Stanford, Technology

Symbolic Systems Program 25th Anniversary

This weekend, Rae and I had the pleasure to attend the Symbolic Systems Program 25th Anniversary event in the Huang Engineering Center at Stanford. I owe a great deal of my success to the program and the lifelong friends I’ve made in classes such as Philosophy 160A. When I arrived at Stanford, my plan was to become a Chemistry major, but Chem 321 threw those plans out the window after just one quarter. In Winter quarter my freshman year, I was taking CS 106A and was introduced to the Symbolic Systems through my TA. He too was a SymSys major who had just returned from a quarter abroad in Paris, France. As a junior in high school, I had lived in France for three weeks, and I always wanted to do a study abroad program while at Stanford. He planted the seed in my impressionable frosh mind that if I were to be a SymSys major, I could go to France too (look at that logic working there!). He also had long hair. It’s clear looking back that Symbolic Systems and I were a perfect match!

Notable graduates of the program who spoke on Saturday included Marissa Mayer (Google), Scott Forstall (Apple), Matt Flannery (Kiva), James Rucker (MoveOn), Srinija Srinivasan (Yahoo), Reid Hoffman (LinkedIn), and Mike Krieger (Instagram). Lest people think that all SymSys grads go into the tech industry, we had several academics speak, including Nadeem Hussain (Stanford), Tania Lombrozo (UC Berkeley), and Erica Robles-Anderson (NYU). It was great to meet with my former SymSys and Philosophy 160A classmates too; this year is our 15-year reunion, and I’m really looking forward to October!

The weekend was a good opportunity for Rae to better understand where I came from. A common question that I always get asked is, “What is Symbolic Systems?” At our Autumn Gem screenings, I usually say something to the effect of, “I studied Symbolic Systems, a major similar to Computer Science.” The real answer is much more complicated and nuanced, so the next time you see me, ask me, “What is Symbolic Systems?”

Here are a few photos from the anniversary event this weekend.

1 No offense to Chem 32, but after taking the class, I realized that being a Chem researcher just wasn’t in the cards for me longterm.

Sports, Stanford

Stanford Women's Soccer Against Florida State

Friday night, Rae and I attended the Women’s NCAA Quarterfinals Soccer match between the Stanford Cardinal and the Florida State Seminoles. Coming into the game, the Stanford Women’s team was undefeated this year with a record of 21-0-2. They are the prohibitive favorite in this year’s tournament, which concludes in Cary, North Carolina, this week. I remember reading about the loss to undefeated North Carolina last year in the finals, 1-0. I hope this year they can run the table and take home the prize!

Growing up, I played soccer as a kid. I think every boy dreams of being a forward who kicks the game-winning goal. For some reason, my coaches placed me as the goalie for our team. I was not and still am not a very big person, and suffice it to say, I did not do well in my new position. Later, my playing interests switched to baseball, cross-country, tai-chi, ultimate frisbee and cycling. While I didn’t mind watching the World Cup, I never was interested in playing the game soccer.

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Journal, Qiu Jin, Stanford

Red Mango and Yul Kwon

This morning, Dardy, Rae, and I went to the official Grand Opening of the new Red Mango yogurt shop in Valley Fair. Yul Kwon, winner of Survivor: Cook Islands, has opened four shops in the Bay Area. Yul and I were classmates at Stanford (and fellow Symbolic Systems grads). I still fondly remember the many nights we worked together at the now-closed Teahouse in Wilbur Hall.

We enjoyed the free yogurt they were handing out as part of the grand opening. So far, we’ve tried out two of the three yogurt shops — Red Mango and Blondies — within a few miles of our house. Pinkberry in Santana Row is the only one we haven’t been to yet (it also just opened recently).

Following our fill of yogurt, we returned back to the house, where I cooked Dardy some nice steamed tilapia fish for lunch. Afterwards, Rae and I headed to Matt’s house to finish off our final ADR session with Preston. From here on out, it’s audio mixing for Matt and final picture lock for Autumn Gem!

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Journal, Stanford

Stanford Imposter Caught

Randy forwarded me the story of Azia Kim, a high school graduate who was recently caught on campus months after posing as a Stanford student. Initially, Kim pretended there was a housing mixup that caused her to be without a housing assignment in the Fall. She squatted in Kimball for the first two quarters before working her way into Okada House. Amy Zhou’s prior roommate was going overseas, opening up a room in the Asian-American Theme House; Kim used this opportunity to get a permanent room in the house until the Housing Office finally uncovered the ruse.

For this to happen almost all the way to the end of the year is pretty remarkable. I can see housing mixups happening, but I wouldn’t think that someone could pull this off for so long without a Stanford ID nor key. Remarkable!

I’m wondering a few things after reading the article:

  1. What are Kim’s parents thinking and how are they reacting to the news?
  2. What’s going to happen to this girl in the future? Will she be scarred for life from this experience or will she pull herself off the ground and move forward? Will society let her move on?
  3. What are Zhou’s parents thinking after learning that their daughter had been spending many nights at her boyfriend’s dorm?

There’s so much pressure to succeed pushed onto children. It make situations like these more and more likely. In fact, the story makes me think back on the Blair Hornstine saga from a few year’s back. Sad.

Journal, Stanford

Stanford Housing Draw

I read in the Stanford Daily today that five freshman girls from Donner got the top pick in the housing draw: lucky number five. They’ll be living in Bob next year.

The Housing Draw was very different when I was a student. Back in the day, you wrote out your list of preferred houses before you got your number and assignment. Today, I believe you get your number first before you choose any of your houses. This of course allows you much more choice in the matter.

When I was a freshman, also in Donner, I drew 2455. Preferred numbers then went from 1-3000, so getting 2455 was pretty crappy. I had Hammarskjold ranked number one on my list. Hammarskjold, the international co-op, you say? My top two goals was to live in a house and have an in-room network connection, and Hammarskjold met both of those goals. It’s hard to believe that back in 1994, many on-campus residences at Stanford did not have in-room network connections! Oh, the horror!

Lucky Donner Five

Sadly, the cutoff for the Hammarskjold was 2432, meaning I just missed out. 2455 was “good enough” to get into Okada, my last choice, but I really didn’t want to live there. Though Okada did have in-room network connections, it was right next to the Teahouse where I worked and was predominantly Asian. I wanted my Stanford experience to be a little more culturally diverse, so I placed my name into the waiting list and crossed my fingers.

Throughout the summer, I checked Axess daily for updates of my new housing placement. I was pleasantly surprised when I learned I was going to live in Xanadu. Along with Bob, Xanadu is one of the most desired Row houses, regularly drawing numbers less than 300. To have a number like 2455 and to get into Xanadu was pretty remarkable, but it wasn’t the last time that I would circumvent the dreaded housing draw.

I was overseas in Paris at the beginning of my junior year. As a result, I submitted my name into the waiting list for Winter Quarter. When the bell tolled, I was placed into 353 Campus Drive, the former Delt House that’s now called Narnia. It turns out the Delts hadn’t been paying their bills and were booted from the house. Though my draw number was over 2000 again, I lucked out again in the draw.

My final year was spent at the French House, where I was the Theme Associate. I felt my luck was running out with the waiting list, so I aced the interview and got to live in another Row house. My time in Xanadu, 353 Campus, and the French House was overall great. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to have lived in dormitories during those final three years.

It goes to show that you always have a choice in the matter when it comes to your housing options at Stanford!

Journal, Stanford

Stanford University Graduation 2001

Has it really been four years since I graduated from Stanford??? On Sunday, June 17, 2001, I attended the fourth Stanford graduation since I walked down that red carpet and said goodbye to my college years. There were only a handful of people that I knew who were graduating this year, a far cry from years past, when I congratulated many of my friends on their graduation. This Sunday, I was able to meet up with my cousin, King, Randy’s girlfriend, Juliana, and Jerry Chang’s sister, Jennifer.

Juliana and Jennifer were both graduating from the International Relations Program, so I didn’t have to run between diploma ceremonies across campus The IR ceremony was held at Dohrman Grove next to the Art Gallery. I was hoping that I would run into Jennifer’s family, including Jerry and his brother, John, but I couldn’t see them anywhere in the crowd. I did see someone who turned out to be their dad, and he was sporting a huge white Canon lens. Yes, it had the red stripe on it, meaning it was a Canon L lens. I never knew that he was a photographer! Jerry and John, unfortunately, weren’t able to make it to the event; I was a little disappointed in that, since I really wanted Jerry to meet Randy; those two people mirror each other in many ways. No wonder they are my friends!

I did run into Randy, who was sitting with Juliana’s family. Graduation days are always strange events. You meet for what’s usually the first time the families of your friends. You get to see them interacting in a dynamic that you’re not necessarily used to seeing. After all, you’ve been hanging out with “John” or “Jane”, thinking that you “know” them until you meet people that have known ‘em for 18 years longer than you have! But, the question begs, “Who knows them better? You or their families?”

After taking pictures of Juliana, her family, and Randy, I walked briskly over to Maples Pavilion, where my cousin, his family, and my grandmother were celebrating his graduation from the ME Masters Program.

I had spotted my grandmother and my cousin and was walking towards them when I heard someone call out my name! I turned around and it was Sophia Tseng, one of Eric’s good friends. Sophia and I have been playing meet-tag, as we never have gotten around to hanging out with each other due to our busy schedules. She was planning to come to Vienna Teng’s open mic this past Friday, but circumstances forced her to cancel. And, I haven’t been attending many of Eric’s concerts at his place, so I’ve been remiss on my end at meeting her. But, chance had it that we met at Stanford by Maples Pavilion!

On my way out, I noticed these crates of water just sitting at the gates to Stanford Stadium. Not wanting to miss an opportunity to snag some free drinks, I drove my car to the stadium and proceeded to stash about five palettes of water into my car. The back end was doing some serious sagging from the weight of all that water! I later brought some of it to my workplace, which no longer gives out free water. No worries, now that I have my own Special Reserve!

Epson Stylus Photo 1280

On my way back from graduation, I decided that I wanted to give Juliana and her family a little graduation present: a photo of Juliana from graduation. The problem was, I didn’t have a color printer! I certainly had the digital camera and the images, but there wasn’t anything with which to print my colorful photos!

So, I decided to bite the bullet and drive over to the local Fry’s in Palo Alto (Western theme!) and purchase the printer I’ve been eyeing for the past several months, the Epson Stylus Photo 1280. When it comes to color printing, there is really only one choice: Epson’s Stylus Photo printer series. And so, I walked right into Fry’s and talked to one of the salesman by the printers, pointed to the 1280 and calmly said, “I want to buy that one, the 1280.”

I’m not going out on a limb by saying that most of the people who work at Fry’s are… shall we say… challenged, but this guy, whose name I can’t remember, was actually quite friendly and helpful. He got the printer out of the backroom and promptly printed the paperwork that I need to give to the cashier. I was a little suprised at how good he was, since the salespeople usually are brusque and not very knowledgeable.

At any rate, I took the printer back home, unpacked it, set it up, and printed my first photo. And, it was… well, let’s just say that the colors were just a wee bit off! In an instant, I welcomed myself into the wonderful world of color management. Man, this is going to take a long time to become an expert on, I think! Undaunted (or ballsy, take your pick), I looked at the picture’s colors, and by sight compensated for the colors in Photoshop. I then printed a second print which looked a little better than the original. I packed the two pictures up and drove over to Hunan Homes, where Juliana and her family and friends would be celebrating her graduation over some Hunan-style Chinese food.


Dinner was fun and remarkably filling from a food perspective. Normally, I can chow down Chinese food like a vaccuum cleaner, but this night, I got full pretty quickly. Dunno what caused that… maybe it’s my body telling me to stop eating so much, lest it bloat into Jabba the Hutt size!

I got to meet with with Juliana’s family again, some of their family friends, and Charlotte Wu and her mother. I first met Charlotte during my 26th Birthday Weekend at, you guessed it, Hunan Homes with Randy and Juliana. It was good to see her again, and just in time, as she’s off to Italy for the next two and a half months.

Also present at the party was Jenny Zhang, a soon-to-be senior at Stanford majoring in Digital Art. After meeting sooo many musicians over the past several weeks, it was fun to finally meet a fellow artist (yeah, artists unite!). We talked about digital photography and filmmaking, something that I want to get more involved in after watching the kick-ass short film, Duality. Jenny’s off this summer on a URO grant to work on a film up in San Francisco; man, that sounds like fun… be able to do something creative and have someone pay you in the process!

Evercrack and Digital Cameras

Charlotte just got a Canon PowerShot A20, the digital camera that she was planning on taking with her to Italy. Unfortunately, she didn’t have many accessories for it and was planning on going abroad with only an 8MB CompactFlash card and AA batteries. I offered her an “all-purpose loan” of my 64MB CF card and a PC card adapter (so she didn’t have to lug around an extra cable and install extra software). I would have loaned her the AA battery charger that I had, but the voltages only matched America’s voltage system. Hopefully, she was able to purchase a battery charger and some rechargeable batteries before her trip, as that camera sucks normal alkaline AA batteries like a vampire.

While I was giving her the goods, her boyfriend, Mike, dropped by to take her back to the City. We chatted about a variety of interesting, mostly computer related subjects, including this upcoming Star Wars game based on Evercrack… err, Everquest. Man, that game makes me drool just by looking at it. Imagine being able to roleplay in the Star Wars universe, where you can be anything from a human to a Rodian! Greedo can indeed live on!

Randy brought over a couple of videos, Chungking Express and Happy Together, two films by Wong Kar-Wai and staring the suave Tony Leung Chiu Wai, not to be confused with the equally suave Tony Leung Ka-Fai from L’Amant. I didn’t realize that there were two Tony Leungs out there in Hong Kong cinema. The former is called the Little Tony, since he’s a few years younger than the latter, Big Tony. They both starred together in Wong Kar-Wai’s film Ashes of Time, which I have yet to see. Also starring in Happy Together was a young Chen Chang, who played Lo in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. These actors sure get around, don’t they! Chungking Express was an interesting movie, though we only saw the second portion of the film (which is separated in two separate stories). Faye Wong, one of my favorite Chinese pop singers, was fantastic in the movie as Faye. You gotta love the short hair look on her!

Journal, Stanford

Saturday at Stanford

On Saturday, April 28, 2001, I went to Stanford University, my old alma mater, to check my postal mail and shoot some pictures. Along the way, I ran into members of the Palm Economy, old friends, and even my doctor! (Photos taken with a Canon D30 with 50mm f/1.4, 17-35mm f/2.8L and 70-200mm f/2.8L lenses)

It was designed to be a quick surgical strike. In and out as quickly as possible. I wasn’t planning on staying at Stanford for longer than it took to park, walk to the Post Office, get my mail, and walk back to the car. In the end, it turned out to be a little longer than I expected. I started out by parking next to Memorial Auditorium, near Hoover Tower, so I had a walk across campus to get to my mailbox. Yes, after nearly four years of being out of college, I still have my mailbox at the Stanford Post Office. It is, after all, a standard US Post Office, meaning you can just walk in and get a PO Box. As I get older, it’s getting a little freaky so many young people whenever I go to campus to check my mail. Was I ever that young? “Yes, you were, and you didn’t think about being 26 years old way back way, old man!” I keep telling myself.

A couple of days ago, I was introduced to this kick-ass movie, Duality, that two guys made in their spare time over the course of a year. They filmed the Star Wars-inspired short film entirely on bluescreen, with computer animation and special effects filling the scenes. It was absolutely incredible what they were able to accomplish on DV cameras and a few Macintosh computers. Seeing that movie made me think about the next step in my journalist evolution: digital movies.

I’ve always loved movies, and I can definitely see myself making and starring in my own little movies in the future. I remember as a kid using my parent’s VHS camcorder and recreating scenes from Indiana Jones, The Terminator, and all of the other favorite movies from my youth. With today’s video camera technology and computing horsepower, I’m beginning to buy into people’s vision that digital video is going to be a big thing. A friend of mine, Chris Alan, once told me in the early 90’s, “What will happen when everybody has their own cable station?” Chris’ comments were echoed in the explosion of the Internet and the birth of thousands of personal web sites. Seeing what the crew of two were able to do with Duality, I’m beginning to think that, yes, lots of people will be broadcasting from their own digital broadcast stations in the future. I’m not sure when I’ll jump into the fray, but I know that it won’t be long!

There were a number of events happening at Stanford, from this kids’ Art Festival in White Plaza to a Stanford Graduate School of Business Alumni Reunion. They had a whole children’s inflateable playpen set up in front of the GSB. As I was walking back to the car, I noticed a completely new building, the Knight Building, right next to one of the GSB buildings. I remember construction going on in that area, but never recall seeing a building there until now!

Spring Football Kickoff

Today happened to be the Spring Football Kickoff, where Stanford introduces to alumni, students, and children the new 2001-2002 Cardinal Football team. Tyrone Willingham, the coach of the Cardinal, hosted a session for children in the playing field next to Maples Pavilion. After his speech, he began a question and answer session with the young children, who asked him questions ranging from, “Why is it called Football?” to, “Do they hit hard in football?” The questions that our little ones come up with are so cute and innocent. It’s the childlike wonder and curiosity that we seem to lose or misplace as we grow older and venture into adulthood.

Coach Willingham dutifully answered the questions from his new friends until it was time to play some football. The Stanford Band announced the arrival of the football team, who must have been preparing for the game/scrimmage within the bowels of the Stanford Athletic Department. Football players look pretty small on TV, but in real life, they can get quite big! I wonder what their parents fed them when they were children! In fact, I noticed throughout the day that the people working in the athletic department tended to be pretty big too. Coincidence? Probably not, as many former athletes tend to stay within the sporting sector long after their playing days are over.

Accompanying the Stanford Band were the Stanford Dollies, who cheer for Stanford at many of their sporting events. Part of me is a little ashamed of admitting it, but during my four years at Stanford, I never attended a single Stanford sporting event. Heck, I didn’t even know what a Dolly was until nearly three years after I graduated from the university! Fortunately, I have a friend, Lisa, who is a Dolly and who has straightened me out! Since my graduation, I’ve attended a few games, most notably a Homecoming game in 1998 and a women’s basketball game a few years back. I’ve become much more of a Stanford sport fan today than I ever was. I don’t quite know why I wasn’t so enamoured by sports back then; maybe it was the academics or the Teahouse. Dunno!

At the event, there were a number of people were various cameras and video cameras. I saw a fellow with a Nikon D1 and one of his friends sporting what looked like an Olympus E-10. In addition, many of the parents were using numerous consumer-grade digital cameras. We’re clearly turning the tide, at least in the Palo Alto area, where digital’s numbers are growing faster and faster. In a few years, digitals will outnumber film-based cameras, I expect.

At the actual game, which pitted the Stanford offense versus the Stanford defense, there was the “official” Stanford photographer, who was using a Nikon outfitted with a huge telephoto lens. I’m not sure which one it was, but it was easily in the 300-400mm range, if not larger. I was surprised to see that he was handholding all of his shots too. I figured that he would at least have a monopod with him. He must be too “professional” to use something like that! Just kidding, but it was an impressive piece of glass he had on. Made the 70-200mm lens that I was using look like a pea shooter!


At the entrance to the stadium, a group of three people were huddled around this kiosk display. I stopped by to talk to them as I was leaving the stadium to go back home. They were employees of WideRay, a startup company based in San Francisco that has developed technology to deliver broadband distribution of interactive content to handheld computers and other mobile devices. The product that they were demonstrating Saturday afternoon was a cool infrared terminal for Palm organizers. Users, once they download a small client application, are able to receive beamed information directly to their handhelds from this terminal WideRay was demonstrating the instant beaming of information related to the Stanford Cardinal football team.

WideRay was started by a couple of ex-Stanford students, two of whom were students from the Class of 1997, which happened to be my graduating year. Along with the folks at Amikai, FileFish, and no doubt a host of others, I think that the Class of 1997 is well represented in the Silicon Valley. As a member of the Palm Economy, I wish WideRay the very best!

Ultimate Thoughts

A kicker to the afternoon happened when I saw Dr. Test, my elbow doctor, walking up from the stadium, while I was talking to Saul, Christian, and Andrew from WideRay! I was surprised to see him at the event, since I’m going to be seeing Dr. Test for x-rays and a checkup on my elbow in the next few days. It’s been 12 weeks, or three months, since my Ultimate Dislocation and my elbow is still healing. I do seem to have regain nearly all my extension in my elbow, but flexion is still tight. There’s also the little issue of that avulsion fracture that’s floating around in my elbow joint, but we’ll see what happens there after I evaluate the x-rays of the area next week. Hopefully, I won’t have to scope out the fracture, as that would involve yet another lengthy rehabitiliation process. Still, if the tightness and weakness, not to mention the occasional popping sound, persist, I might just have to go under the knife.

Whatever happens, though, it won’t make me forget the lazy Saturday morning and afternoon I spent on my old stomping grounds, Stanford University!