Sunil Garg

My Year in Cities, 2014

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Earlier this year, in a somewhat unexpected plot twist, I changed jobs and moved from Seattle to San Francisco. Since then, I’ve been exploring the Bay Area and also made frequent trips to visit family and friends in Portland, San Diego, and Seattle.

Despite spending most of the year on the West Coast, I managed to fly 55,156 miles this year, which was the most since 2009! I’m finishing off the year on a beach in the Dominican Republic and am looking forward to whatever’s in store for 2015.

  • Seattle, WA*
  • San Diego, CA^*
  • La Jolla, CA*
  • Palo Alto, CA
  • Beaverton, OR*
  • Camas, WA^
  • Philadelphia, PA
  • Pickering, Canada
  • Vaughan, Canada^*
  • Corvallis, OR^
  • Burlingame, CA^*
  • San Francisco, CA*
  • Vancouver, Canada^
  • Berkeley, CA^*
  • Oakland, CA^*
  • Groveland, CA
  • Yosemite National Park, CA^*
  • Gurgaon, India
  • New Delhi, India^*
  • Agra, India
  • Hayward, CA^
  • Milpitas, CA^*
  • West Hollywood, CA^
  • Pasadena, CA^
  • Rancho Cucamonga, CA
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • Santa Clara, CA^
  • Mill Valley, CA^
  • San Rafael, CA^
  • El Dorado Hills, CA
  • Atlanta, GA
  • Las Vegas, NV
  • Montreal, Canada
  • Cabarete, Dominican Republic

One or more nights spent in each place, with the exception of day trips marked with a ^. Those cities marked with an * were visited multiple times on non-consecutive days.

Previously: 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007

My Year in Cities, 2013

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This year’s travel was an enjoyable mix of work and pleasure, with highlights including a cruise to Alaska, two-week vacation in Argentina and Brazil, and lots of short trips shuttling up and down the West Coast.

I flew 41,795 miles over the course of the year, which was pretty similar to the last few years. Many destinations kept bringing me back, including 13 trips to Oregon, 10 trips to California, and 5 trips to British Columbia.

  • Pickering, Canada
  • Toronto, Canada^
  • Seattle, WA*
  • Beaverton, OR*
  • Atlanta, GA
  • Chula Vista, CA*
  • San Diego, CA^*
  • Irvine, CA
  • Sunnyvale, CA*
  • Milpitas, CA
  • Berkeley, CA*
  • San Francisco, CA^*
  • Kennewick, WA^
  • Vancouver, Canada*
  • Ketchikan, AK
  • Juneau, AK
  • Skagway, AK
  • Carcross, Canada^
  • Victoria, Canada
  • Richmond, Canada
  • Buenos Aires, Argentina*
  • Puerto Iguazu, Argentina
  • Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil^
  • Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  • La Jolla, CA*
  • New York, NY
  • Cupertino, CA
  • Mountain View, CA
  • Blaine, WA^
  • Surrey, Canada^
  • Pasadena, CA^
  • San Clemente, CA

One or more nights spent in each place, with the exception of day trips marked with a ^. Those cities marked with an * were visited multiple times on non-consecutive days.

Previously: 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007

My Year in Cities, 2012

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A year ago, I was excited to be leaving for France. That experience took me across Western and Central Europe over the course of four months, and dominates the list of cities I visited this year. I rounded out the year with some travel for work and more fun.

By the numbers, I visited 55 cities in 18 countries, rode 65 trains (hooray for Eurail!), and flew 52,976 miles.

  • Beaverton, OR*
  • Luxembourg City, Luxembourg*
  • Metz, France*
  • Paris, France*
  • Strasbourg, France
  • Colmar, France^
  • Stockholm, Sweden^
  • Sollentuna, Sweden
  • Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland
  • Venice, Italy
  • Florence, Italy
  • Pisa, Italy^
  • Rome, Italy
  • Vatican City, Holy See^
  • Pompeii, Italy^
  • Heidelberg, Germany
  • Atlanta, GA
  • Alpharetta, GA^
  • Versailles, France^
  • Barcelona, Spain
  • Monistrol de Montserrat, Spain^
  • Nice, France
  • Eze, France^
  • Monte-Carlo, Monaco^
  • Cannes, France^
  • Brussels, Belgium*
  • Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • London, England
  • Budapest, Hungary
  • Vienna, Austria
  • Prague, Czech Republic
  • Berlin, Germany
  • Seattle, WA*
  • George, WA
  • Bothell, WA
  • Eugene, OR
  • Bend, OR
  • North Bend, WA^
  • Camas, WA^
  • El Dorado Hills, CA
  • Vancouver, Canada^
  • Richmond, Canada
  • Troy, NY
  • Cambridge, MA
  • Sunnyvale, CA
  • Cupertino, CA^
  • San Francisco, CA
  • Pleasanton, CA^
  • Berkeley, CA^
  • Chennai, India*
  • Bangalore, India
  • Mumbai, India
  • Agra, India
  • Toronto, Canada^
  • Pickering, Canada

One or more nights spent in each place, with the exception of day trips marked with a ^. Those cities marked with an * were visited multiple times on non-consecutive days.

Previously: 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007

My Year in Cities, 2011

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Another year is ending, so it’s time for another summary of the year in travel. I spent 2011 mainly shuttling between Atlanta and the Pacific Northwest, with the big exception being a short trip to Ghana for research. This year’s travel resulted in 41,287 miles flown, about the same as last year.

I’m very much looking forward to spending my final semester of grad school in at Georgia Tech’s campus in Metz, France starting next week. I plan on traveling around Europe as much as possible while I’m there, and will hopefully do a better job of blogging too.

  • Beaverton, OR*
  • Seattle, WA*
  • Atlanta, GA*
  • Charlotte, NC
  • Chapel Hill, NC
  • Accra, Ghana
  • Sunset Bay, OR
  • Pickering, Canada
  • Waterloo, Canada^
  • Toronto, Canada^

One or more nights spent in each place, with the exception of day trips marked with a ^. Those cities marked with an * were visited multiple times on non-consecutive days.

Previously: 2010, 200920082007

My Year in Cities, 2010

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This year began with a flurry of travel for job interviews and grad school visits, and then was relatively quiet once I graduated and returned to Portland in the spring. In August, I moved to Atlanta to begin grad school, and finished the year off with some conference travel and tourism.

By the numbers, I didn’t fly nearly as many miles as I did last year, with a total of 40,340 miles flown. It was also the first year that I didn’t set foot in India since 2005. Even so, I can’t complain – it was a very enjoyable year.

  • Beaverton, OR*
  • Seattle, WA*
  • Stanford, CA^*
  • Mountain View, CA
  • Savannah, GA
  • Surrey, Canada
  • Vancouver, Canada^
  • Toronto, Canada
  • Pickering, Canada
  • Atlanta, GA*
  • Corvallis, OR*
  • Welches, OR
  • Santa Clara, CA
  • Santa Cruz, CA^
  • London, England*
  • Egham, England
  • New York, NY

One or more nights spent in each place, with the exception of day trips marked with a ^. Those cities marked with an * were visited multiple times on non-consecutive days.

Previously: 200920082007

How to Write a Personal Statement for Grad School

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This post is based on an answer I recently contributed to Quora. I’ve been wanting to write a comprehensive guide to computer science grad school admissions (like the ones by Mor Harchol-Balter or Justine Sherry) for a while now – rather than letting such a large task intimidate me any longer, perhaps it’ll actually happen if I post it in pieces.

By the time you begin applying to grad school, the single piece of your application that you have full control over is your statement of purpose. You can’t change the grades that are already on your transcript, and moreover, those only tell an admissions committee whether you’ve proven yourself to be a good student in the classroom. Similarly, your recommendation letters are another critical part of your application, but you probably won’t have much control over exactly what’s written in them.

Given this opportunity, don’t blow off the personal statement. Instead, use it to your advantage by covering important points that don’t surface elsewhere in your application. Here are the things I would include when applying to a research-oriented graduate program:

  • A research statement.
    This should comprise the majority of your essay. The reader is likely concerned with your ability or potential to conduct research, so hopefully you already have a successful track record of research and related coursework. Discuss what research you’ve done and things that you might be interested in working on as a graduate student.

  • Explain what motivates you to pursue graduate study.
    Are you looking for a career in academia or research? Did your previous research experience convince you to pursue a career in research? Do you want to teach as a professor? This is the place to say so.

  • Convince the admissions committee that you’re qualified.
    You should have already done this while covering the above points, and your recommendation letters and CV serve this purpose as well. Even so, address any remaining red flags that might be on your application. For example, if you are switching fields, you might want to explain why, and if your background doesn’t have an obvious alignment with your new interest, discuss what makes you qualified to enter the program (eg. a non-technical person entering computer science would likely require remedial courses to make up for the lack of technical undergrad training).

  • Explain why you’re applying to this particular school.
    You should explain why the school and program are a good match for you. What does this school offer you that others do not? How might the program help you fulfill your career goals? If there are individual professors whom you’re interested with working with, you might want to mention them and which projects of theirs interest you – this is a good way to nudge your application to their inbox even if they’re not on the admissions committee. Are there research papers from this school that have interested you? (If you put school-specific things in your essays, be careful to submit the right copy with each application!)

Another reminder that was mentioned on Quora is that this is very different from the essay you probably wrote for undergraduate admissions. A PhD admissions committee cares about your research abilities far more than it does about your quirky hobbies or childhood defining moments (unless they’re related to your research!). That said, it’s still used to evaluate your written communication skills, which are very important considering that your deliverables as a researcher will be in the form of publications, so take the time to exterminate any typos or grammatical errors from your essay.

Beyond this general advice, I highly recommend that you ask fellow students and friends in your discipline for their personal statements. If you’re working with students who are currently applying, volunteer to review each others’ drafts. In addition, get advice from people who are already graduate students – they were clearly successful at navigating the process you’re going through.

Good luck!

A Lesson in Brevity

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I recently sent Comcast an inquiry which said “I just signed up for service. What is my account number?” Their response, which follows, is so incredibly verbose that I feel compelled to share it with the world.

I must say, though, that my experience with Comcast in Atlanta has been nothing short of stellar. They installed service at my new apartment within a day, gave me a great deal, and I’m getting far more bandwidth than I was promised. No complaints so far, though I might have to send them a bill for the time it took me to read the email below.

My Year in Cities, 2009

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2009 is coming to a close, which means that it’s time for a recap of the year’s travels.

This was yet another year that brought many surprises. In January, I began working on MultiLearn as a capstone project in CSE 477. Thanks to very generous support from our advisors and sponsors, the project resulted in lots of travel. Combining those trips with a few others, I flew 79,661 miles this year, which falls well beyond my previous record from 2007.

Here are the cities I visited this year:

  • Beaverton, OR*
  • Seattle, WA*
  • Eugene, OR*^
  • Bangalore, India*
  • Mysore, India^
  • Ooty, India
  • Coonoor, India^
  • Mumbai, India
  • Corvallis, OR^
  • Doha, Qatar
  • El Dorado Hills, CA
  • Gurgaon, India*
  • Udaipur, India
  • Jaipur, India^
  • Agra, India
  • Berkeley, CA^
  • Noida, India
  • New Delhi, India

One or more nights spent in each place, with the exception of day trips marked with a ^. Those cities marked with an * were visited multiple times on non-consecutive days.

Previously: 2008, 2007

Homelessness in America

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Earlier this month, I had the incredibly humbling experience of attending a presentation by Mark Horvath, creator of, who has dedicated himself to sharing the stories of homeless people in America.

Like many others, my interaction with homeless people has generally consisted of me walking past them on the streets of supposedly thriving cities like Seattle and Portland. What’s more, most of us have adopted a negative stereotype towards the homeless, having dealt with relentless beggars, witnessed drug addicts, and read stories about people who make thousands by begging at highway onramps.

Mark turns that stereotype around by sharing just a few stories. In actuality, it turns out that the vast majority of the homeless are honest everyday people (many are children) who are trying to get out of difficult circumstances. Below are a couple videos he shared – hopefully they’ll be enlightening for you too.

If you’re like me, after watching these videos, you’ll be left wondering how you might help. I know of a couple options: If you want to help raise awareness, you can support Mark’s InvisiblePeopleTV RoadTrip, through which he’ll be sharing stories from across America over the next month. If you want to take a more direct approach, check out’s list of non-profits that are working for this cause.

Questions, comments, reactions, criticisms? Leave them all in the comments below.

My Favorite Talks From Ignite Seattle 6

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Over the past couple years, I’ve attended a few events hosted by various members of the Seattle tech community. Most of them are focused on running and promoting startup companies, but last month I had the chance to attend one that was purely centered around encouraging creative expression: Ignite Seattle.

If you aren’t familiar with Ignite, it’s a series of talks which are 5 minutes presentations, each with 20 auto-advancing slides. People are free to talk about whatever they want, since the goal is simply to share exciting and entertaining ideas with the community. Here’s a meta-talk by Scott Berkun about the format:

I could fill this space with more uninteresting text. Instead, I’m going to share some of the talks I enjoyed. Have fun watching, and hopefully you’ll quickly see why you should come along with me to the next Ignite, whenever that may be.