Saturday, April 30, 2011

Recap of adventures of the first week

My internet connection at this place is not so good. Not enough bandwidth to use Skype. But I think it's very cheap to use Skype or Google Voice to call HK. So if you would like to call me, my number is listed on the left. Also, I have Monday off.

Just got back from running the local park. This area that I am in right now is actually really nice. There are a lot of families living here and really nice schools nearby. I think property here is really expensive. It would be great to find an affordable place to live here and be able to walk to work. I think this would be very difficult but I'll walk around the neighborhood tomorrow and see if I can find any real estate agencies.

Some tidbits about work. There is a tea lady who serves tea (and coffee) twice a day. She writes down what you want in the morning and afternoon and delivers it to your desk. While this is really awesome, this means, you  don't the coffee break excuse. There is self served coffee and tea throughout the day but do you really need more than 2 cups a day? If you put your lunch in the fridge, she will also microwave it for you. It is ready by lunch time (12:30pm) so there is no lining up for the microwave. It seems like everyone takes lunch at the same time.

I also made an executive decision today to unpack all my clothes. I stacked up my suitcases so that I'm not living out of them anymore. This gives me a lot more room and makes things feel more comfortable. I haven't bothered taking out little things like the clock but at least things aren't a mess anymore. I also bought a small pot today at IKEA so now I can cook.

Joanna came to visit me the first day I got here and left on Wednesday. We did some touristy stuff but it was not nearly enough time to do everything. I'll recap our Tuesday adventures. We went to get me registered for a HK ID in the morning. There was a huge line of people but fortunately, I registered online and that line was much shorter. I had to go through two other people after that to get all my stuff entered into the system. They didn't ask any questions so besides the wait, it wasn't a very painful process. I think the whole thing took about an hour. They issued me a temporary ID and I can pick up the real one in a couple of weeks.

After this, we took the MTR to Lantau Island and rode the cable car. It's a pretty long ride for about $20 per person (round trip). Definitely worth it. We got on the crystal car, which meant that the floor is transparent. There's really not much to see straight downwards so I probably wouldn't bother paying extra for it. There was a promotion where if we paid by Visa, we can get free admission to the special exhibits. I made good use of my Capital One card here. There were two special exhibits and we only went to one about Buddha. It was pretty cool but mostly for kids. Again, wouldn't recommend going unless you have a bunch of kids and want to kill time. You can also get a deal with some bus companies to take the cable car up and a bus back. But it's so far that I think the bus ride would be super long.

The ride was pretty long and we landed in a "village" with some shops. We went into a bubble tea place and got the best bubble tea ever! We were both shocked by the first gulp. It's a Taiwanese place and they have a lot of flavors. We just got the plain one and it was really good. Then we walked up to the big Buddha statue. That's actually the highlight of this place. Before the cable car, I think you would have to hike for a long time to see the Buddha. There are also a lot of hiking trails and camping sites around the area. There was also a sign for a hostel. There are actually a lot of places to go hiking, camping, and backpacking around HK. It would be cool to go backpacking around one of these days. I bet there are places easily accessible by public transportation. I should check this out. But it will be the rainy season soon so probably have to wait a while. I wonder who I can drag with me...

This whole adventure with the cable car took several hours. You can definitely walk around the area for the whole day. It's a very good day trip. On the way back, we went looking for a place that sold candy because Joanna wanted to get some chocolates for her cousins. We were going to meet up with her aunt and uncle for dinner. So we went into the mall at the MTR stop near the cable cars and found that it's an outlet mall! All the stores say outlet on them. So next time someone visits me, I would either send them on this day trip by themselves or go with them but stay at the outlets to check them out. I don't need to go up the cable car again. Maybe with my parents? It's not like they need me to deal with Chinese people though.

After this, we went to meet up with Joanna's aunt and uncle at a really fancy hotel. Her uncle had to go off to have dinner with his business partners so her aunt took us to dinner with some other people. Their driver drove us all to Mong Kok but we circled around for a long time trying to find the place that had been recommended to us. We finally gave up and went into some hot pot place. It was really good. We were stuffed. Apparently you can't drive across the border after a certain hour so we were left on our own after dinner. We went into a store to get me some conditioner and hangers. I managed to buy shampoo instead... We got back and I ironed all my work shirts. I have enough to last me more than two weeks.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Week One

It's Saturday and I'm not at work. I wonder how many other people are at work today. Just curious. I don't think I need to be in since I don't have any deadlines. Right now, I'm just helping other engineers with their projects. I guess I really want to be working on something more permanent and be more involved in a project. I feel like I have no clue what other people are working on. I don't think I've even met half the team yet. There is going to be a big office reorganization in June where they want to give each group their own space. Hopefully I'll get a good seat.

Monday is a holiday. I've been trying to get a list of holidays but I still don't have access to the intranet. I read about the holiday on the company newsletter. This gives me more time to hunt around for apartments. I'm going to see one today that is really far away. I'll see how that goes. Can't hurt to go take a look. Anyway, really need to get my life in order. I still have everything in suitcases and I feel like I can't function properly. More updates to come.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

First Day of Work!

It was not that exciting. In the US offices, you're doing orientation related stuff most of the day. They get everything over with on the first day, which could be information overload. Here, the whole process seems to be slower. I met with HR and we went over my employment contract again. There were some forms for me to fill out. She took a while to explain the two different retirement pension plans that I can join. I swear that we spent a lot of time going over information that isn't very useful. I got handed off to one of the secretaries of my group and she gave me more forms. We didn't do anything about timesheets, marketing, using OvaNet, etc.

It's hard for me to think of my desk as really mine. I've had temporary desks for every internship that it's weird to think that I might actually be using this desk for a while and that I can store stuff here. I think part of it is because my desk was a huge mess when I got there. It had been used as storage for people's project papers. A couple of people came by to claim their stuff when I got there. In the US, IT would set up your computer and phone the day before you arrive so that you can get to work right away. But here, it takes a day for IT to make your account. Luckily, since I asked them to get me my old email back, I was able to sign in with my previous login. The strange thing is that I couldn't get to the intranet. I could see the network drives and go online though. I poke around the network drives and the papers around my desk the rest of the morning because my supervisor was at a meeting.

There are several people on vacation right now so I went out to lunch with 2 other people. We talked about finding housing in HK and they said that if I go further away from the city, I can find bigger places for my budget. They helped me clean out the papers on my desk and then I read some HK geotech guides for the rest of the day. Didn't seem like they were prepared for me coming. Hopefully they will have stuff for me to do tomorrow. Real job, not an intern anymore... So weird...

Monday, April 25, 2011

Adventures and Drama

Crazy adventures for my first full day in HK.. Joanna and I took the MTR to Hong Kong Island and took the Peak Tram to the Peak, the highest point on HK Island. We went early so there was no line for the tram. It was definitely an experience because the tram went up the hill at a 45 degree angle. But it's too pricey to go more than once so for my future guests, I'll just send them up while I take the cheap bus up. hahaha. We got tickets to the Sky Terrace viewing platform, which I'm not sure is worth the price. You can get the same views without going up that platform Anyway, we walked around the area and then came back down the hill. We visited the HK Gardens and found the Tea Museum but they weren't doing tea tasting (or maybe we were just dumb). We took the Star Ferry back to Kowloon and then a double decker bus to Mong Kok. And here's when the real adventure started.

I made an appointment the day before with a real estate agent. This guy is talkative and the first place he took me to was a place that was undergoing renovation. The place has 3 private suites that are one bedrooms. The two that faces the street are one bedrooms, reasonable size. The one in the back could actually be a two bedroom. He then told me prices that were really great deals for those sizes so I said I was interested in the big one in the back. And then as we were going to other places (which were studios instead of one bedrooms), the actual owner called back with a much higher price. We "negotiated" it down to $5,800, which is significantly higher than my highest price of $5K. 

He wanted to close the deal super fast and sat me down at a cafe while he tried to get the brother of the owner to come to sign off the paperwork. Joanna came back from her shopping spree and suggested that I ask my cousin who lives in Mong Kok what he thought. He said that the area is not so great and that it's too expensive. He came back from HK Island really fast and we convinced the agent and the owner to show him the place. He didn't think the agent was doing his job and was trying to rip me off so we ended up walking away from the whole deal. The place didn't have a 24hr security and the street was quiet at night. There wasn't an elevator either but the place was on the 2nd floor. Both we (the customers) and the owner decided after some talking that we were probably not the best match. The agent was really insistent and tried to get me to sign off on a price that the owner didn't agree to. It took us a while for us to shake him off. I think he also called me afterwards. 

Anyway, many lessons learned here. I seriously didn't know that you sign off on a place and move in right away. So I have plenty of time to look for a place to stay. And the most important thing is that I need to bargain harder. I also need to know the market more to figure out if a place is worth the rent. Really glad that I had two people with me who talked me to me about my options and got me away from that agent. I just need to be more careful next time. Good thing I didn't even bring any form of ID with me so he couldn't forge anything. After this we ate dinner and de-stressed.

Joanna and I went back to the Ladies Market and bargained for two suitcases for her. I think we got pretty good deals. I'm not sure I've managed to capture the entire drama here but this is the gist of it. Gotta get some sleep!! I think I only slept about 4 hours last night.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Arrived in Hong Kong!

I'm finally here! That was a truly long flight. I didn't sleep very much and ended up watching 2 movies and nearly the entire Season 7 of House. Good thing the entertainment selection was good. I think my inability to sleep is due to the anticipation of leaving family and friends behind to move to a new country on the other side of the world to start my first job.

Anyway, the flight was pretty smooth. There was no questioning at the border control. The guy just stamped my passport with lots of stamps, stuck another sticker on it, and basically took up another page of my passport. Seriously need to get more pages. He didn't ask a single question. I did a few more things at the airport before heading to the taxi stand and got a taxi to the YWCA. I think I blend in very nicely here. Everyone thinks I'm a local even though I was moving around 3 big pieces of luggage. They just thought that I'm coming back to HK after a long stay overseas. The taxi driver even asked if I remembered what the place (the YWCA) looked like. Good thing I checked out the area on Google street view. We exited the highway right by my workplace.

Here are some pictures (360 view) of the room that I'm staying in for the next month. It's got a kitchen area with all the basics:

Lots of light in this room. There are two ACs on top of the windows. It's a corner room on the 3rd floor. There is a double bed in the middle of the room with a coffe table to one side.

And a desk on the other side. The bathroom is through that door.

Also a TV. That's the front door.

This is a picture of my bed at home when I was packing.


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SFO Airport -- Hong Kong in 13 hours!

At the airport again.. Leaving really soon. It's so surreal. I can't believe this is happening. We got a lot of food today because my cousins, aunt, and grandparents came to see me off. We had a little farewell party. Ben texted me today to say that he wanted to visit before I left. He came by after work and stayed until we left for the airport. Just as we were leaving, Helia and Xiaoyu called to say that they were at the airport already. They had said that they wanted to see me off at the airport. I felt kind of bad because they had to wait half an hour at the airport for me to arrive. They event got me a little keychain leopard and a doggy travel pillow. I've always wanted one of these travel pillows. They're so sweet.

The security check in line was weird. One of the lines was really long and the other was really short. So I snuck over to the line that was really short. I don't know why other people didn't do this. Really boggles my mind. I guess I should practice being Chinese anyway. The check-in lady at the Cathay Pacific counter asked off-handedly if I had HK passport/ID. Let's see how long it takes people before they realize that I'm not from HK. haha. I think I'll put a 1HKD coin in a jar every time someone asks me where I'm from.

I don't have any real plans for the first day. Maybe I'll meet up with some relatives. We'll see how it goes. I should avoid sleeping. Joanna will join me at the YWCA for a few days. She's getting to HK Sunday night though.

Another adventure ahead. Stay tuned. I think I need to come up with new labels for this blog.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Leaving the US

This month has gone by fast! Leaving for the airport in a few hours. I'm pretty much all packed. I'm sure I'll remember something else. I feel like I haven't packed very practically this time around. Usually I would bring more things that I would need right away so that I'm not out hunting for essentials as soon as I get there. But I guess it's different this time since I'll be there for a longer term. Anyway, I'm sure I'll be fine.

I've updated the "Where is Lucy" column on the left with my Hong Kong cell phone number, in case anyone wants to call me. I'll probably be updating a lot once I get there. Hopefully the internet in my room is good. I think I will have plenty to do the first few days but I feel like I'm just waiting for the first day of work. That's why I decided to move to HK in the first place, for work. I'm not sure I know what to expect. Not sure I should be having expectations... Anyway, it'll be an interesting experience.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


**Sob** Packing is so hard!! I've done a lot of traveling (and therefore, packing) but it's always for some definite amount of time and with some purpose. I'm usually a pretty light traveler.  But packing for some indefinite amount of time is so difficult. There's so much I want to bring. Good thing I shipped that box of books yesterday because there would be no way I can fit them into my luggage. And even with 3 suitcases, it's hard. Most of it is clothes and shoes. Shoes take up a lot of room. I would never pack so many pairs of shoes if I was just going somewhere for a few months.

Right now two of my suitcases are at 40lbs and another one is at 50lbs. So I can still stuff some more things in there. This is good since I keep remembering that I have more things I want to bring. I probably won't fully unpack for the first month either. Can't wait to find my future apartment.

I think I'm getting better from my cold but I'm still not feeling too well. Had to keep taking naps throughout the day. Blargg.. Some of my friends want to meet up but I really don't feel like going out. Oh wells, I think I'll see them in June. I think it will be good to come back in June and re-assess what I need and what I don't need. I can bring more stuff over as well. So I should really book that ticket soon.

I think Snowball is sad. He took one sniff at the suitcases this morning and went hiding under my parents' bed. Didn't see him all day until Grandma came to visit.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

sick... and leaving soon

Argh, I hate being sick. I don't know why but this is the second time I'm sick since coming back home. I got sick Saturday afternoon. I think I"m a lot better now but still feeling lightheaded today. Which is unfortunate because I had to cancel 2 things.

Went to the SF office today with a box of books and dropped it off with the geotech admin who will help me ship it. She's so nice. I don't know what their group would be like if she leaves. I bet it would feel totally different. They took me out to lunch. I was kind of out of it because I wasn't feeling well. Ack.. I think I will miss this group.

I have a feeling that the first couple of months in HK will be rough and I will be missing the US a lot. This always happens. There's always a period of "what the heck am I doing here?? why didn't I just stay where I was so comfortable?!" Hopefully that period won't last very long and I can get settled in. I guess I won't feel like I'm settled until I find my apartment and furnish it. Anyway, it's so surreal. I can't believe I'm going to start a real job AND moving to a different country at the same time.

I hope I get lots of visitors. It'll be fun. They'll be my excuse to go do touristy stuff. I hope my visitors come prepared about what they want to see. I'll just accompany them. haha. Hopefully they won't all come at the same time though (the summer).

Anyway, need to do some heavy-duty packing starting tonight or tomorrow. Have't packed anything yet... Hm...

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Updates... friends and more shopping

Just got the confirmation for my flight! I can't believe this is actually happening...

I went running on Friday, after a very long hiatus. I managed to jog for about 5 minutes before feeling exhausted. I think I ran a little over a mile total. Didn't managed to run around the entire lake. So lame. And I was a bit sore on Saturday.

A friend from Stanford came to visit on Saturday. We went to Chinatown for lunch and then walked around Jack London Square. There's really not too much to do around Oakland. We played with the Wii at my house for a little while before he headed back to Stanford. It was nice of him to drive all the way out here.

He poked around at all the pictures around my house and was really surprised to see the picture of me with my hair straight. My parents got a 8.5"x11" photo of my graduation picture. I had my hair straightened back then and I remembered having really good hair that day. I haven't gotten it straightened since then. My hair became all wavy and curly again the summer after I graduated MIT. My friend said that I should totally invest the time and money into straightening my hair. And then he mumbled something about Stanford guys. I think he was trying to say that this is why I didn't managed to pick up any guys at Stanford. Hm.... my parents have been nagging me about finding a boyfriend.

We went to dinner with one of my dad's long time friends and he asked what would happened if I find someone in HK and he somehow cannot/not willing to move back here. I was like, "why would I find someone like that??" My friend who came to visit earlier that day said that I should advertise the fact that I can get my spouse (almost) instant citizenship.

I went shopping AGAIN today, this time with my family. We went to the outlets at Vacaville. So funny, since X and Y went shopping at the outlets near Boston today as well. They even called me in the middle of it. I got another suit jacket and cardigan at Ann Taylor, 2 shirts at Banana Republic ($12 each!), a pair of Levi jeans, and a belt. We didn't make it to the Columbia store or else I might have been able to get all the waterproof things that I need. Oh wells. I think everyone else did pretty well in their shopping as well. I think I am now comfortable with the number of shirts that I have.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


I've been doing some massive shopping lately. Lena and I went to an outlet mall in San Leandro today. I never knew this existed. I guess I wasn't very into shopping during high school so I really don't know much about the shopping options around here. We went to a Gap outlet, Nordstrom Rack, and an Ann Taylor Factory store.

At the Nordstrom Rack, I got 1 long sleeved black button up shirt, one pair of black pants, a brown fleece, and a pair of Timberland work boots. It took a while to get the right size for the boots. But I'm very happy with the purchase because I've been meaning to get another pair of work boots. The pair that I have has steel toes but is a little too big for me. This pair does not have steel toes but actually I think that other countries are not as crazy about mandating steel toes on job sites.

There is currently a 40% off sale at all Ann Taylor stores. This is very good because we were at a factory store and things are already discounted. So I finally bought a full suit! I even got some button up shirts because they are reasonably priced with all the discounts. Very happy with all the purchases. It was certainly a very efficient morning in terms of spending money! hahaha.

I have been meaning to go to the North Face outlet in Berkeley for some waterproof stuff, namely pants. I think I will need some waterproof stuff in HK when it starts raining a lot. I think I'll convince my parents to take me this Sunday.

I also need to start packing! I only have about a week left before I fly out! I can't believe how fast the time as gone. I haven't even run around Lake Merritt since I moved back home. I think I need to start exercising because I feel sluggish these days. I will need lots of energy during the first couple of weeks in HK. So I should really get into shape.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Boston Trip - Part 2

Only 1.5 weeks (9 days) until I leave for Hong Kong! Hm... I think I need to start packing this weekend. Let me finish writing about Boston though.

Sunday was a day where the forces worked against us. Started the day off with organizing a huge pile of state quarters. I stopped caring about these things after sophomore year or so. I think the combination of going abroad and using plastic for most things made it so that I had less contact with quarters. I do have a collection of international coins sitting in my piggy bank though so maybe one of these days I'll start a more serious collection.

We had brunch with Grace at the Canteen and talked about random stuff. At the end of it, she mentioned that she's training for a marathon. Maybe I should get back into this running thing. I definitely need to start working out more. I feel so sluggish these days.

Yalu and I had planned on going to the MIT 150 convocation. We decided that it would be okay to get there a little bit late but then the bus got stuck in traffic going over the bridge. We arrived at the Hynes Convention Center and found out from the security guard that the event is actually held at the Boston Convention center. I didn't know they were different things. We checked out the location of the Boston Convention center and agreed that it was too far away. I think the closest T stop would be the World Trade Center on the Silver Line. We had planned to meet up with some friends there but this obviously failed to happen. So we decided to look around the Zara on Newbury street. I was kind of tired and wasn't in the mood for serious shopping. So we ended up just going back to Yalu's place.

Dinner was another adventure. We decided to meet Xiumin and Helen for dinner. We wanted to pick a place where Yalu's dining miles would be accepted. After much debate, we finally found one. Again, the bus schedule was being weird so we ended up getting there half an hour before the scheduled time. It was fortunate that we did because we found out that the restaurant was holding a private party. So we ended up going to Royal East and made some last minute changes to the plan. I think I'm starting to figure out differences in Chinese cuisines. The places that my parents go to in Oakland are very Cantonese. The dinner menus are significantly different from some other Chinese places like Royal East. It's appalling to think that people lump everything into "Chinese food."

Monday. I didn't do too much in the morning. I felt really tired in the morning. I don't think I got over the jetlag during my stay. I alternated between checked email, read my book, and napped all morning. I was supposed to meet a friend for lunch but she didn't bring her cell phone so we didn't managed to meet up. I ended up wandering around Chinatown and picked up some snacks and lunch. On my way back, I stopped by the Galleria again and used my $50 gift certificate for BR.

Logan airport is nicely equipped with free wifi and lots of power outlets. The flight was okay. My TV had a connection problem and stopped working at some point. I didn't mind though because I had my Kobo to keep my occupied. And cable TV means too many choices. I usually just watch the Food Channel anyway. I really don't like flying. It's so uncomfortable. I should look into getting upgrades but that still doesn't make it any more comfortable when there is turbulence... Anyway, I've started this year off with lots of flying.

All in all, it was a good trip. It was really nice to see friends again. I actually didn't spend very much time on campus. It's still pretty much the same. It was CPW anyway and the pre-frosh are getting younger and younger!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Boston Trip - Part 1

Sitting at Logan airport once again. I'm making use of the free wifi to blog about this trip. I was kind of tired the whole trip so I didn't bother with blogging. It was a good visit though.

Thursday. I felt the effects of the motion sickness pill nearly the entire day. I went out for a walk in the morning around Harvard and found a good tea place to read. I went to Tealux and got one of their seven chai teas. I've been really interested in chai teas lately. I got a bag of chai tea at a tea place in SF but I found it to have too much ginger. The one I got at Tealux is supposed to have a lot more cinnamon. I think it was too strong. I also got a can of masala chai at Peets. It's okay. Not too spicy one way or the other. I wish I could have tried all of Tealux's chai teas.

I met up with a friend at the Japanese noodle shops in Porter Square. I would have never found these places if I didn't have an address. It looked like a university on the outside. We had ramen and it was okay. I think the ramen I had in Mountain View was better.

Friday. I met up with Greg R. in the morning at MIT. He's on an east coast trip and was also in town so we hung out for the day. We wandered around the campus for a little bit, failing to find the alumni center (they moved!). We decided to walk through the Back Bay and explore Boston. As we got near the Commons, Yalu called and said that she has time for lunch. So we had an adventure trying to walk to where she works. We got super lost and had to call her back several times. I think I could have been a more enthusiastic tour guide. I wasn't really into the tour-giving mode. We got some Vietnamese sandwiches in Chinatown before meeting Yalu at her workplace. We even got a tour of her office! Finally saw where she's working. Very cute corner.

Greg and I spent the rest of the day walking the Freedom Trail. We went on a tour of the USS Constitution but didn't make it to Bunker Hill in time to climb the thing . It got really cold and I was super tired by the end of it. I wouldn't have climbed anywhere. We then went back to Quincy Market to have dinner with Yalu and Mike. Massive planning involved in the this one. Yalu and I managed to do some shopping before and after dinner. I got a pair of pants. One of the goals of this trip was to do some work clothes shopping. No sales tax on clothes in MA! Yalu and Mike made me play Starcraft that night. We played 2 games.

Saturday was a massive shopping day. We started the day with brunching with another friend. We headed to the Cambridgeside Galleria right after and went straight to the shoes section at Sears. There was a sale on shoes so things were pretty cheap. We ended up buying 2 pairs of matching shoes. We bought 5 pairs of shoes between the two of us. I think  I only spent about $35. Then X joined us and we went through the rest of the mall. Shopping is really tiring. This is why there are food courts because they are necessary for refueling. After this, Yalu and Mike went off to play tennis at the Cambridge library and I took the bus to MIT to meet up with Ivy. I went to her room in Baker and we just chatted for over an hour. She seems to be doing really well. Very well adjusted to life at MIT, in the middle of the love-hate relationship with the school, feeling old by all the pre-frosh milling about because it's CPW, and just doing really well in general. I'm really glad I decided to stop by. Really wish more people from Oakland High would apply to MIT and keep a steady flow of OHS students to MIT.

Almost time for boarding so I'll finish writing tomorrow.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Arrived in Boston

My flight was delayed by an hour. The flight coming in was late. I kept myself occupied with reading so I didn't mind. Shortly after take-off though, we ran into some turbulence (mountain winds?) and it was really uncomfortable for a while. The plane wasn't shaking but the air that it was going through didn't feel smooth. Anyway, I was feeling really sick and managed to get a motion sickness pill out of my bag. I didn't take it before the flight because I didn't want to be drowsy. I didn't think I would manage to bend down to get it from my bag - that's how bad it was. I passed out after taking the pill and it was much better when I woke up, both the plane and myself.

I think I'm still feeling the effects of the motion sickness pill though. I should have just taken half a pill. I really need to get outside and get some caffeinated beverage in my system.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Boston for the next few days

Going back to Boston since graduating in June 2009. Taking a mid-day flight. I've always taken a red-eye flight going east because I lose hours going that way and I'm usually trying to save time. But red-eyes are very exhausting flight so I decided to avoid that flight and instead fly during the day. I think it will be a more comfortable flight. I can read and watch TV without having to worry about the lost of sleep.

I'm at the SFO International terminal because that's where Jetblue flies out of. Just saw an Asiana flight take off to Seoul. I found out recently that they are a Korean airline. And now there announcements for a Cathy Pacific flight for Hong Kong. It's too bad that Singapore Airlines and Cathy Pacific are not with the same airline alliance. I'm beginning to think that I should bank more miles with Cathy because they have a lot more flights out of HK. I've been trying to make a list of direct flights from Hong Kong and which airline flies where. I should really get enough miles with some alliance so that I can take advantage of these lounges. They seem like a great way to be pampered and get freshened up after long flights.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Random updates: kobo, seaonc, furniture

Just read this article about eBook devices infiltrating book clubs. I've never participated in a book club. I don't think I can handle being in one and talking about how a passage feels to me. I'm the type of person who goes for the whole picture. I don't spend time remembering and reflecting over the details. I read pretty fast but I definitely don't remember everything I read. Anyway, at one point in this article, someone talks about smelling the print and touching the yellow pages. One of the problems that I always had with old paperbacks is that they make me sneeze and my eyes itch when they are too old. I literally have to go outside and air out the book. Even then, I have to hold them at arm's length. Maybe I should have just gotten a newer copy.

My Kobo crashed last night and I had to reset the thing to get it to open library books. So annoying. It's a bug apparently and they haven't fixed it. I guess this is what happens when you for for the cheaper version of things. Sigh... Anyway, it works fine now. I'm halfway through The Girl Who Played with Fire (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard). There was really not much happening during the first part of the book. It was all setting up the story, letting you get to know some people who ended up getting killed later on. But somehow, the author still managed to make it really interesting. Maybe because the audience is already attached to the main character and there is quite a bit of character development during this first part.

I went to a SEAONC dinner meeting today. It was their student night. Last year, they had separate sessions for the Berkeley and Stanford students. This time, they had both. There were a lot less Cal students though. I wonder if it was bad advertisement on their part. They are so much closer. But maybe that's why. It seems like their students all came on their own. Whereas the Stanford students had an organized carpool. I said hi to some familiar faces and met some new people. I got an extra HK sim card from a friend so now my visitors can use it to call me. I have a feeling I'm going to end up with a collection of sim cards and Octopus cards.

I was looking at HK furniture and home-stuff stores yesterday. I'm pretty excited to go shopping for furniture and appliances. I realized that if I really have to supply everything (as in, my place is just a room), the budget can get pretty tight. Here's it's pretty standard that even an unfurnished apartment will come with a fridge, stove, and oven. But there's no guarantee of such things over there. It might literally just be a room. I hope I manage to find a place to live with some overlap with my hotel. That way, I can shop for furniture, have it all delivered, assemble things, and then move in. Having to sleep on the floor next to unassembled furniture is definitely not ideal. I've already looked up names and addresses of furniture and homeware stores and have a plan of attack. Looking forward to making some big purchases.

Monday, April 4, 2011

New Credit Card

I started feeling a bit sick Saturday afternoon. I think I'm better now but still feeling a bit unwell. Hopefully I'll get better before going to Boston. Boston seems cold... I've booked a afternoon/evening flight to Boston instead of a red-eye. So I'll be sitting on the plane for 5-6 hours and awake. Good thing I have a Kobo now. I can definitely keep myself entertained. I've been looking forward to having some time to just read. I do wish that the Kobo had a note taking feature like the Kindle. Oh wells... I guess this is what happens when you go for the cheaper version of things. I still like the fact that I managed to get 2 Kobos for less than the price of one Kindle.

I finally decided on a new credit card last night. I was going back and forth on whether I wanted a cash rewards card or miles. Then I finally realized that what I need is a card with no foreign transaction fees. This limited my search quite a bit. I finally decided on 3 criteria, which I posted on facebook:

  1. 0% foreign transaction fee
  2. No annual fees (ever)
  3. And a Visa or MasterCard
I got some suggestions but no one seemed to be able to find me a card that satisfied all the requirements. I'm beginning to think that most people don't read the fine line very well. I remembered when I applied for my very first credit card, I actually did  quite a bit of comparisons to find the best rates. I managed to find a card that had really low APR rates but I guess those don't really matter if you plan on paying off your balance every month. And that first credit card only had a limit of $250. I cancelled this after a few months. 

The card I ended up getting this time is the Capital One Venture card. This is a card that gets me miles that I can redeem with different airlines. I think this is probably smarter than getting a card with a particular airline. Anyway, we'll see how well it works in terms of getting me rewards. I also spent some time putting a picture of Snowball on my credit card. I hope that will turn out well and that I won't be embarrassed every time I have to use it...

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Post graduation life updates

Post graduation life is not as relaxing as I would like it to be. I feel like I always have a long to-do list, like the one I published on my previous post.

Friday was a busy day for me. I went to a seminar at Berkeley hosted by the student chapter of the Deep Foundations Institute. The talks were aimed at students so I understood most things. But some of the talks were so general that I didn't feel like I got very much out of them. Not as many people attended as they had planned for though. Could be because they didn't send out a reminder email. I met the boss of one of my friends from Stanford. It's funny because the last time we talked, he had just met my former boss. Small world. I met up with a friend from MIT and we updated each other about our lives. Turns out, he's been doing research with a professor at the City University of HK, the university that is right next to my office. He might come for a couple of weeks this summer. We can hang out everyday! Then I went with another friend to the Oakland Art Murmur. It was interesting. I wish I had more appreciation for art. I want to learn to sketch better and faster. That was one of the things they were trying to teach us at the summer thing. That it's necessary to be know how to sketch basic objects very fast and use that ability to come up with a storyboard or as a first design for a product. I should start a sketchbook. I saw this book Cartooning: Philosophy and Practice at a small bookstore in Berkeley.

Turns out more of my peers invest in stocks than I realized. With these online discount brokers, you can get started even with a small amount of capital. And people seem to be doing pretty well. It takes time and effort but probably worth it if you're getting 10-20% from these investments. I also realized that living in HK would make it very convenient for me to do trades. The market is opened from 9:30am-4pm Eastern time. And since HK has either a 11 or 12 hours difference, I can do trades when I get home from work. A friend of mine pointed out that this would be like a second job! haha.

I've lost some of the productivity that I had the first week I got into this though. Mainly because I've been helping my brother with a scholarship application. That kid needs to do his own work! Too dependent on getting help from other people.

I haven't made much progress into looking at Chinese philosophy. I think I need something that sends me a daily zen quote. Or one of those desktop calendars that has a daily Confucius quote. Then I can think about the quote throughout the day. It's too much to read an entire book. I feel like I can't absorb so much at once.

Currently reading SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance. It's got some very interesting stuff, like the first book. I can't tell you what the first book was about though since it had such a big mix of topics. I think I've filed all that knowledge into different areas and don't associate them with one book anymore. I think the same thing will happen with this book. The topics don't relate well to each other. I draw a blank when I try to recall what the first book was about. It's entertaining though.

I have also just finished reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and downloaded The Girl Who Played with Fire (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard). Very entertaining series. I was hesitant at first because they are translated from Swedish. But they're very good. Reads very well. The first book had a murder mystery that involved this huge cast of characters. But the book did a pretty good job of introducing them and giving them unique personalities. I really don't like it when I can't tell characters apart.