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.
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.
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.
Time to start unboxing the Nexus 7
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.
The box for the dash cam.
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-endGarmin 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.
The Garmin nuvi 3490LMT waiting to be opened.
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 ? 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.
I hope everybody had a great Thanksgiving. I sure enjoyed my four-day Thanksgiving break. I didn’t travel anywhere, but I didn’t do any work on Thanksgiving and Black Friday and I enjoyed that a lot. Like previous years, I went to my aunt’s place for Thanksgiving dinner, and as always there was a mountain of delicious food that cannot be finished even though there were a lot of people. It was also nice to catch up with relative and acquaintances at the dinner. Unlike previous years though, I didn’t make the midnight trip to the clothing outlets. I didn’t have any clothing items I wanted to buy, and I find extra sleep very valuable these days. Instead, I spent mostly on electronic items these days, both for myself and for my parents. I bought most of the items online, but I did go out both on Thanksgiving night and Black Friday to shop.
The so-called Black Friday sales seem to start earlier every single year, and this year a bunch of the big name retailer opened their doors at 6 PM on Thanksgiving… the exact time when people usually start eating turkey. The online sales were even earlier and some started at midnight on Black Friday. I think they might as well call the whole thing the Thanksgiving sale from now on. Most of the really popular doorbuster items, like the iPads, were quickly sold out online or in store. I visited a Best Buy after Thanksgiving dinner at around 9:30 PM. The store was crowded, but there wasn’t a line up to get in because most of the really sought-after items were long gone. Luckily for me, there were still a couple of those $100 24″ Dell LCD monitors, so I quickly bought one. LCDs have really fallen in price over the years. I remember when I was in high school, my family bought a 17″ no-name LCD for $500 and it was considered cheap at the time. That LCD monitor actually broke and I had to fix it myself. Now 24″ 1080p screens from reputable brands can be found near $100 which I find amazing. It also makes me feel old . Anyways, below is a mini first-impressions on my new monitor.
It’s November already, which means the 5 months of winter is about to begin here in the Northeast. In the last two months though, I have been using my weekends to enjoy the great outdoors during the autumn season. The temperature during the fall is perfect since it’s not too hot and cold, and more importantly the Northeast is known for its beautiful fall foliage. This post basically summarizes a bunch of my fall season outings with a good amount of photos. Most photo credits go to my various travel buddies, since they are the ones who have the nice DSLRs.
The expansive view from the top ridge of Mt. Mansfield to the east
Every once in a while I have to do a small maintenance task on my car, and this time I had to replace the light bulb for my car’s parking light. It was a fairly easy job, and I managed to get it done without damaging anything or spending too much time wrangling with parts.
The old, burnt-out light bulb. It’s a type W 5 W halogen bulb.
It’s that time of the year again. No, I’m not talking about back to school, although I will address that topic later in this post. I’m referring to the anniversary of my personal domain at tonyjiang.com, which has been in existence for 7 years. This year I worked on my websites a bit more than previous years, but in honesty I didn’t do that much either. The biggest change was to give this blog a brand new theme, which I worked on during winter holidays last year. My websites are chugging along as usual, and I’m glad to say that my websites, particularly the good ol’ crabbing guide, are now more popular than ever. The increased traffic also means my ad-serving venture is going better than ever, although I don’t think I can live off of my websites quite just yet. As long as I’m alive and able, I’ll keep maintaining my websites and post some updates on this blog every so often. While I may not be as enthusiastic about playing around with web technologies as before, I still find joy in running some websites and I hope they’ll at least be a good read to some visitors.
Moving on to another topic, classes have started again at my university. However, unlike the previous three years, I don’t need to go to class anymore. I have fulfilled my coursework credits for my degree, and I will spend this final school year working on my PhD dissertation. Not having to attend class, study for exams and do homework feels very nice of course, but this is certainly not the time for me to slack off if I want to graduate sooner rather than later. If everything goes well I’ll graduate in May. There is still a lot of work to though to get to that point, but I’m motivated by the fact that the finish line is finally in sight. Wish me luck.