Skiing in Tahoe

In 2009, I put up a tutorial on youtube on how to stitch a gigapixel image. Aside from the fact that the tutorial was really cheesy and that I never actually finished it, the image in the tutorial was of the beautiful lake Tahoe.

Now, almost three years later, I finally made it out to Tahoe with Tim McKague, Sally Lee, and Sean DyStanley Chan, whom I worked with at TellApart last Summer, also managed to join us for about half the trip. We all went to Squaw Valley to ski and snowboard for the entire weekend.

My track in Winter sports isn't really the best. I have only went skiing twice before then and performed so poorly that strangers were yelling at me telling me that I "completely suck". Nevertheless, I decided the "bite the bullet" and see how things go.

On Saturday, the first day of skiing, I think I fell ~50 times. Everyone helped in instructing me, especially Stan. I think Stan was bored enough that he decided to document my struggle. Like this one:


 

And this one:

 

On the second day though, I felt a lot of improvement and I didn't fall nearly as often. I managed to join Tim and Sean on their skiing/snowboarding adventures. Sally decided to snowboard for her first time that day and was left to struggle for the rest of the day on the green hills. I guess Winter sports aren't that bad after all.

From the Far East to the Far West

So the past few weeks have been quite hectic, having to relocate from the far East (Singapore) to the far West (California) along with starting my internship at TellApart.

Within a span of eight days, I surfed through six cities in five flights over four continents. Here's the timeline:

  • May 7, 2011: Singapore, Singapore ✈ Dubai, UAE ✈ Cairo, Egypt
  • May 14, 2011: Cairo, Egypt ✈ Paris, France ✈ New York, USA
  • May 15, 2011: New York, USA ✈ San Fransisco, USA

My one week visit to Egypt marks my first visit after the January 25th revolution. Traces of the revolution are certainly visible everywhere you go - stickers on street carts saying "January 25", spray painting on walls and bridges denouncing Mubarak and his regime and barbed wires around the Maspiro Television building. There was also a protest to express solidarity with Palestine in Tahrir square on Friday, May 13th. Hopefully political and economical improvement would be as visible in the near future.

For the first ten days in California I stayed at USA Hostels near the Civic Center in San Francisco. The commute time to work was around 75 minutes. One of the weekends the hostel was fully booked and didn't have room to accommodate me. Thankfully, Stan Chen, my workmate, let me stay over at his place then. I have now settled in a house a few blocks away from work.

I am really enjoying my work at TellApart so far. In many ways it was exactly what I was aiming for this work term. It's a great mixture of really smart people to work with, a startup environment, and serious scalability issues to deal with.

Aside from that, I really don't know what else to say. In fact, I have no idea why I am writing this post right now. Off to bed.

Terima Kasih Indonesia

As my exchange term here in Singapore is approaching its end, I thought it might be worth backpacking just one more time before getting sucked into the funnel of final exams. This time I went on a five day trip to Indonesia with Zhang Jing, my neighbour here in Kent Ridge Hall, and Nick Yang.

We were trying to see as much of Indonesia as possible within these five days so our schedule was really tight. Knowing how much I love bullet points, these are some of the places that we visited (in chronological order):

  • Mount Bromo, an active volcano in east Java
  • Surabaya, Indonesia's second largest city
  • Sampoerna's Tobacco Factory
  • Borobudur, the largest Buddhist temple in the world
  • Yogyakarta City
  • Kraton, the palace of the Yogyakarta Sultanate
  • Jakarta, Indonesia's capital and largest city
  • University of Indonesia
  • Masjid Istiqlal, the world's third largest mosque
  • National Museum

Other "side accomplishments":

  • Took four flights in five days with four different budget airlines (Jetstar, Batavia, Air Asia and Tiger Airways)
  • Hiked up a mountain peak across from Mount Bromo to see the volcano at sunrise
  • Horseback rode up to the crater of Mount Bromo (lots of ash)
  • Rented motor bikes and drove around the villages in Borobudur
  • Attended a lecture on sequential circuits at the University of Indonesia (taught in Indonesian)
  • BONUS 1: Did not get pickpocketed!
  • BONUS 2: Stayed within budget!

During the trip, I only managed to learn the Indonesian word "terima kasih" meaning thank you. For all the great adventures that you offered me, terima kasih Indonesia.

Back from India

I just made it back to Singapore a few days ago after one week of backpacking around India with Jackson Tse and Katie Morehead. I never expected to ever go to India but, nonetheless, it was an amazing opportunity to learn more about the appealing Indian society, culture and history. I am very happy with what we have accomplished during our little trip!

To mention a few of the places we visited:

  • Trivandrum and Cochin in the state of Kerala
  • Mysore and Bangalore in the state of Karnataka
  • Maharaja’s Palace in Mysore (stunning!)
  • Chamundi Temple in Mysore
  • Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Trivandrum
  • Trivandrum Zoo
  • Kathakali Dance Concert
  • Kovalam Beach
  • Bangalore University
  • Psmup Public School in Trivandrum and another public school in Cochin
  • A Muslim Orphanage in Cochin
  • A technology park in Bangalore (where the Google office is located)

Some “side accomplishments":

  • Bathed some elephants with a coconut.
  • Bought and distributed pens and biscuits to students at Psmup Public School.
  • Tried some street food - I can’t remember the name of the dish but it was, more or less, fried chicken skin.
  • Rode an overnight train from Trivandrum to Cochin (had a great conversation with a few Indians on the train).
  • Rode a sleeper class train from Mysore to Bangalore! This is the lowest and cheapest class in Indian trains.
  • Took two domestic flights (from Cochin to Bangalore and from Bangalore to Trivandrum).
  • BONUS - Got pickpocketed!

It was quite interesting to compare and contrast India, Egypt and other places I have seen. Hopefully I’ll have the time to write about some of this in the near future.

Hello World from Singapore

So it’s been quite a while since I posted anything here. The past few months were crazy busy. I am now in Singapore on exchange at the National University of Singapore. I arrived here last Saturday and so far my impressions are very positive. The country is very well organized, well kept and I fell in love with the tropical weather.

I am living in one of the residence halls on campus called Kent Ridge Hall. People here are super friendly and I am learning a lot about Asian culture from them.

I am staying in Singapore for four months. During this period I am hoping to:

  • Become familiar with Asian culture.
  • Learn about the factors contributing to the success and progress of Asian countries and how we can apply this to the Middle East.
  • Explore Singapore and neighboring countries.
  • Learn some Chinese!

I am hoping I’ll have the time to do all this. Especially since I am taking some heavy CS courses including Operating Systems, AI and Algorithms. Will keep you updated on how it goes!