Thursday, August 27, 2009

new 200 mW laser

You probably won't believe this, but I just got 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 the lucky recipients. 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 pictures and videos at Flickr. The videos are also available on YouTube.

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. We left on the 21st and got back last night. This was certainly a great way to unwind after an intense summer session. :-)

Day 1

The trip began just before noon. The plan was to leave three hours earlier, but I had stayed up past midnight to finish an assignment for FAIM 602 and ended up getting out of bed rather late. Though the homework is actually due tonight, I felt it was better to get it out of the way first and not have to worry about it during the trip.

Our first stop was Szechuan Taste Restaurant in San Francisco for lunch. The food was somewhat overcooked but wasn't too bad otherwise. This was followed by an afternoon hike in Muir Woods National Monument. The trails were beautiful; the only downside is that it was kind of hot outside.

The final destination of the day was Napa. Seeing that there were few restaurants near the hotel, the three of us bought some frozen meals at a supermarket for dinner. We also watched parts of The Dark Knight on HBO as well as relaxed in the spa.

Day 2

All of us somehow woke up around 5 a.m. and were unable to sleep again. Figuring that we might as well make use of the time, my parents and I took a stroll around the hotel before coming back for breakfast. The nice thing about getting up early is that the air is usually very fresh.

The day began with a side trip to the University of California, Davis as we wanted a look at the campus. However, there wasn't much to do here as the school isn't open at this time of the year. We didn't stay long before returning to Napa.

Speaking of which, downtown Napa was quite nice. I had a great time browsing the stores and the Napa Farmers Market. There were also countless wineries in the area, three of which we visited. While wineries aren't my cup of tea, I'm always open to exploring new places. This was an enjoyable part of our trip despite the high temperatures.

Carson City awaited us in the evening. Dad had also seen an ad for a U-pick blueberry farm along the route, but it was closed for the day when we arrived. This was a bit of a shame as we love to pick berries. 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 also encouraged people to get up and dance - which nobody did. :-(

Day 3

Dad took us the historic Virginia City after breakfast. The town had a large number of shops and restaurants lining the main road. I enjoyed checking them out even though there wasn't anything we needed. I'd say Virginia City was the highlight of the trip.

The three of us had lunch at one of the casinos after getting back to Nevada's capital. The food was delicious despite the low prices. One thing I've noticed is that casinos often have cheap eats. They probably do this to encourage people to keep playing.

Downtown Carson City was another nice place for a stroll. Dad wanted to take a detour to Mono Lake and Yosemite National Park next, but we went to South Lake Tahoe instead after deciding the overhead was too high. The cool breeze from the lake was comfortable; I'd have stayed longer if Mom wasn't feeling tired.

As per tradition, the final stop was WinCo Foods in Vacaville. The store had so much stuff that we spent a full 90 minutes buying our groceries for the next few weeks. We got home just as the clock struck midnight.

Conclusions

Nevada is one of those states that we hadn't explored much, making this trip especially refreshing. Virginia City was overall my favorite stop. The hike in Muir Woods was also memorable even though the weather was pretty warm. Considering that I just finished college, there is no better way to celebrate!

I took a huge number of pictures despite the brevity of the trip. Go here to see them. :-)

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