Friday, December 31, 2010

back from Tahoe

Happy New Year's Eve!

I just got back from Tahoe with my parents. The trip was only one night long but lots of fun. I had suggested staying home in light of our current financial situation, but Dad was able to book a room at the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa and Casino in Incline Village for only $21 due to his Hyatt Gold Passport points. :-)

Day 1

The traffic on the way to Incline Village was mostly light. Having done most of the driving, I was a little tired when we arrived. Freezing temperatures aside, the evening was nice as we shopped at Raley's and tried our luck at the Grand Lodge Casino after dinner. The slots were the highlight of the trip even though we didn't win anything.

All of us ended up going to bed before 10:30 p.m. Shortly afterwards, Mom realized she may have forgotten to turn off the outlet valve after cleaning our swimming pool. Oh crap.

Day 2

The weather was great in the morning. The three of us took a stroll along Donner Lake before making a quick stop in Truckee. We decided to head home at this point as the Shiehs are having us over tonight. The only stop on the way was Roseville for groceries. This wasn't too bad as we went to three stores, namely Cost Plus World Market, Costco and WinCo Foods.

The plan was to have lunch at a local restaurant, but none of us were hungry anymore after eating a bunch of samples at Costco. The traffic was again light and allowed us to get home on time. The other good news is that Mom did remember to turn off the pool valve after all. That was no doubt a major relief.

Conclusions

On the whole, I really enjoyed this vacation. The best part was the slots even though luck wasn't on our side this time. You can go here for the pictures.

I'm also excited to celebrate New Year's Eve with my cousins. It's so nice to be invited to dinner right after coming home. :-)

Currently listening to: "When the Dream Ends" by Christopher Chua

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

congratulations, Lori!

I've received word that my cousin Lori just got married in Taiwan. So without further ado, please join me in congratulating her and Lawrence on their wedding. I wish the happy couple all the best in the years to come.

That makes three cousins on my mother's side who are now married, the previous being Anne and Tom. It's funny that Anne's husband is also named Lawrence. Judging by the pattern, I should be the next one to tie the knot. If only I wasn't single. ^_^

In other news...

Christmas break started for me on the 24th. Speaking of which, my family is heading to Tahoe tomorrow. I'm pretty excited!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

musings of a Cisco rookie

"You know you're out of college when... you go from 130 days of vacation time to 14." -- joke on the Internet

This was my first day at Cisco Systems. Hello, real world. For those wondering, I'm a software test engineer on the TelePresence team.

Though I only just started, I'm already loving my new job. Everyone is friendly and helpful; my mentors were more than happy to show me the ropes. While I have my own cubicle, most of our work is done in the labs. I've also been issued a ThinkPad W510 laptop. It has an Intel Core i7-720QM processor, 4 GB of RAM and 320 GB of storage. That's better than any of my computers at home. Last but not least, each building has its own cafeteria. They say Cisco is one of the best companies to work for. I can't argue with that.

Of course, the transition from the classroom to the office is no small challenge. The things I'll miss the most about being a student are the dances and month-long vacations; most jobs probably don't even have spring breaks. On the other hand, not having to cram for exams is nice. :-)

Strictly speaking, I don't work directly for Cisco, but as a contractor for a Santa Cruz-based staffing company called The Armada Group. This means my salary is lower than that of a regular employee as Armada has to take a cut. However, I'm certainly not complaining about finding work right after school.

Currently playing: Super Mario BP Oil Spill

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

done with classes at UCSC

The CMPS 101 final at UC Santa Cruz was last night. I hope I didn't bomb the exam as it was quite challenging. Considering that I did better than expected on the two midterms, maybe I shouldn't worry too much. In any case, the fall quarter is over!

Speaking of which, I moved out last Tuesday as my lease ended in December. Connie's house is one of the nicest places I've ever stayed. It was also hard to say goodbye to her cats Tommy and Zoe. They'll always have a special place in my heart.

In other news...

I'll be starting my new job at Cisco tomorrow morning. I'm a little nervous but also extremely excited at the same time!

Currently playing: endeavor

Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving holiday report

The long weekend was pretty awesome. Having finished all of my assignments, I was able to relax more and not worry about anything other than the finals. I also met Connie's daughters, Anika, Suzanna and Kira, all of whom were really sweet. :-)

Pre-Thanksgiving

Suzanna and Kira came back from UC San Diego late Tuesday afternoon. The girls are identical twins but fairly easy to tell apart. I later went on an evening walk with Connie and the twins at one of their favorite spots, the nearby West Cliff Drive. The view of the ocean was amazing, even at night.

The break started early for me as I don't have class on Wednesdays. Anika returned from Cal Poly in the morning and was one of the nicest people I've ever met. Connie and her daughters also invited me to watch Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 with them at the theater. Though that sounded fun, I had to decline as my family already had plans.

It wasn't too late when my parents came to pick me up. They helped move some of my stuff home as I'm leaving Santa Cruz at the end of the month. I wish I had more time to hang out with Connie's daughters; they're definitely the type of people I'd want to be friends with.

The bad news is that the printer we brought to Connie's house stopped working. This wasn't too surprising as the LaserJet 4050 TN is around 11 years old. I'm just glad it didn't fail in the middle of an important project.

Thursday

Thanksgiving was nice as our new family friend Jennifer invited us over for dinner. We became acquainted when I attended a job training program with her son Robert. Jennifer is from Indonesia and her husband Spencer is from Taiwan, so there was a mix of American, Chinese and Indonesian food. Yum!

The only downside is that Robert is shy and doesn't talk much. However, that wasn't a problem because Super R-Type and The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX kept me occupied. Though my friend Lawrence's family had also invited us, Mom felt it would be rude to stand the Panns up. The other option was to visit the Jaus afterwards, but my mother didn't want to show up without a gift. I guess you can't have your cake and eat it too.

This year, I owe my gratitude to our family friend Kitty for helping me get a job at Cisco. I'm also thankful for finding the perfect place to live in Santa Cruz and that Connie was so kind.

Friday

Our Lexus RX 330 was having problems, so my parents had to take it to Lexus of Stevens Creek for repairs. This took up the entire morning and meant we couldn't get any Black Friday deals. On the other hand, the dealership let us use one of their sedans in the meantime. It was like a free rental. :-)

Also worth mentioning is that the Lexus dealership has Wi-Fi and free snacks. Their customer service is top-notch.

Saturday

Seeing that we had the entire day free, Dad took us on a road trip up north, going as far as Willits and Ukiah. Although the trails were nice, there wasn't much time for hiking as we had to drive another 170 miles home. We did briefly consider booking a hotel, but this wasn't really an option either as we weren't equipped for an overnight stay.

Our last stop on the way home was Applebee's in Santa Rosa for dinner. Everything we ordered was excellent. The day trip was easily the best part of the Thanksgiving long weekend.

Sunday

Having already done so much in the past few days, I spent most of yesterday helping Dad design his new company's website and preparing for the finals. Speaking of which, I should probably get back to studying as the finals are coming up soon.

On the whole, the break couldn't have been better. Be sure to check out my pictures.

Currently playing: The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I got the job!

Several weeks ago, our family friend Kitty referred me to apply for a software testing position at Cisco Systems. I'm happy to say that I got the offer. I accepted it right away after figuring a regular job was better than an internship in the long run. If everything goes to plan, I'll be working at Cisco starting in December. Woohoo!

The transition from classroom to cubicle will be challenging: a full-time job is more demanding due to the longer hours and fewer vacation days. On the other hand, getting paychecks is far more rewarding than paying tuition. Another nice thing is not having to cram for exams. :-)

I had planned to continue studying at UC Santa Cruz and eventually apply for the graduate program. But because it's extremely difficult to take classes and work at the same time, I have little choice but to leave Santa Cruz after the quarter ends. Saying goodbye to this beautiful place will be tough. I guess we all have to make sacrifices in life. As they say... c'est la vie.

Currently playing: Road of the Dead

Monday, October 25, 2010

Holy crap, I'm an uncle now!

I just found out my cousin Hui-Lin and his wife have recently welcomed their first child. There is nothing more precious than bringing a new life into the world. I'd like to congratulate the couple on their incredible achievement.

Before anyone calls me out, I'm aware that their little boy is technically my first cousin once removed. However, Chinese people often refer to children of cousins as nephews and nieces, hence my use of the term "uncle."

In other news...

On the subject of babies, my cousin Tom and his wife Sarah are also expecting a boy next month. I'm really happy for the them as well. Our family just keeps getting bigger.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

got my master's degree

Today was the graduation ceremony at St. Mary's College of California. I can hardly believe I've completed my master's degree in financial analysis. Time goes by pretty fast.

It was raining heavily in Moraga, but that wasn't an issue as we were mostly indoors. Of note is that the commencement was held inside a chapel instead of an auditorium. In addition, the orchestra didn't play "Pomp and Circumstance" as is traditionally done. That was rather... unusual.

After we got our diplomas, the families headed to the nearby activity center for the reception. I got to hang out with my classmates for the last time and eat lots of food. There goes the afternoon!

Now that I'm done with graduate school, I should probably continue working on my CMPS 101 and CMPE 107 assignments. In the meantime, you can go to my Flickr album for pictures and a video of the commencement.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

just turned 25

So I'm a quarter of a century old. That's a scary thought.

Given our current financial situation, I didn't plan anything for my birthday this year. On the other hand, my aunt Cynthia insisted that we have lunch at her house, to which we obliged. Connie was away in San Diego, but Cathy was home. Things couldn't have worked out better. Be sure to check out the pictures.

I also received some presents, starting with a $100 check from Cynthia. Dad gave me a book called What Every Body is Saying by former FBI agent Joe Navarro. While I've only read a couple of chapters, the book is really interesting so far. Last but not least, Mom gave me six dress shirts; they're quite fashionable and will surely look great in the office. There are no words to express my gratitude. I'm blessed to have such wonderful people in my life.

As per tradition, here are three random facts about my childhood:

  1. I once thought women got pregnant by making out.
  2. One of my favorite video games was Super Mario World for the SNES. I was so obsessed with the game that I pretended I was Mario, Dad was Yoshi and Mom was Princess Peach!
  3. I had an orange toy hammer that I loved as a little kid. It even had a nickname: Doji.

October 11 update: One of my landlady's daughters must have told her about my birthday because my landlady (also named Connie) bought me a Trader Joe's lemon cake. I'm guessing it was Anika as she had posted on my Facebook wall. The cake looks delicious; I've uploaded a picture here. Thanks, Connie!

In other news...

1. I attended the closing reception at St. Mary's College a week ago. It was nothing more than an awards presentation, but my family got to enjoy a nice lunch. Click here for the pictures.

2. Mom recently started her own blog. Go here to check it out. She mostly writes essays and articles about her art projects, although there is a fair share of recipes. Her blog is in Chinese but should work through a translator.

Update: Mom has decided to shut down her blog due to people plagiarizing her articles. Sorry about that. :-(

Currently playing: Epic Battle Fantasy 3

Monday, September 27, 2010

just moved to Santa Cruz

I finished moving into my rented room today with the help of my parents. The weather was unbearably hot; I'm glad we didn't have to spend too much time outside. I just got the Wi-Fi password from the landlady and am finally able to post this.

Speaking of which, the homeowner is a woman named Connie. She's really nice and always took the time to answer our questions. This is her first time leasing a room, so we're kind of in the same boat. Her husband Mel passed away seven years ago; Connie says he was an amazing artist and dancer. It's too bad I'll never get to know him. :-(

Connie has three daughters, all of whom are quite attractive. I'm actually staying in the eldest's room. The girls are all away at college at the moment, but I'm sure I'll get to know them better soon enough. The family also has two cats, Tommy and Zoe. They're from the same litter but look very different. Though I'm not exactly a pet person, cats are so darn cute!

In any case, the place is comfortable and has everything I need. It's like my home away from home. I'm still a little nervous as this is my first time renting a room, but that shouldn't be a problem as long as I stay on Connie's good side.

An advantage of living in a home (as opposed to a dorm) is that we didn't have to do too much moving. The bus stop across the street is also extremely convenient. The neighborhood is probably pretty safe as the campus police department is just around the corner. The downside is that there are no nearby grocery stores or cafeterias, but that's a relatively minor thing. I'm blessed to find such a great place to live.

One of the best things about UC Santa Cruz is the beautiful campus. As a nature lover, I'll get to enjoy the great outdoors whenever I head out to class. Life is good.

In other news...

I bumped into my old FAIM 609 professor from St. Mary's College of California at Wal-Mart yesterday afternoon. Small world indeed.

Currently listening to: Tower of Heaven soundtrack - "Stairway to Revelation"

Friday, September 24, 2010

last day of graduate classes + farewell party

Yesterday was the last class at St. Mary's College of California. In other words, I'm done with graduate school!

Our class was supposed to take the FAIM 610 final on Tuesday and the FAIM 609 one on Thursday as per the original schedule. But because FAIM 609 was a tough course, everyone wanted to get that out of the way first. The professors were more than happy to accommodate our request. The other exam was indeed much easier, meaning Prof. Knapp really wanted us to pass.

The nice thing is that there was a party after the FAIM 610 final. From what I heard, the previous cohorts got a fancy dinner. However, there were only sandwiches and drinks - and they quickly ran out. Damn economic recession. On the other hand, the other classes were invited to join us. Katie even brought her roommate Anna to crash the party. The more the merrier!

Speaking of which, Anna kept hitting on me and Anthony the whole time. She was very sociable; talking to her was one of the highlights of the evening. The girls invited me to hang out at their apartment afterwards. Though that sounded fun, I declined as it was well past midnight.

On the whole, the party was a great way to end the program. I'm definitely looking forward to graduation. In the meantime, be sure to check out my pictures from last night here.

Currently playing: My First Quantum Translocator

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Oh hai, UCSC!

I recently mentioned that a few UC Santa Cruz professors were interested in having me as an intern. From our discussions, they were more than happy to proceed with the plan. If everything goes well, my internship will start next week - which is right after the quarter ends.

For those wondering, I'll be doing mobile interaction studies with the professors and their graduate students. The professors have also suggested taking some classes, so I'm trying to enroll in CMPE 107 and CMPS 101 at the moment. I've actually already attended the lectures this morning. It's like being back in college!

According to Prof. Tantalo, CMPS 101 is a difficult course and many students don't pass. I can't say I like the sound of that. On the other hand, the class shouldn't be too bad compared to what I went through at Berkeley.

Given that I'll be at UC Santa Cruz most of the time, I've rented a room near campus and will be moving there in a few days. I'm kind of nervous as this is something I've never done before. Let's hope I don't get on the landlady's bad side. *fingers crossed*

In other news...

1. I just got back from the Secure World Expo in Santa Clara with Dad. The conference was very small but still had some nice swag.

2. Tonight is the last class at St. Mary's College of California. I'm not out of the woods yet as we still have to take the FAIM 610 final. On the other hand, there is supposed to be a big party afterwards. I guess I'll find out in a few hours.

Currently playing: The Room Tribute

Friday, September 10, 2010

check out my new cooking blog!

I recently started a cooking blog with my mother. Every few days, I'll post a new recipe that she teaches me. Each recipe will feature a short story to go along with it. You can read our new blog here.

While I aspire to be as good as Mom, the dishes will be simple at first as I don't have level 99 cooking in real life. Couldn't resist the RuneScape reference. xD

Currently playing: Pixel Purge

Saturday, August 28, 2010

a change of plans

I mentioned in earlier posts that I was heading to UC Riverside in late September. However, life doesn't always work out the way we want it to. Given our current financial situation, I'm canceling my plans to study at UC Riverside until further notice. It was an incredibly difficult decision, but I felt it was the right one.

On the other hand, two UC Santa Cruz professors have shown an interest in having me as an intern. The discussions with them are looking promising so far. I guess we'll see how things turn out.

Currently playing: Depict1

Friday, August 20, 2010

car burglars FTL

I've got more bad news: someone apparently broke into our SUV and made off with three pairs of prescription glasses. They were worth over $1,000 in total. :-(

So we were in San Francisco on Wednesday evening for a make-up class. The next morning, Dad couldn't find his sunglasses. At first we thought he merely misplaced them - until we noticed that two other pairs of glasses were gone as well. There were also signs that someone had rummaged through our belongings. On the bright side, they didn't take anything else. Thank heaven for small favors.

I'm not sure how those crooks got inside, but my guess is that the doors were left unlocked. In any case, I've reported the incident to the San Francisco Police Department and they catch the culprits soon. Fuck car burglars. >:(

Currently playing: Fish Outta Water

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

new ThinkPad X301

I just finished setting up my new Lenovo laptop. The ThinkPad X301 has a 1.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 2 GB of RAM and a 128 GB solid-state drive. It's also pretty light for its size. The list price was almost $3,000 for the base configuration, but Dad got it for about $1,500 after discounts. What a steal!

To be honest, this laptop wasn't something I really needed. Although I had suggested canceling the order in light of my father's unemployment, he insisted that the notebook would be useful. In any case, getting a new computer is always exciting. :-)

Currently playing: Little Cannon

Saturday, August 14, 2010

the latest victim of the economy...

Dad just told us that he lost his job. :-(

From what I've heard, the local office was closed with absolutely no warning. That means everyone who worked there was essentially laid off. I'm not sure of the reason of the closure, but the economic recession was likely a factor.

On the other hand, this could be a blessing in disguise. According to my father, his job was stressful because of office politics. The good news is that he doesn't have to deal with that crap anymore. They say every cloud has a silver lining. So true.

Regardless of what happens next, here's to hoping Dad will get a new and better job soon!

Currently playing: Lifeguard Larry Deluxe

Sunday, July 25, 2010

back from Ukiah

Just because summer break is over doesn't mean the fun is. Case in point, my family just got back from another short trip!

Day 1

We were just a few blocks from our house when a garage sale caught our attention. Dad pulled over so we could see what was available. Though I saw some nice stuff, there wasn't anything we needed. It wasn't long before we decided to leave.

The next stop was a small plaza in Santa Rosa. I wanted to look around after lunch in the car. The place wasn't that big, although we enjoyed checking out Borders and Cost Plus World Market.

Our car wouldn't start when we got back to the parking lot. Dad called AAA and was told the battery had gone kaput. To save time, he accepted the offer to have a new one installed. There was actually a Lexus dealership just around the corner, but we took the AAA guy's word that his service was cheaper.

Ukiah was just an hour to the north. The plan was to go hiking in Smithe Redwoods State Reserve and Richardson Grove State Park after checking into our hotel. That was what made our last trip to Ukiah so much fun. However, my parents and I had trouble finding either place. I later realized my memory was wrong - the parks are located near Leggett rather than Ukiah. Oh well.

The three of us went to Denny's for dinner before visiting the nearby Wal-Mart. Other than that, the evening was uneventful as there wasn't much else to do.

Day 2

The morning began with a stop at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas in Talmage. This was our first time here in several years. We participated in some of the activities before joining the other practitioners for lunch. To support the Dharma Realm Buddhist Association, my family bought some vegetarian food and made an additional donation as we left.

The plan was to visit Point Reyes next, but our GPS kept giving us wrong directions. That went unnoticed for over 30 minutes, after which we decided not to turn back due to the high overhead. On the other hand, my parents and I stopped at a roadside oyster bar on our way home. Price aside, the oysters Rockefeller was delicious. The day ended with a nice dinner at the Szechuan Taste Restaurant in San Francisco.

Conclusions

The trip was supposed to be three days long, but we shortened it to two days due to the lack of attractions. Despite the change in plans, all of us had a great time. Speaking of which, the afternoon snack at the oyster bar was my favorite part of the trip. Sometimes it's the little things that matter the most. You can see pictures from our vacation here.

In other news...

Dad recently got an Olympus SP-800UZ digital camera. The 30x zoom and 14 MP resolution are amazing!

Currently listening to: "The Sound of Silence" by Simon & Garfunkel

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

one more quarter to go!

The final quarter at St. Mary's College has started. It's hard to believe I'm almost done with graduate school. Time certainly flies!

Summer was short as we didn't get out until late June. However, I'm not going to complain because the break was really awesome. The 4th of July concert and the trip to Riverside come to mind. :-)

Currently playing: Larry and the Gnomes

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

back from Riverside again

I just got back from Riverside again with my parents. You may remember that we went there several weeks ago to learn more about the statistics department at UC Riverside. The purpose of this trip was to get a closer look at the housing options.

Day 1

It was a hectic morning because we still had to pack up. This is normally done the night before, but we were all exhausted following the 4th of July concert. The rushing didn't help as we found out the flight had been delayed by almost 90 minutes. I could have used that extra sleep. :\

The flight itself was uneventful. After the plane landed, my family picked up a rental car before checking out various apartments in the area. I liked the dorms better, but the apartments were cheaper and had fewer restrictions. Some of the offices were closed for the 4th of July weekend, so we decided to come back in the morning.

The day ended with a nice dinner at IHOP. As odd as it sounds, this was the best part of the trip. There weren't many points of interest around here, although we saw a beautiful sunset from our hotel room. That was another great moment.

Day 2

The breakfast at the hotel was also delicious. We then went back to the apartments for a better look and soon found one that we liked. Two other Asian families were eager to make friends with us; one of them even invited us in for a chat. They were really nice people. I was getting hungry at this point but felt it would be rude to ask to be excused.

The three of us then had lunch at Coco's Bakery before going to the UC Riverside campus to thank a professor who helped me get a conditional admission. The next stop was a furniture store for quotes as the apartment we picked didn't offer furnished rooms. There was a bit of time left, during which we checked out a local supermarket.

We arrived at Ontario International Airport to find that our flight home was also delayed, this time by about an hour. Lesson learned: always check flight status before rushing to the airport. On the other hand, I had a great conversation with a girl who was also studying statistics. :-)

Conclusions

Because the purpose of this trip was to learn more about the housing near the UC Riverside campus, our itinerary didn't include any tourist spots. That said, I really enjoyed the dinner at IHOP and watching the sunset. Traveling is always fun regardless of the reason. I've posted some pictures from the trip here.

At any rate, I'm extremely excited about moving to Riverside in September. It'll be challenging but probably nothing I can't handle. Bring it on!

Currently listening to: "The Sweet Escape" by Gwen Stefani

Monday, July 5, 2010

4th of July report

The 4th of July was pretty awesome as we had a little party before going to an amazing concert!

Party report

You may recall that our family friend Kitty invited us to their house for a barbecue on the 26th. To return the favor, my parents had the Jaus and two of their relatives over for lunch. Mom made lots of food, all of which was delicious. Though Lawrence had to leave early for personal reasons, the other guests stayed for several hours.

Symphony and fireworks

The three of us headed to Shoreline Amphitheatre for the 4th of July Fireworks Spectacular with the San Francisco Symphony after a short rest. At first we thought it would be all classical music, but there were hits from various genres. The best part was when the Star Wars theme came on during the fireworks. That was an incredible experience.

As an added bonus, the orchestra played several more pieces that weren't on the program. The event concluded with a raffle drawing. That was pretty fun even though we didn't win anything. Due to traffic in the area, my parents and I didn't get home until just past midnight!

Follow-up on the fake FBI guy

I recently contacted the FBI and the Santa Cruz County Sheriff to ask whether the "FBI agent" at Roaring Camp was legit. However, because neither agency has responded, I went ahead and filed a report with both of them. I've also sent a copy to the Santa Cruz Police Department for good measure. Here's to hoping the guy gets caught. It's funny that I'm doing America a favor on her birthday by reporting a fake federal agent.

All that having been said, I hope to attend the Moonlight Train Dinner Party again to make up for what happened last month. Mom isn't too keen on the idea, but I'm sure it would make a great date. If only I wasn't single. :-)

Even though that guy ruined our evening, the concert definitely made everything better. The other good news is that we're heading to Riverside again after a good night's sleep. I'm super excited!

Currently listening to: "Bright Eyes" by Art Garfunkel

Historical note: Pictures from the party and the concert are on my Flickr account. A video of the fireworks is available on YouTube.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Two parties in one day!

Yesterday was pretty fun - at least for the most part. To start off, our family friend Kitty invited us to her house for a barbecue lunch. It was super exciting to see the Jaus again after over two years. There was no shortage of food, all of which was delicious. I even got to show Lawrence my 200 mW laser. :-)

The highlight of the evening was the Moonlight Dinner Train Party at Roaring Camp. This is something we had been looking forward to for a long time. The railroad is right next to Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park - one of our favorite hiking spots.

The festivities began with a dinner of steak and corn on the cob. The meal was fairly simple but otherwise filling. Everyone then took the steam train to the top of Bear Mountain to enjoy hot cider and live country music. I couldn't resist showing off my laser again. People were quite impressed, especially the ladies.

However, things turned sour when a guy claiming to be an FBI agent accused me of aiming my laser at aircraft. I told him I was aware of the law and indicated that the sky was clear, but he wouldn't listen. The guy then threatened to confiscate the laser but refused to acknowledge me when I informed him that he needed probable cause.

Sensing something amiss, I asked to see his badge. While he did produce a wallet with the letters "FBI" and a logo on the cover, nothing inside resembled any official FBI identification. He also quickly flipped through the wallet as if he didn't want me to get a closer inspection.

I became very suspicious at this point and took his picture. The guy looked nervous and demanded that I delete it - which I pretended to do. He suddenly left when my parents came to see what was going on. This wasn't how a real FBI agent would act. I certainly wouldn't have handed the laser over.

According to Mom, the scariest part is that he seemed to be trying to lure me to a secluded area away from other people. That was creepy as hell. I can't help but wonder if he had more sinister motives, in which case losing the laser would be the least of my worries. I'm not going to lie - I wish I had a gun at that moment.

The train then brought us back to the picnic area. Lots of people got up to dance as the band played more country music. The three of us had some apple pie and a short rest before beginning our drive home.

Though I did my best to enjoy the rest of the event, the happy mood was obviously ruined. I was afraid to take out my laser again despite being sure the guy wasn't a real FBI agent. At any rate, I'm going to report him to the authorities soon. After all, that bastard has to pay for spoiling our evening. >:(

Update: I've posted a thread on my experience at Laser Pointer Forums. Please go there for the latest information.

Currently listening to: Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island soundtrack - "Flower Garden"

Historical note: You can view pictures from Kitty's party here. Pictures and videos from the Moonlight Train Dinner Party are available in this album. The videos from Roaring Camp are also available at my YouTube channel.

Friday, June 25, 2010

summer break is finally here!

The spring quarter at St. Mary's College of California has ended. FAIM 607 was the hardest class so far, and studying for the final took up much of my time. However, all that hard work paid off because I got a passing grade. :-)

As for summer plans, we're going to my friend Lawrence's house tomorrow for a barbecue lunch. I can't wait to show him my 200 mW green laser. Later in the evening is the Moonlight Train Dinner Party at Roaring Camp. Two parties in one day - I'm definitely not complaining.

The fun doesn't end there as we'll be attending the 4th of July Fireworks Spectacular with the San Francisco Symphony at Shoreline Amphitheatre. The three of us are then heading to Riverside again on the 5th. The reason for the trip is to get a closer look at the UC Riverside campus. So yeah, summer will be nice.

In other news...

Dad just got a new Olympus PEN E-P1 digital camera. The zoom lens and 12.3 MP resolution are impressive. Speaking of which, I need to remind my parents that my Flickr Pro subscription has expired. ^_^

Currently playing: F-Mario

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Hail to the Chief

I was at the San Francisco Mariott Marquis last night for FAIM 607 when a bunch of Secret Service agents started showing up. It soon became apparent that Obama was also staying at the hotel. I knew he was going to be in San Francisco but didn't expect him to be right here!

Although the President's location wasn't announced for obvious reasons, the presence of law enforcement kind of gave it away. Some people gathered in the lobby to try to catch a glimpse of Obama. The presidential state car ultimately bypassed the main entrance, but it was still really cool to be in the same building as the President of the United States.

I should mention that class ended early. Security wouldn't let anyone back into the hotel except for registered guests. The professor couldn't get back in and decided to dismiss the class. Due to road closures, my family was stuck in San Francisco for about an hour. But at least I have an amazing story to share. :-)

In other news...

Mom invited some friends over today for a potluck lunch. Go here for the pictures!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

to Riverside and back - all in a day

I recently mentioned that I'm planning to study at UC Riverside starting this fall. To learn more about the school, my family took a day trip down to Riverside yesterday to see the campus. This was a worthwhile experience as we gained a lot of insight about the statistics program.

It was an exhausting morning as we had to get up early for our 7:30 a.m. flight. Though there was an 11:05 a.m. one available, my parents didn't want to arrive too late. The weather in SoCal was warmer than expected but too hot for the most part.

Our day in Riverside began with a meeting with two statistics professors, both of whom were very helpful. Three PhD students then showed us around while sharing their experiences. This was followed by lunch with two other students who also gave us useful information. The statistics department had generously provided the food vouchers.

Later in the afternoon, my family met two staff members who went over the dining and housing plans. They always took the time to address our concerns. I can't thank them enough for their hospitality and kindness. The visit couldn't have been more pleasant.

There was some free time, during which we went to Claremont Graduate University and Harvey Mudd College. The three of us then had dinner at Denny's before going back to the airport. Though we could have gotten home two hours earlier, there was a $80 fee for changing flights. The other thing is that I got a nasty headache on the way home. Blah.

Because I had never gone this far on a day trip, returning home on the same day did feel a little weird. On the other hand, Dad is planning an overnight stay in Riverside later this summer. I'm looking forward to that for sure. In the meantime, you can see the pictures from yesterday's trip here.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Berkeley Engineering commencement

Six years ago, my father was telling me that I was accepted into Berkeley for the fall. I initially thought it was an April Fools joke. Though I never even considered applying to such a prestigious school - let alone the idea of getting in - Dad figured it was worth a shot and sent a copy of my application to Berkeley just in case. He turned out to be right!

Today was the College of Engineering commencement. I actually received my B.S. in Engineering Math & Statistics last summer but was unable to graduate with the Class of 2009 on time. But none of that matters anymore. The most important thing is that I'm finally done with college. :-)

Graduation report

The ceremony itself was kind of boring as we had to sit through several speeches. The masters and PhD students then got their diplomas. There were more undergraduates than graduate students combined, but the process was much faster for us.

Things didn't go without a hitch. You see, Engineering Math & Statistics is an uncommon major and had less than 10 people. I somehow got separated from my group and didn't know where to go. The staff weren't familiar with my major and told me to follow the Nuclear Engineering students. I ended up being the very last person to walk across the stage. Awkward.

Everyone then split up for the receptions. Ours was the smallest and had no more than 15 people - and that's including family and significant others. On the other hand, there was lots of food. Before leaving campus, I stopped by the IEOR and EECS receptions to thank those who have helped me in my studies. It was nice to see my old IEOR 165 GSI and the IEOR 162 professor again.

The downer is that my faculty advisor Bonnie couldn't come. She had to stay home to take care of her husband John, who was recently involved in a serious cycling accident. I'm sure Bonnie would have loved to see me get my diploma. Here's to wishing John a full and speedy recovery!

Looking back

Like for most people, college had its ups and downs. A major highlight was hanging out with my suitemates Bryan, Danny and Tyler. Though I'm sometimes socially awkward, their company made for great memories.

The dances were another thing that made life at Berkeley so enjoyable. The best part is that many of them were free. The weekly activities in the residential halls were exciting too. I wish the "real world" had more social events like these.

But college wasn't all fun and games. The worst thing that happened was when my freshman year suitemates Cyrus and Andrew kept harassing me and stealing my things. The resident director couldn't do much due to lack of evidence. The academic workload was tough but nothing I couldn't handle. On the whole, I'm glad to have finished such an important stage in my life.

I can't relax just yet because of my classes at St. Mary's College of California. Speaking of which, I should probably get back to studying for the upcoming fixed income analysis midterm. In the meantime, feel free to check out my commencement pictures.

In other news...

1. Dad got summoned for jury duty last week and was actually selected for the trial. He was a little annoyed at first but is happy to have helped make our community a safer place. For those curious, the case was about a man accused of indecent exposure. It was somewhat complicated due to lack of witnesses, but he was ultimately convicted.

2. Getting into graduate school turned out be much harder than expected because we weren't aware of the low acceptance rates. At least that's the case for statistics programs. That said, I got a conditional admission into UC Riverside!

Though they couldn't accept me this year, the admissions committee said I could get in next fall by getting a "B" or above in two particular courses. I decided I was up for the challenge and will be enrolling soon. Assuming everything goes to plan, I'll be moving to Riverside in September. W00t!

Currently reading: Fixed Income Analysis Workbook by Frank J. Fabozzi

Sunday, April 11, 2010

an uneventful spring break

The nice thing about having a quarter-based system is that we get two-week spring breaks. But longer doesn't mean better - at least not in this case. Because the upcoming classes are pretty tough and I've been feeling stressed, my family wasn't really in the mood to travel. Though we saw Surrogates on DVD and went hiking several times, that's pretty much all we did.

At any rate, I should get back to studying as the spring quarter starts in two days. :\

Currently watching: Surrogates

Thursday, March 18, 2010

the stuff of legends

Two of my uncle Yeh-Wei's friends came over today. However, George and Andy are no ordinary guests: the duo are doing a 6,000 km bike ride across the continental United States, all the way from the West Coast to the East Coast!

Of note is that their entire three-month trek to New York City will be improvised. For example, they prefer get directions from locals and book hotels directly instead of making reservations. Yeh-Wei knew we lived near their starting point and asked us to give them a send-off. George and Andy also accompanied us to San Francisco in the evening to meet my classmates. :-)

This was a neat experience as we usually only hear about these people in the news. In any case, all of us are incredibly honored to know these guys!

In other news...

I went to the Cloud Connect expo with Dad yesterday afternoon. This event was much smaller than the RSA Conference two weeks ago, but the swag was nice. :D

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

RSA Conference report

"But... can it run Crysis at maximum settings?" -- me to IBM representative

I went to the RSA Conference in San Francisco with my parents yesterday afternoon. That was lots of fun even though we only attended the Security Expo.

The event was reminiscent of our trip to Las Vegas for the CES two years ago. While the RSA Conference was smaller, the lower number of attendees allowed us to breeze through registration. The vendors were also much more generous when it came to promotional items.

The expo had a greater focus on software and services than gadgets. I imagine it's because security is an intangible concept. There were nonetheless some hardware products, such as mainframes and video cards. I jokingly asked the IBM representative if the System z10 mainframe could run Crysis at maximum settings, to which she said it probably couldn't. :P

I saw only a couple of booth babes at the expo, and they weren't as hot as the ladies at the CES. On the other hand, the ones I talked to were far nicer than the bitch that turned me down for a photo in Vegas. Go figure.

The three of us didn't stay too long as I had to go class. However, that's not a problem as we're planning to go back to the conference tomorrow. In the meantime, feel free to check out the pictures I took at the expo so far.

March 4 update: Dad took us to the RSA Conference again. He thought it would be a good idea to come back on the last day as many exhibitors prefer to get rid of their promotional crap. This was a good call because we bagged a ton of loot this time, including several T-shirts and tote bags. Score!

Despite the shorter hours, I got to spend more time at the expo today as we arrived in San Francisco a few hours earlier than usual. After the conference ended, my family had a short break and an early dinner at Mel's Drive-In before I headed to class.

The Flickr album has also been updated.

Currently playing: Narcolyxii

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Holy rabbits, Batman!

So my we went hiking in Rancho San Antonio County Park this afternoon. Seeing that it was raining heavily when we arrived, there was little choice but to leave. But after the weather cleared up, the three of us changed our minds and decided to go hiking after all.

The good news is that the trails were mostly dry as the rain stopped after just a few minutes. However, the cool thing is that there were many rabbits out of their burrows. While it's rare to see rabbits here, my family counted around 50 of them!

Although we frequently visit Rancho San Antonio, I've never seen more than one or two rabbits at a time. This was certainly an unusual occurrence. I hope they're not planning to take over the world. ^_^

The bad news is that I don't have any pictures. It was definitely a sight you had to see to believe. I'll definitely remember to bring my camera next time!

In other news...

1. We went to Half Moon Bay on the 17th and had dinner at Sam's Chowder House because Mom wanted to try their famous lobster roll. The day trip was lots of fun. I've posted some pictures here.

2. The Illinois State Toll Highway Authority sent us a notice saying that we missed three tolls, each of which came with a $20 fine. That's not good. :\

While we did use several toll roads during our recent visit to Chicago, the tolls should have been paid automatically as my cousin Jennifer lent us her I-PASS transponder. I'll check with her to see what's going on.

Update: Jennifer says she's taken care of the toll violations. Thanks, cousin!

Currently watching: Hellboy II: The Golden Army

Monday, February 15, 2010

Presidents Day long weekend report

So there are three holidays this weekend: today is Presidents Day while yesterday was Valentine's Day and Lunar New Year. It's not often that this happens!

The long weekend was pretty good. The three of us went to the Gate of Heaven Catholic Cemetery on Friday morning to pay respects to my late maternal grandmother Pi-Tan before heading to the nearby Rancho San Antonio County Park for a hike. Mom's new friend Ren later invited us and our family friend Carol to the Los Gatos Brewing Company for dinner. Everything we ordered was delicious. You can check out the pictures here.

We went for another hike on Saturday morning - this time in Stevens Creek County Park - as the weather was still nice. However, the rest of the weekend was uneventful as I was busy preparing for the first FAIM 605 midterm. Speaking of which, I should probably get back to studying as the exam is tomorrow. Peace.

Currently playing: Enigmata

Thursday, January 7, 2010

back from Chicago and the Atlantic Northeast

"So we have a lawyer in our car... does that mean I can get out of speeding tickets?" -- Dad

I just got back from an 11-day trip to the Lake Michigan area and the Atlantic Northeast with my parents. That was awesome as we saw many sights and reconnected with family and friends. It was one heck of an adventure!

You may recall that we stayed a night in Chicago during our trip to Spain last summer. I had hoped to hang out with my cousins and see neighboring states, but there was no time for either. I've suggested we should revisit the Great Lakes area ever since. Dad apparently liked the idea. :-)

Yet this trip was a bit different: the main purpose of going to Chicago and the Atlantic Northeast was to look at universities to which I've applied. However, that doesn't mean we didn't have fun. Here is the trip report for your reading pleasure!

Day 1

It was a hectic morning as there was a lot of packing to do. We had barely finished breakfast when our family friend Karen whisked us off to the airport. Despite the increased security due to the Northwest Airlines incident two days ago, the check-in process was quick - aside from me getting a TSA pat down.

The flight to Chicago was fairly smooth. The long lines at the car rentals made the wait in the cold seem like forever. Dad took us to my great-aunt Shu-Ying's warm and cozy house after getting a car. I saw my cousins Eric, William, Frank and Jennifer, and uncles Da-Wei and Peter. This was my first time seeing Frank in years as he was out of town last time.

Once everything was unpacked, all of us went to Royal Buffet for dinner. This is the same restaurant we ate at on our trip to Spain. The food was delicious and quickly filled me up. Jennifer had to work but still met with us later.

Da-Wei took me to his place in Darien after a short break at Shu-Ying's house. Dad knew I wanted to spend more time with my cousins and had arranged for me to stay at their home for the next three nights. As embarrassing as it sounds, this was my first real sleepover!

Eric and William were watching their favorite football team, the Chicago Bears, play against the Minnesota Vikings. The Bears won the game, much to our delight. I generally don't follow American football but enjoyed rooting for the Bears with my cousins.

The boys and I played Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 on the Xbox 360 afterwards. Though I prefer classic shooters like Doom and Quake over modern ones, Call of Duty turned out to be lots of fun. Of course, "everything in moderation" applies to gaming too: because it was getting late, all of us soon headed to bed.

Day 2

Da-Wei brought me back to Shu-Ying's house after breakfast. Everyone then gathered to pay respects to my late great-uncle Chi-Ming at a nearby cemetery. Those who follow my blog may notice this trip is starting to sound familiar!

It was then time to hit the road. The first stop was Northwestern University in Evanston. There was a homely feel to the place. Some offices were open, and we were lucky enough to run into two statistics professors who provided lots of useful information. The meeting ended around noon, but because there were no nearby restaurants, lunch consisted of whatever we could find in the car.

The next destination was the University of Chicago. Dad found a lounge with Wi-Fi and decided to reply to his e-mails. This took a while given the sheer number of messages. There was time to explore the campus, although we only took a few pictures because it was super chilly outside.

One thing I wanted to do was to visit nearby states. To that end, Dad took us to Indiana and Michigan later in the afternoon. Things didn't go without a hitch: at one rest area, I accidentally spilled some water while handing it to my father and got an earful. Thanks, Dad.

Our itinerary originally included Ohio University and Toledo, but we realized the overhead was too high and turned back after crossing the Indiana-Michigan border. On the other hand, my family had a great dinner in Chicago's Chinatown before returning to Shu-Ying's house. I'd love to visit Ohio University in the future as it was my late uncle Harrison's graduate alma mater.

Da-Wei brought me to his place after we got back to Chicago. I got to play Ninja Gaiden II on the Xbox 360 for the first time. That game really looked fun when I saw my old suitemate Bryan play it last April. It certainly didn't disappoint.

Day 3

Peter joined us on our trip to Madison. Because it was around noon when we arrived, the four of us went to McDonald's for lunch and coffee first. Funnily enough, Dad spilled his coffee while getting in the car. Oops. Can anyone say karma?

The University of Wisconsin–Madison campus was beautiful, especially in winter. I got some great pictures even though the school was closed for the holidays. The others needed something to keep them warm, so we went to Burger King for more coffee.

A nearby point of interest was Lake Monona. Mom suddenly realized she had left her hat and Dad's gloves at Burger King as we pulled into the parking lot. Oh crap. After hurrying back there, my parents had everything accounted for. That was a close call.

At any rate, it was neat to walk on the thick ice on Lake Monona and watch people fish for bluegill. One could hardly imagine anything would be alive under all that ice. I've seen ice fishing in pictures but had never witnessed it in person. I'd say this was - pardon the pun - the coolest part of the trip.

The plan was to stay a night in Madison and drive along the Mississippi River to Minnesota and Iowa, but we figured this would also take too much time. I guess that's something to consider for the future. The last stop in Madison was Starbucks as Dad needed to reply to more e-mails. The café was a nice place to relax and escape from the cold. I took the opportunity to treat Mom to a cup of latte. :-)

We had another nice dinner on the way back to Chicago. Though it was late when we arrived at Da-Wei's house, I got to play Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock on the PlayStation 2 with Eric and William. This was another great game.

Day 4

Dad picked me up around noon and took me back to Shu-Ying's house for lunch, after which we headed to downtown Chicago with Peter accompanying us again. The John Hancock Center and Water Tower Place were huge and filled with stores. This easily took up the entire afternoon.

For New Year's Eve, my father invited his extended family to dinner at the Lee Wing Wah Restaurant in Chicago's Chinatown. Our party arrived early with the intention of exploring the area, but the freezing weather made us change our minds. Therefore, the four of us decided to chill out (or rather, warm up) at the restaurant instead.

On the subject of which, the food was pretty good. After everyone was done, Dad asked for the bill and was told that it was already paid for. It turned out my aunt Sue secretly picked up the tab. That made us feel guilty for sure. ^_^

All of us then went to Da-Wei's place. I played some more Ninja Gaiden II before counting down to 2010 with our relatives. The party was another highlight of our vacation. As much as we hated to leave, my family went back to Shu-Ying's house shortly after midnight as we had an early flight to catch.

Be sure to read my New Year's Day post for more details.

Day 5

Happy New Year!

The 8:30 a.m. flight meant we had to get up no later than 6 a.m. To say I was sleepy would be an understatement. The three of us had a quick breakfast and bid farewell to our relatives before going to O'Hare to return the car and check in.

I got stopped by the TSA again on way to the terminal. Lucky me. The flight wasn't too bad as we got some rest on the plane. The not-so-fun part is that Mom spilled her coffee all over my lap. Holy crap. Is this some kind of curse?

The plane landed at JFK three hours later. Dad rented another car and took us to his friend JJ's house in Morganville. This was our first time getting together with the Yen family in over 13 years. They came to California in the spring of 1996 and stayed at our house for several days. That was so much fun that they decided to come back in August.

But some things aren't meant to be: the Yens canceled that trip after Sing-Long found a job and haven't visited since. As you could imagine, our families were thrilled to touch base again. JJ's kids have all grown up: Gary is now pursuing his J.D. at the University of Pennsylvania while Greg and Michelle are undergraduates at Rutgers.

Gary was busy with law school, but the others were home. The Yens treated us to a hot pot dinner, during which we had lots of catching up to do. Greg later invited me to play Contra: Shattered Soldier on the PlayStation 2 with him. It was both fun and challenging at the same time. The rest of the evening was uneventful as we were all tired.

Day 6

JJ gave us a ride to the nearest NJ Transit station, from which we took the bus to the Port Authority Bus Terminal and then the subway to the Grand Central Terminal. I had no idea the Grand Central Terminal was so large. It was like a city in itself.

Our first stop in New York City was the Columbia University campus. This was another school I had applied for, although we didn't spend more than 15 minutes here as the weather was even colder than in Chicago. All of us started getting hungry and went to a restaurant in Manhattan's Chinatown for lunch. The servings were large and delicious, especially the fried fish.

Up next was the World Trade Center site. It's hard to believe over eight years have passed since the 9/11 attacks. The skyline just doesn't seem complete without the Twin Towers. Our next point of interest was the nearby New York University as Dad wanted to see what it looked like.

We then took the subway to Times Square. The plaza was bustling with activity and full of confetti from New Year's Eve. I had hoped to come here for the ball drop - which would have been quite an experience - but the prospect of standing on a crowded street for hours changed my mind. It would also have made bathroom trips a nightmare - not my idea of a good time.

The beautiful Central Park awaited us after dinner. I'd have loved to stay longer if the crime rate wasn't so high. The holiday lights at the Time Warner Center then beckoned us in. I enjoyed visiting Whole Foods Market and Borders despite the high prices. The three of us made a brief stop for pictures at Wall Street before heading back to the Grand Central Terminal.

Sing-Long picked us up at the NJ Transit station and drove us to JJ's friend Joe's house. It turned out Joe was having a big party that Sing-Long didn't want us to miss out on. The karaoke made for a lively atmosphere. I was a little bored as there was nobody else my age, but Joe was kind enough to let me browse the web on his laptop. The other adults enjoyed the party so much that we didn't leave until 11 p.m.

It was nice to be back at JJ's house after a busy day. Greg had left for a nine-day road trip to the Great Smoky Mountains with his girlfriend Glorian, leaving only Michelle and her parents at home. Because I didn't get to say goodbye to him in person, I guess a Facebook post will have to do.

Day 7

The main stop of the day was Cornell University in Ithaca. The route took us past Rutgers, but we skipped it due to the freezing temperatures. I spotted a cute roadside restaurant that turned out to be the perfect place for lunch. Everything we ordered was delicious!

The three of us arrived in Ithaca after a five-hour drive. Aside from a trip to the supermarket for dinner, the evening was uneventful as we were all exhausted.

Day 8

The weather wasn't too cold despite the snow outside. Luck was on our side again: my family met a professor at Cornell who gave us all the information we needed. The afternoon ended with a visit to the Department of Astronomy - where Carl Sagan worked until his death. I've always been one of his fans, and considering that I'll never get to meet him, this was the least I could do. On the whole, Cornell was my favorite school.

The plan was to head back to Morganville after lunch. However, my father extended our stay in Ithaca by a day after another professor said he could meet with us. Dad had hoped to go to Syracuse in the meantime but later changed his mind after the weather turned bad. The evening was much like the previous one: all we did was buy food at the supermarket.

Day 9

The appointment with Prof. Lewis went extremely well. I truly appreciate him taking the time to meet with us during the holidays. Our last stop in Ithaca was the Sagan Planet Walk - which consists of 10 monuments representing the Solar System. They were a nice touch, although we only went to the first four as it had gotten unbearably cold.

Philadelphia awaited us in the afternoon. The reason for coming to the City of Brotherly Love was to see the University of Pennsylvania. Gary is studying here to become a lawyer (an honest one, he says) and was more than happy to show us around. I could tell UPenn was a prestigious school. After the tour, we thanked Gary for his time and took him to dinner at a restaurant of his choice before dropping him off at his apartment.

I was getting ready for bed when I realized I had lost one of my mittens. Chances are it's somewhere in Philadelphia. Shit happens. It really does.

Day 10

JJ recommended Monmouth Battlefield State Park after we asked him about hiking spots. The trails were nice, but the scenery wasn't that impressive. On the other hand, Dad found an abandoned baseball in good condition near a frozen pond. He says it compensates for the mitten I lost the day before.

The next stop was Princeton University as my father wanted to see what it looked like too. This was followed by a hike along the partially frozen Delaware River. The place was beautiful, but we eventually had to turn back after reaching a fallen tree that blocked the path.

The plan was to go to a nearby beach that we heard had a great view of the Atlantic Ocean. Just then, our GPS gave us wrong directions and sent us on a wild goose chase for about 30 minutes. Seeing that we were getting nowhere, my parents gave up and went back to JJ's place. Don't you love technology sometimes?

The Yens invited us to an Asian buffet restaurant for dinner. Though I loved the food, this was a bittersweet moment as we soon had to part ways. Michelle actually needed to go back to Rutgers to prepare for a job fair. I hugged her goodbye before we returned to JJ's house for the night.

Mom noticed several hundred dollars in cash were missing as we were packing up. I'm guessing some random New Yorker must have took them. Fuck those bastards. >:(

Day 11

We thanked JJ and Sing-Long for their hospitality and said our farewells before heading back to the airport. On the way through Staten Island, my family stopped at a restaurant called Jimmy Max for lunch. The atmosphere was nice, although the tight schedule made it hard to enjoy the meal.

The good news is that we were able to board our flight on time despite the heavy traffic. The plane landed in San Francisco five hours later. Karen picked us up and gave us a ride home, during which we treated her to dinner for her troubles.

Conclusions

The purpose of traveling to Chicago and the Atlantic Northeast was to get a closer look at several universities to which I've applied. Cornell was my favorite, although I loved UPenn and Northwestern as well. Here's to hoping I get accepted into at least one of them!

Spanning 11 days, this was one of our longest trips ever. Of note is that never stayed at a hotel except when we visited Ithaca. The generosity of our friends and family saved us a lot in accommodation costs. Though the cold weather limited our outdoor time, that generally wasn't an issue.

The highlight of the trip was watching people ice fish on Lake Monona. The party at Da-Wei's house was also awesome; there are few things better than celebrating the New Year with relatives. It was also nice to get together with the Yen family again after over 13 years. But perhaps the most important thing is that I have a better understanding of the schools I've applied to.

Speaking of which, I ought to be studying as the winter quarter at St. Mary's College of California is starting in a few days. In the meantime, you can see the pictures from the trip here.

Update: The pictures are up.

Currently listening to: "Three Little Birds" by Bob Marley

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy 2010!

Time flies unbelievably fast. It was 10 years ago when we welcomed the year 2000 with the Liangs. I remember checking my ASUS P6300 to make sure the Y2K bug didn't brick my laptop. Has it really been a whole decade?

Speaking of which, 2010 sounds so futuristic. I'm surprised we don't have force fields, anti-gravity drives or plasma guns!

New Year's Eve report

I'm currently in Chicago, and this was our first time celebrating the new year out of town. The reason for the trip is to see our relatives and visit some universities. Following a busy day with my uncle Peter, Dad invited his extended family to dinner at the Lee Wing Wah Restaurant for New Year's Eve. The plan was to explore Chinatown during the free time, but the freezing weather quickly changed our minds. So the four of us headed straight to the restaurant to wait for the others.

There was so much food that I was completely full by the end of the meal. Just as we were getting ready to leave, my parents noticed that Aunt Sue had secretly picked up the tab. That made us feel guilty as the dinner was supposed to be our treat. *blush*

All of us then went to my uncle Da-Wei's house in Darien. I got to play Ninja Gaiden II on the Xbox 360 and hang out with my cousins Eric and William - things I wanted to do on our last visit but didn't get the chance to. Everyone then gathered to watch the countdown to the new year as midnight approached. This was definitely a highlight of our trip.

The only downside is that we had to leave shortly afterwards as we have to catch a flight to New York City in a few hours. I'm actually a little sad about leaving Chicago so soon.

2009 in review

It seems 2009 wasn't a good year. The economic recession definitely affected all of us. The fact that Dad took a pay cut in January didn't help the issue. Last year also saw the passing of Michael Jackson, one of my favorite celebrities. On a more personal note, I lost my uncle Harrison in April and grandfather Ching-Shang in September.

But the past year had its merits. The best part of 2009 was when I got a 200 mW green laser for free. That was a dream come true as I've always wanted a high-powered handheld laser. However, the most important thing was finishing college last summer. Graduating from Berkeley was no easy job!

I'm extremely excited about what the future has to offer. To that end, my New Year's resolutions for 2010 are to do well in graduate school and improve my patience. All that having been said, I should probably get going as we have to get up around 6 a.m. I'll post a full trip report when we get home. In the meantime, click here to see what we ate. I was preoccupied with Ninja Gaiden II and forgot to take pictures at Da-Wei's house. Oh well. *facepalm*

Update: The complete trip report has been posted.

Currently playing: Ninja Gaiden II