Monday, December 29, 2014

an impromptu trip to Reno

The year is ending on a high note as we went to Reno over the weekend. The reason for going there was to see a concert at Silver Legacy Reno. The trip was essentially free. :-)

I'll start with some background: my mother has been writing for a Chinese magazine called Distinctive Taste for several years. The magazine's general manager recently gave each contributor two tickets to see Shirley Kwan. The nice thing is that the costs were covered. In other words, this was an all-expenses-paid vacation!

Day 1

Though transportation was provided, my family decided to drive to Reno ourselves so that we could travel at a more leisurely pace. The first stop was Eileen's house in El Cerrito to give her some things. The Tangs were thrilled to see us even though we didn't stay more than a few minutes. This was followed by a stop at Costco in Citrus Heights for gas and samples. Dad also took us to an antique store in the area so Mom could look for china. The rest of the drive was pretty smooth despite the traffic.

We checked into Silver Legacy Reno before going to the Grande Exposition Hall to pick up the tickets. I had planned to explore the hotel on my own or play RuneScape while Mom and Dad attended the concert. However, the general manager saw me with my parents and gave us a third ticket so we could go together. That was so nice of him. Thanks, George!

The three of us played the slots for about 15 minutes before returning to the venue. The attendance was so large that the seats quickly filled up. The free glow sticks were a nice touch. Of note is that the songs were mostly in Cantonese. Though we didn't understand the lyrics, the concert was enjoyable.

The event lasted longer than expected and ended around 11 p.m. All of us were too excited to go to sleep just yet and spent another two hours at the slots before heading back to our room. It was well past 1 a.m. when we finally got to bed!

Day 2

The slots were so much fun that we returned to the casino after lunch. Our luck wasn't spectacular this time as we lost around $36 in total This wasn't too surprising because - as the saying goes - the house always wins. Well, almost always.

On another note, Mom and I bumped into Lily from Henry's film club while at the casino. I also got to meet her daughters Jessica and Jasmine. Talk about a small world.

It was then time to start heading home. The trip was far from over as Dad found three antique stores along the way - where Mom bought some china and several sweaters that she liked. The three of us also went to WinCo Foods in Vacaville for groceries. The last stop was a Burger King in Fairfield for dinner. The place had bad Yelp reviews, but we ate there anyway as it was pretty late.

Conclusions

This was our first time attending a concert in over four years. It was definitely a memorable experience. However, the best part of the trip was the slots. That was pretty fun even though we lost a record $36 this time. The vacation was quite awesome, especially considering that it was almost completely free. I've posted some pictures from our trip on Flickr.

Currently listening to: "Dela" by Johnny Clegg

Monday, December 15, 2014

an exciting and well-earned holiday break

I've decided to take the rest of December after finding out I had lots of vacation days. It's so nice to relax after several busy months!

I'm really excited for the next few weeks. For starters, the Tangs have invited us to lunch at a nice restaurant in Berkeley on the 19th. This will be followed by a trip to Reno just after Christmas. Though we had planned to stay home for the holidays, Mom received two free tickets for a concert at Silver Legacy Reno. Last but not least, three other families are coming over for New Year's Eve. So yeah, Christmas break should be awesome.

Currently watching: Maleficent

Monday, December 1, 2014

Thanksgiving long weekend report

"Thanksgiving always makes you wish you had a bigger stomach." -- Ruth

I had a great long weekend as we went to two gatherings and ate lots of good food. The break was definitely pretty awesome. Read on to find out more!

Thursday

So our family friend Henry invited us over for Thanksgiving for the first time ever. It was a busy day as there were many things that needed to be done. Mom prepared the gifts while I listened to online lectures. I later watched Superman: Unbound on the Amazon Fire TV before we left for Henry's house.

There were several young people present - not only were Henry's daughters Ruth and Connie both home, they also had two other families over. I enjoyed meeting their cousin Janet and her husband Howard, the Tings and Ruth's boyfriend Steven. Our family friend Grace was there as well, although she left early as the Lius had other things planned.

Of course, no Thanksgiving is complete without tasty food. The Changs prepared lobster and crab while the Tings brought a turkey from Whole Foods Market and several side dishes. Our contribution was Mom's famous red bean buns. The seafood was easily the best part of the meal, although everything else was delicious too, such as Ruth's homemade butternut squash soup. I was full before I could try all the dishes.

Janet's family left after dinner as their daughter had to go to bed. The girls then invited me to play board games, to which I gladly obliged. Let me tell you, Cranium is damn hard if you don't have Wikipedia memorized. One thing for sure is that it's a great way to exercise the brain.

Scattergories was also pretty fun. Ruth, Charity and I formed a team while Connie, Eric and Steven joined the other. The whole thing was hilarious, especially with Steven's dirty answers. I guess being less than classy has its merits because Steven ultimately won. Everyone had so much fun that we didn't leave until 1 a.m. On the whole, the party totally rocked.

I'd definitely like to thank Henry for having us over. Speaking of which, I'm also thankful for the other great things that happened this year, particularly my cousin Connie's wedding in Pasadena. It was something I had eagerly anticipated, especially considering that I never get invited to weddings. The day trip to San Francisco and my 10-year high school reunion were also nice.

Friday

The local Chinese newspaper had a coupon for a popular Indian restaurant in Millbrae called The Third Eye Restaurant & Bar. The deal was too good to pass up, so Mom suggested going there for lunch. The coupon turned out to be valid only for dinner, but that wasn't an issue because the lunch buffet was already discounted. The selection was limited but otherwise delicious. The three of us took a stroll around downtown Millbrae before heading home.

The rest of the day was uneventful. I studied for most of the rest of the afternoon, although we watched the 1949 film Le Silence de la mer for Henry's film club. That was an interesting movie.

Saturday

The morning began with a stop at Costco as we were short on groceries. From our experience, Costco usually has many samples around this time of the year. However, because we arrived earlier than usual, there was barely anything available. Oh well.

We had a quick dinner before heading to Henry's house again. Everyone had a good time discussing Le Silence de la mer while enjoying snacks. This felt like an extension of the Thanksgiving party to me. The not-so-fun part is that I got a bad headache afterwards. Blah.

Sunday

The headache went away after a good night's sleep. The plan was to go hiking somewhere, but thanks to the rain, the soggy trails changed our minds. I spent most of Sunday listening to online lectures but still got to watch Dawn of the Planet of the Apes on the Amazon Fire TV in the afternoon. Though I liked Rise of the Planet of the Apes more, the sequel wasn't too bad.

All in all, the break couldn't have been better. I can't wait for New Year's Eve. In the meantime, feel free to check out my pictures from the long weekend.

Currently watching: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Monday, October 27, 2014

Check out the new Fire TV Stick from Amazon!

You may remember that we released the Fire TV set-top box in April. That was definitely a highlight of my career. In the same vein, I'm thrilled to say that the Fire TV Stick is now available!

The Fire TV Stick is similar to the Fire TV in terms of functionality but has a smaller form factor. The device is only $39 each, making it cheaper than the Chromecast or Roku. It starts shipping in November but can be pre-ordered right now. Amazon Prime members can get the Fire TV Stick for $19 - which is less than half price. Just make sure to be quick as the Amazon Prime deal only lasts two days. :-)

Disclaimer: All views expressed in this post are solely my own. I do not represent Amazon in any official capacity.

Friday, October 10, 2014

my last year as a twenty-something

It's hard to believe I'll be three decades old next year. Holy crap. Time goes way too fast these days. At any rate, happy 29th birthday to me!

The day started out well. I got up a little earlier than usual to help Dad plant a jujube tree in our backyard. He says there's no better time to do so than on my birthday. The container was heavier than expected, but we managed to get the job done. Although jujube trees are uncommon in North America, the climate should support them.

I also got a free six-pack of cupcakes from Nob Hill Foods. Mom then bought six more so there would be enough to share with my co-workers. It was great to have people tell me how good the cupcakes were.

Another nice thing is that we invited Sheila, Jeff and the Changs over for dinner after I got home. This wasn't actually a birthday party per se - because Shiela and her partner have shown an interest in joining Henry's film club, Mom felt this would be an excellent way for them to get acquainted. Everything was delicious, especially the pistachio gelato that Henry brought. Things couldn't have worked out better.

I have a money management class tomorrow morning and should probably head to bed. That said, I'm sure the rest of the weekend will be just as awesome. :-)

Currently playing: Angry Birds Star Wars II

Friday, September 12, 2014

level 60 on Newgrounds!

I never thought this would happen, but my Newgrounds account finally reached the level 60 cap. For the uninitiated, Newgrounds is a website that hosts games, animations, music and other digital creations. The website uses a leveling system that determines a user's voting power. Getting level 60 requires a total of 38,640 experience. Because users can only gain up to 10 points per day under normal circumstances, this takes at least 10 years. I really spend too much time on there. ^_^

Currently watching: Her

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Labor Day long weekend report + an incredible summer

The long weekend was pretty good. Because our new family friend Sheila and her partner Jeff recently had us over for dinner, my parents figured there was no better time to return the favor. Mom also invited Howard's family as we really enjoyed their company last time. The dinner on Saturday was lots of fun, especially with all the food. You can go here for the pictures.

I spent most of Sunday listening to online lectures. There wasn't much else to do besides play RuneScape and Angry Birds Epic during breaks. However, yesterday was nice as we went hiking near Woodside. The plan was to go to Half Moon Bay afterwards, but the heat made us change our minds. The rest of the day was uneventful, although I watched The Amazing Spider-Man 2 on the Amazon Fire TV after dinner. The action was intense!

Summer in review

All in all, this summer was incredible. July began with a visit from my aunts Jill and Yu-Hua. Dad took all of us to Reno and Tahoe just after they arrived. The five of us went to Pasadena for Connie's wedding two weeks later. Seeing my cousin get married to the love of her life made for wonderful memories.

August began with the annual Lab126 family picnic and the party at Sheila's house. That was followed by a field trip to San Francisco with Henry's film club. The LAHS reunion was great too. Then there's this weekend. Just because I had to work didn't mean we didn't have fun!

In other news...

I recently joined the World Financial Group's money management program at the recommendation of Min, my former supervisor at Cisco. The classes cover topics related to personal finance and are pretty useful.

Currently watching: The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Sunday, August 24, 2014

on high school reunions

The 10-year reunion of the Los Altos High School class of 2004 was last night. This was super exciting as I hadn't touched base with most of my LAHS classmates outside of Facebook since graduation. I had been waiting for this moment for a long time!

The event was hosted at a microbrewery in Mountain View called Tied House. I counted about 50 people, including significant others. It was lots of fun even though only about 12% of the graduating class showed up. There were some unfamiliar faces, but that's probably because we never had the same teacher. At any rate, I had a great time reconnecting with people, even those I didn't regularly talk to in high school.

A math teacher who was the father of one of the students later joined us. That was pretty cool even though I never took Mr. Randall's class. Some people decided to go to another pub after Tied House closed for the night. Though I didn't want to stay up too late and went home, the reunion was awesome. I'd like to thank Derek and his fiancée Jody for making it possible. The same goes for Preeti, Charline et al. for helping out with things.

It's too bad I didn't get to see all of my classmates. The only other issue is that the venue was crowded at times. That said, the party was really enjoyable. Four hours definitely wasn't enough. I didn't take too many pictures due to the limited space, but here they are. One thing for sure is that we need to get together more often!

Currently watching: Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Sunday, August 17, 2014

I left my heart in San Francisco

"Dealing with other drivers in San Francisco is like going to war." -- Mom

We went to San Francisco today with Henry's film club. The purpose of the field trip was to see some of the locations where the 1958 film Vertigo was shot. Though it was exhausting as we were out for almost 14 hours, all of us had an amazing time.

Dad insisted on starting out early to avoid potential congestion. The drive was smooth; not only was there less traffic than anticipated, my family ended up being the first to arrive. After parking our car, the three of us headed to Portsmouth Square to wait for the others. It just happens that the San Francisco Chinatown Ping Pong Festival was being held at the plaza. Even mayor Ed Lee was there!

Once everyone showed up, the tour began with a walk on the Barbary Coast Trail. Our family friend Pi-Yun acted as our guide and took us to several points of interest in the area, such as Saints Peter and Paul Church and the Cable Car Museum. The cable car power house at the museum was a cool sight for sure.

All of us then had a short rest at Fairmont San Francisco. The hotel was impressive - both inside and outside - although I'm not too keen on finding out the rates. The last stop of the morning was the beautiful Grace Cathedral. One interesting feature of the church was the labyrinth outside the entrance. Going to the center was a workout in itself.

The group split up for lunch; about half of us went to a Chinese restaurant called Imperial Palace. Everyone was super hungry as it was well past noon. Let's just say it was like feeding a pack of starving wolves when the food arrived. While the prices were somewhat high, the food wasn't too bad.

Only nine of us stayed for the second half of the tour as the others left after lunch. There was more driving than walking as the remaining stops were farther apart. The afternoon began with a visit to Mission San Francisco de Asís. Founded just before the U.S. declared independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain, the mission is the oldest surviving structure in San Francisco. Some of us also went to the nearby Palace of Fine Arts, although we didn't actually go inside due to time constraints.

Up next was Fort Point National Historic Site. The fort had just closed when we arrived, but the parking lot was the perfect place to enjoy the cool ocean breeze. The next destination was the Legion of Honor. Though it was also closed, the museum made for some great pictures. The tour concluded at the makeshift memorial outside the home where the late Robin Williams once lived. It was touching to see that so many people cared about him.

The plan was to head to another Chinese restaurant for dinner. However, my father had such a hard time finding a parking spot that we almost decided not to stay. Mom was about to call Henry to tell him we were leaving when Dad found a spot at the last minute. Our group then had dinner together before going separate ways. The food wasn't that good, but at least Mom didn't have to cook after a long day.

Having walked so much, the three of us were totally exhausted when we got home. MapMyRun says we walked a total of around 12 miles - which is a new record for us. I'd say that burned quite a few calories. :-)

On the whole, this had to be one of our best day trips ever. I had no idea San Francisco could be so much fun. I'm hoping similar events are planned for the future. In the meantime, be sure to check out the pictures from the field trip.

In other news...

Only six more days until my 10-year high school reunion. I'm so excited!

Update: The pictures are online.

Currently listening to: "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" by Tony Bennett

Sunday, August 10, 2014

two parties and a rummage sale!

There was a sense of déjà vu yesterday as we went to a rummage sale at a local church and the annual Lab126 family picnic. I enjoyed looking at the items even though there wasn't much this time. It was definitely a great way to start the weekend.

Because the picnic was scheduled for noon, I studied for a bit before we headed to Coyote Ranch in Morgan Hill. Like at previous events, there was lots of food and drinks. The Coyote Ranch staff again put on lots of activities. One of them was bingo, something they had never done before. It was pretty fun even though none of us won. If only there were more than just five rounds.

We didn't stay too late as Eileen's cousin Sheila was having us over for dinner. She and her partner Jeff both love cooking and made lots of delicious food. It wasn't just the five of us as Sheila also invited her brother Howard and his wife and daughter. All of us definitely had a great time. I've posted pictures from the Lab126 picnic and the dinner at Sheila's house.

Today began with a visit from Min, my old supervisor at Cisco. Having done so much the day before, I mostly listened to online lectures, although I did watch Vertigo for Henry's film club and Iron Man and Captain America: Heroes United on the Amazon Fire TV for fun. So yeah, this was an awesome weekend. :-)

Currently watching: Iron Man and Captain America: Heroes United

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Pasadena trip report + congratulations to my cousin Connie!

"Are you sure he's not an undercover NSA agent?" -- me asking Luc about the videographer

The weekend has been awesome as we went to Pasadena with my aunts Jill and Yu-Hua for Connie's nuptials. This was very exciting as I hadn't been to a wedding in almost 18 years. It was great to touch base with the Shiehs again after they moved to Southern California almost three years ago.

Though we were also invited to the rehearsal dinner, I regrettably had to decline as it would have been difficult to extend our stay given the short notice. However, that's not a big deal as the most important thing is that we got to celebrate with Luc and Connie.

Day 1

We started out early due to the possibility of congestion in the L.A. metropolitan area. Except for a stop at Casa de Fruta so Jill and Yu-Hua could look around - and lunch at Burger King - the 350-mile drive was uneventful. Contrary to our expectations, the traffic in L.A. turned out to be light and didn't cause any delays.

Luc and Connie decided to have a courthouse ceremony and forgo the traditional bridal party in the interest of time. Though I had told Connie we'd be there, that didn't happen because checking into the hotel and dressing up took longer than expected. This could have been avoided by going directly to the courthouse, but Mom felt showing up dressed inappropriately would be worse than not showing up at all.

The reception began around 5 p.m. at a small restaurant called POP Champagne & Dessert Bar. The place was crowded as there were over 60 guests, many of whom were related to Luc. I got to meet several of Connie's friends, Luc's extended family and Cathy's boyfriend Gene. Aside from the parents and a little girl named Bella, most of the guests were my age. The only downside is that there was no dancing as the venue had limited space.

Dinner consisted of two passed appetizers, followed by assorted beef sliders and macaroni cheese with truffle oil for the main course. The Shieh and Danziger families then shared stories about the couple during the toasts. Dessert included crème brûlée, churros and pavlova. The newlyweds later thanked us for coming before cutting the cake.

Because Luc's aunt Armelle helped plan the wedding and was a huge Star Wars fan like Connie, there was a Millennium Falcon cake topper. I'm a Star Wars fan myself and thought it was a nice touch. Although the cake was delicious, all of us were so full that Mom and I shared a single slice!

On the whole, the evening was fantastic. It's too bad my father couldn't be there. Dad was tied up with an important work project and also didn't want to pass any germs around from his cold. He nonetheless showed up at the end of the night to give Connie his blessings.

Day 2

I had no more than three hours of sleep and was totally exhausted. The excitement and the sugar rush from last night were probably the reason. It wasn't just me because Jill was so tired that she decided to skip the free breakfast. I took the opportunity to get level 83 crafting in RuneScape while she slept in.

Luc and Connie had invited us to join them and their friends on a field trip to the J. Paul Getty Museum. This would have been nice, but the plan was canceled due to my aunt Cynthia not feeling well the night before. Therefore, my father took us to Old Pasadena instead. He says this was his favorite part of the trip.

Cynthia felt much better in the morning and invited us and Luc to her place in L.A. for lunch. The Shiehs had a large home with three floors. It was nice to relax and hang out with my cousins while waiting for the food to arrive. The lunch made for wonderful family time. Dad knew quite a few mother-in-law jokes. ^_^

Cathy and I accompanied Cynthia back to Pasadena as my aunt had to pick up her car. Cynthia was kind enough to take me to the Fair Oaks Pharmacy & Soda Fountain after Mom told her I wanted to go there. Though the ice cream looked tasty - especially in the hot summer - consuming so much sugar in such a short time seemed like a bad idea. I had also just recovered from a cold and didn't want to risk getting sick again. The Fair Oaks Pharmacy is definitely a place I'd like to revisit in the future.

Jill and Yu-Hua have decided to stay with the Shiehs for the rest of their time in the U.S. It was hard to part with my aunts and cousins. The three of us hit the road shortly afterwards as Dad didn't want to arrive home too late. Despite the traffic, the drive back to the Bay Area was fairly smooth. Our adventure ended with a nice dinner at Il Postale.

Conclusions

The reception at POP Champagne & Dessert Bar was easily highlight of the trip. Seeing my cousin get married was one of the most special moments in my life. So without further ado, congratulations to Luc and Connie. I wish them nothing but love and happiness as they begin their life together.

There is so much to do in Pasadena. I've always been interested in science and had hoped to visit the Jet Propulsion Laboratory - which wasn't very far - but that wasn't an option because the facility is generally only open to the public on weekdays. The city is also home to a number of Route 66 attractions, including the Fair Oaks Pharmacy & Soda Fountain. Looks like we'll have to go back to Pasadena soon!

I'd say my biggest regret is missing the ceremony at the courthouse. The only consolation is that she says it's not a big deal. Another downer is that Dad was unable to come to the reception, but at least he was able to join us for lunch afterwards. I'm also a little bummed that we had to miss the rehearsal dinner. Sometimes not everything goes to plan.

Now that we're home, the post-vacation blues have set in. On the other hand, the memories from Connie's wedding will last a long time. Feel free to check out my pictures and videos from the trip.

Currently listening to: "Wake Me Up" by Avicii

Monday, July 14, 2014

a weekend getaway to Reno

"All right, everyone, let's get to work." -- Dad at Rail City Casino

Summer is off to a good start as two of my aunts are visiting from overseas. Figuring we had to do something fun together, Dad took all of us to Reno and Tahoe over the weekend. Intense heat aside, this was an enjoyable vacation.

Day 1

The first stop was Solano Town Center in Fairfield so my aunts could have a look around. There wasn't anything they needed, but it was nice to stretch our legs. We arrived in Roseville around noon, and the nearby Maidu Regional Park was the perfect spot for a picnic lunch. Though the weather was warm, the park had a large shaded pavilion. The picnic made for great family time.

The route took us through Auburn and Truckee. Given that it had gotten hot outside, Jill and Yu-Hua opted to stay in the car. Because my family had been to both places, all of us decided to continue on.

Dad checked us into Hampton Inn & Suites Reno after a long drive. Our suite was spacious and had more than enough room for everyone. Jill and Yu-Hua relaxed at the hotel while the rest of us went to buy dinner at the nearby WinCo Foods. The artisan flatbread from Leonardi's Pizza was delicious!

We went to Grand Sierra Resort in the evening so my aunts could get a feel of casinos in the U.S. Seeing that the slots at Grand Sierra Resort had low payouts, Mom suggested going to Rail City Casino in Sparks instead. The five of us played the penny slots at Rail City Casino for around two hours and actually ended up winning a few dollars. This was my favorite part of the trip.

Day 2

All of us got up fairly early as the heat made it hard to sleep. The historic Virginia City awaited us after a nice breakfast at the hotel. Considering that Virginia City was a highlight of our trip to Reno and Carson City five years ago, my parents thought Yu-Hua and Jill might be interested. But because it was already really hot - and most of the stores weren't open yet - our stay here was short.

We then went back to Rail City Casino to play more slots and watch the World Cup final between Germany and Argentina. Luck wasn't on our side this time as yesterday's gains soon disappeared. I can't say this was unexpected. As the saying goes, the house always wins. Or at least almost always.

The plan was to check out nearby casinos and look for hiking trails in the area. However, none of us wanted to stay after the weather turned out to be even hotter than the day before. Dad made a quick stop in South Lake Tahoe so my aunts could get pictures. There were more people on the beach than we've ever seen. How they could stand the heat is beyond me.

The heat soon became unbearable, at which point we decided to head back to the Bay Area. The five of us had a short rest at the Nyack Shell convenience store before leaving the mountains. I bought a bag of potato chips and some much-needed ice cream.

Our final stop on the way home was WinCo Foods in Vacaville for groceries. Jill and Yu-Hua were impressed by the size of the store. Dad wanted to have dinner at a dim sum place in Fremont but later found out it had permanently closed. Therefore, he took us to a Chinese restaurant in Milpitas instead. The crazy thing is that the power went out in the middle of the meal. Oh dear!

I'm guessing the heat caused the outage. It was hard to see the food until Dad brought in a flashlight from the car. This kind of ruined the mood but was also an interesting experience. Sometimes it's these little mishaps that make a vacation more memorable. At any rate, the outage seemed to affect just one particular area and didn't give us any other problems.

Conclusions

The biggest downside of the trip was the unexpected heat wave. The high temperatures made it difficult to spend more than a few minutes outside and often caused our plans to change. That said, everything else was awesome. Although the car rides were uncomfortable due to the cramped space, having companions always makes traveling much more enjoyable.

On the whole, I'd say the best part of the trip was playing the slots at Rail City Casino. This was our first time traveling with Jill and Yu-Hua since our visit to Taiwan and China seven years ago, and their company made this trip especially fun. Be sure to check out the pictures from our vacation.

Speaking of which, my cousin Connie's wedding is in two weeks. Jill and Yu-Hua are again joining us as we head to Pasadena. I'm super excited. :-)

Currently listening to: "Summer" by Calvin Harris

Sunday, July 6, 2014

4th of July weekend report + summer plans

I had a nice 4th of July even though we didn't do much.

Kicking off the weekend, my family had lunch at Tomatina in San Mateo on the 4th. The plan was to go to Il Postale in Sunnyvale, but the place was inexplicably empty even though the doors were open. There was absolutely nobody inside, not even the employees. Heaven knows what was going on.

At any rate, the food at Tomatina was quite good. The restaurant had several TVs tuned to the World Cup match between Brazil and Colombia. This made our lunch even more enjoyable.

We visited some antique stores on the way home as Mom wanted to shop for fine china. This was somewhat exhausting as we made several stops. All of us were too tired to go anywhere to see fireworks, although I pulled a few party poppers after dinner.

The rest of the break was uneventful. Because it was fairly hot outside, most of my time was spent studying Android. On the other hand, I reached level 85 magic in RuneScape yesterday afternoon. So there's that.

2014 summer plans

The fun doesn't end here: my aunts Yu-Hua and Jill are coming over from China on the 12th and will be staying with us for a few weeks. The plan is to take them to Reno this coming weekend. This will be followed by a trip down to Pasadena for my cousin Connie's wedding two weeks later. I haven't been to a wedding in almost 18 years and am definitely looking forward to this one.

August is full of events as well, starting with the annual Lab126 family picnic on the 9th. Henry's film club is taking a field trip to San Francisco on the 17th. Last but not least, there's my 10-year high school reunion at the end of the month. So yeah, I'm extremely excited for the summer. :-)

In other news...

On the subject of weddings, happy sixth anniversary to my cousin Anne and her husband Lawrence!

Currently watching: Batman: The Animated Series - "Birds of a Feather"

Monday, June 9, 2014

a very special 30th anniversary...

The weekend marked the 30th anniversary of two wonderful people in my life: Mom and Dad!

Because this was a once-in-a-lifetime occasion, I figured we had to do something special. One thing that's been on my mind is where to take my parents. But my mother had a different idea: she didn't want me to spend too much on a meal and opted for a hot pot dinner at home. I obliged as this was her day after all.

Mom found some high-quality seafood at an Asian supermarket and made an amazing hot pot dinner on Saturday. She used nothing but the best ingredients, all of which were delicious. However, due to the time required to prepare the meal, my family didn't do much in the evening other than go for a stroll around the neighborhood.

Yesterday was also fun as we went hiking near Woodside. It was almost noon when we were done, after which we headed to Half Moon Bay to grab a bite. I treated my parents to lunch at Sushi Main Street as Dad wanted some Japanese food. Yum!

The three of us visited five antique stores on the way home as Mom wanted to shop for fine china. The evening was uneventful as we were all tired, although I watched an episode each of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Batman: The Animated Series on the new Amazon Fire TV before going to bed.

This was overall an awesome weekend. Here's to congratulating my parents on 30 happy years of marriage and hopefully many more to come!

Currently watching: Star Trek: The Next Generation - "The Ensigns of Command"

Sunday, May 25, 2014

level 99 woodcutting in RuneScape

I finally reached 99 woodcutting in RuneScape after being semi-retired for several years. It was definitely long overdue. Here is a screenshot of me leveling up!

Because I haven't played the game much since 2009 due to real life, this was my first major achievement in ages. The biggest challenges were the limited training spots in F2P and competition with bots. Though level 99 stats aren't such a big deal anymore, I'm proud to say this was 100% legitimate. :-)

Currently playing: RuneScape

Monday, May 19, 2014

a belated Mother's Day celebration

Mother's Day was uneventful. I was busy familiarizing myself with Android Studio because the Fire TV team at Lab126 is migrating from Eclipse. Mom felt my job duties were more important than going out to eat and suggested staying home.

On the other hand, my parents invited the Tangs, Lius and our family friend Lily over for lunch on the 17th. Considering that I didn't get to treat my parents to a Mother's Day meal, I did my best to help Mom prepare the food. She had already done most of the cooking while I was at work and didn't need much help, but it's the thought that counts. :-)

At any rate, you can view my pictures from the gathering here. It was hard to follow the conversation as everyone else was much older than me - like at least twice my age. However, the nice thing is that Eileen gave me a box of Pralibel chocolates. I can't wait to try them as they look damn good. Thanks, Eileen!

Yesterday was relatively uneventful due to the hot weather, although we went for an evening stroll around the neighborhood. I also played a bit of RuneScape in my free time. Speaking of which, I'm really close to 99 woodcutting and should get there in a few days. W00t!

Currently listening to: "Pompeii" by Bastille

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

new Kindle Fire HDX 8.9"

Our new Kindle Fire HDX 8.9" just arrived. Dad bought it a few days ago in order to read e-books. With 64 GB of storage, this Kindle is more than just an e-reader.

The tablet will be useful for the rest of us as well. An actual Android device will allow me to quickly test my code instead of having to wait several minutes for an emulator to initialize. It also means Mom and I no longer have to fight over the iPad 2 all the time. At least I hope that's the case!

In other news...

I recently passed 50,000 edits on the English Wikipedia. Though I don't have time to edit Wikipedia much anymore, this is a pretty big milestone.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

sometimes I miss the '80s...

Last week saw the release of the Amazon Fire TV streaming media player. Of course, no product launch is complete without some sort of celebration. To that end, Lab126 had a launch party at Firehouse Grill & Brewery in Sunnyvale this afternoon.

The project founders were such big fans of Ferris Bueller's Day Off that the Fire TV was code named Bueller. It only made sense that we used it to play the movie on the restaurant's projector screen. The events team also set up additional devices for gaming and retro music. The '80s theme was a nice touch.

There was also tons of food, including a cake made to look like Ferris Bueller's famous Corvette. It was an amazing event for sure. I'm sure you want to see the pictures, so here they are. :-)

Currently watching: Ferris Bueller's Day Off

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

check out the Amazon Fire TV!

"Ladies and gentlemen, the dawn of a new era has arrived." -- me

Back when I joined the Lab126 team, I was told that I'd be working on a secret project related to the Amazon Kindle. Two years later, our product has finally been released!

The thing we've been working on is the Amazon Fire TV streaming media player. It features high-speed streaming video, voice search, an app store, parental controls and lots of other neat stuff. The device costs only $99 and comes with a free month of Amazon Prime. The Fire TV is pretty awesome for sure. Or at least it should be, considering that I worked on it for two years. :-)

Because the launch began at 11 a.m. in New York City - or 8 a.m. on the West Coast - we had to arrive at the office early to see it live. The feed disconnected a few times due to the bandwidth, but things otherwise went without a hitch. It certainly feels great to be part of the team that made this possible. So yeah, you should order an Amazon Fire TV if you don't already have one. :D

Currently listening to: "Burn" by Ellie Goulding

Disclaimer: All views expressed in this post are solely my own. I do not represent Amazon in any official capacity.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Chinese New Year party report

"The party van is here!" -- me, on Joseph's arrival

Saturday was uneventful as I was busy studying computer graphics. However, today was nice as we went to Carmel for a Chinese New Year celebration. You may recall that our family friend Joseph organized a class reunion at Chiuyen's house last year. That was so much fun that they decided to do it again!

The Taos also took the opportunity to invite their neighbors and colleagues. Everyone brought lots of food for the potluck lunch. The meatballs and the deviled eggs were my favorites. There were so many dishes that I didn't get to try all of them.

Joseph's daughter Claire was caught up with schoolwork and couldn't come. On the other hand, Yuan and Fang had several friends over. I was the only twenty-something and felt a little out of place, but we still found some common ground.

The kids and I played Sorry! after lunch. I hadn't touched that game in over 10 years but was able to quickly get up to speed with the rules. Let's just say things got very heated. However, the game wasn't even over when most people had to go home. The parents ruin all the fun. ^_^

Super Bowl XLVIII started shortly afterwards. That probably explains why everyone was in such a hurry to leave. Though it would have been fun to watch the game at Chiuyen's house, the Taos weren't really into sports. I reckon most families didn't want to overstay their welcome anyway as the gathering was supposed to end at 2:30 p.m. On the whole, this reunion was even better than the 2013 one. Feel free to check out the pictures.

Some of us considered taking a stroll around the neighborhood afterwards as we did last year, but this wasn't an option either due to the heavy rain. That left some free time, during which my family stopped at three antique stores on our way home. Mom found some nice china at each of the stores. This brought back memories of our recent trip to Reno.

Dad and I then watched the rest of the Super Bowl. I rooted for the Denver Broncos because the San Francisco 49ers had lost the NFC Championship Game. They say the enemy of my enemy is my friend. However, the Broncos were no match against the Seattle Seahawks either. The final score ended up being 43-8 in favor of Seattle. Blah.

Currently playing: Epic Battle Fantasy 4

Thursday, January 30, 2014

cultural exchange

"Danny, my students said you're really cute!" -- Aunt Jill

Happy Chinese New Year's Eve!

So my aunt Jill and her students Sunny and Melody stayed at our house for a week during their visit from China. This was my first time seeing Jill in over six and a half years. The reason for the visit is that Sunny and Melody were interested in studying abroad. Jill had arranged for us to show them around so they could get a feel of what life in the U.S. was like.

We took the girls to Stanford University and some local stores over the weekend. Jill and my parents also took them to San Francisco and a few other places. It was an exhausting week as Mom had to prepare meals for three more people, not to mention teenage girls in general can be bratty at times. Extra work aside, I really enjoyed their company.

Our guests left this morning and are heading to Florida. They'll be visiting Universal Orlando and Walt Disney World for a few days before returning to China. I'm going to miss them for sure, but at least Jill is planning to come back for another visit this summer. :-)

Currently watching: Star Trek: The Next Generation - "The Royale"

Sunday, January 19, 2014

two parties over the weekend

"I, for one, shall welcome our new robot overlords!" -- me at the Star Wars exhibit at the Tech Museum

So yesterday was the Lab126 post-holiday celebration. Mom also took me to her friend Winnie's house today for Fennah's reading club. It was an awesome weekend for sure.

Lab126 post-holiday celebration

The event was held at the Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose. Having enjoyed last year's event so much, I was greatly looking forward to this one. San Jose is a long drive from my house, but my co-worker Ian was kind enough to let me carpool with him. Thanks, dude!

Like last year, there was lots of food and a dance floor. However, the highlight of the evening was the Star Wars exhibit. To a big Star Wars fan like me, this was geek heaven.

The dance floor opened at 9:50 p.m. Though the music was nice, I wish the DJ was more open to requests. Case in point, he wouldn't play any '80s music because it was "outdated." In addition, the DJ outright refused to play slow songs despite the large number of couples. His only reason was that he didn't like slow songs.

While I'm in no position to tell the DJ what to do, I feel he could have done a better job. The lack of slow songs and older hits was more than a little disappointing. To be fair, the guy worked with a catering company and didn't specialize in mobile entertainment. Perhaps I shouldn't be so harsh on him.

The other thing is that the event was restricted to full-time employees. Because Ian is a contractor, he could only attend the event as my guest. I definitely feel bad for my friends who had to miss out. Shortcomings aside, the party was quite enjoyable. Feel free to check out the pictures and my review of the event.

Fennah's reading club

Mom took me to Winnie's house this afternoon for Fennah's reading club. This was our first time attending the club in several months. It was a new experience as neither of us had been to Winnie's place.

Though the table was full of food, things started getting boring after a while as there were no other young people. On the other hand, I watched the NFC Championship Game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks with Winnie's husband Winston. The 49ers lost and won't make it to the Super Bowl, but they put up a good fight. It was overall a great game.

Winnie gave me a small gift bag with candies and cookies as Mom and I were leaving. She also let us take the leftover snacks. Her generosity is truly appreciated. You can go here for the pictures I took at Winnie's house.

On the whole, the weekend couldn't have been better. It's too bad we don't get Martin Luther King Jr. Day off. Oh well, two parties is certainly more than enough.

In other news...

I just passed 100 million total XP in RuneScape about an hour ago. Click here for the screenshot!

Currently reading: The Computer Image by Alan Watt

Friday, January 17, 2014

2,000 skill total in RuneScape

I finally reached 2,000 skill total in RuneScape after a long semi-hiatus. You can see the screenshot here. The release of all those new skills definitely made this milestone possible. I know this achievement isn't a big deal these days, but at least I can access the 2,000+ world.

For my next goal, I'll probably go for level 90 woodcutting after my membership expires. Assuming I'm not too busy in real life, I should get there in a few months. :-)

In other news...

The annual Lab126 post-holiday party is tomorrow night. I'm so excited!

Currently playing: RuneScape

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Oh hai, RuneScape members!

So certain RuneScape players have been given the option to buy a month of membership for just $0.01 as part of a promotion with PayPal. I was one of those who received the offer. Though I've been busy in real life and haven't played the game much in a while, the deal was too good to pass up.

Jagex has added a lot of content to RuneScape since I last subscribed. Considering that I haven't been a member in almost five years, there is lots of catching up to do. ^_^

Currently playing: RuneScape

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

new 405 nm laser

The 405 nm laser I ordered on eBay finally arrived after almost three weeks. It was well worth the wait. :D

These lasers are normally sold as 5 mW to comply with eBay policies. From what I've heard, they tend to be more powerful than advertised, often reaching up to 100 mW or more. Though mine isn't strong enough to burn things, I can't really complain because it works according to the specifications.

Judging by the brightness, the output is probably around 20 mW at most. The dot is somewhat dimmer than that of my 5 mW green laser pointer, but this isn't unexpected because violet is at the very edge of the visible spectrum. However, the coolest thing about 405 nm lasers is that they cause many objects to fluoresce. I'll try to have a review up soon. Stay tuned!

Update: The review is online. Check it out here.

Currently watching: Star Trek: The Next Generation - "Symbiosis"

Thursday, January 2, 2014

an exciting January...

I'm back in the office as Christmas break has ended. I've got to admit - it's so hard to go back to work right after the New Year, especially on the 2nd.

The good news is that there are only two days until it's the weekend again. However, I'm more excited about what's coming later this month. For starters, Lab126 is having its annual post-holiday celebration on the 18th. The week after that, my aunt Jill and two of her students will be visiting from China and staying with us for a few days. This will be our first time seeing Jill in six and a half years!

I also recently ordered a 405 nm laser pointer. Violet lasers have greatly dropped in price since their inception. Shipping from Hong Kong can take up to two weeks or more, but the laser should show up very soon. So yeah, January is super exciting. :-)

Currently watching: Star Trek: The Next Generation - "Coming of Age"

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy 2014!

So 2013 has come and gone. Time goes by so fast these days...

The nice thing is that we had our first New Year's Eve gathering in six years. It wasn't a huge party as we only invited the Wilsons next door and Dad's colleagues Po-Kang and Paul. On the other hand, both my mother and the Wilsons made lots of good food. You can go here to see what we ate.

The Wilsons didn't want to leave their daughters home alone for too long and left just after the Times Square ball drop. The girls were with their friends and so didn't come. Paul followed shortly afterwards as he also had a wife and child at home. Po-Kang left with Paul as they shared a ride.

It's too bad the party ended so soon. Though there was more than enough time to check out the New Year's Eve events in downtown Mountain View and elsewhere, my parents weren't too keen on the idea because Mom was a little tired. Oh well, I probably shouldn't complain.

2013 in review

On the whole, 2013 was one of the better years. One major highlight was our recent trip to Reno. That was quite enjoyable, especially considering that we don't travel much nowadays. The least fun part of 2013 was when I had pelvic pain for several months. While the pain was bearable, the doctor visits racked up almost $600 in medical bills. >:(

Looking forward, I'm really excited for the future. On the subject of which, my New Year's resolutions are to take ownership of my work and make more real-life friends. Challenge accepted!

Currently listening to: Now That's What I Call Music! 28 (U.S.)