Sunday, December 20, 2015

2,200 skill total in RuneScape

Because I'll be home for the rest of the year, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to get RuneScape membership again. Speaking of which, I actually just reached 2,200 skill total. Here is a screenshot of me leveling up!

Though I'm taking several online classes, there is still plenty of time for RuneScape during breaks, especially considering that we don't have any vacations planned. :-)

Currently playing: RuneScape

Friday, December 18, 2015

a long-awaited holiday break

I'm taking the rest of the year off as I've hit my vacation cap. Though I had planned to take my PTO the week before, my boss had asked me to stay due to a project deadline. The good news is that the current phase of the project has been completed. I still have some vacation time that won't roll over, but manager says I can get comp time. Thanks, Stephen!

The other thing is that we probably won't go on any vacations. Because we already went on three trips this summer, my family decided to take a break from traveling and stay in the Bay Area. Of course, there are always other things to do. :-)

Currently listening to: "Pompeii" by Bastille

Sunday, November 29, 2015

another awesome Thanksgiving break

"I don't want to eat too much at once. That would be... irrational." -- me, on pumpkin pie

I hope everyone a great long weekend. At least my family did, considering that the Changs invited us to their annual Thanksgiving party again!

Thursday

It was a busy day as there were many things that needed to be done. I listened to online lectures and helped Dad unclog the drains while Mom prepared food. The three of us then headed to Henry's house.

The party was pretty fun. Sophie and the girls made several dishes while the Tings brought a turkey and five other items, including desserts. Ruth's boyfriend Steven brought some whiskey as well as cheese, crackers and chocolates. There was so much food that I was quickly full.

Everyone had such a great time that we didn't leave until 1:15 a.m. The only reason we didn't stay longer is that Henry had to teach an 8 a.m. class. I definitely hope the Changs will invite us again next year. In the meantime, feel free to check out my pictures from the party on Flickr.

Of course, Thanksgiving is about gratitude. You may recall that we visited New Zealand this summer. I'm thankful to my aunts Jill and Yu-Hua for paying for the trip, especially considering the costs. One thing for sure is that the memories will last a lifetime.

Friday and Saturday

The next two days were uneventful. Because the stores are often crowded this time of the year, my family decided to stay home. On the other hand, this was the perfect opportunity to finish my assignments for an online class. It was certainly nice to get them out of the way before the holidays.

Sunday

Our neighbor Bob is generously allowing us to pick persimmons from their tree. This took me and Dad the whole morning as the fruits are plentiful. Mom is planning to use them to make dried persimmons. :-)

The three of us walked to BevMo! and Cost Plus World Market in the afternoon to look at wines. This was our first time visiting BevMo! in a while. I couldn't believe how expensive some of the items were.

We also watched the 2013 remake of Oldboy after dinner for Henry's film club. Though they picked the original 2003 film, Mom suggested watching both to better understand the story. To tell you the truth, some scenes were pretty gross. I'm going to need some eye bleach. On the whole, the break wasn't too bad.

Currently watching: Oldboy (2013)

Saturday, October 10, 2015

my thirty years on their shoulders

I just turned 30 years old. It's hard to believe I've spent three decades on Earth. Where did all that time go?

Of note is that we didn't have a fancy celebration this year. Instead, I had a quiet dinner with my parents at a small Japanese restaurant called Joy Sushi. Though the food was pretty average, there are few things better than sharing a meal with two of the most wonderful people in my life.

I also received some birthday rewards: a scoop of ice cream from Baskin-Robbins, a cinnamon roll from Le Boulanger and an item from Starbucks - my choice being a sandwich as it was the best deal. The nice thing is that all three stores were within walking distance. Freebies aren't quite the same as presents from friends, but I can't complain.

In other news...

1. Amazon just announced the second-generation Fire TV earlier this month. To celebrate the launch, Lab126 had an event at Campo di Bocce in Los Gatos. It was definitely lots of fun. Click here the pictures.

2. Dad recently got some dash cameras for our family cars. These cameras are useful for investigations in the event of an accident or other incidents. They'll also allow us to record road trips. :-)

3. Congratulations to my LAHS classmate Derek on getting married!

Currently playing: Angry Birds Friends

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

New Zealand trip report: an adventure like no other

"I'm the king of the world!" -- me on the deck of the TSS Earnslaw

Summer ended on a high note as we went on an amazing trip to New Zealand. This was no ordinary trip as we traveled with my uncle Yeh-Wei and aunt Yu-Hua, and my cousins Anne's and Tom's families. Yeh-Wei was a tour guide for over 10 years and knows every square inch of the South Island, so we were lucky to have him show us around. New Zealand is easily one of the most special places in the world.

Pre-trip

It was a busy Labor Day weekend as we spent most of the time preparing for the trip. Because we would be gone for almost 10 days, there were many things that needed to be done, such as harvesting the vegetables from our garden, unplugging appliances and securing the home. However, our efforts paid off as everything went without a hitch.

Days 1 and 2: kia ora

The trip began on the 7th with an evening flight to Auckland. We packed up and had a quick bite before our family friends Jeff and Sheila picked us up and drove us to SFO. The 13-hour flight was enjoyable despite its length. For starters, the safety video was hilarious. The in-flight entertainment was good too. There was also a feature that allowed passengers to message each other. That's one way to hook up and join the mile high club. *Lenny face*

The movies were a great time killer. I watched Terminator Genisys and Avengers: Age of Ultron before dinner was served. The food was delicious, especially the raspberry and white chocolate mousse. I also saw Justice League: Throne of Atlantis and The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies afterwards. The latter was appropriate given that the entire Lord of the Rings series was filmed in New Zealand.

The plane landed in Auckland around 9 a.m. Though it took a while to clear customs due to the stringent biosecurity measures, the process wasn't as bad as we had imagined. The three of us then boarded our connecting flight to Christchurch. There wasn't much on TV as this flight was much shorter, but Dad and I had a great time guessing the answers to the trivia questions.

The flight was soon over, after which we made our way to the baggage claim area. To our surprise, Yeh-Wei and Yu-Hua were already there waiting for us. It was wonderful to see Yeh-Wei again after all those years. He and Yu-Hua brought us to their house, located just a few minutes from the airport. We unpacked our stuff and had some rest before the Hus took us to local attractions.

First up was Mona Vale - a nice park with lovely gardens. Yeh-Wei then gave us a tour of a prison-turned-hostel called Jailhouse Accommodation. Staying here for a night would be an interesting experience, although I can't say the same for actually going to jail.

The five of us had lunch at a Chinese restaurant before heading to Hagley Park for a stroll. The place was so big that my uncle says we had only seen a fraction of what it had to offer. The next stop was a temporary mall called Re:START that was built from shipping containers following the 2011 Christchurch earthquake. It was a very unique place.

Yeh-Wei then brought us to Tom's house. This was our first time seeing him and his wife Sarah in over eight years. Following their arrival, Mom gave them some of my old clothes to give to their kids. The clothes actually once belonged to Tom, who gave them to us when I was a toddler. Talk about a full circle moment.

Anne came over in the afternoon. This was super exciting as our last time seeing her was almost 18 years ago. It was nice to finally meet her daughter Valerie and Tom's sons Jerry and Ryan. The family reunion was something we had been eagerly looking forward to. The downer is that Anne's husband Lawrence is working in Taiwan and couldn't join us. I guess we'll have to wait until another time to meet him.

Everyone then split up for dinner. I stayed with Tom's and Anne's families while my parents went to Yeh-Wei's house. Sarah turned out to be a great cook just like my mother - no doubt Tom is a lucky man. He and Anne took me back to my uncle's place a few hours later. I was completely exhausted at this point and went to bed shortly afterwards. That was pretty nice, considering that I hadn't slept in about 42 hours!

Day 3: hitting the road

The real adventure was about to begin. Yeh-Wei rented a minibus with 12 seats so we could all fit in. The first stop was a retail and restaurant complex called Farmers Corner. Though nothing was cheap, my uncle had access to a 30% discount through his connections and got me a box of chocolates. We then had lunch at a Japanese restaurant before going to the nearby Lake Tekapo for pictures. Its aquamarine waters were beautiful. The same could be said for the blue waters of the picturesque Lake Pukaki.

Yeh-Wei took us to a few more stops, including the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre. The view of Aoraki / Mt. Cook was incredible. The museum was closed when we arrived, but the café was still open. The lounge was the perfect spot for a coffee break and to enjoy the atmosphere.

After arriving in Omarama - the final destination of the day - we checked into the Countrytime Hotel and headed to the on-site restaurant for dinner. The food wasn't bad at all. The adults went to the recreation room afterwards for foosball and table tennis. This made for wonderful family time. I then logged into RuneScape to collect my daily rewards before going to bed.

Day 4: all kinds of everything

The first stop in the morning was Puzzling World in Wanaka. As the name suggests, the place features many puzzles and optical illusions. It was one of my favorite attractions. I could spend the entire day here.

Speaking of which, my biggest regret is not exploring the Great Maze. Tom went in but ended up having to bail out through the emergency exits. I was up for the challenge, but the tickets were expensive and we were short on time. Puzzling World is definitely a place I'd like to revisit on a future trip to New Zealand.

Up next was the Kawarau Bungy Centre, located at the Kawarau Gorge Suspension Bridge. Bungee jumping is too extreme for me - you couldn't pay me enough to do it - but we enjoyed watching other people take the plunge. Well, maybe I'd consider it if you offered me a million dollars. :-)

Another point of interest was the Arrowtown Chinese Settlement - a former mining town that was once home to Chinese miners during the Otago Gold Rush. Some of the huts were so small that they looked like they were for dogs rather than humans. One could imagine the hardships people went through.

The destination for the next two nights was Queenstown. Our party checked into the hotel and went to a Chinese restaurant for dinner. This was my first time trying venison. The meat was similar to beef aside from its taste. We then went to a supermarket for food before returning to the hotel.

Day 5: sheep jokes, anyone?

Yeh-Wei and Yu-Hua got us tickets for the Walter Peak farm tour. The five of us boarded the TSS Earnslaw as the farm is across Lake Wakapitu. Passengers were allowed to enter the engine room to see its inner workings. The deck provided a nice view of the lake. I couldn't resist reenacting that scene from Titanic while there. ^_^

The steamship arrived at the Walter Peak High Country Farm about 40 minutes later. Our guide Hamish introduced us to the animals and even let us feed them. He then did a demonstration of the Border Collies herding the sheep. The guests were treated to tea and snacks before Hamish showed us how sheep were sheared. This was one of the most memorable moments of the trip.

The Hus dropped us off at the Skyline Gondola after the Earnslaw brought us back to Queenstown. The ride to Bob's Peak was worthwhile. At the top were several attractions, including a luge track and a bungee jumping platform. Anne and Tom went luging with their kids while we checked out the visitor center. I'm surprised we didn't run into them. Yeh-Wei then took us to more stops so we could get pictures. It was a busy day for sure.

Day 6: alien worlds

We left for Te Anau and got there in the early afternoon. Yeh-Wei bought us tickets for the glow-worm cave tour and drove us to the Real Journeys visitor center. This was followed by another boat ride as the entrance to the caves is located across Lake Te Anau. The tiny lights of the glow-worms were surreal. It was a magical experience and my favorite part of the trip. The guides then led us back to the visitor center for drinks and a presentation.

Photography was unfortunately not allowed in the caves as the worms are sensitive to light. For what it's worth, getting decent pictures would have been impossible anyway in the near-total darkness. I guess a postcard will have to do.

Yeh-Wei picked us up at the docks and took us to Fiordland. He went as far as Homer Tunnel before turning around. The views were spectacular and reminiscent of the Arctic Circle tour during our trip to Alaska 11 years ago. One cool sight was the mirror-like lake surfaces in the absence of wind. New Zealand is truly an amazing place.

Back in Te Anau, the day ended with nice seafood dinner at a Chinese restaurant not far from our hotel. Yeh-Wei had asked the owner to prepare a lobster for us. That was easily the best part of the meal.

Day 7: a historical perspective

The highlight of the day was Dunedin. I saw a Chinese couple doing a wedding photo shoot as we arrived. There was a funny moment when Tom's sons insisted on taking pictures with the bride. It was a little awkward, but she was more than happy to oblige. Kiwis really are friendly people. We congratulated the couple and chatted with them for a bit before going separate ways.

Yeh-Wei then took us to Anne's alma mater, the University of Otago. He let Anne be the guide for this part because she got her bachelor's degree here - despite her protests that she doesn't remember much. The campus was full of students as school has started. Our other major stop in Dunedin was Baldwin Street - listed in the Guinness World Records the steepest street in the world. According to my calculations, the street has a 19° slope. It's a good workout for sure.

Mom says Dunedin was her favorite part of the trip. The plan was to book a hotel here, but because Yeh-Wei wasn't feeling well, all of us agreed to return to Christchurch early so he could get some rest. Despite his exhaustion, he made sure we didn't miss out on seeing the Moeraki Boulders. They were among the strangest things on Earth.

It was almost midnight when got back to my uncle's house. I didn't want to disturb his sleep and went to bed shortly afterwards.

Day 8: back to nature

The morning was uneventful as we didn't do much other than relax and check our e-mails. However, Yeh-Wei started feeling better and took us to the Christchurch Botanic Gardens after lunch. There were many plants native to New Zealand. This was another one of my favorite places.

The Hus also took us to their friend Sue's house. The Lins treated us to snacks and gave us a tour of their 12-acre farm. Their DIY projects were impressive, especially considering that Sue's husband did most of the work alone. Looks like Dad has competition. :-)

We then stopped at Coupland's Bakeries for bread and snacks. The store had a huge selection of items. The plan was to visit more supermarkets after dinner, but all of us were tired and decided to rest instead.

Days 9 and 10: all good things...

It was sad to realize this was our last day in New Zealand. Because our flight to Auckland was in the afternoon, my aunt and uncle took us to New Brighton after breakfast. The cool ocean breeze made for a nice stroll on the pier. The weather couldn't have been better. The five of us ordered some fried fish and oysters at a take-away restaurant before returning to Yeh-Wei's house.

Tom and Sarah came over for lunch, followed by Anne a bit later. It was just us adults as Valerie was sleeping and Tom's sons were at school. Yeh-Wei prepared a nice meal for us as we got ready for our trip home. Everything was delicious, especially the fish. It was soon time to head to the airport after filling ourselves up.

We bid farewell to Anne and her parents before Tom and his wife gave us a ride to the airport and helped us check in. The farewells were the saddest part of the trip. I'd be lying if I said we weren't close to tears. As much as we hated to leave, all good things must come to an end.

The flight to Auckland was shorter than anticipated, leaving more than enough time to browse the shops. Mom and I bought all sorts of snacks. I can't wait to try them. The flight back to SFO wasn't too bad either as I saw more movies. Interstellar was my favorite, although I enjoyed San Andreas and Tomorrowland as well. It was also nice to get some sleep on the plane.

The airport was pretty crowded when we arrived in San Francisco. Claiming our baggage and clearing customs took longer than expected due to the large number of arrivals. Jeff and Sheila then picked us up and gave us a ride home.

Conclusions

To say the trip was fun would be an understatement. This was our first international trip in over six years and first foray into the Southern Hemisphere. It was something we had greatly looked forward to. The highlight of the trip was the Te Anau glow-worm cave tour while the Walter Peak farm comes a close second. The local food was unforgettable too. I'm also happy to touch base with Anne and Tom for the first time in ages.

However, there's no such thing as a perfect trip. The worst part is that Yeh-Wei got sick two days ago. I happen to have a sore throat myself. It must have been a very contagious virus. At least it had the decency to wait until our trip was almost over. Haha.

Because he was sick and couldn't concentrate, Yeh-Wei hit a road sign as we were leaving Dunedin. The damage to the vehicle was minor and barely noticeable, but the rental agency still found out and charged him for repairs. Shit happens.

One of our regrets is that we didn't go into the Great Maze at Puzzling World. Computer-generated mazes just don't compare to the real deal. Another thing is that Internet access was spotty at times, although that's a relatively minor issue as we didn't come all the way to New Zealand just to surf the web.

I ought to mention that the Hus paid for our trip. There are no words to express our gratitude. Though we likely won't go to New Zealand again anytime soon, the memories from this trip will last a lifetime. One thing I've heard is that the North Island is just as awesome. The layovers in Auckland had barely scratched the surface. If only plane tickets were free...

Now that we're home, the first few days after coming back will be tough. There is probably lots of work to catch up on. I'm not exactly looking forward to the jet lag and post-vacation blues, but at least the weekend is almost here!

Of course, no trip report is complete without pictures and videos. I think we took around 3,000 photos - and it took me hours to upload the good ones - so you better enjoy them. :-)

September 19 update: Pictures are up. The bad news is that the post-vacation blues have set in. I'm going to miss New Zealand.

Currently watching: Interstellar

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Lab126 family picnic report

Today was the annual Lab126 family picnic. The event was held at Saratoga Springs this year. Let me begin by saying that this place is much nicer than Coyote Ranch. The venue is beautiful and has lots of shade. It's also closer to our house.

One highlight was seeing the Pann family there. Spencer and Jennifer were more than excited to meet with us again. This was also my first time seeing their son Robert in almost five years. It's always nice to reconnect with old friends.

However, I didn't see many familiar faces besides the Panns. This was surprising given that Saratoga Springs is in a more convenient location. On the other hand, my father suggested that I invite my friend Katie as she has done a lot for me. She was more than happy to come. The more the merrier!

The food was similar to that served at Coyote Ranch, although there were more desserts. The only downside is that the ice cream stand was only available for two hours. The entertainment included a DJ and carnival games. This made for a great atmosphere.

There was a scary moment when a kid passed out on the ground. I'm guessing he had a heat stroke as it was pretty hot outside. The area was closed while the paramedics tended to him. The good news is that he turned out to be fine. That was a relief for everyone.

On the whole, this has been the most enjoyable picnic so far. I definitely hope next year's event will be at Saratoga Springs again. Feel free to check out my pictures from the picnic.

A commemorative event was held at the Silicon Valley Asian Art Center later in the afternoon to mark the 70th anniversary of the victory over Japan. Dad wanted to go there after finding out that several people from Eileen's poetry club would be giving talks. Some of their relatives were high-ranking officers in the Republic of China Armed Forces during World War II and had interesting stories. There was also free food. :-)

Currently listening to: "Surfin' U.S.A." by the Beach Boys

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Davis trip report

"Oh man, my ass is going to be on fire tomorrow." -- me at an Indian restaurant with spicy food

The weekend was pretty fun as my family went to Davis and several other places. Though we just came back from another trip last month, Dad had several thousand Hyatt Gold Passport points that were about to expire. I certainly can't complain!

Day 1

The first leg of the trip was a stop at the Petaluma Marina. Because it was almost noon when we arrived, the three of us ate lunch in the car before taking a look around. There wasn't much other than some offices and a handful of shops, but we still went for a walk and took some pictures.

The main reason for the trip was to go to Bodega Bay and see the locations where The Birds was filmed. This is something we had wanted to do for a while. Despite the relatively short distance, the drive to Bodega Bay took longer than expected due to traffic. Our previous visit here was around 20 years ago. Can you believe how fast time flies?

This was followed by dinner at an Indian restaurant in Vacaville. The food was super spicy but otherwise delicious. Dad checked into the hotel before taking us to the UC Davis campus for an evening stroll. The school is famous for its arboretum, but we decided to come back the next day as it was getting late.

Day 2

The morning started with a tasty breakfast at the hotel, after which we returned to the UC Davis. The arboretum was beautiful and had all kinds of plants and wildlife. The lack of crowds made it a pleasant experience.

The next destination was the Budweiser factory in Fairfield. The funny thing is that we passed it many times but never thought to go in. The tour was informative and included beer samples. This was definitely the best part of the trip. The plan was to visit the Jelly Belly factory as well, but we changed our minds after finding out there are no tours on weekends.

The final stop was WinCo Foods for groceries. I got a few snacks while my mother bought some soy milk and flour. Mom didn't want the soy milk to go bad in the heat and suggested not staying out too late. The smooth traffic made the drive home shorter than expected.

Conclusions

On the whole, the trip was quite enjoyable. The best part was the Budweiser factory tour, although the UC Davis Arboretum comes a close second. I didn't know the campus could be such a nice place. Feel free to look at the pictures from our vacation.

In other news...

Happy one-year anniversary to my cousin Connie and her husband Luc!

Currently listening to: "Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey

Saturday, July 18, 2015

a train trip to Sacramento

"Goodbye, Mr. Doge!" -- one of the girls to me

Summer has been great as we went to Sacramento with the China-America Shanghai Friendship Association. Our family friend Ching-Lin had invited us on a day trip organized by the club. It was lots of fun as there were around 30 other families!

The day began with a drive to Fremont station. This was a new experience as we had never been on Amtrak before. Though we were scheduled to take the 8:20 train, the event organizer had asked us to arrive 40 minutes earlier. I was pretty sleepy as we had to get up no later than 6:30 a.m. On the bright side, there was plenty of time to get acquainted with others.

Lots of people got on the train at various stops. There were so many of us that we took up nearly an entire car. Ching-Lin acted as a tour guide during the two-ride ride. His knowledge of the history of California was impressive.

The train arrived in Sacramento just before noon. We split into two groups and rode the bus to the California State Capitol Museum. The surrounding Capitol Park was the perfect place for a picnic lunch. This was followed by a guided tour of the Capitol. The tour was informative and enjoyable. I had no idea the Capitol was such a fascinating place.

Just two blocks away was Leland Stanford Mansion State Historic Park - the site of the former governor's home. At first we thought it was closed as the front doors were locked. However, someone found a second entrance just as we were about to leave. The guides were awesome and more than happy to accommodate our schedule. The mansion was beautiful and well-preserved. It's a shame photography wasn't allowed inside.

The final stop was Old Sacramento. Our families took a stroll to the Tower Bridge and browsed local shops. This was pretty fun even though it was extremely hot outside. On the other hand, there was a small café with ice cream. I enjoyed a double scoop before we headed back to the Amtrak station.

The ride back to Fremont was uneventful, although it was hard to bid farewell to our new friends. The day concluded with dinner at a Mediterranean restaurant in Sunnyvale. The tapas were delicious, but the fish wasn't too fresh and the water tasted terrible. I can't say this was a stellar dining experience.

The trip had its funny moments. There was a picture of a Shiba Inu in a window at the California State Capitol. One of the girls decided to call me "Mr. Doge" after I made a reference to the meme. I'm sure we got some strange looks. The other thing is that several moms asked me whether I was still in college. That definitely made me feel young again. ^_^

The only downside is that there were few people my age. The other young people in our group were mostly high school students. I guess twenty-somethings don't want anything to do with their parents. The day trip was nonetheless a major highlight of the summer. I hope similar events are being planned for the future. In the meantime, you can go here for the pictures.

Currently listening to: "Come and Get Your Love" by Redbone

Sunday, July 5, 2015

4th of July long weekend report

I had an awesome 4th of July weekend even though the weather was pretty hot most of the time.

Friday

It was an awkward morning as we made an unnecessary trip to the office. I had gotten the schedule wrong and thought we were getting Monday off instead. Only when I noticed the office was empty did I realize my mistake. This could all have been avoided had I checked my work calendar. *facepalm*

The rest of the day was uneventful, although we walked to our family friend Sheila's house in the evening to give her some of our lemons. She and Jeff invited us in for ice cream and tea. That was very sweet of them. All of us had such a good time talking that it was well past 10 p.m. when we got home!

Saturday

Mom had hoped to visit Bodega Bay as we hadn't been there in a while. She later suggested going to Santa Cruz instead after seeing the temperatures were still high. However, the forecasts showed a lot of traffic along the route, probably because everyone else had the same idea. In the end, my family went hiking in Los Altos Hills.

We later stopped at Nob Hill Foods for ice cream before going on an evening stroll around our neighborhood. There were several local fireworks displays this year, some of which were visible from our house. I'm glad we didn't have to go anywhere to see them.

Sunday

It was so hot outside that we decided to stay home. On the other hand, the three of us watched Dog Day Afternoon for Henry's movie club. I also saw Riddick and Guardians of the Galaxy for fun. Guardians of the Galaxy is one of the funniest movies ever. I'd love to see a sequel.

Oh yeah, and the U.S. won the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup. I can't think of a better way to end the 4th of July weekend.

Currently watching: Guardians of the Galaxy

Thursday, July 2, 2015

new iPhone 6 Plus!

So we each got an iPhone 6 Plus as part of an updated contract with Verizon. From my initial impressions, the phone is really nice. It's faster than the iPhone 4s and has a noticeably longer battery life. The larger screen also makes it easier to use. I can't complain about the 128 GB of storage either. The only downside is the bulky size will take time to get used to.

However, there are two annoying issues. The first is that I'm having a hard time importing my custom ringtones. They simply won't appear even though iTunes shows the files are there. I've tried several different solutions and rebooted the phone multiple times, all to no avail. This went on for about two hours, after which I eventually gave up. I don't understand why Apple has to make what should be a simple task so complicated.

The other thing is that I lost two months of progress in Angry Birds Epic after syncing my files. I used to play the game on the iPad 2 and iPhone 4s before switching to the Kindle Fire HDX due to iOS issues. The iOS version would frequently lag and eventually crash. I figured the app might work better on the iPhone 6 Plus, but when I copied the data over, the save file from the iPhone 4s somehow overwrote the one in the cloud. Shit happens.

I know it's only a game but am still a little pissed off about losing hours of work and my hard-earned items. This shouldn't happen in a well-designed game. At any rate, I've contacted Rovio in hopes that there's something they can do. *crosses fingers*

July 3 update: Rovio managed to restore my Angry Birds Epic save file. Their customer support is top-notch. :-)

Currently playing: Angry Birds Epic

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Father's Day weekend trip report

I just got back from a three-day trip to Roseville and Tahoe with my parents. It was very exciting as we went to several new places. There's no better way to spend the Father's Day weekend!

Day 1

The original plan was to visit Bodega Bay as we hadn't been there in a long time. However, Dad had gotten word that Eileen's poetry club was meeting at Lake Chabot Regional Park on the 19th. The event was moved from Lake Merritt in Oakland due to traffic following the Golden State Warriors game. Because my parents are philosophers at heart and each recently wrote a poem, they opted to go to Lake Chabot and save Bodega Bay for another trip.

We arrived just in time for a potluck lunch with all the fixings. Everyone then recited their poems before going for a walk along the lake. It was a wonderful feeling - the only reason we didn't stay for the entire hike is that we had to drive another 110 miles to Roseville.

The good news is that it didn't take too long to get to Roseville despite the traffic jams. Seeing that it was hot outside, the only stop in the evening was a Japanese restaurant for dinner. The noodle soup was among the best I've ever had.

Day 2

The breakfast at Hyatt Place was also really good. Though the distance to Reno wasn't too far, the drive took several hours due to congestion. Because the temperatures were still high when we got there, the afternoon was uneventful except for a late lunch at a stylish café. We only ordered two sandwiches as it was well past noon, but they were delicious!

After the weather cooled down, my family went to a pizza joint for dinner before going to Circus Circus. The slots were lots of fun even though luck wasn't on our side this time. ^_^

Day 3

Happy Father's Day and summer solstice!

The day began with another nice breakfast at the hotel. Dad then took us to some nearby trails he had found, starting with a section of the Tahoe Rim Trail called the Tahoe Meadows Interpretive Loop Trail. This was our first time hiking in Tahoe and an exciting experience. The scenery in the area was incredible. The hike was easily the best part of the trip.

Further down south was the Diamond Peak trail, located next to the ski area of the same name. The three of us ate lunch in the car before heading out as it was already past 1 p.m. But because this hike was more strenuous - and the views weren't as great - we turned back shortly afterwards.

The next stop was Eagle Falls as Mom wanted pictures. There were many people, some of whom were wading in the water. That definitely looked like fun. Dad then took us to Fallen Leaf Lake on the recommendation of a poetry club member. The place was quiet and peaceful. I even enjoyed a frozen treat while relaxing in the shade. Despite its merits, Fallen Leaf Lake probably isn't worth another visit due to its remote location.

We had planned to look for more hiking trails but decided to head back after my mother started getting tired. Mom had hoped to stop at Costco for gas and groceries on the way home, but my father missed the exit due to the GPS acting up. Though we took the next exit and eventually found our way to Costco, the main store closed just as we finished refueling our car. That meant we couldn't get groceries as planned. Shit happens.

Not too far away was a WinCo Foods store. As much as we love WinCo, all of us were tired and decided to skip it this time. The traffic wasn't too severe and allowed us to get home earlier than expected. It was an exhausting trip as we spent a lot of time on the road. I'm actually a little glad we didn't get home too late.

Conclusions

Tahoe is a place that never gets old. But what made this trip so exciting is that we explored several new locations. The Tahoe Rim Trail was my favorite, although Fallen Leaf Lake wasn't too bad either. I definitely hope to go hiking in Tahoe again soon. In the meantime, here are some pictures from our vacation.

Currently listening to: "I'm Yours" by Jason Mraz

Monday, June 15, 2015

Hospital visits are no fun...

...especially in the middle of the night at 4 a.m.

So the family across the street is moving and has generously put stuff up for free. I was helping my parents carry some furniture last night when I started getting an itch. At first we thought it was caused by dry skin or bug bites, but the itching became worse and bumps began appearing everywhere. It eventually got so bad that I couldn't sleep. I figured it was just hives, but Dad insisted on taking me to the hospital just to be on the safe side.

The doctor confirmed it was hives after one look while a nurse gave me medicine to suppress the reaction. That must have been some pretty powerful stuff as the symptoms went away within an hour. From what the doctor and the nurse told me, the hives were likely caused by food allergies. This was exhausting as I had very little sleep after getting home. I just hope this doesn't happen again. *shrugs*

One thing for sure is that I'm not looking forward to the bill. From what I've heard, emergency room visits are expensive as hell. :\

Currently playing: Final Doom

Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day weekend report: Napa County day trip and more

I went to Napa County with my parents during the Memorial Day long weekend. It was definitely pretty fun.

Saturday

The day began with a drive to St. Helena. The plan was to go there with the Tangs, but they sadly couldn't join us due to Eileen not feeling well. We stopped at their house in El Cerrito anyway as my mother really wanted to see them.

One reason for the trip was to visit the Robert Louis Stevenson Museum. The adjacent vineyard was the perfect spot for a picnic lunch. The museum was small but had many exhibits dedicated to the author. I admittedly had no idea Stevenson wrote so many books. The admission was free, although we made a donation.

Downtown St. Helena awaited us later in the afternoon. The restaurants and snack shops immediately caught my attention. It's too bad everything was so expensive. There was some free time, during which we went to three nearby wineries. This was pretty fun even though we had visited them on our trip to Napa and Carson City several years ago.

The next stop was WinCo Foods in Fairfield for groceries. WinCo has always been one of my favorite places to shop. The last stop on the way home was a Thai restaurant in Fremont for dinner. The food was spicy as hell but otherwise delicious.

Our original itinerary included Bodega Bay as well, but the overhead was too high. However, that's not a problem as we're still planning to go there in the near future. In the meantime, feel free to check out my pictures from the day trip.

Sunday and Monday

Having done so much, the three of us decided to relax at home for the rest of the weekend. I spent most of Sunday studying PHP programming but did find time to play RuneScape during breaks.

Monday was mostly uneventful. Our plan was to watch the Danish film The Hunt for Henry's film club, but the DVD turned out to be damaged. I listened to online lectures instead but later completed a few quests and the medium Arduogne tasks in RuneScape during my free time. So yeah, the long weekend was nice.

Currently playing: RuneScape

Thursday, May 21, 2015

2,100 skill total in RuneScape

I just hit 2,100 skill total in RuneScape a few moments ago. Here is a screenshot of me leveling up Herblore. This probably isn't a big deal in today's standards as the game has become so much easier, but at least it gives me bragging rights. :-)

Currently playing: RuneScape

Monday, May 11, 2015

an amazing Mother's Day weekend

I had a great weekend as we went to Pacifica with the Tangs and did lots of other things!

Saturday

The morning began with a trip to the Gate of Heaven Cemetery to pay respects to my late maternal grandmother Pi-Tan. This was long overdue as I hadn't visited her grave in well over a year. We then made a quick stop at Trader Joe's before picking up George and Eileen at the BART station in Millbrae.

The main stop of the day was Pacifica. I treated my parents and the Tangs to lunch at a Peruvian restaurant called El Toro Loco as an early Mother's Day celebration. Because it wasn't open yet when we arrived, the five of us took a short stroll around the area. The nice thing about arriving early is being the first to be seated. The servings were huge and more than enough for everyone. It was truly a wonderful experience.

We went for a walk at the nearby Sharp Park Beach afterwards to burn some calories. There was a dead whale that had beached a few days ago. I had never seen a whale so close before, although the carcass smelled absolutely awful. Mom and I took a few pictures before getting the hell out of there.

Dad then took us to the nearby Frontierland Park for an afternoon picnic. The older folks mostly discussed philosophy and the arts - topics I didn't understand. After everything was said and done, my parents dropped George and Eileen off at the BART station before heading home. Here are some pictures from the day trip.

Mom and I went to Henry's film club in the evening with Jeff and Sheila. This was our first time going there in several months. Though Dad was caught up with work and didn't come, I enjoyed discussing the 1978 film Days of Heaven with everyone. It was a busy day for sure.

Sunday

Having enjoyed their company so much, my mother decided to invite Jeff and Sheila over for dinner. I offered to help out with the cooking - this was Mother's Day after all - but she had already made most of the food. On the other hand, she did ask me to harvest goji berries from our backyard. This was hard work and took several hours, although I found time to play RuneScape during breaks. I actually bought a bond because the RuneScape Road Trip looked really fun.

The dinner with Jeff and Sheila was quite enjoyable. This was another highlight of the weekend. All in all, things couldn't have been better.

Currently playing: RuneScape

Sunday, May 3, 2015

level 85 Smithing in RuneScape

I just got 85 Smithing in RuneScape a few moments ago. You can view the screenshot here. This probably isn't terribly impressive in today's standards, but the ability to smith the best metal in the free game is nonetheless useful.

While Smithing is an expensive skill, the limited-time XP boost for the Artisans Workshop halved the costs. On the other hand, standing there hitting metal bars for two hours straight does get repetitive. The only real issue was the lag due to my crappy Internet connection. It was definitely annoying at times.

Currently playing: RuneScape

Monday, February 23, 2015

Chinese New Year weekend report + more

I had a great Lunar New Year weekend. The best part is that there were two parties, one at home and the other hosted by the World Financial Group associate program. The bonus XP weekend in RuneScape was also nice. :-)

Chinese New Year's Eve

The fun began when Dad's colleague Po-Kang came over to discuss a project on the 19th. Because it was Chinese New Year's Eve, Mom invited him to stay for supper. She made lots of good food, such as her signature catfish soup and fried rice. Everything was delicious!

This wasn't so much a party as Po-Kang was mainly here for business reasons. However, having someone over made Chinese New Year's Eve much more enjoyable. The not-so-fun part is that I later got a pounding headache, but that fortunately went away after a good night's sleep.

Friday

Happy Chinese New Year!

It's a good thing I didn't have too much work because my parents invited the Tsais, Changs and our family friend Karen over for dinner. Mom again made lots of delicious food for the occasion. The shrimp with homemade XO sauce was my favorite.

The downside is that there was nobody my age. Connie already had other plans while Claire bailed at the last minute for school-related reasons. Don't get me wrong - I have nothing against old people - but we barely had any common interests besides food and travel. Damn generation gap. ^_^

On the other hand, there was plenty of time to play RuneScape while the other adults talked. I managed to get level 87 Mining and 84 Smithing by the day's end. Hell yeah!

Saturday

The weather in the morning was just right and made for a perfect hike. There were some trails in Los Altos Hills that my parents had recently discovered. The trails are less than two miles away and conveniently within walking distance. It looks like we now have a new place to go. :-)

The rest of the day was fairly uneventful. I studied for most of the afternoon but did reach 82 Runecrafting in RuneScape during my free time.

Sunday

The local World Financial Group office in Mountain View had a potluck lunch to celebrate Lunar New Year. I've been busy with my job and hadn't attended the workshops in several months, but we happened to have some papers that needed Min's signature. It only made sense for me to stay and enjoy the party.

However, my parents had to run errands and didn't want to drive back to Mountain View to pick me up. I could have walked home on my own but didn't feel like doing so under the hot sun. That said, the party was the best part of the weekend.

I hit 84 Fishing in RuneScape just before going to bed. Considering that Fishing is one of the harder skills to train, the XP boost makes the journey to level 99 slightly less arduous. Even though a few things didn't go to plan, the RuneScape bonus XP weekend certainly made everything even better. I actually gained a total of almost one million XP across my four accounts. Here's to hoping the Year of the Monkey will be just as awesome!

In the meantime, I've posted some pictures from the Chinese New Year weekend.

Currently playing: RuneScape

Sunday, January 25, 2015

an amazing post-holiday party

I just got back from the Lab126 post-holiday celebration at Levi's Stadium. It was one of our best events ever!

The new home of the San Francisco 49ers was impressive. The staff allowed us to hang out on the field after we signed a waiver. People could also take the elevator to the top of the stadium for an even better view. This was no doubt an amazing experience.

The company rented out the entire Bourbon Steak & Pub. There was no shortage of refreshments, all of which looked delicious. Though the dessert selection was smaller this time, there was still more than enough for everyone. I definitely wish I wasn't already so full. Note to self: don't eat dinner right before the next Lab126 post-holiday celebration.

At the center of the pub was a dance floor. Speaking of which, the DJs were much more awesome than the one last year: not only did they play music for the entire four hours, they were also cool enough to take requests. In comparison, the DJ at JW Catering wouldn't play any of the requested songs and actually seemed arrogant.

One thing I've noticed is that our generation doesn't slow dance much anymore. For example, only a few couples actually slow danced when the DJs ended the night with "Take Me Away" by Keyshia Cole. It seems people just aren't as romantic as they used to be. Go figure.

The event was quite successful as I saw many familiar faces. Among them were our family friend Jennifer and her husband Spencer, the latter of whom works at Lab126 as a materials engineer. I had attended a job training program with their son Robert several years ago. It's a small world indeed.

On the whole, the evening couldn't have been better. I'm looking forward to next year's event for sure. In the meantime, feel free to check out my pictures from this one.

Currently listening to: "Don't You Worry Child" by Swedish House Mafia

Friday, January 23, 2015

welcoming Connie's little one to the world

I just found out that my cousin Connie delivered her first child last month. It's a boy named Dean!

Connie had initially wanted to keep it secret and only recently told us. However, this is still wonderful news as there is nothing more special than bringing a new life into the world. I definitely hope to meet Dean in person soon. In the meantime, I'm really happy for Connie and wish her family all the best for the future.

In other news...

I recently compiled my first iOS application. :-)

Currently playing: RuneScape

Thursday, January 1, 2015

I left my heart in San Francisco, part deux

The year is off to a good start as we went on a day trip to San Francisco with our family friend Sophie's hiking club!

The morning began with Jeff and Sheila giving us a ride to San Francisco. The group met at a corner near the New Chinatown. We arrived a few minutes late due to unexpected traffic, but luckily everyone else waited for us. The first stop was the mosaic stairs at 16th Avenue. The stairway was impressive and must have taken a long time to build. The view from the top was awesome.

The bad news is that one of the ladies was bitten by a dog near the stairs. The guy walking the dog wasn't too helpful and left without providing identification. Dad helped make a police report while the woman went to look for a doctor. Figuring this would take a while, the rest of us headed to the nearby Grand View Park in the meantime.

The hike to Grand View Park was strenuous but rewarded us with one of the best views in the Bay Area. The next stop was another mosaic stairway called the Hidden Garden Stairs. This one was completed in December 2013 and also beautiful. It was noon when we were done taking pictures, after which we went to a Chinese restaurant for lunch. The eatery was kind of small - we easily took up almost half the tables - but the food was delicious!

Golden Gate Park awaited us in the afternoon. I wish we could have stayed longer as the park was a lovely place. The bison paddock brought back memories of our trips to Yellowstone. The final stop of the day was the Queen Wilhelmina Tulip Garden. It was a nice spot for a rest even though there were no tulips at this time of the year. Because it was getting late, our group shared some snacks at a nearby picnic area before going separate ways.

This hike was shorter than the the one in August but still a great workout. MapMyRun says we each walked a total of over eight miles. The only downside is that there were no other young people in our group. I guess most millennials don't want anything to do with their parents.

Our gratitude goes to Jeff for taking us to San Francisco and back home. Mom wanted to treat him and Sheila to dinner for their troubles, but Sheila figured we were tired and declined. Her consideration is truly appreciated. Even though the couple didn't stay for dinner, the day couldn't have been better. I've posted pictures from our hike.

Once again, happy New Year, everyone!

Currently listening to: "Last Friday Night" by Katy Perry

Happy 2015!

So another year has passed. It's hard to believe 2014 is over. If Back to the Future is anywhere near accurate, then we should see flying cars and hover boards soon. ^_^

Party report

The nice thing is that we invited three other families over for dinner. This was our first real New Year's Eve party in seven years. Mom made lots of delicious food as usual while our family friend Mei also brought some. Casey and I later watched Divergent after the Times Square countdown. On the whole, the party was lots of fun. Feel free to check out my pictures.

However, nobody stayed until midnight this time. CY and Grace live far away in Almaden and were the first to leave. Henry and Sophie soon followed as we're getting up early for an annual New Year's Day hike in San Francisco. The Lees didn't want to disturb our sleep and declined our invitation to watch the West Coast countdown. I truly appreciate the consideration but also wish they had stayed another 15 minutes. At least we'll be seeing the Changs again tomorrow in a few hours. :-)

2014 in review

I'd say 2014 was one of the better years. For starters, there were many gatherings in the past few months. Our team at Amazon Lab126 released two major products, the Fire TV in April and the Fire TV Stick in October. The highlight of 2014 was my cousin Connie's wedding in Pasadena, although the film club field trip and my 10-year high school reunion come close. The only downside is that work was stressful at times, but that happens to everyone.

For those curious, my New Year's resolution for 2015 is to improve my PHP skills. I'm also hoping to get level 99 Runecrafting in RuneScape by the end of the year. Rock on!

Currently watching: Divergent