winter

I got my first A in an upper division MAE class! (Besides 182A, but that’s math, so it doesn’t really count, and it was an A-.) Yay for fluid mechanics!! :) Too bad I don’t have space in my schedule for more electives, because I would totally take more classes in the 150 series. (Actually, I could take the engineering science breadth, I guess…) As for the rest of my grades…they’re not out yet :(

In other news, I spent a few hours making a new index page so go admire the mouseover effects!

Winter break resolutions – I have three weeks to DO THESE THINGS. Plenty of time!

  • Seriously, finalize the back of my deck.
  • Send out holiday cards!
  • Buy materials from OSH for my indoor garden, and possibly get started.
  • Burn through multiple rolls of film with Wesley’s Pentax film camera!
  • But first I need to buy batteries and film for it. And read the manual.
  • Start on a new art project!
  • Try to lose some tummy… :[
  • Maybe some other things, too.

Time to GET TO IT!

I just recorded my dog snoring on my phone, haha. So cute :)

a la mode

I remember back in the day when I used to blog a couple times a week, just to update cyberspace with the important happenings in my life. Things are so obviously different now – are my priorities different, or does nothing important happen? Let’s just say it’s a mixture of the two so I don’t have to let my thoughts linger on either one.

I think I mention this every couple months or so… but I’ll say it again since it crossed my mind recently. There’s a website called FutureMe.org that allows you to write an email to yourself that won’t be sent until the date you specify. I discovered the site in the middle of my freshman year, so to be cool, I waited a few weeks until leap day. On the rare 29th of February, I wrote myself an email in which, if I recal correctly, I described the person I was and my aspirations and goals. The last thing in the email was a list of names of people that I hoped I would keep in touch with by the time I recieved the email.

I’m one of those people that spends a lot of their spare time thinking. My mind wanders from old friends to new friends, how and why things change, mysterious futures, and how and where I think I’ll end up. I don’t often regret the things that have happened (as a direct or indirect result of my own actions) but there are a few distinct occasions that I’ll probably remember for a really, long time. I’ll remember them until long past after I receive that email in two years.

How did I decide what was important enough that I would want to ensure my memory of it in four years? I’m forgetful, indecisive, and extremely fickle even after a decision has been made. (I always wonder, are those the characteristics of most female teenagers?) I often find myself asking other people whether they really think they’re doing the right thing, where the “right” thing is the one that would give them the most happiness. I am totally aware that for many (like myself), it’s difficult to make a selfish decision. If a path taken leads to one’s own happiness but someone else’s suffering, is it still the correct one? I think in the end, despite the disparities in defining rightness or wrongness, it must be the most selfish decision that one sticks to. Others will/should adjust accordingly. If someone else’s happiness clashes with mine, well, I guess we just have to fight for it. In such a situation, avoidance means losing. If that’s your thing, then by all means, take the next exit to avoid the upcoming crash.

I’ve been involved in a handful of hypothetical accidents, and have done some swerving. I’d like to hope that the road I’m on continues to be as well-paved as it has been. Maybe it’s still under construction, but I haven’t come to that point yet. For now, I know where my next cue point is, and will be making my way towards it in the mean time.

Now that it’s the end of the quarter and all I have to do is study and review what I’ve learned, I’m definitely realizing how amazing my classes have been this quarter. Now that I’m deeply nested in upper division courses, everything applies and relates to each other. The importance of the subject material is obvious, which makes it easier to concentrate. My CAD class, although frustrating and time consuming, definitely taught me something worthwhile. I made a Ford Model T for my final project. Heat/mass transfer is so applicable to… everything… that it makes me proud of being an engineer. It’s awesome to realize how and why the physical changes to your environment are happening. And fluids, although slightly less applicable, are still fantastic.

I attended a seminar held by Eric King, who recently got his PhD from the Earth & Space department at UCLA. Our MAE department organized a series of seminars in the field of Fluids/Thermo this quarter, and I noticed a poster for this one and decided to go. I was lucky enough to chance upon one where the presenter explained things in a way that undergrads not well-versed in the field would still understand. He talked about the effect of rotation on the vertical convection of heat – ie, how heat from the rotating earth’s core reached the surface. He proposed a new method of differentiating weak and rigourous rotation, and how they affected convection. I’m glad to have gone – maybe in a few years I’ll find his name next to a correlation in a textbook.

Although I’ve only taken a few classes on the topics of heat transfer and fluid dynamics, I can pretty surely say that it’s the field I’ll be staying in. I definitely wouldn’t mind going on to graduate school to do research in the field, or something. Dynamics are definitely not my thing, and structures aren’t really more interesting than the next topic. So… we’ll see. Next step: finding an undergrad research opportunity.

mech e

I wasn’t going to blog so soon after that last one, but today was an awesome lecture day, despite my first prof being annoyed that none of us were participating and my second prof being flustered about having her notes mixed up. It was awesome because the material that I’m learning in the two classes I had today (150A – Intermediate Fluid Dynamics and 105D – Transport Phenomena) matched up almost perfectly. In fact, I really turned to Yuko during 105D and said, “Mechanical engineering is awesome!” during class. So just to share my (almost sudden) amazing appreciation for the concentration, here are pages from my notes from today!


This is from 105D! We just started a new topic today, convection, and it’s really crazily similar to fluid dynamics. Because the way that convection (conduction + advection) works is through bulk motion, which is generally caused by the flow of some fluid or other mass.


This is from 150A! Actually these are my notes from last week, but today we just went into deriving formulas so there weren’t any cool diagrams. Look at the velocity profile in the middle! It’s exactly (almost) the same as the one from 105D! Also, check out that airfoil. It’s SO REAL.

In 150A today we basically derived the definition of viscosity (via the viscous stress tensor) and in 105D we’re doing other things like temperature/concentration gradients and stuff, but they’re both talking about the same thing. They’re both just solving the boundary layer conditions between the surface of an object and a free stream. I love how applicable these things are. It’s fantastic.

Okay, that’s all. I’m done nerding it up, now it’s time for my third nap of the day. (I am sick and I have a midterm on Wednesday. I’m cutting three classes tomorrow to sleep and study, woot.) Oh yeah and sorry that the photo quality sucks, but I was really excited to blog today, haha.

case study

Because it’s already been two years and I’ve dutifully passed all my classes so far, I decided that I will put the necessary effort into my undergraduate schooling in order to acquire my bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. It is decidedly too late to change majors or transfer to a different school, so I am going to finish what I started here. That’s one thing I’m sure of.

Following that, things get a bit foggier. From what I can see, here are my choices…

1. Apply to art school. This would (in most cases) require me to spend at least 6 months preparing a portfolio and/or taking the GRE. I’ve narrowed down my subjects of interest to advertising, graphic design, and industrial design. My summer studies course in ID at RISD last summer was amazing, but I’m afraid that I’ll fail out of the competitiveness of getting into art school…

2. Apply to business school. I’m just throwing this in here because if I’m going to turn my life around and apply to art school, why not look in the other direction? This choice requires taking the GMAT. Also, I have no idea if I can foster/have inherent interest in the subject material.

3. Apply to grad school in engineering. I am most definitely afraid that the difficulty of engineering will be too much for me to handle, and I will quickly lose motivation and interest. So I think this choice would be the worst.

4. Take a few (one or two) years off and (hopefully) get a job, gather my thoughts, figure out what I want to do. I need to take my GRE regardless of what I decide I’m doing. If I decide within this time that I do want to go to art school, I should be building my portfolio.

I like to help people. I like to teach people things and share my experiences. I enjoy learning about historical stylistic trends, and do research on various eras and artists in my free time. I like to build and create and utilize my resources to make something to share. I like to think and make other people think and consider and have some of impact on everyone else.

5. Get my teaching credentials and attempt to make my way as a starving teacher. When I was in middle school and high school, I was convinced that I’d be the best third grade teacher ever. I thought about what I like doing, and what I’m good at, and maybe, after all, teaching really is my calling.

6. Apply for Teach For America and possibly teach in a far away place. Maybe while I’m taking part in the two (?) year system, I’ll build my portfolio and/or decide what I’m going to do for reals.

It’s weird, because when I was in middle school and high school in California, teaching was the only future for me. When I started high school in China, so many things in my life changed so quickly, that I guess I forgot about my prospective teaching career. I took art seriously, because that’s where I found my friends and the best experiences. I discovered the hobby that fit my personality, and stuck with it, which is why, I guess, I feel like art should be in my future. I guess I should be considering the best of both (or all three?) worlds. Teach art. It might be amazing. But then where does engineering come in? I don’t dislike the subject, usually. I like the facts and structures and how concrete engineering is. Is that also an essential part of my personality?

So I’ve been perfecting my resume lately, in the hopes of landing an internship next year. It’s interesting, because only by making it did I realize that I don’t do anything related to my major. The only noteworthy thing on my resume is the fact that I’m EIC of yearbook. But what does that tell people about me? I feel like it shows that I’m really not an engineer at heart. That I’m not really into it. That’s hardly the best thing to expound when looking for an engineering internship… so should I be doing more mechanica engineer-y things, or should I be looking for a different future?

I guess I’ve been studying this for three years, and it deserves a shot. I’ve been planning on finding an engineering internship to get the experience under my belt regardless, so I guess after I graduate is when the real decisions get to be made.

Until then, I guess…

*CRY OF FRUSTRATION*

time

Maybe I’m making a mountain out of a molehill. (Maybe I’m not.) Maybe this is reminiscent of my entire sophomore year.

So today, I forgot to turn in my lab because I was working on the 2009 Commencement magazine. It was due at 2:30pm, but it completely slipped my mind until 5:15, when I finally got out of the office. I freaked out until I finally got back to my dorm, and immediately emailed my TA an apology and my lab attached. She emailed me a few minutes later, totally okay with me turning it in during her Friday section. Thank goodness she was okay with it… but seriously? How did I forget?

I won’t deny that being part of BruinLife is detrimental to my college career. But at the same time, while I know it makes my grades suffer and study-time diminish to near nothing, I also see how it improves my experience as a college student. I’ve learned so much from being Editor-in-Chief that I almost-blindly let myself fall into an extra year of the job. I know that if I stick with it, I can learn so much more, and that what I get from my experiences will help me in the future.

But what happened today brought about a good point. If BL is inevitably pulling down where I stand in terms of academia at UCLA, then is it really worth anything? I wouldn’t be part of BruinLife unless I were a student at UCLA. I wouldn’t be at UCLA if I weren’t here for the intellectual stimulus. If I let BL take over my college experience as a whole, then isn’t that missing the point?

When it comes to yearbook, I see a direct impact of my hard work. Physical layouts are printed out and completed, books are sold, copy articles are written and edited. The big success at the end of the year, in the form of the published book, is amazing, but there are countless points along the road that remind me that I’m working hard. On the other hand, it takes weeks and weeks of studying and lecture attending for a midterm to roll around, and then another week to get my grade. Another month later, and I find myself being forced to study for my final exam. Completing my homework just isn’t as satisfying. And I see that this as a fault on my part. I need to take my classes as seriously as I do yearbook. I hate the word, but the obligation I have to my Student Media publication should be just as serious as that with which I approach my schoolwork. It should be, but clearly it isn’t. I soared and produced the 2009 BruinLife, proudly, but what of my grades? Shitty. Cs in almost everything. At the end of every quarter, my GPA takes a hit and steps down just a little bit more. A few more quarters of this (read: one more year of being EIC, maybe) and it’ll be leveling out just above that 2.0-mark. I know it’s not worth it. But I know that this is what I’m doing.

I need to learn to manage things better. I need to set my priorities so that in the future, I won’t look back and regret the way I treated my classes. When I look back, I don’t want the sole thing that defines my college career to be yearbook. Sorry, but no. I want it to be, well, the entirety. But if I know that’s what I want, it’s time to step it up. Balance things out. Right now, this is who I am. I’m the EIC of BruinLife yearbook, and that’s it. Maybe that’s not what I want. It’s what I do, but that’s not the only thing. At the same time, though, if it’s not yearbook, does that mean it’s mechanical engineering? Something tells me I want that even less. Engineering is so difficult, but I chose it and am running with it. But in two years, would I rather look back and think to myself: “Wow, I can’t believe I really studied that much engineering.” Or will I think, “Goodness, I spend so much time on BruinLife.” Where’s the middle ground? How do I compromise to guarantee that after I graduate, the only way I’ll define my college career is with the words, “Wow, I did so much and still had so much fun”?

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I need to learn how to study again. I need to remember what’s important to me not just right now, but in the future. Sure, I may not need to strive for that 3.5 engineering GPA, but I don’t want to consider all the time I could have (but didn’t) spend on improving my schoolwork. I have to stop gypping my academics, because they’re just as important as extracurriculars. Extra. They shouldn’t come first, even if I think they should.

Next year is going to be different. I promise.

(I’m at UCLA to earn my bachelor’s. It’s about time I show that I deserve it.)

mid-year crisis

There’s this girl who joined BruinLife yearbook this quarter – her name is Kelsey. She’s a first-year civil engineering student, minoring in applied math. And she knows exactly what she’s doing.

After our fifth edit night yesterday, she stayed in the office with us afterward, just chatting about herself. She told us about how she spends a lot of time with Triangle frat, because contrary to popular stereotypes, they’re actually really cool, not just intellectually extreme. Sure, they play chess on Friday nights, but just like any other frat, most other nights are spent playing beer pong. But that’s not what I was going to talk about. Tushar, one of four seniors on our staff, pointed out to her that she dispelled what for him was the idea of a typical south-campus engineering female student. She was outgoing, knew how to have fun, and didn’t seem to study too much for her own good. She didn’t seem like an engineer, he said. But a few minutes into any conversation with her, I think, would clearly define her as someone who’s not only motivated in just the right ways, but someone smart enough to succeed in the industry, despite the competition of being, well, an engineer.

And I noticed her talking about how she’s so glad to be doing what she’s doing, and I questioned myself. Am I really cut out for this? Am I really ready to take on engineering? I’m a second-year mechanical engineering student at UCLA, and I’ve barely gotten my feet wet in the field. I’m halfway through my first upper-division mechanical engineering class, and I don’t think my grade is even close to passing. The concepts lectured on in class don’t seem to be too difficult to understand, but then homework, quizzes, and midterms roll around and I realize I have no idea what I’m doing. Three weeks was enough for me to start considering changing my major to materials science and engineering, but then, what do you know, I take a quiz and place around 60th in a class of 70. Dream number two: shot down in a jiffy. Around the same time I decided to email the fine arts department, ask them what it would take to transfer. Not much, actually, just a 8-to-10 piece portfolio and an application due every fourth week of each quarter. But honestly, even that’s too far-fetched of a goal for me to handle. It’s ridiculous – I already know that art makes me happy, and yet something this close is still too far away. I can see the bigger picture (read: my happiness) but I’m not sure how to get there. I wish I could just be in the future already, because I’m tired of not being content, and then complaining about it.

Changing majors isn’t out of the question. It would be worth it, if I knew what I wanted to do. There’s a problem, though, in that statement. I don’t know what I want to do. Or maybe, there are too many things I want to do. Either way, I’m stuck in a quandary and I don’t even know which way to face. I wish somebody could point me in the right direction, and that I’d be okay with blindly following. I emailed my high school English teacher last week, telling her that I was confused about what I was studying – whether it was what I wanted to be doing or not. She encouraged me to try things out, because if I didn’t, I’d for sure not know if I liked it. She herself went through three majors before realizing that education was her path. But what about me? Am I going to get the same sort of sudden (or slow, whichever) realization of what I want to be doing? Because this sense of loss is seriously starting to get old.

My dad told me that even if it’s difficult, I shouldn’t give up. Sure, classes may be hard, schoolwork may be challenging, but so too is life. If I ran away now, I’d have nowhere to go. I can feel all the stress weighing me down and it wears me out. I tell myself that I shouldn’t be this tired, I should be better than this. I’m above the trifling hardships of school, and am good enough, prepared enough, for whatever else life has in store for me. But at the same time I can feel myself being weak, and thinking that there’s no way I can get around the gigantic obstacle that is college. All these conflicting opinions dancing around in my mind, and I wish I could just do it. I should be able to, though, because there’s nothing stopping me, right?

Except me. For some reason I’m not aware of, I’m unhappy. Maybe it’s the failure I’m not used to, possibly it’s the workload. It’s not even the future I’m worried about, it’s the present. How do I know if I’m just supposed to suck it up and deal, or if it’s too much for me to handle?

I really, really don’t know.

i like school

Last night I was struggling with my schoolwork and hence having a bit of a mid-week crisis. Lately I’ve been reconsiderig my major (for the upteenth time) and so when my frustration with math reached its peak, I gave up and went to talk to Stanley. I wanted to be a mechanical engineer so that I could have more choice and versatility with my future studies. With a degree in ME, I could either continue studying engineering, or transfer to an art school to study design or architecture. Having background engineering knowledge would help me the most with industrial design, yet another strong interest of mine. Not to mention I’d be able to get a job relatively easily with the engineering degree.

The worst part about the classes I have to take is that I don’t understand what’s going on. It’s a big problem, because when one doesn’t understand, it’s extremely difficult to foster an interest in the subject. Without interest, one loses motivation, which obviously leads to discontent.

Why am I still studying to be an engineer? Why haven’t I transferred out yet? I don’t have a concrete answer to these questions – I’ve been questioning my path. I used to think that the reason why I wasn’t out there studying fine art was because I lacked the skill to succeed in the art industry. But honestly, seeing where I am now and how I’m getting through my physics and math classes (barely)…I wonder if I’m that much better at comprehending the maths and sciences. Which just means, no matter what I do I need to work hard. Who cares if I’m not good at it. Like my dad claims, perseverance is key to success. Is it really? Will working hard without enjoying my work now be worth it in a few years? I can tell myself it’s just a few years to get through, and it’ll be okay, I’ll be done soon. But I mean, is that really what I want to be doing?

Yes, I guess it really is. I want to be a mechanical engineer. I want to be able to say I did it, and to have learned what I claimed I would. Even if it’s solely out of spite (which I used to avoid at all costs, now I’m just accepting myself) I don’t care, because I chose this and I’m going to do it.

It’s not too late to change my mind, but that’s irrelevent now. My dad told me in the middle of my first year, that if I really wanted to transfer into a significantly different major, then I could stay at UCLA a fifth year to graduate. I’m almost halfway through my second year of college, but I know that if I wanted to get out, I still could. If I decided that I were unhappy enough to really want to leave HSSEAS, I would. But I’m not as unhappy as I seem to complain about, actually. Because, I guess, it’s just so satisfying to walk into a classroom full of nerdy looking Asian guys and know that I’m just as good as they are. (Just kidding.) More like, although everything so so freaking difficult to understand, I know that love learning. The harder a class is, the more I learn from taking it. So I should (and do, I guess) enjoy my classes, in a way.

Educational masochist, yeah, that’s me.

solving people

Three days a week, I wake up at around 7AM to attend my 8AM Differential Equations class, taught by Professor George Mohler. This morning my friend Josh blogged about my professor’s ex-musical career. His roommate had Googled my professor’s name, hoping to get to our course webpage, but instead stumbled upon ranchobozo.com, which appears to be a small collection of uber-indie artists that once-upon-a-time tried to make it to stardom.

It’s pretty inspiring, actually, to see that my math professor, who seems a bit bland during lecture (but I’m not judging!) has something about him. A twist, I guess. It’s comforting, I guess, to know that no, he’s not just a math professor at UCLA. He’s also a musician. He has interests, and his entire life isn’t all about math. Seeing where I am in my life right now (an undergraduate engineering student, not so sure about her future), it’s a bit hard for me to visualize where I’ll be in 10 years. It’s difficult for me to think about the hobbies I want to pursue, the studies I enjoy. But Professor Mohler? He’s got something. He tried his hand at one of his passions. Maybe it didn’t work out so well (Listen: George Mohler – Love to be in Love) but I guarantee there are people out there with this song on their iPod.

I was talking to my friend Rohit about my Mechanical Engineering 101 class’ professor a few days ago, about how he seemed like an interesting person. I argued that since he uses a Camelbak water bottle, he’s not just some guy. He might be some guy who wants to help the environment by utilizing a reusable water bottle. But we might never know, since all he is to us is an MAE professor.

I really really like people watching. I watch strangers all day on campus, while I walk to and from classes and work. It never ceases to amuse and amaze me the way people act, look, talk. Because with every motion, word spoken, it’s like you learn something about a stranger. A stranger that’s part of this community, our culture. And I guess in a way, it builds this conception of myself and what I think. Because what’s my opinion but a really convoluted mixture of everyone else’s?

Anyway, I think I might be getting sick, so apologies for mismatched thoughts. But tomorrow’s my day off so hopefully I’ll get to sleep in and get better. Oh yeah P.S. I met someone today who finished today’s crossword puzzle. His name was Paul.