Monday, September 22, 2008

Hi there...

I guess I'm this week's guest blogger. Yep. Well I was asked to do this short intro as my first post. I thought of doing a paragraph or two short intro, but then I saw Ruiwen's intro and 'holy crap!', it's long!! So I shall not hold back (after reading this thing, if you survived 'til the end that is, you'll probably guess how noisy I am; though, you probably guessed wrong).

I'm Chris, a rising senior (yes, I'm still 'rising' senior and not a senior yet since I took a leave of absence this semester) in School of Computing's Computer Science stream. If you're wondering why I called myself rising senior instead of someone who's going to be a final year or something, that's because I'm addicted to say 'rising senior'. Yes, even since I moved to Silicon Valley a few months ago, people have been introducing themselves as 'rising sophomore' (going to be second year), 'rising junior' (if you couldn't guess it already, it's going to be third year), and 'rising senior', like me. I thought it sounds so much better than calling yourself first-, second-, third-, or fourth-year.

So let's get on with the introduction. I entered NUS SoC's Computing programme in July 2005, and streamed to Computer Science a year later (well, it was quite 'exciting', my grades barely made it for CS). I was also accepted to the University Scholars' Programme (USP). (Now I'll talk more about this in another post, but for now, a shameless plug: USP is a wonderfully awesome programme and, if you are a first year and think that you want to know more about it, let me know! Right now, USP is opening applications for freshmen for acceptance in their second semester. Application is, unfortunately, by recommendation only. But do drop me an e-mail at '' et 'gmail' dot 'com', or chat it out in gtalk, I might be able to help you find sponsor ;).) You can also consider me a weird students who like to waste his time. In my 6th semester, I completed 143MCs worth of modules, but yet couldn't graduate in 7 semester. Why? Because I took extra non-requirement modules! Yes, that's right! I took one USP module in excess, did Chinese I and II, did weird USP Advanced Modules that don't satisfy CS requirement, etc. But that's the point of university life, isn't it? To try out as many things as you can and enjoy it while doing them.

I stayed in hall for the first three years; meaning I just got out of hall at the end of last semester. I stayed in Kent Ridge Hall, did many crazy things with them, and joined an unbelievable club. Cheerleading. Yes. It just so happened that a few seniors founded a cheerleading team (the real one, the one where you lift girls and throw them without hesitation) and dragged a some of us freshmen (then) to join. The seniors were pretty cool and I had a real good time for the two and a half year I was there. We even won second in nationals. Demo... (read: but...) my grades suffered quite a bit. I ended up being scolded by my AI professor at the end of my fourth semester, but was given second chance and allowed to by undergraduate tutor for CS1101S. Now if you thought teaching is a waste of time, think again! It was so darn fun! You can ask my ex-students how much fun did I have teaching CS1101S (oh, and you earned quite a bit of money from it too). I decided to go all out and taught CS1102S and CS3216 concurrently the next semester. At the same time my grade went up and my life hit the most exciting part of it (yet).

So the same prof asked me what I wanted to do this summer. And I just absent-mindedly said I wanted to do some internship to earn some money! Yeah, internship in Singapore is, most of the time, just earning money. You only learned precious little (yes you do learn, though it's not much). For most companies, interns are slaves! So guess what? My prof 'tekan'-ed me to apply for internship at Google! I was, what the heck, it only needed resume and I already had one almost ready then, so I just sent it out. A few months later (and two interviews later, plus hassling, torrential preparations, from Visa to plane tickets), I'm here at Mountain View, at Google HQ, doing internship with Google Finance team until the end of the year. And life has been sort of an exciting up and down rides here. Yes, we are still slaves, though we slave much less. But we learned a lot and got to meet super intelligent people from schools like MIT, Berkeley, Stanford, etc.! Oh, and by learning a lot, I meant really as much as you want to learn and as much as you can squeeze to your brain at those short months interning.

I had this nagging feeling that one of the reasons why I was invited to guest blog here is because of this internship. Yes, I was pretty much an unknown entity in SoC (except for my reputation as the guy who skipped more than half of his classes in his first two years; oh wait, my reputation just went down the drain, didn't it?), I was ever more into USP than SoC, so I was pleasantly surprised that I was asked to write here. But the idea is cool and Ruiwen has ack'ed it by being its first guest blogger, so why not? Plus you know, as an inside information, I realized that the guest bloggers roster consists of pretty awesome people who have done so much more than me! The only thing that I wasn't so sure about was the tone I should take while writing my thoughts here. To be really honest, most of the time, I said what's in my heart and mind without thinking, and refined it afterwards. So a lot of time, I wrote pretty honest opinions in term papers and what-not, some of which can be a pain to SoC or USP or the university in general. Do wish me luck with my posts. ;) Still thank you Alexia and Juliana for inviting me to post here.

Anyway, I wrote this post on Friday though you probably will only see this post on Monday. So what did I do on weekends? I bike! Bike as in bicycle not motorbike. The difference between Singapore and NorCal (North California) is that the weather here is so damn nice and the roads are bike-friendly. I got myself a road bike and has been biking extensively. I almost exclusively biked everywhere. And yes, tomorrow, my plan would be to bike north to San Francisco and more (hopefully I'll reach Sausalito, a really nice town north of SF). That would be a total of 60 miles of riding and it will be pretty tiring. The one thing you need to bike that long a distance is a mental concentration, especially on the downhills towards the end of the ride. At 20-30mph, any slight mishandling of your bike can send you tumbling right to the hospital's door. It almost happened to me quite awhile ago, while going on a descent on a hybrid bike with a not-so-decent wide tire and lousy brake; I lost my footing on the pedal and the bike swerved violently. Ended up with an injured heel, but wasn't serious enough to stop me from biking.

Well anyway, I think I've written enough, if not too much, introduction. So this week expect some posts on life at Mountain View/Google, biking, teaching, technical but interesting CS stuffs, OSX/Linux, and USP life (obviously I probably won't be able to write about all of these in a week). Also expect at least one overly persuasive post to help you decide that you want to apply to work/have an internship at Google. (What you shouldn't expect: any confidential data about Google and Google's technical information; I'm under an NDA and it would be bad, no, really, really bad, if I managed to leak something through this blog.) Comments and constructive debates are always welcome. Private comments are welcome too at '' et 'gmail' dot 'com', which is also my gtalk.

- Chris

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