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!