Archive for January, 2009|Monthly archive page

An Epic Presentation

 

 

Ghetto Cooper

Ghetto Cooper

Random Observation/Comment #129: It’s difficult to publish entries when you’ve spent 4 days away from your laptop, and 70% of that awake-time in an inebriated state.  Work hard.  Play hard.

 

I summarized the majority of 1.5 years of torturous brain-fug work in a little more than an hour.  I didn’t necessarily rehearse this presentation – I already knew what I was talking about after spending hours (I want to say something like the ‘decade’ version of hours, which exists in Chinese as ‘see suns,’ which I think is 3 hours – it just seems like the emphasis would make my writing much more entertaining, although this explanation is interesting as well) writing those 90 slides (Yes, it was 90).  For some reason, I was never very good at memorizing lines and acting them with gravitas or even much fervor.  Every carefully phrased sentence written in my 20 pages of “talking points” was completely ignored – I decided to just refer to the intentional animations for different topics.  In fact, I used each of the slides as a simple bullet point reminder of what I should mention within my stream of random commentary. 

I say random commentary, but what’s a little more appropriate, is background song.  For the most part, the audience is concentrating on reading the slides and trying to follow the overall story.  The words that actually came out of my mouth didn’t really need to make that much sense.  I think it would be fine if I just ran the slides behind me while I sang a song and practiced Thai Chi (I choose Thai Chi because after 2 minutes, you’ll probably rather be looking at the slides).  The flashy animations and overall flow of your inflections are so much more important than your actual words.  Once you get famous, I’m sure there will be much more criticism, but I do not hope to enter this type of world anytime soon.

I know this wasn’t the best idea for a Master’s presentation, but I basically winged it*.  I went through a few practice runs, but it really didn’t help that much.  The hour-long speech was just too much to memorize.  Instead of seeing the entire presentation, I split it up in my mind to talking about smaller topics.  The slides were used to indicate which topic I should discuss next.  By thinking about this as 10 smaller presentations squished together, it became much less scary.  I stayed on topic and spent the extra time making sure I knew all of the cues. 

Throughout undergraduate, I’ve learned that the level of success for an engineering presentation is the amount of knowledge your audience absorbs by the end.  If I leave the presentation intellectually stimulated, I feel like my time was not wasted.  I focused the creation of my presentation surrounding this main idea.  In order to do this, I needed to bring an “earthier,” realistic aspect to the points I was making.  Since it was a Master’s presentation, it was definitely technical.  But I broke it up such that the theory and experiments related to more real-world examples.  For example, if I were explaining elastic collisions in a transfer of momentum, I would use the example of playing pool where we focus on the resulting action from a cue ball colliding with another ball.

For the most part, presentations are used to sell a product.  When you’re an engineer asking for more funding, you’re trying to impress investors with the practical usage of your topic.  When you’re presenting on financial road shows, you’re basically selling the services of the IPO to potential stockholders.  Given these examples, it may seem like the following is true: When you’re a graduate student presenting to professors, you’re selling the knowledge and hard work put into your thesis. 

In reality, your advisor usually knows how much work you’ve put into your graduate work, so the presentation itself is really not for him; it’s actually just a formality.  The success of the presentation is gauged by  the reaction from everyone else in the room.  The advisor just wants to see that you’ve understood the essence of engineering – the process of filtering research, conducting experiments, drawing conclusions, and (the most important, but usually omitted) transfer of results back into the community. 

One team of researchers cannot expect to cure cancer.  Instead, they focus on specific procedures that may propel other research in less ambitious areas to further the field.  This concept has been available and actively pursued for many decades.  The importance is the transfer of knowledge.  Engineering schools should further emphasize writing skills to make sure other people don’t waste time picking apart poorly written papers.  I found most of my frustration is the lack of a uniform agreement in units or notation to represent the basic ideas.  Well, I guess that’s why they call it research.

~See Lemons Finish

* Wing(-ing/-ed) it. Verb. The act of entering a task relying on a keener use of bullshit skills, rather than a practiced set of logical answers.  This does not necessarily imply being unprepared, but it does indicate a level of hubris or “oh, fug-it” nature.

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Please, help me, oh wise ones in the corner store by Cooper Union.

 

<insert something poetic>

Random Observation/Comment #128: “If you’re good at something, never do it for free” unless you’re really nice like the STA travel magical helpers.  These guys didn’t have wings, halos, tails, horns, excessive fur, additional limbs, or disproportionate body parts – I checked.  They’re just that one-stop shop, fully utilizing the Internet at their fingertips.  Bless you. 

 

If anything is taught to the “Engineers of our future,” it’s the warning of reinventing the wheel.  I think the emphasis of this school developmental process is not memorization, but the personal optimization of internal algorithms, data structures, and subroutines.  What I mean is; we’re all just learning how to learn and use our resources wisely.  If everyone started from scratch, we’d never keep up with Moore’s law.  It’s like asking someone who wants to write a book to build a typewriter and invent ink, first.  At some point, we must accept our technology and propel it as a tool.  That’s what makes us, as homo-sapiens, special – our developed frontal lobes give us the ability to plan ahead and use tools. 

Although this concept is easy to spot around us (just take a look at any invention and see how it’s commercialized to offer a more convenient way to perform a task), it’s terribly difficult to follow as an engineer.  This rule of not reinventing the wheel would work if the world wasn’t filled with such incompetence.  Sometimes your project is built with metal bars and the parts that you’re given are made of plastic Legos.  The functionality of that little wheel might exist, but it just doesn’t fit.  Duct-tape might work, but where’s the aesthetic appeal in that? I speak for all engineers when I say that we’ve had those frustrating moments when we’re completely perplexed by how much time and hair would have been saved if they simply wrote a few lines of documentation.  Isn’t it great to see comments around functions that simply say, “/*Fix this later */.”

Never the less, it’s useful to have references and it’s obvious that we all have different ways of thinking.  Replacing this unique individualism with a hive mind would be amazing with instant communication, but it would lose that “thinking out of the box” shyt everyone keeps talking about (just say “synergy” and I’m sure some business-major will jizz in his pants). 

Oddly enough, planning a trip is similar to writing a computer program.  Well, it’s actually nothing like writing a computer program except for this one thing (and even that one thing doesn’t really tie in that well).  A lot of people have traveled the world and they’ve felt their need to express their feelings about this privilege through their pictures, books, reviews, blogs, or well-paid television series.  I’ve emphasized the research phase of travel planning in previous entries, but I should mention again that no one knows what you want to see, better than yourself.  Some people love nature, while others love museums, so plan your trip according to your own (and travel partner’s) desires.  Remember the purpose of this trip – is this a honeymoon or vacation or self-help book in the making?  How does this relate to computer programming?  I don’t remember.  Moving on…

Someone actually found vacation planning to be a viable job market – go figure.  This means that there are angels in matching shirts, ready to book your flights, hotels, transportation, and give suggestions on places to visit with great prices.  If this isn’t in STA Travel’s motto or mission statement, it probably should be:  “Here at STA Travel, we understand the value of exploring the world safely and within your budget.  A live representative is waiting inside and ready to fulfill your travel planning needs.  ::rawr::”

Obviously they can’t do all the work for you – you have to know when and where you’re going, and how much money you’re willing to spend.   Actually, that’s about it.  I told them the days I’d like to travel and places I’d like to go along the way, and they just printed out the plane tickets (after paying them, of course).  Even if you have your own connections with travel agencies, I would suggest using STA travel as a major research resource.  Learn about where you want to go, and then speak with them to see if it’s possible within your timeline and budget.  They’ll help you solve the NP complete problem and tell you the must-see places along the way.  They’ve done this so many times that they know exactly what you need to plan a fun vacation at a reasonable price. 

By the way, I am not getting paid by STA travel to write this (although I would like to – actually this blog would be quite an elaborate sham for an advertisement).  They honestly work efficiently and walk you through the checklist to make sure your itinerary can, at least, prevent a few heart attacks from your worried parents.  Poor planning will probably build a terrible plot for an action/horror movie.  Imagine showing up to a foreign country without these essentials: Accommodations, Local activities, Transportation, and clean socks.  It would be a horror movie, for sure. (And I would watch it, enjoy the suspense during the movie, and then complain about how bad it was afterwards).

~See Lemons Happy to Receive a Helping Hand

Free time? Whatever. Just get me out of here!

 

 

This should relate to maturity

This should relate to maturity

Random Observation/Comment #127: I definitely caught the travel bug.  I have all of the symptoms, including the ones on the most severe level.  Luckily, the cure for this is on its way.  My brain is slowly decaying backwards and I’m losing concentration on the more important parts of my life.  It’s time to be a little selfish.  It’s time to leave it all behind for a little while.

 

It may seem like I’m approaching my life backwards because I’m taking a vacation before I even start work, but it is simply planning ahead to enjoy what will inevitably happen – a crash, a clang, a burst, or a simple foamy overflow.  A “mid-life crisis” would be looking a little too far ahead, but I’m actually preparing myself for those intermediate intervals between the “quarter-life crisis” and “reaching the hump” years – those unpredictable gremlins knock you over the head with a club when you least expect it.  It’s the point in your life where responsibility has yet to completely settle into your brain.  You’re still living at home to save money and significant others aren’t very significant for long.  It’s a time when a part of you still wishes you were in college and spending those all-nighters drinking red bulls and working to meet the next deadline – wait, that’s not it.  I meant normal college with sex, alcohol, drugs, weeds*, and temptation around every corner.  

It seems to be a bit of a depressive state when time just passes you by so much more quickly.  You remember when you could finish all your homework and still sneak in hours of cartoons on a high school schedule.  But now, you see yourself slowly fade in productivity, even if you have a full day to finish one thing.  Granted, your tasks have become much larger, but there’s still that side of you that accepts pushing off the task to the next day – not like there’s much to look forward to.  It’s not exactly procrastination; it’s more like a bed sheet of deception you cover yourself with as you try to hide from your responsibilities by pretending to be a transparent ghost.  It feels like there could be so much more you could do with your life, but instead of actually doing something, you find distractions and consuming easier.  There’s a lingering image of your life following a mindless zombie stumbling through your weekdays and drunken mindless zombie stumbling through the weekends.  You start to question, “What is fun?”  Is getting drunk and spending obscene amounts of money for a night where you wake up with a hangover and desperately want more hours in the day, considered fun?  Am I having fun yet?

Ever since my ex-roommate said this quote, I’ve believed it with all my heart.  “Time enjoyed wasting is not wasted time.”  There are some exceptions, like watching prime time action television when you should actually be working on an hour presentation you have in three days, but in its essence, the quote expresses a perspective on life.  “Wasting time” is really dependent on what you keep as a priority.  If your priority is to have fun and travel, then isn’t the work you do every day just wasting time?  Would you consider it wasting time if the time is used to help your overall priority?  For example, would you disagree with the act of saving up money to travel a wasted time because it’s a conditional statement?  If so, then wouldn’t what you do with your free time (supposedly enjoyed) be conditional to your happiness?  Yes, you’ll be miserable when you’re catching up with what needed to have been completed to reach your long term aspirations, but didn’t that moment just add something to your persona?  Were you not enlightened a little bit or didn’t you learn something?  So is there wasted time?  I guess it’s only wasted if you had to do something else and you somehow replaced that shitty task with an even more shitty one.  Thus, it’s only not wasted time if you’ve enjoyed it.  I think I confused myself…

I can already predict the transformation and it scares the crap out of me.  Sitting in front of a computer screen for ten hours and constantly polishing your boss’ shoes is just a part of the process; it’s just the way things go.  Isn’t there so much to look forward to?  A higher salary is better than my current negative one. Social security – great, until you lose 30% of your 401k over blatantly dishonest business (I don’t know what world I was living in to think there would be any other type of business).  But where has all of the time gone?  When can you celebrate those birthdays of your close friends, parents, sons, and daughters if they fall on weekdays?  Where is all of that money actually going? 

Let’s say I’m doing the job-thing to pay off loans and save up money to support my expensive lifestyle.  The question I would ask myself before getting myself into this position would be “why am I planning to spend the money and live my life when I’m old or older?”  I am healthy, relatively attractive, and sexually active now.  If all you see ahead is that wonderful retirement stage, where you can sit back and measure the tree rings of the seeds you’ve planted, why not make those memories now?  If your retirement savings are for traveling, why not take out more loans and leave it all behind – escape?  I understand the responsibilities of many, but if you had the chance, it wouldn’t really make sense not to take it.  Financially, I will repay my parents – they already supported me this long, what’s another 6 months?  With regards to the timing, the Euro is down and sales are plentiful now that our economy is slowly recovering.  The planets seem to be aligning for me.  I think I’m waiting for Time to point me in the right direction; it doesn’t have to be an arrow – just highlight the door frames or simply show me the alternate futures.  Please?

Of course, I will take the opportunity because it’s awesome-in-a-nicely-wrapped-box. I would be stupid not to take the offer.  So then what is this thought bubble that fizzles back into existence whenever this topic comes up?  It casts a shadow over me and bellows this word in the deepest bass that orchestrates my heartbeat – “Maturity.”  To me, it’s like a torch where the whole stick is covered with the cloth and gasoline – I guess it’s just a burning rag in the shape of a stick that leads the way, but constantly keeps me in pain.  I see its beautiful glow giving me so much to look forward to. The walls of my dark, metaphorical cave are covered in scriptures that preach the meaning of life.  I see the importance of family and the happiness of that path.  With that said, I also see the hair-pulling frustration when you think everything your teenage child says is an imaginative fabrication to please your expectations.  But, on the brighter side, they strengthen your bonds and give a deeper meaning to life.  This soul adds purpose to your own.  This love extends your goals, aspirations, dreams, and fantasies blog entry to include that of your child and lover. 

I can’t wait, but I see that this is later down my path.  Now is the time to rejoice in youth.  Commitment will just have to wait.  Let me enjoy the silence by making my own “bumpin’ beats.”

 ~See Lemons Mature?

Trying to Solve an NP Complete Problem of Europe

 

 

frustration? a tease?

frustration? a tease?

Random Observation/Comment # 126:  I never seem to stay on topic with my journal entries.  I read a lot of my suggestions from what’s supposed to be “useful to help other people plan,” but none of it is actually straightforward.  I enter a lot of weird commentary that just fills the lines with a horribly foul substance.  It’s not quite bullshit, but you do have to dig through something viscous to find what you’re looking for.  I oddly hope I continue writing this way because it gives me a glimmer of joy, just imagining the readers’ frustrations.

 

To summarize from earlier, I am bounded by a decision already placed into motion (the study abroad thing in Europe) so I researched in every nook and cranny possible to get an insight on different travel locations.  I did not know what I should choose exactly, but I knew I should take my time in each city and look for cities that were highly recommended by people who have my similar tastes.  Germany is a given, since I am centered there, but the bordered countries that are possible by weekend travel are quite numerous.  I could go basically anywhere in Europe because I’m right in the center.  In addition, since I have set housing in Germany, I will actually go on smaller trips based from Germany.  In my special condition (mostly applicable to study abroad students), I have chosen the main countries of Czech Republic, Switzerland, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, France, and UK.

I chose the UK because of the cheaper flight costs to-and-from London.  Round-trip flights are always cheaper and if I want to travel Europe anyway, I might as well do a one-way flight to Germany and take the train back to London for the return.  I highly suggest considering this possibility: Book a roundtrip to a major airport, fly cheap across Europe, train ride one way back to the major airport while stopping by all of your desired cities.  You should probably check the airfares, but I know London Heathrow Airport is much cheaper because of the high volume of traffic.

Basically, once you have decided your generic path from the airport flights and dates of return, you will be given some restrictions by the transportation and number of cities you would like to visit along the way.  As I mentioned earlier, give yourself enough time to enjoy yourself.  Try to do a few city days and then a few nature walks to balance the week.  Although I will be abroad for 6 months, I will have a few major trips that require thorough planning. 

The weekend trips centered from Germany are quite ideal because I could still experience some backpacking without the heavy luggage.  Since I already know the countries I’d like to visit and the number of weekends I have allotted, I have planned the smaller trips based on travel time and location.  For example, my last trip must end in London for my return flight so it wouldn’t make sense to go to the Czech Republic and then make a “U-ee.”  That’s just inefficient and quite unnecessary.  Plus, the transportation problem (discussed in a latter entry) will make this much more expensive.  Therefore, my weekend trips will focus heading towards the Southern and Eastern areas since my final trip will be going west.

For the longer trips, I planned lightly and accounted for my heavy luggage.  Normally, I would like to stay in different places to make local transportation much easier, but with the luggage, I prefer paying more money in a central location and leaving my important things in a safe place.  I expect to spend a full week in major cities like Paris, Amsterdam, and somewhere in Southern France.  Along the way, I’ll definitely try the beer in Belgium and take pictures of castles in Luxembourg.  These plans are quite broad as of now, but I’m also expecting some change when I meet people abroad. 

Keeping this in mind, it’s also important to be flexible with your planning.  Sometimes the reading material for your city or country may have given you false impressions.  Booking hotels or hostels a week in advance would give you guaranteed spots, but if you want to leave, you should definitely have that freedom. 

There really isn’t an easy way to do this because unexpected weather patterns or other disturbances may drastically change your plans.  It’s impossible to account for everything, but it doesn’t hurt to do more research and have backup plans on places to visit.  Categorize your travel days to minimize your transportation costs and maximize the sights in the area, and include the backup days if weather isn’t on your side. 

~See Lemons Find a Solution that Fits

Making a REALISTIC travel wishlist

 

 

A time traveling dinosaur?

A time traveling dinosaur?

Random Observation/Comment #125:  It’s hard for me to accept the fact that I can’t experience everything first-hand.  I feel horrifyingly hollow knowing this fact.  It’s not even the idea that I wouldn’t be able to experience the differences between growing up as an orphan or as a medieval lord – I realize these are impossible given my current choices and subsequent timeline.  It’s the idea that I won’t be able to live all of the branches that exist in my lifetime.  The “Me” I think of now will only see that one path in the fourth dimension, even though there could have been infinitely more in the fifth.  Let me clarify with an analogy.  If we take these experiences as the pixel count of a simple Snake game (for those in my generation, we played this in high school on our TI-86 calculators instead of actually solving derivatives and integrals), the screen resolution cannot be fathomed.  If I were a snake trying to eat the experiences within my timeline’s ability (in this case they will come up as little pixilated apples), I would need to choose which path to take.  Given my time limit, I can only travel so many pixels my entire life.  Following the game’s rules, my snake tail will grow after eating every experience, but since the size of the board is so expansive, I don’t think that “oh crap I don’t know where to go without eating my own ass” aspect of the game will be taken account.  The new twist, however, comes in the weight of the experiences or the points each apple gives (the tastiness of the apple, if you prefer, since each experience is difficult to put a value to).  My limit, then, is not the amount of apples I eat, but rather the distance I travel.  If I see that I need to sacrifice a lot of “fun” experiences to reach the one in the end, I would have probably died with a shorter snake.  It’s quite unfortunate, but who says the size of the snake counts?  Well, if the size doesn’t count, then what is the ultimate goal of the game?  To tell you the truth, the programmer of this game was cruel, and He didn’t really have an intended purpose – you’re just procrastinating so you don’t have to pay attention during Calculus class…

 

Continuing from my previous post, I have decided to go to Europe based on that stage in my life.  I am ever-so curious and submerging myself into a spectrum of unknown, just hoping for any response.  Europe is broad and nowhere close to a travel plan because I haven’t introduced any realistic restrictions.  The two major ones are time and money.  Although there are other concerns with intensity of activities, weather preferences, and people you know in the area, I’ll let you weigh those independently.  If you already know what you’re looking for out of your trip, it’s highly probable that you’ve considered your time and money aspect within your first narrowing down. 

Let’s say you’re going to see friends in London and you have a week of travel, then you can already concentrate on London locations and nearby flights to a few days in Ireland, or something like that.  If you’re going on a tour provided by Intrepid, then you don’t even have to worry about the itinerary (except for the start and stop locations). 

For those who really just have a lot of time and money, and don’t want to do the whole tour thing, I suggest traveling with a buddy and working out your preferences.  Ask your friends for suggestions and talk to elders about their backpacking experiences.  Not only will you find that old people have a lot of great advice, but you’ll also find that they love talking about their experiences – trust me, it’s endless (don’t give out your number or you’ll be on the phone with your friend’s father for hours, appeasing that grandfather-storytelling syndrome).  It’s very rare that people would just want to pick up and go without some type of restriction, and if you really don’t have a preference, then I’m sure some blog or set of pictures will strike your fancy.  If you’re having difficulty with this step, you’ll really break down and cry when you have to choose the specific cities when everything looks so appealing.

In my case, I will be attending study abroad program centered in Germany, so I already knew I would be Europe (in retrospect, sorry if the last entry was a bit of a sham).  I also knew that I would be starting in March, so the winter season and heavy packing was also a bit out of my control.  The fact that the season is off-peak will also come into account when I decide where to go.

First, focus on the time restrictions and prioritize based on efficiency and personal preference.  In general, I found it too messy to think of the entire problem at once.  Before even planning the flight days, you really need a sense of which area you’d prefer and how you would get around this area.  Start by reading and looking at pictures to wherever you want to go.  I conducted this research phase very methodically by consolidating everything I read online into a 30 page word document.  I copied and pasted Seasonal Attractions and made sure I knew the weather for the countries ahead of time – it would suck to go to London during its rainy/bad weather season (which is pretty much, always).

After considering the climate, I read a lot of tour travel itineraries.  It wouldn’t be too difficult to just download an itinerary and follow the main attractions at each stop.  You’ll have to work out booking the hotel and planning the leaving times for the train or airplane, but you’ll be in control of where you go and what you do.  Most of the time, for the extra money, booking the tour would save a lot of headache.  Plus, if you’re traveling alone, a tour is a great place to meet new people and concentrate on relaxing while going to these exotic places.  I’ve tried the tour life and it’s, for the lack of a better description at the moment, really nice.

After looking at a few tour itineraries, you’ll see a lot of repeats.  Everybody wants to visit those main places to see those cliché things.  Obviously, they’re awesome and a must-see for a reason, but the problem I’ve always had with tours is that “rushed” feeling.  Six cities in two weeks is not enough time for the full experience – actually, one city in 30 years isn’t enough time.  There are so many underground treasures and hidden beauties that escape those camera lenses.  For this reason, I’ve decided not to deprive myself of these experiences that would have been so much more heart-felt if I just spent that extra time digging deeper.  It’s like not scratching that scratch ’n’ sniff sticker long enough to get through the first layer for the full aroma – all you get is that metallic disgustingness, if you’re not patient. 

I expect a much more thorough life-changing moment if I take my time in every city.  I’ve so often mistaken my purpose of traveling – it’s not a checklist, it’s a road strewn with stores on either side for miles.  Why would you want to take a shortcut when every section of road has its set of unique experiences?  You’ll probably read this type of response in many of the tour reactions – “I wish we spent more time in <insert city of preference here>.”  That’s because tours can’t cater to your personality.  If you spend the extra time planning, maybe you won’t need to sit through an architecture exhibit if you prefer nature.  That is, if you dislike uncomfortable situations.  Knowing me, I would probably heat the coals for the brander.

~See Lemons Plan the EuroTrip

Making a travel wishlist

 

 

"I need a picture encapsulating flying and travel. Okay, just put your arms up like you're flying."

"I need a picture encapsulating flying and travel. Okay, just put your arms up like you're flying."

Random Observation/Comment #124:  There isn’t a place I wouldn’t want to go.  I’ve spent the equivalent of weeks surfing “the inter-webs” researching different places to travel and unique experiences.  I’ve read magazines like Travel and Leisure, watched Travel Channel shows like Bizarre Foods and No Reservations, and joined social communities like travbuddy.com and couchsurfing.com to feed my urges.  Pictures and descriptions of these tourist attractions and remote places around the world keeps my mouth salivating and my fingers tingling to write the next random observation.  Two continents reached; five more to go.  My dreams are looking more like reality.

 

Given my desire – nay – my obligation, to firmly grasp my opinion and preference on specific choices, the process of whittling down to a list of places to travel is excruciatingly difficult.  If you could go anywhere, where would you go?  This was a surprisingly hard question to answer even after I claim to understand my personal preferences and scratched the surface of possibilities through research.  This is similar to asking someone, “What is your dream job?”  Without restrictions, the mind goes wild, as it’s suffocated by the avalanche of possibilities, and has no idea what to choose – it doesn’t even know where to start. 

My internal scales and counterweights try to find the positive and negative aspects starting with the hemisphere, and then with climate – these seem to be broad enough categories to narrow down the largest number of choices by the first split, making subsequent branches from this tree more effective.   But even thinking about a warm versus cold environment, I’m not sure where I would rather be.  I would like to pack fewer clothes, and I do enjoy beaches and nice hiking adventures, but there is that greedy (and possibly masochist) side in the back of my mind that begs for discomfort if it results in a solid opinion of a new experience. 

Now, many would read this part and counter by prosing, “Do you need to touch fire to know that you’ll get burned?” or to the extreme, “Do you have to kill yourself to have faith?” First of all, why would you take these examples to the extremities when you know I would be calculated with my choices (tsk tsk)?  And secondly, like everyone else in this world, I have been burned by fire.  Although it wasn’t a 3rd degree burn, I learned my lesson, and continuing with more extreme experiments, would be idiotic.  And thirdly, if I have a primary source defining the afterlife, I would most probably believe.  Unfortunately, it would take a very convincing person to overturn all of my doubts. 

Anyway, I digress, as usual.  After thinking about climate, I would try to choose a continent that is filled with the essence of what I was trying to fulfill.  If I were looking for history, I would go to Europe; for food, probably Asia; for deeper appreciation of running water and health care, Africa or South America.  Well, now that I sit and consider the actual tours available around the world, I can sense a piece of nature and history in every trip.  If I were to specifically consider technological advancements, then maybe the third world countries would drop from the choices.  So I guess the more realistic separation depends on the GDP of the country, or even the specific city, you’re visiting.  Would you consider a third world country as a part of your adventure?  Can you pass those hot summer days without air conditioning and clearly labeled “buffet” to all insects?  Does your definition of “vacation” involve bungee jumping, sitting on a beach at a resort, or traveling for weeks without showers? 

This brings up a valid point – perhaps the more useful separation (other than climate and comfort) would be to ask yourself what type of vacation you’re looking for.  The world has so much to offer that there will definitely be a right location for the particular dynamic range of personalities that fits your state of mind this year.  It might very well depend on your new year’s resolutions.  Those who have fallen prey to the ever-so-controlling “Working Beast,” with the whips snapping and chains shackling every attempt for freedom, want nothing but a relaxing time to spend with friends and family.  The exploration side of their life has been temporarily removed from their reality and replaced with an overflow of responsibilities.  As these responsibilities slowly check themselves off (graduation from high school – check; graduation from college – check; steady income … ), I suspect this sense of adventure will return.  Independent of when this occurs, I hope their knees can withstand their hearts desires.

For the traveling graduate with this sense of emptiness in their purpose and proper position stamped on the corner of a corner of a stained page in world’s history book, I suggest something more exciting than beach resorts, but something less promiscuous than stereotypical spring breaks.  Based on this purpose-seeking format, I decided to indulge in a learning adventure.  I could have chosen a food-centered country (not to say that I won’t eat), but I would feel less guilty feeding my taste-buds when my physique and health is less important.  Besides, there would be so much less to look forward to when I’ve already tried every taste, texture, and consistency from every corner of the world.  I hope the wrinkles I form will still maintain its curiosity and appreciation for surprises. 

I could have also chosen that “deeper appreciation for life” path, spending my time helping those in need around the world with the Peace Corps or working with my professor in Ghana to engineer sustainable products that many people take for granted every day.  Even though I would have loved to fully exercise my talents, I could already hear my parents’ worried wallows.  There would be no way in Hell they would let me work backwards.  If anything, they would ask me to consider changing the world at the horizon, not live in darkness to catch-up the less fortunate.  It’s important to see that the other side exists as well, but I do understand my parents’ concerns, and I will leave the much more valiant achievements to the other engineers – the engineers that deserve the utmost respect.

Because of this specific stage in my life, I have decided on the cliché “backpack trip around Europe”.  There are many restrictions in my travel, which will be discussed in the subsequent entry, but for the most part, I’ve at least picked the hemisphere and even continent. What do I hope to find?  Well, I’m not going to be actively looking because I do believe that these enlightenment moments are spontaneous and are very picky in only occurring when you least expect it.  I will, however, aid the process by keeping my senses open to every angle in culture, history, and business.  Whether it includes studying the different etiquettes and details that come with each culture, the mistakes we’ve all made throughout history, or the beauty of art, architecture, and life, I intend to absorb and filter the relevancy to finding a fitting career.

 Interestingly enough, I don’t want this trip to be the solution to all my problems, nor do I want it to guide me to salvation – I just want these experiences to make more splitting branches in my tree.  I don’t expect the next six months to answer all of my questions, but I want to at least know that I have the question relevant to the category.

~See Lemons Want to go Everywhere

Bitten By the Travel Bug

 

 

mmm... the Travel Bugs

mmm... the Travel Bugs

Random Observation/Comment #123:  It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact moment when I decided to actively incorporate traveling into my life.  I’ve always enjoyed going places and seeing new things, but there was that side of me that loved the comfort and security of the familiar.  Torn between these two worlds, I teetered back and forth for years; sometimes living on the edge and other times having my ass positioned dead-center on that seat.  There must have been something significant that caused this disturbance in The Force.  Instead of the typical angel and demon on my shoulders, I have a Crocodile Dundee character with a thick Australian accent and a nerdy teenager playing a World of Warcraft level 42 Barbarian (I guess, to me, the opposite of an adventure-seeker is a person pretending to be an adventure-seeker through a video game).  Lately, that teenager went on a break and got a girlfriend or something.  His short screeches of paranoia and nasal-sounding warnings against risk-taking have been muffled by the deafening complaints of his “hunny” throwing tantrums and breaking furniture (no this is not the reason).  The reason is definitely positive towards traveling, and not negative against settling.  It happened sometime in Japan.  The overwhelming rush of learning a new language and culture opened a new side of my personality that I never saw – it was a person I found interesting with a life seen from a dozen different perspectives.  I don’t want that curiosity and desire of learning to ever be fully satisfied.  I realized, in those four months abroad, that knowing everything isn’t as fun as learning everything.

 

The travel bug may look like a fairly harmless creature at first glance, but unsuspecting students are easily susceptible to the highly contagious and serious condition commonly known as “the travel bug.”  The condition directly attacks the frontal lobe of the brain and can cause brilliant minds to make irrational long term decisions.  Once the disease is in the brain’s system, it is impossible to counteract without the treatment discussed later.

Common symptoms include absent-mindedness, day dreaming, and a desire to be more adventurous with food.  More severe conditions may involve uncontrollable creative writing exercises, multiple cascaded bookmark folders filled with travel information, obsessions with photography, joining online social networks to meet new people that also enjoy traveling, continuously finding excuses to shift topics of conversation back to traveling, and constantly bringing procrastination to new dimensions of existence. 

This disease is very contagious, but has a unique method of transmission.  Although physical interaction aids the process, the condition can only be spread with verbal or visual communication.  Adventurous stories and thousands-upon-thousands of pictures posted with detailed descriptions of these experiences can easily transmit the disease.  To avoid the effects of exposure, it is recommended that realistic thoughts regarding monetary and time restrictions are constantly reviewed during and after these conversations.  Early stages begin with thoughts about saving vacation days to take long trips or researching airfares for possible means of escaping the daily routines.  

The condition is not fatal, but should be treated immediately.  The recommended treatment is the full indulgence of the experience in a foreign country with a backpack and a guidebook.  Common side effects of this treatment may include, but are not limited to: kickass times, frivolous spending of money, a deeper understanding of new cultures, greater appreciation of life, and unforgettable memories.

~See Lemons Find a Cure

 

Angus eating the travel bug

Angus eating the travel bug

Process for Travel Planning

 

 

This picture is the essence of planning (look closer)

This picture is the essence of planning (look closer)

Random Observation/Comment #122: I’ve been living vicariously through other people’s experiences and looking through the lenses of so many cameras in the past few months that I feel like I’ve actually gone to these places.  Of course, my senses have not been satisfied with just pictures and descriptions, but this research has started my appetite.   I hope my stomach (a.k.a. external hard drive holding pictures and entries) can handle the 6-month, N-course meal (where N is not limited to counting actual courses of meals that I have in the 6-month period (obviously)).

 

Planning a trip is a mixed bag of treats and mouse traps (I haven’t decided if the original purpose of the bag was to store mouse traps or sweets).  It can be deliciously fun while reading up on the exotic places around the world, but horrifyingly stressful when working out the full depth of choices ahead of you.  When I planned my trip to Japan, I simply booked a 2-week tour and let Intrepid handle the rest of it.  Throughout the entire tour, a single thought about train schedules, hotel stays, or language barriers never crossed my mind.  Now that I think back on all of the things my tour guide helped us with, it was definitely worth the extra money.  Since that was my first trip alone around a country where I barely spoke the language, I didn’t want to jump directly into the deep-end (or jump in without dragging a lifeguard with me).  Besides, the tour took us to all of the remote places that most of the locals never have the chance of seeing.  I went sea kayaking, paragliding, white water rafting, fed deer, built robots, and took +12000 pictures of every nature scene possible.  Wow, 2008 will be hard to top – good luck 2009, you have good potential.  I’d say that getting chopped up at a hostel in London would be a bit of a downer, but at this point in my life, I’d feel dead if I didn’t feel alive (that actually should make sense if you put yourself in my mindset).

It would be quite a long article if I presented all of the details I’ve been struggling with for the past two months to plan my destinations and logistics for this 6-month trip.  As a general outline, though, I think I will cover the following in my however-many-part series of “Preparation Project Clemens-in-Europe 2009.”  I know, I should have been more creative with the name, but “Operation Rename Project Clemens-in-Europe 2009” will execute in the near future.  I’m up for suggestions.

The following are some upcoming topics for the next month (after the thesis, of course):

  • Research – Where’s the fun at?
  • Travel Wishlist – Where do I want to have fun?
  • Narrowed Down Wishlist – Where can I have fun with my allotted time?
  • Set flight dates – Free time?  Whatever, just get me out of here!
  • See Travel Agency – STATravel – Please, help me, oh wise ones in the corner store by Cooper Union.
  • Schedule flights – Discounts are nice…
  • Transportation – I know: I’ll just walk everywhere! (BAD)
  • Sleeping Arrangements – Camping? Newspapers as a blanket in a park?
  • Itinerary – Anal planning? More like, well-prepared… bitch.
  • Misc Information About Country – What do you mean I can’t pay with the dollar? That’s like gold!
  • Packing – Money; check.  Laptop; check.  Ready! Whatever, I’ll buy clothes there.
  • Safety – Don’t die, don’t die, and don’t die.
  • Airport Traveling – Anal cavity searches don’t seem like fun (whatever floats  your boat)
  • Etiquette – Don’t be that tourist that knows nothing about where they are and how they should act
  • Last Minute Checklist – I knew I should have written this down somewhere… “Don’t forget your brain”

Thesis comes first.  I’m so excited.

~See Lemons Apply Dry Wall

Initiate “Project Antisocial”

 

 

Curse You Aqua Scum

Curse You Aqua Scum

Random Observation/Comment #121: I made a very strict schedule for myself, and although I did a lot of work, it just doesn’t seem to be enough – it’s never enough.   I thought about emotionally reacting to this ordeal, but I’ve found that wallowing doesn’t really help.  I tried making myself feel better by going out and having a few drinks to celebrate the New Year and the holidays, but this only delayed my work.  It seemed like everything I tried to do to make me feel better was actually just pushing the problem aside – the problem was actually never solved.  They were all great successes at keeping me happy, and I was quite motivated to finish as much work as possible before I left to enjoy myself, but at the end of the day, I am still being metaphorically bent over and metaphorically violated by this metaphorical beast (let’s keep this clear to avoid any confusion of my sexual preferences). 

 

I looked forward to every weekend and agreed to every outing, not because I thought I had time, but because I wanted to stop torturing myself.  Unfortunately, this highly effective stress reliever left me with an incomplete thesis and project deadlines that squeeze tighter by the second.  It is time to make that sacrifice – “you’re not doing anything unless you finish this thesis.”  It is my last resort, but the less time I have, the more my adrenaline pushes through my system.  It reminds me of those nights of cramming for exams and struggling with projects and other papers for four years.  This stupid paper will not be the hurdle I trip over; not after jumping so many in the beginning of this race.  There are so many more things for me to do, and my pure willpower that I exfoliate from my skin and eat for breakfast (ew), should fuel my desires. 

From this day forward, I will devote 100% of my time to writing this paper.  I will sleep 7 hours a night and give myself 4 hours in a day for eating and small breaks to keep me sane, which means that I will have 13 hours of writing each day.  If I follow this work ethic, I should finish with my talking points by the end of tonight and get ready to jump back into the simulations by Thursday.  The presentation is completed as much as possible without actually successfully achieving a working simulation, but it runs in at about 70 slides (I definitely have more than 45 minutes of material).  All-in-all I feel like I have about 120 hours left of work on this thesis before I can get it over with.  Even if I let up a few hours on my routine, I should be done with this in 10 days.  I technically only have 6 days.  Let’s see what happens.  Please do some wishing, praying, sacrificing virgins, satanic chanting, evil rituals, and slaughtering goats for me.  

~See Lemons Antisocial

It’s Like a New Era

 

 

Perfect timing.

Perfect timing.

Random Observation/Comment #120: I didn’t really grasp the concept of waiting for a specific date to turn a new leaf and break bad habits.  We’re changing years, but what does that do except make me mess up writing the date for the month of January?  These New Year Resolutions scream procrastination and a weak mind.  If you want to do something, why do you need a special date to start?  Just get off your lazy ass and do it.  The convenience of setting a start date to the beginning of a month or any arbitrary day doesn’t make sense with something like getting in shape, quitting an addiction, or being a better person – some things should just start when you realize it being a problem.  Well, since I thought about the resolutions today, I guess I’ll start it today like everyone else.

 

The passing of 2008 comes with many great memories.  I think this was one of the best years of my life.  I spent the first half as a senior at Cooper Union with minimal work and my own place in the city.  With a relatively large amount of free time (compared to junior year), I began researching new and different pastimes.  I reflected on how lucky I was to live in the best city in the world and also how stupid I had been to not indulge in this privilege earlier.  My education had impeded much of my learning.  The experiences of racing to meet deadlines and sleeping for 4 hours per night was part of my college world, but my social life paid the price.  I have no regrets regarding these deprived years because I left with a solid work ethic and a continual desire to learn.  I had gone to college – not as a test of memorization or exam-taking skills, but to explore my optimal method of organization and learning.  At this day and age, it is more important to know how to find the answer, than it is to recall it directly from your memory.  Hands-on lab projects and technical skills are much more valuable than exams with matching definitions (not that any of our professors ever gave an exam that didn’t have trick questions). 

Anyway, with my free time, I did anything and everything anyone would do if they had time in the city.  I did some research by reading New York City guides and literally asking what people loved doing with their free time.  I started by allotting myself a larger budget – I figured that an extra few dollars on food and entertainment would only increase my overall semester spending by $1000, which I could earn in a month’s salary when I got a job.  Although this was very true and I did thoroughly enjoy my time, I “accidentally” forgot I was traveling over the summer and didn’t really want to work yet.  Oh well, I’ll just dip it into my already large debt I owe to my parents.

By the end of May, I was excited beyond belief knowing that I would graduate with somewhat of a useful degree like engineering (no offense to the History majors).  Even though I suffered through 4 years of hell to obtain it, I have maximized my options for my future, and this choice of different paths keeps me excited for tomorrow. 

My trip to Japan was life changing.  I discovered one of my passions in life – writing.  I’ve always been a writer, but I never wrote coherently enough for other people to read.  With every entry describing Japan and my train of thought through these culturally awkward situations, I have learned more about myself.  I hope these reflections inspire others to see life in a different eye.  I was talking to a close friend about relationships and it was somehow manipulated into the meaning of life.  I don’t have a generic answer for you because I don’t think there is only one answer.  Scientifically, we’re here to reproduce and protect our offspring so they can reproduce.  Economically, we’re here to contribute to the golden arrow of consumerism so capitalism works.  Spiritually, we’re here to ensure that our souls have eternal happiness by helping those in need.  However, when I say there isn’t one answer, I don’t mean it for a category either – I mean that every individual should have their own answer.  We are tied to many of our obligations, but how we find meaning is an internal struggle.  Your ambitions and initiatives give you meaning.  Someone that is occupied with achieving their goals shouldn’t even have time to ask the question.  The meaning of life actually is quite simple – just live.  Stop over-thinking it and enjoy all of those happy moments that comes in small doses.  Life is what you make of it, which directly relates to how you spend your free time.  I’m going to let that thought bubble a little bit more before I elaborate in another entry.

Anyway, when I returned from Japan, I spent the rest of the year writing about those experiences, working on my thesis, and weighing my options for careers and hobbies.  Organization and planning flooded my mind on an hourly basis, and I really felt alive when I wrote my lists of aspirations and dreams.  The goals that have been completed become my stepping stones to reach my ideal life.  And with every experiment and observation, I come closer to identifying the qualities for my ideal life.

Since I was so enthusiastic about traveling, I made plans for my next adventure.  After the Master’s, I’ll travel Europe.  Studying in Germany is simply a resume stuffer to give more time to find myself.  So what can I hope for in 2009?  I hope I learn about myself as much as I’ve discovered in 2008.  It will be difficult to quantify or qualify this self-knowledge, but hopefully I’ll come up with a measuring method as well.  Whatever happens, I hope my friends and family health and happiness.  Never stop learning and never stop loving.  Cheers and Happy New Year.

~See Lemons in 2009