Saturday, July 27, 2013

NYC



Really loud, busy, and exciting! Crazy drivers and traffic. I couldn't imagine trying to drive in the streets, even riding is scary. XD

The first day we went, we walked around and went to the Museum Of Chinese in America, a must-see for any chinese people in New York City. It reminded me a lot of the tenacity and hardship my Chinese ancestors went through here. Where I live, there are more Asians than anybody else, and there are a lot of stereotypes of Asians being more smart or privileged, so it's hard to believe there was a time when it wasn't normal or cool to be Chinese. I think Chinese have assimilated into American culture to an unusual degree, so it was heartbreaking to read about the backbreaking manual labor in laundries or restaurants just so they could live in a place so they could live in America. It broke my heart to see and hear the primary source recordings and documents of the degrading hardship yet untainted pride of my ancestors. One of the people mentioned was actually my grandmother's great grandfather.

We spent lots of time walking around and went to a Chinese bakery and got awesome pastries. We walked to the Winter Garden and a park over the harbor, as well as the 9/11 memorial. We walked past the New York State supreme court. For dinner we went to a ridiculously overpriced and fancy Japanese fusion restaurant. The dessert($10!!) was really good but really small, it was a tempura mochi with kind of green tea coffee ice cream on it.

In New York there are endless opportunities to people-watch and tons of things to see and buy and hear. There are street performers dancing, singing, drumming, or making bubbles on every street corner. There are also quite a few homeless people and beggars.

Day 2 we tried to go to Governer's Island, but it was closed, so we took the Staten Island ferry both ways instead. The day was really beautiful and sunny and it was great to be on the harbor. We walked to the seaport and past Wall Street and the NYSE building. Outside there were news people filming, which was cool to watch. The seaport itself was okay, there was a trapeze school right outside and really cool tall ships. We took the subway to a little bit of Central Park and got some food from Whole Foods. Everywhere is extremely crowded. Whole Foods was like Anime Expo level crowded except with like food instead of merchandise. Finally, we went to Columbia University, which, despite being in the middle of the city, is incredibly gorgeous. It's like an entire different world once you step inside the gate. I got to meet one of my friends who is starting there this fall, and we walked around the campus(which is beautiful at night) and talked.


In all, although NYC is crowded and noisy and sometimes smelly and always crazy and a lot of walking, it's a good experience. I think I could get used to the city even though I don't think I'd like to live there forever.



Wednesday, July 24, 2013

University of Rochester

My parents' alma mater! Really cool as well. We can see the University from our hotel right across the Genesee river.

A lot of things have changed since my parents graduated, but I had a lot of fun walking to my dad's dorm, seeing where my mom and dad met, and visiting where my dad used to do research. We went to get a copy of the alumni book at the world-famous Optics institute and the receptionist just scheduled a meeting with me and a professor and the undergraduate coordinator when she heard I was a rising senior. XD It turns out that the Optics department is very in demand but they can't graduate enough students to keep up with it(there are only 90 undergrads in the department with only 10 or so last graduating class). So they really try to recruit more students.

Optics is a specialized branch of engineering dealing with a broad range of things from light to lenses to lasers. Most colleges don't have an optics major, so I'll definitely consider it if I end up at Rochester.

We also met with the MechE undergrad coordinator who gave us a huuge packet with all kinds of stuff about the MechE curriculum! She and the students I met were really nice.

Our hotel gives us free breakfast and free dinner on tuesdays, wednesdays, and thursdays so we're eating wayy too much XD. we eat second breakfast just like the hobbits!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Cornell

Cornell is super amazing and GORGES(haha overused puns FTW). I liked the atmosphere and rural-ness of the campus a lot more than I liked Stanford's. The info session was pretty good too! The gorge was beautiful and had picturesque bridges and green trees and waterfalls...

It was overcast today, which was GREAT because it was actually a tolerable temperature, just in time for my first campus tour of this trip. It was really deserted because summer, but I really enjoyed Cornell and it has been bumped up to third on my list.
This is a photo of me taken at the BEAUTIFUL Ulrich Library. Here's another picture:

 I feel like Cornell is one of the less-hyped of the Ivy Leagues, but I think it's amazing. It's the only one I'm applying to(College of Engineering, possible MechE major). They let you shop around for different engineering majors before locking you into one, have a great co-op program where you can work full time for a company, and have lots of money for undergraduate research grants.

Tomorrow is kind of low-key, we're just going to church and hanging around the house. I'll let you know more later!



Thursday, July 18, 2013

In Canada

but the hotel still didn't have real maple syrup at breakfast D:<. Also, it's over 90 degrees and humid every day. The falls are really nice though! This morning we went and walked a very long time from the falls to the Duffiden Islands Nature Reserve. Lots of bug bites :(. Pretty though! A nice(though hot) walk.

The tourist marketers have got this thing NAILED! :D We decided not to go on the iconic Maid of the Mists Boat despite the loudspeakers claiming it was THE ONLY WAY TO TRULY EXPERIENCE LE FALLS.
The general area is really cool too, with lots of fancy hotels and fountains mixed in with souveneir shops. We're going back to MURICA tomorrow! The only difference I've found was the people with accents and they call the bathhroom "washroom." And the channels on TV are lamer! There was this freaking weird ad for a movie called "Sharknado" playing that was about a tornado carrying flying sharks that attacked a town. The canadian film industry?!? so many places to start I won't even try.

At night it's much cooler and we walked to where they shine colored lights on the falls. Then we walked on the boardwalk where there was a guy playing violin on the sidewalk and the fancy hotels and bars spilling lights onto the streets and a lot of people everywhere having fun. :) I like vacations.

Tomorrow we're driving six or so hours to Binghamton, New York!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

In Hotel

Canada is super awesome, but pretty hot and humid. After a red-eye flight, transfer, 3 hour time change, and being crammed into a rental car with the suitcases barely fitting for three hours, we got to Niagara Falls.

After getting settled in, we went on a hike down a steep hill right to the river. We met a girl and her friend from around here, and we learned that she had recently been hitchiking from Columbia back up to Canada with barely any money and relying on the kindness of strangers. She was really enthusiastic and it sounded amazing. I was worried about safety, but she said that nothing had happened to her and the people were so much nicer than they made it sound on the news with dangerous reports about Mexico and everything. She described sleeping in the backs of trucks and in other people's houses, and it seems so much like a rawer experience of a different country than what most people get during their travels. She was fluent in Spanish and extremely enthusiastic about travel. She's backpacked in South America and Europe before as well.

I think I would like to do that someday, the backpacking, if not the hitchhiking. Travelling by oneself without a rigid plan or many comforts sounds like a real way to grab life by the horns.

We got to look around at the falls and tourist area today too! We will explore them more tomorrow.


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

In le airport

I'm sitting outside our gate waiting for our 12:59 AM flight to JFK airport and then flight to Buffalo and then drive to Niagara falls. We are going on a three and a half week trip to Niagara Falls, various locations in New York around the east coast, and then my one week course at E2@MIT!

This morning I actually got the email asking us to rank our project courses and preferences--the following are all the course descriptions.
Architecture 

    This course introduces architecture as a way of thinking and making. Students are taught to use a variety of media including pencil and paper drawing, digital modeling, digital collage, full-scale prototyping, and scale physical models. Students work collectively to design, build and speculate on the implications of a construct that will respond to social and environmental forces. This year, the project is a pavilion for cell phone conversations--a place to wander into in a public setting so as to obtain some privacy and isolation from others. Students design a physical building component, construct with the component, and use representation to imagine the design having been built in various configurations in multiple locations throughout the city.

    Electronics 

    The one-week investigation into electrical engineering and its applications through the study of core topics and the development of a biomedical-themed final project. Students spend the first three days learning basic concepts in electrical engineering and computer science through a biomedical engineering approach, including circuit theory, amplification, feedback, Python programming and embedded systems. The final two days are spent constructing biomedical/electrical engineering projects in teams.

    Fluid Mechanics 
    Fluid mechanics is used in almost every form of mechanical engineering. Its applications range from submarine acoustics and drag reduction for vehicles to wind turbines and supercomputer cooling systems. In the E2 Fluid Mechanics course, students will spend the first three days learning the basic concepts of fluid mechanics: the study of fluids at rest (fluid statics), the study of fluids in motion (fluid kinematics), and the study of the effects of forces on fluid motion (fluid dynamics). Students will spend the last two days of the course examining the fundamentals of drag. Using analytical tools and experimental observations, they will determine the optimum shape of a body to minimize drag. With certain design constraints, students will work in teams to build submersibles based on their optimized design. On the last day of the course, students will test out their submersibles in the MIT Tow Tank to determine the drag coefficient of their design and how it compares to the designs of their peers.


    Aeronautics-Astronautics *
    Aero-Astro program aims to teach students modern engineering techniques while engaging them in a team-oriented design-building process. The students spend the first day learning the relevant physics and conducting experiments with wind tunnel models and paper airplanes. On the second and third days, the students learn and use genetic optimization, computational tools, and machining equipment to design and build a wing for an RC aircraft and fins for a bottle rocket. The wing must achieve the highest average speed during straight flight and a figure 8 maneuver. The students are tasked with making the rocket fly as high as possible as a result of choosing the appropriate amount of water and ensuring a high level of stability with the rocket fin design. It’s our intent that the students experience both intense levels of “engineering anxiety” and accomplishment when it is time to operate their designs equally.

    Engineering Design *
    This course explores the engineering design process through process of designing, building and testing a high performing loud speaker, students learn both the technical and artistic components required to create a loudspeaker designed for studio, consumer and car audio applications. Upon successful completion of this course, student will have acquired a broad base of theoretical knowledge about the principles of loudspeaker design, loudspeaker testing, basic audio electronics and amplifier design.

    Underwater Robotics *
    The ocean, covering nearly 70 percent of the planet’s surface, is less than 5% explored and presents a great challenge for engineers. Crushing pressure, cold temperature, lack of light, corrosive salt water, and strong currents all make engineering deep in the ocean an complicated an interdisciplinary challenge. This course will teach the basic principles of engineering design for underwater vehicles. In teams, students will use the engineering design process to design, build, and field-test their own underwater vehicles. This course will teach elements of ocean engineering, mechanical engineering, and electrical engineering. Skills learned will include design, simple mechanical construction, soldering, waterproofing, and troubleshooting.
    I ranked them as follows: First choice: Underwater Robotics(really hope I get this, but it's popular so I might end up with a second or third choice :( ), Second: Electronics, then Aero/Astro, Fluid Mechanics, Engineering Design, and Architecture(boo).
    Now I have an hour and a half to kill. I'm on this self imposed schedule where I submit all my college applications by November 1st so I should be working on my essays OR I could finish this season of Code Geass.....tough decision. :( 

Friday, July 12, 2013

Divergent book review-and why it'll never be the next hunger games





Divergent, by Veronica Roth, is near the top of the list when it comes to books hyped as being "the next Hunger Games'. The Hunger Games, in turn, have come to symbolize any sort of dystopian super-hyped blockbuster series of novels/movies.

And I'm okay with that. Despite all my mixed feelings about the series, it's an excellent, well-written, engaging, intelligent series with a not-horrible movie adaptation.

So when I heard this series compared to it, heard a little bit about the content of the books, and saw its epic looking cover, I had high hopes when I picked it off the shelves.

All in all, I think Divergent had the possibility to be at the very least an entertaining action book with a simple but interesting plot and some cool scenes/characters/technology.

What actually happened? Erm...

Setting/Premise:
This premise is pretty much the selling point for the entire series. In a world where society is divided into factions......

This whole dividing people up by character trait(Erudite, Amnity, Candor, Abnegation, Dauntless) is really sketchy in the first place. We had problems with people fighting? Let's divide them up more! The particular traits chosen are also kind of arbitrary and subjective and this whole thing really doesn't make too much sense, especially if we're supposed to believe that one faction (Abnegation) is responsible for the entire government. And everybody else just agreed to this?

The entire novel is packed with people from different factions insulting, fighting, and snipping at each other, so I guess someone can let the guy who came up with this idea know that his idea didn't work all that well.

The second setting is in the camp of the faction BellaTris chooses, Dauntless. Spoiler, I guess. (but is it really a big surprise? I mean you have the boring faction where people dress in gray. The faction where people spend their days insulting each other. The faction where they study all day. The faction that is known for being nice to everybody. Then you have the COOL faction where people spend their days fighting, bungee jumping, and having adventures. Which is the heroine of this soon to be ACTION movie going to choose?)


Most of the problems with this book are summed up in this shaky premise. More on that later.

Plot:
The main problem with this plot is also in the premise. The main grab factor of Divergent is In the future, people are divided into factions...and? SO WHAT? Factions are not an incredibly amazing invention all in their own. The rest of the story is just Tris going through "brutal" training camp and falling in laave. And there is a bit of plot really really near the end, I guess.

Annoying parts of the plot:
That whole moving train part is really hard to describe as anything but dumb. I mean, you get one chance to jump off a moving train and then you're either dead or poor and despondent FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE? It's the Dauntless train, right? Why doesn't it stop at the Dauntless compound?

 A big part of the training they go through is a fear simulator which forces them to go through their worst fears. Which sounds cool and has lots of interesting philosophical interpretations but is in actuality pretty questionable. WHY does Tris need to face her fear of being pecked to death by birds? Are they going to experience this in their work guarding and policing the cities?

So much that happens in the book has me shaking my head, wondering "why?" The training process is cruel and competitive in design, but it's not moving because there is no purpose. So much of it, the unnecessary weeding out, the making the new recruits punch each other until one gets knocked out, is incredibly arbitrary. This makes it much less believable and moving.

The writing:
This was Veronica Roth's first novel. Although she is an inspiration for being such a success with her first breakthrough book, you can tell. You really can.

The novel is one that's designed to be pretty dark, with some scenes that are brutal and gritty in design. But the narration style, which describes a lot of what's happening to Tris but very little of how she feels about it, makes it feel very...detached. You never forget that you're reading a fictional book about fictional characters. There's a famous scene where Tris is getting knives thrown at her and she describes it in the same tone as she described what she had for breakfast that morning. It wasn't disturbing. To write disturbing you have to get the reader into the character before you start messing with the character.

The characters:
This annoyed me even more than the plot. Dauntless's faction motto is courage, but the Dauntless seem to be having a serious misinterpretation of courage that a preschool TV show could correct you on. The Dauntless are not noble Gryffindors, they are at best suicidal adrenaline junkie boneheads that enjoy violence, bullying, and piercing various extremities of their bodies.

Bravery really has nothing to do with the fears themselves, which is why all their Fear Factor training is perpelexing. Courage is all about character building and inner strength to face fears both known and unknown, new, and old. Courage is about being able to face your fears because you love something else more.

The merciless picking on, bullying of, and isolation of the recruits is very counter intuitive of all this.

(The annoying arbitrary cruelty(which I couldn't even feel properly because of the emotionless writing) I really disliked, if you can tell. XD. I can't get over it. I mean, I get that the book is gritty, dark, real, etc. to appeal to today's modern teenager *sarcasm*. BUT GOSH THERE HAS TO BE A GOOD REASON FOR IT CAN IT AT LEAST MOVE THE PLOT ALONG.)

Tris herself is all right. Occasionally too dumb  to live, she is at least distinguishable from the other characters. Her different background was portrayed very nicely. Honestly, I couldn't think of too much to say about her.

Some good characters were Eric and Alec! I really felt like they came alive. Alec's whole plot arc was unique and interesting.

Plagiarism:
The whole book unfortunately feels very borrowed from The Hunger Games at points. The whole training/fighting thing, not to mention a group of bullying big tough mean recruits who seem verryyy familiar.

The worst, however, was a scene that is almost lifted verbatim from Ender's Game. In one scene, Tris is fighting someone who previously hurt her badly. Tris, who has apparently been training, finally downs her. However, Tris who is apparently having a bad day begins kicking her and beating her after she's down, again and again, until someone drags her away. Very gritty and moving, if THE EXACT SAME SCENE HAD NOT BEEN THE OPENING OF ENDER'S GAME THIRTY YEARS AGO. I mean, the two scenes are unmistakably similar. I started audibly cracking up in the middle cause I just couldn't believe it.

The author has said she's an Ender's Game fan, so I love her automatically. But seriously. The lead Career recruit's name is even Peter for heaven's sake.

The two series are sharing a panel at Comic Con so hopefully someone'll notice.

Conclusion:
This is a not very forgiving review and I apologize. The book isn't awful, but I felt there are books that deserve more hype and movie adaptions(cough Artemis Fowl, cough The first three Maximum Ride books). The book kept me entertained and turning pages through a boring Saturday afternoon.

I'm not sure why it's become so popular. Without insulting those who read it, I think it provides good, light, entertainment and thrills if you can look past the blatantly nonsensical premise and drawn out romance(which I haven't mentioned so far in the post because I couldn't think of anything to say about it. I have read very few effective romances in this sort of book and this wasn't one of the better ones).

I think the movie will turn out decently,it should be pretty straightforwardly adapted. The Hunger Games has the drive, intrigue, and soul needed for staying power, and Divergent, so far, does not.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Anime Expo!



So here I am guys! I've made the full journey from being a hater to actually cosplaying at an expo(mah dream for a couple months.

My costume(Ciel Phantomhive from Kuroshitsuji I did get some compliments and waves and some people even asked to take my picture which made me really happy. I got a lot more attention outside of the con hall, like in hotel lobbies and stuff though XD.

So I actually wasn't going to wear the costume until the 4th of July when one of my friends convinced me to. The convention was yesterday, the 6th, so I pretty much had to finish the costume the night before... fun times.


https://fbcdn-sphotos-c-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-prn1/q72/s720x720/1013137_143406505860172_529669778_n.jpg
Kyoko from Puella Magi Madoka Magica! I really want to make this one.


On Friday we left at about 3:30 and arrived at the convention center a little before 5. Not too bad at all! There was no line to pick up badges that late, but it was still really crowded! Some convention center shots:

Halo? and mandos
https://sphotos-b.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-frc1/q71/s720x720/580504_143387505862072_330168406_n.jpg 
Prussia from Hetalia

https://fbcdn-sphotos-b-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-ash4/q72/s720x720/1005971_143387602528729_488204717_n.jpg 
L, Light, and Matt from Death Note
https://sphotos-b.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ash3/q71/s720x720/945392_143387545862068_409477426_n.jpg
Ranmao and Ciel from Kuroshitsuji
https://fbcdn-sphotos-c-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-ash3/q71/s720x720/933899_143387682528721_2140410052_n.jpg 
England and Fem!America from Hetalia

Ciel and Sebastian from Kuroshitsuji
https://sphotos-b.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-prn1/q71/s720x720/1016184_143387802528709_68242828_n.jpg
Beautiful Miku and Luka

We stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn which was nice. I didn't get to enjoy it much because I was sewing... We frantically sewed and pinned until 11PM.


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My hotel table the night before

I got up at 6 on Saturday to get ready, shower, do hair, makeup, wrestle self into costume, and put finishing touches on it. We wanted to leave at 7:30 but left at around 8. This was my first time at AX, so I didn't know everything opens around 10 making my early morning endeavors slightly useless. I did get to walk around, take pictures, etc.


https://sphotos-b.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ash3/1013115_143388005862022_1387856174_n.jpg
So we hung out in the manga lounge for about half an hour in which I was unable to find a single Kuroshitsuji volume :(. at 9:15, I got in line for the "Vocaloid: Mirai no Neiro: The Sound of the Future" at 10. The line was already doubling back, so I got in line just in time. Eventually we got herded into waiting rooms. I was in the first of three.

I hear nightmare stories about lines at cons. This one was the worst I had all day and it wasn't bad at all! There is so much to see and lots of other people with interesting costumes to talk to and look at, and people played Vocaloid music.

Unfortunately, the same could not be said of the panel itself. After a bunch of technical difficulties, they played a bunch of new releases for music videos, some of which were cool. I decided to leave a bit early and go find my friend Zelda where she was attending the Anime Expo scavenger hunt. By this time it was about 11:15.


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                                                                                           Crowded con floor is crowded
We hadn't been planning to attend Vic Mignogna's panel because we thought we would have to wait a while and didn't want to skip the previous panels to get in line. Since people were lining up anyways we decided to just YOLO it and see if we got in.

We did! We grabbed Adalid who is going to E2@MIT with me this summer on the way in and we hung out for the rest of the day. He was really fun. :)

Vic was hilarious! He told lots of awesome stories and showcased some of his voicing talent. One thing I found interesting was that he talked openly about his faith as a Christian, which was really cool at a very liberal anime convention.
https://fbcdn-sphotos-g-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-ash3/q73/s720x720/1017536_143387432528746_1620709116_n.jpg
 epic Assasin's Creed group
Afterwards, we went to the exhibit hall, which was HUGE and very very crowded. The worst crowds were here. At one point the crowd was so bad that we couldn't go where we wanted and were literally pushed along. It was in a stretch of less than a minute, but still. I didn't buy anything(everything was overpriced) but there was some really really cool stuff! Zelda bought a very cool steampunky pocketwatch.

Then, Adalid convinced us to go see the live action movie of Rurouni Kenshin: Samurai X. Needless to say it was a very violent and funny movie with a theme of pacifism XD. Seriously, it was strange. All the most violent bits were slow motion. It was supposedly PG13 though...oh well. XD
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/f/f6/Rurouni_Kenshin_%282012_film%29_poster.jpg

Takeru Sato was SUPER hot in it though. He perfected his "smoulder" XD.


We went back to the exhibit hall and ended up missing the KPOP dance competition that Zelda wanted to go to. We hung out with Adalid for another hour in line for Johnny Yong Bosch's Eyeshine concert before deciding to go get dinner.

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China!
The last event was the Masquerade at 8. Since we had to drive home, we could only see the first ten or so acts but I badly wished to stay longer. The skits and dances were really good although I hadn't seen the animes of most of them was traumatized by a Bad Apple! one. XD

All in all, it was SO MUCH FUN and not nearly as bad as I expected in regards to lines and stress and crowds. I can't wait to go again next year.



Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Ender's Game series in quotes:


Ender's Game:
“In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him. I think it’s impossible to really understand somebody, what they want, what they believe, and not love them the way they love themselves. And then, in that very moment when I love them.... I destroy them.”
Orson Scott Card, Ender's Game

 


Speaker for the Dead:
“No human being, when you understand his desires, is worthless. No one's life is nothing. Even the most evil of men and women, if you understand their hearts, had some generous act that redeems them, at least a little, from their sins.”
Orson Scott Card, Speaker for the Dead 

Xenocide:


“From all wise men, O Lord, protect us.”
Orson Scott Card, Xenocide  
 
Children of the Mind:
 
“Doesn't it make you wonder about your own sexual identity, not to mention your sanity, that the two women you love are, respectively, a virtual woman existing only in the transient ansible connections between computers and a woman whose soul is in fact that of a man who is the husband of your mother?”
Orson Scott Card, Children of the Mind 

^THIS. THIS IS PRETTY MUCH THE ENTIRE BOOK ZOMW.