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.

Narratives of our lives

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Story sheep
(Context for people who don't know who this is: This is SHREK, a merino sheep from New Zealand who avoided capture and being shorn for 6 years between 1998 and 2004 by hiding in caves. He took 20 minutes to shear and he produced 27kg (60lb) of high quality merino wool, enough to make 20 large men's suits.)
(Context on context ie. why I am including this story: because I always include a themed picture of a sheep on my blog posts these days, and he is kind of the sheep with the most impressive story.)

Over this summer, I started to get into a weird habit of asking people to tell me a story. I'm not really sure how it started, but I think one day I was sitting on the edge of a comfortable silence, ready to fall into awkwardness, when the words kind of rolled out of my mouth.

"Tell me a story."

Not like a polite request or an aggressive order, more like a curious command. The other person looked a little surprised, but obliged. Fascinated by the power of this simple phrase, I ended up using it over and over and again and again until my new friend was all out of stories over the next few weeks. I felt like I gotten to know a stranger and I had gained a new friend. And so I was satisfied.

I think a lot of people fall into the trap of thinking they are boring people, or that not much happens in their lives compared to others. I'd like to contest that; I think most if not everyone has such interesting things to say if only they would pay attention and try to present it in book form. I'd bet that a lot of people would pay attention and be interested in what they have to say. In the end, I wouldn't say the stories I was told by others this summer were super extraordinary of anything, but they carry with them a sentiment of the familiar, of nostalgia that I too had once put away in a box in the back of my mind.

These are the narratives of our everyday lives, the stupidly ordinary tales we tell of silly things we used to do and think and eat and play with. Not only that, but they comprise an ever-changing narrative -- as we grow and learn and change, our narration reiterates into a more cynical, or dismissive, or hopeful lens through which we look upon the past.

Story-telling is a social habit with startling longevity. It's how we propagated our history before records existed, it's how we accumulated experience through generations and, of course, it's how we make friends and get to know people today.

I decided that stories are probably my favourite way of getting to know the inner workings of people's minds. You can learn so much about someone by their choice of language and their perspective on their experiences. In the purest form of translation, intangible thoughts and feelings are translated into something that can propagate to and blossom in others. And for each of us that tells a story, many more also gain something to retell through their own lens, leading to richer and richer experiences.

Can these still be considered truth, given that they've been pulled and stretched and warped beyond what the original storyteller ever intended? I'm sure different people would say different things, but my opinion is that it's irrelevant; the experience of sharing a story is like retweeting a tweet through a chain, where eventually you run out of characters because there are so many @tags of people's usernames -- though maybe the original tweet is lost, you now have a net of friends tied together with 140 characters. Storytelling is like the glue that dries transparently on relationships, so barely noticeable that you probably would never even attribute your friendships to it.

Maybe I'm just too metaphorical of a thoughtster, but I really enjoy the idea that such subtlety in language can reveal the beauty of an undiscovered mind.

Am I still a kid for making people tell me stories as if they were my grandparents? Yea I'd say probably. Still going to enjoy them though :) 21 and hungry for tales of adventure! Message me if you know a good one :D

heres me and the cheesecake my friends bought me for my birthday :3