Friday, February 26, 2010

3 more weeks until vacation!

The second half of the quarter always seems to slow down dramatically. A new quarter would start and then two seconds later, you're like, "huh? it's week 4?? what happened to the first few weeks?" And after week 5 goes by, things just seem to drag on. It's only week 8? I thought we'd be done by now! Anyway, next week is the start of week 8. Two more weeks of classes, then finals, and then we're done.

I got my first paycheck today. I couldn't sign onto my timesheets for the longest time and the HR people helped me enter in my hours so I got a check today. Otherwise, things would've been backed up for a while. Money is always nice I guess. Making a lot more here than with my office job back at MIT. But maybe if I factor in the commute... The commute today wasn't bad though. I managed to get on an express train both ways. I slept in the morning and read a book in the evening. The book I had wasn't very good though. Need to find a better one.

Now that spring break is coming up, I really need to think about summer plans. They've always worked out around (during?) spring break. But the places I really want to go, Indonesia and Africa, I haven't even applied for yet. I think I need to spend a good amount of time on applying to stuff this weekend. Not that the Indonesia application is even out yet... I've applied to a small handful of companies for summer internships. Haven't heard back from any of them. It would also be good to work for a company this summer that I would work for permanently. Now that I've done a ton of internships, it's so strange to think about finding a permanent job. A job with no definite end?? So weird to think about.

I think I have a maximum of 4 homeworks left to turn in this quarter. This will probably (hopefully) shrink to three. And then 3 finals, one of which is basically an extended homework assignment. I'm getting really tired here. Can't think of what to write about anymore...

Typical weekend activities:
- copy notes
- attempt homeworks
- clean room: put away papers, clear out desk, vacuum
- clean bathroom, vaccum living room
- laundry
- go grocery shopping
- make food (this week: make bread for lunch and pack dinner in tupperware)
- take care of other things like credit card bills, checking facebook, etc.
- go running

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Long commutes

Got to the office at 3pm today instead of 2pm. I totally knew this would happen. I had a midterm today that ran over so I couldn't make it to the train station in time. I was hoping the midterm would start on time. But the professor decided to read the midterm to us and then let us work on it. She gave us more time at the end because no one was finished. That midterm was way too long. We were all in shock aftewards. Quite a few people from civil engineering is taking that class so we call converged in Blume and talked about it for a while.

It is now Week 2 of working part-time and all of a sudden I'm on working in 3 projects. I now have a backlog of work to do. I feel like I've moved through the "data entry and helping other people with mundane tasks" phase pretty quickly in this internship and is now working on more open ended projects. By open ended I mean that I have to figure out what's going on, do some calculations, and figure out how to present the stuff. This is a lot more interesting but at the same time more scary than, "graph these things on excel for me" type of projects. I just wish I can sit closer to the group. No clue what other people are doing at all. Can't eavesdrop on other people's discussions. Don't even know who leaves when and such. Maybe I'll get the IT guys to set up a desk for me somewhere. Just commandeer a space!

Gotta go to sleep. Will write more tomorrow or over the weekend. Getting up at 6:30am tomorrow to make it to the office by 8:30. Ack. Well, at least there will be bagels...

Monday, February 22, 2010

Book Recommendation

I think reading something light (as in not homework or papers) makes the time spent commuting on the train much more enjoyable. I picked up a book called, Don't Throw This Away! The Civil Engineering Life, in the library the other day and started reading it on the train. It's a collection of stories from a bridge engineer who worked for PB and now teaches at Tufts. His writing style is very humorous and a lot of what he says is true for people in the civil engineering profession. I think this book started when he wrote an article for PB News and then ASCE about the tendency of civil engineers to never throw anything away because these drafts and scribbles made for a conceptual design project might someday become useful. So funny and so true. I keep everything! I even keep the things I'm about to throw away. I don't empty my paper recycling until the next quarter, just in case! But I also started collecting stamps way before I became an engineer. So here another one of those chicken and the egg questions. Does the profession attract people who are like to collect things or does the profession create people who always have clutter lying around?

Anyway, it's a good book. I would recommend it to all my civil engineering friends. Even those who aren't might still find it funny. I don't know if I would buy the thing though. Not sure if it will actually be useful later in life and thus might not be worth taking up space on that precious bookshelf (the book is very thin).

Sunday, February 21, 2010

New Furniture!

Yesterday, I went to Target and got myself a mirror and a bookshelf. I've been wanting the bookshelf for a while now. And now that I'm going to work, I felt the need for the mirror. So I took the Shopping Express shuttle to the mall and got a full length mirror for $6. So cheap! The mounting tape I got for it was almost as expensive.

I hadn't planned to actually buy a shelf since I thought it might be hard to carry back along with the mirror. But I found this one for $10 and it seemed like it would serve my purposes. It's made with very compressed wood, very cheap stuff. But it's made my room look a lot nicer. No more piles of books on the floor. It came in a box so I had this and the mirror under each arm. It actually wasn't bad at all. This might be the first piece of furniture I've ever bought for myself.

Da Mouse says hi.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Epic Week!

I started writing this on the Caltrain south, back to Palo Alto. I managed to get on the Baby Bullet, which is the “fastest” train available. It makes very limited stops. I’m so glad Palo Alto is one of these stops. Very old train though, bought from Japan in 1985. Very shaky.

I spent last weekend at home. First time home for Chinese New Year in 4 years. It was great. Felt like vacation. I only had 2 things due this week so I didn’t bothered bringing any work home. I wouldn’t have gotten to them anyway. We had a huge feast on Saturday. This concept of being home for the weekend still feels strange. Usually I’m only home during breaks so it really is vacation. So strange to be home in the middle of the quarter.

On Tuesday, I started working. Usually I work Monday and Thursday afternoons and all day on Friday. But Monday was a holiday. They had nearly everything ready for me when I got there. My desk and computer was all set up. The group has an admin. I think it’s because the group manager is a principal. But she’s not his secretary though because she helps the group out with project stuff as well. It’s sooo nice having an admin in the group. There are a ton of admin related things you have to take care of when you start. Last summer, I just asked people in my group and they would direct me to other people. It was such a headache to find the right person to ask things. I’m sitting really far from the group though. Kind of isolated. It’s worse than the start of the summer because I can’t even see the group. I’m around the corner and down the hall. Not a great arrangement. I need to hunt around for space.

There’s a lot more space at this office. I had thought that the New York setup was by design. People here have very low partitions too but they go around 3 sides of the desk and you can’t see your neighbors unless you stand up. And everyone has much more personal space so it’s hard to know what other people are up to. It’s even quieter. In New York, there’s only a partition in front of you. The other two sides are very small and you almost share desk space with the person next to you. It’s great when you’re working on projects together though since you can talk to people without getting up and just dump all the joint project stuff on that desk. Really miss the “talking to people without getting up” part. Oh yeah, the SF office has a dining area. It’s on the floor below me but that’s really nice. Especially for rainy days or when you want to eat together with people but don’t want to go out. And no more having to buzz in after going to the bathroom. That was really annoying. The bathrooms are also much more spacious. The NY office had these really cramped, almost airplane spaced stalls. I didn’t do too much on Tuesday. I did a little bit of stuff and mostly talked to people. Chatted with the group manager for a while. After work, I went to Oakland for a Geo-Institute seminar. They have dinner meetings or seminars every month. This month was PhD student presentations. I was late so I only heard 2.5 presentations. They were good though. I really liked the last presentation, which has to do with liquefaction.

After that, I took BART back over to SF. At this point, I had two choices: (1) take BART all the way to Milbrae and then transfer to Caltrain. or (2) get off at BART at Montgomery and take Caltrain from SF. I chose to go with the second option because I wanted to get food. The problem with this option is that I only had 20 minutes to get from Market St to Caltrain (after buying a sandwich) and it takes around 25 minutes to walk. The next train was in an hour so I ended up running and walking there. Very tiring but I managed to get there in time for the train. Unfortunately, the train hit someone at the San Mateo station. I heard the guy survived but the train was delayed forever on the tracks. We weren't allowed to move so they ended up transferring all the passengers to the next train. And this next train (south-bound) had to go onto the north bound tracks and then switch back over. Such a mess. So what I really should've done was to take my time getting to the Caltrain station and taken the later train instead. I managed to finish the first Sherlock Holmes short story, A Study in Scarlet, and worked on homework while waiting at San Mateo. If we had been any closer to Palo Alto, I would've called someone to come pick me up. But San Mateo is still a 20 min drive so I wouldn't have gotten back any faster.

Wednesday was a lot less epic. I think I was on campus from 11am to 9pm, working on homework. I think this is the first time I stayed on campus for that long this quarter. I've been spending a lot more time studying in my room this quarter.

Thursday I went to work again in the afternoon. I didn't managed to get on the rush-hour express trains. I think I will try to make the express trains from now on. They really are much faster. Although, I should be able to stay late on Thursday since I don't have classes on Fridays. It feels like a waste of time for me to only be in the office for exactly 4 hours. I think I will be able to work full days next quarter. I think that's will be much better.

Friday was a very productive day at work. The SF office only gets bagels on Fridays. No pastries. By the end of summer, I was too lazy to slice open bagels and join the battle for cream cheese, so I got the pastries instead. There's this one pastry that has chocolate swirls in it, really good stuff. But since there's a large dining area in SF, there's no battling for cream cheese involved. All the spreads are laid out on a large table.I think that the paragraph above was meant to be about work.... Anyway, I managed to do a lot of stuff on Friday without very much direction. I think the guy I'm working with is surprised, if not impressed. In actuality, I think most of it is because I'm working for the same company. I mean, they're seeing me as a new intern, meaning, someone who needs a lot of help to get started. But I've done the same sort of things before. I know how the filing system works and can find things on my own. Basically, I'm coming in with a lot more background than they know about. I went out to lunch with some of the people in the group and they paid for me. That was nice.

I caught the express back (where I started writing this entry). I took the Stanford shuttle to Trader Joes and did grocery shopping. Caught another shuttle back. Very efficient process. I didn't go too much out of my way doing this. I got back around 8pm and a friend called to see if I wanted to go for dinner. So I ended up going to a Japanese place in Menlo Park. The food was pretty good. I was exhausted afterwards from the long day and food coma. I watched a couple of episodes of Detective Conan before sleeping.

Need to do a lot of studying this weekend. Last midterm next week. Only 3 more weeks of classes left and then it's finals week!! The quarter went by so fast! I'm pretty sure I learned stuff this quarter but maybe not on the subject as with semesters. This topic of quarters vs semesters warrants its own entry.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Detective Stories!

I just watched a ton of episodes of Detective Conan. So interesting. I've also been reading Sherlock Holmes a lot lately. I don't know why I've never done this before. I used to like Encyclopedia Brown a lot. I think I spent a summer around middle school or so reading all the Encyclopedia Brown books that the library had. It got boring after a while though (or maybe summer ended and I didn't have any more time to read...). But it got to the point where I was able to solve the mysteries too. I remember when my cousin picked up the books and would try to quiz me. I think that really kills the fun. I guess when you first start reading mysteries, you admire the detective and want to be able to solve the mystery too. But then if you manage to solve the mystery, then you don't feel like the writer was clever enough. Be careful what you wish for, I guess.

Just finished a tiring week with 2 midterms. I think the first one went better than I hoped. Can't say the same for the second one. I spent a couple of hours after the exam today eating lunch with a couple of classmates. They went off to work on a class together. I napped and then went grocery shopping. I bought a few pounds worth of vegetables from the Milk Pail and it only came out to less than $7. I didn't buy any diary related stuff, which I guess would've been more expensive, especially at that place. I got diary and meat at Safeway. I think I'm only spending $30-$40 a week on groceries (counting things I have in bulk). My usual grocery bill comes out to be less than $30. I think I could possibly live on $20 a week. $2 a day isn't too far-fetched, I suppose. Eh, this might change when I start getting an income though... You tend to spend more when you have more. It would be nice if I can just save more but you know how it goes, all of a sudden you can afford to pay a couple of extra dollars and get the better product. Extra dollar here, extra dollar there, and you end up with a total you didn't expect! Anyway, I'm glad I have vegetables now though. I also got a couple of blood oranges. The Milk Pail makes me want to buy fruit because they have a ton of variety. Huge selections of apples. Any kind of peaches you want!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

WBR Society Reception

I got my Translink pass in the mail yesterday. I really like this thing. Takes away the hassle of carrying around exact change and dealing with fare machines. This card is like a multi-transit pass. I'm going to be using it on Caltrain, BART, MUNI, and AC Transit. This basically covers getting in and out of Palo Alto, getting around SF and Oakland. You can even load monthly passes onto it. There are a still a few kinks in this thing (since it's still new) but I think it's pretty good overall.

I went out to San Francisco again earlier tonight for a William Barton Rogers reception. The WBR Society is for people who donate a certain amount to MIT. It's actually not a lot of money for current students and people fresh out of school. I had been debating whether or not to go since I have a midterm tomorrow (Friday) and didn't know anyone else who was going. But I think I've done all I can for the midterm tomorrow so I decided to go and see about networking. I thought the Translink card coming in the mail was a sign anyway.

Most people there were older but everyone was pretty social since the event is basically a social. There was some really good finger food. It was held at a common room in a really nice condo complex that looks out onto the Bay and the Bay Bridge. I chatted with some random people and then met Mitra '07, who was one of the MIT admissions bloggers. She remembered me from my high school send-away event. I was impressed. That was a long time ago.

There was a talk by the Smart Cities group who are working on these small cars, scooters, and motorized bikes. It's a group in the Media Lab who've developed these things and are looking to implement them in big cities like Zip Cars. Their ideas sound really awesome. I wish I have one of these motorized bicycles. You can pedal whenever and switch to the motor when you're going uphill. The guy was great and there were some good questions and discussion at the end.

The great thing about being a civil engineer is that you get to tell people things like, "oh yeah, I worked on the xxx project." Everyone thought it was so cool that I had worked on the BART project. And I talked to one guy who was really excited about the MUNI Central Subway project because he lives south of Market and this would let him go north into Chinatown really easily. I can't wait to work on Transbay. That would definitely be a great conversation starter.

Looking forward to finishing my midterm tomorrow. I think I'll go to the gym after that and then grocery shopping. Going home Saturday afternoon. My first day of work is next Tuesday! Now that I'm working in the city, I can go to even more of these events in SF. If they're on the right day, then I can just go after work and wouldn't be making a huge effort to get out of south bay just to attend something.

Midterms: one down!

I survived my multiphase flow midterm! yay. I have been really worried about this midterm because I haven't been doing as well as I would've liked on the homeworks. I was expecting a test where I have to make stuff up because I just have no clue what to do. But it turned out to be not too bad. I guess I should jinx it but I was able to work through all the problems and come up with reasonable answers. Phew, at least now I don't have to worry about failing this class!

Another midterm tomorrow but this one shouldn't be bad. Looking forward to the weekend. I need to do some grocery shopping. Out of vegetables. I ate at the Treehouse twice this week. Really need to get a bread pan so I can make bread and sandwiches. I think I will switch to sandwiches for lunch. At least for Mondays and Thursdays when I have to go to work.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Halfway done with Winter Quarter!

Midterms on Thursday and Friday this week. Civil Engineering career fair tomorrow. Not very many companies but lots of people looking for jobs! Going home on Saturday. Monday is a holiday. I start working next Tuesday. 4 more weeks of classes and then it's finals week! Busy, busy.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Half Marathon Count: 1

I just finished the Kaiser San Francisco Half Marathon today! It was intense. I finished in 2 hrs 20 mins. I was aiming for 2 hrs 10 mins but my knee was not feeling well at the end. But I think this was a good race to start out with. It was relatively flat and a lot of it was actually downhill. Anyway, let me start from the beginning.

I went up to San Francisco on Saturday night. I could not concentrate the entire day on Saturday in anticipation for this. I brought a couple of bananas, granola bars, and nuts with me so I was well prepared. I got up at 6am on Sunday morning and got to the race area at around 7am. The race started at 8am so this was actually just in time. It took a while to walk through the start area to get my sweats checked (they had a pretty nice setup) and use the porta potties (long lines). I lined up pretty far behind the start line since it was really crowded and I didn't think it would be worth it to go fight my way through the crowds. And I wanted to start out slow.

I spent the first two miles warming up at a 10 min mile pace. People were really chatty and there were many groups so it was not bad. The course started near the De Young museum which I had recently heard a presentation from a structural company about. So it was nice to get a chance to see it. But then the course took us on a small loop that came back to the start line and back to the museum. That was a little disappointing because you realized you haven't traversed the length of the Golden Gate Park yet. But there was a lot of change in the scenery as we went along one side of the park, which helped. Not that I paid very much attention. I was just on the lookout for mile markers and water stations!

At miles 6 and 7, I was feeling really great. I had managed to speed up to a less-than-9-minute-mile pace. I had allotted 10 minutes for each mile and at one point, I was 6 minutes ahead of this goal. But then at around mile 8, we hit the Great Highway. Approaching the Great Highway, we saw the ocean and big waves breaking, which was nice. But then for the last 4-5 miles of the race, we had to go down the Great Highway and come back. Which meant that we saw all the runners coming back on the other side. That was really depressing. I think I was well in the middle of "the mob" when we hit this part. There was no shade but a nice breeze from the ocean. And even though we were right next to the ocean, we couldn't see it. So around miles 10 or 11, I started feeling really tired (mostly mental) and started walking. Big mistake. My knees had been doing fine up until then (I was surprised). But as soon as I started walking, my left knee started hurting. I managed to walk/run the last 3 miles but it seemed like it took forever! The finish line was also on top of the only substantial hill in the race. Who thought of that?!!

I managed to run the last 100 meters or so across the finish line. After the finish line, there was a pretty big post-race expo with sponsors handing out drinks and snacks. I got the goodie bag and immediately consumed the mini-Cliff bar. I was really hungry. I was disappointed that they didn't have any bananas or apples. Only snacks from sponsors. I got my bag at the end of this expo and went back for more snacks.

It took me a while to get back to the Caltrain station. I was kind of slow since I was amazingly tired. I was also not feeling so well because I took some joint medicine in order to expedite healing of my knee. But the medicine is supposed to be taken with food and I guess energy bars and nuts don't count. When I finally got back to Market St, I realized I could change and use the bathroom in the SF shopping mall. This was key because I had brought a change of clothes but didn't wanted to change in a porta potty and couldn't find anywhere else to change. It was nice to be in clean clothes and had the chance to wash my face. I really should've used the bathroom that was in the Bloomingdales instead of the food court. I knew that was is much nicer but didn't have the energy to search for it.

On the Caltrain, I set an alarm for myself in case I fell asleep. I even called one of my friends to come pick me up from the train station because taking the shopping express back would've taken a long time. So now I'm recovering. I'm totally wearing the race t-shirt to class tomorrow!

Other tidbits. There were a lot more girls running than guys. I think it's because a lot more women like to run for charities and in groups. It was surprising kind of surprising at first to see all these women coming in groups. The men either came alone or with their girlfriends and wives. We got these tiny sample size bottles of olive oil and vinegar in our goodie bags. It's from STAR, the expensive brand. I thought it was some sort of energy shot at first. But I guess I have olive oil and vinegar next time I make bread... FRS, an energy drink company, that uses this antioxidant called quercetin instead of caffeine was giving out bottles of their drinks. They were giving out their low-calorie version which really bothered me. I mean, after a race, I think we need as much calories as possible!

Anyway, it was a good experience overall. I think I need to build up more muscles if I'm ever going to run a marathon. I think my cardio health is very good. I can also recover very quickly cardio-wise after an uphill stretch. But I don't seem to have very much going in terms of muscles... So now I guess I'm halfway there in terms of achieving my new year's resolution to run a marathon. But now I'm intimidated by the thought of doing a full marathon. I mean it's like doing 2 half-marathons back to back.... hm....

Time to go brag about this! haha.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Part time work

Blogging from one of the few (two) computer clusters that I have access to. This morning was a little depressing. I needed to print something in color for my 10am class and I knew that there was a 9am class at the computer cluster that I always use. So I went out for a run at 8am and ran into campus to get my homework printed. Unfortunately, the color printer was being lame and didn't print my homework. So I ended up printing in black and white. And then not only did it turned out that the TA wasn't there to collect the homework, the professor went over some stuff and I realized I did parts of the homework wrong. So after my next class I went back to fix everything. Not sure if the fixed version is entirely correct either but at least it's better than before. The midterm for this class is next week...

Good news was waiting for me when I got back though. The Arup SF geo team got back to me and the supervisor said that they definitely need help. He forwarded my info to the HR person. So hopefully this means I can start soon! I think I want to start on the week of the 15th. I think I will work around 15-20 hours a week, 3 days a week. This will make me busy but I really liked working at their NY office so hopefully the experience will be the same at the SF office. I think I can learn a lot from them since they're working on so many different projects in different locations. The commute will not be fun though. It'll take about an hour and a half each way total. The train ride is an hour but I have to get to and from the station. I think I will need to bike. Maybe even bike to the office. This means I need to fix my brakes.

Over the past few years, the public transportation systems around here have implemented something called Translink. It's basically a card that you load money into to use on the transit systems. The cool thing is that it works on several different systems. I can use it on Caltrain, BART, AC Transit, to name a few. So as long as I use it on one of these systems, I'll never have to worry about having exact change or waiting in line to buy tickets. I can just tap the card on the reader. You can also preload monthly passes or discount tickets. Very convenient. Every time I go on Caltrain, I always worry about not having enough time to buy the ticket and watch my train go away while I struggle with the machine or wait in line.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

I feel like all my homeworks this week involved a lot of creativity (i.e. fudging). Anyway, I did the best I could. The sad part is that it's not the best I could do under any time constraint. I've been working on these things forever and it doesn't seem like anything else will clear up. I slept pretty late last night (around 3 or 4am). I think around 1 or 2am, something finally clicked and I solved one of the problems for my fluids homework. It turned out to be extremely easy and straight forward. Not sure how I managed to miss it completely for the past few days. So I guess now I can start studying for my two midterms next week....

I went to a SEAONC dinner last night. It was the annual student night for Stanford. We left campus at 3pm and took a tour of Degenkolb's SF office. There was a short social and dinner. I didn't really network as much as I would've liked. I didn't see anyone I knew there, which was disappointing. I was hoping to see some people I knew from PB. It's just that much harder when everyone is structural. I chatted a while with a 3rd year PhD student who is also in the Blume Center. He also took finite element last quarter. Turns out, he worked for two years for Brown and Caldwell before coming to Stanford. He was surprised that I knew about Brown and Caldwell because they do mostly environmental work. That was actually the first engineering consulting/design firm that I interviewed with back in freshman year. haha. Back then I only knew about civil engineering companies related to environmental stuff.

Running a half marathon in SF this Sunday. I can't believe I'm going to do this. I am so out of shape right now. My knee is feeling a lot better nowadays though. But I got extremely out of shape. I "ran" the Dish again today. Took me 50 minutes and was definitely out of breath after going uphill for just a little bit. Anyhow, we get like 3 or 4 hours to finish the course. So I think I'll just go slow and see what happens.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Look on the bright side...

I was complaining to a friend of mine about how I felt out of my depth in my multiphase fluid flow class because most people have better background as a result of me taking a grad class outside my department. He definitely sympathized because he's been taking some grad fluids classes but never had undergrad fluid mechanics. And then he added, "just think of it this way, you have the most to gain." I love optimistic people!