Saturday, December 29, 2012

Tea and coffee

Just picked up a Christmas present sent to me by my cousin today! It's a thermal travel tumbler that comes with a tea infuser. I put it to work right away and it keeps drinks hot really well. I've always thought that these things with the tea infuser on top would mean that you have to pour a large cup of tea. But the instructions say tell you to just turn it upside down. Genius. Anyway, it is at the office right now so I can't take a picture of it. My tea and coffee collection has increased significantly since going home and then recently to Taiwan.

Got some lavender and roses from Taiwan. Got coffee and chai tea from road trip. And also got tea from friends as gifts. I also have some coffee left that i got from Guilin. So I really need to work on this! I think I will bring the heavily caffinated stuff to the office and leave the non caffinated stuff at home.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas up in Taiwan (part 4)

Last day in Taiwan! I got up to a gloomy and sprinkling morning. The plan for the morning was to visit the Longshan Temple and the CKS Memorial. I went to the memorial first which consisted of a lot of open space. So not so good for rain. The memorial itself was under renovation, which gave me a good excuse not to walk over there. The temple was filled with a ton of people so I managed to stay on schedule and got back to the hostel at around 11am. Talked to family for a bit while they were in wrapping presents.

In the afternoon I went in search of food at Yongkai st near the Dongmen mrt station. That is a really nice neighborhood! I had beef noodles at a small shop. It was really good. Lots of beef and freshly made noodles. There are some streets that are full of little coffee shops that looked like a really nice way to spend an afternoon. If it had continued to rain, I think I would have just stayed in one. But it was sunny out so I kept going. It would be really nice to live in a neighborhood like that!

I headed to the Daqiaotou area to find that it started to rain again. The outside of the mrt station was not very impressive either. Big intersection under an overpass. I nearly turned around to go back to those nice coffee shops. I kept going though and found a lot of older shops selling very cheap candy and tea. I picked out two big bags of candy and cookies and some dried rose and lavender. I made it to the harbor area and found a rainbow. This blogger app doesn't do we'll with photos. It doesn't seem like I can insert photos within my text. They just all go to the end. I'll just upload them in order.

The iPad is not a good substitute for a camera. It's too much work to keep taking it in and out. It also does not have flash and just doesn't do well in certain occasions. I should really get another camera.

Then for my last stop, I went all the way out to Tamshui, which is at the end of one of the mrt lines. It took a while to get out there and back. Glad I went though because its also a really nice area with a nice stretch of coast. There were also lots of stalls with food. I ate some fried pigeon eggs on a stick (I think they are pigeon anyway, those little eggs that are spotted?), fried potato on a stick, and have another bubble tea. I didn't make it all the way out to see the fishermans wharf and fort Domingo, which are some of the listed attractions due to the lack of time. I am writing most of this while on the train back to the city center.

All in all, the trip has been pretty interesting. There are definitely more things to explore, just in Taipei itself. I feel like this is a city like HK where there are a lot of hidden corners and interesting neighborhoods. There are definitely more night market foods to try out. Speaking of night markets, I was eating my stash of food on the steps of this temple last night (there were a lot of other people doing the same thing), when I was approached by the temple's cat. It came right up to me and demanded food. I gave it the last piece of my squid.

Looking forward to going on more trips around Asia while I'm still in HK. It's so easy to go places. And HK people travel a lot. There were people speaking Canto everywhere I go here. I assume they are from HK. I think travel restrictions are less stringent now between Taiwan and the Mainland. There were people at my first hostel from Beijing. I think this is really good to promote understanding and exchange between the two places.

Got to the airport and was disappointed that the return flight would be operated by HK Airlines instead of EVA. No hello kitty meals!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas in Taiwan (part 3)

Spent Christmas morning on the train to Taipei. Got to the city at around noon and found my hostel. I booked one right next to the main train station for its location. They were also one of the only ones that were offering single rooms. Turns out my room is quite big but probably because they just don't have very many people.

I got a 2 day metro pass, which may have been unnecessary but it saves on having to think about having enough money for the train. My first stop was Taipei 101. I was worried that the day wouldn't stay so nice. As soon as we went past these mountains on the train, the sky became blue. It was very gray and gloomy in Hualien. The line was not long at the tower but the outdoor part wasn't open due to setting up of fireworks for New Years. The indoor part was okay. The elevator was very impressive though, extremely fast.

I came back to the hostel to move my stuff into my room. It wasn't ready before. And got an email from my mom saying that I passed the seismic part my exam but not the surveying part. I had found out a couple of days ago that I passed the 8 hr thing. So didn't manage to pass it all in one go but I was really thinking I had failed both the seismic and surveying. So I guess this is good. Only need to focus on one exam next time. Before I took the test I really thought I would pass the surveying and not the seismic. I would rather have to study the seismic again though because that is more applicable.

I went out to make more use of my metro card and took the mrt to beitou, where they have hot springs. I thought about going to a hotel or spa type place but the prices and packages weren't well advertised and u didn't want to go poke into every one on the street. The public one is very cheap. Only $40 TWD, which is a little over 1 usd but I didn't have a bathing suit and buying one there was expensive compared to everything else. So I just walked a long the stream and put my feet into the water. There were some other people doing this as well. I can see how this could be very relaxing. The sulfur smell wasn't too bad here.

Then I went to the Shilin night market and eat guava, stinky tofu, squid, and a jelly drink for dinner. It's much better to go to these things with 3 or 4 people because then you can try out more food. I really wanted to try out more stuff but was full very quickly. I then walked around the Ximen pedestrian streets, which had a lot of little shops and such.

I think I did a good amount of stuff today. More historical sites tomorrow I think. My flight leaves around 8pm and I have about $500 TWD to spend. Should be enough if I don't buy anything expensive. There are a good number of HSBCs here. Too convenient! I just realized I can withdraw money out of my HSBC account in the US as well.

Christmas in Taiwan (part 2)

The rest of the Hualien trip was pretty low key. After Starbucks I found a nice shopping area with lots little shops and got souvenir mochi for coworkers. Also got this really cute thing for Yalu but not sure when to send it to her or if I should just keep it until I get back next April. Keeping Yalu in suspense until then. Haha.

I really wanted to go to the coast but didn't make it. I think I went down the wrong part the first time and that found some really deserted roads. The second time, I tried another part but it was getting dark and it seemed too deserted to keep going. I guess that's the bad thing about traveling by yourself. But maybe part of it is also because I've been living in HK where there are too much people everywhere. It's too quiet anywhere else!

I wanted to go to this cafe but turns out it wasn't open for dinner. I ended up eating dinner at this cafeteria style place where you pick out one meat and 4 veggies. It turned out to be very tastey! I was surprised at how good the food was. The atmosphere is lacking but that's okay.

Traveling on Christmas Day to Taipei.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas In Taiwan (part 1)

It's Christmas Eve and I am sitting at a Starbucks in Hualien, a city on the east coast of Taiwan. Short holiday away from Hong Kong. My friends from work had been talking about doing this trip for a while. Taiwan is really close, only an hour flight away.

We got to Taiwan really late Saturday night/Sunday morning. I got a different flight from them that was leaving about 20 minutes earlier. But when we got to the airport, we found out that their flight was delayed. And we had the hardest time trying to find out where I was supposed to check in. I had bought the flight with HK airlines but it was in fact operated by EVA air. EVA air was running some sort if Hello Kitty thing and everything had Hello Kitty on it, including boarding passes, utensils, even fish cake on their in flight meal!!

I got to Taipei and was about to relax, find a good chair to wait for my friends when I realized their flight was not on the arrivals list. And the I read that the sign was showing flights for Terminal 2 only. This led me to conclude that their flight must be coming in in Terminal 1. A nice security guard showed me the way to the Sky Train after scaring me that the no shuttles would be running at that hour. I found my friends just as they got out of the gates and we successfully made our way to our hotel in Taoyuen. The taxi was a standard fare. It's really good to be in a country where you don't need to negotiate your taxi fare. The hotel was not bad but we only slept there for about 5 hrs before getting ourselves up and onwards to our next destination.

We had a very well planned and executed day. Took the train to Taipei, found lockers for my friends who wanted to leave some stuff in Taipei for the latter part of their trip. We were worried that we wouldn't be able to find anything opened because travel websites only advertised 3 day lockers. There were actually 6 day lockers available. We managed to get the right tickets to Hualien and even find a HSBC bank before boarding the train. We got to Hualien and got a ticket for a shuttle bus to the Taroko Gorge. We left some stuff at the bike shop that my friends were renting their bikes from, and promised the staff that we would be back by 6pm at the latest.

The gorge is really beautiful but the bus was slow and there were a lot of twists and turns. I wasn't feeling all that well by the end of the day. That was too many trains and buses for me. We didn't have time to explore very much of the place. I probably should have gone back again but I wanted to check out the town and some of the gorge looked too dangerous to be out there by myself. There were a lot of Chinese and Korean tour buses though. So as long as I didn't go off on my own I think it would have been ok.

We made it back to town with a few minutes to spare and picked up our stuff from the bike shop. We took a taxi to our hostel with no problems. The hostel owners are really nice and helped my friends call up their upcoming hostels. I think it really takes a very cheerful and optimistic person to run a hostel. The ones I've met so far are all really nice and friendly.

We walked around town a bit, found dinner, and even hit up a night market. I think we were all pretty tired by that day and went to sleep pretty early. I got up with my friends to get breakfast and saw the off on their bike trip. It was kind of hard to communicate with the bike shop owners but we got everything they needed in the end. I've walked around town a bit and taking a break at a Starbucks.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Life on Site

I have now spent two full days as site staff. I have to say that it's pretty boring already. I'm the only person from my company on this site because it is so small. It is a building that is at the corner of a road and surrounded by tall buildings in the middle of the financial district. The regular guy on this job is British and cannot speak Cantonese. But he seems to have pretty good people skills and the contractors all seem to like him. We were a bit worried that the contractors just won't speak to him but he seems to be doing fine. Part of it might be because their project manager grew up in Liverpool.

I'm pretty lucky that his relationship with them is good. They have also rented out a site office because the site is so small that it cannot handle having two trailers. So I just sit around in the site office until someone tells me that there is something to inspect.

I've also visited CPS (my police station project) a couple of times since it is very close by. I think I should really use the opportunity to pop in more often to check things out. It's unfortunate that both sites are just piling at the moment and there is no excavation happening. I have a feeling that I'll be seeing plenty of excavation once I'm permanent staff on site though. I'm still trying to figure out where I fit in on site though. It would be a lot better if there is a senior RE on site to tell me what I should be doing and *how* I should be doing it.

Really was hoping I would be putting in less overtime this month. It was definitely happening last couple of weeks but even though I have more time on site, it's still hard to get office stuff done. So I feel like I'm working two jobs and need to keep tabs on multiple things.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Back to work

Finally back to work for a full day after being sick since Friday. Still not feeling 100% but at least I can manage to think, talk, and concentrate. But it turns out that I'm going to be spending at least the next week as a replacement for someone on site. Hopefully there won't be much going on. I haven't even fully set up my desk at the new seat yet. Seems like I won't be sitting there for very long.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Sick again

Still sick! Argh, I really thought I was better this morning and met up with a coworker at GEO. But on the bus ride over, I found that I was really out of it. I got to the office, checked some email, unpacked some stuff, and then went home to sleep the entire afternoon. Had the worst headache ever. Anyway, we're supposed to be having a project lunch tomorrow. Hopefully I can make it for that. Another guy on the project is also sick. I wasn't sick the entire first year I was in HK. What's happening now?

Whenever I'm sick, I have this strange craving for steamed buns. The white ones. Especially ones with a ball of meat in the middle. Not the sweet stuff nor the BBQ pork kind but the chicken or pork ones. And it's actually not that easy to find, even where I live in HK. There are very limited shops that sell them and they sell out or close early. There are a lot of bakeries but they all sell baked goods, which just don't appeal to me when I'm sick. Anyway, last time I was sick, in June, I couldn't find these buns at all. Doing a bit better this time since I've discovered a place that makes them. They close early though, mostly doing the morning business and catering to the elderly.

Drinking a lot of tea, which is good because I always want to buy more to try different things and end up having this huge collection.

I dreamt a lot last night, which I haven't done in a while. I think it's sign that I'm finally getting enough (catching up on) sleep. I feel like I only dream when I've already slept the required amount and is sleeping "recreationally". Not sure if this is actually true or not.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Annual Dinner, Shenzhen

Have been feeling kind of low on energy this entire week and finally on Friday, I actually felt sick and went home before lunch. I was actually at the office for a very short amount of time. I stopped by the doctors and got some prescription drugs before getting some food and went to bed. I basically slept the entire Friday. Feeling slightly better today but still not there yet. Probably should have gotten a flu shot.

Maybe last weekend was a little too much excitement. Went to the company's annual dinner, which felt more low key this time around. It might have been because I arrived pretty late and everyone was already seated at tables. Most of the graduates my year are already on site but they still all sat together. I feel like this year's graduates are not as tight. But then again, I didn't get to know people through work but rather, at work activities, like the Inner Challenge and other team gatherings.

Then on Sunday, I went with a friend, JJ, to Shenzhen for the first time. It was pretty easy. We met up at the Kowloon Tong station and took the train to Lokwu, where we crossed the border. JJ had never used the electronic system for getting in and out of HK before. But she's definitely traveled after getting to HK so I wonder what type of people she went with. Anyway, it was drizzling the entire day so we stuck with indoor activities mostly. This consisted of shopping. There's a really big shopping mall right at Lokwu that has lots of little shops selling mostly clothes and shoes. It's a lot like the low end shopping malls in HK except sketchier, less people, and more people smoking. I was not so interested in the clothes. I got some paintings on our way back though. Those are pretty nice. You can get paintings in any size and get them framed right away. I think I will end up collecting a good amount of paintings while I'm here.

We went to a pedestrian street and walked around there. I really like pedestrian streets where you can walk outside and see different things. Got sugarcane! Really happy about that purchase. I must have eaten too much random stuff that day because my tongue got a sore this week. Extremely annoying. Anyway, the entire trip was really easy. I feel like I can go back anytime. I really should make use of my visa. I even got a Shenzhen Tong metro pass, which operates like the Octopus in HK.

I think there are some historical sites and interesting parks in Shenzhen that I would like to check out. But probably need to find some other travel buddy for such an activity because I think JJ is mainly interested in spas and shopping. I find that you definitely get a different experience when you travel with different people who have different interests. Anyway, it's good to have a variety of friends.

Hopefully I'll get better by Monday because I promised one of the guys that I would go with him to GEO in the morning.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Left work at a decent time!

Finally got the submission that I've been working on since getting back out! Still felt like it was really rushed though. I really feel that it could be much better with more time to think things through and try things out. These days our submissions are so rushed that I'm afraid to try anything. Once you go down one road, you have to stick with it because there's no time to turn back. Anyway, I felt like we did silly things the first time around so I took a bit more time this time around to fix things up. There are still things that I'm not too comfortable with but those are minor.

With this thing out of the way, I can go back to doing more coordination work. Went to a coordination meeting on Monday and felt like I really don't know how to coordinate with architects or people external to the company. It's so much harder. With internal people, in the end, you're one company and people won't deliberately blame you for something. But when you have people from all over, you don't necessarily know what people's intentions and motivations are so you need to be careful with covering your own back. Anyhow, just need to figure out how to play this game.

The company's annual dinner is this Saturday. Should be fun to see everyone and have a nice dinner. It's unfortunate that the Annual Dinner conflicts with the Inner Challenge. Very low participation in the Inner Challenge this year. Hopefully the participation will go back up next  year. I feel like we had a good tradition with high participation from the geotech team going. Going to Shenzhen on Sunday with a friend. Should be a fun weekend.

It's almost Christmas! I've booked flights to Taiwan with some friends. They want to go cycling down the length of the the island but that's too intense for me. It sounds like it might be cold and raining. I don't want to take too many days off either so I think I'll just be going to Taipei and Hualien with them where they will start on this long bike ride.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

10k, loans, taxes, work

Another week! I just finished running a 10K at Disneyland. It was the popular UNICEF one this time. Last year, I ran a less popular one at Disneyland with Apple Daily. This one was way more popular. The place was really packed. And then it started raining really hard so everyone crowded into the very few tents they had set up. I really thought the rain would let up after a while but it just kept raining. I was totally soaked after the first 5 minutes. My feet were miraculously dry-ish. I really don't like having wet socks. So uncomfortable. Anyway, I met up with a former coworker afterwards. Could not find him at the start. There were so many people that reception was really bad. Couldn't get reception until I walked towards the MTR station. We had dim sum afterwards.

Last week was mellow with me working full time on getting a submission out. I think I've got the hardest parts done already. I'm planning on finishing it up tonight (Sunday) and resting on Monday. I feel like I will be too sore to get myself to work anyway. Also feeling a bit out of it after running in that rain.

Last Wednesday, we had a team dinner for the CPS project. We "won" $3,000 HKD for being nominated for some design award. We went out to a really good Chinese place in Sheung Wan. The $3k totally does not cover our two tables of food but the food was really delicious. I really wish I had the stomach to eat more of it. Anyway, it was good to see everyone. The team is pretty much breaking up after this year with all the design work ending. It was a good project team overall.

I've managed to pay off the last of my student loans this month. I took a good amount of cash back when I went home in October. There are HSBC ATMs here that let you take out foreign currency right from your account, no fees. I was looking at my overall finances when I got back here to see how much I spent on that trip and how much money I can dedicate to paying off the loan when I discovered that I had enough in my HK accounts to pay it off completely. The loan is a fixed rate so I have been paying a lot of interest. My HK money is split into two accounts. One is for daily use and the other is to help me save up an emergency fund. I have a goal for the emergency fund and only keep track of the percentage instead of the actual amount. When I got back, I discovered that I had saved quite a bit due to the large amount of overtime hours I have been working. So I quickly transferred money back (which actually doesn't cost very much) and will be able to pay off that loan in full this month.

In other news, I also filed HK taxes. It was really easy except it still took me a while because I wanted to use their electronic thing. I had to get a password mailed to me twice because I managed to lock myself out the first time. Also took me a while to figure out how much I should be paying for the serviced apartment that my company put me in that first month. Turns out, I don't have to do any math because the online thing calculates it automatically. There is some kind of tax relief for last year (2011/2012) so the estimated amount of taxes I owe is very low, about 1% of my last year's salary. The predicted amount I have to pay in advance for next year (2012/2013) is also pretty small. The way they do it here is that you pay an adjustment for the past year and an advance for the next year. It's usually a shock the first time you pay taxes because you're paying the full amount for the previous and next year. But this tax relief thing is great.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Back at the office

Getting back into the swing of things at the office. Things are busy as always. The Simply Life restaurant still hasn't opened yet at the mall, which is disappointing. Coworkers are happy to see me back. We still haven't moved yet. Most of the new furniture are have arrived and people seem to be making good use of the empty spaces for reviewing and amending drawings and such.

Met up with a former coworker from SF who is now working in Indonesia yesterday. She seems to be doing well. She went back to Indonesia to help with her family's company, which is a specialist foundations contractor. And since the construction industry is booming in Indonesia, things are going well for contractors like her. She still thinks highly of Arup as a company and suggested that we can work together. I wish I were in a position to make that happen. I don't think Arup has a very big presence in Indonesia and would definitely need people with local connections. I would feel much better with someone like her as our contractor. We ate at the Tim Ho Wan in HK Station because they did the in-town check-in there. We walked around the IFC a bit and just chatted until it was time for them to get going to the airport.

Afterwards, I took the ferry to Discovery Bay on impulse. That was a bad idea because I felt sick as soon as the ferry started moving. Luckily, the ride was only 30 minutes and I managed to coax myself to sleep. Discovery Bay is a very interesting neighborhood with mostly (almost all?) expats. The demography is very different from the rest of HK! It's very quite there with a large plaza area. They even have their own beach. There are only golf carts on the roads and seems like a very good place for families. Kids ride around on bikes and it's much less crowded than the rest of HK. I think I can afford one of the older apartments there if I had someone to share it with. It would also be a decent amount of space. But it's too far out. There is a bus connection to Tung Chung and the airport but would probably have to take the ferry a lot to get to anywhere else.

Running a 10K next weekend. Totally out of shape.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

HK bound again

Leaving for the airport in about half an hour. Can't believe it's been a month already. Just want to write a little bit now in case I get really busy once I am back in HK. This has been a good break from HK. I think this is the longest time I've been away, nearly 1.5 years, without being back. Already planning the next time though.

I'll be back again in about 6 months, late April to mid-May-ish for Yalu and Mike's wedding. The current plan is that I would visit family first and then fly to Boston. I guess how long I will be back would also depend on if I passed all of the PE exam. I'm pretty sure I passed the national exam but the CA specific ones were really difficult. So more than likely, I would have to take them again.... It's such a drag to be studying for an exam. I feel like I haven't done that in ages and that I have better things to do with my time. Anyway, there's always that slim chance that I don't have to, in which case I would be really happy. I also feel like I would have done better if I had been working in the States because everyone has taken the tests before or is studying for them. It's so much better to be able to talk to people who understand what's going on. Anyway, I will find out results in December or so.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Road Trip!

It's November! The month of October has been an interesting one. I worked remotely, took the PE exam, and went on a road trip with friends. Just got back from Seattle where our trip ended. Driving up there took the entire week and flying back only took 2 hours. It was a really fun trip. I feel kind of weird writing about this trip in the past tense because my friends are still over there continuing the trip until Sunday. Anyway, a short recap of what we did on the trip.

Monday. Woke up really early and was on the road before sunrise. We were surrounded by fog and mist for most of the morning but met little resistance. We drove past the rolling brown hills and found the redwoods and sequoias as we headed up north. The first highlight of the day was driving through a tree in Leggit. It's one of 3 drive-through trees. I've seen a ton of pictures of these trees in AAA magazines growing up and it was cool to actually do it. The air out there was very clean and fresh. We stopped for lunch at a American/southern food place that had interesting physics stuff, a nice view, good food, and really big portions. We ate leftovers from that stop for a while afterwards. We did some scenic drives and a really short hike and got to our first hotel in Crescent City. The whole city seems to be in its off season. We ran up to a lighthouse around dusk and saw the shoreline. We were all still full from lunch so we decided to get snacks and food from Safeway instead of going out to a restaurant again.

Tuesday. We left California for Oregon and started out to Crater Lake. We got reports of the closure of Rim Drive, which goes around the lake, due to snow. We got to the visitor center and got recommendations for two trails, one flat, easy stroll along the lake and another that summits at a peak that involved trails with a lot of snow. Of course, we chose the one with the peak. It was cold, windy, and wet on the trail but we got good views of the lake and surrounding area. After this exhausting hike, we warmed up in Rim Village and then realized that the drive to Eugene was going to be twice as long as planned due to the closure of Rim Drive. We made it Eugene, had southern food again, and collapsed in our hotel room.

Wednesday. We were really lucky the first two days with sunshine and no rain. It started raining on Wednesday as we headed towards Portland. We stopped in Tillamook and toured their cheese factory which had a viewing area of their packaging room and free samples. Unfortunately we missed out on the beef jerky factory that was right next door. We had a change in our diet for the first time and got Mexican food at a really authentic Mexican place. We started sharing food after that first big meal and cleaned out our meals instead of trying to figure out what to do with leftovers. After two attempts to find the rocks that were characteristic of the Oregon coast in the beach town of Canon Beach, we finally drove up the Ecola State Park and found a scenic lookout. It was a nice spot that would have made a really picturesque picnic spot had it not been freezing cold and extremely windy. I really should have tried jumping to see if I could fly for a second or two. We got to Portland before it got dark and browsed through Powell's Bookstore and REI before heading to a microbrewery for dinner. Powell's Bookstore reminded me of all those hours spent at Barnes and Nobles when it still existed in Oakland. We picked up another friend from the airport and now have a full car.

Thursday. We were tired of trampling through the rain and cold and decided to tour Portland instead of running out to Mt St. Helen. We hit a cute little brunch place, walked through Washington Park, went tea tasting, got ice cream, and met up with more people for dinner. This was a pretty chill day. It ended up being a pretty dry day until the evening.

Friday. We got up early again and drove up the Seattle where we executed a pretty well planned day. Our first stop was Pike Place Market where we saw people tossing fish, got in line at the first Starbucks, picked up some smoked salmon, and had lunch at a seafood place right in the market. We then went on an underground tour of Seattle where we learned about the old city center and walked through some of the underground. All the civil engineers in our group got worried about the seismic and tsunami risk for Seattle because these underground structures did not seem up to date with the current seismic standards. After wandering the undergrounds, we went up the Space Needle and got a 360 deg view of the Seattle area. We were lucky again that it didn't start raining until after we got off the Space Needle. We drove out to The Center of the Universe and met up with one of my friends for dinner at a Caribbean place. My friend drove me out to the airport and I took a short flight back to the Bay Area.

Time to plan our next trip, guys!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Back in Oakland

Thought it was time for me to update my blog. I've been back for 2 weeks now and nearly finished with "working out of the SF office" and starting my vacation. The last two weeks in HK passed by really slowly. I studied a  lot during our 4 day holiday, which ended with going to the wedding of a former coworker. Had a hectic few days at the office after that trying to wrap up stuff. The day of my flight, I went with my luggage to the Kowloon Station and checked in there. Now I understand all the hype about having an in-town check in. It's so convenient! You can check in 24 hrs before your flight and then spend the rest of the time free of your luggage. I packed a lot of books in there last minute.

That day was the last day for another one of my coworkers and we went out to dinner. Wish I was able to stay longer but I had to leave them early for the airport. I bought a lot of candy at the airport. They made my hand luggage, which just had a few papers and my stuffed animals, really heavy.

Really jetlagged the first couple of days being back. I literally felt dizzy in the afternoon so I spent a lot of time sleeping. I think sleeping more is good since I've been feeling sleep deprived all summer. I've been sleeping 8 hours a day here so it's not bad.

Working at the SF office is interesting. I'm sitting at the other side of the office as the geotech group so it's kind of hard to join in their informal chats. I've only had lunch with them a couple of time since I've been meeting up with other people for lunch. I can definitely get some solid work done with no one to bother me but it gets kind of lonely. But the last few hours of the day tend to get stressful as I'm trying to wrap up stuff and get ready to take calls from the HK office at 6pm, which is 9am their time. People here tend to all get in around 8am, don't take very long for lunch, and then all disappear around 5-6pm. Whereas in HK, we don't get in until 9am, sometimes take 1.5 hrs for lunch, and don't leave the office until really late. The smaller office is also kind of nice since everyone seems to know everyone else. When I tell people how big the HK office is, someone remarked, "so you don't even know everyone in the office." It had never occur to me that you would know everyone in the office.

Anyway, still stressed out about the PE exam. Don't think I've studied enough for it. And it's definitely been a while since I've taken a test like this. Can't wait for it to be over. Then I can add de-stress to this vacation.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

2 more weeks!

The iPad is turning out to be a great tool for studying. I can "carry" scanned copies of notes and references around as well as videos. I had the hardest time getting it play Real Media files only to find out that the website where I downloaded it from now offers the videos in MP4. Sigh.. Anyway, I did a good amount of studying this weekend. Really need to hit the practice problems though. For most topics, I really feel like I need to review the basics before going to the practice problems because I just have no clue how to do them. I think I'm okay for geotech. I can just go straight to the problems and start doing them. Because at least I know where to look for the answers even if I don't really know the problem.

One more full week and then we have a 4 day weekend! It's the Chinese National Holiday + Mid-Autumn Festival. We only get one day for the national holiday. I think people in the Mainland get the entire week. Looking forward to getting lots of studying done during those few days. Also need to go buy some souvenirs for people. Any requests?

Last week at work was more sane for me because I got all my stuff out the week before. However, since we were concentrating forces on getting my stuff done, the other part of the project got neglected. We had outsourced it to the structures team upstairs but it turns out they are not very good. I know time is tight and the project is challenging, but it just didn't look like they had the necessary skills to solve the problem. We had to teach them a lot to get them going. Anyway, my supervisor was in a big panic because we kept having to push the deadline. Hopefully this upcoming week will be better since we should be done with getting drawings out for the tender. 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

New bakery

There are a few new stores near where I live because of the opening of the government housing towers. Found a new bakery that has really good marble cheesecake and chocolate fudge. Very dense western style instead of the fluffy Chinese style.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

3 more weeks!

written on 2012.09.08. not much has changed from last week...

Taking a break from studying for the PE exam. I just signed up for the seismic and surveying exams. The CA Board seems to be outsourcing the all the testing to third parties. They are using NCESS for the civil part, which a lot of states use and Prometrics (computer based exam taking center) for the CA specific part. I’m guessing it’s both a cost and management savings. Last time, the board somehow messed up and the exam takers ended up with 2 copies of the same test for the state specific part. Anyway, taking it with Prometrics is better because you get to choose the times of the testing. I’m going to take them on separate days instead of all on the same day. In the meantime, I really need to find time to seriously study. I’m sure I’ve learned all the topics in school but back then it was just learning for doing homework and taking tests. Now that I’ve been working for a little bit, I’m starting to understand how to apply all these concepts. It’s good to have this as a refresher because nowadays I seem to be doing a lot of multi-disciplinary stuff instead of just geotech things.

Haven’t had a chance to write for the blog in a while. This is because I’ve been too busy at work! Saw daylight at the office this past week again after a long night. We were in a big rush to push out a huge set of drawings to our client. I think we ended up in such a rush partly because I haven’t had time to go finalize the set of drawings for our real scheme. We have a couple of fake schemes that are all based on the real scheme. It’s so hard to do both coordination and detail design. I’m starting to think that maybe it’s not a manpower issue. Our client doesn’t have very many people working on the job either. But they seem to have a good separation between the guy who does design and the guy who does coordination. On our end, I do both. Well, we have a lot of packages and some of the design packages are being handled by other people. But the most difficult design packages always end up on my desk.

On one hand, it makes sense for someone who is handling the detail design to be doing external coordination because it’s more efficient. That person would have enough information to answer questions and don’t have to always go back and forth between different parties to get the right answer. But it’s a lot of work. I think my problem is that I need to really understand the entire design well enough so that I can push it out to other people to do the actual calculations. I really appreciate working on these challenging projects and I think I’m getting better at spotting the major issues to making the whole scheme work. But a lot of times I just don’t have enough experience to see the entire thing through and it’s only when I get down to the nitty gritty calculations that I figure out what I need to do.

Anyway, we have one more major submission this week. Things should calm down a bit after this one is out of the way. Answering questions about a design that is already been thought through is much easier than thinking a design through or trying to answer question about a design that hasn’t been finalized.

I have managed to find some time for fun stuff. Last Sunday, one of the project teams I’m on had a beach BBQ evening. They booked a BBQ place and most of us went to the beach early to enjoy the sun and water. There were a ton of people on the beach though. It was the last weekend before school started so there were a lot of families. The place that we booked wasn’t on the beach but somewhere behind the parking lot. There were a lot of mosquitos and was really hot. But it was still fun to cook everything over the fire. The place proves marinated meats and other things. It’s fun not to have to worry about getting enough food or washing up afterwards. I introduced the group to s’mores. No one has ever had a s’more before! Couldn’t find graham crackers at the supermarket though so had to use these crunchy waffle things.

Saturday, September 1, 2012


I think I've been gaining weight again... Can't really tell because my scale ran out of batteries and I haven't gotten around to figuring out what batteries it needs so that I can replace them. I think it's really true that you can keep your weight down or at least at around the same if you just keep a scale around. I think my weight gain is mostly due to the high amount of stress at work, not enough sleep, and eating out too much. I also didn't used to eat very much for dinner because one of the guys who used to work in my group just didn't eat dinner or would just eat fruit. So I'm going to try to go back to doing that again. Eating apples all the time has lots its appeal though but I've recently discovered gazpacho.

Gazpacho is basically a fresh veggie soup. Some people say it's more like a salad because the veggies are not cooked. This means that things don't need to be chopped into small pieces. The number of steps to making something edible is cut down by two (extensive chopping and cooking). So I visited my local wet market again, after being absent from there many months and picked up some fresh groceries. 

I got tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, jalapeno peppers, green onions, lemons, and blended them all with a dash of vinegar. The smell is amazing. But it actually takes a lot of veggies to make one bowl of soup. I didn't end up making enough soup for the whole week. We'll see how long this lasts and if this actually helps the weight issue. I think I need to get my scale working again.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Home in October!

Bought tickets to be home for 4 weeks in October! Flight information on sidebar of blog.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Another crazy week

This past week was very front loaded where I worked really crazy hours in order to get a submission out. We promised to submit something on Monday, which was really unrealistic. Not sure why my supervisor still doesn't seem to realize that he is always underestimating the amount of time it takes to get something done. Anyway, I worked really long hours on Monday and at some point, I gave up on the drawings altogether. Those things can be massaged forever and not get done. Our calculations were not even halfway there so I couldn't justify not looking after them anymore. So I pushed all the drawings to my supervisor and was like, "I'm not looking at these things anymore. Need to make our report thicker!" He spent that night and the next day working with our draftsman to make the drawings better. After lunch on Tuesday, he finally realizes that even Tuesday wasn't a realistic deadline. So I went home after that and slept for a few hours. I felt a lot better after that and then came back to pull the rest of the thing together. We still had more things to put together for the drawings on Wednesday and in the end, we only got everything out to our client Wednesday night. I took a taxi over with all the drawings and supporting documents. It's really a waste for me to go over myself at night because it's pretty much the same as having a courier bring them over the next morning. But at that point, I didn't really care because I just wanted it out the door.

I went to meet up with a friend who is in town visiting. She's just visiting HK along with another friend. I really thought we were supposed to get things out early on Wednesday so I made plans to meet up with her at 6pm. But we were still printing drawings at that time so I ended up just meeting up with them for dessert. We walked around TST. They had fun at the Avenue of Stars. 

The next day I didn't show up to work until 11am. I just slept a lot and then didn't bothered to get up until around 10am. Even ate breakfast before getting to the office. Apparently my supervisor was still wondering where I was even though he was the one who told me not to come to work. 

There was another T8 Thursday night but that didn't happen until 10pm and became at T3 again before work the next day. So sad... no time off. I still took it easy on Friday though. Had a meeting in the morning and then did some coordination stuff in the afternoon. Left at around 6pm to meet up with some former coworkers for dinner. I swear we waste too much electricity by being at work so much. Former coworkers are such a bad influence. Not sure what will happen to our team since so many people have left and so many more leaving in the coming months. Total of 6 people leaving in the 6 months. My supervisor blames it on the good economy for the construction industry. Contractors are paying so much more. But I feel like people on this team doesn't have enough of a sense of belonging and loyalty to stick around. In the end, it's always the touchy-feely stuff that makes people want to stay. Anyhow, really not sure what will happen to this team.

I took Saturday off. These days I feel like my contract is for 7 days and I need to justify taking time off. I went to the gym, watched a movie, sat around at a cafe, went shopping, and then dinner with friends again. It was very relaxing day. I paid all my bills and such on Saturday and found that my credit card bill for the past month was less than $1,100 HKD, which is less than $200 USD. I took out a lot in cash but I think most of that was for taxis, which is reimbursable. So I went and spent some money on entertainment and clothes on Saturday.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Recent events

I just finished cleaning my work space at work. Managed to clear up some desk space for myself. I'm spending way too much time in the office these days. I think the last time I was not at the office was when I went on vacation to Guilin. We have so many submissions these days that it's just non-stop all the time. Back when I was interning in the US, I had heard about investment banking people working like crazy. I didn't understand how you can work so much and still be productive.

I feel like our end products don't really show the amount of effort and time we put into them. Some things just take a lot of time to put together. And we need to iterate a bunch of times to get it right. So even though the concepts and ideas are simple, it still takes a lot of time to get things together.

Last week, a friend was in town and I managed to have a couple of dinners with her. Both times I had to push back when we would be meeting because I was still busy at work. Can't believe I was so busy on a Friday night and Sunday morning that I couldn't get away from the office. We were supposed to go to the beach and mall on Sunday. But then she got bitten by some bug and her leg looked like it needed medical treatment. So I ended up visiting her at her grandparents' place.

I have another friend visiting this week. Hopefully we can manage to meet up. I'm hoping that I can have a some chill days after I get this submission out the door.

I feel bad for my supervisor. He's had to pick up a lot of the slack and do things that he hasn't had to do in years. His staff on this particular job are all too fresh to know what they are doing. For example, he spent the entire day today (Saturday) amending a set of drawings. I think I can take care of things like that but I'm busy working on a different part of the project. The rest of the kids might be able to take care of things but would need a lot of help and input. So he ended up doing things himself. If the project wasn't as rushed, we would have just let the new kids take their time to figure out things on their own. Can't learn without making mistakes. So clearly this is not an optimal situation for any of us...

Monday, July 23, 2012

Rain, rain, please stay

2nd T8 this year and it's also hitting after work hours. This one was a little better since it started storming really hard early afternoon. I was supposed to go to a meeting at 4pm and it just didn't look possible. Shortly before lunch, the Observatory posted warnings about an upcoming T8 in the evening. Lunch time was spent discussing the meaning of "evening".

I left work at around 6pm (!!) and spent some time in the really hectic grocery store downstairs. It seemed like everyone was stocking up for the night. Got home a little past 7pm, which is very early for me, especially for a Monday. I managed to cook dinner, watch some Conan episodes, napped, played games on the iPad, and even get some work done. I brought a report home with me. No need to worry about not having enough things to do in my little apartment if I ever decide to get home early.

Got my hair straightened again yesterday. It took 3 hrs. The place was okay overall. I will have to wait another day or two and wash my hair to find out the actual quality of their work. I felt that the apprentice at the place was very careless. The actual hair guy was a lot better. They were very busy though. Lots of customers.

They are also right next to a pizza place that sells large slices of pizza. I was thinking about this pizza for the entire 3 hrs. I went there afterwards for a slice. It was so good! The bread was freshly made. You can see the bread rising in the backroom. The actual pie was freshly baked.

This storm seems fairly intense. Hope it lasts until tomorrow!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Random updates

Been leaving the office at really unhealthy times the past few weeks. Last night (Friday), I left at around 8pm, which can be considered early, and went to the Dragon Centre (mall) near where I live. I ate at a burger joint, which was okay. The burger was definitely big and juicy but the bun was super big and fluffy. I feel like the bun should sit within the patty and not cover it like a hat. I walked around the mall a little bit afterwards and got pretty big ice cream cone for $10 HKD.

I woke up this morning (Saturday) thinking that it was already Sunday. This is purely because I was able to do things outside of work the night before. Usually my bit of entertainment is limited to what I can fit in before I arrive at the office on Saturday. Very sad. I feel like I should be able to get back to my apartment at a decent time and do other stuff.

Got a bit of studying done for the PE exam today. I took over a meeting room and studied for 3 hrs before doing work stuff. I used my iPad as a big clock so that I didn't slack off. I also set an alarm for every hour. I feel like I tend to waste a lot of time on Saturdays.

Getting my hair straightened again tomorrow. Another Groupon deal. Hopefully this place is okay. The last place was very good but I think it would be very expensive without a coupon.

I'm really looking forward to watching an upcoming movie, Recall. It comes out in the US next week but the HK release isn't until early August. I just got the short story that the movie is based on as an epub. Looking forward to using my Kobo again and reading sci-fi!

Rainbow from outside of the office

After a sudden thunderstorm:

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Guilin and Yangshuo

Taking a break from work to blog about my vacation. It's actually Sunday night over here and I'm still in the office. Anyway, I'm really glad I went on this vacation. It was really good to be away. I felt like I needed this break because the past couple of months have been so stressful. Pictures in the next post after I get them off of my friend.

I caught a cold two weeks ago (a week before the vacation) and spent a lot of time sleeping. I think there is a cold virus going around the office because a lot of people have been getting sick. I went to see a doctor and got some bags of prescription drugs. I think the normal practice here is that they prescribe 3 days worth of medicine and you go back if you need more. Prescription is included in the doctor's fees, which is really inexpensive compared to the US. The nurse prepares everything right away so there's no need to go somewhere else separately to get your medicine.

I was still sniffling a bit when I went on this vacation. I went with a coworker who is Chinese-Australian. We left the office a bit after lunch on Friday. There was an incoming typhoon but we managed to get out before it go to HK. Our flight changed gates and we nearly thought we weren't going to make it. But it turned out that it was delayed. We managed to find out way to the shuttle bus that takes us to Guilin city and then a taxi to our hostel. The hostel is very cute, with lots of art on the walls. We found food at a nearby restaurant and then wandered around the pedestrian streets that night.

The next day (Saturday), we decided to walk to the Seven Star Park, which was really close by. I think we made the most out of this park. We managed to find a less touristy part of it for the first half of the day and then joined the crowds and tour groups to see some of the other parts. At around 3 or 4pm, we were just too tired to keep going to another park. It was also really hot out so we went back to our hostel to shower and nap. We wandered around the city some more in the evening.

On Sunday, we joined a local tour group with a really random mix of people for a river cruise on the Li River. The tour group took us on a bus to a pier outside of Guilin. We went on motored bamboo boats that took us down the river and back up to the pier again. The scenery was really nice. The motor in the background not so much. We all got talked into going on an extended part of the tour to "the countryside". We stopped at this village on the way to Yangshuo for a "real" bamboo boat ride (no motors) to enjoy the scenery, see water buffaloes, and cormmorant fishing. So by the time we got to Yangshuo, it was nearly evening.

It took us a bit to find our hostel in Yangshuo because the it was down a small alley. This town is basically a vacation town with a ton of tourists from everywhere. There's even a pedestrian street called "West Street" that has lots of bars, hostels, and souvenir shops. We had a really good meal that night with beer fish, crayfish, and a taro dish.

The next day was a big biking adventure. We rented out bikes in the morning and biked down the a scenic road with lots of parks. We saw the 400 yr old bayan tree and then hiked up the Moon Hill. The bike ride was pretty easy since it was on the side of a big road. There weren't a lot of traffic and the road shoulder was really wide. There were a ton of people trying to sell us tickets and other things though. After a late lunch, we decided to take this country road that looked like it was supposed to be twice the distance of what we had ridden already. We thought this was doable so we embarked on this journey.

The start of the country road was pretty nice. It was good to be away from the big trucks. But then at some point, the road started to get really rough. There were a ton of rocks and the road stopped being paved. We were really glad we went for the mountain bikes at this point. The road wasn't hilly so we were still enjoying the scenery until we got to a point where there were a ton of forks in the road. We had to ask at every fork and I swear we asked more than 10 people total. At one point, this guy told us we were 20km away from where we want to be. I think we should probably just gone back to the highway at this point but we continued on this "country road" and made it back to Yanghuo a little after 7pm (before dark). It would not have been good to be on these roads after dark. I'm not sure I've ever been so soaked in sweat before.

We had an early evening flight back to HK the next day so we took it easy and booked a cooking class. These things are apparently very popular. We got taken through the wet market and then to the cooking school. They had burners and everything ready. We got to chop the veggies and meat. We cooked 4 dishes with a wok and 1 dish went in a steamer. It was really fun! Cooking with the wok was really fast as well. Wish I can do the same in HK but I think the wok really needs a gas stove.

Overall, it was a really great trip. We did a lot of stuff but didn't over stretch ourselves. Felt so refreshing to take some time off. Looking forward to more weekend trips to nearby cities now that I have a one year China visa!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Vacation in a week!

Going to Guilin for a long weekend with a friend in a week! Very excited. We're leaving the office early afternoon on Friday and then coming back Tuesday night. Monday is a holiday so we get 4 nights in Guilin and Yangshuo. We're planning on spending 2 nights in each place. So excited for a break from HK. Should have some really nice pictures from this trip.

Work is very stressful these days. So many people leaving our team! We had 3 "last days" in a row last week and more to come. I don't think I've been away from the office for even a day (nevermind an entire weekend) for a month. Last week was okay though. One of the girls who is in between site assignments was around so she was able to help out a lot. I got to work on other projects instead.

I had planned to be away from the office for at least a day this weekend. But I thought about everything I wanted to do this weekend and realized that I had to come back both days. I didn't bother to come back to the office until the evening though so that I would have time to go do some relaxing stuff. I went out to Tung Chung with the intention of going out to Tai O. But the line for the bus was ridiculous. It was also muggy out and looked like it was going to rain. So I just hung out in the outlet mall instead and bought stuff from Esprit. haha.

I also went to see Prometheus, which looked pretty interesting from the trailers. But I was pretty disappointed because I felt like the movie lacked depth, the characters were too stiff, and there was no character development whatsoever. Everyone in the movie seemed to have their own "agenda" but you never  get to find out what they were or what their motivations were. I felt like the storyline had a lot of potential but tried to do too many things at once. It would have been more interesting to actually focus more on the motivations behind one of the individuals instead of scratch the surface for everyone. Anyway, might go see the new Spiderman movie in IMAX. Also, Total Recall seems like an interesting Matrix type movie.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Life at the office

Back at the office again. This past week felt like a really long week. I'm glad I took last weekend off because I'm not sure when I can take the entire weekend off like that again in the near future. All of a sudden, I have a lot more deadlines and a lot more stuff to look after. We got some new graduates but it's not the same as getting people who know what they are doing and can make decisions. I think that's the main thing I'm lacking. I feel like I'm technically competent and can do calculations, write reports, mark up drawings, etc. But there are some stages where decisions need to be made and I feel like I just don't have the depth of experience needed to make good judgement. But I guess the only things that can help with that is more time and exposure to different things. Anyhow, got roped into another extremely challenging project.

I bought a book that teaches sketching. I feel like it might be useful to learn how to sketch in 3D. It's so important to be able to visualize in 3 dimensions and sometimes a good sketch can mean a lot. Anyway, we'll see how long this new hobby lasts.

Met up with two friends today for brunch (before heading to the office). They're both '09 grads and are working in finance. I feel like HK is such a different world for them. They mostly hang out (will hang out) with the transient expat crowd who stay in HK for a few years. It's interesting how a place can be so different for different people. Knowing Cantonese can make the difference between being able to hang out with locals and seeing a different side of the city.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

So many changes in the past year...

Haven't written for a while. I think mostly because my life has been consumed by work, which has become more and more frustrating. All my "big brothers" who were in my team when I started have officially left. It so sad... I can't help but think how happy it was just a year ago with all three of them around.

I attended the HKIE Geotech division's annual seminar last Friday. Last year, I went the three guys in my team and we had a lot of fun. This year, I went there alone. I mean, I met up with Arup people at the thing but it wasn't the same. I feel like our group had people who liked to ask questions, discuss ideas, and not accept things at face value. Last year, we had a lot of discussions amongst ourselves during the seminar and I feel like I get more out of seminars this way. I do feel that I gained a lot in terms of technical knowledge this past year though. I used to feel like I couldn't get much out of seminars because the topics presented were either too specific or too general. Now I feel like I have enough background to read the papers, listen to the talk, and zone in on the useful stuff.

I went to another full day seminar on Saturday. This one was free so I felt like I had to take advantage of it. Both seminars were about tunneling and the use of underground space. The Saturday one was very non-technical, aimed at planners and architects. Of course, there were no planners in the room. I think most people in attendance was hoping for some technical stuff.

I met a friend of a friend today (Sunday) who had just arrived for work. She's working in finance and is looking for a place on the Island to live. We talked about possibly rooming together and went with an agent she had contacted to look at some places. The places we visited were all in the Mid-Levels. That neighborhood is really expensive. What you get for that price is just not worth it. We did see several places in her price range. And since her budget seems fairly big (compared to mine), I think she can find something decent in that area or nearby. It would be extremely convenient for me to live on the Island if I ever do go to CPS for site supervision. But I'm not sure if and when that will happen. One of the apartments we looked at had an amazing view of the site! The big windows look out onto the site and you can see the entire lower courtyard. I was very impressed. I probably should have taken pictures because I don't think you can actually find a better view of the site from a public space!

So I've successfully ignored everything at work for the past 3 days. That was a decent break especially since I've been going into the office non-stop for like 3 weeks (I can't even remember). I was super tired by the time last Thursday rolled around. I even slept in more than usual Thursday morning because I had the excuse that I had to bring something to a government office in the morning before going to work. But I woke up super tired and was really unproductive the entire day.

I've found that my least efficient time of the day is after lunch to around 5 or 6pm. I think I already knew this during grad school and therefore, had scheduled most of my classes or other active things during that time. Otherwise, I would just nap through that time. Work is not that flexible unfortunately. But I think I might switch my weekend work strategies though. I used to wake up late, eat lunch, go into the office, fight off sleep for a few hours, and then head to the gym at night. I might switch the office and gym times around next time I'm at work on the weekends. Not that I'm planning to work on the weekends a lot but just in case it's necessary....

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Weekend at the gym

Super tired. I went to the branch of my gym in Megabox (a mall) today and played around with their really nice and new equipment. Wish the Mongkok branch has the same kind of stuff. I primarily went there to swim. They have this very small open air pool. There were more people sunbathing than swimming. Looking at my gym log, I have gained 6lbs between last August and now. I think I should keep track of my weight better.

I walked around the mall afterwards looking for a good place to eat and hang out. I really dislike these malls that don't have windows.After walking around the whole place, I did find some nice balconies. The strange part was that the parking lot had more natural light than some of these stores. I should have just hung out in the parking lot. Ikea has a really nice outdoor sitting area. This branch of Ikea has a cafeteria and it was packed with people. I saw some old ladies who got pretty much everything on the menu and sat around a big round table. It felt like they were at dim sum. I didn't discover the outdoor area until late so I didn't take advantage of it. Next time. I'm going to file this under my list of "nice places to hang out in HK" list.

The weather got better this weekend. Last week was so stuffy that it was impossible to go outside. I couldn't find a good temperature to sleep in for a couple of nights. Last Friday morning, I gave up sleeping at some point and headed to the gym really early.

Saturday night, I walked around thinking about eating sushi in the Mongkok area after coming out of the gym. It was nearly 10pm and there were still really long lines at ALL the sushi places near Langham Place. There were so many young people all lined up. I couldn't believe how long the lines were.

And I finally watched the Hunger Games movie. It was pretty good in that I felt my pulse go up in the tense moments. The girl next to me cried when Rue died. I wish I hadn't read the books though. Ruins the movie. I swear watching the movie does not ruin reading the book because there's so much more in the book than the movie. But reading the book definitely ruins the fun of the movie. The trailers came up after the announced time of the movie so I actually got to watch them this time. There's an upcoming HK film called Floating City that I want to see. Looks really interesting. I should organize a Tuesday movie night event in the office. We work next to a movie theater that has discounts for movies on Tuesday nights. Sometimes it gets annoying though because we can feel the vibrations from the 3D movies!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Mid week holiday

It's Labor Day in HK so we get the day (Tuesday) off. In the Mainland, they got Monday off as well. I guess the fact that we get a lot of Western holidays make up for these deficiencies? But I actually don't mind these days off in the middle of the week. It breaks up the week.

Work is always busy and I've decided that I'm going to try not to do office related stuff on the weekends unless there's something really urgent. Even though I can get the to-do list down a bit is not worth it. There's things that are "important" and then there are things that are "urgent". I find that I tend to make a lot of mistakes when I'm tired so I need to give myself time to refresh.

Last Saturday, I went into the office to write up my "experience report" for the PE exam. Hopefully my application will get approved and I will get to take the exam. I summarized some projects that I worked on and I've done a lot this past year! I've been trying out different ways to keep track of what I've been doing but haven't managed to find a good way. It seems like the experience reports for ICE and HKIE are much more involved so I should definitely keep better track of what I'm doing before I forget everything or move on to different projects.

On Sunday, I went out to HK Island just to hang out. I usually go out there when I have a lot of things I need to get done over there or meeting up with people. It costs nearly $20 HKD roundtrip to get over there and back. My usual commute only costs $3.20 so it's a pretty big difference. Anyway, there's a cafe I really like and blogged about before. I had an urge to go back. The cafe was pretty packed when I got there and finding a seat was difficult. I did managed to find a seat outside and sat there for a while. And then I wandered around the area for a while and then thought it would be a good idea to go on the tram. Except it was packed with people and the ride was very uncomfortable. I got off a bit before Causeway Bay and walked around the malls. I did a little bit of shopping for work clothes (bought 2 blouses) and then some Ikea meatballs. I really like these meatballs!

Monday was a bit hectic. My supervisor kept trying to push things onto me but luckily I was too busy so he had to find other people to help out. I would have been in serious trouble if he had actually been successful in his attempts. The bosses need to find ways to spread the workloads more evenly out there.

Today (Tuesday) I went back into the office to file my taxes. I really need a proper desk and chair to do real work. I had filled out forms on TurboTax a long time ago but found that I couldn't file until now. Now the forms are being processed! Yay. I also filled out the CA tax forms and they are waiting to be mailed. I couldn't figure out how to efile the nonresident forms. Looking forward to getting money back!

In other news, it's been extremely humid and muggy these past couple of weeks. Imagine feeling really stuffy sitting in a small room and going outside, only to find more mugginess instead of fresh air. The only respite is malls with air conditioning!

I'm taking suggestions for books to read and stocks to buy.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Raining with thunderstorms

Just saw my dad off to the airport. His flight should be taking off right around now. He took the ferry back from China and I met him at the ferry terminal building. I rushed there after dropping everything related to this project back to my supervisor. I felt kind of bad that I hadn't really solved all the problems for him. But then again, he hasn't really taken the time to tell me about the project so I don't feel any ownership of it. Can't take responsibility for it if I don't actually own it, right?

So tired from work this week. It has been a really long week. Went to BD every day to answer questions and amend drawings. The BD engineer was disappointed that he was dealing with me only and not with anyone else more senior who can answer questions better and make decisions. He probably wanted to solve all the problems in one go instead of having me go back all the time. But it's a good opportunity for me to learn on a relatively simple submission. I definitely got more comfortable every time I went. There's a little store that consists of one of those ice cream fridges that is full of kimchi and other fermented (kimchi flavored) veggies and meat that is situated between the subway exit and the building that BD is in. I got kimchi there once and it was pretty good. I bought a bag of some other stuff on Wednesday, stuck it in the office fridge, and still haven't managed to remember to bring it back home. I hope it hasn't affected the smell of the fridge. Sigh. Every time I leave the office this week, I'm always in a rush to leave because I'm finally able to put things down.

Thursday was an unusually sunny day in the mist of a really rainy week. This was perfect for the groundbreaking ceremony for the site that I've been working on. The HK style of groundbreaking involves burning incenses and "offering" roasted pigs, ducks, and chickens. 3 big roast pigs! There were a lot of people and it was nice to see everyone so happy.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Back from vacation

Came back from my nearly week long vacation with my parents. It was good to see them again. We had a decent time in Thailand and Singapore, although I still wish we had spent more time just relaxing. It all went by very quickly. We arrived in Bangkok late at night and got to our hotel very quickly. We were met by my dad's friend who helped us arranged pretty much everything. For the next two days, we had a guide who brought us around Pattaya and Bangkok. It was so hot that it was nice to have an air conditioned car to climb into. Otherwise, I really doubt we could have done everything that we did during those two days.

I didn't end up exercising as much as I would have liked to on this trip. And of course, I stuffed myself on the really nice breakfast buffets at the five-star hotels we stayed at. I think eating out every single meal for the past two weeks made me gained weight again. I think I definitely need to some trips to the gym again.

We did quite a bit in Singapore during the one day that we were there. We felt the swaying from the earthquake in Sumatra! We were back at our hotel in the afternoon and were napping on the bed. Anyhow, we saw all the touristy sights and made it into the Marina Bay Sands casino. My mom and I played around with the slot machines and made $6 turn into $70+. I can see how this can become addictive. Good thing I don't do well on ferries and therefore, am not tempted to take the ferry over to Macau to try my luck on the weekends.

When we got back to HK, one of my dad's long time friends came to HK for a night as well. So my parents hung out with them on that Friday when I went to work. I went back to work to discover that basically nothing had happened to the stuff I was working on. There was a minor crisis that was solved with the help of other people in the team. But otherwise, things were just as I left them.

My dad took the ferry back to Zhongshan with his friend. He had a lot of stuff to bring back and we were worried about him carrying it all through customs and such. But it turned out that the ferry lets you check in one piece of luggage per person for free (included in the price of your ticket). So they did that and didn't have to carry anything. I hope nothing was lost or damaged along the way though. My mom and I spent some time looking at apartments for me last Sunday but couldn't find anything in my price range. I helped her buy a lot of souvenirs and saw her off at the airport.

This past week at work was busy as ever. Big changes in our little bay over the next couple of months.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

In Singapore!

Just arrived in Singapore after 4 days in Thailand. I would post some pictures but haven't figured out how on the iPad. We stayed in some really nice hotels in Thailand and did more sightseeing than I did last time. We have one full day in Singapore and have already made it to the Merlion. Parents are very anxious when it comes to doing "need to do" things. Anyhow, we ate at a hawker place for dinner and got food and drinks from 5 different places. The actual food was okay. Good thing it wasn't really hot out. I had hopes of losing weight but looks like that won't happen for a while...

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Parents in HK

My parents are here! I'm so tired and it's ALL their fault. I got home really late Tuesday night and then got up really early Wednesday morning to wait for them to arrive. I left the wooden doors open so that I would hear them come. They arrived with a lot of luggage. Good thing they had the sense to take a taxi instead of somehow taking the bus.

Wednesday was Ching Ming, so it's a public holiday here. I was super tired the whole day due to the lack of sleep. We went to dim sum at Tim Ho Wan. The food is good but I don't think they liked the setting very much. Oh wells. And then we went to Mongkok on a fruitless search for an iPad cover. We were there way too early. I only realized that we should have just gone to the computer center near where I live instead. But then we wouldn't have seen how much they were selling for at these big stores. I don't know why people (even my own parents) think that things are cheap in HK. HK is totally a separate country from the Mainland.

Anyhow, we went back to my place and napped for a while. Not sure why parents are always trying to rush. I seriously can't do anything after a flight. Need to sleep or nap or something. It's no use trying to push yourself when you're tired. I napped for a little bit and then decided to let them sleep while I went into the office to get something done. I was there for only about an hour when my dad called. We then went over to the island and had a late lunch/early dinner with a relative. We talked for a long time. After that, I took them to Central and showed them the project that I've been working on. While we were walking, we walked on a sky bridge that had a lot of maids hanging out. Visitors are always shocked by the way the maids just lay down cardboard and sit on these public areas to hang out. And then we were in the LKF area where there were lots of bars and expats hanging out at the bars. Some people were even sitting on the steps of the side walk (very steep hill) to drink and hang out. My dad remarked that these people were just like the maids. Sitting on the street to hang out.

We walked around the IFC and then came back. We finally got an iPad cover at the computer center near where I live. There were so many choices for good prices. Then we were exhausted and came back to my place. On the way back from the island, I started getting text messages from a friend who I met back at Stanford. He happened to be in the area and we decided to meet up. He was having dinner with a friend in Festival Walk of all places and I met them there afterwards. We chatted at Pacific Coffee for a while and I came back pretty late, almost midnight. Wish we had more time to catch up. We met 2 years ago at an aagsa even at Stanford. Seems like it was yesterday! So I went to bed late a second night in a row and then got woken up by my parents really early in the morning.

They're super jetlagged so they started moving around at like 4 or 5am. I gave up on sleeping and got up at 6am. We went for breakfast and I got to the office at 8am. Amazingly, NL was already there. I was so tired that I gave up preparing for the GEO visit. The streets were so empty that it took me forever to find a taxi. I was getting worried when I spotted a lone taxi coming my way. It had a passenger in it and I nearly called the office to get someone to call a taxi for me when it pulled up to drop off a passenger. Looked like someone who was going to our office for a meeting. I went to GEO by myself and I think the GEO engineer felt bad for me because I was just so tired. Anyway, she called multiple times during the day but I think she's satisfied, overall. I feel like I'm "growing up" too fast. Really don't mind being babied through this whole process.

I wanted to leave the office at around 6pm but ended up leaving at like 7pm. I took my parents to dinner at the Dragon Mall nearby. We had a lot of pretty tasty food for a decent price. Now they're snoring again. I should sleep too. Heading off to Thailand tomorrow night!!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The office

I thought I'd take some pictures of the office since this is where I spend a lot (most) of my time these days. This is my desk. Notice the green thing on the chair. That's the pig from Angry Birds. He keeps my back straight. There's a cute tissue holder to the right of the monitor. 

Here's a wider view. Our spaces are very open. There's no separation between me and the next guy. Each row has 3 desks and I'm in the middle. It's like an airplane. There's the aisle seats, middle seats, and window seats.

View from the other side, towards the "aisle".

 The plants. That's a mint plant on the left and some violets on the right. The violets are in a down phase right now but there are some more budding. This plant was left behind by a former coworker. The plant has been doing very well.

Our side of the office has a very nice view. We can see Lion Mountain and the rest of the mountain range that separates Kowloon from the New Territories.

The windows are very big. I'm glad the designers decided to make it a place that is pleasant to work in.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Getting things right

Is work life supposed to become routine after some point? The only thing constant at this job is that it feels like a big battle every day. Things happen so suddenly. On one hand, things stay interesting and sometimes it's kind of exhilarating to have multiple things happening and seeing things getting done. But it gets tiring. I felt really out of it all of today (Friday). I was feeling very unmotivated to do anything. One of those days when I really wished that work was more flexible and that I can just go take a nap and come back later. I think I would have been a lot more productive.

I spent the first couple of days this week fixing some dumb mistakes in my own calculations. Our system was already very efficiently utilized that even though some of these mistakes were minor, they made quite the difference. Anyway, after 2.5 days of hard core calculating and scheming of ways to make things work, we finally got everything working. I guess I didn't have to worry about not know what I was doing.

I still wish I had/have more time to review stuff. I think I can gain a lot by learning to do the structural calculations or at least understanding what they are doing. It makes coordination a lot easier if you understand what the other side needs so that you can give them the right stuff and anticipate their needs. An upcoming submission requires coordination between 3-4 parties, just within our own company. I think all of our individual parts are just all the basic stuff but the picture changes once you start adding restrictions and constraints from all the parties. This is where working with people who know what they're doing makes things happen so much more smoothly.

I feel like I'm a lot more confident in being able to make decisions or at least being able to ask the right questions. If I knew what I know now, our submissions would have been able to go in a lot earlier! But I don't think our groups capacity should be limited by a graduate's ability to turn things around.

I'm planning for a long day at the office tomorrow. I need to study for the PE, do my taxes, clean my desk, and hopefully also get some work done. Not sure all of these things will be able to happen tomorrow. A friend is visiting on Sunday so we will be hanging out.

And then my parents are visiting next week. They're getting in early Wednesday. Next week is an odd week because we get Wednesday and Friday off. So hopefully Thursday is a chill day. Then we're off to Thailand and Singapore!