Brother MG

Brother MG and his wife JW began truthseeking at East Bay, according to my memory, about a year ago. They experienced many blessings and graces from God, both receiving the Holy Spirit before being baptized. JW received the Holy Spirit first and was baptized during last year’s spring ESSC. MG received the Holy Spirit several months ago and a special baptism was scheduled for him, since his health was deteriorating.

Today, I was informed that brother MG was called back by the Lord in the afternoon.

I did not have too many conversations with MG, but each one was enlightening and caused me to reflect. Sometimes a new believer’s faith reminds us what faith and spiritual cultivation should be. We were talking about our personal Bible reading, and I think I said something along the lines of how sometimes Bible reading can become dull at times, but we need to keep at it because all of God’s word is useful for teaching and there are a lot of interesting things, etc. MG said something that made me thank God while also causing me to feel a little shame.

Oh, the Bible keeps itself interesting! Everyday before I read it, it’s like, “What am I going to learn today?”

During the short period of time after his baptism and before his health took a turn for the worse, we had always said that we should get lunch during the week, because we both work in the same city. We even exchanged phone numbers, but for whatever reason – preoccupation, laziness, being in a rush – I did not call him and ate at my desk as usual. Even after I heard he had been admitted into a hospital a few weeks back, I always thought there would be a time when we would have lunch. After the East Bay picnic last Sunday, several members stopped by the hospital to visit him. He was so happy to see us since he was unable to go to church for some time. One of the things he said to me was, “We’re still on for lunch though!”

Brother MG, looks like we’ll have to rain-check for when we enter the heavenly kingdom. I pray that I may make it there to meet you. It will be a feast to look forward to.

Life with a CR-48

It’s been 1-2 months since I got the CR-48 (a prototype laptop/netbook that runs Google’s Chrome OS). How has it fit into my habits and workflow?

When It Has Come in Handy

  • Productivity on the BART; 100MB of free 3G data per month for 2 years is a pretty sweet deal. 100MB doesn’t seem like much, but most of the time I’m using wi-fi anyways and I haven’t yet used up the monthly quota. Incidentally, sending emails and editing google docs doesn’t use that much data.
  • Taking sermon notes at church; thanks to the SSD, there’s no more lap burns or noisy fans blowing. The battery life is also sufficient for use throughout a whole day (with wifi and 3G turned off), with more juice to spare.
  • Taking my computer downstairs while I “cook”/prepare my dinner
  • Lying down on my bed to read something without risk of setting my sheets on fire
  • Checking the weather after I’ve shut down my computer
  • I can type in Chinese using pinyin!

What’s Not So Great

  • As I mentioned in an earlier post, it’s weak in terms of processing power. Any video-related activity chokes and lags at least a little bit; video-chatting in particular.
  • Not optimal for local development. Switching on developer mode potentially makes it possible if you install a text editor and manage to get your programming language of choice compiled on it, but without developer mode, it’s not possible.
    • Alternatively, one can SSH into a development server, but again, not possible without developer mode
    • Cloud-based development is a new trend that’s starting to gain some traction. Recently I started using github with cloud9ide, which is very promising, but cloud9 currently can only run javascript, even though it supports creation of python and ruby files. Git integration still makes it useful for non-javascript development, but again, still not optimal yet.
  • The wi-fi antenna seems a bit weaker compared to my dell xps. My room does not have the strongest signal reception, but my xps can still maintain a consistent and stable connection. The CR-48 though, not so much.
  • Chrome’s native PDF reader is pretty inadequate; no bookmark support, no facility to jump to a certain page; workable, but not convenient. Other PDF reader plugins can’t be used either.
  • Chinese pinyin input is only supported for simplified :(

So this post is probably pretty boring to everyone except for those curious about the CR-48, but I said I would post more about it and so this is my attempt at following up on that claim.

In other news, I decided to go to Stanford for graduate school, and ordered an iPad 2 as well as a 13 inch Macbook Pro, marking the beginning of my transition to the apple ecosystem. I’ll try to “justify” these purchases in a later post.

I Finally Learned the Official Term for “Interactive Shell”

Apparently it’s called a REPL (Read, Evaluate, and Print Loop). A REPL is an imperative tool for software development and is an awesome way to play, experiment, and become familiar with a programming language.

The first time I used one was freshman year at Cornell, in CS100. We learned Matlab which makes extensive use of the REPL. When we first learned Java, we used a program called DrJava which has a REPL. Seemed like a really nice way to learn the language.

More recently I’ve come to appreciate the REPL even more in picking up Python/Django and Ruby. When trying to implement a logical code block, I always go to the REPL first to try out individual lines to make sure each one is doing what I expect it to do. Without it, it’s like coding in the dark until you run your entire application.

Which brings me to one of the things that frustrates me at work. No mainstream Java IDE (Eclipse, Netbeans, JDeveloper) comes with a REPL! Oh the irony – something as simple and elementary as DrJava has something so crucial that the big-shot IDE’s don’t have (there may be plugins, but nothing standardized like the way it is with Python and Ruby). In order to figure out what’s wrong with the code, I usually have to run the application in debug mode and use watches. If I could cut out the overhead of starting up the server and deploying by just typing in the line of code into a REPL and seeing what gets spit out, that would save me a lot of time.

Anyways, glad I know the official term for the thing that I always wish I could use.

Deciding on a Graduate School

Hello, hello. So most of you probably already know that I am planning to return to school for a master’s degree this fall. I really need to be more thankful to God for the opportunities he has given me because I got into both of my top choices and now need to make the difficult decision of which one to actually go to (Stanford or Berkeley).

Neither master’s programs are in engineering, but rather in the intersection of design and technology. As you can imagine that’s quite a large intersection, and as such, the two programs I am considering cannot be directly compared because they have different areas of focus.

Stanford’s program is called Learning, Design, and Technology (LDT). It’s a pretty unique and specialized program offered from Stanford’s School of Education focused on designing and implementing emerging technologies and interfaces to solve learning problems and improve education.

Berkeley’s program is called Masters in Information Management and Systems (MIMS), which is offered through Berkeley’s School of Information (also called an ischool). It’s a degree in information studies pertaining to the role that information plays in our lives and how we can design, process, and interact with information in a useful and effective way (I just made up that explanation – as a matter of fact I don’t really know the best way to define what information studies is when people ask). This program is a bit broader in scope and I would be primarily focused on how technology can be used to enhance our experience with information.

Both programs are pretty appealing to me. I visited both schools during their Admit Welcome Days and came out of both feeling positive about each one. In order to distill the important factors in this decision process, I wanted to compile some sort of summary which laid out my various thoughts and sentiments on each school. But instead of doing statistical analysis and comparison like geo did (which is much more impressive, rigorous, intellectual, and probably more useful), I spent more time than I probably should have creating this visual comparison chart using LucidChart (the company that I won the CR-48 from).

Green indicates a "pro" and red indicates a "con." The rest is more or less neutral.

The PDF of the entire chart, if you are curious, can be found here. Stanford vs. Berkeley Visual Comparison.

This chart is a little bit biased in details towards Stanford because it was the more recent of the two schools I visited (and I did like it a lot). That’s probably why Stanford has more green and red. I guess from reading the notes I have you could say I am leaning a little bit more towards Stanford, but I have not made a definite decision.

While my sister was driving me to Stanford (since she works nearby), I asked her what I should do if I came out feeling really positive about it too. She said something that I think is really perceptive and makes a lot of sense:

“It will be as clear as how clearly you know what you want.”

So has this chart made it any clearer to me about which one I should choose? Not really…it hasn’t really revealed anything particularly new or groundbreaking, but I guess it will serve as a useful quick reference for myself.

In any case, I need to pray more. I do believe that often times “God’s will” is less about the absolute place you end up going to and more about what kind of person you are, but when it comes to planning, God has to be in the picture. How can my studies be for the glory of God? Will I be able to still serve while I am studying (I worry a lot about my time management skills)? How can the things I learn be applied to future servitude? (RE obviously comes to mind when considering Stanford’s program, haha). Just some things I feel I need to consider in my prayers.

I’m also curious about what thoughts any of you may have concerning either these schools, the programs, or the general field of design/technology/information in general. What observations or insights do you have about the role technology is playing in our lives now and in the future? Or what advice might you have for a prospective graduate student? What other important considerations should I be aware of?