Archive for December, 2009|Monthly archive page

Reflecting on 2009

looking into 2010

Random Observation/Comment #228: One of my main goals has been to make every year the best year of my life. I’m worried I set my expectations too high for 2010 because 2009 will be hard to surpass.

2009 was a bad year for so many people due to job loss and the economic recession.  For me, it was definitely baller.  The main goals I’ve crossed off in the past year include: finished Master’s thesis (bounded!), started a company, road tripped to Ohio (twice), completed a research project in Germany, traveled to Europe and Asia (major cities include: London, Interlaken, Hamburg, Berlin, Munich, Prague, Dresden, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Hannover, Fussen, Schliersee, Brussels, Bruge, Amsterdam, San Sebastian, Bilbao, Barcelona, Madrid, Valencia, Denia, Paris, Binz, Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Hong Kong, Taipei), sledged on the Swiss Alps, collected 100 more beer caps, started a collection of beer labels, tried every flavor or Rittersport, drank the best beer in the world in Belgium, uploaded 200 albums on facebook, took over 30,000 pictures (8,000 with the S90 after 1 month), fell in love, wrote around 110 entries on the blog, (almost) wrote a book about love, listened to all of Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings audiobooks, wrote the first chapter to a comic, got a job during economic recession (w00t), reorganized my laptop and room, learned German, got better at Japanese, bought a manual camera (Canon S90), obtained Master’s degree, bought a bottle of blue label, and started 5 other side projects.  Best year of my life.

I’ve learned so much more about myself than with any other year in my life.  It’s almost like I started living after I went to Japan because, before that, I was so concentrated on making other people happy that I never actually looked at who I wanted to be.  Cooper taught me so much, but it had drained my energy.  I felt like I didn’t want to go into engineering or research anymore because academia would make me die early.  My hair would start falling off and those bags under my eyes will permanently turn purple.  Although my brain may be filled with some useless knowledge about a specific subject, I don’t think that would necessarily help me lead a happier life. I feel like I’d always be searching for some type of project closure that would never come.  Ignorance is bliss.  Let me feel that productivity with the smaller projects.  Let me find happiness in community.

2009 was my year of exploration, observations, and opinion formation. For it to get better moving forward, 2010 would need to be a year of paving an interesting career and building a sound foundation with a happy and stable community.  In the case where I was mostly alone with my camera wandering the world and finding the interesting cultural differences everywhere, I can now settle into a comfortable home and explore the world around me.  There’s so much hidden in NYC and I expect to be part of the community that shares it with friends.  From my travels, I met so many people aching to see this place, and now, I have the honor to live here.  Why not become an expert and bring together the best of all worlds?

~See Lemons Optimistic for 2010

Happy Holidays: MY Mashed Potatoes!

that's the best part.

Random Observation/Comment #228: Especially for a Chinese family, the full holiday experience spans from the preparation to the dish washing, with all the fun eating and drinking in between.  It’s a huge potluck of food from different cuisines filled with those little quirks from every side of the family.  The uncles all join in loud laughter with inappropriate Cantonese jokes, while the aunties all talk about cooking and shopping.  The little kids pretty much sit in silence and stuff their face with food and wait to play mah-jong.

I’m, obviously, known for my mashed potatoes obsession.  It is well known that if there are any leftover mashed potatoes, I will be the one to lick the bowl.  Similar to how Garfield is famous for never having a dish of lasagna uneaten: I am referred to as the Clemens of mashed potatoes.  Luckily, no one really competes during dinner, due to this well-known fact, and we’re all happy trying to finish the abundance of food in a nice equilibrium of food sharing.

There is, however, the introduction of the Guest.  He or she, indiscriminate of age or race, becomes a threat to my mashed potatoes supply.  Of course, they don’t know and the one that has brought this Guest did not fully inform him/her of the situation.  As the Guest enters the room, I observe those eye movements that scan the table to plan their course of attack.  I imagine myself behind those eyes and extrapolate the angles.  If there is ever a double-take or prolonged viewing of those mashed potatoes, it’s on – you damn right, it’s on.

When I was younger, I’m not embarrassed to admit that I had the figure of a mashed potato eating champion.  Everyone saw me drooling and staring as we waited for everyone to be served their plate.  I made it my mission to let it be known at the table that I wanted to inhale my plate and get seconds and thirds of those heavenly fluffs of ecstasy.

However, I’ve grown older and less shape-y, which leads people to think that I’m on a lower starch diet – Oh, they are so wrong.   I am just as much the Clemens Mashed Potato eating beast I was back then, if not, even more so after years of training.  I wait between holidays dreaming of the night I would enjoy the moments seeing that gravy volcano explode.

Needless to say, the Guest leads to a battle.  I am too old to use those lower level tactics.  I somehow must be polite and courteous to others, and offer the last of each bite to those that look too full to handle it.  It was so much easier in the old days when I could pull something off like: serving a large plate of mashed potatoes from the pot and then taking the pot while leaving the plate behind for others.  Or, I could have pulled off the blatant “shoving the cousin out of the way to get more mashed potatoes” technique.  I would probably be the mashed potato bully; taking a large mouthful and screaming with my XL salmon-colored t-shirt with the fresh gravy stain and little belly sticking out.  Those were some good times.

Yet those techniques would never work.  Instead, I think all those obsessed with a certain dish tend to use this technique: serve the food.  Estimate the limit of proportions from every favorite and try to fill their stomachs with the stuff you don’t particularly want mixing with the mashed potatoes.

“Hey, little guy. You want some mashed potatoes?  You don’t want to fill up so much because there’s ice cream for dessert.”  Win.

~See Lemons Wish Everyone a Happy Holiday

Twenty-three: What’s up with the what’s-up?

Baller at 23

Random Observation/Comment #227: That feeling of labeling my new age really lost its effect two years ago.  21 was just that golden age that changed everything.  In fact, I don’t really remember who I was before I turned 21 – Wasn’t I that large mass constantly reading, writing, and typing furiously at my desk to meet all those professors’ needs? Or was it the token Chinese kid in high school that followed every Asian stereotype? Or maybe it was the chubby soft-spoken, shy, and awkward child?  Whatever happened back there, I’m glad it did because it paved the way for years of enjoyment.

It wasn’t until I turned 21 that I felt life would start kicking ass: Cooper classes only focused on projects that were actually interesting, I actually had some time to myself to start side projects, and I lived in NYC with a license to drink, taste, and party.

When I graduated Cooper, I drifted towards looking for a place called home. I caught the travel bug and took advantage of the American passport rights (this passport is gold).

22 became the series of research projects abroad filled with artificial intelligence, side projects, and so much more free time. I grabbed the bull by its horns and explored the unknown with my handy notebook and series of curious questions.  It was actually that passion that made me keep looking for something (whatever that something was).  I finally enjoyed liberal arts and began this whole “writing, photography, and collecting random things” expedition.

So once I turn 23, what’s different?  What’s the next adventure? Will it just be an arbitrary age? I hear that once you start work, the years just start flying by because the responsibilities keep building up and all you see is the goal you’re working towards – the days just go by to reach the next milestone.  This is possible, but I don’t want to start making it an age bracket or else there’s less revelation; just let me keep thinking each age is a new year with a new spark.   I want to continuously see something with a new light, so I hope this age of 23 will be a growth towards a type of maturity. Whether that maturity involves relationships, money management, work-stresses, or community contribution, I need to improve somewhere – and trust me, I see a lot of room for improvement.

I could see myself initiating a few of these tasks: Stop playing the dating game and Start settling down; Start saving money for bigger plans; Start making more long-term plans; Start adding more people into plans (instead of making selfish ones for the story); Start being more consistent with giving gifts; Start thinking more about long term consequences; Stop reverting to old habits.  I don’t want to think like a 40-year-old before I need to or else I think I’d stop taking risks, but maybe there’s a nice balance to choose which ways of growing up would work best.  If I can see what it means to be an adult, I’ll just take those baby-steps moving forward.

~See Lemons Turn 23

Predicted Adjustments to a New Life (for this blog)

readjustments needed

Random Observation/Comment #226: I think I’ve been on vacation for the past year, but it’s probably the most productive vacation I’ve ever had.  By the way, if I ever look like I’m having a mid-life crisis, just remind me to read through all my entries and sift through those tens-of-thousands of pictures – hopefully I didn’t spend all my money on that Porsche by then.

Moving forward, I need to make some changes to adjust to the hustle and bustle of 2010.  I’ll need to spend less time on the stuff I have usually done, like writing, thinking of business plans, and watching addictive TV series, and be more productive towards obtaining my new goal: Retire early (surprise, surprise).  In order to do this, I’m going to try to devote more effort into finding the career that gives me the most free-time.  This could require some techniques that are not preferred (since I’ve basically done everything for free), but I guess it is part of the growing-up process.

This blog has already been cut down in posts, but I don’t want it to disappear, so I think I’ll try to make the effort to release more frequent, but shorter posts.  As my parents have often complained about in family dinners and during typical silent car rides, I tend to branch off into all these random topics and rant until I just run out of time to write.

So, effective immediately (including this entry), I will make a conscious effort to keep the entries to one page, involve more relevant pictures, and post 3 times a week (I seem to have enough to say on status updates anyway).  I’ve decided to just keep it as the Random Observation/Comment as an opening statement, and then the rest a series of funny examples to support it.  Look at that, a New Year’s Resolution.

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year to all!

~See Lemons Save Parents from Long Entries

Futuristic grandparents

they're so cool.

Random Observation/Comment #225: My grandparents have such a boring daily routine that I’m surprised that they still know what day of the week it is.  It’s a continuous cycle that basically involves the following activities: walking, shopping for groceries, cooking, eating, napping, and watching TV.  I wonder if I will do this when I’m their age or if I’ll just always be stuck to the computer immersed in my virtual life that will forever stay young online.  When I accept that I’m old, my screen name will probably be: see lemons always sleeping.

Retired people have so much free time that they don’t even know what to do with themselves. They wind up picking up some interesting hobbies and joining communities to stay connected to a fun group.  When they still have their health, they can probably play some sports, like tennis or golf, or maybe just continue their love for carpentry.  Let’s hope that their age gives them the ability to do what they mostly enjoyed doing before they started working and getting sucked into that grown-up life.  I think about this because I see the routine my grandparents have acquired and I wish they were more familiar with some more fun things.  Sitting around all day and watching TV just isn’t the way to live (especially for those who aren’t immobile yet – cough).

Perhaps it will be more interesting in the next 10 years when the internet boom adults move into their retirement age.  Imagine how much internet advertisement will shift to accommodate the new age groups.  Of course they’re going to probably have a profile somewhere for everyone which will feed back to the major advertising firms to send specialized advertisements to those logged in.  I wonder how many people who are retired now are actually using the Internet?

There are so many unknowns ahead of us, and to my immediate family and friends, it seems the idea of retirement is one of them.  When you have that free time, what would you do with yourself?  Write memoirs?  Take pictures of everything you see?  Start watching every major TV series possible?  Cook healthier meals and take more walks?  Travel the world?

When my dad retires, I hope he will be able to drive really cool cars and listen to the best stereo systems.  I hope he’ll do something crafty, like build his own car or start making furniture for the house.  For my mom, I’m sure she’ll continue to be the master of home economics.  I can’t wait for the interior design of the house to be revamped with stickies and hand-knit pillow cases.  They would probably be looking to improve the little things they’ve always complained about in their life and enjoyed the process of achieving it.

My parents’ age group during retirement will definitely use the internet much more.  This means that they will begin looking for websites that are geared more towards their needs. Thus, there’s probably going to be a good market for retired people looking for things to do with their free time. Whether it’s joining specific communities or just looking up different things that they might be worried about, I have a hunch there will be something for them.  It’s probably going to involve some stalking of children and grandchildren with facebook, but hopefully they’ll get more creative and start learning things that genuinely interest them.

So what of our generation?  When we grow older and retire, will we just spend all day playing video games (PS5?!? Xbox in Spherical coordinates?!?!) and surfing the internet?  Isn’t that what we do now anyways?  Is there something for us that will change, or will we just be vegetative as consumers of this internet media.  There are so many more channels than the TV generation, but isn’t it cool that you can contribute to the content?  Imagine senior citizens updating facebook status updates?  Imagine a new feature in senior-citizen-facebook where you poll whether your friends are dead or not?  The future is so scary.

The worst thing that can happen to someone in our generation is to be left behind in technology.  Remember how you snickered when your parents first asked you “Have you heard of this thing called facebook?”  Imagine being the one hearing about it too late.  There’s just so much to keep up with that I think it’s imperative to keep your focus and really love what you love.  If your thing is graffiti and tattoos, you better know everything about graffiti and tattoos.  If you love the Rangers, you should know when they’re playing and how their doing in the league.  If you love religion, you should probably memorize some verses and be true to yourself (or whatever).  What do you love?  It will determine your retirement activities.

~See Lemons Love to Ponder

Learning from someone more organized than me

organized... or something

Random Observation/Comment #224: Hong Kong and Japan are both wonderful places to visit, but not exactly the best places to live.  Japan is filled with cute small girls and has lots of cool toys, but the hierarchical system is too strict and unbearable.  People really need to loosen up and make adjustments to that old management style.  Hong Kong has so much amazing food and an incredible transportation system, but the people don’t seem particularly friendly.  They seem to have assimilated to the large population of Filipino immigrants and follow a very closely-knit community.  Foreigners stick out like a sore thumb in both countries and those who are different seem to be marked with all the bad stereotypes.  Why so judgmental, Asia?

In a nature versus nurture argument, I’ve mostly sided with nurture.  I believe that my personality is the combination of the personalities that I’ve met throughout my life.  Due to the duration of the influence and the malleable age bracket, my role models mostly consisted of my parents, childhood friends, and media-fed characters (I totally want to be low-tech batman).  A lot of my instinctual decision-making skills come from this foundation that was magically built through those influences.  Some things just feel right and wrong without thinking about them because I was raised believing these values unquestionably.

Many of these feelings towards the decisions are difficult to rationalize, so does that mean I need to rethink them?  Shouldn’t the decisions I am able to make now out-weigh the instincts that were learned while I was growing up? How much evidence do I need to convince myself that the ways that I was taught were incorrect?  Obviously, upgrades are necessary and encouraged as long as the foundation maintains consistency, but what if some things were just wrong? I treat my life as a continuous feedback loop of improvement, yet there’s a level of arrogance built from too many positive experiences that makes the mind difficult to bend – it’s just not as bendy as it used to be.  I don’t think the problem stems from not having an open-mind because I’m open to hearing the different sides of the story, but maybe it’s just difficulty breaking through the level of disbelief from a more mature mind that intrinsically tries to make sense of the world.  It’s sort of like why you don’t remove people from The Matrix when they pass a certain age.  Anyway, I bring this up because I have found an interesting opposition to some of my values, which has led me to reconsider my life and its impact on the world.

We are not so different – him and I.  We’re both engineers with wandering interests and multi-tasking minds.  The world around us is confusing, but we try our best to pick our happy subjects and complain about the rest.  We watch television series religiously while doing work and surfing the internet for other interesting things.  We both try to keep our lives organized, and we both have a lot to say about a lot of random topics.

On the other hand, we prioritize our lives differently, which leads to drastic variations in our life styles.  For example, I believe that I need to improve myself and my community before trying to save the world, but he believes that you can save the world by first improving yourself and reducing your carbon footprint regardless of what others do (the whole “man in the mirror” Michael Jackson song thing I mentioned in an earlier entry to a more complete extent).  In the case where I have given up on being the man to save the world and began making sacrifices to support the overlapping goals of myself and my community, he tries to save the world by making himself this type of “unintentional role model.”  By this, I mean he doesn’t advertise his method of living as the correct way – in fact he doesn’t care what anyone else does with their life – but he just wants to look himself in the mirror and follow his values.  These values may be taken to an obsessive-compulsive extent, but I find it very thorough and I applaud his follow-through.

So what does he do differently that I’ve thought so much as to dedicate an entry in his honor?  In many ways, he’s had this hippy transformation.  He used to drink often, and now he’s quit.  He used to order various exotic meats from and now he’s a vegetarian.  He used to read about taking over the world with robots – well maybe he still does – but now he also looks at growing his own food with hydroponics.  I’m not trying to bash on these hippy ways (although, I would probably not stop drinking, stop eating meat, or start growing my own food all at once), I’m just surprised at how much this change has built his character.  I’ve grown so much more respect (than had already existed) for such a sacrifice as to maintain a foundation of values that started from a floating thought.  The thought festered and just challenged him by curiosity and principle (I imagined it being like a playground bully saying “I bet you can’t…” thus, leading to the response, “Oh YEAH?!?! Watch this.”)  The interesting part is that he’s not doing this from any type of bet; he’s just testing his abilities of self-control and self-regulation.  You have to admit, to turn straight-edge after indulging in a life that’s anything-but, does deserve much respect.

Now, I am going to tie together that small preface about rationalizing early instincts built from nurtured experiences: Why am I not a hippy? Someone like me would definitely step-up to a challenge that I created for myself in the name of self-improvement and curiosity!

In fact, I’ve tried being sober for a month – it’s not so bad, but removing that restriction and keeping the activity of drinking as a regulated social lubricant is so much better. I’ve tried being a vegetarian – it lasted 4 hours.  I’ve also tried not masturbating or engaging in sexual activity for a month – that was actually quite terrible (I could have poked someone’s eye out with the tent I was pitching).

The main difference between my experiments and his is that I had only changed one thing at a time to keep my other normal variables constant.  I think I would have gone crazy not tipping the scales and doing one of the other things more.  “So I’m not at the bar to drink… I guess I’ll just eat a lot of buffalo wings.”

For him, I think this change runs much deeper than a simple experiment – it’s a new beginning.  No one should really complain about what he’s doing – it’s your personal preference to drink, eat, and learn about different things.  None of the changes in lifestyle he’s made are bad either – if truth be told, most people wish they could live healthier.  So… why can’t I do it? Is it willpower? Did I only treat it as an experiment knowing that I was just waiting for the time I would revert back to old ways?  Is this a flaw with the foundation and a level of stubbornness I’m just not willing to change?

Once everything switches, I’m afraid of losing the personality I built previously.  You know, the idea of going straight-edge actually passed my mind.   It may have latched on and started to grow in the ever-so-tempting challenge, but as for now, screw that: give me my Guinness, rare steak, and blowies.  Someone would probably think I became seriously ill if those things were no longer part a part of my life.  Instead of setting the full restrictions, I would rather give myself regulations.  In this case, I would not be performing the straight-edge style to support any other deeper meaning (like, save the whales type-deal).  Whatever his reason for his life-style adjustments, I give extra props to he who has planted the thought.  Best of luck with that bike ride.

~See Lemons See Room for Improvement

Learning from the Bucket List

finishing a bucket list

Random Observation/Comment #223: This vacation is completely different from the ones I’ve had before. Instead of looking for purpose, I feel I’ve already found it.  I feel like I’m doing everything the same, but my mentality is just completely different.  I’m not trying to find a home; I’m just treating it as if it’s already my home.  This doesn’t mean I’ve lost those curious traveling-eyes where everything looks like it’s from another universe, but I think my overall observation about the world (whether at home or overseas) seems to be heightened.  Life has those bright and brilliant colors, and I can’t help but smile.

“The Bucket List” is a movie about two well-aged men (Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson) who meet as bedmates in a hospital when recovering from cancer. They grow as friends despite being radically different and – after hearing the bad news – decide to form a bucket list of things to do before “kicking the bucket.” Jack’s character, being the owner of the hospital and just ridiculously rich, decides to help make all of these dreams come true and have fun in their final adventure.  Like most people, “travel the world” is basically at the top of the list.  So they left on that private jet and chatted about every aspect of life while touring the major attractions and seeing the majestic beauties every culture has to offer.

Warning: The following is a spoiler for the movie.  I’m mentioning the movie in this blog because I think it makes an important point about leading life.  The underlying message made me review my life and plan for a different type of happiness.

Morgan Freeman’s character is a brilliant man (you know – the type that can answer all of the Jeopardy questions) who selflessly sacrificed his entire life to financially support his family.  After finding out he only has a few months to live, he finds it appropriate to be a little selfish.  With Jack Nicholson’s character as his piggy bank and travel buddy, he goes everywhere and sees everything he’s been unable to see due to time and money restrictions.

Jack’s character is a filthy rich man with four failed marriages and an almost non-existent close family.  He indulges with Morgan’s dreams and sees the “last hurrah” as another adventure – just a simple fun way to see everything he loved about life again with a newly found friend.

Although the list itself seems like it was made to benefit Morgan’s character through the mooching off of Jack’s endless supply of money, it’s interesting to find Jack enjoying himself with a true friend.  He learned much more about community, family, and love while traveling with someone than he had ever done before.  You can say that Jack had everything he ever wanted that could be obtained with money, but he had not found a rightful place with those that should matter most.  Does that initial mask covered with material possessions actually matter at all?  Reputation is definitely important in many respects, but how much reputation do you need when you actually know someone as close as you know your best friends and immediate family?

I can probably write a full 5-page essay about this book, but I’ll save everyone the torture.  The point that struck me most (and I don’t think you need to stretch your brain too far to see it) is that the connection with those around you – the story you leave behind and the bonds you make that are unbreakable– is more important than money.  There will always be that struggle to fight for the higher paying job and own a bigger house, but I don’t think that’s worth it if there’s no one to share it with.

Although some people may argue that the girlfriends will come as money and security builds a sound foundation, I argue that girls can be incredible actresses and unbelievably greedy.  Isn’t that one of those golden rules: Never give a woman your credit card?  I’m not being pessimistic about all women, but I would rather meet someone who’s “real.”  By that, I mean, someone who is okay with being themselves and okay with that causing someone to dislike them (even if it’s me).  Sometimes we should bend and accept certain faults, but other times (which can sometimes be very difficult to gauge), we just need to back away and agree that the relationship is not compatible.

Anyway, even before watching this movie, I had some similar type of revelation. It happened sometime in September when I came back.  After traveling for so long, I still felt at home.  My friends were still my friends, but with more stories, and the scrips were still the scrips, but with new buildings.  It was simple and relieving.  I stared at the unknown ahead and planned as much as possible while making my list of goals, aspirations, and dreams.  As I thought about this community-loving nugget of knowledge, I saw something much more interesting.  I saw a web of connecting interests and a slew of dreams that overlapped.  Dreams were being made and broken every day, but there were the dreams around me that I could actually make come true.  There are lives around me that (while they don’t necessarily depend on me) would strengthen our relationship based on my plans ahead.  With that in mind, I found the bucket list to change into something much more selfless.  I still have the dreams that will help me move forward before helping others, but that choice moving into work experience was mostly for those around me.

I am selling out to help my parents: they deserve to retire and enjoy themselves as I have.  I am selling out to grow closer to my friends: we’re going to run the scrips.  I am selling out to continue making this year better than the one before: What’s better than traveling the world?  Having a place to call home (Or making enough money so you could travel the world with your friends and family.  That would just be ridiculous).

~See Lemons Believe in Community

Choosing A First Job Is like Choosing Universities

Like choosing a first job?

Random Observation/Comment #222: I had sushi with Chris in Tokyo and it was the best sushi I’ve had since I had last left Japan.  It wasn’t even like it was a famous, top-notch sushi place or anything.  It was just highly-recommended by Chris near Ikebukuro Station.  Conclusion: Damn, I love Japan.  The rice is just perfect.  Maybe if NYC had a few rice patties in their concrete backyard, they’d make some headway on the quality scale. Plus, the girls like to wear hot pants.  Thank you so much for inventing hot pants.

Note: Sorry for the long entry, but it is a summary of the stuff I thought about in the past 6 months of choosing my first job.

Thinking about your first job is a huge step.  The first place you work will most probably be the field you pursue for the next 35 years.  Of course, there is the option of switching to other careers, but I wouldn’t join a career knowing that I would leave it for something else.  It’s nice to have the reassurance that if you mess up, you could find a different one, but in all reality, you’re trying for that one-shot kill – you basically want to wield a golden gun (Goldeneye N64 FTW!).

When I was thinking about this first job, it really reminded me of choosing universities. For me, the choice of a university fit the following criteria in order of importance:  1) Availability of main interest, 2) Affordability/Minimize debt, 3) Reputation, 4) Location, 5) Availability of resources, and 6) Community life.

I was basically being very realistic with getting pointed in the right direction for a major that would give me a decent head-start in life (within my parents’ financial ability).  Although community should have been important, I don’t think I made the wrong choice sacrificing a bit of party time for school work.  The resources offered may have been better, but I’ve found that the type of a student body (be it nerdy or filled with anti-socials) makes a larger difference than having a more expensive oscilloscope or a more ergonomic chair.  Graduating quickly and taking strides to solidify a future takes more effort and work than just having fun with friends, so I would personally put that at the top of my list.  Graduating with a degree that has a good reputation may get you the foot in the door, but the work ethic and overall problem solving and team cooperation level learned through the more difficult project courses are more useful.

In the university life, it is also important to have a healthy balance of finding and maintaining hobbies that relieve stress and explore your personality, which was a bit hindered by the overbearing amount of work, but once it became mainly involved with projects, everything in my life became a personal project. I took it upon myself to organize my own little schedule between school work and personal work.  Then after a while, it just became mixed and mingled into the generic work idea to forward my education and my happiness.

Okay – so what did I use as priorities for my search for my first job given what I had learned from Cooper?

I think most people are expecting to hear a similar order of priorities: 1) Industry relevant to experience from engineering, 2) High salary to pay off previous debts, 3) Reputation of a large company with high stability, 4) Location, 5) Resources, and 6) Work life.

I think this would have been my choice if I hadn’t taken the time after graduation to continue study abroad and build upon my liberal arts side.  Interestingly enough, I completely changed the order of importance from that short year: 1) Location to better fit within my community, 2) A new industry that challenges and excites while still maintaining relevance to learned material, 3) Work-life balance, 4) Community within the company, 5) Company with high future prospect, and 6) Salary.

Although I do not feel the same way about the original ranking, I can very justly defend it with the same logic as I saw fit in my high school years for university rankings.

1) Industry relevant to experience from engineering. Of course, it makes sense to go into engineering because it’s what I learned and what I went to school for – what a waste of all that time if I didn’t at least put that knowledge to good use.

2) High salary to pay off previous debts. The higher the salary you start with, the easier it will be to continue to climb your way up into the big bucks, which can mean retiring early, buying stuff you’ve always wanted, providing for family, or going on vacations with loved ones.

3) Reputation of a large company with high stability. As with the university, the company’s reputation keeps them at the head of their industry and should therefore give you that head-start when moving into other companies.  The more stable the company the better because job security is important in today’s market.

4) Location. The company needs to be located in a city I love around the people I love (this didn’t change, but it was definitely bumped in importance in my refined list).

5) Resources. If I had some master plan to create a service that everyone would use in the future, it would be very important to choose a company that has a solid influence to that particular community.  This is still part of the old style way of “I am the engineer that will save the world” type-thing.

6) Work-life. Work can’t be boring and it must have a colorful atmosphere so I don’t feel like I’m slaving to work.  I also don’t want work to make me nauseous and give me flashbacks of breaking down and eating ice cream to hopefully drown the sorrow of never being able to finish the problem sets and projects on time (cough).

That all sounds good to some people, but priorities have changed and my world is a little bit different.  It might have been trying to be more realistic or just trying to escape the cycle, but I’m happy with my decision.

1) Location to better fit within my community. NYC is my home, not just because my friends and family are there, but because I’ve found it to be the city that fits me best.  I’ve seen a lot of places in my journeys, and although some places have more kickass things than NYC, no other city has beaten the overall blend of lifestyles.  The City supports my hobbies, and my hobbies are supported by The City. This doesn’t mean I will not be willing to leave, but it does mean that you’d have to tear a lot of existing foundation away to make me permanently relocate.

2) Challenging and exciting industry with relevancy to learned material. I had thought that engineering was my thing and I would make the next big thing that would be used by everyone, but no one would know my name.  Wouldn’t it be cool to do that research?  Who invented the microwave? Light switch?  It had been my original intent of becoming an engineer, but I somehow got lost in the hype.  I shifted to see that the research just becomes a bunch of intellectual property stealing and reinventing the wheel.  If collaboration was better between universities, I’m sure we’d get so much more done to further each field.  Anyway, research was cool, but it drained me.  What began looking more interesting was the reason behind an economical collapse and a falling dollar.  I don’t know why, but I just jumped into it like it was a new physics concept.  I read and it opened my eyes to a larger world than the technology-filled niche I dug for myself. Why not take a chance and try something new?

3) Work-life balance. Personal projects will always exist and take precedent to keep me happy. These projects are mostly to help me obtain my own list of goals.  It’s all just a bunch of random plans to keep me determined and driven.  Without these goals, I would feel empty, and without the time to get closer to them, I would feel unproductive in a larger sense.

4) Community within the company. Almost everyone spends at least 8 hours a day at work doing something that you may find fascinating in the beginning, but can become a drag at some point – it’s sort of like looking at a thesis single topic for way too long; you start jabbing your knees with sporks from the local yogurt shop.  I’ve found that my working habit is optimal in certain times a day and breaks are required at least once an hour to maintain optimal efficiency.  I do things when they’re assigned and prioritize according to the queue, but you need to get out of the chair and just BS sometimes.  Research in Japan and Germany has taught me this very well.

5) Company with high future prospect. Instead of a company that is large and stable (which is very nice), I think a company that has a high future prospect is more important.  I think this is the main reason why people would settle for small companies (that and the trimmed bullshit levels of management).  This is further down the list and reworded, but I’ve stuck with the idea of a large, stable company because I’d like more time to myself outside of work to make sure my life’s foundations are built properly.  I’m afraid if I enter a small company, I’d be working way too much and I’d lose touch with the real goals in life that are worth the sacrifices. Although I may agree with the company and care about its well-being, I doubt the company feels the same way about me.  I think I’d just be another statistic, and I rather focus on the community.

6) Salary. NYC is expensive and so are some of the goals I’d like to accomplish.  Salary isn’t as important as it used to be, but I’m keeping it in mind.

So what miraculously changed in that fickle brain of mine through study abroad?

It’s a bit sad, but I don’t feel special anymore.  I am unique and I’ve acquired a set of interesting skills, but I don’t think I’ll be the one that changes the world.  I want to start on a smaller scale, and then hopefully, people (readers, friends, siblings, and future offspring) will follow by example.  At the very least, I would have done my own part to lead a life surrounded by happiness.  Be it my own happiness or those around me, I wish I can be showered by smiles and good wishes.

~See Lemons Think about Work

A drunken entry on the plane about life

Looks like the guy was drunk when he did this

Random Observation/Comment #221: 13-hour anything-rides are a pain in the ass – like literally, your ass may fall asleep and it may be painful.  Before the plane ride, I thought I had the best plan: Drink alcohol, get drunk, and fall asleep.  What I didn’t take into account was how quickly I get trashed while 15,000 ft in the air.  Gin and tonic was my toxin of choice, and after 5 glasses, I was very entertaining and a delight to be around (at least that’s how I felt).  After snoring and dozing off for 4 or 5 hours, however, I woke up with a sick feeling. It could have been the yogurt at dinner, or the alcohol itself, but the next 5 hours were the worst. The lady sitting next to me gave me dirty looks for making her get up to use the bathroom so much.  Never again – well, maybe on the ride back.

Note: This ridiculously long flight (where I was trashed half the time and sick the other half) still gave me time to write. I had written this in a drunken state, but I think it was interesting.  I, honestly, don’t even remember writing this.

Life doesn’t exist in phases: I think we just separate them that way when we’re younger to make things easier to understand. More important than the phases are the values that are learned while growing up.  Life seems to be mostly about how you think about life.  Pessimistic people will find bad things and optimistic people will expect and look for good things. Why not just see things for how they are and go with the flow?  Make sure your current situation is the best that it can be, and then plan ahead to make the situation even better.  Make sure you’re indulging in your joy and then spread that joy to those around you.

I found that “make yourself happy” is a fairly simple line of thought.  Of course, “I” does matter a lot, since I don’t think “I” is stupid enough to do harmful things to him, but continuously thinking about “I” would never advance a civilization.  It’s always been the bonds you form and the community you join that makes the world a better a place. I think I knew this when I first started traveling, but I didn’t really enforce it because I kept traveling and distancing myself from a community around me.  This blog was the only attempt I made to stay connected to a community I created for my own pleasure.

In many ways, my happiness was selfish: girls treated, not entirely as relationships, but as objects towards my own goals; degrees obtained to make money instead of help an advancing scientific world; hobbies existing as little side projects that pretty much only made me smile; tasting extravagant foods and wines/beers/spirits just so I could build my own opinion about them.  I wasn’t consciously making these decisions to obtain my own selfish goals, but I think I do owe many apologies for my previous actions that were sub-consciously made selfishly.  It is, however, this adjustment of character that should help me approach the world with more respect.

However, now that I know that this is the path I will take after I mature, I am wondering how quickly I should mature.  There are so many people out there who haven’t even begun to think about this, and I wonder if I should take advantage of the years I have to stay immature.  Of course, I will still have my values, but shouldn’t I be taking risks and exploring?  The only thing that floats in the back of my mind is the fact that those around me will benefit from my actions. If I didn’t grow up, my parents couldn’t retire and have fun. If I didn’t grow up, my friends wouldn’t be able to have the baller life-style in the city.

I suspect many people would tell me to worry about my own life before planning to meet the goals of others, but I think it’s fair to have other’s goal in mind if I love my friends and family.  Without them, my goals wouldn’t be worth having anyway.

~See Lemons Drunk and Mumbling