Sunday, December 27, 1998

back from another Tahoe trip

Christmas break has been pretty good so far. Or at least it should have been, considering that my family just came back from another two-day trip to Tahoe. :-)

For this trip, the three of us decided to go back to good ol' downhill skiing at Boreal Mountain Resort. The Shiehs again accompanied us as they also love to travel. Even my uncle Harrison and maternal grandparents came along this time!

Judging by our experience, I'd say downhill is a lot more enjoyable. It does mean falling down more often, but it's also much less exhausting than cross-country skiing. To be honest, I don't think we'll be doing cross-country again anytime soon.

This trip also had a few skidding incidents. The road conditions were actually worse this time because of a recent storm. In one instance, our Volvo got stuck right at the edge of a steep ravine. This was a most frightening situation; Mom was yelling at me to get out of the car in case something happened. However, it wasn't long before a Good Samaritan stopped and helped us get the car back onto the road. That brave guy certainly deserves our gratitude.

The three of us were ultimately stuck in the mountains for several hours as a result of the frequent skidding. To make matters worse, there was almost no cellular reception. By the time we got out of the area, our relatives were already home. Perhaps we ought to rent a four-wheel drive next time.


Although my family has been to Lake Tahoe numerous times before, it's one of those places that never get old. Both of these trips were quite enjoyable despite the mishaps. Dad is actually planning a third one for either the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day weekend or winter break. Oh yeah, and I still have another week before school starts. :-)

In other news...

The Liang family has invited us to their New Year's Eve party. There's no better way to celebrate the new year than with family and friends!

Sunday, December 20, 1998

Tahoe trip report

I just came back from a two-day trip to Tahoe with my parents and cousins.

Our families went cross-country skiing at Royal Gorge right after school ended. The original plan was to go to Northstar-at-Tahoe, but that place didn't have cross-country ski areas. The Shiehs have been to Royal Gorge several times, and my parents and I had never done cross-country before, so we thought we'd try something new.

Compared to downhill, cross-country was simpler but much more exhausting. Due to the strenuous workout, all of our legs were completely sore by the time we were finished. On the other hand, it's probably safe to say that we burned lots of calories. Cross-country skiing was overall very different from what we had imagined.

The trip also had a few mishaps: our car skidded several times on the way home as the roads had become extremely slippery due to the accumulated snow. It was quite frightening, to say the least. The vacation was nevertheless so much fun that we're thinking about sneaking in another one next weekend!

Friday, December 18, 1998

Christmas break is here!

This was the last day of the fall semester, which means Christmas break has begun. Hooray!

It's hard to believe I'm already halfway through 7th grade. One thing for sure is that I'll miss computer class, which was only one semester long. Ms. Sessions was definitely one of the nicest teachers I've ever had.

Having said that, I guess it's time to enjoy the holidays. Speaking of which, my family is planning to go skiing at Northstar-at-Tahoe this weekend. I love the snow, so this trip should be a lot of fun!

Friday, November 27, 1998

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving.

The nice thing was that my mother's friend Carol invited my family to her house for dinner last night. Because my parents and I know the Liangs pretty well, our two families tend to visit each other fairly often. I'm unfortunately not very good at making friends, so I spent much of the time playing Dragonheart: Fire & Steel on my laptop. However, I did hang out with Stacey when she had nobody else to play with, and Carol later thanked me for "babysitting" her daughter.

Other than that, I got to watch parts of Money Talks on the big-screen TV with the other guests. The movie was kind of lame but also really funny at the same time. On the whole, my parents and I had a great time at the party. It was actually so much fun that the three of us stayed until almost midnight!

This year, I am very thankful for my parents' efforts in getting me transferred to a regular school. If it wasn't for their perseverance, I would probably still be in a special education program right now.

Currently watching: Money Talks
Release date: August 22, 1997

Friday, November 6, 1998

went to another LAYC dance

I just came back from the second LAYC dance of the school year. Because last month's dance turned out to be so much fun, I decided to attend this one as well. It was much like the one in October, except I did not wear the wrong outfit this time. :-)

Like in the case of the previous dance, I did not stay until the end. I returned home early to finish watching WarGames on video, but I nevertheless had a great time at the event. In hindsight, I'm kind of glad Mom made me go to the one last month. Haha.

Currently watching: WarGames
Release date: June 3, 1983

Saturday, October 31, 1998

no more trick-or-treating for me

One year ago, I donned my Batman costume and raided the neighborhood for treats. I got several bags of the good stuff, and it was definitely lots of fun. But one thing I noticed was that most of the people that dressed up were much younger than me. I realized I was becoming too old to go around knocking on doors and asking strangers for sweets, so I've decided to stop trick-or-treating this year. That's right, I am calling it quits.

From now on, I'll probably stay home on Halloween and pass out candy instead. In all honesty, giving up trick-or-treating wasn't too difficult because I had already made a similar decision to stop going to Easter egg hunts this year. Come to think of it, each year's candy is pretty much the same anyway.

Saturday, October 10, 1998

I'm officially a teenager + new computer!

Well, I just turned 13. In other words, I'm now officially a teenager. I'm aware that 13 is considered an unlucky number, so here's to hoping I won't have too much bad luck for the next year. *shrugs*

Speaking of which, this birthday was a little different. I figured I was getting too old for annual birthday parties - not to mention that my mother was getting tired of always having to invite people over - so I did not have one this year. After all, parties aren't the only way to celebrate a special occasion; I'd imagine a night at the movies or a dinner at a nice restaurant would be just as fun. But that doesn't mean I'll never have another birthday party again - I just might save one or two for those very special ages.

On the other hand, I got a brand new desktop PC in the evening. The computer has a 400 MHz Pentium II processor, 8 GB of storage and 64 MB of RAM. It came with a nifty wireless mouse, too. Pretty impressive, don't you think?

I should mention that the computer was never intended to be a present. I'm not that spoiled, mind you. Rather, Dad had ordered it a while ago, and it just happened to arrive on my birthday. It's funny how things tend to work out. Perhaps I won't have so much bad luck after all. ;-)

Oh yeah, and my friend Moonway's mother knew I used to be an avid map collector, so she gave me two high-quality maps a few days ago. One is a world map, and the other is a map of the United States. Thanks, Angela!

Currently playing: SimCity 2000

Friday, October 2, 1998

report of my first school dance

"Dude, why are you dressed all formal?" -- another guy at the dance, after seeing me in a tuxedo

I just got back from the first LAYC dance of the school year at the Los Altos Youth Center. The event was open to all local middle school students, and was the first school dance I've ever been to. Strictly speaking, it was not a school event as it was organized by the city of Los Altos, but I'd nevertheless expect Egan's own dances to be similar to this one.

I wasn't too interested in going to the dance at first, mainly because I didn't know what to do there. However, my mother insisted that I attend at least this one so that I would have an idea of what teenagers' social events were like. She also taught me a few basic steps before we left so that I wouldn't look like a complete fool in front of everyone. I was still a little nervous, so my parents went as chaperones. As a side benefit, I got to go in about ten minutes early. :-)

The dance actually turned out to be quite fun. The place was crowded as lots of people showed up. I saw many of my Springer classmates there, and it was definitely nice to get back in touch with them. The DJ had this really cool laser projector. To top it off, the LAYC membership included two complimentary items from the snack store. It's a pretty good deal, if you ask me.

The DJ later put on some slow songs, and it was kind of weird to see so many guys and girls holding each other closely for several minutes. I was too shy to ask anyone to dance, so I mostly just paced around the dance floor. Surprisingly, no one asked me to dance either, so I guess I lucked out. Although I was pretty much - I hate to say this - a wallflower at the dance, I really enjoyed its atmosphere.

But the dance was not without its awkward moments. Mom did not have school dances when she was my age and so was equally clueless about them. She naturally assumed the dance was going to be a formal event like in the movies, so she put me in a tuxedo, complete with a red bow tie. Imagine my surprise (and embarrassment) when I realized I was the only person to show up in such a handsome silly outfit!

Only one or two people made a comment about it, but I did quite a few strange looks. I'm sure everyone else at the dance was secretly laughing at me. Thanks a lot, Mom.

While the tuxedo incident was a bit humiliating, it did not make the dance any less enjoyable. If anything, the whole thing made for a memorable experience. Funnily enough, I think I later saw another guy wearing a tuxedo, and it was somewhat comforting to know I was not the only one. Haha.

The dance was scheduled to end at 10:00 p.m. I didn't feel like staying that late, so I came home early to play video games. That said, I had a great time tonight, and I'm looking forward to the next LAYC dance for sure.

In other news...

Speaking of video games, I just beat the NES port of Rush'n Attack for the first time. The last stage was quite difficult, but I finally nailed it. Go me!

I'll have to return the game to my friend Moonway as it belongs to him, but he's letting me hold on to it for a few more days. Thanks, dude.

Currently playing: Rush'n Attack
Release date: April 10, 1987

Thursday, August 27, 1998

first day of middle school

I started 7th grade at Egan Junior High School this morning. This was my first day at a new school, so I was obviously pretty nervous. I had been in a special education program for almost six years because of my autism, so the transition was especially challenging for me.

On the other hand, there are many exciting things about middle school. One thing for sure is that it's a great place to make friends. I'm a bit embarrassed to say this, but there are many hot chicks at Egan. It's kind of awkward to talk to them, though, so I hope the other kids won't make fun of me for doing so. :P

All of the teachers and staff are extremely nice. I'd like to give props to the counselor, Mr. McClain, who was very helpful in addressing my concerns; he certainly made my transition to Egan a lot easier. Oh yeah, and the 7th grade science teacher, Ms. McLaughlin, is totally hilarious. I can't wait to be in her class again tomorrow!

Although this was only my first day at Egan, I really like it so far. However, it goes without saying that the 8th graders love to make fun of us "sevies." From what I've heard, one of their traditions is to put us in trash cans. I'm not sure I like the sound of that. *shrugs*

One odd thing about Egan is that each class period is normally 46 minutes long. You're probably wondering why the school didn't choose a more "rounded" number, such as 45 or 50. To be honest, I have no clue either.

In other news...

We invited Mrs. Carrie and her husband Ron to dinner at Chef Chu's last week. She did a lot for me when I was in her 6th grade class at Springer, so my parents and I thought this would be the best way to show our appreciation. I had really missed Mrs. Carrie, so it was nice to get back in touch with her.

Currently listening to: Deep Woods, Deep Waters by Douglas Wood

Wednesday, August 12, 1998

back from Yellowstone

My family just got back from our long-awaited trip to Yellowstone National Park. I've looked forward to going there for years, so this vacation was quite exciting. We were only free from the 7th to today because I have a summer reading class on Thursdays, but six days was still plenty of time. Below is the report of our amazing trip!

Day 1

This was the day I had been anticipating for ages. The three of us flew to Salt Lake City in the morning before renting a car there and beginning our long drive up north. There were many things to do in Utah's capital, but we decided to save them for the last day because Yellowstone was more important. On the way there, my parents and I came across a geothermal power plant in Ogden. Knowing that I was interested in how it worked, Dad asked if tours were available. The answer was no; the facility was not open to the public, so we went on our merry way.

We were supposed to reach the Lake Yellowstone Hotel at around 8:00 p.m. according to our plans. However, there was an unusual amount of road work along the way that delayed our arrival by several hours. To make matters worse, my father took a wrong turn near Jackson, and we ended up in the National Elk Refuge. Oh dear!

It was 1:00 a.m. when we got to the hotel, and I barely had the strength to even get out of the car. In hindsight, flying directly to Jackson or somewhere else near the park would probably have saved us lots of trouble.

Day 2

It was time to see what the park had to offer after some well-deserved sleep. The main highlights were the thermal areas, where we saw countless hot springs and geysers. It goes without saying that no trip to Yellowstone is complete without watching Old Faithful erupt, so we made sure to do that. Aside from enjoying the lovely smell of rotten eggs, my parents and I also went to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, as well as watched some bison. This was definitely the best day of the trip. Dad bought an album called Deep Woods, Deep Waters at our hotel's gift shop as he thought it would make a good souvenir. It was definitely a good choice because we loved the music.

Day 3

There were many parts of Yellowstone that we had not seen yet, so we continued where we left off the day before. One place I really wanted to go to was Norris Geyser Basin, the most geologically active area of the park. But because my parents were pretty tired when we got there, they opted to stay in the car instead. That wouldn't have been a problem, except I was too scared to go far by myself and saw only a small part of Norris. This is undoubtedly my biggest regret of the trip. :-(

The three of us were ready to explore the park some more after a short rest. The next stop was Mammoth Hot Springs as we had not been there yet. One thing that hit us hard was that we passed a motorcyclist who had been badly injured in an accident. It was a shocking scene, and we certainly hope he'll be all right. But there was nothing more we could do for him, so we carried on with our trip.

Mammoth was very different from the other thermal areas. The hot springs in this region were a lot less active, and there were no geysers. On the other hand, the mineral terraces were absolutely beautiful. We had seen about half of them when my father felt a raindrop and suggested returning to the car. I shrugged it off, thinking he was overreacting... until it suddenly started pouring. The three of us high-tailed it out of there, but it was raining so hard that we were soaking wet by the time we returned to the parking lot. Oops. I guess Dad was right!

It was getting late anyway - not to mention that we needed to dry off to avoid catching a cold - so we went back to the hotel for the evening.

Day 4

Our main stop of the day was West Yellowstone, a small community just outside the park. This place didn't seem to have any thermal features, but it didn't matter too much because we had already seen plenty of them. After all, our trip wasn't just about hot springs and geysers.

But West Yellowstone had very few attractions besides the restaurants and souvenir stores. The three of us mostly just browsed the shops, although we didn't buy anything because the stuff here was pretty expensive. That said, I still enjoyed West Yellowstone; small mountain towns often provide the perfect opportunity to escape from the busy city life.

Day 5

We stopped at the nearby Quake Lake before returning to Yellowstone. As its name suggests, the lake was formed following the 1959 Hebgen Lake earthquake. The visitor center had an entrance fee, but we went in anyway as geology is one of my major interests. Unlike museums, visitor centers usually have free admission. It seems folks in tourist areas will charge for anything. This place nonetheless had many neat exhibits, so I guess the money was worth it.

There wasn't much else to do in the area, so we headed back to Yellowstone. This was sadly our last day in the park. All of us would surely miss this wonderful place, so we bought two more souvenirs: a documentary video called Geysers of Yellowstone and Other Thermal Features and a "geyser pen" that bubbles when squeezed. I wanted to see a few more hot springs before leaving, so we took the time to revisit a couple of the closer thermal areas. The three of us then watched one last eruption of Old Faithful before beginning our drive back to Salt Lake City.

The route took us back through Grand Teton National Park, which we hadn't had the chance to explore yet. The scenery here wasn't quite as impressive as that in Yellowstone, but we still got some great pictures. Before leaving the area, my parents and I stopped at another gift shop and bought even more stuff.

Our original plan was to drive to Montpelier and spend the night there. From what we had heard, our hotel was supposed to be a rather nice one. The problem is, there was an insane amount of road construction on the return trip as well. The traffic was even worse this time because the route we had planned to take was completely closed. This meant we regrettably had to cancel our reservation at the Montpelier hotel. There was no other choice but to pick from whatever lodging that was available, and we settled upon Antler's Motel in Kemmerer.

Unlike the hotel we had originally booked, this one was far from luxurious. The walls were dirty and full of holes, and the bathroom looked disgusting. Good grief. Antler's Motel was just about the worst hotel we have ever stayed in, with its only redeeming feature being the low rate.

The worst-case scenario was that we would not find a place to stay until we reached Salt Lake City, but this was fortunately not the case. It was nevertheless already 2:45 a.m. when we checked into Antler's Motel. I happened to have a mild case of constipation, and it was well past 4:00 a.m. by the time I got into bed. Yikes!

Day 6

Salt Lake City wasn't too far to the south, so we took the time to explore Kemmerer for a bit. Despite being a small mining town, Kemmerer wasn't without its highlights: my parents and I came across the J. C. Penney mother store, and it was hard to believe the huge chain of department stores had all started here. This was a serendipitous moment for sure. It was a shame the store wasn't open as we would have loved to see what the original J. C. Penney was like.

Dad figured Salt Lake City would be more interesting, so we didn't stay in Kemmerer very long. Speaking of which, I noticed something unusual on the way to Utah's capital: the entire highway seemed to be filled with trucks as far as the eye could see. It was hard to tell how many there were, but it must have been in the hundreds. Where the heck did all those big rigs come from? This was certainly not something you see every day!

There was still a lot of road construction going on as well, but we didn't encounter any serious delays this time. Thank goodness for small favors. We actually arrived in Salt Lake City a bit earlier than expected due to the extra driving we did the night before.

Our flight wasn't until the afternoon, so there was plenty of time to look around. It turned out that Salt Lake City was indeed quite fun. We first stopped at the Taffy Town factory store to sample some locally-made salt water taffy. This stuff is apparently really popular around here. The three of us then went to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to see the famous Salt Lake Tabernacle organ. Our final stop was the Utah State Capitol for pictures before boarding our flight home.


To say the least, this was one of our best vacations ever. I loved every part of it despite the delays and other mishaps. Geology has always been one of my favorite subjects, so seeing the thermal features was by far the highlight of our adventure.

But the trip wasn't all fun and games; the instructor for the summer class had asked us to write a summary of the books we are reading, so I had to take notes on Wilson Rawls' Where the Red Fern Grows whenever I wasn't enjoying the great outdoors. While that took much of my free time, it did not make the trip any less fun. I'd say Where the Red Fern Grows was actually a good read; that book will surely remind me of our trip. Our next visit to Yellowstone will probably be many years from now, but the good memories from this one will definitely last years.

I've wanted to go to Yellowstone ever since I was very young. The first opportunity came about two years ago, when my paternal grandfather Bien-Chuan and his companion Mrs. Chen were visiting us from Taiwan. While my paternal grandmother passed away before I was born, I've long considered Mrs. Chen to be part of our family because she treats me pretty well. It has always been my father's dream to take Bien-Chuan to Yellowstone, so he planned a big road trip all the way to the Rockies.

That would undoubtedly have been very exciting. But it would also have been physically taxing - especially with two elderly folks in tow - so it was decided to fly there instead. Grandpa then became adamantly opposed to the trip as he felt bad about us having to spend so much; after all, those plane tickets were not exactly cheap. Because our finances were indeed tight at the time, the trip was canceled. I was ticked off then as I did not understand the magnitude of the situation.

The following year, I learned that Joan, one of my favorite teachers at the Morgan Center, had been to Yellowstone. Being good friends with Joan, I would constantly bug her with questions about her trip. One day she smiled and said something like, "Well, why don't you plan your own trip to Yellowstone so you won't have to keep asking me about it?" I could tell she was getting annoyed.

In any case, my family finally got to visit Yellowstone after all those years, so everything's all good. I think I'm going to call Joan in the next few days and tell her all about my trip. It might be a little hard to reach her because she recently moved to another state - I think it was Wisconsin - but I'll see what I can do.

August 15 update: I just called Joan to tell her about my adventures in Yellowstone, and we had a wonderful conversation that I'll never forget. I definitely owe my thanks to Cheryl, the head teacher, for being kind enough to find out Joan's contact information for me.

Currently reading: Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

Sunday, July 12, 1998

Eastern Sierra trip report

I just got back from a three-day trip to the Eastern Sierra with my parents. There are many attractions in the Mammoth Lakes area, so we decided it would make a great weekend destination. It was indeed lots of fun, so here's the trip report for your enjoyment. :-)

Day 1

Mammoth Lakes was about 335 miles from our house, so most of the day was spent on the road. The route took us through Yosemite National Park as the town was just to the southeast. Because visitors passing through the park still had to pay the $20 entrance fee as usual, my parents and I figured we might as well enjoy the views. Yosemite is certainly one of those places that never get old.

It didn't take too long to get to Mammoth Lakes after leaving Yosemite. The three of us checked into our hotel and rested for a bit before heading to the nearby Hot Creek Geologic Site. One of my teachers at the Morgan Center had told me about this place because she knew I loved hot springs. There were indeed lots of them, and this was the best part of the trip. Thanks, Megan!

However, I couldn't help but notice how dumb people can be. Certain parts of the creek were fenced off because the underwater springs could suddenly erupt and cause serious burns, but some bathers ignored the warning signs and went into the closed areas anyway. You know, I have a feeling this isn't going to end well.

Day 2

We went to Devils Postpile National Monument after breakfast to see the iconic basalt formation that gave the monument its name. It definitely looked more impressive in person than in pictures. But there wasn't much else to do here, so my mother suggested that we check out Rainbow Falls. Mom loves waterfalls, so we went with her recommendation.

Despite being only 1.3 miles, the hike was extremely demanding as the trail was hot and dry. To make matters worse, there was no shade due to the trees having been destroyed in a forest fire many years ago. Not exactly my idea of a good time. But the grueling hike wasn't without its rewards: Rainbow Falls turned out to be quite a refreshing sight when we finally arrived there. So refreshing, in fact, that we almost forgot we had to walk all the way back to the trailhead!

Speaking of which, the return trip was even more difficult because we had run out of water. It's a miracle we didn't die of heat exhaustion. To be honest, I don't think the waterfall was worth the trouble.

Day 3

The highlight of the day was Bodie, California's most famous ghost town. While there, I found out that ghost towns are not towns that are haunted, but those that have been abandoned. I guess we all learn something new every day. It was nonetheless a little creepy to see all those decades-old buildings with nobody inside them. No wonder these places are called ghost towns.

There was still plenty of time, so we stopped at Mono Lake and the Mono-Inyo Craters before heading home. Formed in ancient volcanic eruptions, the craters were a fascinating sight, although the same could certainly be said for Mono Lake. I really liked those two places as geology is one of my major interests.


The weather was quite hot during the day as this is the middle of July. The heat was almost unbearable at times, but that did not make the trip any less fun. On the whole, the trip was very enjoyable. The hot springs at Hot Creek were the highlight of our vacation, with an honorable mention going to the Mono-Inyo Craters. I think the Mammoth Lakes area is one of the best places to visit, and I'd love to go back there sometime - perhaps when it's a bit cooler.

In other news...

I'm taking a summer class about insects at Egan Junior High School right now. As I'll be going to Egan in the fall, my parents thought this would be a great way for me to get acquainted with my future school. This class is much more exciting than the reading one, that's for sure!

Thursday, July 2, 1998

went to see Armageddon today

As my aunt Phoenix and her daughter Lori are visiting from Taiwan, my parents decided to take them to the movies. This was pretty exciting as my family doesn't go to the theater all that often.

But there was a little problem: Phoenix and Lori wanted to see Disney's Mulan while I wanted to see Armageddon. I wouldn't have minded watching both movies, but that wasn't an option due to time constraints. It was up to me and my aunt and cousin as my parents had no preference. I ultimately managed to convince the ladies that Armageddon was the better choice.

Armageddon was indeed pretty awesome. It's about a group of unlikely heroes - oil rig workers to be exact - who must try to save Earth from a gigantic asteroid. The theater was packed as the movie had just come out yesterday.

Having seen Deep Impact (another recent film with a similar but more plausible plot) last month, I felt Armageddon was much more lighthearted. Spoiler warning. One of my favorite scenes was when the Russian guy "fixed" the shuttle's engines by whacking the controls with a wrench. There were a few other funny scenes as well, although I won't spoil them for you. Of course, the movie wasn't without its tear-jerking moments either: the saddest part was when Harry had to tell his daughter Grace that he wasn't coming home. Spoilers end here. All in all, Armageddon was a good movie.

But I don't think Phoenix and Lori enjoyed it very much, considering that they fell asleep in the theater. I felt kind of bad afterwards; they were our guests, so we should have let them pick what they wanted to see. I guess I shouldn't be so persuasive next time. *shrugs*

Currently watching: Armageddon
Release date: July 1, 1998

Saturday, June 20, 1998

San Francisco trip report

I just got back from a one-night stay in San Francisco with my parents. It wasn't so much a vacation as a business trip as Dad had to go there for a conference, but he took the rest of us along due to San Francisco being so close.

Dad was away in meetings most of the time, so it was pretty much just me and Mom. The two of us considered exploring the downtown on our own, but we decided against it due to the reputedly high crime rate in San Francisco. There wasn't much else to do, so we spent the bulk of the time in our hotel room. But it wasn't all that bad because SimCity 2000 had kept me occupied, and that we got to see The Arrival on HBO.

The three of us also watched U.S. Marshals last night. The film turned out to be pretty good. This was our first time seeing a pay-per-view movie, so it was a neat experience. The movie wasn't cheap by any means, but it was nevertheless the most memorable part of our trip. Even though we didn't get to do a whole lot otherwise, it was nice to be with Dad whenever he wasn't in a meeting.

Despite being so short, the trip was not without mishaps. Those who have seen Deep Impact may remember the scene where astronomer Marcus Wolf throws down his pizza in a panic after discovering that a comet is on a collision course with the Earth. Well, I thought it would be funny to reenact that scene by slamming down my croissant whenever a disaster happened in SimCity 2000. It was actually pretty funny... until I accidentally spilled my sparkling water all over the laptop. Oops.

I cleaned it up as quickly as I could, so computer still works fine save for some sticky keys. I fully expected Dad to kill me for that, but much to my relief, he merely had a good laugh about it. The whole thing was rather hilarious in hindsight.

In other news...

I didn't feel like making a separate post, but last Thursday's party totally rocked. It was really great to see my Springer classmates one last time. I'd definitely like to thank Brianna for inviting me. :-)

Currently watching: U.S. Marshals
Release date: March 6, 1998

Wednesday, June 10, 1998

done with elementary school

I graduated from Springer Elementary School today. It's so hard to believe 6th grade is already over. Here I come, middle school!

The graduation ceremony was somewhat bittersweet. Because I had been a part-time student for most of the school year, I was not eligible for a diploma. On the other hand, I did receive the President's Award for Academic Excellence, something I'm really proud of. I'd say finishing elementary school is a big achievement in itself. But at the same time, it was a little sad to part with all the friends I've made at Springer.

Although I only became a full-time student about three weeks ago, I had come to know my classmates well. I'm definitely going to miss everyone, especially Mrs. Carrie; she was one of the coolest teachers I've ever had. You're probably going to laugh at me for this, but I actually cried on the way home. *blush*

Of course, the school year wouldn't be complete without some sort of celebration. That isn't something lost on my classmate Brianna, who has invited all of us to her graduation party tomorrow. I'm extremely grateful to be included with the rest of the class. In any case, I think the party is going to be lots of fun!

For those curious, I'll be going to Egan Junior High School in the fall. Middle school will certainly be more challenging, but at least I have two and a half months to prepare for it. Right now, it's time to enjoy summer. :-)

Update: To celebrate the occasion, my parents took me to the Fish Market in Palo Alto for dinner. The food was delicious!

In other news...

I was too lazy to blog about it earlier, but I saw Deep Impact in the theater a few days ago. It was a great movie in my opinion.

Currently playing: SimCity 2000

Wednesday, May 20, 1998

just transferred to Springer

I'll start by saying a little about myself: I am autistic as a result of an oxygen deficiency at birth. Due to my learning disabilities, my parents had trouble finding a school for me when I was younger; every place I went to would kick me out after a few weeks. I was eventually taken in by a special education program called the Morgan Center. Because most of its curriculum was very basic, I had missed out on many learning opportunities during my six years there.

However, my parents were able to arrange for me to participate in a regular math class at Springer Elementary School starting in 5th grade. That went very well, so we did the same for this school year. It wasn't long before I was cleared to take additional classes at Springer. After numerous meetings with school officials, my parents finally managed to convince them that I could handle a normal learning environment. That was one of the most important milestones in my life.

So back on topic: I "graduated" from the Morgan Center yesterday afternoon, and this was my first day as a full-time student at Springer. It definitely feels great to be a normal kid again. I'm also extremely lucky to have a teacher as kind as Mrs. Carrie; she's very understanding of my situation and always gives me the help I need. The workload is indeed a lot heavier, but I'm sure it's nothing I can't handle.

From what I've heard, I was the only "student" of the Morgan Center to switch back to a regular school. You could say I'm a pioneer; this accomplishment is certainly one I'm proud of. On the other hand, I'm going to miss all of my friends, especially Brian, Drew and Chelsea, as well as all the teachers there. One thing I'll never forget is Cheryl's sense of humor; our head teacher always knew how to turn a bad day into a good one. It was also sad to say goodbye to the folks that work in Jim's afternoon program. The people of the Morgan Center will always hold a special place in my heart, and I hope to visit them sometime. :-)

Thursday, May 7, 1998

our house got hit by a tornado!

You probably won't believe this, but my house was hit by a tornado three days ago. That's right - a tornado in California of all places!

This tornado was one of the two that struck the Bay Area; the other touched down in Sunnyvale, my old hometown. This was an incredibly rare occurrence, considering that twisters are almost non-existent in California. They were luckily nowhere as powerful as those in the Midwest, but at least I can now tell people that I've been in a tornado before!

It started out like a normal Tuesday afternoon. I had just finished a session with my English tutor, and Mom was walking her to the door when the wind picked up. We didn't think much of it at first because sudden gusts are not uncommon at this time of the year.

However, the wind soon become unusually strong, and we sensed something was not right. It wasn't long before we heard things crashing outside. That was certainly not a good sign. Just then, the wind subsided almost as suddenly as it had begun. Mom then went outside to investigate and realized our gas was leaking!

It turned out a section of our neighbor Gen's roof had struck our gas meter and ruptured it. Fearing an explosion, Mom and I rushed into another neighbor's garage for cover. I know we kind of went into somebody else's house without asking, but I'm pretty sure they wouldn't have minded given the circumstances. In any case, this was a very bad situation; had the gas ignited, our house and all of our possessions would likely be gone.

Much to our relief, a Good Samaritan managed to shut off the gas for us. Damn, that guy's brave. Mom ran back into the house to get him a box of chocolates as a token of gratitude, but he was nowhere to be seen. Strangely enough, none of our neighbors knew who he was either, only that he was some sort of construction worker. I'd say he was definitely a guardian angel.

The tornado had knocked out the power in the area, but it was restored for most homes by the following day. We were without electricity for a longer period of time because our power line had suffered extensive damage, hence why I couldn't post this earlier. But I guess the most important thing is that our house is still in one piece. :-)

Sunday, April 26, 1998

back from camp

I just got back from Camp Costanoan, a retreat for students with disabilities. Because many of my classmates have been there, my parents decided to sign me up so that I could experience it as well. This was my first time being away from the rest of my family for an extended period of time, so it was a pretty big challenge for me.

Day 1

Mom and Dad dropped me off at the camp in the afternoon. I was a little nervous at first, so my parents did their best to convince me that everything would be all right. They went home after making sure I could check in, and so began my adventure.

I was introduced to my counselor Andy after signing in. He was very nice and made me feel more comfortable. I soon met the other kids and their counselors in our group, and we spent the rest of the afternoon getting acquainted with each other. One of the students in the group was a guy named Brian who sounded a bit like a girl and acted a lot like one. He seemed rather friendly at first, although he definitely gave me the creeps.

There was a dance in the evening, and I got to swing dance with my friend Chelsea. While I absolutely suck at dancing, this was by far the best part of camp. I'm usually shy around girls, but it wasn't much of a problem as Chelsea and I are in the same class and know each other pretty well.

It was rather late when the dance ended, so we went to bed shortly afterwards. I had trouble sleeping at first because I wasn't used to being in an unfamiliar place away from my parents. The fact that I was sharing the cabin with all those strange people didn't help the issue. After what seemed like hours, I was finally able to doze off with the reassurance from a counselor.

Day 2

Saturday was long and tedious. There wasn't much to do aside from the group activities, so I spent most of my free time hanging out with Andy and the other counselors. Brian later joined us for a few games of cops and robbers some time after lunch, which was was a great way to kill time.

I wish I could say that all was well, but this unfortunately not the case. Things went downhill in the afternoon, when one of the counselors started picking on me. I don't quite remember his name, but I think it was Derek or something similar. In any case, that guy was a complete asshole. He made me so upset that I was about to bash his head in with a rock when another counselor talked me out of it. I'm rather glad I didn't follow through as I would probably have gotten into huge trouble otherwise.

I later bumped into Brian again in the cabin. This encounter was less than pleasant: he accused me of peeking at him while he got dressed, and then threatened to do something bad to me. I don't understand why anyone on Earth would want to peek at creepy naked guys. Let's just say my positive impression of him just went out the window.

The evening ended with an art workshop of sorts. It wasn't that interesting, but I nevertheless took the time to appreciate other people's talents. The good news is that I was also able to reconcile with Derek. All I had to do was tell him that I didn't like what he was doing, and he apologized for his actions. That worked like a charm; I guess violence really isn't the answer after all.

It was then time for bed again. Having gotten more used to the environment, I was able to sleep much better.

Day 3

This was the last day of camp. The program ended well before noon, so it wasn't long before parents started picking their kids up. The staff put on Disney's Hercules in the meantime, and we were about halfway through the movie when Mom and Dad showed up. I was extremely glad to see them again, and they were obviously very eager to see me as well. Mom went as far as counting how many hours she had to wait before she could pick me up, and she even considered sneaking to the camp to make sure I was safe. Too hilarious.


Camp Costanoan certainly had its ups and downs. The highlight of the program was last Friday's dance, which was loads of fun. It was also nice to get to know the other campers and their counselors. Speaking of which, I'll have to admit that some of the kids really creeped me out. I was actually afraid to use the shower out of fear that someone would steal my clothes, and ended up being a stinkin' pile of sweat by the time camp was over. Come to think of it, I was probably a little paranoid.

However, the worst part of camp was when Derek kept making fun of me, which really pissed me off. You'd think a counselor would know better than that. I cannot fathom why Camp Costanoan would hire a jerk like him. Perhaps it's karma, considering that I've done my fair share of picking on Andy too. :\

On the bright side, Derek was an anomaly that did not represent the other counselors, most of whom were decent people. I guess I'm very lucky I wasn't assigned to him.

To be honest, the negative experiences have somewhat put me off. This isn't to say that Camp Costanoan is bad; it's actually a great place to meet new people, not to mention that most of the staff are extremely nice. That having been said, I may be interested in going there again when I'm older. But for the time being, I prefer family vacations. :-)

Currently watching: Hercules
Release date: June 27, 1997

Sunday, April 19, 1998

Crater Lake and Northern California trip report

"Look at me, I'm Santa Claus!" -- another kid in the hot tub, after putting foam on his face

As crazy as it sounds, my family just came back from another spring break vacation. We visited Crater Lake in Oregon and several other places in Northern California on this trip. It was loads of fun, so be sure to read about our adventure!

Day 1

Our first stop was the Shrine Drive-Thru Tree in Myers Flat. As the name suggests, this was another one of those trees that people can drive through. The admission also included access to a three-story tree house that was built inside the trunk of an ancient redwood. The tree house wasn't that impressive, but it was still fun to go inside.

The next destination was the Redwood National and State Parks as there were some hiking trails in the area. This was only our second time here, so it was quite a fresh experience. The three of us then continued to Trees of Mystery in Klamath to see the iconic statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox. The rest of the attraction required an entrance fee, so we didn't go in. I figured this wasn't a big deal, considering that we had already seen plenty of big trees elsewhere.

As evening neared, my parents and I arrived at our hotel in Crescent City after driving a total of almost 400 miles. All of us were kind of tired, so we didn't do much else before going to bed.

Day 2

Our main stop of the day was Crater Lake National Park in Oregon. According to scientists, the namesake lake was formed after a volcano called Mt. Mazama destroyed itself in a massive eruption several millennia ago. I'm glad I wasn't there when that happened. The water-filled caldera didn't appear very large on the map, but it was hard to believe how big it really was when we got there.

We didn't stay for long except to take pictures as the weather was rather chilly at the lake, but I nevertheless thought Crater Lake was the best part of the trip. The lake wasn't the only attraction in the park as we also hiked some of the nearby trails. The scenery was no less impressive than that of the other places we visited.

The three of us were exhausted from all the traveling, so we decided to relax in the spa after arriving at our hotel in Yreka. While we were in the hot tub, this kid from another family proceeded to scoop up the foam in the water and smear it on his face, pretending to be Santa Claus. That was just gross - I mean, heaven knows what's in that stuff. *shudder*

Day 3

This was the last day of our trip, but there was still so much to do. The three of us took a detour to check out Whiskeytown Lake on the way home. There wasn't much to do here as the lake is mainly used for boating, but we got some great pictures. One interesting feature of the lake was the huge funnel-shaped spillway where excess water drains. But it was also kind of a scary sight as falling into it would mean certain death.

We also took pictures at what appeared to be a winter recreation area of sorts. Strangely enough, my parents and I were the only ones there despite the abundance of snow. I'm guessing it's because it's not winter. There were few other attractions on the way home, so the rest of the afternoon consisted of driving. This was no easy task as Yreka is almost 350 miles from our house.


The forests of the Northwest Coast are among the most beautiful places I've ever seen. As someone who loves the great outdoors, I enjoyed every part of the trip. The highlight of said trip was Crater Lake; it's a shame there aren't any similar places in the Bay Area. While I'd love to have a vacation home in the mountains, that will only happen if I win the lottery. But I can dream, right?

I have to go back to school tomorrow as this is the last day of spring break. Dealing with the holiday blues is always going to be the hard part of coming back from a vacation. On the other hand, summer is coming up in just two months. :-)

In other news...

I'll be going to Camp Costanoan next weekend. I'm a little nervous about it, to be honest!

Currently playing: SimTown

Sunday, April 12, 1998

Eureka trip report

I just got back from a two-day family road trip to Eureka. The vacation was totally awesome despite being somewhat short.

Day 1

Eureka is a little over 300 miles from our house, but the drive didn't seem that long as there were so many attractions along the way. Our first stop was the Drive-Thru Tree Park in Leggett. Its main feature was the Chandelier Tree, which has a tunnel cut through it to allow cars to drive through. This was an interesting sight, although I couldn't help but feel bad for the tree. I'd say the Drive-Thru Tree Park was overall my favorite part of the trip.

As my family loves the great outdoors, my parents and I went hiking in Humboldt Redwoods State Park before continuing on to Eureka. The trails were absolutely amazing, especially with the beautiful redwood groves.

All of us were kind of tired from all the traveling, so we didn't do much in the evening except relax in the spa at our hotel. The hot tub was quite nice!

Day 2

It was time to find out what Eureka had to offer after a good night's sleep. There wasn't much to do other than visit the harbor and check out the local stores, but we still had lots of fun. One interesting attraction was the giant hammer in front of Pierson Building Center, a supplier of home improvement products. The hammer is actually quite famous; I imagine it's brought in a lot of business for the store.

We also came across an office building that housed the local branches of the National Weather Service and the U.S. Geological Survey. I wanted to go in and take a look as geology is one of my major interests. The office was closed for the weekend as is normal for government agencies, so we just took a couple of pictures outside. It was then time to head home after a long day.

On the whole, my family really enjoyed this trip. The nice thing is that spring break has only just begun, which means there are plenty of opportunities for us to visit other places. I'm definitely pretty excited.

Friday, April 10, 1998

last Easter egg hunt ever?

Easter has always been one of my favorite holidays. There's nothing more thrilling than trying to grab as many of those goody-filled eggs as possible, or searching for them in obscure places where they may be hidden.

But let's be honest here: I'm getting a little too old for this stuff. Since two years ago, I've started feeling out of place at Easter egg hunts because most of the children present were much younger than me. Therefore, I've decided to stop going to them from now on. I did go to the egg hunt at school earlier this afternoon, but that will probably be my last one ever.

To be clear, I did not give up Easter egg hunts because my parents told me to; it was my own decision. I'll have to admit, this wasn't an easy thing to do because the egg hunts are what make Easter so much fun. But I guess we've all got to grow up sometime, right?

On second thought, maybe I shouldn't say I'll never participate in an egg hunt again... I'll just be hiding the eggs instead. *evil grin*

All that having been said, I'd be happy to attend an Easter egg hunt if someone were to organize one that's catered to older people. Surely I can't be the only one with that idea...

In other news...

We'll be leaving for a two-day trip to Eureka tomorrow morning. There's no better way to spend the Easter weekend than with a family vacation. :-)