Thursday, October 10, 2019

a very happy 34th birthday

I just turned 34 years old. It was certainly one of my best birthdays ever!

One great thing is that our team at Intel regularly celebrates birthdays. They got me a pineapple cream cake and asked me to share my best birthday memory — which was my 20th for those curious. It's been a long time since I've celebrated a birthday with so many people. I definitely have the best co-workers. :-)

Although we didn't go to any restaurants this year, my mother made us a nice meal after I got home. Because we weren't sure whether the PG&E outages would affect us, she also made a delicious dinner for me yesterday as an early celebration. I'm blessed to have such wonderful people in my life.

Currently listening to: "Together Forever" by Rick Astley

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Intel Sports family picnic

Today was the annual Intel Sports family picnic. Considering that we didn't have one at my last job, this was my first time attending such an event in over two years. I definitely had a great time!

The event took place at Saratoga Springs. It's apparently a popular venue because Lab126 had events here too. Even two of my college friends got married at Saratoga Springs last year.

Although we're a fairly small group, many people from my team showed up. I was afraid my parents would feel awkward as the event was geared towards families with kids, but they enjoyed meeting my boss and co-workers. It definitely helps that Dad's first job was at Intel. Of note is that a few other people were also ex-Intel employees. Dad says it felt like a company reunion.

Like at similar events, there were games for both kids and adults. It was fun to watch the water balloon toss and the water relay race. Afterwards, there was a big water fight with squirt guns and more water balloons. I think I was wise to stay out of the crossfire!

On the whole, the picnic was quite enjoyable. It's certainly one of the best company picnics to date. I'm looking forward to next year's event for sure.


Currently reading: The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

level 99 Hunter in RuneScape

I got level 99 Hunter in RuneScape today after putting it off for a while. Here is the obligatory picture. Now that I've maxed 14 skills, I have less than half to go before getting my max cape. :-)

Of note is that I just had the completed the "Imping Around" achievement just moments ago. It's actually the XP lamp from Daffyd that made me level up. I'm really glad I didn't have to spend hours hunting for crystal implings. I love how things work out perfectly!

Currently listening to: "Poison" by Groove Coverage

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

finally got my own car

I recently bought a 2013 BMW 328i sedan. It's a used car, but the price was really good for its mileage. No doubt this is a major milestone in my life.

We actually first went to a used car dealer in Hayward last Friday Dad saw an ad for another car with an attractive price. Let me tell you that used car salesmen really are as bad as people say they are. The folks at the dealership were cordial at first but were very reluctant to let us take it to an inspector that we had known for years. They actually started insulting my father when he became suspicious. He wisely decided that we didn't want to do business with those jerks.

Dad later found a guy on Craiglist selling a much newer car for a similarly low price. I had my reservations about using Craigslist after hearing so many horror stories, but the fact that the seller suggested meeting at a police station suggested he wasn't a scammer. He turned out to be a really nice guy when we met in person. Although we didn't do a test drive, the car looked and felt really nice. It wasn't long before we decided to make the purchase.

I still have to complete some paperwork and get a smog check done, but I'm definitely looking forward to taking it out for a drive.

Currently listening to: "Gas Gas Gas" by Manuel

Monday, July 29, 2019

a very productive RuneScape double XP weekend

The recent RuneScape double XP weekend was pretty productive as I got the following achievements:


You can click to links for screenshots. I'm pretty busy in real life and don't have much time for video games these days, so this was quite nice for a change!

Currently listening to: "Starchild" by Wintersun

Sunday, July 14, 2019

another great summer road trip

This past weekend was also nice as we took my aunts and uncle on another road trip, this time to Reno and Yosemite!

Day 1: racing to Reno

We left around 8:30 a.m. so there would be plenty of time when we arrived in Reno. It was very hot when we arrived due to a heat wave, so the afternoon was eventful aside for a stop at Costco for dinner. The best thing about Costco's food court is that everything is cheap. I also got some ice cream bites at our hotel. It was a little expensive but quite refreshing in the hot weather.

Dad later took us to Atlantis Casino Resort Spa to play the slots. One thing I noticed is that the slots at Atlantis seem to be "looser" - that is, they have a higher payout percentage and allow you to play longer. I think we spent around three hours at the casino. This was the best part of the trip even though we didn't hit any jackpots. As the saying goes: the house always wins.

Day 2: cars and more casinos

Having had so much fun at Atlantis the day before, Jill and Yu-Hua wanted to check out more local casinos. Therefore, Dad took us to Harrah's Reno after checking out of the hotel. The slots here were "tighter" than those at Atlantis, but we still had a good time.

We also made a stop at Carson City to let my aunts see the Nevada State Capitol. It turned out the building is closed on weekends, but that wasn't a problem as we still got some pictures. We also went to check out the Carson City Downtown Revival Car Show in the downtown. Some of the classic cars were really cool.

It was then time to head to our hotel in Bridgeport. Because it wasn't a very long drive, Dad made another stop at a small casino in Gardnerville. We decided to stay here for a while as it was quite hot outside. Although we didn't win anything here either, this was a relaxing way to spend the afternoon.

Our hotel in Bridgeport was a nice lodge in the mountains. Though it didn't have the same amenities of our suite in Reno, the lodge was located right next to East Walker River and had great views. The plan was to visit Mono Lake after checking in, but we decided to save that for the next day as we were all a little tired.

Day 3: a hectic drive home

The day began with a stop at the Mono Basin National Forest Scenic Area Visitor Center. But because the car rental agency had a policy that returning the car after 10 p.m. would incur an extra day's charge, the plan was to get home before 9 p.m. Therefore, the six of us decided to skip Mono Lake and take pictures from a distance before heading directly to Yosemite.

Of note is that Yosemite National Park was very crowded this year. Because my aunt Yu-Hua and uncle Yeh-Wei had not been here before, Dad made sure to stop at the essential stops, such as Glacier Point and Bridalveil Fall. I had hoped to visit Soda Springs and Yosemite Village, but we decided to skip them due to time constraints. This was a bit disappointing that as I was really looking forward to seeing Soda Springs.

The trip home was uneventful besides a stop at Costco for gas and food. Dad then went to the airport to return the rental car. I helped with the unpacking before accompanying Mom to the airport to pick him up.

Conclusions

Vacations are always fun, but traveling with relatives makes them even better. Although my favorite part of the trip was playing the slots at Reno, I really enjoyed revisiting Yosemite as well. It's one of those places that never gets old. The only downside is that we we didn't get to go to all the places we wanted to see, particularly Soda Springs. As much as I want to go back to Yosemite, two trips there in such a short time is probably a bit excessive. :-)

Feel free check out the pictures from our trip.

Currently listening to: "I'm Gonna Make You Mine" by Lou Christie

Monday, July 8, 2019

Los Angeles trip report + congratulations to Andrew and Catherine!

"I'm not responsible if someone gets hurt." ⁠— me, after my cousins dragged me onto the dance floor

I had an awesome weekend as we went to Los Angeles for my cousin Cathy's wedding with my aunt Jill. Considering that we don't often get to see the Shiehs anymore, the family reunion was something I had been looking forward to for a long time. This was no doubt one of our best trips ever.

Day 1: a long-awaited family reunion

Dad wanted to start out early as the venue is over 360 miles from our house. Because there weren't many attractions along the route, our only stop along the way was Lost Hills for gas. The plan was to find a restaurant afterwards, but we decided to have a simple lunch in the car as there would so much food at the reception.

Due to the relatively light traffic ⁠— and our decision to not go to a restaurant ⁠— we arrived at our hotel much earlier than expected. Dad and I went to the front desk and were told that we could only check in after 3 p.m. However, management made an exception for us after hearing we had been on the road since 7 a.m. I truly appreciate their accommodation.

We had some rest before going to the nearby Longo Seafood Restaurant for the celebration. This was our first time seeing the Shiehs again since Connie's wedding five years ago. The reception began with a cocktail hour with appetizers and drinks. It was great to meet Cathy's husband Andrew and Connie's kids Dean and Desiree. I also got to meet Andrew's relatives and many of the couple's friends. The Frangos were especially friendly to us.

The MC invited the couple to perform their first dance before Andrew's and Cathy's relatives gave their toasts. They must have choreographed their dance because it was quite impressive. This was followed by a 10-course family-style dinner. Everything was absolutely delicious. The couple decided not to have a wedding cake, but that didn't make a difference because everyone was already full. There were actually enough leftovers to last us a few days!

The MC later asked everyone to gather together for a group picture before turning up the music and inviting people to dance. There were also games at each table, but people were more interested in dancing and socializing and barely touched the games. Connie and Cathy later insisted that I join them on the dance floor. Although I was very reluctant at first because I can't dance to save my life ⁠— especially when my RuneScape character is a better dancer than me ⁠— I eventually had to acquiesce. There was no way I was going to say no to my cousins. This turned out to be really fun and was the best part of our trip.

The only downside is that the dance ended early. Because many people have started leaving and the only ones on the dance floor were strangers, the couple decided to call it a day and suggested that we leave. This is unfortunate because there aren't many opportunities to dance outside of clubs, but the last thing we wanted was to make things difficult for the newlyweds.

Days 2 and 3: a sentimental farewell

All of us had trouble sleeping and ended up getting up around 6 a.m. There was more than enough time to get rest in our room. The breakfast at the hotel sucked as there were only pastries, but that wasn't an issue as we had leftovers from the night before.

We later headed to Griffith Park for the farewell picnic. I was pretty full from the leftovers and only had a single tamale and some drinks. However, there was more than enough time to chat with Andrew's and Cathy's friends. Even my parents had a great time talking to the Frangos. I also played Spikeball with the other young people. That was pretty fun.

As much as I wanted to spend more time with my cousins, all good things must come to an end. I'm not going to lie ⁠— three hours just weren't enough. Saying goodbye to the Shiehs and Frangos was the saddest part of the trip, especially knowing that it might be a long time before we see them again. I definitely hope they can visit the Bay Area in the not-too-distant future.

There was one place I wanted to visit before heading home: the nearby Griffith Observatory. Only Mom and I went in as Dad wasn't able to find a parking spot and Jill want to rest in the car. Therefore, I didn't want to stay too long and mainly focused on taking pictures. Of note is that the observatory is extremely popular during the summer. Getting from place to place was difficult due to the huge crowds. Where's Thanos when you need him? :-)

It was then time to head home after a busy trip. Because we left the observatory earlier than planned, Dad decided to use the extra time to take us to Costco after stopping for gas. I was getting a little hungry because I didn't eat much at the picnic, so we had some samples before continuing up north. The bad news is that there was much more traffic than we expected. The fact that there were no less than six accidents on I-5 didn't help the issue. On the bright side, we saw a colorful sunset on the way home. That was quite nice.

Mom and I went to In-N-Out Burger to get food after we stopped in Kettleman City for gas. The crazy thing is that both In-N-Out Burger and the nearby McDonald's were so crowded that people were sitting on the floor. This was like a scene straight out of a disaster movie. The good news is that there was little traffic for the last 100 miles, but it was still past midnight when we finally got home.

Conclusions

One thing that's hard to deny is that weddings are really fun. In addition to celebrating the love between two people, there's always great food and opportunities to socialize. Seeing my best friend get married was a most surreal experience. I'm so glad I got to celebrate Cathy's big day with her. On behalf of all of us, I'd like to congratulate the two and wish them all the best as they begin their life together.

Of note is that traveling to SoCal can be a pain in the ass. It would have been more relaxing to spend an extra day in Los Angeles, but we decided against it for several reasons. For one, Mom was concerned about the high crime rate and didn't want to stay longer than we needed to. She also needed to water our plants as our sprinkler system has been broken for a while. Perhaps the most important reason is that my current project's beta release is today and I wanted to be available in case any issues came up.

The not-so-fun part is that I have a bad case of the holiday blues. One thing for sure is that I'm already missing my cousins and our new friends. On the bright side, Dad is planning to take us on another road trip this coming weekend. So at least there's something else to look forward to. :-)

In the meantime, feel free to check out the pictures from the wedding and the rest of the trip.

July 11 update: the pictures are up.

Currently listening to: "Down" by Jay Sean