Wednesday, December 26, 2007

new deviantART account

Hey everyone, I just got a deviantART account. You can check it out here. There isn't much on it at the moment, but I'll add some more stuff soon. Stay tuned!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

back from Oregon

Christmas break has been great so far as my parents and I just got back from Oregon. Though our itinerary was simple due to time constraints, all of us enjoyed the beautiful scenery of the Pacific Northwest.

Day 1

The first leg of the trip was a 400-mile drive to Medford. The traffic was fairly light, but a problem with the snow tires caused some delays. It was already dark when we arrived at the hotel. Aside from watching The Incredibles on TV after dinner, the evening was uneventful as we were all tired.

Day 2

I saw Poseidon and X-Men: The Last Stand on HBO in the morning. While Poseidon was kind of lame, The Last Stand was awesome. The free cable TV is one of the best things about traveling, especially when there is little else to do.

The three of us went to KFC for lunch. The nice thing is that we received a free chocolate cake as part of a promotion. There was a family of four next to us, and my mother noticed that they were all wearing old clothes. We figured they were struggling financially and gave them our cake at Mom's suggestion. As you could imagine, that totally made their day. Sometimes happiness isn't about having fun, but bringing joy to others. :-)

Our journey brought us to Grants Pass in the afternoon. I enjoyed browsing the shops even though the prices were absolutely insane. One store had all sorts of fake food as well as real samples. It was hard to tell which were real without touching them. Further down the street was another store with a cat sitting in the window. Having seen all those fake items, I couldn't tell if the cat was real until it turned its head. That was a funny moment. On the whole, Grants Pass was my favorite part of the trip.

We headed back to Medford after a good laugh. There was some free time, during which we went to WinCo Foods for groceries. Back at the hotel, I watched Black Dog and Blood Diamond before going to bed.

Day 3

Time was tight as we had to drive another 400 miles home. Dad made a stop at the Shasta Outlets in Anderson so Mom could visit the Mikasa store there. However, she decided not to stay after finding out the store had permanently closed. This allowed us to get home a little earlier than expected, although I wish the trip didn't end so soon. ^_^


The trip was lots of fun even though we though we didn't visit many places. The Pacific Northwest is quite beautiful; the scenery alone made the trip worthwhile. I've posted a few pictures from our vacation here.

December 24 update: The pictures are now online. Go check them out!

Currently listening to: "Take a Chance on Me" by ABBA

Thursday, December 20, 2007

my favorite time of the year

I finished my last final two days ago and am now home for the holidays. This is definitely my favorite time of the year!

As for our plans, my parents and I are leaving for Oregon tomorrow morning. The other thing is that we have a big party planned for New Year's Eve. Speaking of parties, the Liang family has invited us to their house on the 5th. The next two weeks should be exciting. :-)

In other news...

Today marks the 11th anniversary of Carl Sagan's passing. He was one of the greatest minds of our time; the world just isn't the same without him. As a huge Cosmos fan, I had hoped to meet Carl Sagan when I was a kid. I guess some dreams don't come true. :-(

Currently playing: Peter Jackson's King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie

Friday, December 7, 2007

just another crappy dance...

The Frickin' Awesome Final Dance last night was anything but. While our events are usually great, this one was quite the opposite. It was supposed to begin at 9 p.m. and last until midnight, someone had forgotten about the quiet hours policy that begins at 11 p.m. during the last few weeks of the semester. When the mistake was discovered, the dance came to an abrupt end. Oops!

As you could imagine, most people weren't too pleased. Having a dance right before the finals probably wasn't such a bright idea after all. Be sure to read my review of the event; I'm sure you'll get some good laughs. :-)

Sunday, November 25, 2007

another gathering + the rest of Thanksgiving break

Just because we already had an awesome party doesn't mean the rest of the break wasn't fun. Case in point, my aunt Cynthia invited us over again last night. That was quite nice, especially considering that the Shiehs had to leave early on Thanksgiving.

Cynthia treated us to a hot pot dinner, after which Mom and I watched Ratatouille together. While I'm not the biggest fan of animated films, Ratatouille was pretty enjoyable. I also met Cathy's friend Jocelyn later in the evening, although the girls were kind of busy and I didn't want to bug them too much.

In any case, I should probably get back to studying now that the long weekend is over. After all, the finals are coming up soon!

Currently watching: Ratatouille

Thursday, November 22, 2007

an awesome Thanksgiving party

Thanksgiving was pretty great. Or at least it should have been, considering that my family just had a big party tonight. :-)

Our guests were the Shieh, Liu and Tsao families. This was my first time meeting Jerry and his sister Vivien. I had much in common with Jerry and Tony as we go to the same school. Go Bears!

All of the food was delicious, especially the turkey and stuffing. I also put on some music; the bluegrass album we bought on our trip to Colorado was a perfect fit and livened up the atmosphere. On the whole, everyone had an awesome time.

That said, this party was a bit shorter than our other ones. Aunt Cynthia and my cousins had other errands and were the first to go. The other families also left early to look for Black Friday deals. However, that doesn't mean we didn't have fun. I imagine New Year's Eve will be just as exciting.

On gratitude

Of course, Thanksgiving is all about being grateful. For starters, I'm blessed to have such wonderful family and friends. Another thing I'm thankful for is the 35+ mW green laser I won in August. Last but not least, my gratitude goes to the Tip.It community for having my back when my main RuneScape account got banned last month. You guys rock!

Currently listening to: "Take on Me" by a-Ha

Friday, November 16, 2007

80 crafting and 1,800 skill total + 70 smithing in RuneScape

I've been doing pretty well in RuneScape since getting unbanned. Case in point, I just got level 80 crafting and 1,800 skill total at the same time. Click here for the screenshot. Feel free to contact me in-game if you need any dragonstone amulets made. :-)

November 21 update: I just hit level 70 smithing as well. See the screenshot here. This means I can now make adamant bars without boosts. W00t!

Currently playing: RuneScape

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Veterans Day weekend report

I hope everyone had a great Veterans Day long weekend.

Saturday was pretty fun as we went to my aunt Cynthia's house for her 49th birthday. The best part was watching Transformers with my cousin Cathy after dinner. I had been looking forward to seeing this movie and finally got the chance. It was pretty hilarious despite the clichés.

The rest of the break was uneventful as I've been extremely busy with my IEOR 160 project. On the other hand, Thanksgiving is just a little over a week from now. :-)

In other news...

I got level 83 hunter in RuneScape this afternoon. Dragon implings better start watching out!

Currently watching: Transformers

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

RuneScape account unbanned!

Good news: my RuneScape account has been unbanned. Someone at Jagex must have reviewed my case again because I never submitted my final appeal. The bad news is that I now have 10/10 black marks, not to mention that Jagex has removed my player moderator status.

Of course, I shouldn't have been banned in the first place. I'm going to see if Jagex will reinstate my player moderator status and seven days of membership, although I won't hold my breath. However, that's a relatively minor issue as getting my account back is the most important thing.

November 7 update: The black marks have been removed. W00t!

November 8 update: Jagex said they won't return my lost membership. Given that the ban was in error, this is completely unreasonable.

November 10 update: I'm getting mixed answers from Jagex with regards to regaining my player moderator status. One J-mod told me I had to earn their trust again, but another said it was "very unlikely" to happen. That doesn't sound too promising. On the bright side, at least n00bs won't mistake me for Jagex staff anymore. ^_^

Currently playing: RuneScape

Saturday, November 3, 2007

update on RuneScape ban

So my main RuneScape account was recently banned for allegedly hacking another player. I did some investigation of my own and have an idea of what happened.

Several days ago, my suitemates invited some friends over to play video games. I noticed one of them had RuneScape on his laptop. After I mentioned that I played RuneScape too, the two of us went to my room to show each other our characters. He then insisted on a duel; though PvP isn't my cup of tea, I begrudgingly agreed and ended up winning about a million GP worth of items.

In a surprising turn of events, the guy came over again last night. When I told him my RuneScape account was banned, he admitted that the character he showed me belonged to someone else. I was too shocked to ask any questions, but that explains everything. In any case, I can see why Jagex thinks I'm the culprit, especially considering that the guy briefly logged into the account on my computer.

Speaking of which, my appeal was denied. Big surprise. While there is a final appeal available, I want to think it over before submitting it. In the meantime, I've posted more details in this thread at the Tip.It forums. Please go there for the latest information.

Currently watching: The Da Vinci Code

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

RuneScape account banned :-(

I logged into RuneScape yesterday to find that my account had been disabled. A message from Jagex said I was banned for allegedly hacking another account.

As you could imagine, this was a most unpleasant surprise. There is little to gain from stealing some random guy's crap. I know Jagex sometimes makes mistakes, but this is beyond ridiculous. Anyone who thinks a player moderator and seven-year veteran would hijack accounts needs their heads checked.

I'm going to submit an appeal in the next few days and hope someone actually responds. Until that happens, I'll be playing on my backup account Ixfd64 Rs2 in the meantime. *crosses fingers*

Currently playing: RuneScape

Sunday, October 28, 2007

on college dances and class IIIb lasers, part deux

I just got back from the Monster Bash a few hours ago. The residential staff joined forces with Cal Dining in organizing this dance. It was much better than the Dance & Casino Night on the 11th. You can can read my review of the Monster Bash here.

Of course, I just had to show off my laser again. The cool thing is that there was a fog machine. I was able to create the liquid sky effect by waving the laser around. That looked pretty awesome, although it was nothing like a real laser show. While there were also some black balloons, the laser only made one of them slowly deflate. Oh well.

The thing about being a laser enthusiast is that you can never have enough power. I've wanted a laser that could burn ever since receiving my Core in June. But now that I have this 35+ mW laser, I'm really hoping to get a 100+ mW one in the future. Talk about being spoiled. :P

Friday, October 12, 2007

on college dances and class IIIb lasers

I just got back from the Dance & Casino Night. The dance wasn't quite as fun as the one last October but was nonetheless enjoyable. You can read my review of the event here.

Like last year's event, this one didn't have any slow songs either. I guess most college students aren't very romantic. I've always wanted to ask a girl to dance with me, but that would be extremely awkward when there is no slow music.

On the bright side - no pun intended - I got to show off my new green laser at the dance. The cool thing is that I bumped into another guy who said he owned a similar laser from DealExtreme. It's always nice to meet fellow laser enthusiasts. :-)

Currently listening to: "Yatta!" by Happa-Tai

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

happy 22nd birthday to me!

I just turned 22 years old. It's hard to believe an entire year has passed since I reached the legal drinking age. Where does time go?

I'm at Berkeley right now and likely won't do much besides study for my classes. On the other hand, I did have a nice dinner with my parents a couple of days ago. In any case, happy birthday to me and everyone else born on October 10. :-)

In other news...

The Cal Alumni Association is having its second Dance & Casino Night tomorrow. I'm so excited!

Currently playing: The Impossible Quiz 2

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Looking for a legitimate rewards program? Check out QuickRewards.

I've written a review for an awesome rewards program called QuickRewards. I highly recommend this website.

A online rewards program that's legit? You bet!

Two years ago, I was looking for a way to pay for my RuneScape membership when I turned to online rewards programs. These are websites that pay users to watch videos, take surveys and sign up for services. However, making money this way is easier said than done. Out of the programs I've tried, many had high minimum payouts or didn't support PayPal. Others turned out to be scams. I never received a single dime from any of them. But all that changed when I discovered QuickRewards.

There's a good reason not to judge a book by its cover. Though its website may appear dated, QuickRewards features deals and freebies from many partners. The best part is that it supports PayPal and has no minimum payout. I was skeptical at first but actually got paid!

In addition to cash, users can also redeem their credits for gift cards and merchandise. QuickRewards has an excellent customer support team; I've always gotten prompt responses to my questions. The only downside is that only U.S. and Canadian residents are currently allowed to sign up. It's possible to get around this restriction with a fake address on PayPal, but do so at your own risk.

While QuickRewards itself doesn't send out spam, you can still get lots of bulk e-mail from third parties. I recommend using your real e-mail address when creating a QuickRewards account and a temporary one for everything else. A list of disposable e-mail services is available here.

On the whole, I think QuickRewards is the best online rewards program available. If you ever need to make a quick buck on the Internet, QuickRewards should be your first choice.

Final verdict: 92%
Highs: Legitimate; no minimum payout; numerous offers; lots of rewards
Lows: Restricted to U.S. and Canadian residents; dated UI; possible to get lots of spam
Bottom line: QuickRewards is certainly an exception to the "too good to be true" rule. You won't regret signing up.

Full disclosure: This is my entry for a blogging contest held by QuickRewards.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

maybe I have a good laser after all...

I posted yesterday about how my new green laser might be defective. As it turned out, this may not actually be the case.

The beam was even dimmer today than it was the day before. However, that changed when I replaced the Duracell Coppertop batteries with Duracell Ultras. The laser is now able to sting my skin and light matches as expected. This was rather unexpected given that both types of cells have the same voltage.

It's still too early to tell whether the laser is bad. Just because it's performing well right now doesn't mean the power won't drop again. All I can do is wait and see what happens.

I do hope the issue was with the batteries and not the laser itself. If that's the case, then the only problem is that good batteries are expensive. Some hobbies just aren't cheap. :-(

back to Berkeley for my senior year

I just finished moving back to Berkeley with the help of my parents. Unlike our previous move-in days, this one didn't go without a hitch.

Dad was afraid there wouldn't be enough room in my dorm for my laptop and decided to bring an extra table from home. The table was too big to fit inside the car and had to be tied to the roof. Being a little worried it would become loose, my father stopped a total of five times along the way to make sure it was secure. Perhaps we were paranoid, but it never hurts to be careful.

We arrived at Unit 4 to find the main gates locked. The staff apparently weren't doing their job. Dad had a busy schedule and was understandably annoyed. Luckily for us, someone saw us a few minutes later and let us in.

It's hard to believe I'm already a senior in college. While I wish my break was just a bit longer, I'm also excited to meet new people. I look forward to all the wonderful things in store.

Currently listening to: "A Beautiful Day" (Nordic Beatz remix) by DJ Splash

Saturday, August 25, 2007

possibly some bad news about my new laser

Two days ago, I received a high-powered laser after winning it in a contest. It could pop balloons, light matches and sting my skin. This is consistent with the abilities of a 75 mW laser. Yet none of these things are happening anymore.

From what I've been told, lasers often have a high initial output that gradually stabilizes. This is known as the burn-in period. However, I have reasons to suspect the laser is actually defective.

The inverse-square law means the apparent brightness of a laser is proportional to the square root of its power. Because my laser is now only slightly brighter than my 5 mW one, the output is probably around 15 mW at most. In an ironic twist, my originally overpowered laser is now underperforming. I did some research and have an idea of what happened.

Caution: technical details ahead

Green lasers have four main components: the potentiometer, pump diode, and Nd:YVO4 and KTP crystals. The potentiometer controls the voltage of the 808 nm pump diode. The Nd:YVO4 converts the light from the pump diode into 1,064 nm light. The KTP then doubles that into the 532 nm green light we see.

The potentiometer in my unit was likely turned up to the maximum. This would account for the high initial output. However, the crystals likely overheated and quickly burned out.

In any case, I'm heading back to Berkeley tomorrow. I know there are laser labs in the physics department. Perhaps I can find someone to take a look at my laser...

Currently listening to: Country Mountain Bluegrass by Green Hill Music

Thursday, August 23, 2007

I got another free laser!

I recently mentioned that I won another laser in a contest at Spectra Forum. Well, my new toy just arrived. :-)

Wicked Lasers generously provided two lasers for the drawing. Though they were supposed to be the 15 mW model, the company gave out the 35 mW version because the former was sold out. According to the guy running the contest, mine actually has an output of around 75 mW. Sweet!

As expected, this laser is much brighter than the Core I received back in June. It can light red and black matches with a convex lens and pop balloons unassisted. Against my better judgment, I shined it on my finger and felt a sting after a few seconds. I definitely can't wait to bring it to parties. xD

Another nice thing is that the package included a pair of LaserShades. Laser safety is extremely important because any laser can easily cause eye damage. The goggles didn't come with a cleaning cloth, but that's hardly anything to complain about.

All that having been said, I'd like to thank Ben for hosting the contest and Wicked Lasers for making it possible in the first place. You can see pictures of my new laser here.

Update: I've posted reviews of the laser and goggles.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Colorado trip report

"If for some reason, the flight becomes a cruise..." -- United Airlines crew member, on water landings

I came back from Colorado early this morning. It has to be one of the most amazing places we've ever visited. The trip was a great way to end the summer.

Day 1

The flight to Denver was in the afternoon, leaving lots of free time. Dad took us to Stanford Shopping Center so my mother could redeem a Macy's coupon. Speaking of which, she also had a voucher for a free Chocolixir from the Godiva store. Sweet!

Upon arriving at Oakland International Airport, my family had lunch at a Mexican restaurant as it was around noon. The flight was mostly uneventful, although the flight attendant going over the emergency procedures was hilarious. Given that it was past 10 p.m. when we landed in Denver, my parents and I went to bed after arriving at the hotel.

Day 2

The day began with the Hammond's Candies factory tour. It was interesting to see how hard candies are made. That was a neat experience - aside from having to wear a silly hat. There were also free samples, but only two pieces per person. Stingy bastards.

We checked into our hotel in Estes Park before exploring the area. The town was absolutely beautiful, especially in the fog. The place reminded me of our stay in Canmore six years ago. I wish we had a few more days here.

Our stroll was cut short by a sudden thunderstorm. The weather was intense; there was thunder and lightning every minute or so. This was kind of scary but also made our stay in Estes Park much more memorable. The storm subsided almost as quickly as it had appeared, after which we went outside again to enjoy the fresh air.

Mom and I watched Mr. & Mrs. Smith on HBO later in the afternoon. It was funny and stupid at the same time. I also saw Solar Attack and The Volcano Disaster on the Sci-Fi Channel after dinner. They were pretty much on par with other made-for-TV disaster movies. I liked Solar Attack better but missed the ending because Dad insisted on going to the spa before it closed. Oh well.

Day 3

Rocky Mountain National Park awaited us in the morning. Though I had often seen pictures, this was our first time here in person. The scenery was better than anything in the Bay Area. I could spend the whole day here.

Before leaving, my parents and I stopped at a gift shop and bought two CDs: Country Mountain Bluegrass by Green Hill Music and The Sounds of the Rocky Mountains by Orange Tree Productions. I loved both albums and would have bought more if they weren't so expensive. Perhaps I should start checking eBay or something.

Our final destination of the day was Frisco. Great views aside, there was nothing special about this town. On the other hand, I spent the afternoon watching MythBusters on the Discovery Channel. MythBusters is easily one of my favorite TV shows.

Day 4

The highlight of the day was the Royal Gorge Bridge. At 1,053 feet above the Arkansas River, the bridge is the highest in the United States. The gorge was an incredible sight, although not for the faint of heart!

We browsed the stores and had lunch at one of the restaurants. The weather was fairly warm but not unbearably hot. On the whole, the Royal Gorge Bridge was my favorite stop. The funny thing is that we almost turned back at the entrance because it looked unassuming from the outside. I guess that's why they say not to judge a book by its cover.

Our last stop of the day was Colorado Springs. The 2005 remake of Assault on Precinct 13 was on HBO. I only saw the last 20 minutes of the movie but really enjoyed the action.

Days 5 and 6

The three of us went on the Patsy's Candies factory tour after breakfast. In my opinion, this tour was better than the one at Hammond's Candies. The samples were more plentiful and tasted better too. Hammond's Candies has a lot to learn from its competitors.

Our last stop in Colorado was the United States Air Force Academy campus. Security was tight as this was considered a military installation, but people here were very friendly and down-to-earth. The Cadet Chapel was closed for a private event but still made for some nice pictures.

It was then time to return to Denver International Airport for our flight home. One thing I wanted to do was visit Mrs. Tseng, one of my math teachers from LAHS who now lives in Aurora. However, this wasn't possible due to time constraints, not to mention we didn't even have her contact information on hand. Oh well, that's something to consider for a future trip.

We arrived home about 10 minutes after midnight due to unexpected flight delays. I guess that technically makes the trip six days long. All of us were completely exhausted and went to bed after unpacking.


On the whole, this was one of our most memorable vacations. I had no idea Colorado could be so beautiful. The best part of the trip was the Royal Gorge Bridge, although Estes Park comes a close second. The memories from this trip will last years. Feel free to look at the pictures.

At any rate, I should probably start preparing for my classes as the fall semester begins on the 26th. It has definitely been an awesome summer!

Currently listening to: The Sounds of the Rocky Mountains by Orange Tree Productions

Thursday, August 16, 2007

done with English N132

Today was the last English N132 lecture. Unlike the class I took last summer, this had a final exam. However, I don't think I did too badly on it as Prof. Loewinsohn was nice enough to give us a list of possible questions. If only more professors would do this. ^_^

In any case, I'm glad summer school is over. Speaking of which, the class also fulfilled my humanities requirement. W00t!

In other news...

1. I'm leaving for Colorado with my parents tomorrow afternoon. This will be our third trip of the year. To be honest, sometimes I think we travel too much...

2. I recently won another laser in a random drawing at a website called Spectra Forum. This one is more powerful than my 5 mW core and should arrive in the mail in a few days. I can't wait to add it to my collection. :-)

Currently reading: Light in August by William Faulkner

Friday, July 20, 2007

move over, Ars Technica, ArsGeek is here!

There's a new website called ArsGeek that's making the waves.

ArsGeek features news and reviews about software, hardware, movies, board games, gadgets and other neat stuff. It also hosts interviews with product designers. But wait, there's more. Users can chat on the forums, buy exclusive merchandise and submit art. You can even post classified ads for just $5 a week - which is much cheaper than advertising in a newspaper. I don't think you can get a better deal than that.

For those who need another reason to visit the website, the folks who run ArsGeek are giving away a 95 mW Evolution series laser from Wicked Lasers. If you haven't checked out ArsGeek yet, then you're missing out on a lot!

Full disclosure: This is my entry for the aforementioned contest.

Historical note: ArsGeek appears to be defunct. This post is kept online for historical purposes.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

fun without the fireworks

The 4th of July was pretty fun as the Shiehs invited us over for a barbecue. The Wu family and Cathy's boyfriend Chris were also there. It was a full house!

The party began early in the afternoon. I joined Cathy and her friends for a walk around the neighborhood shortly after we arrived. This was the perfect opportunity to get acquainted with Dr. Wu's children and Chris.

The kids then played Fuzion Frenzy on the Xbox before everyone gathered in the living room for the new James Bond movie. Being a reboot, Casino Royale was different from the rest of the series. I liked the older films better, but that's just me. Cathy also put on Hoot and Matilda as we ate dinner.

The downside is that I didn't get to light any fireworks. Because we're all extremely busy this summer, there was no time to go out and buy them. However, I'm not going to complain as the weekend was already quite awesome.

At any rate, I should probably get back to studying for my summer English class. After all, I do want to get a scarlet "A" on my Scarlet Letter essay. :-)

Currently reading: The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

English N132

So my summer English class at Berkeley just started. English has always been a tough subject for me because of the reading and writing assignments. The fact that English N132 is an upper division class certainly makes it more challenging.

The good news is that the class only meets Tuesdays and Thursdays. That means I won't have to stay in the dorms this summer. English N132 is also the last class I need for my humanities requirement. Oh yeah, and Prof. Loewinsohn is somewhat famous. :-)

Currently reading: The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Relay For Life

I participated in the local Relay For Life tonight. The event was hosted at my old high school. Though Mom was busy cleaning up the house, Dad and I walked several laps. We also bought two T-shirts to support the American Cancer Society in their fight against this terrible disease. Having lost family to cancer, both of us felt this was a worthy cause.

Currently reading: Moby-Dick by Herman Melville

Friday, June 22, 2007

Taiwan and China trip report

I just got back from East Asia with my mother. It was just me and her as Dad has to stay in China for business reasons. Though my family were only together half the time and never on the same flight, the trip was overall excellent.

Days 1 and 2

Dad was already in China but had arranged for a shuttle to take us to the airport. Mom and I arrived at SFO to find that our flight was delayed by an hour. I wouldn't be surprised if the TSA was responsible; they seem to have a penchant for causing problems for travelers. On the upside, that left plenty of time to check out the airport shops.

The in-flight entertainment on United Airlines was great. I saw Shooter, Bridge to Terabithia, The Number 23 and parts of Wild Hogs on the plane. The music library was pretty sweet too, although they kind of sucked. Other than that, I had a good time chatting with a flight attendant named Vaughn.

The plane finally landed at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport. Aunt Jill picked us up and drove us to her house in Tainan. Mom and I had some rest before going to a nearby grocery store for snacks. Trying new foods is always exciting!

Jill took us to see my uncle Harrison and cousin Lori after dinner. I didn't like what I saw at all: Harrison was in a very bad shape due to Parkinson's disease. He was extremely weak and could barely walk unassisted. It's hard to imagine being in his shoes. I hope someone will find a cure to this terrible disease.

The other thing is that the Internet connection at Harrison's house was extremely slow. Jill had lent her computer to a friend and didn't even have Internet access at all. However, that's something I can live with.

Day 3

The world-renowned National Palace Museum awaited us in the morning. Considered one of the must-see tourist attractions in Taiwan, the place was huge and had countless exhibits. I'm not that interested in historical artifacts but did my best to appreciate the local culture. I even ran into Vaughn and his crew there!

The bad news is that my aunt's car got towed just as we were leaving. Though Jill tried to haggle her way out of the fine as is commonly done in Asia, the towing company wasn't one to negotiate. The total fee was roughly NT$2,300 - which wasn't that much but still ruined our happy mood. Blah.

Jill took us to Danshui as the weather cooled down. Unlike downtown Taipei, Danshui was much less crowded and very relaxing. It made for an enjoyable stroll.

Mom and I visited Harrison again in the evening. The reason Jill didn't accompany us this time is that she and my aunt Phoenix don't get along well. Family drama sucks. :-(

Day 4

Our travels brought us to Hong Kong. Dad picked us up at HKG and took us to the Kowloon Shangri-La Hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui. This is probably the best hotel we've ever stayed at. For one thing, the upper floors had an excellent view of Victoria Harbour. There was also a snack bar that served free appetizers. To top it off, each room had jars of complimentary chocolates. Jill loved the candies so much that we gave her most of them.

Hong Kong was so big that it was hard to decide where to go. I suggested Hong Kong Disneyland but later changed my mind as Mom had heard it wasn't fun. Another place we considered was the Window of the World theme park in Shenzhen, but that was too far away. In the end, the decision was to stay in Hong Kong and check out the nightlife.

One thing we learned the hard way is that there are lots of scammers in China. Case in point, our taxi driver ripped us off. He told us the normal route to downtown Hong Kong was too congested and asked for permission to take a longer but faster route for a slightly higher fee. Dad agreed to this, and the guy added about HK$80 to the charge. To be fair, that technically wasn't a lie because "slightly higher" is open to interpretation.

On a more positive note, the dinner was great. We were exploring downtown Hong Kong later in the evening when we saw a crew from FX filming a show. Accompanying them were hot chicks with "free hugs" signs. I wanted to hug them but was too shy to do so - even though Jill went right ahead. I'm admittedly awkward around girls, especially in front of my parents. Feel free to laugh at me.

Day 5

We took the train to Shenzhen and met up with my cousin Tom. He drove us to his place in Dongguan after lunch to meet my aunt Yu-Hua and maternal grandfather Ching-Shang. Yu-Hua gave us a tour of the school where she teaches Chinese literature before treating us to fruits. I tasted pitaya and mangosteen for the first time. Yum!

Our hotel in Dongguan was also stunning. The most prominent feature was the huge swimming pool that resembled a small lake. While the weather was too cold for swimming, the landscape made for some great pictures. The lot also had some lily ponds and a botanical garden of sorts. It was just a beautiful place.

The day ended with dinner at a nearby restaurant. The food was plentiful, although most of the dishes were unappetizing.

Day 6

Tom's girlfriend Sarah came over for a visit in the morning. They make such a cute couple. :-)

We had breakfast with Tom at a nearby café before he gave us a ride back to Shenzhen. I was a little nervous about visiting Dongguan at first because of its high crime rate. Tom was actually robbed and badly beaten by three thugs a few months ago. Despite my reservations, our stay in Dongguan was uneventful.

Shenzhen had few attractions besides local markets and eateries. On the other hand, the food here was much better. One thing that caught my eye was the poorly translated English at the restaurant where we had lunch. I mean, the "north fried dumplings" and "chicken spring rolls bombing" sound delicious. :P

Day 7

It was time to fly back to Taipei. Dad is actually on a business trip and had to stay in China, leaving just me and my mother and aunt again. Jill drove us back to her home in Tainan before taking us to a local night market. I got to use an air gun for the first time; that was definitely a cool experience.

There was a little mishap: Jill accidentally crashed her car into the garage door as we returned to her house. The door sustained damage and wouldn't close. Two words: shit happens. The damage looked bad, but Jill's goddaughter's husband managed to fix it for her. Thank goodness!

Day 8

According to Chinese tradition, one is expected to honor their ancestors at least once. Therefore, the three of us went to the stupa where my paternal grandfather Bien-Chuan's ashes are kept to pay respects to him and my late maternal grandmother Pi-Tan. This was done by burning incense and joss paper.

Mom then took me to her friend Su-Hua's house in the afternoon. At five stories high, her home was huge and filled with books. All of us then went to a nearby park for a stroll. Su-Hua and her husband treated us to a wonderful dinner at one of their favorite restaurants before we headed back to Jill's place.

Day 9

The plan was to return to Taipei on Wednesday night, but Jill couldn't leave Tainan until early next morning. It was around 5:30 a.m. when we arrived in Taipei. Mom and I were totally exhausted despite getting a few hours of sleep in the car.

I'm glad I got some rest because my aunts Wei-Fang and Wei-Jen took us to Taipei 101 in the evening. This was my favorite part of the trip. Taipei 101 was so big that I didn't know where to begin. We did some window shopping before having dessert at a café. I was absolutely stuffed thanks to the generous servings. *burp*

All of us soon got tired from all the walking. It seems a single day here just isn't enough. Our last stop at Taipei 101 was a store on the ground floor that had all kinds of snacks exclusive to Taiwan. I couldn't resist the temptation and bought around 10 bags of potato chips and Doritos. Yeah, I'm spoiled. :P

Day 10

Mom and I spent much of Thursday packing up for our flight home. There was time to spare, during which we and Jill went to buy acupuncture equipment for Harrison. I also got a haircut at Mom's suggestion. Seeing that the weather was rather warm, my mother and I went to shop for frozen treats afterwards. The day ended with another nice dinner.

Day 11

The flight back to San Francisco was somewhat early in the morning. The two of us had a quick breakfast and bid goodbye to Jill before boarding our flight to San Francisco. It was another long ride, but The Astronaut Farmer, Breach and Ghost Rider kept me occupied. I also got caught up on some sleep.

Of note is that I bumped into Vaughn a third time. Talk about a small world. Perhaps our paths will someday cross again. Who knows?


On the whole, the trip was nothing short of amazing. The weather was hot but wasn't too bad for the most part. While the actual temperature wasn't particularly high, the humidity made it seem otherwise. I enjoyed Jill's company - even though she was damn pushy at times. Traveling with others always makes vacations more exciting. You can view my photos from the trip here.

The biggest problem now is the jet lag. I hope I can get enough rest before my summer English class starts on the 26th.

June 24 update: The photos are now online.

Currently listening to: The Definitive Collection by ABBA

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

an exciting summer

So we just got back from a short but fun-filled trip to Ukiah over the weekend. Yet the summer has only just begun.

To start off, my mother and I are leaving for Taiwan and China on the 12th. Though Dad will be in Asia as well, his itinerary is largely different from ours due to business reasons. However, that's not a problem because we'll still spend time together. In any case, I'm greatly looking forward to the trip.

The original plan was to go to Yellowstone National Park and the Upper Midwest, but we couldn't book any flights to Rapid City with our miles. This is the perfect opportunity to visit Taiwan anyway as we hadn't been there in over seven years. Having said that, my family still plans to visit the Upper Midwest next year. :-)

I'll have to take English N132 at Berkeley later in June. English isn't my favorite subject, and the fact that this is an upper-division course certainly adds to the challenge. On the bright side, English N132 is the last class I need for my humanities requirement.

Last but not least, my father has plans for another trip before the end of August. All in all, summer should be exciting.

Currently watching: Moby Dick

Sunday, June 3, 2007

report of our first summer trip

Summer is off to a good start as my parents and I went on a one-night trip to Ukiah over the weekend. The vacation was quite enjoyable despite being only two days long.

Day 1

Our primary stop of the day was the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas in Talmage. The place hadn't changed much at all since our last time there several years ago. We participated in some of the Buddhist recitations before heading to the dining hall for lunch. Having always appreciated this place, my family gladly made a donation before leaving.

The rest of the afternoon wasn't too eventful as it was fairly hot outside. On the other hand, the hotel had a nice Wi-Fi connection. I took the opportunity to watch a few episodes of MythBusters on YouTube. That show is just awesome.

Day 2

The three of us explored downtown Ukiah before heading to Richardson Grove State Park around noon. The trails were beautiful and perfect for hiking. This was the best part of the trip. Dad soon started getting hungry - and it was well past lunch time anyway - so we left to grab some food.

There was lots of free time in the afternoon, during which we went to nearby Smithe Redwoods State Reserve for another hike. Though its scenery wasn't as impressive as that of Richardson Grove, the park also had some great trails. Yet all good things must come to an end: seeing that it was getting dark outside, Mom figured it was best to start heading home.

All that having been said, this trip was overall quite amazing. The nice thing is that we have plans for one or two more vacations later this summer. I can't wait. :-)

Currently listening to: "Like Toy Soldiers" by Eminem

Friday, June 1, 2007

I got a free laser from Wicked Lasers!

I just received a free Core series laser pointer from Wicked Lasers. The company has been giving them out to established users of their forum as part of a promotion. Unlike most laser pointers, the Core emits 532 nm green light. The dot is super bright because the human eye is much more sensitive to green than red.

The only issue is that the laser came in a cheap cardboard case. But considering that I got the $40 laser for free, I probably shouldn't be complaining. In any case, I'd like to thank Steve and the rest of the Wicked Lasers team for this gift.

In other news...

Dad is taking us on a trip to Ukiah tomorrow. This will be our first time there in many years!

Update: I've posted a detailed review of the laser here.

Currently watching: The Accidental Spy

Saturday, May 19, 2007

on chocolate and berries

Today was pretty fun as we went on a day trip to Central California.

Our first stop was the Oakdale Chocolate Festival. The entrance fee of $15 per family was a little steep, but we figured we might as well check it out. Yet there was nothing special about the event. From what we could tell, most of the vendors had nothing to do with chocolate. To be honest, I don't think it was worth the $15 fee.

We later headed to Pease Rance in Brentwood to pick cherries and olallieberries. This was really exciting as we hadn't been to a U-pick farm in over a decade. The three of us then had an early dinner at a Mexican restaurant before returning home.

Though the chocolate festival was disappointing, the day trip was overall enjoyable. The nice thing is that we have another one planned for tomorrow. Summer is definitely off to a good start. :-)

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

summer break is here!

Holy crap, I didn't expect this semester to end so soon. These four months seemed like mere weeks. In any case, this means summer is here. W00t!

The only question is whether I did well on the Stat 134 and IEOR 162 finals. I guess I'll find out soon enough. *fingers crossed*

Update: I must have aced the Stat 134 final because I got an "A-" for the course. Sweet!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

level 99 fletching in RuneScape + fletching training guide

I just reached 99 fletching in RuneScape this afternoon. Click here for the screenshot. Woohoo!

In addition, my friend Sarah_Devil0 has posted a video of the moment on YouTube. Sarah is a talented video maker with 99 fletching and woodcutting. I didn't want to buy the cape at first because every Tom, Dick and Harry has one, but Sarah kind of forced me to. Those things aren't cheap. ^_^

Getting from level 73 to 99 took about two months. Though this was by far my quickest 99 ever, mastering a skill still requires lots of grinding. I'd like to thank my friends for their encouragement and everyone who sold me supplies. There are way too many people to name, but you know who you are. :-)

While I haven't decided on my next goal, I'm considering going for 70 smithing and 99 woodcutting after my membership expires. In the meantime, I'll likely work on slayer or farming. However, I don't think I can do so much clicking again anytime soon. :-)

For those of you who also have 99 fletching in mind, I've written a guide that you might find useful.

1. Logs to use

From my experience, the most efficient path to 99 fletching is as follows:

  • Level 1-10: bronze arrows
  • Level 10-25: regular longbows (u)
  • Level 25-40: oak longbows (u)
  • Level 40-70: willow longbows (u)
  • Level 70-99: yew longbows

The reason I stick to willow longbows is that willow trees are extremely common. Chopping your own logs also results in a substantial amount of woodcutting XP. On the other hand, purchasing supplies can greatly speed things up. You can often find cheap logs in general stores, especially in free worlds.

2. Profiting while training

Fletching is one of the most profitable skills in the game. Yew logs can be bought for 300-330 GP each while bow strings are around 200 GP each. Completed yew longbows are worth as much as 600 GP on the street. To maximize profits - or at least minimize losses - avoid stringing anything other than yew or magic longbows.

3. Optimizing clicks

Organizing your inventory can save considerable time in the long run. While it doesn't take long to move the cursor across the screen, the overhead adds up when you do the same thing over and over.

Because inventory items are consumed from the top down, I use the following arrangement: any placeholder item, 13 sets of bow strings and unstrung bows, and another bow string. You can then combine the last bow string with an adjacent unstrung bow with minimal mouse movement. Repeat this 13 times.

That should leave 13 empty spaces. Take out 13 more unstrung bows from your bank using the Withdraw-All option, deposit the completed bows and withdraw 13 bow strings in the same manner. This avoids the more cumbersome Withdraw-X option that requires entering a number.

4. Improving morale

Last but not least, don't give up on your goal. Level 99 skills require commitment, dedication and patience. Listening to music and chatting with friends can make the task less tedious. If it gets too boring, take a break and do something else. The required XP may be daunting, but you'll eventually get there. Good luck!

April 12 update: The video is now up.

Currently listening to: "Don't Stop" by ATB

Historical notes

1. This guide is obsolete, but the unofficial RuneScape wiki has an excellent one here.

2. The video is no longer available as Sarah took it down. Sorry about that. :-(

Sunday, April 1, 2007

not a bad spring break :-)

I'm now back at Berkeley as spring break has ended. The week started out well as Dad took us to Napa Valley and downtown Los Gatos. However, he also had to go on a business trip shortly afterwards. Because Mom doesn't like traveling when he's not home, the two of us didn't go anywhere else.

That said, the rest of the break was all right as I got to watch six movies on DVD. Of those movies, Ladder 49 and Paycheck were my favorites. Hide and Seek and 28 Days Later weren't too bad either, although Stealth and Eragon were somewhat lame. I love our local library because it has so much stuff.

The other highlight was the potluck lunch on the 28th. While the guests were mostly housewives, Tony came with his mother as he enjoys meeting new people. The gathering was pretty fun even though there was nobody else my age.

Last but not least, I played a bit of RuneScape during study breaks. I'm about three million XP from level 99 fletching and should get there in a few days. :-)

In other news...

I got a perfect score on my first Stat 134 midterm. W00t!

Currently listening to: "September" by Earth, Wind & Fire

Sunday, March 18, 2007

1,700 skill total in RuneScape

I just hit 1,700 skill total in RuneScape a few moments ago. Click here for the screenshot. The funny thing is that I didn't expect to reach this milestone so quickly. I guess it's not hard when you have three 99's and the materials for another. :-)

Speaking of which, my next goal is 99 fletching. I'm already about 37% of the way there!

In other news...

You may remember that I gave up going to a dance last month in order to study for an IEOR 162 midterm. That was an excellent investment as I did pretty well on the exam. No regrets.

Currently playing: RuneScape

Thursday, February 15, 2007

level 99 thieving in RuneScape

I just got 99 thieving in RuneScape a few moments ago. Woohoo!

While level 99 skills are quite common nowadays - not to mention that training thieving has gotten so much easier - I'm still proud of this achievement. I'd like to thank all of my friends for their moral support. You can view the screenshot here.

In somewhat related news...

One of my traditions is to host a RuneScape drop party on Valentine's Day every year. I was feeling a little more generous this time and dropped over two million GP worth of items at four different parties. Click here for the pictures!

Currently listening to: "Heaven" by DJ Sammy

Saturday, February 3, 2007

went to another crappy dance

I just got back from another dance at Berkeley that sucked. The event was supposed to have a "Havana Nights" theme, but the lack of Latin music suggested otherwise. To be fair, this isn't the DJ's fault as he wasn't notified of the theme beforehand.

On the other hand, there were no slow songs either. It's not just that the DJ didn't play any slow music - he didn't have any to begin with. Given the quality of the Asian American Association's other dances, I'm not exactly surprised. But I've got to admit - it was funny to see couples hug each other at the end of the dance to protest the lack of slow songs. ^_^

In any case, feel free to check out my review of the dance for more details.

In other news...

1. While there's another dance on the 9th, I'll probably skip that one as it's a bit close to my IEOR 162 midterm for comfort. As exciting as dances are, my academic performance is far more important.

2. I recently got RuneScape membership again. If everything goes well, I should reach level 99 thieving very soon!

Monday, January 22, 2007

level 70 crafting in RuneScape

I just got level 70 crafting in RuneScape after a two-month hiatus. This probably isn't a big deal anymore - especially considering that crafting is a piece of cake nowadays - but I'm still proud to reach this milestone. You can see the screenshot here.

At any rate, feel free to contact me in-game if you want any diamond amulets made. :-)

Currently playing: RuneScape

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

...and back to Berkeley again.

I just moved back to Berkeley as the spring semester has begun. Though I wish Christmas break was just a bit longer, all good things must come to an end. Oh well, time to move on.

As for the classes, I'm taking Education 98, Stat 134 and IEOR 162 this semester. Stat 134 doesn't seem too hard as I'm already familiar with the subject. On the other hand, the problems in the IEOR 162 textbook look pretty tough. Here goes nothing...

Currently listening to: "Chariots of Fire" by Vangelis

Monday, January 1, 2007

Happy 2007!

Time goes by so fast. It feels like 2006 has only just started. Can you believe 2007 is already here?

Party report

So we had a big party last night - or should I say last year. Our guests were the Liu, Lin and Wang families, and Prof. Lee and his wife. There was also a guy who crashed the party with one of the ladies. The more the merrier!

Because not everyone knew each other, the evening began with an icebreaker: people would introduce themselves and share their hobbies. I enjoyed seeing so many new faces. Speaking of which, Tony goes to Berkeley too. Go Bears!

It was then time for dinner. There was so much food that I was quickly full. The jalapeño potato chips we bought on our recent trip to the Southwest U.S. were a hit among the kids.

The other young people and I gathered in the living room for Spoons after the meal. Though I had never played it before, the game was so much fun. The guy that crashed our party happened to own a Baskin-Robbins store and treated all of us to ice cream. That was another highlight of the evening.

The only downside is that nobody stayed for the West Coast countdown. Our group parted ways as we left Baskin-Robbins. I had hoped people would remain until midnight, but apparently not everyone knows how to party like us. ^_^

In any case, my parents and I got home just before 2007 arrived. Then came the not-so-fun task of cleaning up. I ran a couple of miles on the treadmill afterwards to work off all those calories. On the whole, this was one of our most exciting gatherings ever. I'll probably have trouble sleeping tonight!

2006 in review

All in all, last year wasn't too bad. I'd say the highlight of 2006 was our trip to the Southwest. That was lots of fun even though Dad and I both got sick near the end. Our trip to far Northern California in June was also enjoyable.

The worst thing that happened was when my father got a bad case of shingles in October. I had never seen him in so much pain. On the bright side, the acquired immunity should prevent him from getting shingles again.

Goals for 2007

Of course, no New Year's Eve party is complete without setting goals for the future. For those curious, my resolutions for 2007 are to concentrate more in my academic studies and be a better person in general - after all, nobody is perfect. I'm also hoping to get level 99 thieving in RuneScape 2 and 1,300 skill total in RuneScape Classic soon. I know it's silly to have New Year's resolutions for video games, but what the hell. :P

At any rate, I'm about to go to bed as it's already past 2 a.m. Take care, y'all.