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

Monday, May 27, 2019

an eventful Memorial Day long weekend

I had a pretty good long weekend even though we didn't really go anywhere.

For starters, my boss told me I could go home early on Friday. Even though I was busy with a project and still had some work left to do, working from home is always relaxing.

Saturday

One nice thing that happened is that I got a new MacBook Pro to replace my old one. It's definitely much faster and lighter than my old laptop. But because the newer Macs don't have standard USB ports, we went to Fry's Electronics on Saturday to get a USB-C hub. This was followed by a stop at Home Depot for garden supplies. The nice thing is that they were giving away free hot dogs. Score!

I later watched the animated film The Red Turtle with my parents. The story didn't make much sense to us, we really liked the animation style. It was overall a good movie.

Sunday

Mom wanted to go to Costco for groceries after breakfast. I was a little busy and decided to stay home, but my parents still saved some samples for me. The three of us later watched The Old Man & the Gun together. It was hilarious even though it's supposed to be based on a true story. The movie somehow reminded me of Woody Allen's Take the Money and Run, which we wanted for Henry's film club a few years ago.

The other highlight is that I got level 99 Mining in RuneScape in the evening. Even though the game is much easier than it used to be, getting a level 99 skill is always exciting.

Monday

Today was less eventful as we already did a lot in the last two days. Although my parents decided to watch a few more movies, romantic dramas aren't really my cup of tea. Therefore, I spent most of the day finishing A Ladder to the Sky for my book club. All things considered, the Memorial Day long weekend was really nice.

Currently listening to: "Oh Happy Day" by Edwin Hawkins

Sunday, May 26, 2019

level 99 Mining in RuneScape

The long weekend has been great as I just got level 99 Mining in RuneScape. Here is the obligatory screenshot. Mining has historically been one of the slower skills, but the daily challenges and the Mining and Smithing rework has definitely made it easier. On the subject of which, I'm hoping to get 99 Smithing next. :-)

Currently reading: A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne

Saturday, May 25, 2019

a new MacBook Pro to replace my old one

I mentioned in my previous post that I was having problems with my old MacBook Pro. Dad took it to the Apple Store the other day and was told it had a bad logic board. This confirms my fears that it was a hardware issue. The other problem is that Apple doesn't support products older than seven years unless they have spare parts. After finding out a repair would cost several hundred dollars, my parents convinced me it would be better in the long run to get a new computer.

At any rate, my new MacBook is so much faster than my old one. The 8 GB of memory and 256 GB solid-state drive are pretty nice too. It also weighs just a little over three pounds, considerably lighter than my old laptop. I should mention that I use the same model at my job. This means I can quickly get up to speed with iOS app development without having to bring home my other work laptop all the time. :-)

The downside is that I'll have to install my programs all over again. On the bright side, recovering the data from my old MacBook Pro shouldn't take too long as the hard drive still works.

Currently watching: The Red Turtle

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Mother's Day weekend report

I had a great Mother's Day weekend as we had lunch in Half Moon Bay before going hiking in Fitzgerald Marine Reserve. This was refreshing as we hadn't done something like this in quite a while!

Dad figured most restaurants would be crowded on Mother's Day and suggested an early celebration. Therefore, my family went to Half Moon Bay on Saturday instead. I treated my parents to lunch at a seafood restaurant in Half Moon Bay called Ketch Joanne Restaurant & Harbor Bar. The food was pretty good and inexpensive compared to similar restaurants. But because everything was high in calories — especially the Louis dressing — we went for a walk around the harbor after lunch.

This was followed by a stop at Fitzgerald Marine Reserve. A family friend had told us about this place some time ago. We were there last month but decided to go there again as the views were quite nice. I'm glad we did because there happened to be an event celebrating the 50th anniversary of the reserve. All of us got some food even though we were pretty full. It was definitely a pleasant surprise.

Sunday was mostly uneventful as I was busy trying to repair my old MacBook Pro. The computer would frequently freeze before restarting on its own. The lack of any error messages makes it almost impossible to debug the issue. I first noticed the problem about three years ago, but now it's happening so frequently that the computer is barely usable. Looks like I'm going to have to take it to the Apple Store. Gotta love technology sometimes.

Currently listening to: Pachelbel's Canon by Johann Pachelbel