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.

Read the rest of this post »

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!

[smugmug url=”″ imagecount=”100″ start=”1″ num=”100″ thumbsize=”Th” link=”lightbox” captions=”true” sort=”true” window=”false” smugmug=”false” size=”M”]

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!