Saturday, June 26, 2010

A Technical Conference at Providence, Rhode Island

Attending technical conference is always fun! It is time to find out what others in my field have been working on, it is time to showcase my own work - in person! It is also a time to meet old friends and a time to make new ones. Further more it is also usually the time to visit some new places, and time to indulge in fine wine and gourmet food. This May I went to Providence, Rhode Island for my favorite conference on industrial applications of computational mechanics.

Technical aspects

For industrial applications of computational mechanics, the work is about how to implement newly developed numerical algorithms in commercial codes for code developers, and it is about how to apply computational methods available in the commercial codes in real world problems.

So every time I attend the conference, I will attend advanced seminars before the conference either to learn what is new in the commercial code I use, or to learn how to make the code converges better for highly nonlinear problems. This year I learned "Leveraging the Latest Solver Technology for Challenging Static & Dynamic Applications". I was particular excited about new capabilities available in the code I use.

I usually present my work at the conference, but I had no paper this time. I did not submit a paper due to uncertainty of the travel. So the main focus for me this year was to learn, to see and to discuss. I attended all the general lecture presentations, and as many individual presentations as there were that I was interested in. I asked a lot of questions at the presentations I attended. In addition to get a feel of what my peers were doing, I also learned a couple of numeral tricks.

Trends in High Performance Computing (HPC) are of great interests to me. I further improved my understanding of cluster computing, especially limiting factors - such as memory band width - a concept I did not have before. The exciting GPGPU (general purpose graphic processing unit) is emerging as an likely future hardware for HPC.

Old friends, new friends

The conference is an excellent venue to meet friends in my field from around the country, and occasionally from overseas. It has become a reunion place of sort for some former employees from my previous employer - we jokingly call ourselves the alumni of the company. I also meet a lot of alumni from the University of my graduate school - most of which I did not know before. Common past, common association does make it easier for people to connect with each other.

Before the start of Monday's advanced seminars, I met an attendee who looked so familiar to me but I could not remember his name. "You look so familiar to me!" I started. "You too", he said. When I told him my name, he remembered me. We went to the same college, same department and we stayed in the same dormitory building for 3 years, he was one year my senior. It was nearly a quarter century ago that we saw each other last time. What a surprise!

I know quite a few people from the commercial code company, from local office managers, to code developers, product managers, to directors of different technologies, mainly through technical discussions. At the seminar "Leveraging the Latest Solver Technology for Challenging Static & Dynamic Applications", I asked a few intelligent questions, and made several relevant comments. The speaker, who is the director of solver technology at the code company, exchanged business cards with me afterwards and chatted with me. He and I happens to have a common friend, Mark.

Another group of people I know are from oil/gas industry. A few are actually from competitors - mostly casual acquaintances. I do strike a lasting friendship with Jonathan, whom I got to know 6 years ago from a training. He is an engineering analysis manager at a subsea equipment company. We since meet each other almost every year at the conference, we go out sightseeing together when there is time, we dine out together when there are no other scheduled activities. I call him my conference buddy.

Providence - a nice small city

I arrived at my hotel, Marriott Courtyard on Sunday for Monday's advanced training seminars. Around 6:30pm, I strolled out the hotel to look around. Marriott is right in the middle of the very small downtown of Providence, beautifully situated by the water place park. The park is centered around a river, surround by high rises, an oasis in the city. To its far east is a green hill with a white tower of a temple; to the north is the state capital. I walked around slowly to enjoy the quiet Sunday evening, camera in hand, taking pictures now and then. On the way back to my hotel, I met Jonathan and two other acquaintances. We had Fondue together at Melting Pot - exchanging information on what had happened since we met lat time while enjoying the food.

The conference ended noon time on Thursday. Since my flight was 7pm and Jonathan's was 5pm, we went to visit the famed Ivy League member - Brown University and had picnic at its old campus. The campus is small, beautiful; on a lawn, some students were sunbathing, some were reading, some were chatting - a very typical college campus. We also saw parents and their students walking around, apparently waiting for Sunday's commencement at Brown.

When it was time to leave, I drove Jonathan to the local airport and then drove to Boston for my direct flight home. Due to severe weather along the flight route, my flight was delayed about 2 hours. I arrived home after midnight. It is good to be home at any time.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Board Director

Tree lined streets, manicured yards and friendly neighbours make our community beautiful.

I really love this community and would like to keep it this way. In addition to keep my yard as nice as I can, I also participate in various community related activities. I call utility company when a street light is out. I call police when there is suspicious vehicle in front my house or my neighbours'. I have attended almost every home owner association (HOA) annual meeting, missing only one or two since we moved to here, so that I can voice my opinion in support of or opposing the board's proposals or actions.

Runnig for board director

Even though over 50% of the ~1000 households in this community are people of Asian origin, they are not properly represented on the board and in the attendees of the annual meetings. I started to think about getting more involved in the HOA after a few years.

Recent years the HOA board have been quite active in improving or building communal facilities, such as repaint the light posts, landscaping around the two community pools. Two years ago, the board decided to spend a large amount of money to build the green belt park. I, along with several other residents at that annual meeting, was opposed of the proposal on the basis that we had the beautiful Spring Creek Park at our door step, we should improve the green belt but should not spend handsome money building a new shelter there. The green belt community park was eventually built and it is very beautiful. However I still think that it was not a money well spent.

So when I received the letter from HOA about this year's annual meeting in March, I decided to run for the open position of director on the HOA board.

This year's annual meeting was held on a Monday evening in April at Davis library. When I got there, there were more than 10 people there already. As I signed in, the manager from the property management company was quite pleased and she announced my presence to the board members because I was the candidate running for the open board position.
In order to carry out a legitimate annual meeting, there is a 10% quorum. Due to the number of authorizations from HOA members, this year's meeting needed about 20 residents to be present at the meeting. At 7:30pm, the time the meeting was supposed to start, the manager announced that "we were close (to the quorum)", a few minutes later a couple more residents showed up, the manger announced again "We have it" - apparently with a sigh of relief.
The first business of the meeting was to elect two board members. I was running for the open position, and another board member ran for reelection. Both of us ran unopposed.

"My family has lived in this community for more than six years, we love it and I want to keep it that way. This is the reason I run for the open board director position ....." As I made the speech, I looked around at fellow residents. They listened to me attentively and nodded.

I was elected unanimously from the floor at the annual meeting.
Some Early Actions
HOA board director is a volunteer position. The first bussiness the board was considering after I joined it was the stone work project at the entrances to the community. I was sent information regarding a bid for the project. After reviewing the bid and a little online research, I asked a few questions about the bid and supported a motion to consider additional bids.
The board holds a meeting usually once a quarter to discuss HOA business. I attended my first board meeting at the end of April - we discussed first quarter financials, residents fee delinquencies and stone work and color change projects. The board voted to award the projects to the contractor with best bid - approximately same scope of work, similar material grade at lower price. The stone work project for entrances at Hegecox road started the last week of May and was still in progress on Memorial Day - one can easily see the the enhancement to the appearance of the entrances from the stone work. When this project and the color change project are completed, with fresh mulch, the entrances will look even better.
My position on the board is determined to be Secretary, responsible for taking board meeting minutes, social committee and HOA website. The first thing I did at this capacity was to supervise the update of HOA website information on crime watch and board member contacts. The next thing on my agenda is to make more residents sign up for HOA eBulletins and to increase awareness of HOA website.

I hope to make some positive impacts to our community while I am on the board.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Lake Ray Roberts Outing

This memorial weekend was quite different to us. Justin was away from home at New Orleans for National Whiz Quiz Invitational. We went to Lake Ray Roberts with a large group of families - nine to be exact - deviated from our usual practice of our whole family going out with one or two families.

It was a hot (96F) but beautiful day at Lake Ray Roberts. More than half of Nick's soccer teammates were there, Ben, Derek, Eric, Jeffery, Kevin, Ray, plus their siblings and friends, total of 16 kids. Shortly after all families arrived and more or less settled around 10:15am, the kids rushed to the water with inflated floating devices and water guns after applying sun screens.

For that busy day at swimming area of the lake, water safety was a major focus for all parents. Making sure that there would be two parents by the water with the kids, Lily, Eric's mom and I went on for a walk on the paved scenic trail. We walked at a relatively slow pace due to the late morning heat - the ladies were talking about how to guide/supervise middle school students, I looked around enjoying the scenery - yellow flowers, white flowers and pink flowers, butterflies of different colors and birds' chirping from near and far. It took us about an hour to complete the looped trail - as we were close to our shelters by the lake, I noticed a couple of white head birds on top of a tree at the parking lot. The birds have white heads, light grey wings - as they flipped their wings, it seemed that their body or under wing feathers were pink - I could only manage to take one good picture of the bird - I still don't know what type of a bird it is at the time of writing this post.

It was 11:30am, time to start BBQ for this large group. The cooks at the fireplaces were all dads - Ben's, Andrew's at one place, Ray's and Derek's at another. Chicken wings , sausages, beef ribs, hot dogs, ... quickly the delicious smell permeated the air, however we had to wait as the meat was not ready for serving yet. There were plenty of fruit (watermelon, grapes, black berry, cherry) to eat, plenty of sodas to drink. Nick sat quietly at one table, drank the usually restricted sodas one cup after another, ate plenty of fruit. I stuck to my self-imposed rule - drinking water only and had a lot of fruit.

Even though the guys were cooking, the famed cook in this group was Jean - Derek's mom. She brought us home made porridge, garlic-spiced cucumber, iced noodle, and tea flavored boiled eggs - all of which complemented the BBQ meat really well.

After BBQ, and one more round of sun screen, the kids rushed to the water again. This time several parents - Lily, Claudia (the coordinator of this outing, Ben's mom), and later Yong (Jeffrey's dad), went into the water with the kids as well. The rest of the parents were chatting at a picnic table - from BP oil leak, to environmental protection, and eventually to the never ending discussions about kid's education.

As the kids and parents came ashore - grilled sweet cones, iced watermelons and the left over slow cooked chicken were garbled up in no time. No worry! Jean took out her home baked big cake. It was so delicious that Nick had two pieces of the cake.

After nearly 6 hours playing in the water and on the rocks, the kids were getting tired. It was time to go home.

It was a fun filled day.

Thanks to Claudia for organizing the trip.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Wedding Video and Photos

When we were still graduate students, I was graduating and Lily would be at school for a few more years, we got married at a wedding chapel. The wedding ceremony was short and simple, however it was formal and solemn, with only two witnesses, our mothers.

As we walked out the chapel, our 10 minute wedding ceremony was playing outside on a TV monitor already. We bought the ceremony video for memory at $50 price - quite expensive - it was one of our all time best buys though! The first thing we did when we got home was to transcribe the video and translated the transcript into Chinese for our mothers.

Our formal celebration of our union was a reception a week later at our school. We entertained our friends, classmates and our thesis advisors with food, music and the video.

Afterwards the celebration of our wedding anniversary is usually very simple: We watch our wedding ceremony video together on the night of the anniversary day - "With this ring, I thee wed, this is my promise, you are forever my love", "With this ring, I thee wed, and with it I give it all the treasure of my mind, my heart and my hands" - we are moved by our own simple wedding ceremony every year!
The wedding chapel took many pictures of us during our ceremony - in our most natural postures and expressions because we did not know that pictures were taken. A friend also took many pictures of us on the school campus. The wedding picture we liked the most was the one taken by the friend - we held hands, looked ahead in the same direction, she was in the white wedding gown, I was in black suite and red tie. We were full of youthful energy, full of happiness, and full of hope. It has been a fixture at our night stand all these years.
To celebrate our 10th anniversary, we did something extra. Lily hand made a beautiful card chronicled the milestones of our marriage. Its cover was decorated with our initials A and L made from little heart shaped stars, and it ended with a beautiful poem "You are the one". It was a surprise anniversary gift to me. Coincidentally I was preparing a long article on our first 12 years together including our dating time. I started working on it on new year's day, I did not complete it on the anniversary day. It became a project for us, I would draft a chapter, Lily made comments and then I made revisions. I completed the 26 page memoir "Our Journey" on new year's eve. An intended wedding anniversary present from me to Lily became a new year's day present for ourselves.
Five more years have passed, as always, with ups and downs. On our wedding anniversary day, we will watch our wedding ceremony again, listening to the advice of the minister " Two of you are here to nourish each other, not just in words, but with deeds that can accumulate moment by moment ......two of you have taken each other into a closer brace, and a closer walk. That does not mean you disappear into each other. Both of you stand in the sunshine, both of you loving, both of you being studious, both of you being generous giving and receiving your attention and your warmth ........"

To us, marriage means being together, sharing one life. As we share our burdens, the burdens are halved, as we share our pain, the pain is reduced; as we share our joys, the joys are doubled, as we share our happiness, the happiness is amplified.

How small
a grain of sand
a wisp of hair
and man!
How large
a grain of time
a wisp of giving
and love!

Note: Shown in the picture was a gift from my mother in law - the Chinese characters mean "Forever in Love"