Friday, December 17, 1999

Christmas break

This was the last day of the fall semester. I just love this time of the year!

Because our house is in the middle of a huge remodeling project right now, chances are that we won't go on any long trips during the break. On the other hand, I'm very excited about being invited to the Liang family's New Year's Eve party again. Last year's party was loads of fun, so I expect this one to be just as awesome.

I'm actually curious (although also a bit scared) to know if the so-called "Y2k bug" will wreak havoc around the world as some folks predict. I guess we'll find out in two weeks. *fingers crossed*

Currently playing: Quake II (demo)

Sunday, December 12, 1999

chef of the day

I had to prepare a nutritionally balanced meal for my family as part of the final project for cooking class. This was a daunting task as I had never cooked for anyone else before. But I guess I shouldn't complain, considering that my mother has to do this on an almost daily basis!

For the project, I decided to do a three-course dinner consisting of an appetizer, entrée and dessert. It wasn't just me and my parents as our family friend Ray was also here. One of our building contractors also came, although he didn't eat anything as he was mainly here to discuss our remodeling plans.

I made nachos with cheddar cheese for the appetizer. While my parents rarely eat this stuff, they really enjoyed my nachos. I had originally planned to make fettuccine alfredo for the main entrée as it was my favorite recipe from the class, but Mrs. Andersen recommended against it because the nachos were already high in fat. For those who aren't familiar with Italian cuisine, alfredo sauce is one of the worst offenders when it comes to calories. I ultimately settled upon beef and bean burritos; they weren't a bad choice because everybody loved them, especially with the generous fillings!

The meal ended with an Irish dessert called apple fluff, which I made using a recipe from an issue of Kids Discover. The dish took an unusually long time to bake because I didn't separate the egg yolk from the egg white properly during the preparation, but it still turned out well enough. Ray even stayed past 10:00 p.m. for a taste!

All of the food was accompanied by freshly squeezed orange juice. On the whole, I'd say just about everything went according to plan. Ray and my parents gave me great feedback, and I'm quite proud of myself for being able to make this big meal. I realize this will become an everyday occurrence when I have my own wife and kids, but I'll worry about that when the time comes. :P

Monday, November 29, 1999

Thanksgiving break report

I hope y'all had a great Thanksgiving!

On the subject of which, my family had planned to take a three-day trip to Portland during the break. However, the trip cancelled in favor of a group community service project for my health class.

Mrs. Kawamoto-Combes had told the class that we could do the project at our own pace, but because the rest of my team had elected to have it done over the long weekend, I felt it would have been bad form to delay everyone else's plans for the purpose of a vacation. Therefore, my parents decided to postpone the trip indefinitely.

As for the project, my teammates and I repainted the anti-dumping messages on storm drains. Our group only spent about two hours, but we managed to get a lot of work done. Although my family couldn't go to Oregon as originally planned, it felt great to give back to the community.

On the other hand, we did compensate for the trip by inviting the Liang family over to our house for dinner. Those who read my blog may notice that this sounds familiar. :-)

I should mention that I'm very thankful for all the things my parents have done for me. The fact that they threw a little party to make up for the trip makes it kind of obvious. Yeah, I know I'm spoiled. :P

Currently playing: SimCity 2000

Sunday, October 10, 1999

a ruined 14th birthday :-(

So I'm 14 years old now. The ironic thing is that the day didn't end too well, even though my "unlucky" birthday was supposed to be last year.

If you really want to know the details, here's what happened: my friend Moonway and I went to a family entertainment center in San Jose called the Jungle. Moonway's mother Angela had recommended the place because it offered free admission to people on their birthdays.

Angela had picked me up at my house and taken us there, so many thanks to her for the ride. It wasn't just me and Moonway as his sister Sarah and one of her friends also tagged along. I didn't catch the name of Sarah's friend, but I think it was Michelle or something. Angela left after paying for the admission, so it was just us kids.

Our day at the Jungle had a great start. Moonway and I checked out the tube maze and the redemption games while Sarah and her friend explored the place on their own. The Jungle was huge; there was just so much to do. But it wasn't long before the afternoon turned sour: the girls got hungry and ordered a pizza. This wouldn't have been a problem, except they didn't have enough money to pay for it. Uh-oh.

Moonway and I were then called to the front desk, but neither of us had any money at all. Angela was out on some errands, so it would be quite a while before she came to pick us up. The people at the front desk didn't really know what to do either. It was certainly an awkward situation.

The Jungle staff eventually let the girls have the pizza at no charge, but they also canceled our admission to cover the cost of the pizza. In other words, none of us were allowed back in unless the fees were paid again, and my birthday offer was unsurprisingly no longer valid. We weren't too happy about the whole situation, so we just sat in the lobby and waited for Angela to pick us up. I guess there's really no such thing as a free lunch - or pizza in this case.

Angela didn't come back until the late afternoon, so none of us wanted to pay the admission fees again. I did rant to the staff on how stupid their policy was, although I understand they were just doing their jobs.

Back in the car, Moonway kept scolding Sarah and her friend for ruining our day and vowing to never let them participate in our activities again. Neither of the girls would apologize, which made him even more upset. However, I felt all of us were somewhat at fault. For one thing, Sarah and her friend should not have ordered anything without checking their budget. They could have at least shared the pizza with us!

But to be fair, Moonway and I had both made the mistake of not bringing any spare change, which is admittedly a bad habit. Other than that, Angela probably shouldn't have left us alone in the Jungle, considering that children under 13 weren't technically supposed to go inside without adult supervision.

In an attempt to make the best of the situation, I asked Moonway if he wanted to come back to my place after dropping Sarah's friend off, but his mother wasn't interested. Oh well.

Let's hope my 15th birthday will be better!

Tuesday, September 7, 1999

Labor Day weekend report

The long weekend was pretty fun as Mom's friend Ann invited my family to her place again, this time for an overnight stay. Ann lives kind of far away in Walnut Creek, so we are lucky to see her twice in just seven months. Although there weren't that many other things to do in the area, my parents and I greatly enjoyed the beautiful fall foliage.

We don't usually go on long trips on Labor Day weekends too often, so this was rather nice for a change. :-)

Currently listening to: Duke Nukem 3D soundtrack - "Aliens, Say Your Prayers" by Bobby Prince

Thursday, August 26, 1999

first day of 8th grade

So today was my first day as an 8th grader at Egan. In other words, I now get to toss "sevies" into trash cans. Muhahahaha! Of course, I'm not actually that mean, but it does feel great to be one of the big kids on campus. :D

Speaking of which, being an 8th grader has its perks: for one thing, we're now allowed to hang out on the "8th grade deck" during breaks. The deck is a memorial to a past student who died in a ski accident, and is traditionally off-limits to 7th graders. Each of us also has a chance of being chosen as the "8th grader of the day" during the morning announcements. There are probably lots of other benefits, although I can't remember them off the top of my head right now.

Another nice thing about being back in school is that I'm taking Mrs. Andersen's foods class this semester. It's pretty much a cooking class with a heavy emphasis on nutrition. Although we haven't made anything yet, I can tell the class is going to be lots of fun, especially when we have a really awesome teacher. I certainly look forward to all the good stuff we'll be making and, well, eating.

All that having been said, it's a little hard to realize that summer break has ended. I still kind of miss the recent Alaska cruise, but I'm also very excited to see my buddies at Egan again!

In other news...

I recently got to check out Duke Nukem 3D: Atomic Edition with Moonway. He was also nice enough to let me borrow the CD for two weeks. Damn, that game's addictive.

Currently playing: Duke Nukem 3D: Atomic Edition

Thursday, August 19, 1999

back from our Alaska cruise

"I'm sorry I didn't laugh at your joke." -- Connie, after I retold some jokes from a talk show

My family just got back from an amazing eight-day Alaskan cruise. This was our first real trip to Alaska - not counting the brief layover in Anchorage during our trip to Taiwan in 1995 - so it was pretty exciting.

Like our previous cruise, this wasn't a vacation for just the three of us as we traveled with the families of my friend Moonway and cousins Connie and Cathy. Strictly speaking, my parents did not plan this vacation; the Shiehs and some of their neighbors had organized a group vacation with Celebrity Cruises, and Aunt Cynthia invited us to join them. The Lins also expressed interest in coming along, so we happily obliged. :-)

Day 1

The trip began with a flight to Vancouver, the port of call. Upon arriving at YVR, my parents and I rendezvoused with the two other families and introduced them to each other. The meeting between the kids was a little awkward at first, but Moonway's sister Sarah and Cathy quickly became good friends. This was not unexpected, considering that the girls are about the same age.

Once everyone had gotten acquainted, it was time to board MV Mercury and get the party started. But before the ship set sail, all of the passengers and crew first had to participate in the mandatory muster drill. This is actually one of the lessons from the Titanic disaster. The drill was followed by the captain's welcome reception in the evening, and we got to meet the big man!

Day 2

The day began with a bus tour of the area around Juneau. The tour took us to quite a few places, but the most notable stop was the small zoo in the countryside. While zoos aren't exactly my cup of tea, I loved seeing the grizzly bear cubs. They were just so darn cute!

I should mention that I bought a key chain for Dad while at the zoo. The souvenir didn't cost more than a dollar, but it looked really nice. I certainly hope Dad will find it useful.

The rest of the day was fairly uneventful except for the comedy show that my parents and I went to see in the evening. It was hilarious at first, although it started getting boring during the second half. The three of us then met up with the Shieh family for dinner. I shared some of the jokes from the show at the table, but nobody else seemed to get them. Oh well.

Day 3

The entire day consisted of sailing as the next destination was was several hundred miles from Juneau. This didn't allow for any excursions, so we took the opportunity to see what the ship had to offer. It was hard to believe how big MV Mercury was.

Our families spent some time on the main deck to enjoy the cool breeze and the great ocean view. There was also a swimming pool and spa, the latter of which was nice. Moonway and I later found a game room on one of the floors, and the two of us would often go there during the next few days. The room only had four computers, but they were seldom occupied.

The cruise offered some ballroom dancing lessons, and our parents decided to go dancing after dinner. Moonway thought the idea of dancing with girls was gross - and the event was restricted to people over 15 anyway - so the two of us stayed in his cabin to play with my Game Boy instead.

Some time later, I found out there was a teen dance party scheduled for midnight. The staff apparently hadn't forgotten about us kids. I really liked the LAYC dances when I was in 7th grade, so I decided to stay up to see what this one was like. However, the only people that showed up were a couple of girls. That didn't seem too fun, so I went to bed. I think the dance would have had a much better turnout if it didn't start so late.

Day 4

The highlight of the day was the Hubbard Glacier tour. The glacier was in a rather inaccessible location, so the sightseers got there via helicopter. One thing to note is that the rotors were loud as hell; I have no idea how Sarah managed to fall asleep during the ride. It seems kids can sleep through anything.

The tour itself was literally a cool experience as we got to hike on the glacier. Yet I couldn't help but notice all the deep holes filled with water. It was a little scary as falling into one would almost mean certain death - and a rather unpleasant one at that. Several brave tour guides were there to try to prevent that from happening, but I was still kind of nervous as the ice was quite slippery.

There was a movie night after dinner, and the staff put on Practical Magic in one of the auditoriums. I wasn't too interested in the movie - not to mention that I had seen it before - so I left early to hang out with Moonway.

Day 5

The ship stopped at a small town called Skagway. One excursion that we went on was a scenic train tour through the surrounding mountains. The views were absolutely beautiful, and my parents and I really enjoyed the ride.

The excursion wasn't that long, so there was time to explore the town itself afterwards. Skagway had many gift stores, and we spent much of the afternoon window shopping. To our regret, Moonway and I got into a bit of trouble: the two of us had absolutely nothing better to do, so we wrote some not-so-nice comments in the visitor log of one of the stores as a prank. The manager was obviously not a happy camper when he found out, and blamed my father for not supervising me and my friend closely enough. As you could imagine, Dad wasn't too pleased either. Yeah, that was pretty stupid of us. :-(

Day 6

Next on the itinerary was Sitka. The highlight of the day was a boat tour of the Indian River. There were countless salmon leaping out of the water, and it was an incredible sight. The excursion was fairly expensive but worth every cent. But what made the tour so special was that the captain of the boat allowed me to be the unofficial sonar operator. This was an incredibly special experience - I imagine it's not every day that they'd let some random kid play with such expensive equipment.

The day ended with a "farewell" dinner. This was a little odd, considering that there were still two days left of the cruise. I'm not sure why they put on the finale event at this time, but it made me feel like the trip was almost over. Other than that, the food was delicious, so I ain't complaining. I'd say this was overall the best day of our vacation.

Day 7

The ship arrived in Ketchikan, another one of those Alaskan towns. Ketchikan was very similar to Skagway in that it also had a lot of gift shops, although the former was much larger. Like two days ago, my family spent much of the day browsing the stores. Ketchikan was my second favorite stop; even though it's hard to describe, there was definitely something very special about this town.

Day 8

All good things must come to an end, and this cruise was by no means an exception. MV Mercury arrived in Vancouver at around noon, and all of us disembarked and headed to the airport. Our families then flew back to San Francisco before going separate ways.

I had started feeling homesick a few days ago, so it's great to be home after a week on the sea. But at the same time, I'm also kind of sad that our amazing adventure has concluded.


Our first cruise was to Ensenada, Baja California with the Liang family in December 1997. That cruise turned out to be loads of fun, so we decided to go on an even longer one. The best part of this vacation was undoubtedly the Indian River boat ride. The tour itself was nice, but the honor of being the unofficial sonar operator made it infinitely better. I also loved Ketchikan as well; the unique atmosphere of the town made it a very special place. I hope to go back there should we ever revisit Alaska.

Our cruise had some not-so-glorious moments as well. The worst part was when some of us started feeling ill a few days ago. No wonder they say it's easy to get sick on cruise ships. I only had a mild case of sore throat, but my parents and Moonway's father Hank had it somewhat worse. Being sick on a family vacation is no fun. :-(

There's also that run-in with the angry shopkeeper in Skagway after Moonway and I wrote some crude comments in the guestbook as a joke. Dad said the guy could have called the police on us, but nothing of the sort happened. I guess we lucked out.

The other thing was the age restrictions: many of the ship's amenities, such as the exercise rooms and most dance floors, were off-limits to children 15 or under. While this didn't seem to be strictly enforced, I didn't want to be a bad role model to the other kids by not following the rules. This means I probably won't be able to get the most out of a cruise until I'm older, but I guess there's a time for everything.

The vacation also wasn't all fun and games as I had to read Will Hobbs' Downriver and J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit for 8th grade English class during my free time. It's not like the teacher will give us a quiz on the first day of school, but I felt it was best to get that out of the way first. However, this did not make the cruise any less fun; if anything, it made the vacation a lot more memorable because I actually enjoyed those two books.

To say the least, this was a once-in-a-lifetime trip. I don't know if we'll ever go on another cruise like this, especially because it's so hard to find another family that is willing to spend the money. For those who aren't aware, cruises can cost up to twice as much as regular trips, and even more so for international cruises. Traveling by ourselves is always an option, but cruises just don't seem that fun when it's just me and my parents. Having said that, I hope it won't be long until our next one.

In other news...

Moonway recently got the full version of Duke Nukem 3D: Atomic Edition at Electronics Boutique. Throughout the cruise, I was so anxious to check out the game that I kept asking Moonway what would happen if we fire an RPG at various objects, much to his chagrin. I guess I'll get my answers soon enough. :-)

Currently reading: The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien

Friday, July 30, 1999

no more summer school!

This was the last day of the summer English class at Archbishop Mitty High School.

To be honest, I did not like the class at all. For one thing, the course material was rather boring; we mostly read short stories and excerpts from obscure novels, and completed worksheets afterwards. The fact that each session was two hours long didn't help the issue.

However, the main reason I disliked the class was that we had a mean and obnoxious teacher. Case in point, Moonway had a very unpleasant dealing with her. In most classrooms, tools on the teacher's desk, such as staplers and hole punches, are there for everyone to use. But when Moonway went to use our teacher's pencil sharpener, she got very mad and yelled at him, claiming it was her property. That may have been the case, but her attitude was totally inexcusable. Gee, she could have told him nicely instead. I would have stuck up for my friend, except I didn't want to make the teacher even more upset.

Moonway was not the only one to suffer her wrath as she also seemed annoyed with me on more than one occasion. I don't understand why the hell Mitty hired this poor excuse for a teacher in the first place. The two of us actually hated the bitch so much that we came up with a nickname for her: Mrs. Asshole. She's definitely earned it, if you ask me.

Although the material wasn't too interesting, the class itself might not have been so bad if we didn't have such an unprofessional teacher. The only positive thing about this class was that Moonway and I usually got to hang out together after school. Needless to say, we're both pretty glad summer school is over.

Currently playing: Duke Nukem 3D (shareware version)

Monday, June 21, 1999

summer school at AMHS

Summer school just started for me. As mentioned in my earlier post, I am taking an English class at Archbishop Mitty High School. Or rather, it's a reading and composition course. There is a heavy emphasis on literature, which generally isn't the most interesting subject in the world. I can't say I'm exactly thrilled about it.

On the other hand, my friend Moonway is taking the same class, which means we'll have plenty of opportunities to hang out together after school. :-)

Currently reading: The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane

Friday, June 18, 1999

First-person shooters are awesome.

The title says it all: first-person shooters are just about the best thing ever. I'm totally addicted to them!

I went to my friend Moonway's house this morning, and he showed me a game compilation CD that he had won in a drawing at his Chinese school. The disc contained about 40 games of various genres, such as puzzle and adventure. They were all shareware, meaning they included only a portion of the content available in the paid versions. Funnily enough, some of the games didn't even work at all.

Out of the those that did, the one that caught our attention early on was a first-person shooter called Doom. For those unaware, it was the game that had gained notoriety following the Columbine shootings this past April. I don't want to sound too morbid, but we probably wouldn't have paid too much attention to it if it wasn't for the shootings.

Learning the controls involved trial and error due to the lack of manuals. In the case of Doom, the two of us spent a good three minutes looking for the "jump" key before figuring that jumping was not possible in the game. We then spent a couple more minutes trying to figure out how to open doors (hint: it's not by shooting at them) and interact with other objects. In the end, I don't think we even got past the first stage - and that was on the easiest difficulty level. There were a few other shooters as well, such as Duke Nukem 3D and Wolfenstein 3D, but they were also pretty hard.

It wasn't just first-person shooters; Moonway and I also tried Brainstorm, a puzzle game involving multi-colored arrows, and God of Thunder, an adventure title starring the Norse god Thor. However, I couldn't help but come back to the shooting games. There's just something so addictive about them.

Up until now, I had never known 3D shooters could be so much fun. Oddly enough, I didn't care much for them when I played Quake and the Nintendo 64 version of Turok: Dinosaur Hunter a few years ago. I guess times have changed.

In other news...

I'll be taking a summer English class at Archbishop Mitty High School starting next week. It doesn't sound very exciting, but the cool thing is that Moonway will also be taking that class. So at least we'll get to hang out more.

Currently playing: Doom (shareware version)

Friday, June 11, 1999

done with 7th grade

I finished my first half of middle school. Hooray!

The 7th graders had a weird schedule, with each period lasting less than ten minutes. These "classes" were mainly for tying up loose ends, such as turning in borrowed books and checking our final grades. This was followed by an assembly in the auditorium: our principal, Mrs. Dyckman, just couldn't let us go without delivering her customary farewell speech. It made us all sad because she sounded like she was going to cry. Gee, did everyone forget we would be back in the fall? After everything was said and done, the students were let out at 9:30 a.m. Now that's what I call a "minimum minimum" day!

I stayed for a few minutes after school to wish my friends and teachers a good summer. The whole morning was very sentimental. I even got a hug from this girl named Allie. It was quite flattering... and awkward at the same time. *blush*

As 7th grade is now officially over, you're probably wondering if I was ever "trashed" by the 8th graders. This did not happen to me, but a few of my friends weren't so fortunate. Good times.

In any case, it's time to enjoy summer. I'm extremely excited because I'm sure my family has lots of fun things planned. That, and lots of video games. :D

In other news...

I saw Heavenly Creatures with my mother this afternoon. That was a really creepy movie in my opinion. At the very least, it's certainly not something I'd normally watch.

Currently watching: Heavenly Creatures
Release date: November 16, 1994

Friday, May 7, 1999

last LAYC dance of 7th grade

I just got back from my third LAYC dance. I was too lazy to attend any dances for the past six months, but I didn't want to miss out on this one as it was the last LAYC dance of the school year. This time, the DJ played a bunch of music videos on a large projector screen, which was really cool.

Although my LAYC membership included admission to eight dances, I was too lazy to go to the other five. This was admittedly rather wasteful, but at least I had fun at the ones I did attend - including this one. :-)

Monday, April 19, 1999

spring break + Japan trip report

Spring break has ended for me, and I am now back in school. The break was pretty fun as my family went to Japan for eight days. We left on the 10th and came back two days ago.

Dad has visited the Land of the Rising Sun countless times for business reasons, so this trip wasn't exactly new to him. But my mother and I had never been there before, so it was an exciting experience for the two of us. That doesn't mean Dad didn't have a good time; he actually really enjoyed showing us around. After all, this was a vacation and not a business trip. :-)

Days 1 and 2

Our adventures began with a serious mishap that almost cost us the entire trip. Long story short, none of us realized my passport had expired. You see, passports issued to children under 16 are generally valid for only five years, compared to ten years for everyone else. As my parents had forgotten about this rule, they did not check mine before leaving. Funnily enough, the clerk at SFO didn't notice anything wrong either!

Transpacific flights are usually pretty boring, so it's a good thing I brought my Game Boy. The in-flight entertainment also wasn't too bad as we got to watch Ring and Enemy of the State on the plane. Ring was one of those corny Japanese horror flicks, but it had its scary moments. I'm more of an action nut, so I liked Enemy of the State better.

The long and tedious plane ride was finally over, and we arrived in the land of samurai and robots. The Japanese customs officials at NRT had sharper eyes, and my invalid passport was quickly spotted. Uh-oh.

The agents immediately brought us to their office. They then placed us in a waiting area while they decided what to do next. Although we weren't arrested or anything, the situation was particularly worrying as there was talk of sending us back home. After what seemed like hours, the agents came to announce their decision: my parents and I would be allowed to stay in Japan provided that I get a new passport as soon as possible. That was an incredibly close call for sure. Phew!

Speaking of passports, our next stop was the U.S. embassy in Tokyo. On the way there, it came to our realization that the only reason we were allowed to stay in Japan was probably because the embassy was so close to the airport. I'd say we were very lucky indeed. The new passport was ready after another lengthy appointment, and the three of us were finally free to be on our own. We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring parts of downtown Tokyo, including the beautiful Ueno Park.

Day 3

Japan is notable for its electronics market, so we decided to check out Akihabara, the technological center of Tokyo. This was where all the video games and other neat stuff were sold, and it was really fun to browse through store after store. We even bought a souvenir at one of them: the Japanese version of Pocket Bomberman for the Game Boy. The manual was obviously in Japanese as well; while I do not understand Kanji, the controls were not too hard to figure out.

Day 4

The highlight of the day was Mt. Fuji, arguably Japan's most famous landmark. Our tour bus took us high up on the mountain; it did not go all the way to the top, but we nonetheless got some great pictures. However, I was preoccupied with Pocket Bomberman and ended up missing many of the scenic views. Yeah, that was pretty dumb. This was undoubtedly my biggest regret of the trip. :-(

There was still a lot of time after the tour, so we headed to nearby Hakone to see the famous Hakone Shrine. We then took the Hakone Tozan Cable Car to Mt. Komagatake and rode the Hakone Komagatake Ropeway to the top of the mountain. This was a really neat experience, although it's not for people with acrophobia!

Day 5

Next on our itinerary was Kyoto. I've got to admit - I always get confused between Tokyo and Kyoto because the names are anagrams. The cities are about 300 miles apart, so we got to Kyoto via the Shinkansen bullet train. This was the best part of part of the trip; zipping through Japan at 200 mph and watching the scenery pass us was totally exhilarating. We bought our lunch and some chocolates on the train even though everything was expensive. It was around ¥1,200 for a bento box if I remember correctly!

The train arrived in Kyoto about two and a half hours later. Kyoto was a lovely place; all of us really enjoyed strolling among the beautiful cherry blossom trees. But there weren't too many attractions in the area, so we headed back to our hotel afterwards for some well-deserved rest.

Day 6

Our travels took us to Nara, the former capital of Japan. We explored the historical city for a while before stopping in Nara Park for a picnic lunch. The park is famous for its Sika deer, and tourists can buy food to feed them. Unlike the deer in America, the ones here were not only unafraid of people, but very aggressive. Some of them even tried to grab the food from me before I could give it to them. Impatient much?

The three of us went on a bus tour of the city after lunch. It made numerous stops at temples and other historical places, and we got a good glimpse of the local culture.

Day 7

The day began with a subway ride to Osaka, which wasn't too far away. It was well past noon when my parents and I got there, so we stopped at a noodle house for a late lunch before leaving the train station. I should say the noodles were quite good.

The bad news was that my father lost his favorite hat at the eatery. He was in a bit of a hurry and had accidentally left it on the table. Although Dad quickly realized this and rushed back to the restaurant, it was too late as the hat was already gone.

Some of the waiters indicated they had taken it to the lost and found office, so that was where we went. While the language barrier made it difficult to describe what the hat looked like and where we had lost it, one of the personnel was kind enough to accompany us to the noodle house. But when we got back there, all of the waiters denied ever seeing the hat. I bet someone is very happy right now. *sigh*

That "someone" is obviously not Dad. He had worn that hat for over ten years, so it meant a lot to him. But there was nothing more we could do, so we decided the best course of action was to enjoy the rest of the trip.

Speaking of which, Osaka was a lot like a mini-Tokyo. One thing I noticed is that Osaka had very few electronics stores in comparison despite also being a modern city. On the other hand, there was no shortage of historical sites. Among them was the famous Osaka Castle - an impressive piece of architecture, considering that it was built in the 16th century. I think even Bowser would be jealous!

It started getting late at this point, so we took the subway back to Kyoto. I think we would have been able to spend more time in Osaka if it wasn't for the hat incident.

Day 8

This was our last day in Japan, so we had to prepare for our trip home. But first we had to get back to Tokyo, which meant we were in for another bullet train ride. The second time wasn't quite as exciting as the novelty had mostly worn off, but I still enjoyed it just as much.

We arrived in Tokyo and found our way to the airport. I suddenly had a craving for Japanese snacks, so we bought some Caplico Sticks at one of the gift shops. They were actually pretty good. All of us were tired from going so many places, so we didn't do much other than wait for our flight back to San Francisco. Only when we boarded the plane did we realize our trip was almost over. We bid sayonara to Japan as the plane began to accelerate down the runway.

It was time to sit through another long flight. But this one wasn't too bad either, mainly because Pocket Bomberman and Metroid II: Return of Samus had kept me busy - at least until the batteries in my Game Boy ran out. Our experiences in Japan became the main subject of our conversations, which helped us pass the time quickly. The plane ride was over at last, and we were safely home.


The run-in with the Japanese customs officials and the loss of my father's hat were unfortunate, but those incidents did not make the trip any less fun. In fact, it's sometimes those little mishaps that make a vacation more memorable. On the other hand, the best part of our adventure was the bullet train ride to Kyoto; it's a shame we don't have these high-speed rails in America yet.

I really liked Akihabara as well, especially because of all the electronics stores there. On the subject of which, I've actually already beaten Pocket Bomberman. Damn, that game is addictive. The other neat thing about Japan is that there are vending machines everywhere; the streets are literally lined with them. We had the opportunity to try several types of Japanese drinks during our stay.

Dad knew his way around the place fairly well due to having taken dozens of business trips there, so we weren't worried about getting lost in a foreign country. On the whole, the trip totally rocked.

In any case, it's time to move on as spring break is over. However, I have a bad case of the holiday blues right now, not to mention that the jet lag is still hitting me pretty hard. That said, I'm somewhat excited to see all of my friends at Egan again. :-)

Currently playing: Pocket Bomberman (Japanese version)

Monday, March 1, 1999

swing dancing!

Today saw the beginning of the dance unit in P.E. class. The teachers brought in this huge ghetto blaster and taught us some steps, and we all had to partner up. This was quite the surprise - I certainly didn't expect us to cover swing dancing.

For the record, my first dance partner was a girl named Hana. I had known her since the beginning of the school year, so it wasn't all that awkward. But I'm admittedly still a little nervous around girls at the moment. Case in point, I was never brave enough to ask anyone to slow dance with me despite having been to two LAYC dances. While swing dancing isn't anywhere as intimate, it was still a little weird at first.

But it wasn't long before I started getting used to it. I'd say swing dancing actually turned out to be quite fun. Because we rotate partners for each song, I don't need to worry about having to muster the courage to ask someone for a dance. Plus, it's not like we have a choice. :-)

From what I've heard, we'll also be covering line and square dancing in the next couple of weeks. I guess P.E. isn't just about sports and whatnot.

Currently playing: Metroid II: Return of Samus

Monday, February 22, 1999

winter break report + Tahoe trip canceled :-(

This winter break had a pretty good start, thanks to the awesome party at Ann's house last week. However, the break kind of ended on a bad note.

As mentioned earlier, my family had planned to go skiing in Tahoe again this past weekend. Unfortunately, the trip was called off as Dad was too busy with work-related stuff. I had been eagerly looking forward to the slopes, so this was quite a let-down. :-(

On the other hand, my parents invited the Liang family over to our house for dinner on Saturday to compensate for the trip. The gathering was quite nice except for when I got into an argument with Dad (although not related to the cancellation of the trip) during the meal. This was rather embarrassing, although it could have been a lot worse if it wasn't for the fact that we are good friends with the Liang family. Damn Asian parents.

In any case, I hope spring break will be a lot better, preferably with no canceled trips or silly bickering. :-)

Currently playing: Operation Neptune

Monday, February 15, 1999

Valentine's Day party report

Last night was pretty fun as Mom's friend Ann invited my family to her house for dinner. This wasn't really a Valentine's Day party per se; the gathering just happened to fall on February 14 and so wasn't too different from the other ones we've been to. An actual Valentine's Day party would no doubt have been very awkward with all the hugging and kissing going on. :P

Ann lives rather far away in Walnut Creek - which is about 70 miles from our house - so we don't get to visit her all that often. This was actually our first time seeing the Jung family in years, so it was great to get back in touch with them. However, the real reason we hadn't touched base for so long was that I accidentally killed their pet fish on our last visit.

You see, I really liked their aquarium, so their daughters told me I could feed the fish. But because I didn't know how much they were supposed to eat, I ended up putting in too much food, and the poor fishies all died of ruptured stomachs as a result. Oh dear!

In other words, I learned the hard way that the concept of moderation was apparently foreign to the fish. You could say I literally loved them to death. The girls were understandably so upset that they told their mother never to invite us over again. True to their word, our families didn't have contact for a long time.

But it seems I've been forgiven after all those years. When I brought up the subject at dinner, all of us had a good laugh about it. Leaving the past to the past, our two families had a great time. All of the food was delicious, especially Ann's homemade blueberry tarts.

The highlight of the evening was when we learned that Ann's husband used to be a NASA flight controller, and that he was there during the Apollo 13 incident. As you could imagine, he had quite a few sleepless nights - as well as an epic story to tell!

The nice thing is that winter break had only begun. If everything goes to plan, my family will be heading to Lake Tahoe again in a few days. :-)

Currently playing: Chip's Challenge

Monday, January 4, 1999

back at Egan for the spring

Christmas break has ended for me, so I'm now back in school.

The break was pretty awesome as my family went skiing at Lake Tahoe - not once, but twice. Those trips were a blast; I definitely can't wait to hit the slopes again during the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day weekend or winter recess. The sooner the better!

Of course, the holiday wasn't just about skiing; we also went to the Liang family's exciting New Year's Eve party several days ago. Celebrating the new year is undoubtedly one of the best things about the holiday season.

However, all good things must come to an end, and Christmas break is no exception. I wish the break was more than two weeks long, but I certainly can't complain about all the fun things we did. I do have a mild case of the holiday blues right now, but I'm also excited to see everyone at Egan again. :-)

Currently reading: The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

Friday, January 1, 1999

Happy 1999!

I hope everyone had a great new year!

Anyway, last night totally rocked. The Liang family invited mine to their New Year's Eve party, and everyone had a great time. Although I mostly played Super Mario Land and Star Wars on my Game Boy, I really enjoyed the atmosphere of the party. As midnight approached, we participated in the countdown to 1999. Happy New Year!

But the party wasn't over just yet; my parents and I were having so much fun that we stayed for almost another hour before leaving. This was my first time celebrating the new year at someone else's house, and I had never gotten home from a party so late early before!

1998 in review

In a sense, 1998 was my "coming of age" year. The most significant event was probably when I transferred to Springer as a full-time student. That was a very important milestone in my life; my parents had feared that I would remain in a special education program indefinitely, but it turned out otherwise. I also gave up Easter egg hunts, trick-or-treating and annual birthday parties on my own power. Those weren't easy decisions, but I guess it's safe to say I'm not a little kid anymore. :-)

The best part of 1998 was when we visited Yellowstone National Park in August. That had to be one of our best trips ever. It's hard to say what my least favorite part of the year was, considering that things generally went very well. Chances are that it's one of those arguments I've had with my parents over some trivial shit, but I guess that's one of the things about being a teenager. :P

In any case, I'm looking forward to a great 1999. Rock on!

Currently playing: Star Wars (Game Boy)
Release date: November 15, 1991