Tuesday, March 29, 2011

To Do List

If anyone would like to help me with my to-do list, let me know!

- Scan relevant course notes and homeworks so that I can access them in HK.
- Ship books to HK.
- Go clothes shopping. I need more work clothes and jeans. My jeans are very old.

- Find a US bank that has free incoming international wires
- Find a HK bank that has free outgoing international wires (do these exists??)
- Consolidate my bank accounts
- Open a Visa or MasterCard credit card

- Figure out an investment strategy
-- General personal finance advice is welcome
- Read the investing books that I borrowed

- Pack for Boston trip
- Schedule lunches and dinners with people

- Pack for Hong Kong!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Some updates

Snowball sits on the chair next to my door every morning waiting for me to wake up. So cute. That also happens to be my mom's chair. She's always surprised whenever she comes back and finds Snowball on our kitchen chairs. But I think he does this pretty often.

I've made some headway in reading investment books. I think I'm starting to have an idea of what to look for when comparing company reports. Have to put this to the test though. So much to learn! There are so many online brokers, a ton of different opinions and advice out there. And then there's the question of where to invest. Should I invest in HK or in the US? It depends on which tax system gives me the best benefits. So much activation energy needed to get this newest hobby going.

I've started scanning my old homework and notes. It's a long process. Probably would be easier if I had a scanner with a document feeder. I knew I should have bought one like that. Actually the flat bed one I have now is not bad. Scanning black and white documents is pretty fast. It's the stuff written in pencil that is a problem. I have to scan those as color photo and it just takes the machine a long time to scan. Maybe I should start wearing sunglasses while doing this. I don't close the cover for convenience and that light is pretty bright. I'm going to ship a box of books and notes to the office. That should alleviate the weight of the bags that I'm checking in. I can bring more clothes and other junk! haha.

I need to do some more serious clothes shopping. My family went to SF this past weekend mainly because my mom wanted to buy some shoes. But clothes shopping takes a long time and we weren't there for long enough. Anyway, clothes shopping with parents is not fun. I should do some clothes shopping in Boston though. No tax on clothes over there.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Newest Obsessions: Investing Money and Chinese Philosophy

I've picked up two new obsessions since moving back home. I started reading Rich Dad, Poor Dad and felt compelled to do something about my finances. One of the points he makes early on in the book is the difference between assets and liabilities. Assets are things that make you money and adds to your income. With some long term planning and investing, I want to get to a point in my investments where my monthly expenses are being paid for by my investments instead of my every day job.

This is definitely a long-term goal and is easier said than done. But it's definitely something that I want to work towards. I never thought of myself a someone who "manages a portfolio" and invests in the stock market. But now that I start reading about investing in stocks, bonds, and mutual funds, it doesn't seem that difficult. There's a lot of terminology and things you have to know. But I feel like they're things that I should know.

It's not enough to just stick money into these online saving accounts since the interest is so low. I have some loans that I need to pay off and the interest on those are much higher. Which means, unless I find some place that can invest at a higher interest rate than my loans, I should just focus on repaying those loans. Frankly, repaying loans is not that exciting. There's no gain.

Another thing that I want to pursue is Chinese philosophy. I think there are some deep wisdom from Confucius, Menicus, and other people that are worth reading and thinking about. I met someone who is doing a PhD in psychology who is studying how using proverbs in everyday life makes people smarter. She is Nigerian and says that Nigerians tend to speak with a lot of proverbs. Later on, I realize that this is true in Chinese society as well. I just don't know very many proverbs and stories. The difficulty here is that some of the translations are very difficult to read. The original texts were written a long time ago and I am definitely not familiar with that kind of writing style. So I'm starting out with very diluted stuff and hope that I can get something out of them. We'll see how this new hobby goes.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Figuring out finances

I think this chart is saying that I will be eligible to claim the foreign income tax exemption:


So complicated! I still have to budget for paying off state taxes.

I was making a spreadsheet of my cash flow over the next 12 months. I realized last night that I couldn't just dump all my expenses in one sheet. Some things, like loans, need to be paid with my US accounts. And while I know how I will be transferring money from US to HK, I don't have a plan to transfer money the other way. Never had this issue before.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Moved out of Stanford, Back in Oakland

Almost ready for the real world. Very dramatic last few days at Stanford. I will write about them here before moving on to reflecting on these 19 years of schooling, the preparations on moving to Hong Kong, and adjusting to life in the working world. Stay tuned.

On Friday, I had every intention of starting to pack. But I didn't managed to do this because I was copying some important points from a book that I had read. I was also scanning another test prep book for the PE exam. I think I made very good use of all the PE exam books at Stanford. I scanned 10 books and made pdfs of them. Hopefully the quality is good. I didn't check every page as I went along so some of them might not be so great. I might even load them onto my Kobo. I need to take advantage of Stanford's subscriptions before I lose privileges. NYTimes is going to start charging people for reading their news online.

I left my apartment at around 2:30pm and went to Vaden to get some bug spray for Lauren. Apparently, they're sold at the front desk and not at the pharmacy. Strange. Anyway, I got them with no problems and continued on my trek into campus. It was raining a lot. I chatted with Mahalia's ASCE mentee about rammed earth. I think she's more interested in it as a building material in the US more than developing countries. She's at a point where she's trying to figure out what she's really interested in and what she wants to do. It's an exciting stage. You're testing out the waters and wondering if you can actually make a living out of something that you're interested in. Anyway, I have to find some references and send them off to her.

Then I went to a SEG happy hour that was to celebrate both the 2nd years leaving and give the prospective students a chance to get to know the current students. I think it was very well done. A good amount of current and prospective students showed up so there was plenty of mingling. They didn't have this when I was visiting Stanford. I wasn't really in the mood to talk to excited students about my experiences at Stanford. I went around and said goodbyes to people instead.

I went to the bookstore and got a red fleece jacket with Stanford on it. I think it looks nice. It was also on sale so I could afford it. They happened it have it in my size. Not sure I want to be wearing red all the time but I guess it's okay once in a while. I chatted on the phone with Ben about his grad school (PhD) decisions while I shopped for Stanford gear.

Later that night I went to Antonio's Nut House (a dive bar) with Matt, a geologist PhD who I met during my first quarter at Stanford. We worked (cried) through a class that his advisor taught together. Another friend of ours and his two friends joined us there a little bit after we got there. I think I can only process about one drink every 1.5 hours. Not that I usually get a second drink after the first one. Anyway, this bar gets its name from the fact that you can get all the peanuts you want from a caged gorilla and throw the shells on the floor. It's very liberating to be able to just drop the shells without thinking about it. We were there until 1:30am.

Saturday was an entire day of packing. I got boxes out of the closet after eating breakfast. The first couple hours of packing is always easy. There is always an enormous mess made because I am trying to fill three or four boxes at once. But once they start getting filled, I moved them to the living room. Ben and his friend John, drove in from Dublin and wanted to brunch with me. I had some library books to return, papers for the ESW room, and wanted to meet up with my brother who was here as support for his friend competing in MathCounts. So I took this opportunity to do all of that. Maybe I should have warned Ben ahead of time.

Anyway, he was kind enough to drive me on campus so that I can do all of that. We went by the engineering library for me to return books but both the library and the book drop were closed. This is serious failure in the system. The book drop was also very far away from the library itself. There were a couple of people coming out the library (I think they were fixing something) so I made them let me return books inside the library. Then we found my brother eating pizza with his friends, teacher, and school principle. I took his large bag from him. I had Ben carry the bag back to the car while I went to return stuff to the Blume Center. We then drove out to Palo Alto to have brunch at this fancy Italian place. I felt under-dressed in my t-shirt and jeans. haha.

We came back in time to see the last two questions and the awards ceremony for the competition. We looked through the list of participants and Chinese last names dominated the pages. There were a few Indians. The gender balance wasn't too skewed. There were girls among the top 10 and one of the four who qualified to go to the national competition is a girl.

After that, we got back to my apartment and I resumed packing. Ben and John helped me packed most of my kitchen stuff. I would pull them out and they would stuff them into boxes. It was great to have help. I don't know how late I would have had to stay up if I didn't have their help. Mahalia and Oat invited us for dinner. We ended up having 7 people for dinner. I don't think they were expecting to invite so many people, actually. Oopse... I'm going to miss her dinners.

I was so tired that night that I barely noticed having to share a bed with my brother. This kid has gotten big! Got up at around 7am on Sunday and waited for my parents to arrive. Luckily, the rain subsided just as we started to move things out to the cars. It was pouring rain the day before. My parents had two friends visiting and they helped me move my boxes as well. So the moving was actually really fast with everyone working. I vacuumed and did some last minute cleaning. I think I could have done a more thorough job of cleaning but the place really wasn't that dirty to begin with. I'm glad I did a deep cleaning of the kitchen a couple of weeks prior though. I dropped off the keys at the housing office. I don't know why they always tell people that they have to move out by 8am when there is no one at the housing office at 8am. I just put the keys through the key drop off. I doubt there will be anyone checking until Monday morning. So I really don't get why they can't just tell people 5pm on Sunday as a deadline. It would be so much better for everyone involved.

Anyway, the timing wasn't too bad for us. We got back in time to go for dim sum before driving my parents' friends to the airport. I napped a bit in the afternoon and we went out for dinner at night. I think my brother likes my Kobo. He has started to go through The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes on it. I read an article some time ago about kids really liking to read on these eReaders. I'm still finding them restricting in terms of going back and forth. It takes this thing a full second to load the next page after you press the "next page." I feel like the screen is so small that I have to keep my finger on the next button. But I'll probably get used to all the nuisances after a while. It is much lighter than holding a book and you don't have to worry about losing bookmarks. The Kobo comes pre-loaded with 100 classic novels. One of my friends said that this made him want to read the books. I think this is definitely true. I can see myself working my way through all of them. 

Friday, March 18, 2011

Random happenings on a Thursday

I went to a SFGI dinner meeting last night. There were over 100 people at this one. The room was packed! I don't think I've ever been to one that had so many people. Surprisingly, there were a lot of people I knew at this one. It was very nice to see these people. I'm so used to telling people that I'm a "Masters student at Stanford" that I didn't even think about it until we sat down at the dinner table and two of my former coworkers from the Arup SF office sat next to me. At that point, I realized I could be saying that I work at Arup. So weird!! 

I went to SF before the meeting. I wanted to go to Levi's and that pair of jeans that I had been thinking about since the last time I went. I ran out of time though because I was looking through Ann Taylor Loft's sale rack. Another goal of mine was to get a Kobo (the eReader from Borders). Last time I was in SF, the Borders in the Westfield Shopping Center had a $20 off for all their eReaders. The Kobo came out to be $80. This is already a good deal since these things typically go for about $130. The Kindle is a bit more expensive than that, especially if you want a bigger screen, wi-fi, etc. As I approached the info desk, one of the sales ladies was putting up a sign that said $40 off for the Kobo! So the purchase was a no-brainer and my total came out to be around $65, including tax. Very cool. The device is charging right now. I'm excited.

I was a bit late meeting a friend of mine who agreed to drive me from his office to the SFGI meeting location. He's on the board so he was supposed to get there early to help set up. Oopse. We still got there early though. On the way back, I got a ride back to Stanford from someone I met at Arup, who lives in San Jose. I think it was out of his way. Guess I'll have to return the favor if he ever comes to Asia for work. heh.

I think I really want to find a one bedroom for my apartment in HK. It will make hosting people a lot easier. It's a big transit hub so I hope I get a lot of visitors. It'll be fun. It would give me an excuse to leave the office at a decent hour, I hope. 

I really need to get going on packing up my room. I get to bring 3 suitcases with me to HK. It's not like I've never done this before but it's still difficult. My parents got my visa via DHL yesterday. Now I gotta go after them about my flight. Doesn't feel real. It never feels real when I'm leaving some place. I've been at Stanford for so long that I can't imagine leaving and now coming back again. Going somewhere else is an adventure. It's always the leaving that gets me. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


I think I'm done. It's kind of surreal. I've turned in my last assignment, fulfilled my TA obligations, picked up previous assignments, just need to return those library books now.

I went to Trader Joes yesterday and got some ground beef to make meatballs with Chinese chives. I will miss this store. The meatballs are turning out okay. I put too much salt and soy sauce though. I didn't managed to put in an egg the first time so it was kind of dry.

I managed to leave the store just as it was pouring rain. It had been sprinkling all day and dried up by the time I got back to my apartment. Of course, I missed the shuttle as I was crossing El Camnio and had to wait in the little bus shelter thing for the next shuttle.

I was looking forward to a night of watching anime and relaxing when I got bombarded with calls and emails about the foundations final the next day. I don't know how I feel about this whole TA thing. I think I need some more time to reflect on it. Maybe I should have written more about it during the process. Thinking in retrospect always makes things better. I think it was a good experience in general. I guess the part that was a bit of a shock to me (probably shouldn't have been) was that people expected me to have answers to their questions. Like I would somehow have some extra insight that they didn't. When in fact, most of the time, I was just as clueless and had to think about the problem on the spot. It was rewarding to be able to answer questions and help students out.

Got up this morning and ran around Campus Drive. Made breakfast of cinnamon toast, meatballs, and masala chai tea that I got from Peets. And was just about to enjoy it with my reading of the morning news when I realized I need to go to Y2E2 for a few things before noon. I poke my head in at the foundations finals as they were getting the test. I went to the bento lunch/crane making event that was held by some Japanese students and had a pretty good lunch. I made some cranes as well. I didn't know whether or not to make the cranes super fast. I think I can, if I wanted to, produce a whole lot of cranes. But I thought I should leave some paper for other people to come by and make them. They were aiming to make 1,000 cranes though so maybe I should have helped out more. You're supposed to donate $1 for every crane. I donated more than I made but a lot more people were donating than making. I suppose it can seem intimating?

After this, I chatted with the instructor for the foundations engineering class. We talked a bit about how the class went and his experiences as a PhD student at Stanford. I feel like I didn't have a very good grasp of what doing a PhD is when I came to grad school. I thought of it as an option but I really had no idea what it entailed. I think I have a much better idea now. And I think if I want to pursue a PhD in the future, I would have a much better idea of what to look for in a program, what I want out of it, etc. It's a complicated process. Not as straight forward as doing undergrad or a Masters.

Had dinner with mshaw at a ramen place. We talked about the nuclear reactors, tsunami, visiting Asia, airports and airlines. I find that I always end up talking about airlines and airports with people who travel a lot. I guess it's a shared interest. The ramen was pretty good. Very oily though. I think most of it is sesame oil. The menu came and there were descriptions of ramen that we didn't understand. Turns out, it was different types of soup and everything else was the same. It was pretty good and at a pretty good price as well. They also had pretty good chili and garlic sauces.

I've written a lot this month! Don't worry, more to come.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Almost there!

Just got done with my presentation. So now all I have left is to make a cash flow spreadsheet for my financial literacy class. Shouldn't be very hard and I'm actually looking forward to doing it since it will be useful to have. Our presentation went pretty well. I was not feeling it during our practice run but I don't think I did badly during the actual presentation. The committee really liked our management plan so that was good. There were lots of questions about our finances but I think we answered those pretty well. I wonder what an actual RFP presentation is like. Must be grueling.

I'm sitting at Blume right now holding my office hours. No real questions so far. There's not a lot of topics on the final and the topics are not very difficult conceptually. I'll stop by the text tomorrow to fulfill my TA obligations. Hand back some homeworks. I feel like I'm basically checked out already!

Yesterday was a really long day. I woke up really tired and went to turn in my earthquake homework. I sat in the Business school library for a while just reading the news on my computer and browsing through some books. Then I had lunch with Shuo at Nexus. I think I should have went back to my room to nap because I felt kind of tired the entire time. I managed to nap before my group meeting at 3:30pm. I thought we would be finished meeting as a group by 5pm but we barely finished in time for my 7pm dinner. I had dinner with Matt T at a Mexican place. He's such a happy guy that it's always a pleasure to see him. I think I'm going to miss Mexican food when I move. That's always the one thing that I miss whenever I go overseas. I should really go visit Mexico and try some authentic stuff. The place we went to had the saucy kind of burritos. There was so much sauce that you can't pick it up and had to use a fork and knife.

I came back and was feeling the food coma. It took two cups of tea and a shower to wake me up. This always happens with Mexican food. Dangerous. I practiced my part of the presentation but didn't feel 100% ready by the time I went to bed. Which is why I was messing up during our practice run. Anyway, 30 minutes is a long presentation. All of our previous ones were 5 minutes so everyone had only 1 minute to speak. After the presentation, we went to the Treehouse for lunch as a group. It was funny since we all had suits on. Getting my share of Mexican food these days.

No dinner plans tonight. Looking forward to a relaxing time in my apartment. I have to assess my food situation, do some cooking, and watch some anime. Maybe I'll start on the packing process.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Last Week at Stanford!

Just finished up a final project for my earthquake class. Now all I have left is:

  • presentation for infrastructure class on Tuesday
  • making a cash flow spreadsheet for financial literacy class, and
  • answering questions about the foundations final
These last few things are really no big deals. I will be all done by Wednesday. This past week has really dragged on. The days just all seemed to mash together. Looking at my last posts, it seems like the last time I wrote about my life was Wednesday/early Thursday.

Last Thursday, I went to my last lecture at Stanford. It really didn't feel very special. I barely recognized it as my last class (for a long while). I had office hours that no one attended so I managed to squeeze in some work. Then I had lunch with Kathy and Mahalia. We talked about Cambridge and other random stuff. They're both staying for PhDs so I guess they'll be here for a while. I was kind of tired the entire time. I went back to my apartment and napped a bit. I was aiming for a 30 min nap but it nearly turned into a 2 hour one. One of my friends called when I was trying to decide whether or not to keep sleeping after an hour.

I attended the last women's perspectives seminar. That seminar has been really interesting. They have had some really good speakers. The general topic this quarter was named after the recent book, "Letters to my younger self." I've been meaning to read that book. Most of the speakers talked about their experiences and how they have made the decisions that they have, what has helped them, etc. This got me thinking, if I could write a letter to my younger self and send it back to the past, what would I write? I thought about this one morning and a usual set of advice came up such as, "treasure your friends, find good mentors, etc." But then I thought, I don't think my younger self would have been very receptive to a list of advice! How was I (or anyone else) supposed to take some generic advice and use them? And I then I thought, actually, the one thing that I would really appreciate hearing from my future self is a confirmation that I am doing the right thing, making the right choices, and that everything will be okay. I'm about to embark on another journey, starting a new chapter in life. Some confirmation that this is the right choice and things will work out, would be invaluable.

After the seminar, I went to dinner with  people who were on my team for the d.school summer session. We had a really nice time eating and chatting at a Thai place that had a really chill atmosphere. Actually, it's a pretty empty place and left us wondering how long they will be in business. It was great to see everyone again. That summer session seemed like a dream to me since I had just gotten back from Indonesia. We never met up to do anything afterwards.

And then I started grading. I found more errors in the textbook. Because I had to double check everything, I only managed to finish grading 5 out of the 8 problems before going to sleep at 2am. I got up the next morning and finished grading. Went to lunch with a friend. And then picked up the take-home final for my finite element class. I sent out some emails related to foundations before starting on my take-home exam.

I think I was over-thinking the problems on that take-home exam. It took me way longer than it should. I had some panic moments when I thought I didn't know how to do half the problems. We had 24 hours to do it and I finished it early Saturday morning. With half of a problem left, I went to brunch with my Rains neighborhood. I came back, finished the exam, and then went to Brunch with the ESW crowd. I came back, double checked my work, and then turned it in. Had a group meeting with my infrastructure group, and came back to start on the earthquake assignment.

I spent all of today (Sunday) working on the assignment and looking for the latest news on the Japan earthquake. More thoughts on the earthquake and tsunami in a later post. There was a sushi study break by AAGSA which featured a ton of sushi. It was great since I have not had the time or energy to cook lately. Rains had its quarterly start-of-finals Krispy Kreme study break at night. I think I should start making a list of foods that I won't be able to find in HK.

Looking forward to a good night's sleep tonight. My sleep hasn't been that great lately. Too much stress. I keep waking up before dawn.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Responsible traveling

An article about responsible spending while traveling. Things don't usually happen so cleanly when you're actually trying to bargain for things but it's a good guide. I would write more about this topic as well but am in the middle of finishing a project.t

Friday, March 11, 2011

Tsunami's impact on the Pacific coast

Tsunami's impact in the SF Bay Area:

Animation of the tsunami waves spreading. Pretty amazing:

Mega Earthquake in Japan

If you haven't heard the news, there has been a Mw 8.9 earthquake in Japan that has caused a tsunami in Sendai. It's about 400 km away from Tokyo. The ground motions seem to be very strong because the hypocenter is very close to surface of the Earth. I never knew that the depth of an earthquake has such a big impact until I started subscribing to USGS updates.

Here's a LA Times article:
I read a Japan Times article that was more detailed but I haven't been able to get back onto Japan Times after that. I think too many people are trying to access it to get the latest information. A lot of the sources I've read have used words like "devastating" but the damage seems pretty contained, except for the coastal areas of Sendai. But Sendai is one of the most prepared communities in the world for tsunamis. The people there evacuated after they got the warning.

Our TA for our earthquake hazard and risk send us an email from Tokyo. He was there for a conference and was at airport security when the earthquake hit. He describe the evacuation from the building, structural engineers coming to check on the building, etc. He's safe but his flight is delayed and now he won't be able to make it back for office hours! He also said that there has been pretty big aftershocks following the big earthquake.

Actually, I have been getting reports from USGS about earthquakes in that region for a couple of days now. There was a Mw 7.2 one on Wednesday. I was getting notifications all day long but I didn't check to see if they were updates about the same earthquake or aftershocks. I think sometimes I check too early for news about these earthquakes. I usually try to check right after I get the notification from USGS. I suppose no one has had time to write about such an event. Maybe I should start a Tweeter account. Might get faster updates.

This is all happening so soon after the latest New Zealand earthquake. The EERI team is currently on the ground in Christchurch assessing damages. I've been getting emails about their preliminary reports and progress with that. At the EERI Annual Conference, they said that they spent 3 years' worth of budget on earthquake assessment trips last year because there were 3 years' worth of earthquakes last year. This year seems like it might be the same.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Tiger Blood

I read an interesting article lately about what it takes to keep cool under pressure:

Apparently, about 10% of the population is born (pre-destined) with the gift of being able to react while under pressure, 10% freaks out, and the rest of us just become sheep-like. But for those of us who are not so fortunate to be born with the ability to think clearly under fire, the article goes onto say that there is hope.

First, there is training: "the most effective single thing we can do is to practice the task under realistic conditions until it becomes second nature".

And then there's your overall outlook in life, "Study after study has shown that people who function well under stress share several core beliefs: They tend to see times of change and uncertainty not as dangerous but as exciting opportunities; they focus on what they can do to improve a stressful situation, rather than growing helpless; and they maintain a sense of commitment to the world around them, instead of withdrawing."

24th Birthday! busy, busy, busy

This is the one day in a year when my facebook (and consequently, my inbox) gets flooded with posts. Actually, it started the day before because of friends from other time zones. I wanted to post this on my actual birthday but it's going to be too late by the time I finish writing. This is partly because: My Hong Kong work visa got approved!!

I've been waiting for news on this for a while now and trying to imagine what would happen if I don't get the visa. I have to say that I didn't get very far into the imagination part. Sometimes I would take a thought pretty far and think out an entire scenario. The scenarios that I take the time to imagine are definitely things that I want to happen and so far, a lot of them have come true.

For example, back in high school, I thought about what I would do if I got accepted to MIT. This was after I had applied and was waiting to hear back from the early decision process. I even thought about which teacher I would go tell first and what would be the most efficient way to tell everyone. Everything happened pretty much the way I thought it would. The only thing that I didn't account for was my friends spreading the news. By the time I made it to some of the classrooms, my teachers and counselors already knew.

This was all to say that I didn't get very far into the scenario where I didn't get the visa and that that was probably a good thing. A lot of people have been asking me about HK and I didn't want to say anything for sure.

Anyway, I guess I should recap these past few days. Such unbelievably long days. Monday started out pretty normal. I had classes and ate lunch with some friends. When I got to my office for office hours though, there was a flood of people wanting to figure out why they were not getting the same answer as the back of the book. I was really hoping to work on a homework but ended up not having any time until after my 7pm class. That homework involves using a finite element program. I can access the program by ssh-ing into one of the shared computers but my computer has been very slow. So I had to go to a computer cluster and use one of those computers. So painful to have to go out again after coming back from a long day.

Tuesday a even longer day. Had a group meeting in the morning for the infrastructure class. And then foundations class. Finished grading the homework for foundations. Went to office hours for my finite element model. Went to foundations class again. Went to the ESW presentations briefly. Got back, showered, and worked on the finite element model until 2am when I finally submitted my presentation.

This morning (Wednesday), I got up and played around with the numbers for the finite element thing some more. Made the presentation. Met up with a friend for lunch. Went to another class. And then went to a talk by Bill Nye (the Science Guy)!! It was supposed to be for Aero/Astro students only but the room was filled with people from all over. The room was so unbelievably packed. I couldn't even save a seat for my friend. Then I attempted to start grading the newest homework for foundations and found another error in the book. You would think that by the time you publish a 7th edition of a book, there would be no errors! And then the 4 hour group meeting for infrastructure class started. Our RFP is due on Thursday so we sat down as a group and read the entire proposal, word for word. We fixed everything and printed it out. I almost caused a fiasco by suggesting that we go to Mitchell to print. I forgot the code to the door (or maybe they changed it). We ran back to Huang and printed it there. Anyway, it's now done. Just need to make the presentation for this class.

So what's left for this quarter? Grading the latest foundations homework by Friday. Then I have a take home exam that will be handed out Friday afternoon and needs to be turned in Saturday afternoon. A long homework/project that is due on Monday. I haven't started on this so I'm worried. A presentation for the infrastructure class. Then I'm pretty much free. I will be holding some office hours for the foundations students. Their final is on Wednesday so I'll stop by there as well. I should also help wrap up the Indonesia project before I leave. And then making sure that I do lunch or dinner with friends!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Haircut, shopping, happy hours - One More Week!!

One more week of classes to go!! I guess it should be crunch time. And therefore, I spent yesterday shopping. haha. I finally had a Friday free so I decided to go up to SF to get a haircut, do some shopping, and go to some happy hours.

I can tell it's time to get a haircut whenever my hair fills clogs the shower. If this happens even if I wash my hair everyday, then it's definitely time for a haircut. I've been trying to find a non-Asian place (i.e. somewhere where they have experience with non-straight hair). But I gave up and went to Chinatown instead. Every other place is super expensive. I really need to find someone Mexican to take me to a Mexican place. They washed my hair and the lady was leisurely cutting my hair until she dried it. And then my hair started getting super poofy and she realized she had to thin out more of it. This is why I usually don't have them wash my hair beforehand.

Then I attempted to go shopping. I walked around a lot of the expensive shops in downtown and didn't really get anything. I ended up going to Ross and picked out a couple of causal blouses. This shopping thing is pretty exhausting. I think I should have either gave myself more time or had a better plan. Anyway, I'll have more time after classes are over.

The primary motivation for going up to SF was to go to the MIT '09 happy hour. It was held at a bar and we got money towards drinks. The place was pretty nice and there were a group of Course 1 people there again. We're a small class but somehow a bunch of us ended up in the Bay Area. Anyway, it was good to see people and meet some new people.

After that, we drove over to Emeryville where a friend of a friend was having a housewarming party. The housewarming party was at one of the condos in the Emeryville marina. At the end of that marina is a Chinese restaurant that my family goes to sometimes. I've always wondered about those condos. It's interesting. The first set of condos is on Captain Dr. The next set is Commodore Dr. And then there's Admiral Dr. So you get higher and higher in rank as you go towards the water. The place we went to was on Commodore Dr (1 bed, 1 bath). It's a pretty nice place. The view of the bay is great.

I went to brunch this morning with a friend from undergrad. We went to a brunch place on California Ave. This makes the second time that I've been to California Ave. I never knew that that street has all these small shops. It's actually very cute. The food was pretty good and we just chatted for a while. It is getting pretty warm out these days.

Then I came back and did laundry and some cleaning before I started grading the latest foundations homework. It's interesting being on the other side. There's really no reason why people couldn't get full credit for this homework. They were even shown how the output should be. But somehow people forget things. I really don't understand. I think this has made me even more aware of details and how much they affect the outcome of something. It's all about how you present your data. If you can't present it in some coherent way, it doesn't matter that your answer was right in the first place.

Busy day tomorrow. I need to go grocery shopping and make some headway on my own homeworks.

Friday, March 4, 2011

An Egalitarian Society

One of the really frustrating things I've found about working with Americans on "development" projects is that they don't realize the prejudices that they bring to a project. One of the things in particular is that they don't understand the difference between an egalitarian society and a hierarchical society. The US tries to be a very egalitarian society where everyone is equal and  you're judged by what you're capable of doing, what you can contribute, instead of where you're from, your background, your parents, etc. It's taboo to talk about "place in society". Just because you're wealthy doesn't (shouldn't) mean anything.

But these are values of our society. They are part of our culture. And I find that a lot of people don't realize this and look down upon hierarchical societies where "class" is very important. And the hierarchies are different. It might be age, profession, parental lineage, wealth, etc. There are places out there where these things matter. And people will not (cannot) do business with you unless they understand your place in society.

This all stems from a discussion during a seminar where we're talking about ways that we can make seismic retrofit of a school into something that the community would want to adopt for themselves. Someone brought up the point of certificates and if we can certify construction workers who are trained to do seismic retrofits and put certificates on buildings that are seismically safe, this would be a great way to spread the idea. But he proceeded this idea with, "I hope that this isn't the case in all of the country." And people laughed when someone (I won't name who), said that these certificates were "silly" but maybe they'll work. This is all coming from people who are very well traveled, lived in different places, worked on different development projects. I just find it shocking that they still don't understand by saying (judging) these things (e.g. certificates) are silly, that they are imposing their own values on another society. It's as if they think that every society is striving to be an egalitarian one.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Office 2010

Finally gave in and bought a copy of Microsoft Office 2010 from the Stanford bookstore. There's some kind of license agreement that Stanford has which lets you buy the Professional Plus version for the price of the normal Home and Student version. Anyway, it's still not cheap. I was using a trial version for a while because this quarter, my team project made it necessary to have at least the 2007 version of Office. I was holding out on buying stuff like this because I doubt I will be using it very much at home. But I think it would still be nice to be able to read documents and work from my own computer. The Office 2000 version that I have is really not compatible. The format gets all messed up. Anyway, hopefully this is a good investment.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

College Cries Foul Over a Copycat - WSJ.com

College Cries Foul Over a Copycat - WSJ.com

Crazy money-making scheme. There's a fake college out there that's using Reed College's name, prestige, photos, and using that to collect admission fees. I don't know how people think they can get away with these things...

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

It's March!

It's March! I'm sitting in the new engineering library. This place opened when the academic year started. The building is a pretty nice addition to Y2E2. I think most students are still figuring out where everything is. I'm sitting on a single person couch with a foot stool against the end of a big bookshelf. I feel like this spot is where people take pictures of college brochures and send them out. If you took a picture of me right now, you would get a picture of a student typing away on her computer in a library with lots of books.

A lot of the furniture here have footstools. It's really nice to be able to put your feet up. I think I prefer that while typing on a laptop.

Got up early today for class. Today is the last Bagel Tuesday so I got half a bagel after class. There used to be Bagel Tuesday every Tuesday but I think they ran out of budget so now it's every other Tuesday. It's not as convenient since it's hard to remember. For the past few weeks, I've been packing a lot of stuff to bring with me so that I can stay on campus all day Mondays and Tuesdays. But I think I'm going to go back to my apartment today for the 3 hour break that I have from noon-3pm. I think I can work much better in my room. My roommate pointed out this morning that she felt like she wasted 3 hours at in our office. She says that if she gets tired at home, she can always nap and then start working again. But in Blume, you're just tired the entire day. I definitely agree. Nap time is very essential! I think there was a PhD comic showing how grad school is like kindergarten.