Thursday, December 28, 2000

Southwest U.S. trip report

So my family just got back from our week-long road trip to the American Southwest. I hadn't been there in almost five years, so it was quite exciting. You'll probably want to know more about our adventure, so that's what this post is for. :-)

Day 1

Before starting out, we first had to rent an SUV as neither of our cars could carry that much luggage. Both of them are also over ten years old, and we didn't feel comfortable taking them on such a long drive anyway. So our first stop was the Enterprise Rent-A-Car at San Jose International Airport.

Enterprise was one of those agencies that allow people to pick their own vehicles. One that we decided to pass on was a red Dodge Durango because we had an unpleasant experience with a similar car during our last vacation to the Southwest in 1996. During that trip, the interior of the car had a poor design, and my parents ended up with a bad case of back pain as a result. As soon as we decided the Durango wasn't for us, two young men gladly took it off our hands. As the saying goes, "one man's trash is another man's treasure." In the end, my parents and I settled on a blue GMC Jimmy that we liked.

We then drove back to our house to load our stuff, and the trip had officially begun. The first leg of our journey was a 400-mile drive to Barstow. The sun sets early at this time of the year, and it was fairly late when we got there, so we called it a day after checking into our hotel.

Day 2

Not far from Barstow was a ghost town called Calico. I'm not a huge fan of ghost towns, but Calico was one of the most memorable places we visited on our trip. One unique landmark was the house that was built entirely with glass bottles. I imagine the greenhouse effect would make it very warm in the summer. The three of us also took a tour of the town on the Calico & Odessa Railroad. The train ride was somewhat short, but it was one of the things that made Calico so much fun.

It was then time to head to Las Vegas. Our hotel for the night was the Flamingo Las Vegas, one of the many resorts on the Strip. I'm not old enough to gamble - not that I'd want to - but we still had a great time checking out the various casinos there.

Day 3

Next on our itinerary was the picturesque Lake Powell, a large reservoir on the Colorado River. There wasn't much to do at the lake as it was primarily for boating, but we really enjoyed the peaceful scenery. I could easily contemplate here for hours - even though I'm not exactly a philosopher. :P

The final stop of the day was Page, located just south of the Utah-Arizona border. There wasn't much to do in this small town either, so we mostly rested in our hotel room. I spent much of the evening playing Final Doom on my laptop, and watching Battlestar Galactica and Futurama on the hotel's TV. I'd say both of them are awesome shows.

Day 4

Merry Christmas!

Our first destination in the morning was Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument. From what I've seen in travel guides, the namesake volcano was supposed to be a beautiful sight. But there wasn't much to see because the snow had completely obscured the mountain, so all we did was take a couple of pictures. Sunset Crater is definitely one of those places I'd love to revisit in the spring or fall.

The main stop of the day was the famous Meteor Crater in Arizona, also known as Barringer Crater. On the way there, my parents and I passed two small towns with unusual names: Two Guns and Twin Arrows. I couldn't help but wonder who came up with them. However, the names were the only interesting thing about the towns; there didn't seem to be any real attractions in the area, so we only took a few pictures before continuing on.

It was already noon when we arrived at Meteor Crater, so the three of us had lunch in the parking lot before heading in. The attraction was privately owned, so the admission fee wasn't covered by our national park pass. That didn't stop us from going in - after all, my family didn't drive all the way here for nothing. It's a good thing the place was open on Christmas!

The crater was much larger than I had imagined. It was formed by an impact event about 50,000 years ago, with the energy released equal to about 20 million tons of TNT. The resulting hole was almost three-quarters of a mile in diameter - undoubtedly an impressive sight.

There was a three-mile trail that went around the crater, but it was closed to the public except during guided tours. However, just standing on the rim was awe-inspiring. I can only imagine the force of the impact that wiped out the dinosaurs; from what I've heard, that one was around five million times more powerful. I'm glad I wasn't there when that happened!

The visitor center was also quite fascinating. One exhibit that caught my attention was the simulator that allowed users to visualize various impact events - up to blowing up the Earth with a Texas-sized asteroid. I had lots of fun with that for sure. *evil laughter*

On the whole, this was by far the best day of the trip.

Day 5

I don't mean to sound racist, but what happened in the morning was kind of funny in hindsight: my parents and I were leaving the hotel after breakfast when I accidentally knocked over this black dude's coffee. I apologized profusely and immediately began cleaning it up, but the people in the room tensed up as if they were expecting the guy to do something to me. Much to everyone's collective relief, nothing of the sort happened; the guy and I merely had a good laugh about it before going our separate ways.

Continuing on, the main stop of the day was Grand Canyon National Park. This place wasn't new to my parents as came here for their 1984 honeymoon, but it was my first time seeing the majestic canyon in person. However, the weather was very cold, so all we did was take some pictures. I'd love to come back here when it's a bit warmer; from what I've heard, Grand Canyon is one of the best places for hiking.

It started getting late, so we began driving back to Las Vegas. The traffic suddenly ground to a halt as we neared Sin City. At first we thought it was due to the sheer number of tourists hoping to strike it rich, but it soon became apparent that the 15 mph speed limit at Hoover Dam was the culprit. How convenient.

The traffic began clearing up as soon as we got past Hoover Dam, and we didn't arrive in Las Vegas too late despite the congestion. It's nice to not be stuck in the desert in the middle of the night; that would have surely sucked. Our hotel for the night was again the Flamingo Las Vegas.

Day 6

Our original plan was to spend another night in Las Vegas and drive directly home from there. But that would have been very exhausting, not to mention we wouldn't have been able to go to too many other places. Therefore, Dad decided to cancel our second night in Las Vegas and book a hotel in Lee Vining instead.

The route took us through Death Valley National Park. There was a stretch of the freeway in the area that had many dips and inclines. That made the drive kind of fun - it was almost like a natural roller coaster!

Despite the name, Death Valley was actually a rather nice place - at least when the weather isn't unbearably hot. The scenery was very peaceful as there were few other people around. Funnily enough, we ran into our family friend Carol's brother at one of the vista points. It's indeed a small world after all.

One place I had wanted to see was Ubehebe Crater, located near the northern end of Death Valley. Unlike Meteor Crater, this one was formed by an ancient hydrothermal explosion. Regrettably, this excursion was not possible as we didn't have enough time. Lee Vining was a few hundred miles away even without the detour, so it was already around 11:00 p.m. when we got there.

Had we still gone to Ubehebe Crater, chances are we would not have been able to get to Lee Vining until early next morning. Dad was very thankful that I did not insist on going to the crater. I guess that's something we'll have to consider for a future trip.

Day 7

We made a brief stop at Mono Lake in the morning. While there, I noticed numerous underwater springs beneath the ice; they are apparently the source of the mineral deposits from which the tufa columns are formed. Mono Lake was no doubt a fascinating place.

This was the last day of our trip, but there was still so much to do. The scenery on Route 395 was very nice, and it was still early in the afternoon, so we decided to extend our trip by taking a detour through the Lake Tahoe area instead of Yosemite National Park.

Even though my family had been to Lake Tahoe many times before, I've never gotten tired of the mountains. While looking at a map of the area, I found a nearby attraction called Grover Hot Springs State Park that we decided to check out. While there was only one hot spring that was easily accessible, the main feature of the park was the mineral water-fed swimming pool.

Mom insisted that we go in for a soak, which we did. I had my reservations at first because the water was green from minerals in the spring, but it turned out to be a delightful surprise. I'd say Grover Hot Springs is one of those "hidden gems" in the mountains. There were also many hot girls at the pool, but I was too shy to talk to any of them. Oh well.

The three of us had a nice dinner at the Kowloon seafood restaurant in San Mateo on the way home. We frequently eat here at the end of a trip, so it has become a tradition of sorts. It wasn't long before we were back in our cozy little house. I helped my parents unload our belongings before we drove back to SJC to return the Jimmy, and only then did we consider our vacation to be truly over.

Conclusions

The Southwest U.S. has always been one of my favorite travel destinations. While many people are quick to dismiss the desert as boring, I think the American Southwest one of the most unique places in the world. Although we had been on many trips before, this was the first one I had truly come to appreciate. I thought the best part of our adventure was Meteor Crater; that alone made the trip very worthwhile.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and this vacation was no exception. On the other hand, New Year's Eve is just around the corner, and we'll be having a few other families over. It's always nice to have a party right after a vacation!

Currently listening to: Relaxation & Meditation with Music & Nature: Thunderstorm at Night

Friday, December 15, 2000

school's out for the holidays!

This was the last day of school before Christmas break. In other words, I actually survived my first half of freshman year. Woohoo!

The nice thing was that my school had a "holiday faire" at lunch today. A lot of students gathered to sell their handmade goods; they were mostly food, but there were various arts and crafts as well. I'm quite impressed that LAHS did something like this; it's certainly a great way to kick off the holiday season. I didn't buy anything as most of the items were kind of expensive, but the event was nonetheless very enjoyable.

The semester doesn't actually end until mid-January, which means I'll have to study for the finals later on. But right now, it's time to enjoy my well-earned break. Speaking of which, my family will be going on a road trip to the Southwest U.S. in about a week. I haven't been there in almost five years, so I'm super excited!

Currently playing: Perdition's Gate

Saturday, December 2, 2000

finally beat Ultimate Doom without cheating

The Lin family invited me and my parents to their house for dinner, and I got to hang out with Moonway this evening. I'm very happy to say that I've finally beaten Ultimate Doom without cheat codes!

I had actually finished the original three episodes back in September, but I decided to take a break because the fourth one ("Thy Flesh Consumed") was supposed to be very hard. It was indeed quite challenging, but I still managed to complete it - although not without saving and reloading countless times.

You'll probably laugh at me for this, but I usually like to cheat my way through a game a few times before playing it normally. My rationale for doing so is that it lets me become familiar with the levels without having to worry about dying. This does kind of take away the fun, but it nonetheless provides good practice. To each their own, I guess.

I should mention that Moonway also recently completed Ultimate Doom legitimately. He says he's better than me because he finished the last boss with more health left. I guess I can't argue with that. :P

Currently playing: Ultimate Doom

Tuesday, October 10, 2000

I'm 15 now!

I'm now 15 years old, so happy birthday to me!

Considering that I'm too old to be having a birthday party every year, my parents did not invite anybody over or anything. On the other hand, Mom gave me a beautiful sweater she had knit herself. The sweater took countless hours to make, and I really appreciate the effort she put into it. I'm truly blessed to have such an amazing Mom.

Saturday, October 7, 2000

my first computer program + new math website!

I just finished my first real Visual Basic program. It takes in the radius of a circle and returns its diameter, circumference and area. I know it doesn't do much, but my geometry teacher was nevertheless impressed. Therefore, I've decided to release it to the public in hopes that someone will find it useful. :-)

Download information

You can get the program at my math website here. Please note that it requires the Visual Basic 5.0 run-time files to work. For the record, future updates regarding my software will usually be posted at my math website.

For those unaware, my website used to be a fan site for the game Terminal Velocity until my mother made me shut it down over concerns that I was breaking the law. It's not copyright infringement to post links to shareware or demo versions of software - as opposed to distributing full versions - but I didn't feel like arguing with her. In any case, at least my GeoCities account is being put to good use now. :-)

Historical note: GeoCities has been shut down, so I've replaced the link with one to a static mirror.

Friday, September 15, 2000

Mr. Hagan guilty :-(

Three months ago, one of the teachers at Egan was arrested for having sex with underage girls. I am saddened to learn that Mr. Hagan has pleaded guilty to the charges. I was hoping he would be exonerated because those sluts had lied about their age, but things turned out otherwise.

If the Mountain View Voice article is accurate, then he may have to go to prison for several years. However, I really hope that won't be the case. From what I've heard, inmates don't treat sex offenders too kindly. Even if he doesn't have to do time, he'll probably still have to register as a sex offender and will likely be shunned by many people as a result. This just sucks on so many levels. My thoughts are with Mr. Hagan and his family during the difficult days ahead.

Friday, September 8, 2000

my first high school dance

I just got back from the LAHS back-to-school dance. There's no better way to start high school than with a dance party if you ask me!

There was a $5 entrance fee, but I got to go in for free as I had bought an ASB card. The dance was very similar to the LAYC dances I attended in 7th grade, except the music was somewhat louder and the dance floor was larger. There were also some slow songs, although I still haven't had the courage to ask any girls to dance. Feel free to laugh at me. :P

As I'm still kind of nervous about high school, I was afraid there would be certain incidents at the dance - such as drinks being spiked and people making love in the restroom. But my fears were probably unfounded as none of that stuff happened. Perhaps I'm worrying too much, but I guess it also helps to have all those teachers there as chaperones.

I left about half an hour before the dance was supposed to end, but I nevertheless had a great time. I'm looking forward to the next dance for sure.

Currently listening to: Raptor: Call of the Shadows soundtrack

Thursday, August 24, 2000

first day of high school

So I started my freshman year at Los Altos High School this morning. I was obviously pretty nervous as high school is quite different from middle school. Mom had heard all kinds of horror stories about high school, such as people doing drugs and freshmen being forced to give seniors blowjobs in the restrooms, so she was also a little worried.

Much to our collective relief, the first day went fairly well, and there was no indication that LAHS was an unsafe place. The nice part was that I got back in touch with many of my Egan and Springer classmates. But the bad news is that Alex (the guy who loved to torment me at Egan) is also attending LAHS. I just hope he won't give me grief for another four years. *crosses fingers*

The other thing is that I'm taking a 0th period biology class that is held before regular school hours. The class starts at 7:20 a.m. and meets every day except Thursdays, meaning that I have to get up early in the morning almost every day. I'm definitely not excited about that. Just who the hell came up with the idea of 0th period classes?

On the bright side, I live just one block from school. This means I won't have to deal with the traffic and worry about being late. I could probably even go home for lunch every now and then. :-)

Oh yeah, and there's the back-to-school dance in two weeks. It's a great way to start the school year for sure. Count me in!

Currently playing: Raptor: Call of the Shadows

Sunday, August 6, 2000

back from Willits, CA

The weekend was pretty exciting as my parents and I went on a three-day trip to Willits. It was relatively short compared to our other summer getaways, but we nonetheless had a great time.

Day 1

Willits was relatively close at 180 miles from our house, so our itinerary also included a side trip to Mendocino and Fort Bragg. However, I'm not sure if the detour was worth it. While Mendocino was quite fun when we went there several years ago, the town didn't seem to have as many attractions as we remembered. To be honest, Fort Bragg wasn't that interesting either aside from the view of the ocean.

It was then time to continue on to Willits. The route took us through the scenic Jackson State Forest, making the drive very worthwhile. All of us were somewhat tired from the traveling, so we didn't do much in the evening besides going to a local grocery store for frozen dinners.

Day 2

As my family loves the great outdoors, the three of us went hiking in a nearby nature reserve after breakfast. There weren't many trails in the area, but the redwood groves were absolutely beautiful.

We took the Skunk Train to Northspur and back later in the afternoon. The round trip was just under 40 miles, but the leisurely pace at which the train traveled made the excursion seem like several hours. There was a guy on board that played bluegrass on the banjo, which was a nice touch. On top of that, I chatted with two cute girls on the train. Haha, I'm such a flirt.

Back at the hotel, Dad and I watched Deep Blue Sea before going to bed. It was an awesome movie, even though I had seen it before. This was undoubtedly the best day of the trip.

Day 3

Having had so much fun the day before, it was a little sad to realize that our trip was coming to an end. But there was still plenty of free time, so we spent much of the day checking out the local shops and restaurants, as well as some of the nearby scenic drives. It was well past dinner time when we finally arrived home!

Conclusions

The trip was pretty nice despite being so short. Although many of the places we visited were fairly mediocre, the awesome train ride totally made up for it. That was by far the best part of our vacation. I'm not sure if we'll go on another trip this summer, but at least I still have over two weeks before school starts. :-)

Currently watching: Deep Blue Sea

Saturday, July 1, 2000

company picnic report

Today was pretty fun as my parents and I went to Dad's company's summer picnic. The best part was that I got to see my friend Moonway as his father also works at Arcadia Design Systems, Inc.

Unlike the other company picnics we have been to, this one had fewer activities. I don't recall seeing any carnival games, raffles or anything of the sort. On the other hand, the venue was quite large, and there were several areas for sports. It was also nice to hang out with Moonway for almost the entire afternoon!

In other news...

I'm taking summer Spanish and reading classes at Foothill College right now. Reading generally isn't my favorite subject, but some of the books for the class are quite interesting. So at least it's not as boring as the other literature classes I've taken. :-)

Currently reading: The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper

Wednesday, June 14, 2000

just graduated from middle school :-)

I graduated from Egan Junior High School today. Class of 2000, hell yeah!

Last day of school

The ceremony began with the 7th grade orchestra performing "Pomp and Circumstance." This was followed by the school administrators and valedictorians giving their speeches. Unfortunately, it was extremely hot outside, and we had to sit there for about two hours. I have no idea why the hell they picked the middle of the day for graduation. I'm equally surprised nobody thought of using the auditorium instead.

After the speeches and the handing out of the diplomas, it was time to say goodbye to my teachers and classmates. As a gesture of appreciation, I gave a thank-you card to every teacher I've ever had, as well as our principal and counselor. I even got a hug from my 8th grade English teacher, Mrs. Green, which was a little awkward as I always had a bit of a secret crush on her. *blush*

I'm also very proud to say that I've never been late or missed a single class. I admittedly took a couple of days off for family trips in elementary school. However, I decided to shoot for perfect attendance ever since I found out Springer recognized students who showed up every day. While it sadly turned out Egan didn't have such an award, that doesn't make it any less of an achievement!

Looking back

To me, the best part of middle school was Mrs. Andersen's cooking class. That alone made 8th grade very memorable. I also loved Ms. McLaughlin's science class; she always knew how to brighten up an otherwise dull day with her sense of humor. Another awesome teacher was Ms. Keon; she loved first-person shooters and was kind of cute. Hehe. It seems science teachers are cool like that. I'm also very fond of my computer teacher, Ms. Sessions, and my algebra teacher, Mrs. Massaro, both of whom were extremely kind.

The LAYC dances were also pretty fun, even though they weren't actually organized by Egan. I kind of regret only going to three of them in 7th grade. Funnily enough, I never went to Egan's own dances, although I'm sure there will be some in high school.

But middle school wasn't all fun and games: my least favorite experience was when this Russian kid named Alex kept picking on me. I certainly hope this guy won't show up at Los Altos High School in the fall. There were a few other kids who would make fun of me as well, but that changed after we found out we were all fans of first-person shooters. It seems common interests can turn bullies into buddies.

I must also admit that I've gotten into trouble a couple of times. In one instance, Mr. Smith sent me to the office because I cracked one too many inappropriate jokes in history class. To make matters worse, the teacher-in-charge had a reputation for being tough on students who break rules. But because Mr. Gonella and I knew each other pretty well, and all he did was make me pick up some trash during lunch. You see, it helps to have friends in high places.

There's also that time when my industrial technology teacher sent me outside for being annoying. Mr. Grijalva later admitted he was in a bad mood at the time; he never brought it up again, but I could tell he felt bad about it.

Despite the annoying kids and the run-ins with school rules, my two years at Egan weren't too bad. I definitely hope to go back and visit sometime. But right now, it's time to enjoy summer. :-)

Update: To celebrate graduation, my family went to a restaurant in Palo Alto for dinner. Their cranberry mashed potatoes were really good. Yum!

Currently playing: Melt Down by Jagex Software

Monday, May 29, 2000

Memorial Day weekend report

I hope everyone had a great Memorial Day weekend!

The highlight of the long weekend was when my parents and I went hiking in Pinnacles National Monument with the Lin family. The place was very hot and dry when we went there for the first time a few years ago, so I had preferred to stay home at first. Moonway wasn't too interested in going either, and opted to play computer games at my house instead. Hell, even my mother wasn't a big fan of that place.

However, Dad insisted on going there anyway because this was something our two families had agreed on. The good news was that the weather turned out to be slightly cooler than expected. But to be honest, the monument wasn't super interesting save for two small caves and a handful of unique rock formations. That said, it was still nice to hang out with Moonway for the entire afternoon. I also suggested inviting his family back to our house for dinner, but Mom wouldn't hear any of it. Oh well.

Currently playing: Asphyx Assault Fighter

Wednesday, May 10, 2000

Mr. Hagan charged with statutory rape :-(

I am in shock as I write this: one of the teachers at Egan, Mr. Hagan, was arrested yesterday for having sex with two underage high school girls. One of the bitches apparently couldn't keep her mouth shut and told her parents, so that's how the incident came to light. This hit very close to home as Mr. Hagan was one of my P.E. teachers.

The age of consent is 18 in California, which essentially means one must be an adult before they can legally (ahem) engage in sexual activity. But from what I've heard, the girls had lied about their age. If that's the case, then Mr. Hagan isn't to blame. He is one of the most well-liked teachers at my school, and I really hope the charges will be dropped.

May 19 update: The Mountain View Voice has published two articles relating to Mr. Hagan's arrest. You can read them here and here.

Saturday, April 22, 2000

spring break + Taiwan trip report

This spring break was pretty awesome as my family got to visit Taiwan. The three of us left two Saturdays ago, and Mom and I came back yesterday morning. Dad has to stay overseas for a few more days for business reasons, hence why it was just the two of us on the return trip.

This wasn't so much a vacation as a pilgrimage to my parents' homeland, but that doesn't mean we didn't have fun. You can read all about the things we did in this trip report.

Days 1 and 2

Our journey began with a 13-hour flight to Taipei. To be honest, I kind of hate these long plane rides. Mom and I had a not-so-pleasant experience with China Airlines on our last trip to Taiwan in 1995, so I was expecting the worst. During that trip, the air was very dry on the originating flight, and I was unable to sleep no matter how hard I tried. Not exactly my idea of a good time.

Fortunately, this one wasn't all that bad. I got to watch End of Days on the plane, which I had always wanted to see. It was a really cool movie. The in-flight entertainment had a few other flicks as well, although I didn't watch them as they didn't seem that interesting.

The plane eventually landed at the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, where my paternal grandfather Bien-Chuan picked us up and took us to his home in Tainan. Bien-Chuan lives with his companion Mrs. Chen; my grandmother passed away before I was born, but I have always considered Mrs. Chen to be part of our family.

Tainan was a little over 180 miles from Taipei, or about a four-hour drive. All of us were tired from the traveling, so we rested at Grandpa's house for pretty much the entire afternoon. Other than that, my parents and I checked out a nearby night market after dinner. It was like a little carnival, and I had a good time there even though we didn't stay that long.

Day 3

The main stop of the day was Anping Fort, one of Taiwan's most famous landmarks. It was built by the Dutch in the 17th century and later surrendered to the Chinese following a major battle. Forts and battlefields aren't exactly my cup of tea, but my parents didn't want me to miss out on such an important part of Taiwanese history.

Later in the afternoon, I decided to see what's on TV, and the first thing that came up was a hentai cartoon. It actually showed a guy inserting some sort of object into a girl's butt. Gross. I guess the Taiwanese telecommunications regulatory agencies aren't exactly strict on this kind of stuff.

Day 4

When Bien-Chuan and Mrs. Chen last visited us about two years ago, they also brought along two of their friends, Mrs. Mao and Mrs. Chou. I was particularly fond of Mrs. Mao; not only did she help around the house during their stay, she was also an exceptionally good cook.

Well, Mrs. Mao had learned that I really liked her cooking, so she invited all of us to her house for lunch. She made many different dishes, all of which were quite good. It certainly felt great to be the guest of honor. She even gave me a kiss on the cheek as we left, which was rather awkward despite us being two generations apart. *blush*

At my aunt Jill's suggestion, my parents took me to see a spiritual healer of sorts in the evening. Jill had recommended his services because she thought he would be able to help with my autism. From what the guy said, something had scared my soul away when I was three years old. That stuck me as very odd; I certainly don't remember anything terrifying at that age. He then had us perform some sort of ritual to "return my soul." This whole experience definitely weirded me out a bit. I was very tired afterwards, so I decided to catch some sleep in the car.

Day 5

I found myself on a couch when I woke up again, and it was already morning. Apparently, I was so sound asleep that my father had to literally pick me up and carry me back into Grandpa's house. I couldn't help but wonder if that strange guy magically drained my life force or something. Too weird.

After breakfast consisting of Grandpa's delicious homemade eel noodles, my parents and I went to visit Jill at her new house. But our short stay was not without mishaps: Mom and I were trying to figure out how to use the shower when the spigot broke loose, resulting in an uncontrolled flow of water. It created a rather dangerous situation because an electrical outlet was just next to the shower. To make matters worse, my aunt had conveniently left to teach a class. Luckily, my parents were eventually able to reach Jill on her cell phone, and she found someone to fix the shower.

Dad picked up Bien-Chuan and Mrs. Chen at their house, and all of us headed to Taipei together. The weather was very hot, so we didn't do much there except go on a boat tour. The vessel had windows that allowed people to see underwater; it was a pretty cool experience.

This was the only day we stayed in a hotel. To our disappointment, the hotel wasn't as good as we had expected. The establishment had a very archaic design, making it feel rather old and uncomfortable. I don't think the money was worth it.

Day 6

It was time to return to Tainan. The highlight of the day was Kenting National Park, notable for its scenic beaches. One place we visited was Eluanbi Lighthouse, located at the southernmost tip of Taiwan. From what we had heard, it was possible to see the ocean in two or three different colors (depending on the conditions) from the top of the lighthouse. It was closed for renovation, but the folks in charge were nevertheless kind enough to let us pose for a couple of pictures just outside the gate. I truly hope we'll have the opportunity to revisit the lighthouse in the future when it's open.

Later in the evening, my father and I set off some fireworks to celebrate last month's Taiwanese presidential election. Dad had bought them for about NT$3,000 (or around $100) the day before, and the money was well spent. I absolutely love fireworks, so this was the best part of the trip. There's nothing more thrilling than blowing stuff up!

On the subject of fireworks, my family also had fun with them during our previous trip to Taiwan. The crazy thing was that we accidentally started a small fire that time. Oh dear! I was aware of the potential dangers of fireworks, so we decided to shoot them from a bridge over a nearby creek - after all, it would be rather hard to set the creek on fire.

The problem is, we had forgotten about the vegetation near the water. As Murphy's law would have it, one of the bottle rockets landed on a dry clump of grass, which promptly went up in flames. That certainly scared the hell out of us. Fortunately, my father and one of his brothers were able to put out the fire before it could spread. That was a close call for sure.

Having learned our lesson, Dad and I decided to play it safe this time. There was an empty lot located conveniently close to Bien-Chuan's house, so that was where we set off the fireworks. I'm happy to say that nothing caught fire this time. :-)

Day 7

Time was kind of tight as Mom and I had to prepare for our flight home. However, I had so much fun with the fireworks that Dad and I went out to buy some more. But because it seemed silly to light most types of fireworks in the daytime, our purchase was limited to a couple strings of firecrackers.

Grandpa then took my family back to Taipei, where the three of us met up with my aunts Wei-Jen and Wei-Fang at the latter's house. I got to hang out with my cousin William, who showed me his collection of computer games. This was really fun; I'm definitely going to see if I can download the games somewhere. My parents and I stayed at Wei-Fang's house for the night; the bedroom was fairly small, but it was a lot cozier than our room at the Caesar Park Hotel.

Day 8

Dad has to remain in Taiwan for a few more days for business reasons, so it was just me and my mother. He dropped the two of us off at the airport, and we were on our way home. The return flight was slightly shorter because the plane was going against the Earth's rotation instead of having to "catch up" with it. On the other hand, I find jet lag to be worse when traveling east. I'm still very sleepy right now as we speak!

Conclusions

Although the main purpose of the trip was to visit our relatives, we still had a great time. The best part of the trip was when Dad and I set off fireworks in Tainan. Consumer fireworks are illegal in Los Altos, so this isn't something I get to do every day. The night markets were pretty exciting as well; I really wish we had those back in the Bay Area.

One thing we noticed about Taiwan is that there are stray dogs everywhere. They are not a common sight in the U.S. because stray animals here are routinely euthanized. The dogs never bothered us, though, so we generally ignored them.

The downside of international trips is that the jet lag can be very taxing. Speaking of which, school is starting for me tomorrow, so I better get go some rest. I don't think my teachers would be too happy to me fall asleep in class...

Currently watching: End of Days
Release date: November 24, 1999

Monday, April 3, 2000

student of the day

Every day at Egan, one random 8th grader is picked to be the student of the day during the morning announcements. Well, I got chosen as the "8th grader of the day" today!

It's nothing special, really, although I did get a voucher for a free item at the student store, and a lot of people greeted me during brunch and lunch, and between classes. So yeah, I guess that's my 15 minutes of fame. :P

Currently playing: Heretic: Shadow of the Serpent Riders

Monday, March 6, 2000

swing dancing, part deux!

It's that time of the year again. The dance unit in P.E. class just started, which means I get to swing dance with more girls!

I had been anticipating this, so it didn't exactly come as a surprise. On the other hand, the novelty has worn off because this isn't my first time swing dancing. That having been said, I still think it's going to be quite fun. I'm not going to lie, some of the 7th grade girls are rather hot. :P

For those curious, my first dance partner of the year was Stephanie. I had her known since 6th grade, but that didn't make things any less awkward. Haha.

Monday, January 3, 2000

last semester at Egan

Classes just started for me. It's hard to believe I'm already three-quarters of the way through middle school.

I should mention that my family didn't get to go on any trips during the break as we were busy remodeling our kitchen and bathrooms. On the other hand, our house looks much better now. The lack of a vacation wasn't that bad as my parents and I had a great time at our family friend Carol's New Year's Eve party on Saturday. That alone made our Christmas break very worthwhile.

So yeah, back to reality. One thing I'll miss for sure is Mrs. Andersen's cooking class, which was only one semester long. It seems most electives are like this. On the other hand, Mr. Grijalva's industrial technology class looks just as exciting. :-)

Saturday, January 1, 2000

Y2k update

I guess the transition to 2000 didn't exactly go without a hitch as Dad just told us that the alarm system at his workplace had gone haywire. But from what we've heard, this was quickly fixed and didn't seem to cause any big problems. As a matter of fact, I haven't heard of any major incidents on the news that have been attributed to the rollover. In other words, no power grid failures, plane crashes, accidental missile launches, nuclear meltdowns or whatnot. I guess that's a good thing!

This begs the question: was the "Y2k bug" just a big hype? Or did the billions of dollars spent on preparing for the rollover pay off? You decide.

Happy 2000!

Happy New Year!

I'll start by saying that my parents and I had a really good time at our family friend Carol's New Year's Eve party last night. To be honest, I spent most of the time playing games on my laptop. Yeah, I know I'm not a very sociable person. But that doesn't mean I didn't talk to anyone at the gathering; I met another guy who loved first-person shooters, and he turned out to be an expert at Quake. He even showed me a couple of cool speedrunning tricks!

Other than that, I got to watch The Matrix on the Liang family's big-screen TV. It was kind of a strange movie, but the special effects were quite awesome.

However, the best part of the night was when we counted down to 2000. Considering that the next rollover won't happen for another thousand years, this was undoubtedly a once-in-a-lifetime experience - barring a sudden breakthrough in life extension research, that is.

Right now, it's too early to say whether the supposed "Y2k bug" has caused any problems. But what I can tell you is that my computers are still working just fine. Let's hope it stays this way. *crosses fingers*

1999 in review

The past year certainly had its ups and downs. The best thing about 1999 was our Alaska cruise in August. It's been four and a half months, and I still miss that trip a lot. Speaking of vacations, the most disappointing moment of the year was when I found out our Tahoe trip had been canceled. I had been looking forward to it for several weeks, so I obviously wasn't too happy about that. The fact that I had an argument with my father (although not related to the cancellation of the trip) later that night didn't help the issue. Oh well, I guess we can't expect everything to be perfect.

Currently playing: Duke Nukem