My Second Car

After passing my PhD dissertation defense, I finally had some time to go car shopping to replace my totaled ML-350. I look around and decided that I’ll still buy a SUV since I’m used to the higher seating position. Even though I liked my ML-350 a lot, at this point of time I didn’t want to bear the cost of a luxury vehicle, whether it’s the purchase price or maintenance costs. In the end, I bought a 2011 Toyota RAV4 from a local dealer. It’s a base model with the 4 cylinder engine and 4-wheel-drive, with a Pyrite Mica exterior and a tan interior. I had to put in a few thousand in addition to the payout from the insurance company for my old car, but I think it’s a decent purchase. The RAV4 is in great shape and only has 20600 miles, and it’s Toyota Certified used vehicle which means it comes with extended warranties which gives me some peace of mind.

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Passed My Defense, PhD Almost Within Reach

I passed my PhD dissertation defense recently, which means I’m about 95% done with my PhD degree. The last two weeks I have been busy preparing for my defense. The whole thing with my car getting totaled was a distraction, but I was focused enough to get my presentation in order. The defense is of course is last big exam in the process of getting a PhD. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous, but on the other hand I have been working on my research for 3 years, and I’m pretty confident about what I have done. And of course my adviser wouldn’t have agreed to let me defend if he didn’t think I could pass.

Passing the dissertation defense is a big milestone, but I have still have things to do before I can graduate, hence the “95%”. I still have to revise my dissertation a little bit at the suggestion of my committee, and also go through the administrative process of submitting the final dissertation to the school. I’m also committed to finishing the projects that I’m working on before I leave and… go into the working world is what I should be writing, but I still have to find a job first. So I have no shortage of things to do in the next while, but at least defense is over and done with.

To celebrate, I went for some spring skiing today. We went to a bigger ski resort this time, and there were enough green trails to last the whole day. The weather was good, but the snow was a little rough so I actually slipped two or three times on the green trails. Overall it was still very fun to go skiing. This is probably my last ski trip for this ski season.

Bye Bye, My First Car

As stated in my previous post, I got into a car accident earlier in the month. My 2006 ML350 received a fair a bit of damage, but I was able to drive it home. I didn’t think the damage was that bad, but unfortunately, being a Mercedes, the replacement parts were really expensive and given the car’s age, the insurance company decided to total the car instead of paying for the repairs. And so I had to say goodbye to my first car.

The 2006 ML was a really nice car, and certainly more than I had hoped for a first car. It was roomy, comfortable, surefooted on the road, and great for cruising on the interstates. It did guzzle gas a bit (averaged 17 mpg, on premium gas), and maintenance was expensive, but that’s what you get with a car like this. I’ll always have the fond memories of driving around on road trips in this car during the last three years. If the car wasn’t totaled, I probably would have kept it for a little while longer until after I secured a job, but accidents happen, and it was fortunate that nobody was hurt and the accident wasn’t worse.

So for now I’m without a vehicle, but it’s just a minor inconvenience. I have other pressing matters to deal with in the next few days, but after that I’ll look around for my next set of wheels. I’ll close this post with the last photo I took together with my car, during last year’s trip to see Vermont’s fall foliage.

Car Accident and Spring Break

There is a first time for everything, and unfortunately I got into my first car accident a week or two ago. My car got rear-ended by another SUV, and it was a little more than a fender-bender as you can see in the photo. Fortunately nobody was injured, and I was able to drive away from the incident. My ML-350 took a pretty good hit in the back, but the fact that I was able to drive it for quite some distance to go home shows that these German cars are definitely built solid. I took my car to the shop, and it’ll probably be there for a while since the bumper, real left tail lights and the whole tail gate near to be replaced. It was good that I wasn’t liable for the accident. I was fortunate this time, and I’ll certainly strive to be a safer driver. Hopefully I’ll get my car back soon.

Damage to Tony's car

My car was rear-ended and it got a fair bit of damage.

On a lighter note, this week was my university’s spring break. I’m still busy with preparing my dissertation and trying to find a job, but I did find a day to go skiing with some friends. We headed to a mountain in the Green Mountains of Vermont for a fun day of skiing. Even though I haven’t skied in a year, I did pretty well and only really fell once during the whole day. That ski hill was nice in that most of the trails were pretty wide, so there was room to turn. We also went on a weekday so the place wasn’t crowded, and the weather was great for skiing: not too cold or too warm, and mostly sunny. I had hoped to go to another bigger ski hill during the week, but things didn’t work out. Still, being able to go skiing once was a nice break from work. Now that spring break is coming to an end, I’ll have to work hard to make sure I graduate, and also find a job to boot.

Work and Winter

I realize I haven’t posted here in a little while. I left Vancouver a couple weeks ago and returned to the little town in the Northeastern region of the US to continue my PhD studies. I’m trying to graduate in May, and I am also trying find a job. The graduation part looks like it’s on track; the job part isn’t so sure. I have been in contact with some HR people, but haven’t gotten any interviews. It’s hard to get past the HR people, and it won’t be easy for a guy like me who doesn’t have much recent work experience. To be honest, I probably should put a bit more effort into my job hunt, but at this moment I want to make sure I graduate first.

This is going to be a good workout.

Returning the Northeast also meant a return to the long and often snowy and frigid winter. The weather in Vancouver was quite good during my time there. There were some rainy days, but there were a number of days that didn’t rain, and even a few days of sunshine. And of course, the temperature is cool but not really that cold. In contrast to the mild winter in the West Coast, the Northeastern winter this year is quite tough. I avoided a couple of storms and a “polar vortex” by traveling home, but I have already been treated to two polar vortexes and two significant snow storms. Going out in the morning when it’s -20 Celsius out during the polar vortex was somewhat painful. I haven’t felt that cold since the 2010-2011 “Snowmagaddon” winter. The most recent snow storm also left over a foot of snow, and so for the first time I actually had to use my snow shovel to dig out my car (see photo). I bought the shovel after I bought my car in 2011, and I have never used the shovel until today. The previous two winters were not that bad, and my SUV can drive over a couple inches of snows without problem. A foot and a half is a different story though. It took me about half an hour to clear the snow off the car and shovel the snow behind my car so I can back out and park into another spot. It was a nice work out, and the good thing was that it wasn’t that cold outside. Hopefully this snow dump is the last blast of winter we’ll see this winter. I don’t know if this winter matches up to the 2010-2011 winter in terms of total snow fall, but it’s getting there.

Happy New Years and Thoughts on The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

It’s the last day of 2013. 2013 has been a decent year for me. I’m making progress on my PhD degree, and went on some fun trips during the warmer months. Hopefully 2014 will be even better. If everything goes according to plan, I’ll finish my doctorate degree in 2014 and have found a job. It’s probably going to be a transitional period of my life. There are a lot of things to do in the new year, and I’m going to work hard and hope for the best. I wish everyone a happy and prosperous 2014.

One of the last things I did in 2013 was to watch the second Hobbit movie, The Desolation of Smaug. My parents and I actually went to the movie theatre three times and finally watched it on our last try. On the previous two trips we decided to turn back because the theatre was too crowded and we didn’t want to sit in the front. There were still a lot of people when we finally watched the movie, but we went early and got seats in the back. It’s the holiday season so a lot of teenagers and college students are out and about, so it’s no surprise that the theatre was doing good business.
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New Tablet: Google Nexus 7 16GB (2013)

The last piece of electronics that I’m bringing home for the holidays is a Google Nexus 7 16GB (2013). My parents have a first-gen iPad, but it’s a little old and doesn’t work quite right these days, so they asked me to pick up a tablet during Thanksgiving/Black Friday. Since I didn’t want to battle the crowds to get one of those discounted iPad Minis, I bought a Nexus 7 instead. The discounts are’t as heavy as the ones of the iPads, but the Nexus 7 ends up being cheaper anyways because it has a much lower MSRP. Combined with the fact that the 2013 Nexus 7 has newer and better hardware than the first gen iPad Mini (the retina iPad Mini is a little out of our price range), the choice wasn’t hard. Ultimately the Nexus 7 will stay home with my parents, but of course I had to give it a little test drive, and here are my impressions of the tablet.

Google Nexus 7 box

Time to start unboxing the Nexus 7

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New Dual Lens HD Car Dash Camera

Another piece of electronics I bought during the Thanksgiving/Black Friday period was a car dash camera. As their names indicate, car dash cameras are installed in cars (sometimes on the dashboard) to record what the driver sees. It’s useful for providing evidence in the case of an accident, and also one can use the footage to make a travel movie or something. My dad wanted one of these things so I got one. Car dash cameras range from $20 all the way up to $300+, depending on the manufacturer and the features. I didn’t want to spend too much, so that pretty much limited the choices to some no-brand cameras of questionable reliability. I looked around and ended up getting the what is known as the F70/i1000 dual lens HD dash camera. These are Chinese-made, no-brand cameras that seem to come in various different names and configurations, but all feature a main unit with a small screen and a front lens that records at 1280x720px, and a long wire connected to a rear lens that records at 720x480px. Reviews on Amazon and other shopping places are not that great, with some people getting decent units and others getting bad ones, but I pulled the trigger anyways because this was the only model in that price range that had the features I wanted. Here are my first impressions.

F70 Dash Cam Box

The box for the dash cam.

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New GPS: Garmin nuvi 3490LMT

This Thanksgiving/Black Friday I bought a new vehicle GPS. No, my nuvi 1490LMT isn’t broken. I bought this new GPS for my parents. I was originally thinking of getting a Garmin nuvi 2455LMT or 2555LMT, but there was an Amazon Lightning Deal on the higher-end Garmin nuvi 3490LMT so I decided to try get buy it. Of course, I had to open up the box and test if the GPS works, and here are my first impressions.

Garmin nuvi 3490LMT Box

The Garmin nuvi 3490LMT waiting to be opened.

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Another Step Closer to the PhD

It’s been a busy week thus far, but things have been going well. This week I passed my doctoral candidacy exam, which means I can now be called a PhD candidate instead of just a PhD student. Pretty cool, right :lol: ? The candidacy exam is just another hurdle to jump past in my quest to obtain the mystifying doctoral degree. Our candidacy exam involves presenting a proposal of my dissertation research to the doctoral committee, followed by some Q&A. The exam wasn’t too bad, but I was pretty tired afterwards. I’m just glad I passed.

After the candidacy exam, the next and final hurdle is dissertation defense, which I’m hoping to take next semester. I think I have a lot of presentable results already, but it’s probably a good idea to show some improvement between my candidacy report and the final dissertation. Still a lot of work ahead, but I’m taking this one step at a time.