Kevin’s First Annual Newsletter

I started this blog 6 1/2 years ago on a whim to keep everyone aware of what’s been happening in my life. It’s taken some odd turns here and there, including fiction, papers for class, food, tutorials, and more, but my life has been the core of it, with different facets of it coming into view at different times. I slowly transitioned from broad summaries to specific observations in my life, and although it makes blogging more engaging for me, it also leaves a disjointed trail for you to follow. And now that I’m at the point where my friends and family have dispersed, it seems more relevant now to pick that back up.

My mom still mails out a Christmas newsletter to family friends, but since it appears that snail mail is dead and no one reads their email, this blog seems like the right venue for that. The fact that it’s publicly viewable doesn’t bother me too much: my rule of thumb is that I’m willing to write about anything I would tell someone sitting next to me on an airplane. Most of the important facts are also available via any number of social networking sites as well. So, here’s the rundown.

I ended up graduating with my degree in Symbolic Systems this past June, right on schedule. My concentration was in “learning,” which was just a convenient way for me to fit the classes that I wanted to take. In reality, my studies were more directed towards computational models of cognition. Think of it as the flip side of artificial intelligence: instead of trying to make computers intelligent for its own purposes, I looked at how we could use the same technology to better understand how people think. I applied to PhD programs in psychology hoping to continue that type of work. That isn’t what I’m doing now, and I often skim over that fact by saying that I decided not to do that. The more complete truth is that I didn’t get accepted to anywhere that I applied to, so there wasn’t much of a choice. Instead, I decided to finish up a master’s in Computer Science at Stanford as part of a 5-year program that I was already accepted to.

Instead, I’ll be working at Zanbato, a startup in Mountain View that I co-founded, as a software engineer and have been working at part-time during school. Currently, I’ll be finishing up my degree at the end of March and going full-time after that. The basic pitch is that we’re building a marketplace for infrastructure investments. Infrastructure, such as bridges, powerplants, and schools, has a pretty fragmented market, and given how much interest there is from both sellers and investors, it’s a shame that it isn’t easier to work in this space. If you’re interested, check out the 5 minute video at sokoni.com on what we’re doing for Africa. Although it’s not quite what I envisioned myself doing a year ago, I legitimately think that this is the most important thing I could be doing right now and can change the world with it.

As such, I’m planning on staying out in the Bay Area for awhile. Meanwhile, my parents ended up never moving to Boston and will now be staying in Houston for the foreseeable future. The house is a little more empty, and all of my possessions are in (many, heavy) boxes, but it’s still good to see everyone around here.

StackMap, the other startup I’m a part of, is going well. We hired a CEO and have been picking up clients and making improvements. You can see it live at appstate and Stanford, where it’s hopefully making students’ lives much easier. It’s been around for 3 1/2 years now, but I think we’re just starting to make things happen with it. Given how many student startups fail, I’m proud to see us endure through all of that and still offer a valuable product on the far end.

Cooking continues as you’ve likely seen between my blogs. The biggest change happened this summer when I tried the mostly-vegetarian thing, which Julie, as my co-chef, also endured. She actually puts my attitude best in that I don’t cook meat for myself. I’ll happily eat meat when I go out to eat but have switched to meatless sandwiches and various alternatives for dinner. Future goals for cooking might show up in my new year hopes.

I played quite a bit of sand volleyball during my senior year, taking it 2 out of the 3 quarters. I haven’t played much since, but I have been playing racquetball regularly. Although we aren’t going to the national championship, I spend another season obsessed with Stanford football. Throw in a bit of Starcraft and ton of awesome potlucks, and that’s pretty much what my life is like.

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