Monday, January 30, 2012

first party of 2012

Last night was pretty fun as my family went to another one of Fennah's reading club parties.

The club met at Sun-Yen's house this time. Her place is somewhat smaller and was often crowded, but that didn't make the party any less fun. I've posted some pictures of the gathering here.

Seeing that everyone else started leaving shortly after dinner, my parents decided to not stay too late either. On the other hand, I watched Predators on DVD after getting home. The movie wasn't that extraordinary but was a great way to end the evening.

Currently watching: Predators

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Oh hai, iPhone!

Dad and I each got a new iPhone 4S this morning. Let me begin by saying that I'm already loving mine!

The controls didn't take too long to get used to because I'm already familiar with iOS. The iPhone 4S is faster, easier to use and more stable than my aging Samsung Rogue. In addition, the capacitive touchscreen makes it difficult to pocket dial. This device is pretty awesome for sure.

I've already downloaded several apps for my phone. There is so much stuff in the app store that I don't even know where to begin. No wonder so many people love Apple.

Currently playing: Bejeweled Blitz

Friday, January 13, 2012

2012 CES trip report

"Who needs booth babes when you have Angry Birds at your booth?" -- me at the CES

The year is off to a good start as we went to Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show with Dad's colleague Jim. This wasn't so much a vacation as we were there for business reasons, but it was still an enjoyable trip.

I'll start with some background: Dad has been working with a digital audio company for a few months. The team had decided to demo their product at the CES. The plan was to meet up in Las Vegas, but my father agreed to carpool with Jim so they could discuss the project. Though we couldn't bring much because Jim only has a sedan, that wasn't a big deal.

Day 1

The first leg of the trip was a 35-mile drive to Jim's house in Morgan Hill. Dad introduced us to the Langs before we hit the road. Angry Birds and Bejeweled Blitz kept me occupied during the long drive. I'm glad we got the iPad 2 last month!

Of note is that Jim used to be in the Marines and had interesting stories. Jim is extremely alert due to his military training and could spot hazards on the road much quicker than any of us. He's probably one of those guys that can take out an entire SWAT team. I wouldn't want to get on his bad side, that's for sure.

All of us were tired when we checked into Gold Spike. Jim picked this place because of its low rates and proximity to the Las Vegas Convention Center. The downside is that the Wi-Fi sucked: it only worked half the time and was slow as hell. The 3G-enabled iPad 2 definitely came in handy here.

Day 2

Because the team wasn't ready yet, Dad took us to nearby attractions in the meantime. This was possible because Jim heard we wanted to go on side trips and was kind enough to lend us his car. I truly appreciate his consideration.

The first stop was Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. We came here in 1996 but only went to the visitor center due to fatigue. It was nice to fully explore the place this time. There was a $7 entrance fee, but that could have been waived had we brought our national park pass. *facepalm*

The plan was to visit Spring Mountain Ranch State Park and Blue Diamond as well. However, our GPS had trouble finding them and kept sending us in circles. Seeing that this was getting us nowhere, my parents and I decided to continue on.

Valley of Fire State Park awaited us next. The valley gets its name from the sandstone formations that appear to be on fire as the sun sets. It was no doubt one of the most unique places in the world. Hiking here was the best part of the trip. I'd love to come back here in the future.

Another notable stop was the Moapa travel plaza. Moapa is one of the few places in Nevada that allows consumer fireworks all year. With its huge selection of fireworks, the store was like heaven. However, I didn't buy any because of the high prices. The fact that I recently lost my job made it even harder to justify purchases. :-(

Day 3

We met up with Jim and his colleague George at the hotel's on-site restaurant. After they finished their breakfast, the five of us took the shuttle to the Las Vegas Convention Center. Dad went with Jim and George while Mom and I explored the CES on our own.

The event was very crowded this year. Getting around was difficult, but there was plenty of time to look around. Haier's Brain Wave TV was the coolest thing we saw even though it didn't work for me. I imagine similar devices will be a household staple in the not-too-distant future.

One thing I noticed is that there was barely any swag. This was understandable as most exhibitors probably don't have enough to give to each of the tens of thousands of attendees. On the other hand, I got to chat with several cute booth babes. :-)

Dad picked us up as the show winded down. The three of us then had dinner with George and Jim at an Italian restaurant. The place had just opened three weeks ago. The servings were huge and quickly filled me up.

Day 4

The day was much like the one before: I checked out new products, looked for giveaways and talked to more girls. Mom and I also attended some keynote sessions that caught our interest. The best part is that I won $100 from TechnologyTell in their daily drawing. Oh yeah!

Our group met up again for dinner, after which my family checked out the nearby Fremont Street Experience. The light show and music were exhilarating. Figuring we have some luck left, I suggested hitting the casino upon returning to the hotel. This wasn't a bad idea: my father won $5 while I got $1.50 - all from the penny slots.

Day 5

Today was uneventful as Jim wanted to leave Vegas right after breakfast. The only major stop along the way was a sandwich joint in Boron for lunch. The food turned out to be quite good despite the mediocre reviews on Yelp.

Back in Morgan Hill, Jim invited us in to see his kitchen collection. He and his wife Betsy also love cooking and had tons of stuff. Looks like Mom has competition. :-)

Speaking of which, Jim gave us a stove-top smoker. That was so generous of him. After everything was said and done, my parents and I bid farewell to the Langs and began our drive home.


Business reasons aside, this was an awesome trip. Hiking in Valley of Fire State Park was my favorite part, although winning $100 at the CES and chatting with the booth babes were also memorable. Some of you may remember when a girl at the 2008 CES simply walked away when I tried to get a picture with her. It's nice to know not all attractive girls are stuck-up bitches.

Our options were limited as Jim was in charge of the plans. Jim is very punctilious, so we didn't want to bother him too much. On the upside, carpooling saved us hundreds of dollars in car rental fees, not to mention that having companions always makes traveling more fun. I certainly wouldn't mind more trips together. You can go here for pictures from our adventure.

In other news...

1. Dad and I are both getting an iPhone 4S tomorrow. Sweet!

2. I'm starting a course on Android app development in a few days. Being out of a job, I figured now would be a good time to learn about current technologies.

Currently playing: Bejeweled Blitz

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy 0x7DC!

It's hard to believe 2011 is already over. So there you go: happy 0b11111011100 to everyone!

New Year's Eve was uneventful. This was the first time in at least 13 years that we didn't invite anyone over or vice versa. I guess people aren't in the mood for celebrating when the economy isn't doing too well.

However, last week wasn't too bad. For a start, Mom made an amazing Christmas Eve meal with lobster tails and stuffed clams. Three days later, one of Dad's professors at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign treated us to dinner at the Fish Market in Santa Clara during his visit. It had always been the other way around, but Dr. Trick insisted on returning the favor this time. Everything was delicious, especially the angel hair pasta.

The day after that, my mother invited the Chus and the Tangs over for dinner. That was nice even though there were no other young people. The only reason we didn't have the gathering on New Year's Eve is that Wen-Ko had to catch a flight to Taipei this morning. I jokingly suggested doing an early countdown, but everyone else thought it was a stupid idea. :P

2011 in review

I'm not going to lie - 2011 a tough year due to the economic recession. Our only vacations were two short trips to Yosemite and far Northern California. The worst thing that happened was finding out my contract wasn't going to be renewed. Although my departure from Cisco was graceful, joining the ranks of the unemployed just before the holidays sucks no matter what.

But 2011 had its upsides: the best part was the Armada Group family picnic in October. That was my first company picnic in over 11 years. Another highlight was getting the iPad 2 last month. I've never been crazy about Apple products, but Dad decided to buy an iPad after trying one. It's definitely pretty useful, both for productivity and as a time killer.

To conclude this post, my New Year's resolutions for 2012 are to improve my social skills, kick some bad habits, get a new job and hopefully survive the Mayan apocalypse. Haha.

In other news...

Dad is going to Las Vegas for the CES and plans to take me and Mom along. I'm so excited!

Currently listening to: "Party Rock Anthem" by LMFAO