Thursday, December 28, 2017

back from Bakersfield

The holiday season has been nice as we went on a two-day trip to Bakersfield!

Day 1

The trip began with a 255-mile drive to Bakersfield. Aside from a bathroom break at Casa de Fruta and another stop at a rest area for lunch, the drive was uneventful. There was some traffic, although we didn't arrive too late.

We unpacked our stuff and had some rest before going to the local Albertson's to buy food. The three of us had dinner before heading down to the fitness center. It was nice to burn off calories while watching the football game between UCLA and Kansas State.

Day 2

All of us woke up pretty early and had trouble sleeping again. On the other hand, the nice part about getting up early is that there is plenty of time to explore the area. Following a nice breakfast at the hotel, my family headed to Red Rock Canyon State Park for a hike. This was pretty fun, although we spent much of the time in the car as it was getting hot outside. We had to drive some very bumpy gravel roads to get back to the freeway. This was definitely an adventurous moment. On the whole, I'd say Red Rock Canyon State Park was the best part of the trip.

We turned back towards Bakersfield, stopping in Tehachapi on the way. This was a small town and reminded us of Niles. We spend a short time exploring the downtown. Mom then suggested going to the nearby Burger Spot to try out their ostrich burger. It didn't taste too different than a regular hamburger but was still delicious.

Back in Bakersfield, the three of us visited three thrift shops and went to WinCo Foods and Von's for groceries. Dinner again consisted of frozen meals. There wasn't much else to do in the area, although I watched X-Men: Days of Future Past on TV while my parents talked poetry.

Day 3

The three of us spent the morning exploring the downtown after another nice breakfast at the hotel. One notable stop was the Kern County Museum. It was really nice to check out the 50 original buildings from the county. The downside is that we wasted over half an hour here due to Groupon issues, but the clerk was kind enough to let us in for free our troubles.

This was followed by lunch at IHOP. The plan was to visit Taft as well, but we decided to leave that for another time as my parents were tired. The drive home was mostly uneventful.

Conclusions

The main reason for the trip was actually to visit the LIGO Hanford Observatory - which we thought was in Hanford, California. Mom knew I liked science and figured I'd be interested. Only after we left our house did we realize the observatory was in Washington. *facepalm*

Despite the mistake, Bakersfield was still pretty fun. Although we had passed it a few times on previous trips, this was our first time exploring the area in full. The hike in Red Rock Canyon State Park was definitely my favorite part of the trip. It's too bad we didn't have time to visit Taft or Carrizo Plain National Monument due to time constraints, but I'm sure we'll have plenty of opportunities to go there in the future.

Currently listening to: "Fox on the Run" by Sweet

Friday, December 15, 2017

company holiday cruise

So my company had a holiday cruise in San Francisco this afternoon. It was so much fun!

I had to leave my house just after noon as boarding was scheduled to begin at 2:30 p.m. Dad wanted to start out early because the route to San Francisco is often congested. The good news is that we arrived in San Francisco with plenty of time to spare. Because nobody else was there, my family went for a short stroll around the pier in the meantime. They then dropped me off at the gate as my co-workers started to arrive.

It was soon time to board the California Hornblower and get the party started. The boat then set sail 30 minutes later as dinner was served. The food wasn't that extraordinary - mainly because the prime rib was too tough - but that wasn't a big deal as the main purpose of the cruise was to enjoy the atmosphere.

There was also a DJ on board. Though not many people got up to dance, our senior executive administrator Jonell was more than happy to hit the dance floor. She was the life of the party. A lot of people later got on the observation decks to watch the sunset. This was a wonderful experience and brought back memories of the dinner cruise during our trip to Hawaii in 2002. The cruise also reminded me of the Boat Dance at Berkeley during my freshman year.

On the whole, the cruise couldn't have been better. I'd like to thank Jonell for organizing this event and am definitely looking forward to the one next year.

Currently watching: Wonder Woman (2017)

Sunday, December 10, 2017

book club holiday party report

Two months ago, I joined a book club for people in their 20s and 30s on the recommendation of my father. The nice thing is that we just had our annual holiday potluck and book exchange!

This year's event took at Elizabeth's house. After everyone got some food, each of us introduced ourselves before participating in the book exchange. Because we were going by white elephant rules, people were allowed to "steal" others' books. The whole thing was pretty hilarious. I gave away The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien and ultimately received Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl. Though my top choice was "stolen" by others, I've heard Man's Search for Meaning is a great book too.

Our organizer Dane later brought out some board games. Everyone then decided to play the adult version of Codenames after the exchange. It definitely brought out the 14-year-old in all of us. I think our parents would freak out at all the dirty conversations being thrown around. :P

On the whole, the party was lots of fun. It was supposed to run from 4 to 8 p.m. per the invitation, but everyone had such a great time that some of us stayed for almost an extra hour. I'm glad I got into reading and am definitely looking forward to next year's holiday book exchange. For those of my San Francisco Bay Area readers who may also be interested in joining our club, here is a link to our Meetup group. :-)

Currently reading: Mapping the Interior by Stephen Graham Jones

Sunday, November 26, 2017

an amazing Thanksgiving long weekend

I had a great long weekend as we went to our family friend Henry's annual Thanksgiving party and did lots of other things!

Thursday

I'll have to admit that I slept in really late. Considering that I have a long commute, I often don't get much sleep on weekdays. It was definitely nice to get some extra rest.

We then went to our family friend Henry's house for their annual Thanksgiving party. The food was really good as always. It was also nice to meet the girls and Steven again.

Though the Tings were out of town and didn't come this time, the Changs did invite another family over: the Tus. The cool thing is that their son Joshua is an EDM producer and showed us all the tracks he's written. That was impressive, considering that he's only in 10th grade.

This year, I'm especially thankful for my new job. Not only does it perfectly match my interests, the office is in a really nice place. I couldn't ask for a better place to work.

Friday

The weather in the morning was nice and made for a great hike on the Stevens Creek Trail. This was first time there in quite a while.

The plan was to watch the 2017 film The Mummy after dinner. However, Dad and I went to the library to pick up the DVD only to find that it was closed for the day, Therefore, my family went to Nob Hill Foods for groceries instead.

Saturday

The plan was to go on a day trip to Petaluma. But because my gum has been sore for several days after I got a filling redone, Dad decided to take me back to the dentist just in case. The good news is that it wasn't anything serious. The good news is that the dentist redid the filling so that food would no longer get stuck there and irritate my gums.

Due to time constraints, my family decided not to go to Petaluma and went to Half Moon Bay instead. We headed there straight after leaving the dentist's office. Dad had wanted to order some food there, but we decided to head home instead after seeing the long lines.

Dad and I went to the library to pick up some DVDs. The three of us then watched The Mummy after dinner. The movie was all right but didn't quite compare to the original 1999 one.

Sunday

Today was mostly uneventful. Having gone so many places, I mostly stayed home and relaxed, although I did play some RuneScape and watch Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 on DVD. That was definitely an awesome movie.

Another highlight was the RuneScape free weekend. In other words, Jagex is allowing all players to access the members servers for three days. That was definitely pretty awesome.

On the whole, this was one of the best Thanksgiving breaks. Things couldn't have been better.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

when your age is a perfect power of two

I just turned 32 years old. To a computer geek like me, this is a pretty special birthday because 32 is 0b100000 in binary. :-)

The best part is that my family went to Black Angus Steakhouse for dinner. The food was really good yet not too expensive. I especially loved the lobster and the steak soup. The free entree and dessert made things even better.

The rest of the evening was uneventful because I have to get up early for my commute, but this is definitely one of the best birthdays I've had in years.

Currently reading: The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Labor Day long weekend report

I had a great Labor Day long weekend even though it was extremely hot outside.

The best part is that our family friend Linda invited us to a party at her house on Sunday. Mom's friend Lily also carpooled with us. Linda had asked us to arrive early as there were some things she wanted to discuss with my parents. The plan was to go hiking together, but we changed our minds because the weather was too hot.

After the others arrived, all of us went to the Ly Luck Restaurant in Oakland for lunch. Everything was really good, especially the giant clam with vermicelli. Back at Linda's house, the other adults talked while I read a book and surfed the web on my phone. I'll have to admit it was a little boring as there was nobody my age. On the other hand, all of the snacks were delicious.

Though Lily said her husband could pick her up at her house, Mom insisted on giving her a ride home. This did mean a longer drive, but we enjoyed hearing about her recent trip to Alaska. It definitely reminded me of our own trip there many years ago.

Lily invited us to hang out at her place for a while. This was our first time going to her house in around 20 years. The Shuehs showed my parents their souvenir collection while I chatted with their son Alan. It was around 7 p.m. when we finally got home!

The rest of the weekend was uneventful. Due to the heat wave, none of us wanted to spend much time outdoors except during our evening strolls. On the other hand, I got to watch several episodes of The Flash (the 2014 series) and get RuneScape membership again. So yeah, this was an awesome weekend. :-)

Currently reading: What Every Body is Saying by Joe Navarro

Monday, August 7, 2017

a final farewell to Eileen

You may remember that our family friend Eileen recently passed away a few days ago. Today was the celebration of her life.

Only my parents attended the viewing because I was at work and they didn't want it to impact me too much. Dad then picked me up at the BART station near my office before we met up with the other people at Eileen's house. It was pretty crowded as Eileen's family and other friends were all there.

This was followed by dinner at a Chinese restaurant. There was lots of food, but I was admittedly feeling a bit emotional and didn't eat much. On the other hand, I got to meet many of Eileen's relatives. Though it was nice to get acquainted with them, this definitely wasn't the situation in which I wanted that to happen. The plan was to go back to Eileen's house afterwards, but we decided to head home because everyone was getting tired.

It's a little sad to realized that one of our closest family friends is gone. I'm going to miss Eileen for sure. :-(

Currently listening to: "Bright Eyes" by Art Garfunkel

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

R.I.P. Eileen :-(

I'm saddened to learn that our family friend Eileen Tang passed away this morning. Eileen was one of the kindest people that we were blessed to have known. She always saved presents for me whenever we visited her. Even though she was over a generation older than me, I had always considered her a true friend.

My favorite memory of her was when we went to Pacifica on Mother's Day two years ago. I treated my parents and the Tangs to lunch at a Peruvian restaurant before we went on a stroll on the beach. All of us then headed to a nearby park and relaxed for a while. That was certainly a wonderful experience. It's sad to realize that something like this will never happen again. :-(

Our biggest concern right now is the well-being of her husband George. I definitely hope that we can visit him in the next few weeks after giving him time to grieve. In the meantime, please send positive thoughts to the Tang family.

Rest in peace, and may we meet again, Eileen.

Currently reading: The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Berkeley Kite Festival report

Today was fun as we went to the Berkeley Kite Festival and had dinner in Berkeley with several family friends. The day was kind of exhausting but also lots of fun!

Our first stop was Milpitas Square, where Jim and Yeng-Feng picked us up. Our party then headed to the Berkeley Marina for the festival. There was some traffic along the way due to an accident, but we were the first to get there. Seeing that event venue was quite a long ways from the parking lot, we decided to take the bus there. Given the small number of buses, we had to wait almost an hour for our ride. The only reason we didn't walk there is that Yeng-Fong couldn't walk very far at a time.

Dad and the Chiangs bought similar kites on Amazon after seeing they had good reviews. However, both of our kites kept flying erratically before falling to the ground like a North Korea missile. Even though our kites didn't work very well, I enjoyed going around to see what other people had.

Because it was getting really hot outside, the five of us decided to head out. The Changs got caught up in traffic and didn't arrive until just before we arrive about to leave. We stayed with them for a bit before agreeing to meet at the restaurant. It was defintiely great to see their girls and Ruth's boyfriend Steven again. We and Jim walked back to the parking lot while the others took the shuttle. It was definitely a good workout!

Our group went to a restaurant in Berkeley called Great China. There were lots of people - mainly because the restaurant is famous for its Peking duck - but we were the first in line to get in. All of the good was really good. However, it was soon time to head out as there was a long drive ahead of us. After the Chiangs dropped us off at Milpitas Square, my family made a quick stop at Ranch 99 Market for groceries before heading home.

The only downside is that we didn't stay long after dinner. I had barely talked to Connie, Ruth and Steven when my parents and the Chiangs wanted to leave. It would have been selfish to keep them waiting just so I could stay for a few more finutes. On the other hand, the event was so fun that some of us are hoping to fly kites together again later this summer. I definitely hope we can work something out!

Currently listening to: "Holo" by Ampyx

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

an eventful 4th of July

I had a pretty good 4th of July weekend, considering that we went to Pescadero and watched several movies!

Saturday

So my father took us to Pescadero on Saturday. Though we went there around 16 years ago, we didn't really explore the town. Because it was noon when we arrived, the three of us had lunch at a local tavern. The food was expensive but really good.

We then browsed the local stores before heading to Arcangeli Grocery Co. to buy some of their famous garlic artichoke bread. All of us were pretty full at the time, but the bread was too good to resist. This wasn't a bad choice because we saw many other people buy the bread as well.

This was followed by a short stop at Pigeon Point Lighthouse. We also walked around the trail but didn't stay long as it was a little cold outside. On the whole, the day trip was the best part of the long weekend.

Sunday

Having done so much the day before, my family didn't do much else except go on a hike in Los Altos Hills. However, I did watch Abraham Vampire: Vampire Hunter on DVD and two episodes of Jackie Chan Adventures online. Abraham Vampire: Vampire Hunter was a weird movie but otherwise entertaining. Jackie Chan Adventures was one of the shows I really like when I was in high school, but I only saw the first season before we lost cable access. I'm so glad it's so easy to find TV shows online these days!

Monday

Seeing the weather was nice, we went hiking in Los Altos Hills again. We then watched Manchester by the Sea for Henry's film club and Doctor Strange for fun. The special effects in Doctor Strange were really awesome. I've never seen a movie so visually impressive.

Tuesday

One thing I wanted to do was to check out the 4th of July event in Shoup Park in Los Altos, but we changed our minds as the weather was kind of warm. Dad wanted to go a German restaurant for lunch, but we stayed home after it turned out the place was closed on the 4th.

We then watched Inferno in the afternoon. Despite the critical reviews, I really enjoyed the movie. On the whole, my long weekend was pretty awesome.

Currently listening to: "Reflections" by Kasger

Thursday, June 8, 2017

a new computer for Mom

I just finished setting up a new laptop that I bought for Mom as a late Mother's Day gift. Seeing that her eight-year-old laptop was becoming unreliable, Dad and I agreed it was time to get her a new one. We settled upon the Lenovo Flex 4 because its predecessor has worked really well for me.

The Flex 5 has an Intel i7-U7500 processor, an Nvidia GeForce 940MX GPU, 16 GB of memory and a 512 GB solid-state drive. It's definitely a lot better than the crappy old Acer Aspire 6930 that has been giving Mom a lot of trouble!

In other news...

Our family friend Grace has invited us to her house tomorrow to watch the Golden State Warriors game. I'm pretty excited!

Currently watching: The Flash - "The Nuclear Man"

Monday, May 22, 2017

a convoluted commute

"This is gonna suck." -- me

So something crazy happened today.

As part of my commute to my new job, I take the Caltrain to the Millbrae before taking BART to the Embarcadero station in San Francisco. Due to equipment problems, the BART to Millbrae was delayed by about 20 minutes. It just happened that we had a team meeting this morning. I was only late for a few minutes, but still...

The BART train somehow got delayed again. The delay wasn't as long as the morning one, but it caused me to miss my normal Caltrain ride. Shit happens.

Speaking of which, Caltrain got delayed as well. Because of an accident, one of the tracks was closed. I didn't get home until 50 minutes after my normal arrival. You could say that things weren't on the right track today... if you'll excuse the incredibly lame pun.

According to news reports, there was a minor collision between one of the trains and a car. From what I gather, nobody got hurt in the incident. I'm glad it wasn't a suicide or anything - those things are always really sad.

Currently reading: The Martian by Andy Weir

Monday, May 1, 2017

first day at Mocana!

I started working at Mocana today as a QA and support engineer. Mocana is a San Francisco-based startup that provides security for IoT devices. I'm definitely loving my new job so far!

The day began with our IT guy Raymond giving me my computer and setting up my company e-mail. Some time later, my boss Wesley introduced me to the other team members before helping me become familiar with our development tools. He says some people prefer to work from home due to traffic, but I'm sure I'll get to meet everyone soon enough.

Another nice thing about Mocana is that we have catered lunches twice a week - which Amazon Lab126 didn't have. Although it was too late to order mine, our accountant Linda ordered an extra sandwich for me. That is something I greatly appreciate. Of note is that there was a protest going on outside the office during lunch. I wanted to check it out but didn't feel too comfortable going too far from the office without being more familiar with the area. One step at a time I guess!

One of the best things about small companies is that everyone is like family. The only downside is that I have a long commute. Because the company is based in San Francisco, I have to take Caltrain and then transfer to BART before finally getting off at Embarcadero station. On the other hand, our office is in a nice part of town. There are lots of things to do and no shortage of restaurants. I also have plenty of chances to meet interesting people. Life is good.

Currently listening to: "Play That Song" by Train

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

2,400 skill total in RuneScape

I just reached 2,400 skill total in RuneScape. Click here for the screenshot!

This milestone took much shorter than expected. It's nice to be not as busy in real life, but the huge amount of bonus XP stars and lamps from recent events definitely helps too. For those curious, my next goal is to get level 90 in the port-related skills. Wish me luck!

Currently listening to: "American Pie" by Don McLean

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Niles field trip report

Today was fun as we went to Niles with our family friend Henry's film club.

The day began with a ride on the Niles Canyon Railway to Sunol. The views weren't that impressive, but the company of our friends made the ride a lot more enjoyable. The train arrived in Sunol about 30 minutes later. But because there wasn't anything special about this place, our group decided to take the next train back to Niles.

This was followed by lunch at a local cafe. I was pretty hungry at this point as it was already past 1 p.m. On the other hand, the food was delicious. The lunch also doubled as a birthday celebration for CY, for which Mom made her signature persimmon cake. Sweet!

Our group then headed to the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum and bought tickets for the tour. We also got to watch some really old movies, including The First Seven Years and some Laurel and Hardy shorts. Night Owls was totally hilarious!

It was around 6 p.m. when the tour ended. A few people suggested staying for dinner, but the three of us were a little tired and decided to head home. On the whole, the day trip was a worthwhile experience.

Currently watching: The First Seven Years

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Super Bowl weekend report

I had a pretty good weekend, especially considering that we went to our family friend Grace's birthday party and watched the Super Bowl!

To start off, my company had a Super Bowl happy hour on Friday. This was our first time doing something like this. It was really fun as there was good food and karaoke. The only downside is that the food ran out pretty quickly, but I can't complain about the quality of the event.

Saturday was also nice as we celebrated Grace's 70thy birthday at a Thai restaurant. With about 40 people in attendance, the party was much larger than expected. There was lots of food, and everyone had a great time. The only issue is that the limited space made it hard to socialize. Grace's husband CY invited us to hang out at their house afterwards, but we decided to leave that to another time as Grace seemed exhausted.

I watched Justice League: Gods and Monsters on DVD after getting home. It was really good for an animated movie. This was a great way to end the evening.

I spent most of Sunday evening studying Android programming. However, Dad and I watched Super Bowl LI in the afternoon. I must say that the Patriots' comeback was hella impressive. It was overall a great game.

Currently listening to: "Waterloo" by ABBA

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Chinese New Year weekend report

"Don't worry, I won't bug you about reviewing my code here." -- me to Desiree"

The Lunar New Year weekend was great as we had a big party at a family friend's farm. I also got to attend the Lab126 post-holiday event. :-)

Lunar New Year party report

I'll start with some background: my mother was elected as president of a Chinese writers' association sometime last year. Mom decided to organize a celebration for Chinese New Year that our family friend Charles was kind enough to host.

The party took place at the Won family's farm in Hollister. There was lots of food as this was a potluck lunch. After the meal, the Wons gave us a tour of their farm. It definitely brought back memories of New Zealand. There was nobody else my age, but I can't complain about a good party. :P

Lab126 post-holiday celebration

Later in the evening was my company's annual post-holiday celebration. This one took place at Levi's Stadium, where we had a similar event in 2015. However, unlike the last party, we also had a live band this time. That was a pretty nice touch. I was a little tired and didn't stay until the end this time, but I don't think I missed much.

Today was mostly eventful. Having done so much the day before, I spent most of the time studying search algorithms. Other than that, I managed to get level 86 dungeoneering in RuneScape. :-)(

Currently listening to: "Starman" by David Bowie

Sunday, January 1, 2017

a quiet end to a rough year

I'm not going to lie - 2016 was a rough year. So glad 2017 is here!

Our New Year's Eve was mostly quiet. Like last time, we didn't have a party or anything. I looked for local events, but there weren't many this time - at least not those that are like $100 person. On the other hand, the evening wasn't too bad as I watched Captain America: Civil War on DVD. It's probably my favorite of the series so far, although it's more of an Avengers movie than a Captain America one.

It's often said that 2016 was pretty tough. For a start, 2016 saw the passing of many beloved celebrities, such as Anton Yelchin, David Bowie, Prince and Carrie Fisher. Then there's the election. I usually don't write about politics, but Trump doesn't seem like a good fit for the President of the United States. On a personal level, my job has been pretty stressful in the past few months. Being a software engineer in the Silicon Valley ain't an easy thing!

But for all the bad, 2016 had its highlights. The best part was when we went to the Southwest U.S. with four of my aunt's students. The memories from that trip will last a long time. The other activities we did with them (such as going boating and the movie club field trip) were also memorable.

At any rate, it's best to not dwell on the past. Speaking of which, my New Year's resolutions for 2017 are to learn more software development skills and kick some bad health habits. Wish me luck!

Currently watching: Captain America: Civil War