Year Review of Li Chen
Captured on 2017-07-25 10:18:44
GPS location: 29.489187, 92.72899
Camera: Xiaomi MI 5
Description: Highest mountain ever climbed, a sacred place for faithful Buddhists with death threatening low presure and freezing weather. Staring at 23 degree northeast at the age of 23.
Year 2017 is my first whole year in US.
It was a terrible mistake to take three courses in winter quarter. January was just the starting of the quarter long nightmare. EE511 Statistical learning became the most challenging course I ever met, and Prof. Mary Ostendorf became the most knowledgeable professor in my mind. I first used Python and TensorFlow in homework. Soon Python became my favorite coding language and TensorFlow became my favorite deep learning platform. In the end of January was Spring festival, I hardly found a free day making dumplings with lab mates. It seems Spring festival is invisible in US.
More homework, course projects and exams were coming, meanwhile, lab projects were still on-going, February was a disaster. I suddenly found each course I took would be reasonable if another 10 weeks were given. And the deadline for ISMRM late breaking session submission was also annoyingly in my busiest month. In addition, the endless rain drove me crazy. However, there were always little good news. On exactly the exam day for MR course, it suddenly snowed heavily in Seattle, and the campus had to close. The exam turned to be a take home homework. Luckily, I was approved for Visa Infinite card with merely 4 months of credit history. With the arrival of 100k AMEX points, I planned my summer vacation to China when I became depressed about the challenging coursework and projects.
The beginning of March was the unforgettably darkest period. I spent huge amount of time on course project for Statistical learning, while other two courses were not easy to handle. Just after the Statistical learning poster presentation, only three days left for report (similar to a conference paper), Ultrasound project presentation and report, and final project for Image processing. I never felt so deeply helpless and hopeless. Although I survived, the 511 course was nearly failed and I could not present worse in Ultrasound presentation. Anyway, everything passed. In EE511 class, I met many BIOE friends (unsurprisingly BIOE->EE, EE->CS), who introduced me the convenience of renting cars to shop grocery, and also invited me to the trip for Olympic National Park, which might be the most scenic spot I ever been. On that leisure trip, it reminded me the new year wish #1 "Keep balance between work and health" had gone reversely.
Cherry blossom came with the spring quarter. After the short break, I decided to take only one course in spring quarter, and planned to push forward the lab projects greatly lagged behind (A list of pending publications has already been made). In April, I finished the draft in weeks. However, soon I realized not everything could be finished as soon as you wanted, especially when there were parts you could not do on your own. The validation of the artery feature extraction tool (iCafe) need clinician's participation, and it occurred to me that waiting for the busy clinician to have free time playing with your geeky tool could take months. Meanwhile, I became so obsessed with credit cards and frequent traveler programs. For the summer vacation, I made a perfect route for 10 flights using 2 tickets with miles. With more grocery shopping with BIOE friends, I was encouraged to take a knowledge test for driving permit. Surprisingly, I became legal to drive in accompany with an experienced driver, even I did not have a license in China. We had an unplanned Los Angeles weekend trip at the end of April just because the round-trip flight was just a little more than hundred dollars. I spent the third birthday abroad. I expected to receive some surprises by being 'loyal and elite' guests in those frequent traveler programs. However, nothing happened. This sun tanning trip to LA made me never miss sunshine again. And I found cheap flights had a reason. I made up my mind that I would never catch a 6am flight.
It was quite strange to find Seattle did not rain much after we came back from sunny LA in May. It reminded me that I did have a bike to continue exploring the city. After the rejection of my non deep learning topic submitted for machine learning session, and my advisor's Hawaii trip for deep learning brain washing, it became a consensus between us that deep learning was really a heated topic. With labeled images accumulated, I started the artery segmentation project as course project for the only course.
It seems always true that deadline provides productivity. I was still quite surprised to find the energy and determination I had when I was motivated. Hail to youth! I was also surprised to find my favorite bakery shop 85°C had a branch in Seattle. It was hard to believe this store was so popular that customers lined up long queue at entrance. Finally, all the experiments for the iCafe paper finished, and we set up the date before my vacation to submit. The end of spring quarter was also the graduation season. I attended three defenses for my lab mates, and sneaked into the graduation ceremony for curiosity. I was wondering what could I achieve when I graduate, would I become the person I disliked?
Summer was best season for Seattle. On first of July, we took a 6 hour trip to pick Rainier cherries, an orange color locally famous cherry. Since then, I kept eating cherries until I started my vacation. Boeing 77W + 747 by EVA airline gave me a pleasant journey, although sound sleep was not possible in economy class cabin, which I made a flag that this was the last time I took economy class flights over the Pacific. Reunion with family was awesome, but my mum soon realized my curved spine, which I was not taken seriously, but now I found it terrible. After several relative visits, the family trip around China began. Lanzhou, Xining, Lhasa, Linzhi, Guangzhou. It never occurred to me that flight delay was so common in China, no matter it was really bad weather, or political reasons. As a result, a round-trip flight had to be reticketed twice. Train travels on Tibetan Plateau was the best opportunity to witness this sacred land. However, I was struggling with my bad cold after first night on train. Luckily, the SPG gold member qualified us an upgrade to top suite in Four Points by Sheraton, which relieved part of my bad cold or maybe altitude sickness. Climbing the 5000+ meter Lhamo La-tso was the nearest time I felt death, as my entire life was living at somewhere the altitude was no higher than 10 meters. Although my brain was not working, I marveled at those faithful Buddhists worshiping at this sacred mountain and lake.
Last segment of trip was in Guangzhou, a famous place for its food, but not a good place to visit in August. Undoubtedly, the tempting delicious food made me never feel hungry until I came back to Seattle. The month-long review of iCafe paper turned out to be favorable shortly after my return, which was beyond my imagination. The segmentation project was submitted for an easy conference, also as the presentation topic for my qualify exam. Yes, the qualify exam was coming. As first exam for Ph.D. degree, it consists of a 15-minute presentation and hour-long questions and answers, testing the research ability, which is somewhat related with publication, and background knowledge, which is what I am afraid of. At the end of month, I moved to another apartment, it surprised me that I had bought so many stuffs in the recent year. I remembered I came to US with only two pieces of luggage.
September was the month I first came to US. At the anniversary of my arrival, my iCafe paper was finally accepted. Catching the last sunny days in Seattle, I hiked Mt. Washington and Tiger Mountain, had fun in two lovely alpaca farms, visited the Museum of Pop Culture. Unsurprisingly, the segmentation paper was accepted, although as short paper. So at least I can have something to 'prove' my research ability for qualify exam.
The conference was to be held in Kansas City, a place cannot live without cars. So in October, I finally found a reason for immediate road test. With the help of my bold friends and frequent road trips, I learnt how to drive without finding a coach, although failed at first time for 'dangerous driving', actually careless driving. So whenever I took someone in my car, I would always reminded them I was a dangerous driver without being formally taught. Meanwhile it was quite depressing to prepare all possible answers for questions in qualify exam. It seemed never an end to fully prepare the qualify exam. For my EE-BIOE background, it was doubling the amount for preparation.
It finally came to November, the time for the qualify exam. Already practiced dozens of times for presentation, I still felt nervous. So the only thing I could do was preparing as many snacks and drinks to please my panel members, which actually worked. I did not meet a tough moment in exam as expected, and everything went on well. Later on in the feedback note, I found the accepted conference paper became a major consideration for the pass of exam. The rest of November was enjoyable. One week for that Kansas conference, the trip in that boring city turned out to be a trip for practicing driving, one week for thanksgiving shopping, another week for Chicago conference which I had an abstract presentation (the abstract rejected from ISMRM). The arrival of Movie Pass attracted me to the cinema as often as I can. The continued regular gym workout made me feel energetic and helped me relieve flight lag. Yes, two-hour adjustment was already a diaster for me.
When I came back in December, deadline for the course project was approaching. Another week-long torture as expected, and the result was not so satisfactory. When the quarter ended, I came back to research, finding the progress of previous projects were lagged behind again. However, the application projects of iCafe were really easy to drive me crazy, as staring at screen carefully all day long hurt both eye and mood. It was awful that I got addicted to driving, especially for $37 a day rental with damage waiver. Each weekend a rental for all possible reasons, shopping groceries, short trips, outlets shopping, CoCo milktea, etc. It seemed no pressure to retain top level member for rental companies if I kept renting so frequently.
Looking back at new year resolutions.
The exploration for balance between work and health was a complete failure for first quarter of year, and did not lead to a solution till now. I found I was easily getting sensitive and nervous to heavy work, then striving moodlessly, leading an unhealthy life style, and forgetting everything else. Maybe I have some of the characteristics for a workaholic, maybe I have strong determination for what I want, maybe I am still young, not mature but ambitious. I hate idling time away for no meaning, I despise people who put off tomorrow what can be done today, I refuse the life with ease and casualness. However, when I was staring at the scenic Lake Quinault, and wandering along the quiet Baker Lake Trail, I realized my attitude for life need changes. Ph.D. degree cannot be achieved in one day, neither can we fulfill endless expectations for life. What I need is to enjoy life, but not waste life or live too stressfully to taste life. Maybe the ideal balance need further exploration in future.
Thanks for Movie Pass, 15/25 movies viewed this year was in last quarter of the year. However, it was still depressing to find all other people laughing in a cinema when I had difficulty understanding what was funny. Finding more input sources for English learning and American culture is needed.
Not until November did I realize the new year wish of cultivating reading habit was unfulfilled. Although I finished reading the planned novels in time, it was clear to me my reading pattern was still finishing tasks instead of enjoying the moment of reading.
The wish I am proud to declare overly finished is traveling in US: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Kansas City, Chicago, and many beautiful towns near Seattle. Cheap flight tickets, conference attendance, and my new expertise on finding award tickets made travels easier than expected.
Still many Firsts this year: using Python, driving legally, attending academic conference...
Year 2017 was a long year for me.
When I was busy with courses, projects, papers, or traveling around the world, a year seems long. Courses intensive quarters have been passed. With my ideas booming advisors, I was working on and planning several projects. Several papers published and more to go. 14 flights a year was highest on record, several trips were really memorable in life.
When I was contemplating past, future, life meaning, or life style, one year means a lot. I was struggling with how to lead a balanced and ideal life, only to find dream or ambition always walks faster than practice or motivation. Sad truth, but I had to accept it, and as a result, I had to learn how to prioritize chores in life and live everyday passionately. Each day is different if you take it seriously.
In this year I also found getting accustomed to everyday life is a dangerous thing. It means losing curiosity and accepting current status. I found myself getting bored of choosing novel cooking ingredients for a dish, and I was surprised to find I can eat the same sandwich for a consecutive of several weeks, and dined in On the Fly (a Chinese fast food restaurant) for lunch for 103 times this year. Sometimes perhaps I am lazy, sometimes I am afraid to change because I have been easily satisfied with the status quo.
Somehow I began to realize the aging effect on myself, shown in no matter peak heart rate drop or weaker determination than previous year. So I cherish every moment right now more than ever before.
Hope I can better manage my life in new year and will not regret any moment in 2018.
Separating work and leisure
Proficiency in driving
Constant gym visits
Diversity for meals