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 my family went to Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show with Jim, one of Dad's business associates. This wasn't so much a vacation as we were there for work-related reasons, but it was still an enjoyable trip.

Dad has been working with a digital audio company for a few months and went to the CES to demo their product. The plan was to rendezvous in Las Vegas, but my father agreed to carpool with Jim as they felt it would be a good opportunity to discuss the project. Though we couldn't bring much because Jim only has a sedan, that didn't make the trip any less fun.

Day 1

The first leg of the trip was a 35-mile drive to Jim's house in Morgan Hill. We had to get up early as there was a long drive ahead of us. Dad introduced us to the Langs before we hit the road. Angry Birds HD Free and Bejeweled Blitz helped me pass the time. I'm glad we got the iPad 2 last month!

A cool thing is that Jim used to be in the Marines and had lots of interesting stories. Jim is extremely alert due to his military training and was able to spot problems on the road much quicker than any of the rest 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 pretty tired upon checking into Gold Spike. Jim picked this place because its nightly rates were fairly low and that it wasn't too far from the Las Vegas Convention Center. The downside is that the Wi-Fi totally sucked: it only worked half the time and was slow as hell when it did. The 3G-enabled iPad 2 definitely came in handy here.

Day 2

As the project wasn't ready for presentation yet, Dad took us to nearby attractions in the meantime. This was possible because Jim was kind enough to lend us his car after hearing we wanted to go on side trips. I truly appreciate his consideration.

The first stop was Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. We came here in 1996 but didn't stay long then due to time constraints. It was nice to hike the trails and take more pictures this time. There was a $7 entrance fee, but that could have been waived had we remembered to bring our national park pass. *facepalm*

Two other points of interest were Spring Mountain Ranch State Park and Blue Diamond, both of which sounded interesting. 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 later in the afternoon. 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 we've ever visited; hiking in the park was the best part of the trip. I'd love to come back here in the future.

Also worth mentioning is that we stopped at the Moapa travel plaza twice for restroom breaks. Moapa is one of the few places in Nevada that allows consumer fireworks all year. The store had tons of stuff and was like heaven. I love fireworks but didn't buy any because the prices were insanely high. The fact that I recently lost my job only made it harder to justify purchases. :-(

Day 3

We met up with Jim and his colleague George at the Gold Spike's restaurant. After they finished their breakfast, the five of us headed to the Las Vegas Convention Center to find out what the CES had to offer. Dad went with the other guys while Mom and I explored the show floor on our own.

The convention was very crowded this year. Getting around was difficult, but my mother and I nonetheless saw many exhibits. Haier's Brain Wave TV was really cool even though it didn't work for me. I imagine similar devices will be a household staple in the not-too-distant future.

Another thing I noticed is that there was barely any swag. This was understandable as most exhibitors probably wouldn'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 after a busy afternoon. We rendezvoused with Jim and George before going to an Italian restaurant for dinner. 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 various exhibits, looked for giveaways and chatted with more booth babes. 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 totally exhilarating. Figuring we might have some luck remaining, 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 relatively 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.

Seeing that it wasn't too late when we got back to Morgan Hill, Jim invited us in to see his kitchen collection. He and his wife Betsy also love cooking and had tons of nice 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.

Conclusions

The trip was quite awesome despite being business-oriented. Hiking in Valley of Fire State Park was my favorite part, although winning $100 at the CES and chatting with the booth babes also made the trip memorable. Those who follow my blog may remember when a girl at the 2008 CES simply walked away when I went to ask for a picture with her. It's nice to know not all attractive girls are stuck-up bitches.

Our options were somewhat limited as Jim was in charge of the plans. Jim is also punctilious about time, so we didn't want to make things difficult for him by asking too much. On the upside, carpooling helped us save hundreds of dollars in car rental fees, not to mention that having companions always makes traveling more fun. I certainly wouldn't mind more road trips together. You can go here for pictures of our adventure.

In other news...

1. Dad and I are both getting an iPhone 4S tomorrow. I'm so excited!

2. I'm starting a course on Android app development in a few days. Being out of a job at the moment, I figured I might as well 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 all of my readers!

New Year's Eve itself was relatively 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.

On the other hand, the past week wasn't too bad. For a start, Mom made an amazing meal for Christmas Eve, complete 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 while visiting the Bay Area. 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 quite enjoyable even though there was nobody else my age. The gathering would have been on New Year's Eve if Wen-Ko didn't need to catch a morning flight to Taipei on the 1st. I jokingly suggested doing an early countdown, but everyone else understandably thought it was a stupid idea. :P

2011 in review

I'm not going to lie - 2011 was a rough year thanks to the economic recession. The three of us didn't travel much as a result and only went on 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 out for himself. 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