The Top 10 of 2012

For reference: 2011

1) Internship with Moody’s: I can’t say I deserved it. Nor can I say I was enthusiastic to accept it. I don’t know how I got it, and I don’t know how I darn enjoyed it and loved it so much, but I did. I made friends from across the country years my senior. I worked with people, and I liked working with people. I drank with them, I worked with them, I played ping-pong with them, and I realized: I had finally become social. My manager Mary was amazing, nice, and cared about my workload. My coworker Vivek cared for me and my intellectual growth like I was his own child. I couldn’t have been more lucky to be working with them.  I built an automation tool from scratch, a project nobody else wanted to undertake. At the end of it all, I had a nice lunch with my coworkers and then made an hour long presentation about this tool. I went from nothing to something. Which brings me to my next point…

2) Sense of confidence in craziness at the end of summer/early fall: I had done something great for Moody’s, and they wanted to keep me. But I also had school and a boatload of technical requirements to finish. My idea: take the first few weeks of the semester to finish my project. And work my schedule (at the time, 5 classes including 4 technical ones) around my work hours. What resulted was complete hecticness. But I was doing a good job, and people were telling me I was doing a good job. I think the peak of everything came when I went to SF and back twice in one day, while still going to a career fair, whilst staying in my workplace until midnight, taking the last BART train back to Berkeley. But I was confident in what I was doing because people were praising me. And I was getting requests for hangouts every few days. This was perhaps the most complete me I have ever felt. And I had no problems conversing to people, or telling people my philosophies. For a moment, I was who I wanted. Then…

3) Sense of stagnation latter third of the year: Zzzzz. My internship died. My research with Prof. Romps (see below) died. My research with Dimitri was dying. My mind was dead with no projects. Really, all I was doing was schoolwork. There was a brief moment when I had little contact with friends, as…

4) Breakup, Departure of Berkeleyan + LZ: In the middle of all the internship stuff, I broke up with Vicki, though I remained friends with her. My Berkeleyan friends left for South side, and LZ left for Britain. All the friends I had visited when I was lonely, all the confidants I had when things were tough, all my source of adventures… they were gone. But alas, a savior was born…

5) Yearbook: I really cannot say how much Yearbook saved me. I rode my social/confidence wave (see bullet 2) into Yearbook and was able to make new friends, even when my contact with Berkeleyan/Vicki/internship friends was lost. I cannot really express how much I enjoy the company of friends like Jess, Krystal, Delia, Jane, Justin, Yoyo, Keith, Adrienne, Alice/Jenn, among others (sorry if you read this and your name was omitted!). I think many people know this but I tend to get myself delirious when I’m alone. Being with “Yerds” kept me from doing so. I will always remember and cherish those 4 AM nights working on spreads, or those 6 AM nights during finals week, or those times tabling, or those ghost stories in the car on the way to retreat, lol. And as for all the stress of coming up with things to do during photo team meetings, or wondering if I was a good photo editor… I can say was worth it.

6) Research with Romps, Conflicts: This sounded good. And it was good. Just, not great. When I expect things will be good, I hope they will be great. My experience with Romps wasn’t super great. First off the whole deal with two URAP projects, I had to jump some ropes to get that to work with both professors. And after the dust settled, sometimes I just was too busy to dedicate myself to what I was doing. The two research projects rammed into each other in terms of time conflicts. So it was hard to get into a groove, and I think Romps noticed that and didn’t bother keeping me for a second semester. GG.

7) Job Instead of Grad School: In retrospect, my two research experiences definitely helped me on this decision. Not to mention my crappy GRE score. I think Dimitri’s contacts helped me a lot on this, not to mention his bad experience with his PhD.

8) A Near-4.0 Year: I think I really found my groove academically this year. I’ve always struggled with a few B’s here and there in previous semesters. Though this positive d(GPA)/dt really doesn’t mean anything now that I’m not going to grad school, it means a lot to me personally. Here was a challenge, a person slow at problem solving, going into exams and never really excelling in them. But through a lot of hard work and a lot of bad exams, I was able to figure out how to tackle and overcome my weaknesses, and build on my problem solving skills. For the first time, I experienced the adage of college being a time where you learn how to learn more than anything else.

9) Moar LaTeX, Moar Problems: At the same time I innovated to get better at taking physics exams, I gained an interest in doing problems. Of my own. Combine that with oh-so-beautiful LaTeX typesetting, and you’ve a new hobby. I’ve written about seven (unfinished) documents thus far, with others pending/in progress/in planning stages.

10) China Trip: This was only at the end of the year, but noteworthy nonetheless. This is my birthplace, my history, my motherland. Seeing it for the first time (okay, I saw it when I was one year old) opened my eyes. This is a yet untapped world here. The subways, infrastructure, roads, bridges and architecture are amazing. Everything is new, juxtaposed with the old. The good, juxtaposed with teh bad. The rich live in the city, the poor live on the outskirts — opposite of the U.S. The food is cheap, almost as cheap as the country’s labor. The air is bad, almost as bad as the smoke from the smokers, or the spit from the spitters, a cruel irony against the white, eternally clean subways. I am glad to have seen this New World.

New Year’s Resolutions for 2013

Here were my resolutions from last year. And, as has been the case for a couple of years now, these resolutions were successful! I got the internship [though by sheer luck], I did something meaningful with weather (research with Prof. Romps), and I did more photography (photo editor for B&G). Grade: A for all three.

For this year:

1) Get a job. This will be the hardest New Year’s resolution yet. Jobs are not easy to get in this economy. Even harder without specialized skills/training in my undergraduate education. I expect maybe one acceptance in 100 tries. The hard part is trying 100 times in the upcoming semester. Especially when each of those 100 times requires a nuanced resume tailored for the employer.

2) Keep in touch/getting closer with friends. College has been a blast. I’ve become social for once. But college is ending, and people are going on diverging paths. If this China trip taught me one thing, it is that close friends will be with you when you are on your ropes, even after 20 years. I don’t have close friends, and I don’t know how to keep in touch with friends without sounding awkward or desperate. This is a pretty tough resolution too, and too be honest I’m not sure I can do it. But I will nevertheless put it here, and hope  the New Year Resolution magic will pull through for me.

3) (Because I’m out of ideas for a third resolution) Keep my brain active with problems and projects. I reached stagnation last semester. I was out of research, and out of energy to do more projects. Thankfully, I still kept myself busy by making myself physics problems to do. I want to keep that going. And get the projects started again. Thinking of a Yelp-FB-integrative type project. LaTeX document on sunlight attenuation in an isothermal atmosphere, completion of document on tornado/hurricane windspeed distribution given trial as well as empirical pressure fields. Learn web design. Create photo website. Design photo logo. Just to name a few. (EDIT: Also, add more blogging into here. Keeping blogs updated is also a pseudo-project of sorts, and keeps my brain active.)

(P.S. Yeah I know this is late. Too busy during China trip. In post queue: Reflections on Trip; Reflections on 2012)

NFL Playoff Predictions: 2012-13 Conference Championships

Not gonna lie, I failed pretty miserably in the divisional round. 2-2, and  the losses were to my most confident predictions. The two predictions that I was unsure about ended up being blowouts. Epic fail.

That said, here are more championship predictions:

AFC

Ravens 24, Patriots 34: I’d love a Har-bowl for the Super Bowl, but I don’t think the Ravens have the quite the offensive arsenal that New England has. The Ravens are a more complete team with Ray Lewis back, but they still aren’t the Ravens of 2011, who still ended up losing to New England (even if that was on a Billy Cundiff choke). The Broncos played badly, and the Ravens still almost lost the game, if it weren’t for the Denver defense collapsing in the final minute. NE’s juggernaut offense is almost unstoppable at Foxboro if they aren’t killing themselves with turnovers. Wild card: if the Ravens still play inspired given Lewis’s pending retirement, that may tip the scales in the Ravens’ favor.

NFC

Niners 23, Falcons 21: This will be a close game, and I am hesitant to predict this score given that David Akers can’t kick field goals. In fact, that may be the tipping point that allows the Falcons to win. I don’t know, we’ll have to see. In the beginning of the playoffs, I predicted that the 49ers wouldn’t make it to the Super Bowl. I will say I’m not so sure of that prediction now. 😛 Nevertheless, I predict a Niners victory based on their more balanced, varied attack on both sides of the ball. Additional wild card: Kaepernick performed poorly against the noise when the Niners played in Seattle. Well, Georgia Dome is also a hostile place to play. We might be able to foresee the result of the game early on.

NFL Playoff Predictions: 2012-13 Divisional Round

I was 3-1 on Wild-Card predictions. Quickly, here are my Divisional predictions:

Texans 17, Patriots 20: This will be a closer game than everyone thinks. If the Texans’ pass rush shows up, the Texans win. Remember a couple years ago when the Patriots blew out the Jets in the regular season 41-3, only to be defeated by the same Jets at Foxboro in the Divisional Round? That’s the complacency effect: the Patriots might mentally underestimate the Texans, while the Texans will be eager to seek revenge and plan around what they did wrong last time.

Ravens 13, Broncos 30: Flacco is terrible on the road. Even worse in the mile-high air. Peyton Manning is mediocre in the playoffs because he’s never had a team as complete as this year’s Broncos on both sides of the ball. The caveat: this being his last season, Ray Lewis is playing with renewed effort; the Broncos were playing in a weak division, so they have never really had to compete against/prepare for tough teams. Still, I think the Ravens are just not as complete a team as they were last year.

Seahawks 24, Falcons 20: The Falcons are cursed. They’ve never won a playoff game not because Matt Ryan is not a playoff-caliber QB, but because each team they’ve lost to wound up winning the Super Bowl. (Packers ’10, Giants ’11) Like the aforementioned two teams, the Seahawks are peaking offensively and defensively at the right time. The inspired play of Tony Gonzalez, who is most likely retiring at the end of the season, will make this close. And maybe the Seahawk kicker issue too. (Their starting kicker got injured last week.) But I think the Seahawks edge out.

Packers 24, 49ers 27: This one is the toughest call outside of Texans/Patriots. Both kickers suck, and it may come down to which kicker misses the least field goals. Besides that, I give a slight edge to the Niners based on home-field advantage and a good matchup of strong pass rush against weak offensive line. Kaepernick is a huge wild card here. He’s more prone to turnovers than Alex Smith; in a game as close as this, one mistake could change the entire outcome of the game.

NFL Playoff Predictions, 2012-13 Postseason

Same idea as last year’s post, with some minor tweaks.

My thoughts on the 2012-13 postseason, in general

-AFC Champ goes to either Patriots or Broncos. Most of the teams in the AFC are pretty bad or mediocre. Only these two stand out.

-Kickers are going to cost 49ers and Packers (just think about how many games in the past few postseasons have been decided by a field goal or less). In case that doesn’t, the 49ers are streaky, and the Packers just do not have a good enough offensive line. Neither will make the Superbowl.

-The Seahawks, with their really good defense and an offense that has been beasting in the past few games, has a good shot of making the Superbowl. No real other standouts in the NFC are as well-rounded, in my opinion.

Specific Predictions for Wild-Card Weekend

Bengals (A6) 27, Texans (A3) 24 | The Texans have fallen from glory; their secondary and Matt Schaub just haven’t gotten it done in recent weeks. The Bengals are streaking, but not in convincing fashion. Both the Bengals and the Texans have a good pass rush, so victory may fall into the hands of line play. I give the Bengals a slight edge; if they can force turnovers and stop Arian Foster, they will win in convincing fashion. If not, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Texans win. Tough call indeed.

Colts (A5) 16, Ravens (A4) 21 | Flip the two around (i.e. if Colts are at home), this is blowout win for the Colts. But since Luck is not as good on the road, and Flacco is a different QB at home, and since Ray Lewis is back, the Ravens win.

Vikings (N6) 17, Packers (N3) 27 | AP has nothing left to play for. The Packers have enough of the Vikings from the week before to gameplan around their weaknesses.  However, the Vikings have been playing quite well in recent weeks, so they may yet surprise me.

Seahawks (N5) 30, Redskins (N4) 10 | Seahawks shut out RG3 and Morris. Redskins have a weak defense, and Wilson and Lynch will capitalize on that. I think Seahawks win this in convincing fashion.

Predictions for Divisional/Championships/Super Bowl (Subject to change)

Divisional:

Packers (N3) v. 49ers (N2) | This one is a tough one, and may depend on which kicker makes the field goals. I give the edge to the 49ers’ superior O-line and pass rush.

Seahawks (N5)  v. Falcons (N1) | Falcons do another one-and-out in the playoffs. Aside from the Giants game, the Falcons have not really won convincingly.

Bengals (A6) v. Broncos (A1) |  Broncos have a superior defense and offense, well-balanced teams often make it far.

Ravens (A4) v. Patriots (A2) | Ravens have no offense on the road; 1/10th of NE’s powerhouse offense will beat them.

Championship:

NFC: Seahawks v. 49ers | The Seahawks were close to winning the last time they played at Candlestick. They are a better team now.

AFC: Patriots v. Broncos | Classic Brady v. Manning… I think the latter’s team is better overall. (Remember, the same squad got to the divisional round of the playoffs with Tebow last year) But this will be close, I think… another classic clash between two future HOF QB’s.

Super Bowl:

Whoever is the NFC champion wins the Super Bowl. I made the same prediction last year, and the Giants won over the Patriots.