchi and other sides. I've always thought kimchi tasted funny. I think it's because all I've ever had were ones bought from the store that are over fermented. The kimchi at this place was so good. I had a noodle soup that was cooked in a beef and kimchi broth. Never knew what I was missing out on!

We were all stuffed when we got back so we watched an episode of Firefly. After the episode, I found out that Serenity is the movie made to wrap up the Firefly series. I had watched Serenity freshmen year when LSC showed it as part of the sci-fi movie marathon. I don't know how I didn't manage to make this connection. I think if I had, I would've watched all of Firefly by now. Better late than never....

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Briefcase to Backpack

This website specializes in advice for people who want to have a long break in their careers and just travel. Very cool. Too bad I don't have a career yet!

Here's a NYTimes article about it:

Btw, I am in LA (well, LA metro area) right now. Attending a geotech conference Thursday and Friday.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Grow Up? Not So Fast

An interesting article from Time:
Grow Up? Not So Fast

Really like this paragraph on the 2nd page:

Jeffrey Arnett, a developmental psychologist at the University of Maryland, favors "emerging adulthood" to describe this new demographic group, and the term is the title of his new book on the subject. His theme is that the twixters [18-25 year olds] are misunderstood. It's too easy to write them off as overgrown children, he argues. Rather, he suggests, they're doing important work to get themselves ready for adulthood. "This is the one time of their lives when they're not responsible for anyone else or to anyone else," Arnett says. "So they have this wonderful freedom to really focus on their own lives and work on becoming the kind of person they want to be." In his view, what looks like incessant, hedonistic play is the twixters' way of trying on jobs and partners and personalities and making sure that when they do settle down, they do it the right way, their way. It's not that they don't take adulthood seriously; they take it so seriously, they're spending years carefully choosing the right path into it.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Conferences: 1 of 2

Haven't written in so long that I had to check my Google calender to see what happened since the last time I wrote. I've been really busy the last week. I had a normal-ish week Monday to Wednesday. Wednesday was especially long though because one of my classes got moved to the afternoon so I didn't have a nice block of classes. And then I flew off to Indiana on Wednesday night for the ESW National conference.

It took us 2 separate flights to get there and 2 separate flights to get back. I slept a lot on these series of flights. Circumstances just made it so that I was really tired when I got to the airport. I think I fell asleep on most of these flights before the plane took off and only woke up right before landing. I didn't even realized that my first flight was showing a movie. I also slept at the airport. On the way back, we walked to our gate and slept until it was time to board the plane. Didn't even bothered to go buy food or look for free wi-fi.

The conference itself was very interesting. I think we all got a lot of out meeting people from the different chapters. Honestly, I didn't know very much about the national organization at all before this. I had no idea what other chapters were doing so it was great to hear about other people's projects. I wish we had more sharing time though. What projects are other people doing, how are they progressing, next steps, the structure, how many people does it take to run something, etc. Totally seeing myself getting sucked into this organization at more than the project level.

At some of the member meetings, we introduced ourselves with name, university, major, and role in ESW. I was stumped by the "role" part for a while and decided on "project leader" after thinking it through. I honestly had never thought about my role in ESW. It's just something that I do. Never thought about it as a job description.

Most of the conference consisted of "breakout sessions" where there were 1-3 speakers from industry and academia. They talked about various topics, mostly about what their organization is doing in the context of sustainability. Again, I wish we had more time for discussion because people asked a lot of questions and they were generally very good questions. I will write more about this conference and the various adventures that we had soon. Right now I need to catch up on some sleep!

Friday, October 1, 2010

500 Posts!!

The next two weeks will be very busy. Two conferences in a roll. Not sure why I decided this was a good idea in the first place. It should be good though. I'm looking forward to meeting a lot of people at these conferences. Great places for networking to happen.

Speaking of networking, I spent a bit of time applying to jobs. So I guess the job hunt has started. I mainly looked at companies where I don't have any contacts for and emailed their HR departments. Not sure if this actually works. I'll see what happens, I guess.

Last night was a long night. Got back from the ESW presentation pretty late. We did a presentation for SEG people and other people who have been involved in the project. There were some new people. Wish there were more new people, in particular, more of the new Masters students. But maybe it's because everyone was working on the 280 homework.

Speaking of 280 (structural analysis), this class kept me up pretty late last night. I think it was about 3am when I went to bed. Got up at 7am to finish up stuff, return things to the Blume Center, and tried to get some stuff done before the 9:30am class. Tried to submit reimbursements for the trip after the class but it turns out we need a lot more things than we realized. Almost there though. Really wish there are clear instructions for me to follow. I don't think I understand how everything works in the first place. Anyway, just waiting for an account number now. All the paperwork is ready to be submitted. Wouldn't have been able to do this if Greg hadn't brought me lunch. Super low on energy this morning.

Got back to my dorm and slept for about 2 hours. Made myself get up and went running in the afternoon. Literally ran into a classmate from MIT. He's my year but took a year off and is now doing a Masters in Environment Engineering. I knew he was here but not vice versa so he was a bit surprised. Really nice to finally see him. Even though we're technically in the same department, all the groups are pretty separated so we don't really see the other groups the department very much.

Two BBQs tomorrow! Looking forward to lots of good food. I think I will try to do some work in the morning, go to the BBQs, do some cleaning in the afternoon, and do some more studying. Not entirely satisfied with my classes this quarter. Not even sure if one of my classes is still happening because the professor didn't show up on Wednesday and we haven't heard from him at all. I even emailed him today. Maybe I should have dropped by his office. Might end up having to take linear algebra (again) in order to have enough units. It's looking like a better and better option now that I think about it. Anyway, I'll see what happens. I need to start working. I feel like I'm waiting for something to happen and haven't been able to develop a routine because of this. 

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Long and hot days

Only 10 blog posts (including this one) during the month of September?? This is unacceptable. I was looking over my blog earlier this week. Some months are more exciting than others. Can't believe I've had this thing going for three years now. Credits to my readers. Otherwise, my writing would just be lost in cyberspace.

Today is the one year anniversary of the September 30, 2009 earthquake in Padang, Indonesia. I think the city was planning to have an evacuation drill to commemorate the event and to raise tsunami evacuation preparedness. Hopefully they managed to get that going. Did you know you can get email notifications from USGS about earthquakes? You can set your region and magnitudes of earthquakes you want to hear about. There were two big earthquakes 6.2 and 7.2 Mw near Papua yesterday. A tsunami alert was raised and then canceled. Don't think there was much damage because the area is sparsely populated.

Yesterday was the longest day on campus so far. I got up at 7am for an 8am class and stayed on campus until midnight. Had class in the morning, until around noon. One of my professors didn't show up. I wonder what happened. We still haven't gotten an email about it. I hope that class is still happening because I need to units. Went to a SWE lunch after that. The pizza was pretty good. Cleaned up my office in Blume a bit and worked on homework in there for a while. Went over to Y2E2 and worked on some more homework.

The evening was all ESW stuff. During undergrad, I did a lot of ESP stuff. Now we're just moving down the alphabet. There was an ESW general meeting where we introduced the organization, talked about events, introduced the officers, and the summer interns talked a bit about what they did over the summer. The president sent out an email earlier this week asking for 2 slides for each team. We sent in our 2 slides and talked for our allotted 5 minutes. I think we confused everyone as to what the project involved. The other teams had more slides and more talking. Apparently they didn't get the memo... But it's okay since we're giving a longer presentation on just our project tonight (Thursday).After the meeting, we stayed in Y2E2 and worked on that presentation and other ESW stuff until midnight. I was really tired by 9pm but we managed to finish the presentation. I should make sure everything works beforehand...

ESW national conference next week. Going to the midwest. Exciting.... I don't think I have any friends out there so it's much more difficult to find a place to stay. It's no problem finding a place to crash in big cities like SF, Boston, NYC. But Indiana is different story. Not even sure I can identify the place on a map... I really need to travel the US. 

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Getting back into grad school life, sort of

I just spent most of the day relearning undergrad structural analysis. So painful. I don't know why I am taking advanced structural analysis. Never really liked this stuff. I feel like every time I attempt to learn these things, I just keep looking up examples and follow along. Not sure a whole lot of understanding and intuition are coming along. I found out though, that I should have a pretty good background in this stuff because apparently I took pretty good classes back in Cambridge. If I had actually managed to learn that stuff, I would be in really good shape. I'm not sure I did though...

I got the motherboard of my new computer replaced, for the second time in a year. Also got the power cord, usb connections, sound connections, all replaced. The computer decided to freeze every once in a while the past few days. Probably due to a fried motherboard. I was really hoping for a long lasting computer. I suppose I'm putting my warranty to use. I should write down the date that the warranty expires so that I can make sure I get parts replaced if I need them. Apparently you can even ask for things like rubber feets. So I'm thinking I'll need a new screen and probably webcam before this is all over. The LCD screen is missing some pixels from the last technician who came out.

Going to the ESW national conference next week in Purdue. Need to find a place to stay. So if any of my readers have friends in Purdue that I can stay with, let me know! It should be an interesting conference. I think the talks are pretty interesting. I'm very interested in finding out about other projects. I want to know what other people are doing out there.

I was looking at the Human Development Index from Wikipedia earlier. They categorized countries into 4 categories: Very high, high, medium, and low human development. I realized I have spent significant amounts of time in all four categories (well, not so much for the 'high' category but I think that's okay...). I feel really lucky to have had these experiences. I know it's not good to generalize and countries have different regions where the HDI might be very different. But I think, especially for people who live in "very high" areas to grasp the idea of a "developing country" since there is so much variance. The range is very big. Sierra Leone definitely skewed my idea of a "developing country" so I'm definitely glad to have spent some time in West Sumatra where people are much better off. I think even for people who do work in developing countries, it might still be hard for them to imagine life in the "low" category.

The week after the ESW conference, I'm going to a conference in Hollywood. Still need to work out the details for that one but I've already booked the flights. There are so many conferences and seminars out there. I feel like I've managed to discover a lot of professional societies in the past year. Maybe there are more of them out here since there's not only the normal ASCE stuff, there's also a bunch of seismic related organizations. There are overlaps on event advertisement so I don't feel the need to join every single one of these things. But there are a lot of events though. I've also been trying to participate in some geology related things as well. Getting to the point where I'm hesitant to even write down events because I don't actually want to go to all of these things.

Been feeling rushed and busy the past few days. I feel like I haven't had time to do stuff on my own. There area always events (see above paragraph) and meetings to go to. There's just so much stuff happening. Maybe it's just that I haven't gotten into a routine yet. And I haven't started working yet so it feels like I'm waiting for something to happen. Speaking of working, I haven't seriously begun to look into job stuff yet. Definitely feeling like I'm punting on that one. I need to come up with a game plan. I mean, I can start emailing my contacts but I think I should come up with some general strategies and goals first. Maybe later this week...

Saturday, September 25, 2010

First week!

Another epic first week of school. I have to say, this has definitely been one of the weirdest, most jam packed, and exhausting first week of school ever. I guess part of me still feels like I'm somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. There is still a lot of work to do for the ESW project but I didn't quite expect to be doing so much right after getting back to Stanford.

Monday and Tuesday, I went to a lot of classes. Both days ended with doing ESW stuff. I was really conflicted about my classes after Tuesday because I felt like I went to good classes both days. But I decided on classes Wednesday afternoon after talking to some more people about my choices. Usually I do whatever people tell me NOT to do. But I think I'm going to try out this "listening to advice" thing. Might be a good idea. Anyway, classes that I am taking this quarter:

GES 283: Soil Physics
CEE 280: Advance Structural Analysis
GP 160: Intro to Computing in Earth Sciences
Independent study for the ESW project

As you can see, the three classes that I am taking are all in different departments. I'm so glad I chose to go to school in a place where they are flexible about graduation requirements. I mean, I really think you should get a lot of freedom in class choices when you're doing a Masters degree. At this point, you should know what you want to do (to some degree) and tailor your learning to what (you think) you want to do in the future.

I went back home Wednesday night. I woke up Wed morning pretty convinced that I was going to go to some Thursday classes and therefore, unable to make it home. But all my classes are on MWF so I decided to go home Wed afternoon and got to spend mid-autumn festival at home with my family.

Thursday, I spent some time work on more ESW stuff and organizing in general. At night I went to a SFGI awards talk. Most of the topic was over my head but I had seen some of it before through working at Arup. I think I really need to do some studying in the subject of soil dynamics and seismic soil stuff. Seems extremely important for working in a seismic area.

Came back to Stanford Friday morning. Had to get up at 6:45am in order to take BART, MUNI, and Caltrain back. All three public transit systems worked very smoothly since it was rush hour and it didn't feel like I was in transit very long. The Stanford shuttle though, was another story. That thing is so slow. At least all three shuttles were waiting for Caltrain passengers when we got off the train. They were all available and ready to go.

I had class until 11am, went back to my dorm for a little bit, and then went back onto campus again carrying a giant poster. I feel like I'm always dragging weird stuff across campus. After dropping off the poster, I went to stand in the really hot sun for 4 hours, recruiting for Stanford Splash at the undergrad activities fair. Because this is California, the activities fair is outdoors. It was super sunny with no clouds in sight. I got sunburnt.

I was really tired and dehydrated after this and headed off to the CEE grad welcome reception. There was food and friends to catch up with. It was really good. Didn't managed to meet a whole lot of new students though. Oh wells, getting old. And then, I went with Joanna to a IEEE BBQ where we were amazed by the amount of guys in attendance. I guess it shouldn't be a surprise by now but it somehow still is. Then, I went home to my roommate's birthday party where I tried really hard to stay awake because I was super tired by that point. People went off to the Rains Welcome Back party afterwards but I couldn't get myself to go outside again and went to sleep instead.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Random Experiences in SF

It hasn't been a week of classes yet and I'm already feeling sleep deprived. Luckily, I am sitting at home in Oakland right now and caught up on sleep. I thought I'd catch up on some blog writing as well.

I spent last Friday afternoon in SF with Erika, Javi, and Mike. Erika was on her way to camping in Yosemite and decided to spend a few days in SF as well. That afternoon was definitely a memorable experience. So much random-ness. By the time I met up with her, it was late afternoon, nearly time for Javi to get off of work.

Erika wanted to go to the Presidio but it's a bit far and I didn't think there would be very much to do there. So we went to Japantown instead. I have only been there once before and didn't get a chance to walk around. We walked around in the shopping areas, gawking at the extremely expensive prices. Who would pay $15 for a pencil?!

We made Javi meet us in Japantown so that we can head to a food truck festival that Javi found out about. We were walking to the bus stop when we literally ran into a couple of people who were looking confused at a sign. The sign was advertising for an event that was happening inside the glass doors of the building. The couple told us that the event was free but "no what they thought it was going to be" because there was music and alcohol inside. I think all I heard was "free" and at this point Javi spotted the cupcakes. There were 5 or 6 layers of mini-cupcakes and he really wanted some. So we walked in, pass the people who were trying to get us to register, and went up to the cupcakes table. There were a lot awkward people milling around, not sure if they are supposed to eat the cupcakes. Erika grabbed a plate and started to take the cupcakes and other pastries. So naturally, everyone else started eating too. Only takes one person to initiate these things, I guess. All the pastries were really, really good.

We went upstairs to check out the rest of the building. We really had no clue what was going on at this point. We hung out a bit on the stairwell of the 3rd floor because we wanted to check out the store but they didn't allow food inside. Once we got inside though, we found a very strange store. The employees were dressed up like anime characters and they carried very eccentric looking clothing. This store has no store front and you really won't know about its existence unless you entered from downstairs and made your way up these backstairs. We were wondering how this store gets its business when we realized that their customers must do all their clothes shopping at that store. (The other customers were dressed as goth and other related things.)

We went back down stairs to find free alcohol sampling and even more food. There were noodles, kimchi watermelon, and egg rolls. There was a long line for registration and we had no reason to register but then I spotted the Pocky sticks in the goodie bags. So we got in line and got handed a bag of random stuff include a stress ball, two CDs, some flyers, a bottle of Red Bull, and a bottle opener. We ate more cupcakes and head out after stuffing ourselves. Extremely random and awkward event. I don't think anyone knew what they were supposed to be doing at this event. There was even dance music playing in the background. We saw the flyer for the event but it was really not helpful.

We finally headed out to meet up with Mike, who was coming from Berkeley to meet us for dinner. Erika and Mike wanted Afghan food so they picked a place to meet up. Javi and I tagged along, not knowing what to expect. We finally got to the place and Mike already got a table. He greeted us with "omg Erika, this is just like the place in Cambridge!" Apparently both of them love this Afghan place in East Cambridge ( They spent some time being really amazed that they were able to find the exact same place in SF, across the country. The menu, the decor, even the cups were exactly the same. We found out from the waitress that this was indeed the same place.

We ordered food and a pumpkin appetizer. They served the appetizer with bread and three sauces. I saw staring at these three sauces and had a strange feeling I saw them before. I dug into the candied pumpkin appetizer and definitely had a deja vu moment. Mike was saying something about the Cambridge place being close to the Galleria and I suddenly remembered going to a restaurant with Mahalia, Stella, and John O. I realized I had also been to the place in Cambridge! Such a strange evening. The food was really good. I ordered the first thing on the menu and I thought that was much better than what I had ordered back in Cambridge. I have a feeling I'll be back at this place sometime soon because I told Mahalia and now she's really interested in going.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Autumn Quarter 2010

Another school year is about to start! I suppose I should have spent some time cleaning up my bike so that I can use it tomorrow... Er... maybe I'll do that tomorrow morning? I've been so busy lately. That workshop really took up a lot of time. And now I'm working on a poster for ESW. There are a few things I have been meaning to write about but haven't had the time.

I did managed to go grocery shopping this morning though. Got a lot of food. Vegetables are so much cheaper than meat. I feel like I should be buying so much more veggies. I guess this is a good thing. Really enjoy making food and deciding what I want to eat. I mean, free food from BBQs and such is good and all, but it's just not the same. I think my cooking is better. ha!

Got a chance to do some running lately. Found a small dirt trail that goes through some neighborhoods west of campus. It's really nice! I want to do that again sometime. But I have to go slightly uphill, clockwise on Campus Drive to get there though. I've done so many counterclockwise runs on Campus Dr that running the other way seems weird. It is really nice to get a change of scenery though. I think this is very important. With old routes, you know what to expect and are tempted to stop because you know how much longer the path goes on. With new routes, the uncertainty keeps me going. I don't want to stop in case I get stuck in the middle of nowhere. 4 weeks until the half marathon! I want to do it in under 2hrs. Need to protein load.

8am class tomorrow! Tomorrow is going to be a long day. I think I will need to bring snacks.... Sorry that this post is so lame. I will have more interesting stuff very soon.