Friday, December 30, 2005

Southwest U.S. trip report

Christmas break is off to a good start as my family went to the Southwest U.S. just after the semester ended. We left on the 23rd and got back last night. It was one of our best vacations ever!

Day 1

The first leg of the trip was a long drive to Las Vegas. This was pretty exhausting as we did it all in one stretch. On the bright side, the traffic along the way was mostly smooth.

Our hotel for the next two nights was Treasure Island Hotel & Casino. One thing I loved about Treasure Island was the "Battle of Buccaneer Bay" that took place in the evening. However, the show has been replaced with one called "The Sirens of TI." Perhaps I'm old-fashioned, but the old show was better. It was kind of sad to see that the pirate battle was no more. I guess sometimes change is inevitable.

The other thing is that Internet access was expensive. I didn't feel like spending an extra $10 per day just to browse the web and decided to go without the Internet for the next two days. If only I knew how to use a cell phone as a modem...

Day 2

I was watching TV after breakfast when an infomercial for foot pain relief products caught my attention. One of the stores happened to be in the area. We decided to get a quote as Mom is still recovering from a foot surgery in spring. She ultimately wasn't interested because the prices were very high. The manager was visibly upset even though we merely said we needed time to consider. Damn, people are greedy these days.

The three of us went to the Las Vegas Strip in the afternoon to check out the new casinos as well as revisit old ones. The Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas and the Fountains of Bellagio were especially impressive. I also had a great time browsing the shops. The only downside is that the prices were insane.

Day 3

The main stop of the day was Flagstaff. Though it was well past noon when we arrived, most of the restaurants were still open. There was an Italian restaurant that immediately caught my eye. I wanted to have lunch here, to which my parents agreed. The food was pricey but delicious, especially the squid ink pasta.

It was then time to see what the rest of Flagstaff had to offer. I really enjoyed checking out the shops in the downtown. Other than that, the evening was uneventful aside from a trip to the supermarket for groceries. We had frozen meals and rice noodles dinner before calling it a night.

Day 4

Dad took us to Petrified Forest National Park after breakfast. The place is named for its large deposits of petrified wood. They were a fascinating sight.

The plan was to visit Meteor Crater next. But having been there before, all of us wanted to go somewhere else instead. So we ended up stopping at the Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site in Ganado. The trading post was a cozy little place, although we were short on time and didn't stay long.

Our hotel for the night was in Chinle. I hate to say this, but the evening sucked. To save time, my parents and I had dinner at the on-site restaurant. However, the food was absolutely terrible - it was dry and barely had any taste. I don't think any of us were able to finish what we ordered.

Back in our room, I checked my grades and found out I didn't do as well in Music 26AC as I had hoped. The grade for Math 53 was better than expected, but still. To top it off, the malfunctioning heater it hard to sleep. I'm not going to lie - we briefly considered going home at this point. :-(

Day 5

Canyon de Chelly National Monument awaited us in the morning. The Jeep tour was a great way to see the canyon up close. At one point during the tour, two Native American girls came up to sell their crafts; though they didn't have anything we needed, Mom gave them a few dollars as encouragement.

The three of us headed back to Flagstaff after the tour. The dinner at Coco's Bakery was far better than what we had at the Holiday Inn in Chinle. This was overall my favorite day of the trip. It definitely cancels out what happened the day before.

Day 6

Aside from another quick stop in downtown Flagstaff in the morning, the day was uneventful as we had to drive 350 miles to Barstow. It was quite late when we arrived at the hotel. On the other hand, my parents and I had an excellent dinner at a Chinese buffet restaurant after checking in.

Day 7

One thing that surprised us is that there was almost no snow anywhere. Dad took a detour to Yosemite National Park in hopes of seeing the winter landscape, but there wasn't much snow in Yosemite either. I'm guessing the weather is just too dry this year. Yosemite was nevertheless a lot of fun; my family had a great dinner at the Mountain Room Restaurant before heading out. It was almost 11 p.m. when we got home!


The Southwest U.S. is one of my favorite places. The Jeep ride at Canyon de Chelly was highlight of the vacation. That was just an amazing experience. Though the fourth day kind of sucked, the rest of the trip was awesome. They say nothing is perfect. I can't argue with that.

In other news...

The distributed computing project GIMPS recently discovered the largest known prime number. This is exciting news as prime numbers are one of my interests. For those curious, the number is 2 raised to the 30,402,457th power minus 1 - a whopping 9,152,052 digits!

Currently listening to: "Gamble Rumble" by Move

Historical note: Pictures from the trip are available here.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

done with fall classes + upcoming family vacation

I finished my finals last week and am now relaxing at home. This is definitely my favorite time of the year!

However, the exams didn't go without a hitch. While they were all quite challenging, the more serious issue is that I almost missed the Physics 7B final because of a misunderstanding.

Prof. Liphardt had kindly allowed me to take the exam in a separate location due to my request for a low-distraction environment. Yet the proctor was nowhere to be seen when I got to the designated room. I had to walk all the way back to the regular location on the other side of campus to find out what was going on. By the time I got there, I was completely wet from the heavy rain. That certainly didn't help.

In any case, I'm glad the semester is over. The nice thing is that my family is leaving for the Southwest U.S. tomorrow morning. This is super exciting because the Southwest has always been one of our favorite travel destinations. Speaking of which, I'm off to pack my luggage. :-)

Currently playing: The Incredible Toon Machine

Wednesday, December 7, 2005

got 99 firemaking in RuneScape again

I just got level 99 firemaking in RuneScape a few moments ago. Click here for the screenshot!

You may remember that I got 99 firemaking in RuneScape Classic last year. Though I was mostly a RuneScape Classic player, I moved on after Jagex removed the free version in August. Seeing that I was already 95 firemaking in the main game, I figured I might as well go the whole nine yards.

The thing about level 99 stats is that they take many hours of grinding. Burning all those logs was extremely tedious, but my perseverance paid off. Speaking of which, I should probably spend at least as much effort in my studies. ^_^

Currently playing: RuneScape

Sunday, December 4, 2005

report of Friday's dance

"If you want to slow dance, you can do it in your room upstairs." -- the DJ

So there was a dance at Bowles called the Black & White Affair. It was kind of close to the finals, but what the hell. The event was all right but wasn't extraordinary by any means either. Here is my review of it if you're interested.

One thing I've noticed is that college students don't seem to like slow songs very much. Case in point, the crowd booed when the DJ decided to play one. The dance ended up not having any slow songs at all. While I believe the DJ should play what people want to hear, slowing down the music once in a while isn't going to hurt. After all, there are already plenty of fast tunes!

Some people did complain about the lack of slow songs as the dance ended, to which the DJ joked that they could slow dance in their dorm rooms. I'll have to admit that it gave me a good laugh, although it probably sucks for those who wanted to dance with that special someone. I guess people shouldn't have gotten so upset when the DJ tried to play a slow song. :-)