Monthly Archives: May 2012

Engineering Tuition Fees in Canada + Newspaper Subscriptions

So I won’t write too much today, because I am struggling to shake of my post-lunch food coma and should continue to do so in order to get some much needed work done.

But I did want to point you to a figure from a popular article that has been floating around my social network for at least a couple of days. It’s a National Post article commenting on the Quebec student protest against tuition increase. I am not going to comment on the article itself – to be honest, I am too sleepy to understand it – but will comment on what the figure tells me.

If you look at the top left corner of the figure (thanks to National Post for their epic graphic design work), that’s where you’ll find the average tuition costs for the province of British Columbia. And if you look to the far right near the middle of the figure, you can find the average tuition costs for engineering in Ontario. Bah~! I JUST came to the realization that I got my engineering education from one of the more expensive parts of Canada (I am guessing these numbers reflect undergrad tuition). Thinking back, if I hadn’t received a scholarship that covered it, I would’ve been in a very different financial situation now. Hmmp..!

So in that sense, getting an engineering degree in BC is on the cheaper side. It’s the third cheapest in the country it seems. Given that the first two are Quebec and Newfoundland, and BC is called the “beautiful BC” for a reason, I’d say UBC engineering is a bargain deal. But then again, it comes with all the living expenses and stuff that you don’t quite see in the figure…

Anyways, I just wanted to share that while waiting for my coffee to get ready.

Oh, and on a side note… I hope I will have more things to share with you from the news throughout the summer now that I will be receiving Globe and Mail delivered to my door starting in June. I came across a coupon to subscribe to a gardening magazine recently and, somehow, instead of subscribing to the magazine, I ended up finding out that Globe and Mail has a section on gardening. So I decided to get them delivered to my door and make newspaper reading a part of my morning routine.

They offer student pricing for newspaper subscriptions by the way. It looks like it’ll cost me $24.11 per month to get newspaper delivered from Monday to Saturday, and $8.88 per month if I just want Saturday delivery only. It may be surprising to you, but this is the first time I’m subscribing to a paper-based newspaper – a long story in itself, hence I won’t ponder on it for too long – and I am quite excited about it. So I’ve signed up for the full Monday – Saturday delivery. It’ll be interesting to see whether they can actually find my residence and manage to deliver it to my door. 🙂


Blogging… hobbies…

The day I got the planter, and replanted my to-be delicious salads (May 19th, 2012)

On the last post, I made a comment about how I am becoming freakishly interested in gardening.

This new hobby is not the most student friendly, since a lot of students are residence-bound, meaning limited space to keep pots of plants around. Many students do not have access to a car, which means we are bound to ride on buses to transport all the nutritious potting soil and fertilizers that are necessary for your plants.

Last weekend, I got my grocery caddie out to go get some groceries for the week. I hadn’t really been eating properly (so much for a balanced lifestyle eh?) last week, and figured I should give myself the luxury of consuming fruits. Consuming fruits is a luxurious activity for me, because most fruits tend to be heavy. The sweet ball of vitamin C in oranges and apples need to be carried from the grocery store to my place, which involves about a 5 minute bus ride and 15minute walk. Hence is the my reason for using my grocery caddie on the special days I decide to consume natural vitamin C.

Two days after replanting. Look how fast they grow! 😀

But due to my craze for gardening, I decided to take a detour and ‘drop by’ the Home Hardware store on Sasamat & 10th. I hadn’t checked out their garden section yet, and so my curiosity led me there quite naturally.

I never ended up going to the grocery store that day, nor did I get the fruity goodness I was hoping to treat myself to. Let’s just say that, instead of purchasing and consuming fruits, I’ve decided to make investments for my future fruit-craving days.

I walked out of the hardware store with the grocery caddie filled with 18 L of potting soil, and a 32 inch windowsill planter. Considering that a litre of water is about a kilogram, and potting soil supposedly contains much denser things than water, I don’t think I need to do the math for you to realize that 18L of soil is quite heavy. But I carried it all the way back home, along with the planter that is about as long as 50% of my height (thank god there’s an elevator in my building!).

Four days after replanting! Yum yum deliciousness welcomes me every morning! 😀

Was it worth it?

Oh yes. Now I have a proper planter (I was running out of yogurt containers) that occupies about 40% of my windowsill and keeps me happy every time I look at it.

Anyways, my experience of putting together a small garden in my small studio residence got me wondering about this whole gardening world, and how other people who don’t have the luxury of a backyard, balconies etc. manage to foster their passion (such as people living in residences, apartment buildings etc). That curiosity has led me to a blog called the Life on the Balcony ( that talks about container gardening in general.

Epic. I got to know so much about container gardening from this blog, and became very much inspired to try out some of the ideas the blogger, Fern Richardson, generously offers for free. For example, did you know you can grow things with these hanging bags? Now, I’m cheap, so I am going to save myself a few bucks and try and make one of these, but that’s another adventure I can chat about later.

So, upon coming across epic gardening blogs that essentially saved me time and money (I still don’t own any gardening books or subscribe to magazines) without asking for anything from me in return (other than the fact that I increased their visitor count I guess), I had a little moment of reminder about the value of blogging as another hobby in itself.

I mean, as academics, we are paid to be here, at a university with the near-supernatural powers of the internet provided to you and an abundance of new and interesting knowledge and ideas in every corner of the campus waiting for you to discover and share. So, why not share the knowledge and ideas you have, especially when it can benefit the readers?

Anyways, I’ve been a blogger for quite some time now, not only for this iMech blog meant for prospective and current UBC students, but for a blog dedicated to the field of roboethics. I had started writing for the roboethics blog (called Roboethics Info Database) precisely because there isn’t a lot of comprehensive website available that discuss the topic of roboethics.

But while I was busy with my thesis, I gave up blogging entirely. It was, unfortunately, one of the first of my hobbies/routines to go when the crunch time hit. Now, being on the consumer side of blogging, I am feeling a renewed sense of invisible obligation to really keep myself in check and to commit to my hobby of blogging. Because the thing is, there is definitely some value in providing information for free, not in the academic form filled with jargon but in a form friendly to the public.

And the experience of blogging itself is quite worthwhile as well. The act of drafting a blog post is an informal exercise for you to put together your thoughts in a reflective manner. I mean, who has time to sit down in silence to reflect anyway? I’ve given that up back in undergrad. So if you are like me, lacking time for reflection yet enjoy thinking out loud, I’d like to encourage you find ways to share your thoughts/ideas/knowledge. Some great blogs are academic blogs anyway – informative things written by the experts who are really passionate about the field/topic can really reach a wide range of audience.

Anyways, this might just be another rambling of mine, trying to find balance in my life (balancing of hobby/work/social life) and emphasizing the things that may be the first to go when crunch time hits, but is still very valuable in a consequentialist sense. One thing I know for sure is that I am very much looking forward to tomorrow morning, when my plants will have grown taller and perhaps healthier with the help of the free gardening tips I got from all the bloggers whom I sincerely thank.

MASc -> PhD

Oh Miami, how wonderful you are.

Ah~ where should I start…?

It’s been so long since my last post, that numerous ideas on how to start this post are fighting in my head. So please accept my advanced apology that this post might be a little jumbled.

Well, first thing is first. Since my last post on the odds of dating, I have finished writing my thesis, successfully defended it (YaY!), travelled to Miami, and started my journey as a PhD student at the very same university that I now call ‘home’. Besides the things that most people consider a big deal (like getting my MASc stuff out of the way), there were some other big things that happened since February that I am quite happy about.

South Beach

For example, when I was planning my trip to Miami (for a conference of course), I quickly learned that I had literally been a workaholic who has a serious fear of taking vacations. My friends can tell you all about how I spent days worrying about whether it’s possible for me to actually have fun outside of the lab and spend days at a non-Vancouver location without work. In deciding how long I should stay in Miami after the conference (as a means to take a break from all that thesis writing and defence preparation), I was seriously worried that I would quickly get bored and start missing work/lab if I took more than a day to myself in Miami. Part of the reason was that I was going to be travelling alone, but I’ve travelled by myself many times before. What scared me was the thought of the amount of days I could be spending without working. I mean, what am I going to do by myself in Miami?! Anyways, upon much pondering, I left for Miami on a Thursday and came back the next Thursday. And I guess I don’t need to tell you that by the time I was heading back to Vancouver, I had shaken off the workaholic-ness out of me and did not want to come back.

The Wreck Beach, on campus!

Upon returning to work, I had an epic realization of a fact that should have been obvious three years ago — that Vancouver is an awesome staycation city. It’s a city filled with vacation-like things to do and vacation-like places to go. I mean, living on campus, I am practically only <10 minute walk away from a beach, short bus ride to many other beaches, have free access to the UBC Botanical Garden (I haven’t been to it yet by the way), not to mention the countless things that Whistler, the mountains, Okanagan, and other not-to-far places have to offer. Why did I not realize this before? Well, maybe I did realize it, but I kinda drove right into my thesis project and started my workaholic lifestyle when I got to Vancouver in the summer of 2009.

So, since my return from Miami, I began striving to live the mystical lifestyle that everyone’s been talking about for so long — a balanced lifestyle. Without intending to, my post-vacation attitude and the gradually summering weather of Vancouver has naturally pulled me away from work during weekends.

Two of the MANY plants I have acquired since my return from the mini-vacation.

There’s another big change I am happy about. I have become quite serious about gardening since my return. This is going to sound very cliche, but I have begun to notice things like flowers and such in a way I didn’t before. I’ve become so much more appreciative of the time I spend on things not work related, that I’ve decided to pick up another hobby — gardening. And guess what? Yesterday happened to be a big garden sale day at the UBC Botanical Garden (I still haven’t toured around the garden, but as of yesterday I can say I’ve visited the shop of the Botanical Garden). So I woke up early enough in the morning, took out one of those grocery caddies and happily went shopping for plants. Now I have a blueberry bush, lavender, basil, star flower, and many lettuce, spinach and other veggies planted by my windowsill and outside my door.

Just epic.

From now on, I shall wake up and see the beautiful flowers and greens by my window, and I shall go to work watching my blueberry plant grow. Oh, imagine how delicious the blueberries are gonna be, and how sweet scented my lavender filled room will be! So forget all the depressing odds about finding the right guy to make me happy and all. The mother nature is going to keep me happy with the interesting creatures I’m now a bit freakishly excited about (I can’t stop thinking about getting pretty clay pots to replant my plants).

Another big thing is that I’ve become a happier person after coming back from Miami. Well, the vacation probably has much to do with that. But I think it’s also the fact that I have, somehow, come to terms with my MASc thesis itself. I mean, near the end of the thesis writing process, I really had this thought of “I couldn’t care less about this, I just wanna get this over with!” But I wrote what I consider to be a humongous document with an enormously long title: “What should a robot do?: design and implementation of human-like hesitation gestures as a response mechanism for human-robot resource conflicts” and I feel proud to have finished it. Yes, I could have done things differently, and yes, there are many thoughts that need further thinking. But that’s what the masters program is for, right? You do research, but you are also learning along the way. So the things you worked on in the beginning is in a rougher shape than the things you did later.

Since April 18th of 2012, I have officially been a PhD student at UBC.

I still have the same desk, at the same lab, with the same two supervisors. In a way, my student status seems to be the only thing that have really changed from MASc candidate to PhD student.

Some people call it an academic suicide to get multiple degrees from the same university. But I believe I’ve made the right choice, and that whether I make my choice to stay a suicidal one is really up to me. Because the truth is, everything is different. Unlike almost three years ago when I started brainstorming randomly about what my research question should be (and also wondering what on earth research questions should look like), the randomness in my thought process has been tamed and self-guided. It feels like I’ve been given more freedom than before, because I now have the knowledge of how to properly seize the opportunities I want and have confidence in knowing what I want.

In a sense, I guess one of the biggest things that are different about me as a researcher now compared to me three years ago is my comfort level in jumping into the unknown/unexplored. The fact that research is about exploring things that haven’t been explored and answering questions that haven’t been asked (i.e., there’s no textbook and no solutions booklet) used to feel very daunting. But now, I am hooked at the very notion of jumping into the unknown. The less explored, the better. Because I have full confidence that, even if I fall into a chasm in research of some sort, the army of support network that I have in and outside of the lab are more than enough to pull me back up and onto the right path.

So, watch out world. Here comes the transformed AJung.

And here is the ironic ending to this post. 😉