Life Goes On / Adulthood Creeps Upon Me

By Eric Lam on Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Week 12 has finished; senior year is just on the horizon.

And all I want to do right now is dance (that's pretty much all I have wanted to do for the last few weeks, even though I have been doing some).

Nevertheless, it was an amazing summer with a ton of awesome people.

At Microsoft, I worked under ASG (Applications & Services Group), in OXO (Office Experience Organization), as part of Hub Engineering, on the EPIC team, working on telemetry and monitoring. EPIC (which is a backronym for "Engagement, Platform, and Incident Control") provides monitoring, telemetry, and deployment (among other things) to different teams and services within Microsoft.

The system I worked with, OAM (Office Active Monitoring), was a system which had probes which would monitor services and report the services' health to a relatively old system, which would process the data and send alerts if necessary. My project was to move that pipeline to utilize a newer, one-Microsoft solution for health, monitoring, and reporting.

The highlight of the summer was when I caused an error which was repeated many times in bulk, ending up sending over 140 emails to the epicfail alias. Needless to say I was always paranoid it would happen again.

Needless to say my team was amazing. I worked with a bunch of highly intelligent people who wanted to make sure I was successful and who appreciated the work that I was doing. In addition, they were also very lively and sociable people and I would enjoy going to the cafe for lunch with them every day. If there is one thing that I will miss from Microsoft, it is my team.

In addition to work, it has been an intense summer. There were no weekends where I did nothing. I hiked, I went out with friends, I danced; I had a generally fun summer. These are just the highlights:

  • Hiked near Gothic Basin in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest (and that was just after I got to Seattle, before even starting work)
  • Hiked to Goat Like (also Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest)
  • Accidentally hiked to Eightmile Lake (we meant to do Colchuck)
  • Went white-water rafting and visited Leavenworth
  • Hiked to Colchuck Lake and part-way up Asgard Pass
  • Camped at Shi Shi Beach in Olympic National Park
  • Went to the EMP Museum (saw a Star Trek exhibit as well as a general Sci Fi one)
  • Met up with a friend and went to the Pacific Science Center
  • Went to a friend's wedding
  • Participated in the Microsoft Intern Game, a 36-hour puzzle game across Washington state
  • Went to the Seattle Star Ball to see some gorgeous dancing
  • Camped in Olympic National Park by Crescent Lake

The summer was fantastic. Aside from work, I was able to get a bit of dancing in (admittedly only toward the end but it helped me improve a lot) and push out a ton of photos. Though I took a bit over 5800 photos this summer (rivals last year's 6400), I cut that down to a whopping 910 (vs 725 last year). I was quite proud of a fair amount of the photos that I had taken. Most of the photos that I had in this post were taken by me (the only exceptions are the rafting photo and the photo at Goat Lake).

It's been a great (and oddly short) summer, but I am looking forward to getting back to school, dancing, and friends.

Junior Year Goes By

By Eric Lam on Sunday, May 22, 2016

My third year at RPI has been such an amazing year. Though it was super busy, it was also extremely fun.

The Fall 2015 semester had my junior year off to a running start between ballroom, classes, and friends. Though it was only an 18-credit semester (the fewest credits I've had since my first semester), I took six courses. Let's see the highlights:

  • Digital Signals Processing - Not a terribly fun course, but I definitely learned a lot that was useful and interesting.
  • Introduction to Engineering Design - So much work but my group mates and I pushed right on through.
  • Machine Learning - What a rigorous course, but so amazing. It was one of the most fun courses I've taken ever.
  • Distributed Systems - It was incredibly interesting to learn about the theory behind what we can and cannot do in distributed systems and how we can accomplish certain things.
  • Professional Development II - Yay, it's done!
  • Engineering Processes - I have finally learned how to use a Mill and a Lathe, making a small train.
On top of classes and coursework, I started as Membership Chair for UPE, the local computing honor society. I helped organize Induction as well as the Student-Professor dinner. And of course I continued on as Vice President of Ballroom/Latin for the Ballroom Club, also taking on the role of Competition Coordinator, learning the ropes for how to run our ballroom dance competition. I had gotten internship offers from multiple companies, having to make a hard decision to work for Microsoft in Seattle over the summer (I cannot wait!).

Spring 2016 offered a much lighter course load.

  • Introduction to Image Processing - What an amazing course. So many times we did "simple" operations on images that blew me away (sharpening images was cool, but then things got more complicated and even cooler as the course went on).
  • Database Systems - I feel comfortable with how to properly use a database and cannot wait to use that skill (watch out Ballroom website!)
  • Programming Languages - Tough at times, but now I understand some of the magic behind compilers and different programming language concepts.
  • Introduction to Artificial Intelligence - I have had better courses. At least I learned A*.
I organized another Induction for UPE on top of the course load, but the biggest thing was organizing the ballroom competition.

For many years RPI has hosted a Ballroom Dance Competition. Competitors from all around come to our competition and dance at different levels. It was my job to get officials, invite other teams, get all sorts of paperwork done, get supplies organized... the list goes on. I would not have been able to do it alone if not for my team, especially my dance partner Karen, RPI Ballroom's president this last semester. In the end, the competition not only ran well, but it was a ton of fun and we had over a hundred competitors from schools such as Boston University, Holy Cross, RIT, UVM, UMass Amherst, and Stony Brook.

Of course this leads into my ballroom career. I have definitely become more serious and competitive over this last year, training hard with my dance partner, Karen Baltazar. We have improved so much over this last year, it's simply amazing. Of course, I must thank our coaches Jennifer Volpe and Blaise Hartley for all of their help. I love dancing and I am glad that they help me get every ounce I can out of it. And of course, I must give so much love to my partner, Karen, who deals with my weirdness on a daily basis. Wonderfully (sadly?), she will be on co-op next semester at Hasbro, but we will still make time to dance, train, and even compete. Good luck and have a blast, Karen!

Here's to a great summer in Seattle and a wonderful next year!

All Good Things

By Eric Lam on Friday, August 21, 2015

This was a jam-packed summer.

I've already talked about my first week and shown a little bit of all of the things that I have cooked this summer. But the summer was much more packed than just that.

It was a crazy time at Cisco. I met many people, interns and full-timers alike. I worked on a team in UCE in Cisco Commerce (under CVC under IT) with two other interns: Grant Doctor and Aparna Narayan. We worked on adding Spring-AOP-based performance metrics to the commerce system.

But the summer was packed full of activities. There was the CVC Picnic, we went to Santa Cruz, there was an IT Intern Showcase, and even a CVC Intern Showcase.

And I thought I took a lot of photos at those things.

I didn't spend many weekends sitting at home.

  • Once I visited some friends in Mountain View, also going to a local dance studio and having a blast.
  • Another weekend, my intern buddy, Glen, and a few other people and I went hiking in Big Basin Redwoods State Park.
  • July 4th weekend I went with a couple other interns to Yosemite, getting some of the best views of my life.
  • Later I went with a fellow RPI student/Google intern to Mt. Tamalpais (Mt. Tam for short) State Park for some hiking.
  • I trekked out to San Francisco another weekend, touring around, eating way too much food (stopping for Sushirrito, chashu baos, egg custard tarts, clam chowder, fried calimari, a Ghirardelli Sundae, a burrito...) as well as taking many, many photos.

But there is more! I went with my Google friend to Monterey, where we visited the aquarium, ate, and drove along the shoreline. And there was Bricks by the Bay, a LEGO convention held in Santa Clara.

The summer proved to be quite a blast. I met wonderful people and learned a ton, both in a technical sense and in a professional sense.

Alas, though, the summer is over. I have moved back home, have finally finished going through (and editing) all my photos (of which I took nearly 6400, which I cut down to about 725 photos). Classes are just around the corner (I move back to RPI on Monday).

Next summer has to work hard to beat this.

Last Day at Cisco, New Website

By Eric Lam on Friday, August 14, 2015

It was a bittersweet day at Cisco. After saying too many good-byes yesterday to my managers, my coordinators, and my mentors, it was time to say good-bye to all the remaining interns today. Perhaps I will be back to Cisco in the future. Tomorrow never knows.

But I spent the day working. No, not on Cisco work, though. My laptop was returned yesterday. I was left with something I had been putting off for a while: making a new website. My old website was pretty… basic.

So I spent my time first migrating over to Jekyll. After that, my website looked… no different. But alas, this meant that if I had a template with navbars and such, I wouldn’t have to copy code all of the time.

And so with some hard work, the website became responsive, and the result makes me happy. I can finally go on my website on a mobile device without shivering on the inside.

I Can Cook!

By Eric Lam on Thursday, June 18, 2015

I surprised myself from the first day that I was in California. I cooked for myself, and it wasn't terrible.

I'm not saying that I've never cooked before. I cooked when my mother wasn't home every now and then, and I have cooked parts of meals here and there. And of course, I cooked my ramen all of the time (but I didn't just boil water and stick the stuff in. I had an egg and meat in there as well).

Of course, my first meal was ramen.

Though it was a little more legit than instant ramen.

I've cooked a lot, learning about exactly how I should cook what, and to an extent what to put with what. It's hard thinking of what vegetable goes with which meat (and what starch thing to put with it all).

Well, garlic is my friend. No doubt about that. I need to make sure to cook my pasta more (well, after that first time I was okay). Meat tastes the best cooked slowly on low heat (avoid turning it up unless you are in a hurry or trying to sear something). A typical mug can hold about 12oz of liquid.

I am enjoying cooking. I have a feeling I'm going to be feeding my girlfriend sometimes back at school... but I won't mind. Cooking is fun!

First Week at Cisco

By Eric Lam on Friday, June 05, 2015

It all started with my flight last Saturday, scheduled for 3:15PM and being slightly delayed (and then more and more, to the point where I barely made the connection at Midway in Chicago). But I got to the San Francisco airport earlier than expected. A friend of mine from RPI, Angela, and her dad picked me up and took me to their place in the North Bay area.

Sunday afternoon they drove me to the place I would be staying in San Jose, near the Civic Center (I am so grateful that they are so nice and helpful). I am staying in a “hacker house” in San Jose, so I have quite a few roommates (currently there are three other guys in the room).

The next week would be all orientation at Cisco, so no real work was done. My first day was a little hectic as my alarms didn’t go off (I still woke up at a reasonable time!) and I almost got on the wrong light rail train. There were fifteen other interns coming into Cisco IT in my wave (thirty-something had come two weeks before us). The following three days were talks, setup, and social events with the other interns. On one of the days, we visited the Data Visualization Lab, which had an 85-inch 4K touch screen, as well as some of the cameras meant for conference calls that were able to track the speaker. Cool stuff! One day, we did dodge-ball, another we did an Amazing Race across campus.

First stop on the Cisco Amazing Race

By the way, the Cisco campus is huge. It’s a ten minute car ride from the gym to where I will be working in McCarthy Rance, which is over an hour of walking. It’s beautiful, though, especially where I work (you can see the hills/mountains not too far in the distance). Some of the buildings have massage chairs. Others (including McCarthy Ranch 2) have ping pong, pool, and foosball tables.

Thursday, we finally met with our teams. In Cisco, there is the IT branch; under that is the CVC (Cisco Value Chain) branch; under that is the Commerce branch. That is where I and several other interns will be working. There are actually three other interns (one that got here two weeks ago and started before us) from RPI, and all of them are with me under CVC Commerce. I will actually be working separate from most of the other Commerce interns in an adjacent building.

Friday, the interns and some of the on-boarding staff went to volunteer at RAFT, which puts together learning kits for teachers to use in getting kids to do hands on stuff in school to learn about STEM. Then we were taken to Dave and Busters, and we had a blast there for a little while.

Friday morning, I got on the train, wearing my ballroom jacket and someone asked me if I did ballroom. He was an intern working in the area also looking to do ballroom over the summer, and we were chatting for a bit. This isn’t the first time my ballroom jacket has let me meet new people!

Also, I have been cooking dinner for myself, quite successfully, too. One of my other roommates is always impressed with what I make (one night he came back and unbagged a bunch of packs of instant ramen). Unfortunately, there are a bunch of supermarkets a good half-hour walk away (though one is accessible by the light rail), so it is a little inconvenient. Angela’s parents volunteered to lend me their bike (I am beyond gracious), so I hope that will help.

Otherwise, I’ve been having fun, and hopefully within the next few weeks will start doing stuff like going to ballroom or visiting San Francisco, etc. I may even visit Yosemite with some of the other interns one weekend! But real work starts next week. I can’t wait!

Halfway Through College

By Eric Lam on Saturday, May 23, 2015

After finishing my last of five finals yesterday, I feel free.

First semester this year was Electric Circuits, CoCO (Computer Components and Operations), LITEC (Laboratory Introduction to Imbedded Control), Engineering Dynamics, and Introduction to Algorithms. A busy semester with quite the work load, but with some fun material (LITEC had some cool microcontroller stuff).

Then came along this semester, with Intro to Electronics, Operating Systems, Engineering Probability, Signals and Systems, Principles of Software, and even an ECSE Seminar class. It was a heck of a lot of fun (but so incredibly busy) and things are starting to get to the point where I am learning what I want to, and not just “the basics.” Next semester I am going to take major-specific electives (like Machine Learning and Digital Signals Processing). I can’t wait!

On top of all of that was Ballroom Dance. I continued with ballroom, dancing with Karen Baltazar. Though we didn’t do too spectacularly in the Fall semester, we moved up to Silver for the Spring. With a bit of work, we we able to rock at the Bronze level and even do pretty well at the Silver level (great for a first-semester Silver couple).

Now I have a week to rest before I ship off to California to work for Cisco. I am going to have a blast!


By Eric Lam on Tuesday, January 27, 2015

After much too long, my website has been updated! Of course, for the most part, the important updates are not immediately noticeable. My sheetmusic and blog pages have been revamped so now they automatically create the pages using JavaScript!

On another note, my hobbies page has been updated. Aside from simply being more robust and detailed as to who I am as a person, it also now includes a gallery, showing some of my favorite photographs (which I have taken). Make sure to check it out!

Summer Days

By Eric Lam on Sunday, August 17, 2014

It has been a great summer working at Octopart over the summer. Whether it be working to improve our data-collection framework or to kill numerous flies in the office, I definitely felt like part of the company. Part of the team. Part of a family.

And I definitely had a blast. The people at Octopart are definitely a large part of the experience. I loved everyone.


Of course, I’m going to miss Octopart, but not too much, because I’m going to aid in amassing a Data Army for Octopart (to collect data for us and to give us the most comprehensive coverage on part data around). We’ll see how it goes, but I am hoping for the best.

Thanks again, Octopart, for having me around for another summer. I’m so glad that I could be part of the family. I’ll keep in touch. See you soon, Octopart.


First Day Of Work (Again) at Octopart

By Eric Lam on Tuesday, May 27, 2014

After many months, I have finally returned to Octopart! Seated in the Flatiron District of New York City, the company hosts an electronics part search engine.

I am glad to be back on board with the team for the summer.

Pre-Work Quiet

By Eric Lam on Monday, May 26, 2014

It’s quiet, everyone’s in bed, and it isn’t even midnight yet… is something wrong?

Freshman Year at RPI Finished

By Eric Lam on Saturday, May 17, 2014

Two semesters, nine months, ten classes, 37 credits, and thousands of dollars later, my Freshman year at RPI has finised!

Whether it be going through classes like the mind-numbing Bio, the rigorous Data Structures, or the wonderful Minds and Machines and Introduction to Cognitive Science, I have learned quite a bit.

Also, to supplement my academic time, I have made a great number of wonderous friends, some from here and there and others from the wonderful Ballroom Club and Team. Increasing my dancing skills tenfold, I have been immersed in the of Ballroom Dance.

And so it is with a heavy heart that Freshman year is over. Not only will I have to spend several months away from the friends that I have grown to love, but some will be leaving the school for things beyond. I wish them the best!

Onwards to another great year at my favorite school!

First Blog Entry!

By Eric Lam on Friday, May 16, 2014

The blog has finally been posted!