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!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

First time inside the BOC Building

These things were in my hands for all of 10 (maybe 15) minutes. This city and its craziness in buying and reselling stuff. That was an hour and a half well spent.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Almost Summer

I've started studying for the PE exam. It's slow going so far. I've had two semi-productive study sessions these past two Saturdays. I was struggling at first to find good study material and finally found a book for the seismic stuff. I think I only need to know the basics so hopefully just cramming in formulas will be enough. I'm hoping that this studying will pick up soon because I don't think I will be able to manage to cover all the topics at this speed. Just kind of worried about the subjects that I don't have regular exposure to, like seismic, surveying, and the chemistry of wastewater treatment....

I finally managed to book the flights for my parents' vacation to Thailand and Singapore last weekend. They are on the blog now! It's such a hassle to find flights to go to 3 different countries. I realized mid-search that most airlines don't/can't do such things. It's nearly impossible to book something like this with the same airline because would need to make a stop in their home country before going on to another one. Luckily, there are cheap airlines out there that do one-way tickets so I ended up booking a lot of those. Now I just have to figure out the hotel situation... I don't know how much energy I have on this trip to do very much. At least we're in Bangkok for a few days and it seems like we'll have enough time to actually do some decent sightseeing.

Last Sunday I went for a hike up Beacon Hill. I took the bus to the monkey reservoir again and started the hike from there. I actually have a lot of choices for decent hikes starting from there. But I don't like these monkeys very much and that bus stop just doesn't give me the same kind of refreshing feeling as say, somewhere in Sai Kung or Lantau. There's just something about the Tung Chung MTR station that makes me feel very happy, even though there's actually no decent trails starting from there. Anyway, that trail actually keeps going up Lion Mountain, which I thought about ascending. But the day was actually pretty hot and the 500mL of water I brought wasn't going to keep me going up another mountain. And I was actually feeling kind of tired on the way down from Beacon Hill. I wish I have a better sense of how much water I need and can manage to bring exactly that. It's very important to have just the right amount of water on hot days.

This Sunday, I decided to skip the hike and just wander out to Sai Kung. I haven't been there in a while and just wanted to see the sea up close again. There is so much greenery on the way. The mountains over there are just more lush. I had a urge to move over there but it's really too far from work. I explored more of Sai Kung town this time. Not sure why I never managed to do so before. There are so many little shops and the old Sai Kung town is really interesting. So many little shops and back alleys. It would be really sad to see the place "developed" with high rises and huge shopping malls. There are some people who want to do this and I think it would definitely be a shame. I lined up for another pineapple bun and ate it sitting on a bench admiring the cloudless blue sky. I think the sky gets bluer in California though. The weather today was so much like a cool summer day in the Bay Area.

While walking around Sai Kung, I saw this couple pushing a stroller with 3 cats! Two of them were very big and fat. The last one is very young and had a collar on that tied it to the stroller. The two fat ones were just so happy to be pushed around. The lady had one of them in her arms and so many people stopped them to take pictures of the cats. They said that they started taking their cats out for strolls when the cats were young and they've gotten used to it. The cats were so mellow! Especially since there were so many dogs around. I think there's a dog park or something around because the piers seem to always be full of dogs. The couple was really nice about letting people pet their cats.

Looking forward to "summer" starting and we start getting this year's new graduates and summer interns. One graduate started last week in another team. One of the secretaries is now doing a "new staff introduction" email when people start. I think it's pretty good because otherwise you might not know if that person wasn't in your immediate team.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The sun came back

It's starting to feel like summer over here. I was considering taking the fan out of the box again. It cleared up in the afternoon and was sunny for the first time in what feels like ages. I hope tomorrow clears up as well so that I can get some sun while hiking. I think today would have been a good day to go up Lion Mountain or somewhere high. 

I haven't gotten a chance to write about my adventures last Sunday. Last Sunday was a day that I wished would have been sunny, or at least dry. A bunch of us had made plans to go biking. It was pouring rain and really cold when we got to Lantau Island. We stuck to the original plan and got bikes anyway. The rain cleared up a bit once we got going but I don't think any of us realized what the "bike path" actually consisted of. The beginning of it was really rough. We had to bring the bikes up some wet and muddy steps to get to the actual trail. And then we found a lot of big rocks, steep trails, and very slippery conditions. Even on a day like this, there were still a lot of hikers. And then there were the serious mountain bikers who were flying down the mountain. Anyway, I really think I would have been able to hike faster without the bike. It got better after the first bit though. Some of the roads were still too steep (both ways) for me to really feel comfortable biking. I think the part of biking that I really don't like is going too fast and feeling out of control. Anyway, I think I'm going to give up on this biking business. I think I would have enjoyed the trail quite a bit if I had been hiking instead. We ended the day with a meal at China Beach in Mui Wo. It's a place run by these British people who make really good food. The portions are huge and very delicious. So the money I got from finally selling the microwave all went to this one meal. 

I think my goal for the upcoming couple of months is to lose the weight I've gained this past year. I think I should be somewhat worried that I can't seem to fit comfortably into my size 2 pants anymore. Aside from being worried, it's also very annoying. I have all these pants that I can't wear. I went to the gym for the first time in about 2 weeks. Definitely need to start up the morning routine again. I'm nearing my goal of price per visit being less than the one time fee of $150 (HKD) though. Only 21 more times to go!

Last week felt like a really stressful week at work. I think I was just feeling unhappy the first couple of days and it didn't help that we were being chased by the structural group to push out another submission. Anyway, being upset and stressed out is not a good combination. I really don't get why the private design companies just can't seem to compete in terms of salary with government jobs here. It makes it so that you have to leave the private industry after a few years. 

We had a farewell dinner for one of the guys in the structural team we've been working with. It was crazy. First of all, we got there late because we were waiting for the guy who's leaving to come back from BD. He's and another guy have been going to BD everyday this past week because their submission is due. Going everyday is excessive but I guess we all really want it approved and out of the way. Anyway, that's not the crazy part. We went to a hot pot place and there were 11-12 of us all around a big table. The English guy really wanted beer and after we all stuffed ourselves, the guys started drinking like crazy and started having all these competitions. It did not help that the English guy introduced putting a bendy straw into the bottle, which helps cut down on the carbonation once you get the other end of the straw out of the liquid. It got really crazy after a while. We even went for another drink after the hot pot itself. 

Even though these farewell dinners are usually held at pretty nice places and people have fun, I don't really feel like I want to keep going to these. Already feeling like I've been to too many of them. I'm hoping that there won't be a steady stream of them in the upcoming months. 

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Quarter of a century!

Having another no work weekend! I'm spending a lot of it with coworkers though. It was my birthday on Friday and everyone in the office seemed to know, mostly through facebook. I had a pretty chill day on Friday and went to lunch with the graduate engineers on our floor. They had actually organized this lunch for another coworker, whose birthday was also this past week. So it ended up being a birthday lunch for both of us.

I left work at a decent-ish time and finally managed to sell my microwave. So happy to finally get rid of that thing. I hope it works out well for the guy who bought it. I've honestly only used that thing less than 10 times. It's way too big for my little space and I've been trying to get rid of it for more than 2 months. I guess I just wasn't aggressive enough in selling it. Anyway, I think I finally managed to name a price that's agreeable to other people and got some responses. It's quite heavy and my arms are sore from carrying it to the MTR station.

Then I crashed another birthday party. This time, it was a friend who I met here in HK through a mutual friend. She and another friend of hers decided to hold a party for their birthdays and invited me. It was held at the Sky Lounge of an apartment complex in Wanchai. The apartment complex is pretty nice. Very slender so the use of space is very efficient, like most places on the Island. The Sky Lounge is really nice, with great views of the harbor. They have party rooms that residents can rent out and do gatherings like this. It started out pretty small and quiet and then people started pouring in. Everyone bought a bottle of alcohol so that accumulated to be a really big collection by the end of the night. It got really loud at some point and the management asked us to move out of the room and into the big lounge area, which helped disbursed people a bit. The management got put off the the large amount of alcohol we bought with us and the two cakes. I think they would have been okay with a small amount of snacks and one cake but two cakes and tons of alcohol was too much for them. They wanted to make money by having people rent out the place and then paying for their food. I'm sure they are making plenty by collecting rent from expats though so it's not like I feel sorry for them.

The good thing about being on the other side of the world is that it feels like I get an extended birthday. People were sending me happy birthday wishes through facebook for basically two days. I was pretty lazy this morning (Saturday) and ended up just dropping off laundry before heading to another gathering with coworkers. We had a gathering/fun day among the graduates in the geotech group. We went to one guy's apartment and played board games for a while. He lives with his parents in a really nice apartment complex. It looks like a hotel with indoor and outdoor pool, game rooms, even music rooms. We played this number board game called Rummikub, which really makes you think. It got addicting after a while and we played several games before stopping to eat apple crumble with ice cream fresh out of the oven. I'm surprised they even had an oven in the house.

We moved on to the pool room and some of the guys played pool while the rest of us moved out to this outdoor balcony to play another card game, called Saboteur. That outdoor space was really nice, again, with a great view of the harbor. They had nice seats and I can definitely imagine hanging out there during the late afternoon and sunset time. Very expensive to actually rent out though. The game was fun and I somehow was on the "good" side every time we played. I think it would be more fun to be on the "bad" side. Anyway, the first couple of rounds were quite confusing because most people were still trying to figure out how to play the game. And then people started doing silly things so the saboteurs won every round.

We had a nice dinner at Simply Life. I'm usually very opposed to eating at chains that are available at Festival Walk. But I was assured that the food they served at this one is different from the one at the office. The food was really good and for a good price. I think we were all happy with the food and atmosphere so we sat around for a long while chatting.

Tomorrow will be another day of hanging out with coworkers, this time with the expats.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

A no work weekend

Didn't go into the office this weekend. This hasn't happened for a while. It wasn't entirely intentional though. On Saturday, I deliberately avoided all thoughts of going into the office. I was hoping for a sunny day to go out hiking. It was not a sunny day at all and felt more and more like there was a storm as the day went on. But I went hiking anyway. I made my weekly rounds at the wet market and picked up a lot of fruit before heading out.

I took the no. 81 bus up to the reservoirs again and started walking from there. I wanted to hike up to Amah Rock and then over to Tai Wai. I didn't make it up the to the rock and just saw it from below instead. I think I could have done it but the weather was getting colder and colder. It was so humid that I thought there was going to be a storm soon. Anyway, I nearly missed the path to go down to Tai Wai. I found it in the end and went to the train station to find something to eat. I actually brought some snacks with me but I couldn't find a good place to sit down to eat so I ate at a little restaurant instead. I walked past the real estate agencies and tried to see the prices for rentals. But they were mostly advertising for sales. I doubt I can find something in my price range so close to the station though. I probably have to find something a bit farther out. Anyway, will have to explore this area more in the near future.

On Sunday, I met up with two coworkers for dim sum. One of them just arrived in HK on a short term assignment from the UK. She says work is really slow going in the UK. We ended up hanging out the entire day. We spent quite a bit of time in the Computer Mall in Sham Shui Po looking for various things. I was totally going to buy a trackball mouse but I found out I didn't have any cash on me. Sigh. We walked around the fish and flower market. There are mint plants on sale! Again, I didn't get a pot of them due to the lack of money. I didn't want to be carrying around a live plant anyhow. I had wanted to go into the office in the afternoon but gave up on it. I don't think I would have been very productive anyway.

Trying to get myself ready for another busy week. I finally ironed my shirts. For the past two weeks, they have just been a pile sitting on my bed. I'm going to start this week off by getting enough sleep. So bed time!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Is it summer already??

It's finally Friday! This has been a really long week. I can barely remember what happened on Monday because it seems like such a long time ago. Even though I have only been working on one project this entire time, this project has too many different buildings and works going on. I think I helped out with a total of 5 different submissions just this week. Things are wrapping up for us (the geotech team) though. We are aiming to submit the last excavation submission for this project next week, which has mostly been done by two graduate engineers... There's a foundation submission that I don't feel as up to speed on it as I should be. After that, we literally just being support. Anyhow, that one excavation design that I've been working on since I started finally got approved! Can't really say it's mine because it too a lot of input from a lot of different people. It's quite a difficult piece of design. I need to find some time to write up some lessons learned from it.

The weather here is really weird. We had a couple of days of pretty cold weather and even some rain for the beginning of the week. Sometime this morning, it all cleared up and saw the the blue skies again. I went out with the other graduate engineers for lunch and it was so warm. It nearly felt like summer. It even felt humid. We took the train out to TaiWai, the next stop in the New Territories and went to this little Vietnamese place. I think they're trying to make this going out to TaiWai a weekly Friday thing.

I hope this sunny thing holds out for the weekend. I really want to go hiking. Go run up a mountain or something. I have to remember not to underestimate the difficulties of the trails here though. Some of them are pretty challenging and you don't realize it until you're halfway up and there's nowhere but up to go.

I think these recent blog posts has to be the most boring stuff I've ever written. Really feel like I need to apologize to my audience. But don't worry, I think I'm going to 2 birthday parties/gatherings next week!