Friday, June 28, 2013

Flight delayed

Flight is delayed for 6 hours due to late takeoff at the origin. The flight we are taking is a transatlantic flight coming from Chicago, stopping in Hong Kong, and then going onwards to Singapore. So I guess they took off from Chicago late. We were all packed, ready, brought all our stuff to work in order to leave straight for the airport. But I guess this is better because I get the chance to come back and shower. It was pretty hot and gross at site today. Also, we were planning on sleeping or hanging out at the Singapore airport after we get there (at around midnight). But with this delay, we'll be getting to Singapore at around 6am. I don't know what we would do there so early but probably just rest a bit and then hit the city. Anyway, I'll take this chance to write a bit about recent events.

Site has been boring these days since all we're doing is piling. And I guess as one of the assistant resident engineers (ARE), I'm not responsible for the big decisions anymore. Following site progress is really a matter of how much you care. You can do more or less. In the end, we're just observers and the contractor is really the responsible party. I prefer to be more on top of things though. And to that end, we've split up the site works so that they are more manageable to follow. Before, we were just taking turns to go out to inspect things but not really following the progress. I feel like as an engineer, I should really know what is happening on a day to day basis.

But starting next week, we will be back down to having only 2 AREs. The girl was was at site to replace me during my vacation stayed for long enough so that she can have a full year of site experience. Now her team wants her back at the office. Or maybe she wants to go back. Anyway, and somehow, they have calculated that we don't need one more ARE on site. It will be busier with only 2 AREs but I think it is still okay. I'm getting kind of bored of site life already though.

I am still working on the research project that my boss and I got funding for from the company. Hopefully I can wrap it all up in July. I wanted to finish everything in June but I ended up working a lot of Saturdays because other people were not available. And it's hard to work on these things at site since there are too many interruptions.

Other than that, I've been enjoying a lot of summer fruits, including lychee. I've been buying a lot of lychee lately. I've found some pretty cheap ones but they usually not as good. There are a lot of fruit stands on the way back from work so I'm always tempted to buy stuff.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Singapore for the weekend

Off to Singapore tomorrow! Should be fun. We're planning on staying at the airport for 2 nights. Our flight gets there pretty late and leaves pretty early. I actually think we're not going to be sleeping all that much. Probably wandering around the airport and being amazed at how nice it is. Might hang out at their free 24-hr cinema.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Americanized Hello Kitty

Found this in a book that's supposed to be useful for Japanese people touring the US. It has phrases and names of things that you may need to know when you're on vacation. The book is part of a series. They have Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, etc. 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Hot, cloudless weather

Excited for this upcoming weekend where I am not going anywhere and not working. Well, I'm going back to the office to work on a research project that is way overdue. It's the first time in a while that I have two full days to dedicate to working on the project. I think I made some good headway last Sunday although I wish I could have started earlier in the day last week. But had to meet up with a friend and that whole process took a while. I also didn't want to stay in the office very late. I went shopping (walked around the mall) afterwards and that was nice. Haven't done that in a while either.

It's been so hot lately! There has been an anticyclone over the area which means that there is an extra high pressure system. This corresponds to very clear days with no clouds in the sky. While this may look nice, it means it's really, really hot. The UV index is also off the charts. I've been putting on sunscreen like crazy everyday. A good sunscreen is definitely worth the investment now that I am working outdoors a lot. I used to never be able to finish a bottle because I don't use a lot.

I've been cooking a lot these days since I don't want to walk all the way down the hill to eat lunch. And because I have to cook lunch, this kind of forces me to cook dinner. If I eat out for dinner, it's because I don't want to cook in the first place. So actually this is saving me a lot of money. I'm also eating healthier because eating out tends to mean eating more grease and oily stuff than you realize. I've been pretty good about tracking my spending for the past month and that is actually a pretty good deterrent for spending money. Because if I spend money that day, then I have to open up the spreadsheet to enter to data! My lazy self usually decides to avoid unnecessary spending so that I don't have to enter data at night.

I also transferred money back to my US account again. Now that I don't have student loans to pay off, I can put more towards investments. I put another chunk into my Roth account, making me almost at the limit of my Roth contributions for 2013! I think I should really max it out since I don't have to pay US taxes at the moment. I also started a Lending Club account. But recently, it seems like they have an imbalance of more investors to lenders. All the notes get funded really quickly, often before Lending Club is able to verify the status of the loan. Anyway, I'll just invest a little bit and see how it goes. Investors get a payout every month, which is nice. Doesn't feel like your entire investment is tied up, although it still kind of is.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Working on Sat, dragon boat, research, etc.

I find that even though I have mores stuff to do on Saturdays, I'm much more productive because there is no one to chat with. I feel like I used to be much more productive when it was just me on site. Partly because I have no one to chat with and partly because I don't have to discuss certain decisions with people before making them. Now that there are more people on site, I feel like I should run over any decisions with the team before deciding on anything. Overall, we're doing much more as a team than I did alone but individual productivity doesn't seem to be able to get to the same maximum value. Not sure if that made sense... Anyway, that's just my observation so far.

Wednesday was the dragon boat festival and there were a lot of races across town. The Arup men's team came in 1st in their division! They have been doing better and better these past few years and getting more competitive. I didn't go watch. I went my first year here and it was really hot and there was a ton of people. The temperature these past week has gone down to the 20s instead of the 30s (Celsius) so it's much more comfortable. I can't imagine what it will be like when the temperature is in the 30s all the time.

These days, I'm busy working on a research project that we got funding from the company for last year. We're way overdue so I'm just trying to get some results and write it up. It's an interesting piece of research related to laterally loaded piles. I think there are a lot of questions we would like answers to. The current state of the practice is not very sophisticated. People just use these equations and charts that don't always match what the actual site conditions are. So we tend to make much more conservative assumptions than we would otherwise. It would be nice to be able to work on something like this more on a full time basis. I think the company has funding for this but not really manpower because we're always prioritizing real projects. Anyway, it would be nice to come up with a finished product and maybe publish some a paper or two in these "young engineer" paper awards. There seems to be quite a few of these competitions. HKIE and ICE seem to do a pretty good job of hosting events and paper competitions. Even though site life is pretty boring, I think I'll take this "break" to do this research stuff and maybe even study for the LEED exam...

Monday, June 10, 2013


Just came back from a short weekend trip to Hangzhou to see a college friend who was visiting her family. I got there Friday afternoon and left Sunday morning. It was a quick trip but we still managed to do a lot.

I left Hong Kong with only a backpack. I didn't even pack any jackets since it was so hot in HK. On the way there, I was kind of worried that it might be cold in Hangzhou. It turned out to be a lot cooler in Hangzhou but still pretty warm so the clothes I packed were okay. Apparently, it doesn't get unbearably hot there until July and August. Whereas in HK, it's crazy hot for 6 months a year. Anyway, it was pouring rain when I got to Hangzhou. I really should have just taken a taxi straight from the airport but I took the airport shuttle instead. It was cheap but took a while before it left for the city. The rain was coming down really hard when I finally got to the city and the bus dropped us off in the middle of the parking lot instead of inside the main train station. It was a very wet adventure trying to find an empty taxi to take me the short way to my friend's place. I only managed to meet up with my friend after getting off the taxi because she went outside to see if I was wandering around and found me!

We had dinner that night at her grandparents' place and then walked around the pedestrian street area with lots of tourist shops and other little cute stores. I got a scrapbook and some tea leaves. It's weird to buy things right when you get to a place. I find that I'm always debating whether or not to buy something and part of me is always thinking "maybe later/next time". But usually, there is no next time since it's very unlikely that you'll go back to the same place twice in one short trip. Anyway, I have enough tea in my collection to last me a lifetime now.

On Saturday, we rented out bikes from the city's bike rental program. You basically put down a deposit to get a card that lets you take bikes from these racks. The first hour is free and then something like 1 RMB an hour after that. You can always put the bike back and get out another bike to avoid charges. But it's ridiculously cheap anyway. There are actually plenty of these racks around town. The quality of the bikes are dubious though. One of the ones I picked out made this cranking noise and the kickstand kept falling down. Anyway, we had a lot of fun going around West Lake and up to these temples and caves. We had a solid 12 hour day exploring various part of town. The only thing that was lacking was the availability of good snacks. The only things that were sold at these tourist places were corn on a cob, tofu, cups of noodles, and sometimes tea eggs. These items got boring after a while. 

My China visa expires really soon (this Saturday). So this might be the last time I go to the Mainland for a while. At least until I apply for my next visa. I think it would be worth it if I went to Shenzhen more often. But now that I live on the Island, it's even farther to get to the Mainland. I might apply for one in a couple of months. Until then, I'll just have to stick to places where I don't need a visa. Like Singapore for example. Just booked a ticket last night with my roommate to go there for the July 1st weekend. We get July 1st off because it's HK day. Another long weekend trip ahead!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Updates: furniture, Hangzhou, work, etc.

I moved another piece of furniture today. Got it off of cragislist when I introduced one of my coworkers to the website. I needed another place to store clothes as my drawers are really full. I think this definitely ends my furniture buying. Bringing it back was a bit traumatic but I got it back to my place okay. The taxi driver was not too happy but I wasn't going too far. It's a mini-expedia shelf from Ikea. I think the smart thing to do would have been to read the instructions on how to assemble the piece and brought the right set of tools with me so that I could dissemble it. Oh wells, it was able to fit into the elevators and taxi exactly right.

Going to Hangzhou this weekend because one of my friends is there! People should really let me know when they are thinking about going to Asia so that I can plan my vacations properly. This trip worked out okay though. I found a pretty cheap flight. I'm leaving on Friday and coming back on Sunday. Making good use of my Mainland visa before it expires. I'm pretty excited.

Work has been kind of dull. There is not too much going on. I feel like the contractor can really manage the project better. It amazes me how they are able to plan and keep track of the progress without having a good grasp of the actual works. If I were in their position, I would keep close tabs on my subcontractors and know exactly which machines are being used where. Right now, they just depend on the subcontractor and the workers to figure out what to do next. There doesn't seem to be a whole lot of planning. I can definitely see how things can be built incorrectly and no one would know until it is too late.

I tried to go to the vigil for the Tienanmen Square incident yesterday at Victoria Park. I live really close to the park now. It's just literally two streets away. I went home to shower and eat first. I wanted to get off at the Tin Hau MTR station but there was a massive line of people going up the escalators. So I ended up going one more stop further. The vigil started at 8pm and at exactly 8pm, it started thunderstorming. Luckily, I was still at home and couldn't believe the how massive the downpour was. I went outside when the rain let up at around 8:30pm but there were just too many people in the park. I couldn't get close at all. I gave up after a while and just watched the news instead. Apparently, you have to show up early to be able to get in.