Dear 15YO me,

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This past semester, I received a letter in my mailbox from myself. Well, it was a Freshman Spring version of myself; I signed up for a self-reflection group for freshmen where we met a few times during the semester and talked about setting into Harvard. On the third and final meeting, we were supposed to write a letter to ourselves and the FDO would send it to us when we were seniors. Of course, I completely forgot about this letter until I received. When I read it, I must concede it honestly didn't say all that much. It was 1 page of mostly waffle, I'd guess because I hadn't expected having to write it and having not much to say at the time.



When I was 15 and at Kahunui, I also had to write such a letter. I didn't read it until just now, and man, as a 15 year old I was apparently way more eloquent and interesting than as a college freshman. Wonder why that is. Maybe because 7 years is way more than 3? I almost feel sad for 15-year-old-Winnie, because she'll never know how she turned out. Well, here's a good chance to do a quick recap of what's happened through the years to answer all her questions:

So luckily, you did not become a hobo on the street. Yes, you are still friends with Steph, and yes, you still remember the box of blue pens that Kim gifted you for your 15th birthday; you never did finish them all before just losing the entire box.

You are still in university, you haven't graduated yet -- even at 22, which is a year later than you were supposed to get this letter haha. You did make it to America. In fact I don't even recall you thinking about it back then, but I guess it was definitely on your mind already.

You're right, there are definitely a lot of new technologies. Isn't that funny, you ended up going into the technology sector even though I definitely remember that this was an extremely fleeting thought. You didn't end up picking Architecture in the end, but it was definitely on your plate as an option right up to the point you had to pick.

You still technically live with the same ol' family, though you move around a lot now and are moving to San Francisco this year. Grandpa died 2 years after you wrote those words; there's definitely been a lot that's changed in 7 years.

I don't think you're immature. I think you're surprisingly wise for a 15 year old and I definitely don't remember being this way, haha.

You learned a little cooking in these few years! It's been fun. You watch cooking shows in your spare time now. Gordon's your fave. Also Cooking with Dog (as in, there's a dog on set -- not like dog meat. D: that would be awful)!

You can't find the diary with the dog on it anymore. It was lost a long, long time ago, but yes I too remember the hilariously cringeworthy things that were in there.

You didn't keep in touch with all those people on your MSN list. But that's okay, because Facebook became a thing and you can now stalk them and find out what's going on in their lives at all times without even having to talk to them!

You are also a bamf for providing the password to your childhood email account, also ENCODED and not in plaintext because 15-year-old-Winnie cares about cyber security. I'm seriously impressed.

Your handwriting has seriously deteriorated. I'm sorry, I have failed you. But as for your other requests -- you still love art, you picked up photography, and you have visited Japan and Korea! You did never end up going on that Shanghai trip with the Mollies. But hey better late than never? Maybe it's still possible. You're having dinner with them later this week. :)

I'd like to think that you've taken every opportunity. Sometimes there are too many to choose from though. You also did end up getting jaw surgery and getting braces. Welp that sure was an ordeal. You sounded unsure, but you're glad you did it in the end.

And nope! Your hair isn't short anymore. I didn't realize people threatened you if you let it grow haha -- maybe you should go short again? Probably not though, it's nice to be lazy and only get two haircuts a year.

And yeah, you're totally right. I definitely miss being young and at school.

Why am I asking all these questions, it's not like you/I will be able to reply.

It's okay kid. You did good. :) You're a hell of a lot more interesting of a person than you became in Freshman Spring. Maybe I should become more like you. Seems like 15 year old me was super ambitious and had her head and heart in the right places. In 2016 and beyond, remember to make her proud and not squander this time on Earth! Is this reverting back?

Life should be lived as if you're walking in the bush: if you focus too much on what's ahead, you trip up on what's beneath your feet, but if you focus too much on what's beneath your feet you end up unprepared for what's to come. You have to find the spot on the ground where you can see both where you are walking and where you are walking towards -- then walk there.

Good advice for 2016.
Oh yeah, and gotta keep flossing daily.

A recap without photos because I am lazy af

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So I guess you can say it's been an interesting year in terms of blogging, seeing as I didn't touch this from March til now. I did a little bit of online writing in between, but didn't x-post from Medium because I didn't see much point other than maybe for my own reference. My online identity is extremely fragmented at this point which is not necessarily a bad thing, I suppose I'm just disorganized.

 It's gotten to the point where it actually feels strange for me to be typing so much in one go on a keyboard, which is probably not a good thing. I want to get back into writing now that I'm done with my compsci requirements at school and have more time to devote to things I previously enjoyed doing. Also I realized that a lot has happened this year both in terms of actual events and also state of mind inside my head, and I don't actually have any recollection of it since I never wrote it down anywhere.

So here's my best attempt at picking up the pieces since I updated last, which was spring break... (I'mma be honest, this is tedious for me too, to try and defragment my experiences from memory + records as best I can =__=, but it's probably an exercise I should do for future Winnie so here we go):

Spring break: I don't recall much of note happening this spring break, it was a usual New York visit, we went to the Met to take some photos and around the park, I recall going on a bike ride as well (I'm very bad at riding bikes, pretty sure the seat always leaves bruises, and the uphill part of the circuit in Central Park is not fun), I also got to see several plays/musicals so that was great actually -- I really want to see more theater productions in the city. I saw Les Mis with Alex and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime with Alex and Emily. I probably also had dessert at Spot while I was in the city but cannot confirm for sure, just a lucky guess haha.

Post-spring break: I believe this time of my life was consumed by CS161. In fact I can prove it, here is the RescueTime datas for spring semester since I started using it by week in terms of google doc and dev time:


Lol, can you tell when my projects were due?

Spring semester also consisted of Quincy Assassins, which was fun to follow along with.

There was also planning for the summer, which involved trying to get a place to live in San Francisco with roommates. Ended up with a DJ Pong, a Rakeem and a Jacob, which made for a really fun summer! ^_^ We lived in a cute blue victorian in the Mission. Took the Bart to work every day, had a great summer at VSCO and learned a ton about Android development. We also visited many places like Monterrey (which I just learned last week is spelled with 2 R's!) and Yosemite. Working in Oakland was also p cool, it was definitely a different environment, super rich in art culture which was awesome. Plus when the Warriors won the NBA final the parade went right by the office, which was siqq. We also watched the final in the office so when there were celebrations in the streets right afterward we were there to in the middle of the action, super fun.

We did July 4th at Fort Mason, though it was so foggy that the fireworks disappeared behind the fog so it was kinda sad. But after we got home people were setting off (illegal) fireworks from the streets in the Mission so that was dope. Just how it should be haha, it was fun. I also gave up drinking after July 4th lol. 

I flew to LA to attend Siggraph again this year, this time not as a volunteer but as an actual attendee. I feel like as a volunteer I had too little time to see the things I wanted to see and as an actual attendee... I had too much time hahaha. I think around this time I also kinda realized I didn't want to be involved in the game/movie industry as an engineer, but it was still cool to see emerging tech that people were working on and listen in on some of the production sessions. Luckily Diane was there to entertain me for some of the time too haha :P Thanks to Peter for being accommodating and driving me around everywhere, and also Tin for deliciousssss macarons (srsly he should open his own bakery. Better than professional stuff I've tasted).

After my internship ended, I flew to SLO to visit Jordan in Arroyo Grande. It was fun! Central California is beautiful~ and I got to go to the beach finally *__* And play with lots of cute dogs and get fat on the Hayashi family's unrelenting hospitality. It was a great end of the summer. Oh yeah I also got to get behind the wheel of a GTR, so that was pretty sweet.

This past semester... it was okay! Gradewise, it was better than last fall but worse than last spring. :P But it's okay, because I'm employed after graduation! I will be working at Square as a full time Software Engineer in San Francisco ^___^ No more stress~ I also finished my CS requirements aaaand all my gen eds, so now I can kick back and enjoy my VES classes and electives :D :D :D I'm so excited for Spring!

I went to Toscanini's ice cream for the first time this semester with Michelle oh my god why have I not gone before it is legit the best ice cream I have ever tasted. And I tasted a lot of good ice cream this summer (seriously I walked past Humphry Slocombe twice every day on my way to and from work, much self-control needed). No joke. I am going to go back in the spring after it gets un-freezing. Plz.

I attended Start @ A Startup which is some conference in NYC organized by a bunch of Princeton kids who are apparently terrible at reimbursing money because literally nobody I know has gotten transportation reimbursed like we were promised, but I'm still hoping that one of these days i'll get a nice surprise in my mailbox. That's literally all I have to say about this conference. It was suuuuper tiring because we had interviews and whatnot, but at least I found out about some cool startups I hadn't heard of before.

I also attended Grace Hopper for the first time this year -- thanks to sponsorship from Capital One, I was able to go for free. I met a lot of amazing women and peers, and it was definitely worth going to at least once. I didn't really participate in the job fair or anything (except to get nice swags), since at that point I already had interviews lined up for places I was interested in. I think that really put a huge load off my shoulders, it was painful to see ppl who had interviews all throughout the 3 days and seemed super stressed D: It was also great to run into a ton of old friends -- I spent some time catching up with an old elementary school classmate, and hung out a lot with Jessica ^_^

There's also a new Japanese BBQ place that opened near campus where we went a ton -- they have a reward system and I went enough times to get 500 points and earn a $25 off coupon which we used at the end of semester. Basically, we are fat.

At some point in October ap and I also went to the Arnold Arboretum -- actually it was because Adam told us he wanted to visit Blue Hills that weekend to see the foliage but then flaked to go kayaking, but I still kinda wanted to see foliage so we went somewhere closer. It was really pretty! I'm glad we went before I graduated. Probably won't get to see such colors in SF.

I was a pusheen for halloween, except I just stayed in because I'm boring

Jay, Kevin and Julianne came to visit Boston and Harvard one weekend so I also managed to try out the $1 (50c before 6pm!) oysters at the Red House -- it's a nice place to go for visiting friends! I was lazy and also went with Zelin when he came to visit too lol. Yay for re-using restaurants. 

I missed Harvard-Yale this year (which was ok, because we won again so it was nothing new or interesting, lol) to do onsite interviews in San Francisco. Ran into Hansen at the Airbnb interview (which I failed, so sad, it would have been my top choice), so took some time to catch up which was good. It also RAINED this weekend in San Francisco, which was crazy -- Kevin tried to take his car out to wash it in the rain but by the time we exited the garage it had stopped raining. Classic CA. 

Right after this was Thanksgiving, I flew directly to New York (upon landing got news of my Airbnb rejection, sad times, but its ok bc i ate away my sorrow in koreatown). I think Thanksgiving was pretty standard this year, it was definitely a much needed break in the middle of semester. I do think that the period after Thanksgiving is where my sleeping patterns all went out of whack though.

We started sleeping at like 2-3am every night and waking up around midday, which is probably not good... luckily that's fixed now that I had to travel to China, but still lol. Probably has to do with working late at formals, lack of classes in reading period to wake up for, battlefront in the CS50 office and whatnot. Also went to the opening night of Star Wars, which was great ^_^ BB8 so qt

I briefly dabbled in a bit of Rune Factory 4, but haven't played it since school ended. It seems to be a reallllyylylylyly long and feature packed game, which is great. Gotta get my money's worth.

Since then, I went home with ap to kill some time before I had to fly back to GZ, wrote and sent some holiday cards, slept a lot, visited Flushing (nom nom nom). Then flew back to GZ here to see the grandparents and whatnot ^_^ I downloaded Tinder to try to talk with some English speakers and get recommendations for stuff to do, but will probably talk more about that separately in some other post. It's an interesting exercise as someone in a relationship haha, but very effective for the untraditional purpose I intended it for.

Anyway, it's new years eve now in China and I'm going to go to bed before midnight because I'm lame and we're traveling tomorrow to some hot spring... I probably should do some more reflection but for now I think it's good that I at least managed to put down some of my year's exp in words, ugh. There's probably a ton of stuff I forgot. Eh if I think of it I guess I'll edit this later.

Reflectiondump (Jan-Feb)

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I've been struggling lately with what to do with this blog. Firstly, because a lot more modern blogging platforms have cropped up lately, with better social media/community capabilities, I've been toying with the idea of moving around a bit, eg to Medium. However, I am also just too lazy and this place represents too much of a convenient and valuable history for me to let go of right now.


Other than that though, because of all its history, this blog actually tends to be more of an 'everything' blog -- so it kind of serves every purpose and therefore no real purpose. But despite that, I still try to find time to update once a month at the very least. Lately though, I've been struggling -- because of time restraints, college not giving me enough time to think about what to write, etc. Furthermore, I've met a lot of people over the last few years who did not know me when this blog existed, so I am becoming more conscious of pushing my updates to my Facebook page. However, I really shouldn't be bothered by this because when I set out to make this blog, it was supposed to be a place for me to dump my thoughts for me and me only. But then, I wondered why I was even pushing updates to my Facebook page if it was only purely for me. So, I'll admit that it's kind of nice to have your thoughts heard/read by others, even if it's scary at times. 

Okay so I guess since I literally haven't done any reflection since the beginning of the year and now I have some time to be somewhat introspective (spring break! my last classes were yesterday), I supposed I can do a run down for myself of landmark things I did so far this year so at least I'll be able to put things in history relative to each other later on when I am (more) senile...

1. Went on super fun time NZ adventures with AP. I think I worked my camera hard this summer, I had to clear it 3 times and I think I produced a lot of at least semi-good shots. I kind of wish I had a big place to put prints of them
2. Went to Dry & Tea for a haircut and super pampering tea experience (It was mega expensive... but it's kind of a luxurious I-want-to-spoil-myself-today thing I guess)
3. Freaked out about having to renew my passport 2 days before flying out
4. Realizing my passport actually expires in 2016 and not in 2015
5. Came back to campus and tried to sort out my classes. Settled on CS161 Operating Systems, REL57 Faith and Authenticity (ie Existentialism), SPU19 The Energetic Universe (ie I never go to class and google for answers on all the readings), and SOC189 Social Movements in East Asia (just for fun and interests sake)
6. Go to the gym twice or three times a week at the beginning of semester
7. Chugging along with school -chug-chug-chug-chug-
8. Consequently have no more time to go to the gym 2-3 times a week
9. Plan AAA retreat and initiAAAtion for the new board members at Jong's house. Set off fire alarm and get complaint from 3am-on-weekdays-viola-playing neighbor on a Friday night.
10. Hack@Brown -- hang out with Jessica, get cute teddy bears and make a snapchat hack that has since stopped working because a) the API no longer works and b) my Microsoft Azure free trial ended
11. Cooked lunch for and with Drew Faust! I was in charge of the carrot cake and made the menus ^_^ Everything worked out way better than expected haha, she's a very nice lady. Also I like gravlox a lot.
12. My watch died that day, so I had to order a new one off Amazon. I was pleasantly surprised because I accidentally bought one on sale (I just thought it looked nice for a good price, but when I went back to the page later the price was way higher :O).
13. Help photograph HMUN on the weekend of Valentines day and blizzard. Blown away by the creamy power of Arthut's Gary Fong. AP makes me my favourite froyo at Pinkberry and pays for it even while questioning my taste. If that's not love idk what is ♥
14. ECAASU! Put snapchat hack to use for a 2 day conference. Meet cool new friends from around the East Coast.
15. I question why I am reading the Bible and questioning the source of law/justice. I feel like REL57 is making me more religious.
16. Cheng joins our CS161 group because there are an odd number of people in the class! We buy 10lb of gummy bears between the 3 of us.
17. I meet a friend of Victor Wu's from high school who is taking CS50x. I am amused trying to explain CS jargon and concepts to someone with only a Criminal Justice background. Highlights include "what is the difference between linux and python" and "where do I put the codes". Sometimes it's easy to forget how much of a bubble we live in, so I really enjoyed this interaction as something to remind me of that
18. Cheng leaves our CS161 group because someone drops the class! Cheng we miss you come back
19. Do portraiture workshop with Stephen Coit, a Lowell alum. I am so out of practice.
20. Registered for SIGGRAPH 2015 in LA! Still need to buy tickets though. I'm not volunteering this year, so it was a big spend, but I hope I'll be able to go to more talks that I'm interested in this year since I won't have to cover shifts.
21. Sleep schedule gets destroyed by CS161 due dates. I sink into a shell of my former self.
22. Write a paper about Dostoevsky's The Grand Inquisitor somehow while I am a shell of my former self. I do not know how this is accomplished.
23. Coffeehouse! I really enjoyed the performances this year, and having Jocelyn there helping with photos really made it easier on me so I was a lot less stressed compared to last year haha. I was actually able to enjoy taking photos and editing them afterward :) And we recorded everything and people were happy too, which was awesome ^_^
24. Finished the video for NCRC for HCURA, which I was commissioned to do at the beginning of semester. I was super slack with this due to classes getting in the way, but I'm glad it's finally done haha.
25. Last week of school has been more lax, allowing me to recover a bit and also focus on getting a place to live in for the summer. Decided to live with Rakeem and Jacob Kim, and also AP if he gets a job in the Bay Area
26. Housing day! 9am section tho, + midterm. Didn't do much celebrating, except I drew some mini personified houses after I was freed for fun.
27. About to head out tomorrow to New York for another spring break with the Pongs!

Other (ir?)relevant things I have been doing outside of my immediate life:

I am making my way slowly through Peter Thiel's Zero to One. He makes a lot of points that are sometimes difficult to accept based on our cultural understanding of the world (eg. we shouldn't try to help out building out third world infrastructure, instead we should focus on efficientizing what we have already -- reason being if the third world were to require the same resources as the first world, everything would collapse?). Though he articulates this in a much more convincing way, I don't have the book on me right now. I need to go back to reading this lol. I am also biased because I think the concept of paying college kids 100k to drop out is stupid and fuels (whether directly or indirectly) the stream of useless social media apps being thrown in VC's faces, but that's just me.

Been trying to keep up with Fresh Off The Boat, but have missed many weeks because of forgetting/busy with CS161.

This beautiful yellow beast caught my eye while scrolling through Geneva car show photos *__*


I have been following the Ellen Pao lawsuit on Re/Code. Note that as an individual I am very much undecided on where I sit in terms of opinions about gender in SV, nonetheless has been interesting to follow.

I was disappointed that there was no continuation of the Cicada 3301 puzzle this year, perhaps because the 2014 puzzle was never resolved? I really enjoy reading through them, esp because I'm way too dumb to figure any of it out lol. Perhaps a fixation with the mysterious?

Blep. I guess I'm just going to leave this here without plugging it on Facebook because it seems too egotistical. Maybe I will only share articles/reviews/writings from now on on there.

That annual thing I do in January

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I've been running away from my responsibilities a lot lately, whether it be not replying to emails for a long time when I really should, or not really thinking about what I want to do and therefore spending my time inefficiently. I actually put off writing this for almost the whole day now, even though I knew I should probably do it, if only as a vehicle to force myself to think about how to realign myself and my goals for the next year. So here's my 2015 New Years Resolutions recap and proposal.

I couldn't find a google image of a sheep watching fireworks, so I had to make this myself.


These were my NYRs from 2014:
1) Be a hard worker and don't get lazy 
2) Learn more about the world eg. take a few history classes! 
3) This belly flab has got to go }:( 
4) Learn how to web one way or another 
5) Take more time to do art 
6) Watch your spending and exercise self control. A few good things is better than a lot of crap... 
7) Commit to bettering the communities you're a part of. Don't take on too much so you can focus on concentrated impact. 
8) :) > :( have a great year!

So instead of going through and talking about each one explicitly, I just wanna do a general recap because I think it relates quite well to all those resolutions. 2014 was probably one of, if not the hardest year I had to go through so far in life. It was the longest I have ever been away from home and the longest I have gone without seeing my family. It was also the most I have ever struggled with anything (CS124) and the feeling of helplessness was very real through my sophomore spring and weekly all nighters. The trauma from sleeping every Thursday morning at 5am and then getting up at 7am to finish the pset to submit at 10.59am is still painful to think about.

However, despite all that, I think 2014 was also a year of a lot of learning opportunities and I definitely matured a lot over the scope of the last 12 months. I was able to lottery into USW35, a class about the public education system in America, and it really made me think critically about society and begin to think more about politics, economics and race. I feel really lucky to have been one of the few who were able to take it that semester, since I learned a lot and really got to practice looking at issues from different perspectives and weighing the pros and cons of each point of view.

I was also able to spend my second summer at Facebook, this time getting to work on the real deal and ship code to users. Since it was my first experience working at the bleeding edge of the industry, it was a really exciting time and I definitely learned a lot, not only about the Facebook code stack specifically but also about the psyche of Silicon Valley, how to better approach problems, the mechanics of a successful and happy workplace. It was also just kind of a reality check, being able to handle real innovation and see it in action was super cool and also super scary! *_* Also I guess I learned web here hahahaha (kinda).

Oh, during this time I also went to the gym every morning for an hour, so that was great for my fitness. Unfortunately the routine crumbled after the summer due to the erraticness of college, but I actually think the rigid routine I made myself stick to during the summer made me a little more disciplined during the fall semester to at least control my sleeping times a bit better.

This last semester, enrolling in SW14 has broadened my understanding of general history and the effect of big events on the world. Of course, this is not saying much since I haven't really ever taken a history class before, but I think it's been beneficial at least to my goal of becoming a more well-rounded, informed person. I know people bag on geneds a lot but actually all my favorite classes so far have been gen eds :)

Ah, and my resolution to not spend as much money translated itself to not buying any new clothes. I actually donated 2 big bags of clothes to the clothing swap in the spring that the women's center was holding, and I didn't buy any clothes this year except when I was traveling in Asia, because hey if you're traveling it doesn't count. :P I think my net amount of clothing has still decreased, but I still have a lot to do! I have way too many clothes in my wardrobe still that I never wear haha. Maybe I should do a sale this semester to get rid of them before I regret it during packing for summer storage. In terms of money saved... I'd say it mostly translated to buying other things, electronic-wise. Go figure, I substitute clothing for electronics. #sidewaysmicroeconomics

In terms of doing more art... Oh! ... hahahah I was going to make this one of my resolutions for this year. Guess I forgot about it. Well I still did some stuff, but I think I should exercise this better this year. I actually want to get a small notebook in it just for doodling. I'm also sad because my sketchpad was lost in the mail when I tried to ship it from California back to Boston after the summer :( but alas these things happen.

I decided to cut down my extracurriculars too, so my main ones turned into TFing and AAA. I found it really valuable to have the time to commit to these few things, since the quality of work produced was a lot better and I also wasn't stretched out so I could focus more and make sure everything that needed to get done was getting done well, instead of half-assedly.

I definitely took a lot more photos this year, as part of CS50's photography staff. I think I've improved a lot, and having someone prodding you to produce good work is definitely at times stressful but also worth it. My photo got published in the Wall Street Journal! :) And is the header for the new CS50 edX course for this coming year. I also have a photo in the new Harvard Shop Coffeebook I hear, which is really neat because it means I get a free copy. :P it's kinda cool to see a hobby turn into something more :)

Hmm so in terms of goals for this year...

1) Buy a notebook and put creative things in it -- whether it be doodles or writings
2) For money expenditure: be conservative with goods, but don't sacrifice experiences.
3) Exercise with AP! Or make him exercise with you. Because we r both blobs :D
4) Make sure future Winnie is not gonna hate you for all the things you left her to deal with
5) Be more open, accessible and generous. This includes replying to emails.
6) Be more optimistic! I think after learning more about the world I became a little defeatist. It's bad to be too jaded of a senior, so I should try to look on the bright side more.
7) Continue to floss daily :D

Between 22°C and 22°F

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The first time I saw snow, it was Christmas Eve. I was walking around a shopping mall in Paris, and a light dusting of icy flakes started to fall innocuously, lazily drifting around in the breeze before settling onto whatever it reached. I watched them melt between the weavings of my gloves quickly, and marveled at how temporary its existence was. The next morning, the city was blanketed in white.

The power of snowflakes to accumulate over time and become that huge hunk of white at the side of the road in the winter is both amazing and somewhat infuriating. Small differences building up over time.

The irritating crust of salt that stuck to the top of my suede boots in freshman year served as a constant reminder of my unsuitability to the new environment, the chilling winter gusts cutting my face and constantly threatening to blow me out of Cambridge because I simply did not belong there.  A filed Non-Resident Alien Tax Return Form.

A glance at the weather report told me it was 22 degrees outside, but it was simply not the right kind of 22 degrees. Instagrams of picnics during a blizzard.


The mutual exclusivity between summer and winter and the ability of a body of matter to only exist in one place at a time; these are the things that I lamented the last two Christmas Eves when I was sitting at some airport or on some plane, suspended in some nondescript location walking along the line between these two seasons and these two countries. But it’s not just a line we walk along around this time of year. For some, it’s all year round.

Of course, I am not just writing about the weather. I am writing about immigration.  Maybe ‘immigration’ is too strict of a term; at least when I think of it I think of the thousands of migrants moving in waves from Asia, Eastern Europe, Africa with their families to start new lives. However, the world has become connected enough now that I think this definition of ‘immigration’ doesn’t entirely encapsulate certain experiences, for instance moving to another country for study. Can this be considered an immigration of sorts?



“So if you’re from New Zealand, how come you can speak English?”

Like the snow, the differences I perceived upon arriving in America as someone from another first world, democratic, economically stable, English-speaking, westernized country were small. Maybe just a smatter of slang, some odd habits and an overabundance of squirrels, on top of the obvious accent. But it became clear to me over time that background matters. Though on the surface the current states of the countries are similar, their histories are surely different. That history dictates a lot of the psyche of the population, the decisions made in politics, the issues that are on the forefront of media coverage. The differences snowball into two distinct nation identities that those like me, who have stakes in both countries, have to navigate.

I often wonder, considering how similar New Zealand and the US are on the surface details, how other international students must find the experience. I suspect Canadians have an even lesser difference felt, but even they celebrate Canada Day and take pride in Canadian-specific activities. But what about the experiences of a Pakistani student, of a Chinese student, of a Kenyan student? They must have a lot of interesting perspectives.

“What can you bring to the Asian American Association, being an international student?”


At first I thought that perhaps America was unaware of its superiority complex, but I realized soon after living here for a while that it was simply unsure of what it really considered one of its people. There is absolutely no homogeny to the population’s values, which can be both a great thing in terms of multiple perspectives, but also a source of many conflicts. 

Of course, there is the image of the quintessential ‘American’, the blonde hair, blue eyed, draped in red-white-and-blue nuclear family who lives in suburbia, patriotism spilling out of their Statue of Liberty-worthy facial features and Constitutional gun collection in the basement. This image, I believe, is largely no longer regarded as the sole image of Americanism, thanks to larger multicultural populations, growing populations in urban areas and a rise in non-traditional family settings.

However, I would say that a lot of time, the image of an ‘American’ does not include those who have recently immigrated. Of course this makes sense. They just arrived, so how could they possibly understand the culture (wait, what is America’s culture?) and fit in with everyone else (wait, is there really an ‘everyone else’ collective, considering the lack of homogeny?)? How long does someone have to be in America to be considered ‘American’? Enough time to get their permanent residency? Citizenship? What about those who were born with American citizenship but since have moved abroad, but then moved back? Are they American too?

Sure, my experiences growing up will forever be tainted by the distinct smell of sulfur, the feeling of Pohutukawa bristles while playing hide and seek and the tickling of a teacher’s brush on my face as it carefully traced out the shape of a Koru fern. Even until college, my memories of Christmas Eve were often rooted deep in the sand of some New Zealand beach, sun blaring down past a weakened ozone, not a cloud – rain or snow – to be seen.


However, as someone who looks to be of Asian descent living in America, my experiences suddenly and inexplicably merged with those who have called themselves ‘Asian-American’ since birth. Because despite my New Zealand upbringing, I still entered the country with a Chinese passport many years ago. I grew up with weekly family dimsum outings, having to memorize traditional Chinese poetry, bringing chopsticks with me to every meal before being taught how to use a knife and fork at age 15. Of course, these experiences are synonymous with many Chinese-Americans as well as Chinese-Kiwis. Being from New Zealand is not stapled over my face, and even after I speak most people do not pick up on my slight accent anymore. Likewise, my childhood in New Zealand does not shield my clearly Asian appearance from the same discrimination that any other Asian might face in America.

“At what point am I a resident of Massachusetts?”

Looking up driver laws for immigrants in America is likely to make you more confused than you already were. There are certain laws that pertain to those who hold foreign licenses who are not residents of the state, and different ones for the people who are. A lot of times, it is also dependent on how long you have been in the country. But does that mean since the first time I came to the country, disregarding trips back home? Or does it literally mean the length of stay since I last landed at an American airport? Also what does it even mean to be a resident of Massachusetts if I’m staying in a college dorm with a temporary address?

Roll forward two years from the first time I came home drenched in sleet, cotton socks wet from slush, teeth chattering as I scrambled for the heater dial? I still don’t much enjoy the snow, but at least I can survive in it.  A pair of trusty Bean boots to blend me into the New England crowd, gloves peeping out of pockets, scarves lining my wardrobe, cashmere lining my drawers, wool lining my far-too-warm-for-Auckland coat.

I guess after all this time of facing the weird differences between my now two home countries, you kind of learn to live and adapt to both. The result? Now I’m just a semi-foreigner in both countries. My kiwi friends love to make fun of my semi-American accent nowadays =_= When at school, I miss New Zealand and sometimes just want to come back to hear the bleating of the sheep across the road and relax with no worries for days on end. After I get back, of course I would miss the busy-body movement in the packed cities and late night adventures in America. Being stuck in the middle is part of the job description I guess, but we have to try to live in the present as much as we can since every place has so much to offer.


Again this Christmas Eve I am sitting in a summer bach up north of Auckland with a killer view of a lagoon. This year, it is overcast and the clouds threaten to spill over with rain. But the temperature is 22 degrees high, and right now at least, I wouldn’t have it any other way.


Happy Holidays everyone! I guess the next time I write will probably be after new years.


Michelangelo

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TRIGGER WARNING don't read this if you are squeamish
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Moonlight reflected off his pale skin as I ran my hands along his collarbone, pausing slightly before shyly tucking my fingers below the neckline of his cotton shirt.

His glassy, surprised and innocent eyes pierced into mine. I was excited now, hungry. I let my other hand drift under his shirt from below, feeling the cold hardness of his chest; the refreshing coolness of his skin against the fervor of mine felt sharp as a knife, and just as icy.

How I needed to strip him of everything, to dig my fingers under his skin and release pure red ecstasy into the night. I quickly took off his shirt and threw it aside, marveling at the sight before me. He was the pinnacle of purity trapped in a human body, such a pity. I desperately needed to tarnish the perfect whiteness of his outer shell; only corruption could save his soul now and release the ethereal being inside.

I closed my eyes and breathed in, shakily. I was too far in to be calm now, so close to setting him free.

I got to work.

The first was barely a scratch, a light abrasion that turned his white flesh pink.
The second was deeper.
The third released a stream that slowly crawled down his chest and stomach.

From this point, I have no recollection anymore of what happened. I became lost in the sight of that sudden flash of red against the darkness, entranced by the vibrance of his free flowing blood.

When I came to, I was already walking away with that brilliant red over my hands and knife, stepping over his entrails and leaving behind his mangled, stripped body. The single eye left in its socket watched me walk away, still glassy and surprised.

I smiled to myself.

I had done it. I had finally helped him transcend humanity.

I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.


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Creative writing prompt inspired by a Michelangelo quote.
Now everyone thinks I'm disturbed lololol

OnePlus One review -- 1 month initial thoughts

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This was actually supposed to be published in September, but I forgot to push to my blog ._.
Since this time, a new software update is out which should fix a lot of the bugs I mention below, but I will do another review about that after I update my phone. But I will publish exactly what I wrote after 1 month of use. Pre-orders for the public will be opened pretty soon so I thought it would be pretty informative for people considering.

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So as some of you guys know, I've been using the OnePlus One as my main phone for the last few weeks, ever since I left my internship at Facebook. Thought I'd do a recap of my first impressions after using it for a prolonged time to help people decide whether they want one when preorders open to public in October from the POV of a normal consumer.

Firstly I'd like to preface this with some background about my personal biases. I am reviewing this phone while in North America, where a lot of phones are on a CDMA network, where the phone is bound to a particular carrier. However, as someone who travels relatively frequently, I would never consider buying a phone which is not unlocked. I would also never purchase a phone on a contract, because I don't like being bound to using something for X number of months, since it limits my flexibility when something better comes out or if something goes wrong within those X months.

My smartphone history (relevant for comparisons I will draw):
2012, iPhone 4
2013 June, LG Nexus 4
2013 November, Samsung Galaxy S4
2014 August, Oneplus One

I first heard about the Oneplus One from my friend Luke Chang who was working at Samsung's startup accelerator in Palo Alto at the beginning of the summer. It was rumoured to have a 2 second boot time and crazy specs, as well as being shipped with stock CyanogenMod, for a very affordable price. So, when I received an invite for the Oneplus One in late July, I wanted to get one just to play around with it. I hadn't decided whether I wanted to use it as an everyday phone yet, since there wasn't that much information around about it yet, and my S4 was still functioning just fine. But anyway, I bit the bullet and threw in the order for a 64GB Sandstone Black model.

My phone arrived 3 days later which was impressively fast. The packaging was very striking and nice, with the red/white theme present through the entire package and accessories. My favorite part of the package was the sim card release pin, which looks like an adorable smiley face. :3

The packaging!

Going onto the phone though, the back was surprising in that its texture was not smooth but rough. I'm not sure what material it's made of, but I guess it's to go along with the Sandstone theme of the name. It's a bit like sandpaper but not as hard or gritty; at first I wasn't a fan but after using it I've grown to like it a lot. It means you don't have to worry about fingerprints or scratches as much as you do on lacquer surfaces, which is nice. I have had some problems with small particles becoming stuck between the grit pieces tho, but that's probably because i should stop putting the phone on the table when I'm eating. It also makes the phone more grippy, which probably prevents droppages.

^ rough surface! (sourced from google images)


I have been using the phone without a back cover or screen protector and there have been no noticeable scratches on the screen or backside so far, though I also haven't had any bad drops (yet) (fingers crossed) (I should really just order a case now).

The biggest problem I have with this phone is its size. At a huge 5.5 inches, the screen is not small enough for my right hand to reach all the way across it if I'm just carrying it with one hand. This means that I can't swype for messaging since my thumb doesn't reach the 'a' key on the other side of a standard keyboard. Luckily, Swiftkey provides a compact version shifted to the right which has been really helpful, but Swiftkey is not a free app (though I had already been using the Pro version on my S4 anyway). Might be alleviated if you have bigger hands than me. Fortunately, though the phone is big, it is at least super thin, so in terms of weight it isn't too significant of a change, and it's not super bulky at least in 1 dimension (tho since i'm a girl it still sticks out significantly from most pockets).


^with an iphone 5 to compare (google images)

Another problem which is a known bug and which OnePlus is actively trying to fix is the ghost tapping bug, where if you are using taps for typing (ie. not swype), which is how I type with two hands, if you tap too quickly, the screen registers some random ghost taps and you end up with gibberish on your screen or unintended behaviour. This caused some major worries on my way to Vancouver, when Kevin thought something that happened to me because of Swiftkey's autocorrect, where the words that came out from ghost taps were correctly spelled and the sentence was technically grammatically correct, but made no sense. I actually think the problem has improved since then with the new firmware update, but the problem is still not 100% gone.

In terms of positives, my favorite thing about the phone is its battery. To compare -- on LTE data, my S4 dropped from 100% to 50% in 1.5 hours (let's not even talk about the Nexus 4, which before rooting went from 100 to 0 in 2 hours). While I was travelling, I didn't want to leave my phone plugged to the wall overnight so i'd frequently charge my phone for 1 or 2 hours a day and hope that it lasted, and by the end of the day my battery would have dropped like 30-40% only with moderate use. I'm sure that if I heavily used my phone, it would have dropped more, but I'm confident I can get through a whole day on 100% charge. This is due to its 3100 mAh battery, which holds more charge than the S4 (2600 mAh). Furthermore, the phone comes with a 2A charger, so it charges super fast. Probably can do a full charge in under 3 hours. This is a huge plus for someone who is out a lot and doesn't want their phone to die on them halfway through the day, and the charger is small and fast enough that you could just plug it into the wall for a bit and you'll have enough juice to go for a while. Ofc, batteries deteriorate so who knows how long this will last.

^ sorry what? 74% battery after 8 hours?
(this screenshot is was taken today, after 2 months of daily use)

Overheating has also been less of a problem as compared to the S4. This may be a result of not having a case on the phone, but qualitatively I've felt that the temperatures the One reaches, though not cool all of the time, are at least only moderately warm as opposed to scorching, even during a charge.

In terms of photography, it's kinda ridiculous -- the One has a 5MP front-facing camera (to compare, the iPhone 4 has a 5MP BACKfacing camera), and a 13MP back-facing camera (same as the S4). It has a widest aperture of f2.0 which is pretty damn good, so the low light photos are not as noisy as I would expect at all. Sharpness is also on point, due to 6 pieces of physical glass making up the back lens. The focusing does get a little weak in low light, especially when trying to focus at infinity, but I think this can be fixed with software. It also has dual LED flash, but I haven't actually used the flash for photos yet, so I'm not sure how it behaves in practice. The torch is really bright though! I also really like the inbuilt HDR mode, the results are generally pretty good, see below.

Some HDR comparisons, Auto vs HDR:
 







And here are some low light pictures:


So the fireworks is pretty grainy, but heck, it was pretty dark that night haha.

If we wanna get into technical specs, I guess it's worth noting that the One comes with 3GB DDR3 RAM (S4 has 2GB, iPhone 5S 1GB). This seems rather ridiculous but I'll admit there has been pretty much zero lag on anything I've tried to do on this phone. Of course, apps have still crashed but it's unclear whether the crashes were memory-related. I know nothing about CPU so I'm not gonna bother trying to make much sense of it, but it's Quad Core 2.5GHz for anyone who understands more hardware jargon than me.

Another neat thing about the One from my personal experience is that it supports gestures on sleep mode, so if the screen is black, I can easily turn on the torch app with just drawing a 'v' shape on the screen. an 'o' opens the camera (though it has stopped working of late), and two lines 'l l' cause the music to pause. It's a small thing and kind of finnicky at times, but I was able to navigate around in the dark easily because of the torch shortcut in particular. A double tap on the screen also unsleeps the phone. Though, this is a double edged feature, it caused many false wakeups when I had a simple swipe unlock on my phone, so I had to add a pin pattern lock to counter the screen sensitivity (but hey, probably a good thing that it increases security?).

Another weird thing I've found is that I frequently try to hold the phone upside down when the screen's off, causing me to look for a button to wake it up which is not where I expect it to be. For some reason my brain just registers that it should go that way. It might be because the speaker on the top looks more like the input microphone to talk into, but I'm not really sure why I do this. The front camera should give it away but my brain is just silly.

In terms of the buttons, they are very subtle on the edges of the phone. It can be hard to turn on the screen with the button because it's so flush against the side of the phone (ditto with volume buttons). Another thing is the SIM card release hole is not standard -- I tried to use the pin that came with the iPhone/S4 and it wasn't long enough to pop the release. Which means, you either have to use the pin the phone came with or a paperclip. Not sure why they did this, but it's something I've had to deal with.

Stock Cyanogen is nice because it's super customizable -- I had been using Holo Launcher on my S4 because I didn't like TouchWiz and it allowed me to choose how many rows/columns I could fit on my screen and how big to make my text. The One allows me to do the same thing without the extra app straight out of the box, which I really appreciated. This is the first time I've used Cyanogen on Android (I had my Nexus 4 on Paranoid Android after root) and I decided I like it a lot.

More on this if other people are interested after I upgrade to the new software! But these were my thoughts after the first month. :)

From SF to Vancouver

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Wowowow so much has happened since the last time I wrote anything I'm not sure if I can update properly.

Uh, firstly here is a textdump of stuff I typed on the plane from San Francisco to Vancouver:
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Eh back to using the windows I guess. 

There's always this weird buzz on planes in the background, that's juuust too loud to ignore. I'm listening to music right now, but the overhanging... hum? roar? of the airplane engines kind of enters my head regardless. 

De-orientation was oddly anticlimactic and sad. I didn't pay attention to my emails (as usual), and totally didn't get that we were supposed to print one of the attachments we got, so I returned my computer and phone without printing it out and getting it signed. The guys at the help desk were also unaware of it lol, so I had to swing by Jay's desk and get him to print it for me :( I'm a noob. Then I was really sad because I had to go, and Jessica made me tear up when she said bye to me because she was also tearing up. I think I've always been bad at that haha, I remember when I was leaving home there would be random times when Yujie would start crying and then I would start crying and everyone else would be like wtf is happening and :'(

my last day! :D friendship photo @ like sign hehe

Anyways, on the way to the Canadas now. Thought it might be good to update peeps on my plaaayyynneeezzz (plans/planes? idk being in the air makes me kind of delirious). A couple of weeks ago I managed to convince Kevin to come with me to Vancouver this weekend. Though I'm not sure if I can call it convincing, because it went down like this...
me: Hey Kevin, we were really gonna go to LA that time, huh? (backstory: one night, we were driving around with Jessica and George in san jose, we went past the exit for the SJ Airport and I was like "haha hey wouldn't it be funny if we just got on a flight right now?" and he instantly changed lanes to exit. We ended up in the terminal pretty damn ready to buy a flight to LA, but all the flight times were either bad or all the tickets were sold out. So we didn't end up going. For reference of how random this was, it was a Wednesday night.)
Kevin: Yeah I was ready to go. I'm still sad about that.
Me: So I'm going to Vancouver in 2 weeks... 
Kevin: ...
Me: ... and it's on a Friday night... 
Kevin: I'd be down

And that's the story of why Kevin is on a flight to Vancouver right now. I ended up shifting my Sunday SIGGRAPH shifts to hang out since he booked a return flight for Sunday, so now my Wednesday is stacked instead. But I'll update about that when it actually happens.

For those who don't know, SIGGRAPH is a Computer Graphics conference held twice a year, once in North America and once in Asia. Obviously, this year the North American conference is in Vancouver, so that's why I'm going there now. I applied to be a student volunteer because all the research being done is super interesting to me, even though I haven't done any computer graphics related courses yet or any research at all. Anyway, it's reguarly super expensive so I'm really happy that I got the opportunity to go for free.

After this week, I'm flying to Seoul, where I'll be meeting up with Alexpong and Arthur for our international photo adventure! We'll be spending 5 days there before moving onto Tokyo. I'm so excited! I haven't been to any of these places before so it should be a fun time. It was kinda weird because the flight that leaves for Vancouver is in the same gate area as the Air NZ flight back to Auckland. It was like I was at crossroads, where I could choose to go home or something. It's kinda true I guess, given the 2-3 weeks that I have left after my internship I could really have chosen to go home instead of traveling around, but I chose to travel instead because I felt like it would be a better use of my time. Not that don't miss family and friends or anything (I really do), but I know I'll see them at Christmas, and right now it's winter and bleh-y and I get enough of winter in Boston where I hate it. 

Omg captain calling to say we're starting our descent soon. Weather given in celcius. I'm so happy :) I like Canada already. Also the in flight airplane was half in French so I got to practise my French. canadaaaaa

Man I'd totally forgotten how nice it was to type on this laptop. Backspacing so smooth and fast and all the keys are just the right clickiness and distance away from each other :O Things that you don't get on an Apple Keyboard wao I never even noticed before. If only the battery and touchpad weren't so shitty, and it didn't weigh a ton haha
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Anyway, I guess picking up where we left off, Kevin and I had a fun 2 days in Vancouver! We went to a variety of places including English Bay, Stanley Park, Granville Island and the Richmond night market.

duck duck duck @night market (it was the most asian place I have ever seen outside of Asia)

We concluded that Vancouver is gorgeous.


plz can I live here

Also Canadians are so nice! The train ticket system here is like 80% honor system (they have been trying to switch to nfc for the last 3 years but people are still using paper tickets), and people on the street are just generally more courteous than in America. Also this morning when I ordered tea from a cafe, the owner offered to bring it to my table when he saw that I was carrying a lot of things and told me to just sit down first. Then, the old man in the wheelchair on the next table smiled at me and said good morning when I sat down! :O #thingsthatneverhappeninamerica

Also I met up with Charleswong and we caught up and he took me to a really filling noodle soup place which was delicious and I felt fat but so happy because it tasted so good hehe. Food in Vancouver is definitely a highlight!

Siggraph itself was really fun and interesting. I wish I got to see more than I did though :( I was on shift a lot of the time and standing for 7 hours a day is not particularly fun. But I did get to see a lot of cool stuff, such as:

A machine built by Japanese researchers which used ultrasound standing waves to generate a sense of touch -- you put your hand in the box, and there is a screen at the back of the box. A leap motion senses hand movement. The screen shows a particular image, and if you move your hand inside the box, it feels as if you are touching the object! depending on what image is shown, you feel a different texture or sensation. It was really really cool :O I asked the guy how much it cost to build and he said $10 million USD. I was very careful after that haha.

The japanese seemed to be very big on ultrasound and haptic touch sensation. There was also a machine that used ultrasound waves to draw patterns on carpet. Eg, those types of carpets that when you swipe in one direction turn a darker color -- they had essentially made something that could, given a predrawn pattern, use ultrasound to create it on the carpet. It was pretty innovative!

Birdly, a machine that uses Occulus rift and a strap-in contraption to make the user feel like they are flying like a bird.

I got to try the Occulus DK2, you know that thing that people at Facebook waited hours in line to try and I didn't wanna waste half my day for so I didn't bother waiting for it? Yeah I waited 5 minutes this morning for a demo. It was cool. :P

(Photo by Domo)

I sat in the driver's seat of the Tesla Model S. It was sexy. The guy also told me to go in for a test drive :P too bad I'm leaving tomorrow and have been busy all week haha. Actually this was a very lucky occurance -- I was waiting in the line to try the Tesla and started talking to the guys in front of me. They turned out to be nice people so we exchanged contact details and I ended up hanging out with them later! Thanks Farhan, Domo, Sam and Jacky for being such good ambassadors for Vancouver haha.

(Photo by Domo)

Epson also had a printing station where they let attendees use really fancy printers and paper and inks for free. I printed a bunch of posters for myself and friends, it was hiiighhh glosss and soo pretttyyyyyy. I wish I had printed more now but I'm not sure what else I would have printed. They also had a printer that could print on tshirts, but due to my shifts I got there too late and so I only got the larger sizes :( 

Platypus shirt which is too big for me

Pixar teapots!! Every year at Siggraph, Pixar gives out different designs of walking teapots. It's a real collectors item and in serious high demand (like honestly a teapot from a couple years ago goes for ~$150 on ebay). This year they gave out 1000 per day for 3 days. Since I had shifts during midday on both Tuesday and Wednesday, I was only able to get one today. But they're so cute! I started lining up at 10.45am and the line already curved all the way around the exhibition hall and behind a screen @_@ Luckily, handing out teapots is pretty quick so once they started handing out at midday we were able to move forward very quickly. 

 (Photo by Domo)

As for some of the shifts I had to do, some were better than others because i got to see stuff that was interesting to me anyway. My first shift was at Technical Papers, where researchers present the bleeding edge of what they've been working on. It was super interesting and made me think that maybe I should try doing some research just to see what it's about -- actually also I ran into some people from the University of Toronto who were working on some Computer Vision stuff and the head Researcher knew Professor Zickler from Harvard. I guess I should take his class hahaha. Anyway, I digress. My last shift was also a production session for Xmen: Days of Future Past. There were actually three visual effects studios commissioned with work for the movie, and I got to see how they handled Mystique's morphing/feather rendering, the Sentinel's design and the breakdown of my favorite scene from the movie, the one where Quicksilver runs around the kitchen and everything is in slow motion and it's hilarious and great and beautiful and heeeeee.. it's really amazing what you can do with visual effects! and it's also just kind of hilarious when you see magneto acting all badass in the middle of an empty studio with only green screen around him. Really makes you respect actors and what they do because all the epicness we see on screen is certainly not there during shoot time.

Aaaanyway, I should probably post this before the next leg of my adventure because otherwise i'm gonna forget and have way too long of an update. At the waiting lounge now for my flight to Korea. Slightly confused because all the flight people keep trying to speak to me in Korean and I look blankly back at them. This should be interesting.