Thursday, August 27, 2009

new 200 mW laser

You probably won't believe this, but Wicked Lasers just sent me a really powerful green laser for free!

Some of you may have heard of a company called Wicked Lasers that sells high-powered lasers. The CEO has recently been sending samples to members of various forums in exchange for reviews. I was one of those who received the offer. This was just about the last thing I expected, especially considering that I've harshly criticized the company in the past two years.

The laser I received is the 200 mW model of the Spyder I Pro series. This thing is incredibly bright and actually burns stuff. I could play with it for hours. Unlike the previous laser I got from Wicked Lasers, the Spyder I Pro is extremely stable. I'd definitely like to thank Steve Liu for this amazing opportunity.

You can read my full and hopefully unbiased review of the Spyder I Pro at Laser Pointer Forums. I've posted the pictures and videos in this Flickr album. The videos are available on YouTube as well.

August 29 update: The review and media are now online.

Currently watching: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Monday, August 24, 2009

back from Napa and Carson City

"If you want to get a date, then you've got to know how to dance!" -- jazz festival host

Summer is ending on a good note as my family went on a road trip to Napa and Carson City over the weekend. It was a great way to unwind after a busy summer session. :-)

Day 1

The trip began on the 21st just before noon. The plan was to leave three hours earlier, but there was an assignment for FAIM 602 that I had stayed up past midnight to finish. Though it wasn't due until three days later, I felt it was better to get it out of the way first instead of worrying about it during the trip. Dad agreed and let me sleep in.

Our first stop was Szechuan Taste Restaurant in San Francisco for lunch. The food was somewhat overcooked but wasn't too bad otherwise. Muir Woods National Monument and the adjacent Mt. Tamalpais State Park awaited us in the afternoon. High temperatures aside, the beautiful trails made for a great hike.

The final destination of the day was Napa. Given there were few restaurants near the hotel, my parents bought frozen meals at a supermarket for dinner. Back in our room, I watched parts of The Seeker and The Dark Knight on HBO as we ate. The evening ended with a soak in the spa.

Day 2

All of us somehow woke up around 5 a.m. and were unable to sleep again. Deciding to make use of the time, my mother suggested taking a stroll around our hotel. The nice thing about getting up early is that the air is usually very fresh.

The three of us had breakfast before heading to the University of California, Davis. The reason for going there was to get a look at the campus. However, the place didn't seem very interesting - and the weather was uncomfortably warm - so we didn't stay long before returning to Napa.

Speaking of which, downtown Napa was quite nice. I had a great time browsing the Napa Farmers Market and other local stores. There were also countless wineries in the area, three of which we visited. I'm always open to exploring new places even though wineries aren't my cup of tea. It's one thing that makes vacations so much fun.

The drive to Carson City was mostly uneventful. Dad had seen an ad for a U-pick blueberry farm and wanted to take us there. Though we love to pick berries, the farm was closed for the day when we arrived. Oh well. On the other hand, my family had a nice dinner at Carrows in South Lake Tahoe.

We checked into our hotel in Carson City and had a short rest before going to a local jazz festival. There was a large variety of music as the event was open to both professional and indie groups. The host did his best to encourage people to get up and dance, but nobody did. That was a bit awkward.

Day 3

Dad took us to the historic Virginia City after we had a good night's sleep. I really enjoyed checking out the stores, museums and restaurants. The people dressed in period outfits were a nice touch. On the whole, Virginia City was my favorite of the trip.

The three of us went back to Carson City and had lunch at a casino. The food was delicious for its price. One thing I've noticed is that casinos often have cheap food. It's probably a gimmick to encourage people to stay.

We went for a stroll in downtown Carson City after lunch. Dad wanted to take a detour to Mono Lake and Yosemite National Park next but ultimately decided to go to South Lake Tahoe instead due to time constraints. The cool breeze from the lake was comfortable. I'd have stayed longer if Mom wasn't feeling tired.

The final stop of the day was WinCo Foods in Vacaville. The store had so much stuff that we spent around 90 minutes buying our groceries. Because it was already late, the rest of the drive was home was uneventful. We got home just as the clock struck midnight.


One thing I learned from this trip is that there are many things to do in Nevada. Our previous visits to Reno and Las Vegas had barely scratched the surface. Virginia City was my favorite stop, although I loved Muir Woods National Monument as well. The trip was the perfect way to celebrate my upcoming graduation. Be sure to check out the pictures from our vacation!

August 26 update: The pictures are online.

Currently watching: The Dark Knight

Saturday, August 15, 2009

finally done with college!

The CS 61A final was quite tough and took me almost five hours to complete. Though it was almost midnight when I was done, my family didn't get home too late because we did most of the moving two days ago. Assuming I didn't fail the class, then I'll be getting my bachelor's degree.

I'm not out of the woods yet as the classes at St. Mary's College of California started last month. While they aren't a walk in the park either, I can at least catch my breath. One thing for sure is that I'm going to miss college life. But at the same time, I'm extremely excited about what the future has to offer.

Update: The grades for CS 61A and Math 128A have been posted. I didn't do as well in Math 128A as I had hoped, but my GPA is good enough. That means I'll definitely graduate. Woohoo!

The bad news is that I won't be able to walk the aisle until next May as this year's commencement has passed. Of course, that's not too big of a deal - what matters is that I'm done with college. :-)

Currently reading: Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs by Harold Abelson