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Last Day of Work. Mixed Emotions.

I don’t know what July 14th might mean to other people, but to me, it means a lot: the last day of my first job!

In the past month, I’ve had a wonderful opportunity to work in the VeriGuide team with some amazing people to make a plagiarism detection system for teachers and students in school to use. My main job was to integrate the already-completed system with Moodle, a Learning Management System that has quite a lot of market shares in schools today, with some minor addition such as beautifying and tweaking interfaces and what not.

For pretty much the whole month, I’ve been waking up at 7 (while all you sleep till like 12), show up at office by 9:30, work for 2 hours, go to lunch, work again for like 5 hours and go home. Yeah, the regularity of my holidays was pretty much like school, and I gotta tell you, it has been driving me crazy, at least for the first couple of days.

That said, it has still been a fantastic experience for me. Not only did I get to improve on technical details (by working with some other nerds and dealing with multiple languages between PHP, XML, JSP, and Java), I also had to do some critical thinking “exercises” and learned how to communicate with other people effectively. We organized ourselves with Google Docs (which were amazingly helpful, I finally realized), held some discussions in our tiny office (which was also used by some grad students for their research work under the same prof), and made this work experience not only about codes, but also about interaction with people and team-building – something that I could not have otherwise learned.

Lastly, the amazing people that I was working with is probably what made my month so great. I had so much fun just working, talking and even taking after-lunch chilling breaks with them – so thanks a lot!

Now on my last day, I’m kinda happy because I’m now (kinda) free; but I say I’m definitely going to miss what has happened during the past month in a small office at CUHK. Keep in touch!

I believe!

Just came back from an exhausting, but nevertheless absolutely amazing, 4 days-long spiritual retreat organized by my church. To sum the camp in a sentence, I was able to take 4 days off everything else – work, school, or any other things in the world – and just truly relax and reflect over the past year. Turns out, by filling myself with so much work in the past, I have actually missed a lot of things that I didn’t realize them until this past weekend. And all I have to say is, “WHOA!” – how the heck did I miss such blessings and think that God wasn’t with me this whole time?

John 10:4 says “When [the Good Shepherd] has brought out all his own [sheep], he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.” I simply loved it when our speaker explained it as a beautiful picture with Jesus taking the three steps before I did and made sure the path is safe, then turn around, reaching His hand and asked me to trust in Him through all kind of difficulty there might be – because He has been through everything and knows exactly what the journey is like.

I didn’t plan to post anything spiritually related on my blog when I first started it, but this feeling is getting so strong that I just felt like I had to say it to the world (Yes, I know I’m just exaggerating, considering the amount of readers I have 😛 ) When I finally had a chance to count all the things that God has done for me, how many times I have broke His heart yet still He was still trying to get me back on the right track, I simply collapsed. There is simply nothing that can stop me from saying: I believe!

Tom Cruise? Me? What?

In the camp, we were separated into small groups, and after every message we’ll have some time to discuss about the talk. During one of the discussion times, we played a little icebreaker game to “get to know each other”, I guess?

The game was somewhat like Telephone, but instead of talking, we draw the message out. The first person will start a general topic, pass on and the second person will have to draw it out. Then, the third person, without knowing what the first person has wrote, needs to guess what the second person has drawn, then write what he think it is out. Fourth person will draw it again based on the previous person’s response, and so forth.

So, I started the game with the topic “Tom Cruise” (partly because I just watched Knight and Day, partly because I wanted to see what Tom Cruise would look like in drawings 😛 ), and passed it to the next person with a warning that my topic is going to be hard to draw.

The second person laughed out loud when he saw what I wrote, then got stuck there for a while not knowing what to draw. After a while, he must have suddenly remembered the movie and drew this out:

The third person stared at the drawing and had no idea what it was talking for a while. But after some struggle, he figured out too (with giggles, teehee)

Now I don’t know what happened here for the fourth person. But it turned out something like this:

The fifth person of course couldn’t figure out it was Tom Cruise, and it seemed most logical for her to write this down (ask her why):

So the last person took the liberty and drew this out based on the above:

So, in a sense, Tom Cruise and I must share some common traits or something. Maybe we’re both just too good looking that people get confused easily. 🙂

Who are we doing the work for?

Yesterday, during Economics class, after showing us the Fear the Boom and Bust video (again), my teacher said something was surprisingly insightful. I couldn’t remember the exact quote, but it sounded something like this:

I feel that teachers often give assignments for students to do it for teachers, such as essays, which are actually not very helpful to students.

What an interesting idea I’ve never thought of. Relating back to myself, the assignments that I find most motivated to those that relate to us more, those that make us feel like we are not doing it just for a grade. When we grow up, we won’t be writing essays for teachers anymore, but real stuff without a “rubric” to be grade on: it’s either a thumbs up, or “pack up your stuff” thing.

Graphics Design has been one of my favorite courses, because it simulates an environment of fwhat real designing life is like – Mr. Meyer is a genius in the way that he set up all the competition and teamwork factors, etc. Because of this, I learn much more than just the skills, but also experiences of what real life feels like. The same goes for Media and Computer Science, where its assignments are not done for just the teacher and the grades, but for the students in the school and those around us.

And yes, our MAD Project also fits perfectly in this category. I don’t know about you guys, I actually enjoy MAD Project. It gives us an opportunity to show off ourselves and to demonstrate our true abilities. These kind of projects will be what we are working on when we grow up, so take advantage of this opportunity to really do what you want to do, and enjoy in the process.

I mean, this is the real point of education, isn’t it? It’s to prepare us for the real life, not for the teachers!

Time to talk about my future.

Colleges seemed so far away, but now that I really think about it, it’s actually not. Quite the opposite, in fact.

The College Info Session thing that just happened this afternoon at YCIS was fun. The representatives were funny, presentations were very informative, and taught me quite a few things, too. I enjoyed it because I got a lot more exposures to schools that I never thought I would be going, and it made me I realized that, hmm, Stanford might not be THAT good after all.

When everybody else talks about what kind of special programs there are (The one that interested me the most was Dartmouth plan, which was kind of really smart), Stanford only bragged about how much money they spend on research, how great their campus is (which really was great). But do I really care? No. What disappointed me even more was that, given their strategic location near the Silicon Valley, they don’t have any programs related to it! (even though they bragged about how so many big companies like Google came out of Stanford).

I guess I need to rethink this through. Perhaps Stanford was just another myth, something like how girls used to think “I want to go to Princeton because all the princes are there”, just in a more mature way, I guess.

Other colleges, however, did a great job on impressing me. Chicago with its “no walls between undergraduates and pros” system, Dartmouth with its #1 Undergraduate Teaching and Dartmouth Plan, Duke with its location and environment, and Yale especially for their House System. I’m probably most persuaded by Dartmouth today, but I enjoyed all their talks.

Heh, but who am I to talk with only a 1940 and a 3.8 GPA… I’ll just keep on dreaming.

And… feel free to take a look at the notes I took during the session.

26 pounds in 4 months!

4 months ago at a regular hospital check up, my doctor told me I was way too fat and I need to lose weight. During the 4 months, with various friends’ help, especially Sam Hsieh, I was able to control myself from eating and started working out. Sure, there have been a few days where I couldn’t control, like the Christmas week and the CNY week, but hey, I did get thinner! And when I visit the doctor today, even he was surprised. I think that was actually the first “good job” I have heard from any doctor. Aw, I’m proud of myself.

Just a little statistics… I was at 89kg (196 lbs), and now I’m at 77kg (169lbs). My current BMI is 25 I believe. Still a few pounds away from “normal weight”, but hey, at least I’m not obese anymore!

Just wanted to say thanks to all those who have encouraged me along… you guys are awesome! Though, I still need help reaching that “normal weight” though, so keep controlling my appetite and making me work out.

And in dedication to my achievement, here is a little poem I wrote for English class. (And yes, thanks to Tim Au who helped me on the poem :D)

A scene quite opposite to heaven,
Happened on November Eleventh,
The day when I was announced clinically obese
Oh crap, doesn’t that mean I can’t eat?
“You have 4 months to lose 4 kilos”, he said
with a casual expression on his face that just made me mad.

“That can’t be hard for you, can it?
Just control yourself a little bit,
Eat less, work more,
And soon enough, you’ll get the girl you’ve been looking for.”
Okay… that last thought was kind of weird,
but it was true my weight might be what the girls have feared.

I was sure that once they see the new me,
They would jump for joy and shout with glee.
But wait, before all this can happen,
I must work to become like the legendary Kraken.
How I can achieve that I didn’t know,
All I wanted was people saying “whoa”.

Four months of sweat have dripped,
Thousands of calories have slipped.
Now, I am standing ever close to the trophy
On a journey that I never thought was easy.
When I look into her eyes that I now have caught,
I know in my heart, my hard work has been bought.

[TQLive] Preparation

A series of ThinkQuest related posts will start to show up as I continue my way down the event. It is not going to start until October 10th (the date that I depart from Hong Kong), but whatever. These posts are going to have [TQ] in front of the title to distinguish them from the rest. Expect A LOT of pictures coming and a new blogpost everyday. CHECK BACK REGULARLY AND FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER FOR UPDATES ON THE EVENT!

So, I started getting really excited this week, I mean, after all, the long-awaited event has finally arrived. My family, due to the financial crisis, haven’t been on a holiday/vacation for such a long time (Well, the Macau one doesn’t really count) that I think I forgot what travelling is like already. In fact, the last trip vacation I went to was Summer ‘07 where I went to a summer camp alone, and the most recent family vacation is May ‘05 when we went to Gold Coast, Australia.

For those who don’t know what’s happening – Long story short, I, along with 5 friends, won a website competition called ThinkQuest, and we get a free trip to San Francisco and a free laptop worth $1500.

What should I eat?

I was looking at my itinerary and agenda and figured out that dinner on Saturday night (when I arrive at SFO) was not included. No, I didn’t freak out. Instead, I thought it was good news because I got to pick whatever I want to eat. I went on Google Maps and started searching for restaurants near my hotel. However, in a country that everybody drives, even the closest restaurant is a mile away. Eating in the hotel isn’t necessarily an option either because of the price.

Soon later, I found out an alternative. Last time I went to California, probably the only thing I can remember is the In-N-Out Burger. It was just… SO. GOOD. PERIOD. There were, sadly, no In-N-Out’s near my hotel (there is like nothing there), but there is one at Millbrae, which is one BART station away from San Francisco International Airport. Then… I found out it costs $4 just for an one way ticket to Millbrae, which means it takes $16 on transportation alone. Plus two burger meals, we’ll have to spend like $30 just for eating fast food burgers! My mom was like “WHAT? We’ll spend (HKD)$200 in eating BURGERS? No way!”

So now I don’t know what to do. Should we walk the mile, or should we pay the $16? Just as I was wondering, I found out that there is a bus near our hotel that goes to Hillsdale Shopping Center(judging from its website, I’d say it is quite big), but apparently nobody in America would go out at weekend nights, so there are no buses available on Saturday night. Plan screwed up. Again.

Then, my mom suggested we’d bring Cup Noodles with us to America and eat them for that night. But of course, that suggestion is quickly rejected by me, and this time even my dad’s on my side.

I guess, we’ll just have to see when we get there. Perhaps we’ll just end up with a McDonald’s Big Mac.

What should I pack?

You see, when you travel with your mom, you don’t get to pick your clothes. Technically saying, with San Francisco’s 12-20`C degree, I can wear short pants, but no, my mom decided that it is too cold (note: only for her) for me as well to wear short pants. But can you really imagine, long pants in a 20`C afternoon?

That’s not the most painful part yet. Apparently, I’ll need to wear long pants on the plane too! Not to mention that I won’t be able to bring my crocs on the plane (she said too less space in the suitcase). WHAT?

What should I listen?

I bought two albums just then – David Tao’s 69 and Lee Hom’s Music-Man concert. But still, I don’t think that’s enough for my 13 hour trip. I have been asking for suggestions on twtiter and facebook… anybody any ideas?

Alright, now what do I do?

So I’m still packing, still considering what to east, finding good songs to listen. But I am just too excited to settle down on doing one thing!

Anyway, here is some info on my trip:

  • Flight AC8 (Air Canada)
    • Hong Kong to Vancouver
    • stop for around 5 hours
  • Flight AC562
    • Vancouver to San Francisco
    • Arrive at around 4:30pm.
  • The rest of the night will be free – remember, I had to find my own restaurant to eat.
  • The event officially starts tomorrow morning at 7. Hopefully I won’t experience any jet-lags.

Alright, I need to stop writing now. I should probably finish what I was going to do and get a good sleep. Wish me a safe trip!

I’m an idiot.

WARNING: This thing I am going to talk about, is very depressing.

Our team, in response to ThinkQuest’s request, made a short video about our reflection on the competition to be played on the Awards Dinner, where a lot of Oracle executives and a ton of media will be there. The request happened in the first few weeks of July. My friends in Singapore spent two days filming everything, and indeed I was very grateful for them. I finished editing the whole video in about 2 weeks. After submitting the video, they asked us to shorten it and to make some adjustments. The video was almost ready, and I sent a low quality video for them to double check if there is anything to be changed.

The email that I used to communicate with the staff in charge,, was for some reason down in the week of Sep 21 to October 3 (or something like that). Coincidentally, during that two weeks is when the staff replied with instructions how to upload the high-quality video onto a FTP server. And yes, I totally missed that.

I actually didn’t know about it until this Wednesday, 7th Oct, when she sent me an email saying that she is very sorry that our video cannot be shown on the Awards Dinner. I was at school when I saw the email, and I immediately (and I mean, immediately, in fact, it only took 7 minutes) sent back a reply asking if there is anything I could do. I was very desperate, and I suddenly feel like I am an idiot.

But of course, I knew it wasn’t possible.

And then, that night, I could not sleep at all but keep on thinking how I could never apologize enough to the other guys and I would owe them for life. Why am I such an idiot? Why didn’t I cc the email to my friend so that if anything happens, the staff can send him an email as well? I have never been so angry with myself before, I mean, it is a once-in-a-lifetime chance! How in the world could I have possibly miss it?

May I just use this post here to say “sorry” to my teammates in the LEAD Portal team – you guys spent a lot of effort and you certainly don’t deserve something like this. I am terribly sorry. I hope that through this mistake – I’ll learn how to be careful and not to rush through everything next time. 

On the brighter side – if you would like to see the video, I’ll upload it after the TQ Live event.

Guess what laptop I will get, and WIN A PRIZE

UPDATE: The contest will be automatically cancelled if there are less than 15 entries by October 10 (when the contest closes).

That’s right. I am actually going to get a souvenir in San Francisco, and just give it to the person whom guessed the laptop right.

So I’ve won a ThinkQuest Website Competition back in June, and as a result, I get to go to California in October 10 (6 days away as of date of posting) and get a laptop worth of $1500. Just to make myself even more excited, I want to host a mini contest here.

This contest will run until October 10. I won’t know the answer to this question until around October 13th, but I will release the answer (and pics!) right away when I get it.

Here are some hints:

  • The laptop’s approximate value is US$1500 (you might want to calculate tax in it as well…)
  • HP and Dell are major sponsors of the event (that probably won’t mean I’ll definitely get HP or Dell)
  • They might not have bought the laptop on the day that they give it to me…
  • It’s probably not a customized model (which means fixed specs), so on websites like HP’s and Dell’s, I suggest you look for Quickship models

Comment on this post with your answer, probably with exact brand/model/specs by October 10. Here’s how I will determine who’s the closest (example values):

  • EXACT: Apple Macbook Pro 13’’ 2.53GHz
  • CLOSE: Apple Macbook Pro 13’’ 2.26GHz
  • 2nd CLOSE: Apple Macbook Pro 13’’
  • 3rd CLOSE: Apple Macbook Pro 15’’ (whatever specs)
  • 4th CLOSE: Apple Macbook Air
  • 5th CLOSE: Whatever laptop with with 2.53GHz CPU, 4GB RAM, 250GB Harddrive

Each person is only allowed to enter this contest once. If I catch anybody cheating, you will be disqualified.

The value of the prize will not be less than US$3. Only ONE person with the closest/exact answer wins. In the case of tie, I’ll use a random generator to determine the winner. I will most likely just  hand you the prize in person if you are in Hong Kong or Shanghai (you’ll probably have to wait until December for Shanghai people), or via paypal for other people in the world (Paypal not applicable for real life friends in Hong Kong or Shanghai)

Feel free to visit the website that I won!

A Photo Essay – “The Chase”

Yeah, I admit. I haven’t been posting recently. But here you go, a Photo Essay done in the Media Production class. Basically, what happened was, the teacher gave us the title “The Chase”, and told us to plan 10 photos with different framing techniques, then take photos of them. And since it’s a Photo Essay, I am not going to say anymore. 😛

Okay. I lied. For those of you who are still reading, comment what you think the story is and the first one who gets it correct gets a prize.