This 2010

"Motivation to Study? Not sure."
I thought of writing this because I had trouble sleeping last night, after several restless nights. I started this post, intending to list a few things that I am universally known for among my friends and family. Then, I moved on to describing how I think people I've dealt with in 2010 perceived me this year. Then, I got creative and decided to come up with a list of words that described me this year, something like a tag cloud for my life and our conversations in 2010 (in no particular order, and not all of them necessarily true anymore).

Boss, Sleeps Early, Wine, Food, Second Dinner, Hungry, Apple, iProducts, iPhone, iPad, Cornell, CIT, Mac Team, Photography, POTD, Cars, Grader, Engineer, Six Sigma, 407, Duffield, Phillips Lab, MEng, PowerPoint, Presentations, Design, McDonald's, 'Drink', Piso Mojado, Suntack, OTEC, Energy, Sangam, Politics, Nikon, Website, Victory Pizza, Technology, English, Words, Buzz, Flickr, USuMBS, Tumblr, Twitter, Blog, Movies, Brooklyn, NYC, Hyundai, Sonata, Mazda3, 'Tech', Trains, Ping Pong, Billiards, Frisbee, Biking, Walk, Newspaper, Subway Maps, Museums, Cold, Taiwan, America, 'Up In The Air', Basement, Weight, CUSD, MoRF, ChemE, Roaches.

Edit: Also, cooking, and 'csb'.

Finally, this picture is absolutely the Photo of the Year for me. It summarizes a lot about me and my personality in 2010, not excluding the fact that it was taken in 407 by Hans for a POTD.

Happy New Year guys.

NYC Bucket List

Taylor, all confused, as usual.
I realized two important things today. First, this winter break might be the last time I will be at home for an extended period of time with "nothing" to do. Second, flossing is incredibly important.

After hanging out with Taylor today (and deliberately avoiding, as best we can, all the touristy things to do and places to see), I realized the commonly known fact that tourists to NYC do more of the necessary things than NYC natives do. We take it for granted. At least I know I do, somewhat. Before I depart from this place "for good," I should probably try my hand at some of the ridiculous and dumb touristy things in this city.

I'm drawing up a NYC bucket list of sorts. But I realize time is already running short, as I will be going to Hawaii mid January, and potentially Boston before then. If you got any suggestions, I'm all ears.

Blizzard 2010, NYC

There's a lot of snow outside. Two days have passed and no government truck came to plow our local street. Usually we can dump snow into the street for cars to melt, but this time we had massive piles in the backyard and in the front garden.

In the back, we dug a tunnel.

Magnedude = Geodude + Magneton

In the spirit of Christmas, I spent today revisiting something I did at the end of last year, around Christmas. As a followup to Primexecutor, Sebastian and I mixed together Geodude and Magneton. Like last time, Sebastian came up with the concept and drew up what came to mind. I cleaned up the drawing and colored it in Photoshop. From a distance, it kind of looks like a Christmas tree.

STEP ONE: SCAN ORIGINAL INTO PHOTOSHOP



STEP TWO: DARKEN LINES, REMOVE STRAY LINES AND WHITE SPACES 



STEP THREE: ADD COLOR


STEP FOUR: BURN COLORS
 

STEP FIVE: ADJUST BRIGHTNESS AND CONTRAST


STEP SIX: SHARPEN LINES AND ADJUST COLOR

STEP SEVEN: FINISH















Photog x 3

East Avenue
I'm trying to get all caught up on the photos I've taken this epic semester. I didn't have too much to post this time, but there are still a few sets I want to get up on Flickr before it's too late and all but forgotten. So far, I have two up. A few more to go before closing up the photo archives. Also remember to check out my photo portfolio at kcheng.us.

I've also gotten involved in taking some videos with my iPhone 4. I must say, it's pretty fun. My videos are at vimeo.com/usumbs.

Group Final Fail

Preface: Myra and I are both graders for a class that we are both registered students for as well.

Myra: way to put just your name on your final
Myra: *our
Kevin: no way
Myra: good thing i know that it is all of us
Kevin: lol
Kevin: hahahahahahahahahaha
Kevin: ahahahaha
Kevin: ahahahahahaa
Kevin: hahaha
Kevin: hahahahahaahahaa
Myra: good thing we are grading
Kevin: (my bad)
Myra: otherwise
Myra: i would have gotten a zero
Kevin: hahahahahahahahaahaha
Kevin: hahahahahaha
Kevin: ahahaha
Kevin: ha
Myra: ..
Kevin: hahaha
Kevin: wow

Kevin Fact 10

My biggest character flaw is jealousy.

The Tampa Saga Ends in an Upset

It was an epic adventure to say the least... starting with the Feedback predicament, The Amazing Race aspect, The Apprentice aspect, and ending with a ride up to Ithaca in a rental car with a stranger.

Ask me personally if you want to know the details. I don't feel like writing about it here.

But what did I get out of all of this? A newfound level of respect, trust, and humility. And a great disdain for the color yellow.

I Dropped Feedback

I submitted my case and arguments after speaking with the professor today. The following letter was submitted to Graduate Advising, with whom I met yesterday. I submitted this letter as a cover letter for a package with a copy of all the e-mails I had with the company and the professor. Writing skills don't fail me now!



Dear -----:

Due to unforeseen circumstances, I am forced and am requesting to drop MAE 5780: Feedback Control Systems. In order to pursue a potential job opportunity, whose schedule was made aware to me only on October 16, I will be unable to make the scheduled time for the first prelim, scheduled for October 28. I was invited to attend a three-day interview and invitational that requires that I be away from campus, from October 27 to October 29. This is a petition to drop MAE 5780 (without a 'W' on my transcript, if possible).

In a long discussion with the course professor via e-mail, he has expressed his intention of following course policy and will not offer me a make-up exam, and I have noted that this is an event that I cannot miss.

The following is an account of the events, from my perspective, that have transpired between Saturday, October 16 and Wednesday, October 20. I have enclosed a copy of  e-mail correspondences with both the professor and the company to elaborate on my situation. Please note: I am not trying to get anyone in trouble.

On Monday (Oct 20), I made the necessary phone calls and sent out the needed e-mails to the potential employer to obtain more information on the terms of the invitational next week. What I gathered from two sources from the company (one from HR and one from a recent Cornell alumnae), this is one event that I should not miss.

On Tuesday (Oct. 19), I have spoken with you at the graduate advising office. You ask me about fairness, citing university policy about the drop deadline being Friday, October 15. Of course, in fairness to other students, my request for dropping the class without a 'W' ought not be approved, at the expense of fairness to me; I strongly believe I did nothing wrong as a full-time graduate student who is both involved in academics and in job-searching. While I cannot say what the future implications of a 'W' on my transcript will be, I know that the  connotation of a 'W' suggests to whoever that is reading my transcript that the course was dropped do to poor grades or student uncommitment. This is certainly not the case. The professor agrees that I am up-to-date with all my homework assignments, quizzes, and lab reports, doing above the class average. I am requesting that this course be dropped without a 'W' preventive, and to protect myself from this blemish on my transcript, especially since the circumstances (occurring so close the the drop deadline) were not up to me.

On Wednesday (Oct. 20), I met with the professor. After presenting my situation and expressing my intention to drop the class, he reluctantly offered a make-up exam for next Tuesday, October 26. At this point in time, I had to decline his offer and ask for his support in my decision to drop the course for the following reasons...

The events that have transpired over the past few days regarding this single class have severely diverted my attention away from my other classes and commitments (including two prelims this week). Not only am I becoming increasingly unprepared for my other courses because of this situation, I have fallen behind in my coursework for MAE 5780 itself (homework and lab report due this week) because I was waiting on the professor's decision. This series of unfortunate and mal-timed events has caused me a significant amount of emotional and mental stress to the point of affecting my performance in my classes, research project, and job.

As I am determined to attend this three-day invitational next week and current circumstances do not allow me to take this course, I am respectfully requesting, with the support of both my academic advisor and the course professor, to drop MAE 5780 without a 'W'.

Sincerely yours,

Kevin



I met with the graduate advisor today as I submitted my petition. The professor and the advisor had been talking and decided that my situation does warrant a droop without 'W'. She didn't even have to read my letter. This ends the five day long saga. I don't know how I feel about it just yet. I guess I can find solace in the fact that I my argument won out again the professor's... I guess. More like, the professor acquiesced to my request. Unfortunately, it was a little too late.

Thanks everyone for your advice and support. Sorry Stephen for abandoning you.

Looks Like I'll Have to Drop My First Class Ever

Having learned nothing from The Social Network, I'm posting a censored transcript of our correspondence at the risk of sounding melodramatic. The following is a series of e-mails in chronological order.



Professor -----,

I just received an invitational this morning for an off-campus second-round interview from 10/27 - 10/29. The ----- prelim is Thursday, October 28. I am wondering if I can work with you to schedule a make-up exam. I wish I was notified of their decision earlier than this morning; I'm sorry for the inconvenience.

Thank you,

-- Kevin



Kevin:

Sorry - I cannot do a make-up.

The class is mostly made up of seniors and MEngs, all looking for jobs - it would be logistically impossible for me to schedule make-ups for everyone. So, I ask that you all (first day of class, in the syllabus) to schedule around the several quizzes and prelims in the class.

Regards.

-----

Ironically or not, I received this e-mail while doing the homework due for this class next week.


Prof -----,

I understand that the syllabus says that potential conflicts need to be reported by September 28th for Prelim 1 for "exceptional circumstances, such as religious holidays." The problem I'm facing is that I wasn't aware of any conflict until after the specified date.

If I had known sooner whether I was accepted for an on-site invitational and interview, I would have definitely scheduled around the exam. Since my on-campus interview, I had followed up with the company on several occasions for their decision. I was only notified of my acceptance literally 10:20 this morning.

I hope I will not have to make the difficult decision of choosing between pursuing a potential career and dropping -----, a class which I thoroughly enjoy, a day after the Drop Deadline.

Thank you,

-- Kevin



Kevin:

I understand your situation. As I indicated, many students in the course are in a similar situation. My email reply to you did not refer to the timing of your request. I would have said no if you had asked me in September, as I do not feel that job interviews are exceptional circumstances (I said this on the first day of class). For several reasons. First, all employers that I have ever met with work within the students' academic program, especially with regard to exams. Second, I would estimate that I would have 20 request for make-up exams, and each would take me several days to make-up. This is not realistic.

Thus, I clarify (in many ways) the constraints of the course up-front so that students can plan around these. If you are organized in your job search, and communicate with employers about your academic constraints, then there should not be a choice to be made. I know many students in the course have organized their interviews around the prelim - I hope you can do the same.

Thanks.

-----



The second-round invitational and interview I mentioned above is a three day event with accepted students attending from all over the country. There is no question; there is no way I can miss this opportunity.


This will be the first class I dropped at Cornell ever. In four years, I committed to and completed taking every class I signed up for, including 21 credits across 8 classes in my first semester of senior year; 19 credits across 7 classes in my second semester of senior year; and 20 credits across 7 classes this semester. This will be my first, and it's not even up to me.


I completely understand where he's coming from, but my question is: Am I wrong? I will visit the professor on Monday, and we'll see how it goes from there.


EDIT: I sent the professor a final e-mail.



Professor -----,

I hope I may take another moment of your time to clarify my situation further. I understand that every potential exception is arguably "unique" but I feel mine is, especially.

Generally, I would agree with you that job interviews are not extraordinary exceptions. In most cases, it is true that individual, second-round, off-campus interviews can be scheduled with the employer on a case-by-case basis. In my case, however, and in response to your first reason, the event I was invited to is a three-day affair, which involves interviews, meetings, networking dinners, and case study presentations (one of which I will have to give) with second-round interviewees from all around the country; it is not a typical interview process and its schedule is inflexible.

I had my on-campus interview on October 1. I was only notified of their decision and the date of this three-day invitational this Saturday morning. I am not disorganized with my job search; it wasn't that I was unwilling to plan accordingly.

I apologize if this e-mail makes me come off as impolite or ungracious. I am extremely interested in learning the topic about feedback control systems and would prefer if I didn't have to petition to drop -----. I genuinely understand your position and viewpoint, and I hope I presented my argument well that this company's inflexible, second-round interview process is unlike most others in that it invites all second-round interviewees to its campus for a three-day event. If you are saying that extreme situations such as mine are somehow avoidable and do not warrant a consideration for a make-up exam, I will submit to your final decision.

Sincerely,

-- Kevin



Kevin:

Come to see me in person in my office hours if you want to discuss this further.

In all my years of teaching, I have never heard of a company forcing a student to potentially drop a class because of an on-site interview - in fact, it is against Cornell policies really. If you have informed the company that you have a previously scheduled, required exam that cannot be moved during that period (or else you have to drop the course), and their response was that the time period they have given you is the only path to you getting a job there, then I will consider a make-up prelim. Otherwise, I will adhere to the course policy (which all of the other students are also adhering to).

If this is the case, please also come with the contact information for the company. I will work with Career services to make sure that no other students are put in that position (now or in the future).

Finally, note also that I will not have time to make up another exam, so the terms would be a one hour oral exam next Tuesday.

Kevin Fact 9

You need to grow up sooner or later, so you might as well start now.

Education, Productivity, and Doing Something with Your Life

Earlier this week, I read something that aptly summarizes a lot of what I've been thinking about lately in terms of education, productivity, and doing something with your life. From the September 28, 2010 Cornell Daily Sun, I'm quoting Steven Zhang's opinion piece titled "There Is No U.S.," in full...
Open up any recent issue of the New York Times and you can be sure to find a headline on one of many Chinese triumphs often accompanied by another story on American woes.
It’s nothing new. While China is taking the lead in green energy technology, we are still entangled in a debate over the legitimacy of global warming. While their economy efficiently surges ahead — recently becoming the second largest in the world by surpassing Japan — ours struggles to return to its former glory. Even Thomas L. Friedman’s lamentations over our beloved country seem to be in overdrive these past few weeks. 
Shouldn’t we be worried? After all, it is us against them. West versus East. Democracy against Communism. They are two nations stuck in an inescapable zero-sum game. Therefore, must not we, proud Americans, do everything we can to protect America?
Not necessarily. It’s a pity to see that our politicians have still not faced reality. America’s clout in the world is slowly fading away and we — especially our Cornell seniors who are entering the job market — have to adapt. Just take a look at the biggest names participating at the recent career fair. Hoping to work on Wall Street? You might have better chances of finding a job in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Singapore and Shenzhen, a city in China I bet you never knew existed. Asian cities are rapidly rising in the Global Financial Centers Index in the past few years and will eventually overtake their Western counterparts. Not interested in finance? For engineers, General Electric is the second largest multinational corporation in the world and is becoming more and more reliant on foreign workers. The ratio of U.S.-based workers to non-U.S. based workers was 1.15 to 1 in 2001, down from 4 to 1 in 1990. In fact, its largest research and development center is located in India. Similarly, General Motors, though our government owns around 60 percent of the company, sells more cars in China than it does domestically. Hoping to work in the hotel business? The largest hotel chain, the Intercontinental Hotel, is based in the United Kingdom and has established 25 hotel schools in China in hopes of tapping the talents of the country’s youth. 
The world is not just flattening; it’s shrinking. Just look at our University today. We have people from every corner of the country, from every inhabited continent. The figure that we should be focused on now isn’t whether we have students from all 50 states but if we have students from all 194 nations. For undergraduates, international students comprise 8.7 percent of the student body. That means almost one in every 10 students you see on campus is from another country. The figure is even more startling for our graduate and professional schools: One in three graduate students is an international. The political borders and geographic barriers are slowly falling.
What does this mean for us and our futures? First, it means we have to unhinge from the belief that the world is centered on us — America. And we have to start to realize the world is larger than what we see on CNN, that there are more happenings in the world outside of Iraq, Lindsay Lohan and political sex scandals. It is imperative that we abandon the comfort of our insularity and reject the illusion that our nation is still at its prime. The fact is that a post-American world is quietly becoming realized and it is a world in which the term “nationality” will become more and more obsolete.
Secondly, it means that the solutions to problems — finance, education, politics, environment — will no longer find their roots solely in American ingenuity, but in the exchange of ideas between cultures. Most likely, it won’t be an American who will solve the looming energy crisis but a medley of scientists from all corners of the globe who have collaborated with eachother.
And finally, we have to realize that this trend is not reversible. The United States is not a monolith that acts in uniformity. It is composed of free thinking individuals, each pursuing opportunities to get ahead. As the world becomes more interconnected and opportunities abroad become easier to access, Americans will become attracted to them, which will only lead to greater accessibility, generating a self-perpetuating cycle. But it isn’t a bad thing. As long as we Cornellians are prepared and flexible, we can certainly excel in the age of globalization and should not be too worried about our employment prospects. There will be demand if we look far enough.
At the recent United Nations summit, China’s Prime Minister Wen Jiabao claimed, “China’s development is an opportunity to the world.” Empty rhetoric or not, China is in a position to surpass our economy around 2020, and once it does, we will be forced to engage the awakening giant, as well as other rising nations to our south and west. For us Americans — whatever that means anymore — it is time to think outside of the red, white and blue box.
Article found at http://cornelldailysun.com/section/opinion/content/2010/09/28/there-no-us 

iPhone 4 and POTD

Early Morning Sun on Campus
The future of POTD... Well, it all started not because I wanted to make a stunning or portfolio-worthy photo every day. Instead, I wanted to practice composition and photo techniques that I can learn and apply. At first, I limited the camera I was using for POTD to my simply point-and-shoot camera. Then, I lost track of my purpose, got overzealous, and started shooting with my DSLR for POTD photos. Then, I got lazy.

Earlier this week, I got my new iPhone 4. Interestingly enough, I jumped on the bandwagon only after iOS 4.1 had the HDR feature for the iPhone camera. And I love it!

POTD evolved from being a project to practice my photography into being a photo-journal to share with distant friends and family.

I'm proposing that, for the future of POTD, I will shoot primarily with my iPhone 5.0 MP camera. Post-processing will be done through several photo-editing apps on the iPhone, starting primarily with Photoshop Express. (Originally, I've been post-processing through Aperture on my Mac, which, as you all know, has become terribly slow.) I believe that this way, I can not only post in a more timely matter (and without such a long pipelined procedure), but also share more candid photos that are more accurate to the experience.

We'll see how it goes.

Photo of the Day 2010 on Flickr.

One of Each, Please

Apple.com Menu Bar

After the latest announcement, I had to do it. My iPhone 4 comes in tomorrow. Oddly enough, the number one feature I want on my phone is not multi-tasking, or voice search, or even the gyroscopometer (or whatever). I just really want the 5 MP camera and HD camcorder. Automatic HDR! That in itself sold me the phone.

I need one of each thing on Apple.com's menu bar. iPhone > iPad > Mac, in order of importance to me. My iPhone 3G is already more than two years old. My MacBook Pro is going on its fifth year. iPad with multi-tasking is amazing. And iPhone 4 just completes the set somehow. No more iProducts for at least two years, I promise.

50 Months with MBP - $1.80/Day

Some of you may know that my MacBook Pro has been slowly dying on the inside (literally) for about half a year now. After many instances of random shutdown and messed up startup screens, the computer will be 50 months old this month, September 2010. I first got it in August 2006, making it the first Intel Mac ever. It has lived through 3 major releases of Mac OS, starting with Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger.

2.16 GHz Core Duo, 2 GB 667 MHz DDR2 SDRAM, 100 GB HDD

While it was covered under AppleCare two years ago, I had two batteries replaced, the power charger replaced, the logic board replaced, the LCD inverter replaced twice, the screen replaced, 1 GB RAM replaced, SuperDrive replaced, among four or so incidents. (I might be forgetting some.) All for free! Thank you, Apple. In all honesty, there was only two situations that really required service: 1) when the power charger cable burned, and when my screen was buzzing. Everything else, I must admit, was a little superfluous and only prompted action because I kept complaining. I'm pretty sure this is more indicative of really good customer service as opposed to shoddy Apple products. (P.S. I forgot that I got my entire MBP replaced the third day I got it back in August because it overheated and died. Shoddy Apple products? Maybe. Maybe it's just me.)

~$2500, including a free HP printer and an iPod nano 1G.

At about 50 months of use, that comes out to about $50/month, or $1.80/day in cost of ownership (assuming I stop using it this month). Compare this to a ~$800 Dell Inspiron E1505, a popular computer that 2006 high school graduates like myself get for college. It's used for only two years and is replaced by another, better computer. That becomes about $33/month or about $1.20/day for the Dell over two years. A typical user will then spend about $1000 on his next notebook computer. Bring these two computers to the 50-month time scale, we get $1800 (= $800 + $1000), over 50 months, i.e. up to the present. That comes out to $1.30/day for these two computers, about 50-cents cheaper than owning a Mac. So why even get a Mac? Seriously.

50-cents is an eighth the cost of buying coffee everyday (at an average of $4/cup/day). The daily cost of having a texting plan is about $0.57/day (at +$20/month for unlimited texting, via Verizon). 50-cents isn't all that much. I think it's worth the cost.

Now, I just need to dig up $2000 to get myself another MacBook Pro.

Photo Portfolio

Over the bridge at the Cornell Plantations.
For a while now I've been looking for an online solution to showcase some of the better photos I've taken. I'm using Flickr as a place to share my photos, using "sets" more like event albums, and I wanted a way to separate my favorites from the rest. I had originally created a separate set called [[ Favorites of Mine ]] to list them, but it didn't work too well, I think.

The solution I came up with is Tumblr, mainly because I tried several times to find a purpose for it and couldn't. I created a new account and figured it out. I call it k.Cheng Photo Portfolio, and it'll have just my better photos. Flickr for everything else (candids, vacations, photo of the day). Check it out.

(Sadly, there's no built-in way to post to Tumblr from Flickr.)

iOS 4 and iPhone 3G (Jailbroken)

Speaking strictly from personal experience, after upgrading to Apple's latest iOS 4.0 and 4.0.1, my iPhone 3G, originally on iOS 3.1.3., was unusably slow. It was disappointing to see the iPhone 3G become something I hated to use. After looking up several tips and tricks to speed up the iPhone, including disabling all my Spotlight search results and double hard resetting the phone (which didn't seem to work very well), I decided to give jailbreaking another chance.

It turns out that the jailbroken iOS 4.0.1 , even with multitasking and the background wallpaper service turned on, was noticeably faster than the official iOS 4.0.1 from Apple. I found this a bit strange. I instantly noticed it being slightly faster right after jailbreaking it. I still resorted to rebooting my iPhone a few times a day to keep it in working order. I used the jailbroken version with as full a feature-set my iPhone 3G can physically support for about a week, after which it begun feeling a little too sluggish for practical use.

Last night, I decided to re-jailbreak my iPhone 3G, this time disabling multitasking (because quite frankly, it was impractical on such a slow device) but keeping the background wallpaper settings (because I have grown used to having a non-black background). So far, so good, sort of. It definitely feels zippier than both iOS 4.0.1 by Apple and the jailbroken iOS 4.0.1 with mutitasking. Still, compared to the good and familiar 3.1.3, there is a no contest. (The only thing keeping me on iOS 4 are the folders and unified mailboxes.)

Supposedly, Apple's investigating this issue. I wait impatiently.

P.S. There's definitely some power issues that I've noticed with iOS 4, at least on iPhone 3G.

The Omnivore's Dilemma

Earlier this summer, I decided to let eBook reading on the iPad a go, and I must say, it is quite nice. Amazon's Kindle, Barnes & Nobles Nook and Apple's own iBooks on the iPad aren't bad at all. (For the record, I believe Amazon's Kindle is the eBook reader to have if reading is important to you. Personally, I don't read enough to justify a Kindle purchase. Also for the record, I am not a fan of the Nook's user interface; it's atrocious.) While I enjoy iBook's organization and ease of download, I could do without the fancy pageflip animations. They felt a bit too gaudy even for Apple.

My first real digital book (oxymoronic, perhaps) was Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma. It's worth reading. And while reading on the iPad was a novel experience (oh, pun), this will probably be my last eBook for a while. I'm still a pencil-and-paper person at heart.

Kevin Fact 8

You need to buy a violin before you can learn to play it.

Taiwan 2010: Reflection of Sorts

This month has flown by, and although I've been away from the Internet for most of it, I don't miss using it. I came back this trip to see my grandfather one last time. He passed away on June 16, 2010.

I must say, never before have I been as motivated to properly learn Chinese (even though I know enough to get by on my own for days); never before have I realized the significance and awesomeness of having a huge family; and never before have I cared even more about ceremony, tradition, and respect.

I did manage to find time (and permission) to do "fun" things, I guess you can say. It was on my own mostly, but sometimes with a couple of my many cousins after everything was done. Now, I have over 23 GB of raw photos and video to sort, organize, and process. My goal is to go through all of it within two weeks while it's still fresh in my head. I was the designated photographer and videographer (though photo-documentarian is probably more appropriate) of everything. I am also doing a joint photo project with a few cousins in Taiwan for my late grandfather. Not ready to share too much more about it just yet other than say that it'll be the biggest and most important photo project I've ever worked on.

I'm heading for the airport shortly after noon tomorrow, local time. I should be arriving in JFK some time around 10 pm EDT on Thursday. See you soon.

Photo: Taiwan Sunset at 星海之戀 in 桃園, 台灣.

Taiwan 2010: Random Thoughts 1

So it's been raining every day since I got here. It kind of sucks, but it's kind of nice. It's a mild 80 degrees or so everyday, and not 95. Definitely could be worse.

1. Life is so simple here. I forgot how little international news they follow here, among other things.

2. By itself, Chinese is a nice language full of idioms to describe nearly everything. Chinese, however, is a terrible language to translate into, from English. Or, English is too rich a language to be adequately translated into an Asian language. Watching American movies on TV, I find that reading the subtitles doesn't do justice to the actual dialogue of the movie. I was watching "The Davinci Code" on TV and felt the Chinese subtitles destroyed much of the subtleties of what was said. ("Subtleties" is a weird word.)

3. The food here is amazing.

4. Drivers here have no regard for what's painted on the ground. Still, they are all pretty amazing drivers to not collide with anything and to be able to navigate through a two way street that's wide enough for only one-and-a-half cars.

5. I've been following the World Cup games and the NBA finals, watching most of it live. The Korea-Greece game was the best. Germany did well because Australia was pretty terrible. The USA game was expectedly terrible.

6. I've been successfully fighting my Pepsi "addiction". Not even craving it anymore.

Taiwan 2010: In Alaska



First leg of the journey is complete. It was a pretty typical plane ride which is probably a good thing. I'm over at Anchorage, AK right now for a 1.5 hour stopover (I never quite understood why they did that). It is so quiet here, but at least there is free wifi. It's 3:30 am local time right now (7:30 am eastern). I should be in Taiwan by 6:00 pm eastern tonight. Yeah, that's all. I'm just really hungry right now, as usual, and nothing is open in the terminal.

Okay, later. Time to go exploring.

P.S. Notice full bars on AT&T 3G!

Taiwan 2010: Technicalities

I'm leaving Tuesday night. I'll be back in a month, July 8.

What I'm packing... iPhone, iPad, Airport Express, 1 TB hard drive, Nikon D40, Nikon S640, and required chargers. I'll be taking plenty of photos for sure. I had originally expected to be near an Internet connection at least once every few days to check up on e-mail, Google Voice texts, blogs, etc. Turns out this is probably not going to be possible.

This summer trip (I haven't been considering it a "vacation" for a while now) will be a different one for me, yet again. Seems like every time I go back to Taiwan to visit family and see new places I have to grow up even more. I don't think I'm ready.

I am not sure who I'll see, where I'm staying, or what I'll be doing in Taiwan this time. But one thing is for sure though. I will return a slightly different person, hopefully one more appreciative of life and family, one with more regard for time we have on earth. Even across language barriers, it'll be trip of spiritual enlightenment, you can say.

Graduation

I feel a bit obligated to write something shortly after what is perhaps the most important day (and past few weeks) of my life so far. Yesterday was the graduation of Cornell's Class of 2010. As is usual in these cases, it was bittersweet.

I'm not sure what to think. It is the typical post-graduation nostalgia that hits me hard, but it's different this time. It's not like middle school, where, typically, most friends are still close to home but social interactions are confined, for the most part, in the classroom. It's not like high school, where, although there are friends throughout the city or district, they are still close by; you can graduate from high school knowing that people will return to home base eventually, at least for a few years of being away. College is different. Four years of living together, working together, and laughing together was pretty awesome. Unfortunately, though, people are required to move on from here, at least physically. And this time, some move back home to distant places like Connecticut and Canada, some move on to work in places like Denver and Wisconsin, and some will go on to [even] higher education in the west coast, for example.

Do I expect to seem many of them again? I can't say. But I am hopeful.

Yesterday was fine because amidst the ceremony and brief moments of reminiscing , we were busy packing, loading up the car, and moving away all before realizing the significance of the day, whether as feeling a sense of accomplishment or as a feeling of needing to GTFO.

I don't miss the campus just yet. (I will be returning for a fifth year for my Masters.) I will, however, miss the people I shared it with. Four years of hard work didn't necessarily pay off as people say, but goddammit, it was an amazing ride.

I write this from Duffield Hall, because it is far too hot (and lonely) to stay in the apartment. The Canadians left for the last time this morning.

End-of-Year: Senior Edition

End of semester schedule goes something like this...

Monday
Mac Team New-Hire Training

Tuesday
Future Energy State Energy Report Due

Wednesday
Auto Engineering Senior Design Project Due

Thursday
Future Energy NYS Transportation Infrastructure Report Due
Systems Engineering Final Exam

Friday
Automotive Engineering Final Exam

Sunday
Web Design Project Due

Tuesday
Intermediate Fluids Final Exam
Financial Accounting Final Exam

Feels like death...

Text from Saturday?

"I am so drink rght now."

Random

Inspired by the events of this semester and by Hans's recent post, "Random facts", here are some things that I either hate or am trying to get away from...

1. Liars.
2. Poseurs, fake, and two-faced people.
3. Lazy people.
4. Unperceptive or insensitive people.

and

5. Electronic gadgets in excess.

Stressing Out...

I couldn't help but notice this last night as I was about to go to bed. Crunch time, like none other. (Click to enlarge.)

iPad: Week One

Conclusions about the iPad in the first week of real world use.

It is so fun to use. Some of the productivity apps, like Pages and Calendar seem a bit gimmicky, and, at times, difficult to use. Some of the features, however, make it easier to use than the desktop application, according to my sister. (The keyboard takes a lot of getting used to though.) There is no doubt that I can probably get more work done on a real computer (or a netbook), but the iPad is infinitely more fun to fiddle around with. That's not to say it can't be done on an iPad; short of uploading and downloading files to and from the web, and short of flash support, the iPad is an extremely capable device. In terms of portable entertainment, with respect to music, photos, and video, and even browsing the general web, the iPad blows the competition out of the water.

Bottom line? iPad might not be amazing at many things, like typing for one, but the creativity put into the design of its apps and the all-in-one-ness of the iPad makes it worth it just to play around with; I'll put up with it's shortcomings because it's just so fun. I can't wait to see what other creative and interesting apps that are coming my way (after spending a lot of dollars).

I wrote this on my iPad.

POTD 100

Yesterday was the epic POTD 100. Hans and I made it. When I worked on this photography project by myself last year, I was three or four short of hitting the 100. Unfortunately for me, however, I had forgotten my camera at home and resorted to my iPhone 3G's shoddy camera.

My POTD 100 is titled "Number Two".

Kevin Fact 7

All of my digital passwords are different.

Spring Break Travels, Sort Of

Although I haven't posted since Friday's Dragon Day 2010, the photo of the day (a.k.a. POTD) project is still going on. I will have a bunch of photos to upload by next week, but here, right now, is Spring Break, and I don't want to be bogged down with my computer—at least not until I realize I have a lot of work to do.

It is so refreshing to have a rooster wake you up in the morning.

Hi Sophie!

Still Kicking...

I kind of regret it now. It's senior year second semester. And I am taking 21+ credits.

I am managing pretty decently, but sometimes, it's nice to have some free time to hang out, some free time to do what I want to do.

Still alive though...

P.S. I am getting an iPad.

Figuring It All Out...

I think I have finally figured out my spring semester's courses. (Last Friday was the last day to add a class.)

In the books, I am taking 21 credits in my final undergraduate semester at Cornell. In addition to these, I am auditing 7 more credits, which consists of going to lecture and taking notes out of interest. The cool thing about this semester is that I only require 9 credits for graduation. Now, we get a chance to take things we actually care about. Learning out of interest is the best kind of learning, maybe...

ACTUAL CLASSES
INFO 2300 Intermediate Web Design
NBA 5530 Accounting and Financial Decision Making
SYSEN 5200 System Architecture, Behavior, and Optimization
MAE 4291 Senior Design Project
MAE 4230 Intermediate Fluid Mechanics
MAE 4860 Automotive Engineering
MAE 5010 Future Energy Systems
BEE 5330 Engineering Professionalism (FE Exam Prep Course)
PE 1320 Professional Instructional Golf

AUDIT CLASSES
MAE 4590 Introduction to Controlled Fusion
GOVT 3847 Weapons of Mass Destruction

(Yes, I'm also taking golf... getting pretty good at putting too.)

Winter Break, In Summary

This winter break was a pretty standard one, consisting of a lot of time at home and some time seeing old friends and the old New York City. The first part of break involved catching up with personal reading, the middle part involved a lot of cooking and eating, and the latter part involved some city exploration and tourism.

While I wasn't able to complete (but really, procrastinated taking care of) my to-do list, I picked up my camera again, and restarted my POTD project. This time, though, we've got more people involved, like Hans and Adrian. My "POTD 2010" set is on Flickr. Here's Han's. And here's Adrian's.

I visited Roosevelt Island, the Paley Center for Media (formerly the Museum of Television and Radio), the Guggenheim Museum, and the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, all for the first time. I revisited my high school's neighborhood, Rockefeller Center, and Central Park, among others. I also experienced many instances of paying a little too much for second-rate food.

Here's a photo summary of the major destinations...

Roosevelt Island

Rockefeller Center

Guggenheim and Central Park

Winter Break 2009 Reading List


This winter break was largely uneventful. Aside from taking photos and prcrastinating school-related paperwork, what I've been doing is a whole lot of reading, some for the first time, others, a reread.

The Lost Symbol
Dan Brown. 2009.

The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language
Steven Pinker. 1994.

Andrew Jefford's Wine Course
Andrew Jefford. 2008.

Adobe InDesign CS4 Bible
Galen Gruman. 2009.

1984
George Orwell. 1961.

How to Win Friends and Influence People
Dale Carnegie. 1976.