Friday, December 20, 2002

it's been a tough semester...

School just ended for the holidays. Phew!

All I have to say is that Physics Honors and Trigonometry were tough as hell. I'm not taking any AP classes this year, but the idea that 11th grade is the hardest year of high school certainly isn't without foundation. In any case, I'm really glad I don't have to go to school for the next two weeks.

The semester isn't actually over until a week or so after the break ends, meaning that I'll still have to study for the finals during Christmas vacation. Go figure.

Sunday, December 15, 2002

worst weekend ever

I think I just had the worst weekend ever.

To start off, there was a dance at LAHS on Friday that I had planned to attend. But that didn't happen as Mom advised me to stay home to finish my make-up work for American Literature instead. Because I'm a bit behind in the class, and the teachers chaperone the dances, she was concerned that it wouldn't leave a good impression if Mrs. Herrera saw me partying instead of studying. Mom had a point, so I didn't go to the dance. As I had been looking forward to it for several months, this was a huge let-down.

Of course, having to miss the dance alone wouldn't have made my weekend so bad as there are usually other fun things to do. Case in point, my family loves to go hiking. But that didn't happen either as the heavy rain from the recent storm made all the trails soggy and unsuitable for walking. Even worse, our TV wouldn't work the entire weekend, which I'm sure was related to the storm as well.

Another bit of bad news is that one of my favorite online forums shut down on the 15th. I had over 3,000 posts there, and it really sucks to such a great community disappear. Topping it all off, I had a shitload of physics, trigonometry and web design homework in addition to my English make-up assignments. Fun.

I'll have to admit that I spent a couple of hours playing computer games when I was supposed to be doing my homework as a way of making up for the dance, but I forgave myself for that. :-)

In other news...

On the subject of computer games, I managed to get level 70 mining in RuneScape tonight, which means I can now mine adamantite ore without having to drink a dwarven stout. A screenshot of my current stats is available here. It doesn't show me leveling up because I forgot to take it during my moment of excitement. D'oh!

Update: I asked my mother if I could have a month of RuneScape membership in place of the dance, and she said she'd consider it if I did well in my studies. So I guess I better work hard. :-)

Currently playing: Blackhawk Striker

Thursday, November 28, 2002

Thanksgiving with the Lu family

The Lu family invited me and my parents to their house for a Thanksgiving dinner tonight. This was really awesome, considering that we didn't get to spend too much time with them when they came over during the 4th of July weekend.

They didn't invite any other guests, but it was nevertheless a full house as Rae and Lisa have three children. The Lus prepared lots of dishes in addition to this huge turkey, so there was more than enough food for the eight of us. Yum!

I had a great time hanging out with Thomas, Connie and Jenny after dinner. Other than that, I spent the rest of the evening playing games on my new TI-89. That's right, I brought my graphing calculator to a Thanksgiving party. You can't get any geekier than that.

Speaking of which, I'm very thankful for said calculator this year. It not only comes in handy in my math and physics classes, but it's also a great source of entertainment. The fact that I took my TI-89 to the party kind of speaks for itself, don't you think?

Currently watching: Interceptor Force 2

Wednesday, October 30, 2002

more DLS vulnerabilities

About two months ago, I reported an oversight in which my school's student information system inadvertently disclosed users' default passwords. Since then, I've discovered several more vulnerabilities. I'm sure they've all been patched, so I don't think Mr. Randall will mind me posting about them. Here are a few of the ones I've found:

Changing other users' account settings

This one was particularly serious as it could allow an attacker to compromise other users' accounts. The HTML form where users entered their profile information had a hidden field containing the internal ID of the target user. By using JavaScript to change its value, it was possible to overwrite another user's account settings.

They included security questions, which could allow a malicious user to take control of anyone's account - including those of teachers and administrators. I'm really glad I found this bug before someone with less-than-innocent intentions did.

Forced file uploads and spoofed IP addresses

The DLS is configured to allow only certain file extensions to be uploaded. This is important because some files could contain viruses, or even allow an attacker to execute arbitrary code on the server. The file extensions were only validated using client-side scripting, so by invoking the JavaScript function that submits the form, it was possible to bypass this check entirely. From what I've read, file inclusion vulnerabilities are the most common security issue in web applications.

The server also records the IP address from which a file is uploaded. Like in the case of account settings, the IP was stored in a hidden field in the file upload form. Using this information, I could upload stuff under a fake IP. Even non-numerical "addresses" were accepted.

Other DLS features were also similarly affected. For example, the school recently disabled the option for students to change their names, but I was still able to rename myself to "l337 h4x0r" using this method. ^_^

It seems the majority of these vulnerabilities were the result of not validating HTTP POST parameters.

Viewing other students' recycle bins

Only the files in a user's public folder were intended to be accessible to other users. However, it was possible to view the contents of other students' recycle bins (although not their other personal files) via URL manipulation. This was a relatively minor issue, although it could have posed privacy concerns.

As with all new software, chances are that the DLS still has undiscovered vulnerabilities. But because the software is closed-source, and I do not know much about developing web applications, there are only so many bugs I could help find. In this case, it's probably a good idea for ACMA to request an independent software audit.

In other news...

There was a Halloween dance last Friday, which was the first of its kind at LAHS. I didn't feel like going because it was somewhat expensive compared to the other stag dances, but I'm nevertheless looking forward to the one in December. :-)

Saturday, October 19, 2002

new TI-89 graphing calculator!

I got a brand new TI-89 today as sort of a late birthday present. This means I can finally retire my aging Casio CFX-9850G. But the most important thing is that my math and physics classes are about to get a lot easier. :-)

This calculator is really awesome. It has so many features and functions that I don't even know where to begin. The TI-89 can also run a large number of games and applications. Speaking of which, the TI-BASIC programming language is much more powerful than the one on the CFX-9850G. In a sense, the TI-89 is almost like a miniature computer.

Now I just have to hope my new toy doesn't get stolen. From what I've heard, fancy calculators are among the most valuable targets. One thing for sure is that I'm going to have a hard time concentrating in class for the next few weeks. Heh.

Currently playing: Phoenix

Friday, October 11, 2002

so I got kicked out of Spanish class :-(

The week didn't end too well as Mrs. Schiffman kicked me out of Spanish III today. She didn't say anything about it in class, so it was my parents who broke the news to me. I had always sensed that she didn't like me very much, so I can't say I didn't see this coming. Still, it kind of sucks that this happened just after my 17th birthday.

On the other hand, Mr. Miller has kindly agreed to take me into his web design class. I've missed out on several weeks of lessons, but it shouldn't be too hard for me to catch up because I'm already quite familiar with HTML and JavaScript. At least I hope that's the case. *fingers crossed*

Of course, the downside is that I'll have to find another way to satisfy my foreign language requirement. Learning a new language from scratch isn't exactly a walk in the park...

Thursday, October 10, 2002

happy 17th birthday to me

So I turned 17 today. It's hard to believe this is my last year as a minor. Damn, time goes by fast. In any case, happy birthday to me, and everyone else born on October 10th!

To celebrate the occasion, my parents took me to a Mexican restaurant in Mountain View called Fiesta del Mar for dinner. This was our first time eating here, and I loved the place. The food was hella good, especially the seafood enchiladas. Yum!

This wasn't the only celebration as we also took my maternal grandparents out to lunch at a Chinese restaurant this past weekend. I'd normally have picked something else - not because I don't like Chinese food, but because we already eat a lot of it at home. In any case, we agreed on an Asian place as Mom wanted something the grandparents would also enjoy. Family comes first, right?

Currently listening to: "Fotografía" by Juanes and Nelly Furtado

Saturday, September 28, 2002

sometimes I really hate Asian parents

I'll probably regret making this post, but here goes...

I had an extremely bad argument with my father last night. The incident began with him ranting about how I never seem to study. Finishing my homework quickly is apparently a bad idea because Dad will think I have too much free time. To make matters worse, he had just come back from a long business trip and was very stressed as a result of the jet lag.

But the straw that broke the camel's back was when I called him an idiot for not understanding what "I already finished my homework" meant. He totally lost it at that point, and let's just say things turned ugly afterwards.

Believe it or not, my father was actually sober the entire time. One could only imagine the chaos had he been drinking. It's been a rough night; I'm just glad nobody called the cops on us.

Granted, this was partially my fault because kids shouldn't really be calling their parents names. But given the circumstances, I don't think "idiot" was an entirely inaccurate terms. Sometimes Asian parents can just go fuck themselves. I know I shouldn't be posting stuff like this online, but I just had to get this off my chest.

Friday update: I hope people won't think my father is some terrible person because of this. He may have a hot temper, but he's really one of the nicest people you'll ever know as long as you don't get on his bad side.

Currently reading: Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Friday, August 30, 2002

just got back from the back-to-school dance

Tonight's back-to-school dance was lots of fun. I had been looking forward to it for several weeks, and it was well worth the wait. The nice thing about dances is that they're always a great way to start the school year. Only three and a half months to go until the one in December!

While I still kind of miss my family's recent trip to Hawaii, the dance brought back memories of the nightlife in Oʻahu for sure. I'm not going to lie - I certainly wish I was still in the Aloha State right now. Haha.

Currently listening to: "Cry" by Mandy Moore

found a vulnerability in my school's student information system

So the Los Altos School District started using a new student information system this year called the Digital Locker System, or DLS. The software is being developed by a company called ACMA, and the administrative tasks for LAHS are managed by our two physics teachers, Mr. Randall and Mr. Florendo. The DLS is still in an early stage, so we're essentially testing it for the company.

While familiarizing myself with the DLS this morning, I noticed a rather serious issue: every student's default password was the same as their user ID, which was part of their profile URL. I immediately reported this to Mr. Randall, and the problem was promptly fixed. He was definitely glad that I told him about the issue.

I should mention someone else had independently discovered the vulnerability a bit earlier than me. However, that person chose to abuse it instead of doing the right thing and reporting it. He apparently used the exploit to compromise several dozen accounts. I'm really glad we found out what was going on before he could cause more damage.

Update: The culprit has been caught. According to Mr. Randall, the student was not only banned from the DLS, but also had his computer privileges revoked. Serves him right.

Currently watching: Dolphins (2000)

Monday, August 26, 2002

I'm now an upperclassman!

Summer has come to an end, and this was my first day of junior year at LAHS. In other words, I'm now an upperclassman. One thing for sure is that it feels great to be one of the big boys on campus!

From what I've heard, many people consider 11th grade to be the hardest year of high school because of the AP classes. I don't have any this year, so thank heaven for small favors. I'll still have to take them in 12th grade, but I'll worry about that when the time comes. :P

I do have Physics Honors this year, and that's not an easy class either. It's probably not all that bad because I'm pretty interested in science in general, and that Mr. Randall is an awesome teacher. His sense of humor undoubtedly livens up an otherwise difficult subject.

That having been said, it's kind of hard to return to school just after coming back from such an awesome trip to Hawaii. On the other hand, the back-to-school dance this coming Friday is certainly something to look forward to. :-)

Currently listening to: Deus Ex soundtrack - "Main Title"

Friday, August 23, 2002

back from Hawaii

"Everyone behave on the bus. I discipline people with machine guns." -- our tour bus driver in Oʻahu

Summer ended with a bang as my family just got back from an eight-day trip to Hawaii. We spent four days each in Oʻahu and Kauaʻi. I had never been to the Aloha State before, so this vacation was very exciting. But what made it especially fun was that my cousins Connie and Cathy's family were also there. Their itinerary was largely different from ours, but we still got to spend some time together. I've provided more details in the following trip report.

Day 1

Our trip began with a little mishap at the airport. For those unaware, it's illegal to bring fruit into Hawaii. While we were aware of this restriction, my mother had forgotten about the pear she had left in her backpack. Imagine the awkwardness when it showed up on the X-ray scanner at the security checkpoint!

Mom expected to get in big trouble for this, but the TSA agents merely told us to throw the pear out or eat it, and my father chose the latter. I'd say we were very lucky as they could have given us a hefty fine instead. From what I've heard, the TSA has a reputation for busting people over trivial crap like this.

The flight to Honolulu was almost five hours long, but I got to watch Spider-Man and Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron on the plane. Both were good movies, although I personally liked Spider-Man better. Peter Parker is definitely one of those characters that would be fun to hang out with.

Due to the time zone difference, it was only around 2:00 p.m. when we arrived at HNL. The three of us were kind of hungry at this point, so we had an afternoon snack at Taco Bell after checking into our hotel in Waikīkī. This was my first time eating at Taco Bell, and I must say their quesadillas are quite good.

It was then time to find out what Waikīkī had to offer. As Oʻahu is a tourist-oriented area, many of the local businesses were gift shops. The other thing was that there were countless hot chicks on the beach and elsewhere, although awkward 16-year-old me was too shy to start a conversation with any of them. You're probably laughing at me for missing out on such an opportunity. Oh well.

Later in the evening, my parents and I went on the Aliʻi Kai sunset dinner cruise as part of a package deal. The MC began by welcoming us aboard the catamaran and giving us a talk about Hawaiian culture. This was followed by the buffet dinner. People also gathered on the deck to watch the sunset as evening approached. It was then time for the entertainment, for which we were treated to various Hawaiian dance performances. The band later played some party music, and it was our turn to hit the dance floor. The cruise was easily the best part of the trip.

Day 2

The highlight of the day was the Polynesian Cultural Center, which was also part of the package. To start off, it was amazing to watch the native Hawaiians climb the coconut trees without any equipment. We also listened to some live Hawaiian music, as well as watched some hula dancers. Even more impressive were the fire dances; those guys were just like martial arts experts. I really enjoyed getting a glimpse of Hawaiian culture. Our day at the museum concluded with a nice buffet lunch. Yum!

The Shiehs arrived in Hawaii in the afternoon, and we met up with them at the hotel where they were staying. It was then their turn to go on the Aliʻi Kai cruise. I had so much fun on the cruise that I certainly wished we could have gone on it again with them. Alas, there were other things to do and places to see.

On the subject of which, my family spent the evening checking out Honolulu's nightlife. At one point, my mother noticed a large crowd gathering in one area of the beach. It turned out Ocean's Eleven was being shown on a giant projector screen. The three of us watched it for about ten minutes before continuing on. It was definitely a neat experience.

Day 3

The highlight of the day was a tour of Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial. For those who aren't familiar with the history of World War II, Arizona was the ship that suffered the most losses when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941. In one section of the memorial, there was a wall that contained the names of all those who perished in the attack. It was surely a touching tribute.

The three of us visited a few of Oʻahu's many beaches in the afternoon. The blue waters of the Pacific Ocean were absolutely beautiful, and we got some great pictures. My parents and I again spent the evening checking out the nightlife as we had done the day before. Party on!

Day 4

The second half of our trip began with a short flight to Kauaʻi. Unlike Oʻahu, this island had few people and lacked the "party" atmosphere. On the other hand, the scenery here was incredible. From what I've heard, many movies were filmed on Kauaʻi for this reason.

We later met up with the Shieh family again, and they took us on a tour of the island. The first stop was the Kauai Kookie factory in Kalāheo. The company specializes in cookies with unique flavors, and we got to sample some of them. I didn't buy any cookies as they were rather expensive, although that is something I kind of regret now.

The other point of interest was the Red Dirt Shirt factory in ʻEleʻele. As the story goes, the factory had a large batch of shirts that were ruined by the namesake red clay during a storm. Instead of writing off its losses, the company decided to sell the shirts as is - and they turned out to be a huge hit. Come to think of it, maybe I should have bought one.

Day 5

Next on our itinerary was Waimea Canyon State Park. Our two families took a short hike to the Waimea Canyon Lookout to see the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. The view of the valley was just amazing; it was undoubtedly one of the highlights of Kauaʻi.

The trails were wet and slippery due to the moist climate, and I was kind of afraid one of us would slip on the mud and fall to our doom. To make matters worse, there were no guardrails along the trails. Much to my relief, all of us made it out of the park in one piece. Perhaps I worry too much.

Day 6

This was the Shieh family's last day in Hawaii as Cathy had to go back to school on Monday. The whole morning was a bit bittersweet. It does seem rather unfair that their trip wasn't as long as ours. But because they had been to Hawaii before, this probably wasn't that much of a big deal for them. Still, I could tell Cathy wasn't too happy about having to go home. My parents and I didn't do much either as we spent most of the day with the Shiehs before accompanying them to the airport.

Speaking of which, they let us use their suite for the remainder of our trip. The suite was luxurious and had everything we needed; this was easily one of the best hotels we've ever stayed in. Although the Shiehs are quite generous to us, I couldn't help but feel a little guilty because the nightly rate was over $400. Yikes.

Day 7

All of us were kind of tired from the traveling, so we mostly just drove around Kauaʻi again. One of the attractions we hadn't been to was the geyser-like Spouting Horn. It was a fascinating sight. The area around the blowhole was fenced off for safety reasons, but some teenagers ignored the warning signs and entered the closed area anyway. Darwin Award candidates for sure.

One unusual thing about Kauaʻi is that there are wild chickens everywhere. I couldn't help but wonder whether people hunted them for food. You know, I wouldn't be surprised if they did.

Day 8

As this was the last day of our trip, I was also a little sad about having to go home. The three of us had to go to the airport right after breakfast as the return flight to Honolulu was scheduled to depart at 10:00 a.m.

We had a short rest at HNL before boarding our second flight back to SFO. The time zone difference meant we would lose the two hours we had gained upon arriving in Hawaii. There weren't any good movies on this flight, so we just relaxed on the plane. On the other hand, my parents and I got to enjoy an amazing sunset from the plane just before landing. It was an incredible sight that made our trip even more memorable.

Conclusions

Of the two islands we visited, I definitely liked Oʻahu better. While the dinner cruise was the best part of our trip, all of us really enjoyed Oʻahu in general. This isn't to say that Kauaʻi wasn't fun; the beautiful scenery of the Garden Isle is certainly something I'll never forget. All in all, this trip totally rocked.

Hawaii has a unique culture that makes it a very special place. Even though I just got home, I really want to go back to Hawaii soon. As we've only visited two of the eight major islands, that leaves at least six possible travel destinations for the future. After all, I've heard Maui is quite amazing...

School begins next Monday for me, so I guess I better continue preparing for my classes - after I get some well-deserved rest.

Currently watching: A Ring of Endless Light
Release date: August 23, 2002

Historical note: Pictures from the trip are available here.

Friday, August 9, 2002

last day of summer school at Gunn

This was the last day of my summer SAT preparation class at Gunn High School. I hate to say this, but the class wasn't exactly a positive experience.

We actually started out with a really good teacher. But two days later, the administration transferred several students - myself included - to another class because the original one was getting too full. This wouldn't have been a problem, except the new teacher was just horrible. She was very lazy and never really taught anything useful; all she did was read the newspaper while we studied on our own. I just hope I won't bomb the SAT because of this. *sigh*

Mom paid around $300 for the class, so she wasn't too happy about what happened either. The only positive thing to come out of this was that the workload wasn't so heavy. I guess every cloud does have a silver lining.

In any case, it's time to enjoy the rest of summer. :-)

In other news...

Speaking of summer vacation, my parents and I will be heading to Hawaii with my cousins Connie and Cathy's family in a week from now. I've never been to Hawaii before, so I'm extremely excited!

Thursday, August 8, 2002

1,000 skill total in RuneScape

I've finally reached 1,000 skill total in RuneScape after a whole year and a half. Click here for the screenshot!

Sure, this might not be as big of an achievement as it used to be because Jagex is constantly adding new skills to the game, but I still think it's something worth mentioning. :-)

Currently playing: RuneScape

Sunday, July 7, 2002

four barbecues in a row

As crazy as it sounds, my family had four barbecues in a row over the 4th of July weekend!

The fun began with my maternal grandparents coming over on Thursday. As my parents had recently bought a new electric grill, this was a good opportunity to try it out. The grandparents didn't stay very long after dinner because Grandpa is an early bird when it comes to bedtime, but it was nonetheless nice to have them over.

I spent the rest of the evening lighting fireworks as this was the 4th of July. Speaking of which, there seemed to be far more people setting them off this year. I'm actually still hearing firecrackers and bottle rockets every now and then. Perhaps Americans are feeling more patriotic due to last year's terrorist attacks.

The Lin family visit us came to visit us on the 5th. While Moonway usually doesn't eat a whole lot of meat, he absolutely loved our hot dogs. They were already gone when I went to get one, so I guess they were really that good. Moonway and I then spent the evening playing video games.

Continuing on, my parents invited the Lu family over for Saturday. This was the first time we had seen them in a while, and I had a great time playing video games with Thomas and Connie. The Lus didn't stay too late either as their father Rae is also an early sleeper, but that didn't make the party any less fun.

Last but not least, some of Dad's colleagues joined us for leftovers this evening. As delicious as everything was, I'm pretty sick of barbecued food right now due to having eaten the same stuff for four days. I don't think I could stand another piece of barbecued chicken - at least not for a while. :-)

Currently playing: Pinball (NES)

Monday, July 1, 2002

just got RuneScape members

It took weeks and weeks of convincing, but my parents finally gave in and let me buy a month of RuneScape membership. Thanks, Mom and Dad!

There's so much content in the pay-to-play version of the game that I don't even know where to start. I've already completed some of the quests, but there's still so many things to do and places to see. Although the premium service was only recently launched, Jagex has already added a lot of content to it. I definitely hope to get the most out of my membership before it expires. Now the real challenge is to not play too much. Haha.

Currently playing: RuneScape

Monday, June 24, 2002

summer school at Gunn

I justed started a summer SAT preparation course at Gunn High School. The class focuses on building vocabulary as it's one of the most important aspects of the SAT. Our teacher is very diligent and caring; she makes every effort to ensure we don't fall behind, although she does give out a lot of in-class assignments and homework. No wonder they say Gunn is such a competitive school.

Currently playing: Deus Ex

Friday, June 14, 2002

halfway through high school!

This was the last day of classes before summer. The Spanish II Honors final was very tough - even with all the bonus questions - so I really hope I didn't bomb it. The other exams were also quite difficult, but they were nothing like the Spanish one. I just hope I won't get a nasty surprise when I open my report card. *crosses fingers*

Because I've finished 10th grade, I'm now halfway through high school. It's hard to believe I'm going to be an upperclassman in the fall. Damn, time goes by fast.

The good news is that my family has lots of things planned for the summer, so it should be pretty awesome. :-)

Currently playing: Thief: The Dark Project

Friday, June 7, 2002

and now, for our feature presentation...

As I've previously mentioned, my group had to film a short soap opera for Spanish II Honors. The five of us finished the project yesterday morning; it was not an easy task by any means. The telenovelas were presented in class this afternoon, and I think everyone did a great job!

Our production was called Amor y Mentiras ("Love and Lies") and took about three weeks to make. I've provided some details below for those curious:

Cast and crew

Each of us had a role as follows:

  • Yours truly as José
  • David Barth as Davíd
  • Sarah Murray as Sarita
  • Michelle Nelson as Micaela
  • Shannon Haley as Lilia

Shannon was our de facto director as most of the filming was done at her house.

Scene 1

Davíd and José are two bad guys who go out and rob a bank. This part was shot at a small neighborhood store in Los Altos called J&R's Foodland. The manager of the store was very nice; not only was he cool with us filming there, he also guest-starred as one of the bankers!

Scene 2

The second and third scenes were filmed at Shannon's house. As the story goes, Davíd and José use the ill-gotten money on a vacation to the Bahamas. While holidaying, they cross paths with the three girls and fall in love with them. This is where our love scene comes into play.

Scene 3

The romance is short-lived as Davíd and José plot to frame the girls for the bank robbery. But when the girls find out about the illicit activities, the thugs burn down the girls' vacation home and shoot Sarita dead as the she and her friends try to escape. Yikes!

The telenovela ends as Davíd and José flee the country.

Special thanks

Of course, such an endeavor wouldn't have been possible without the help of others. We owe special thanks to the following:

  • Shannon's mother Sharyl for helping around.
  • Sarah's mother Carol for the occasional ride.
  • The manager at J&R's Foodland for letting us film at his store, and for guest-starring as one of the bank tellers. What a champ.

Conclusions

I know our plot is kind of lame, but we're still very proud of what we've created. Although we had our conflicts and disagreements over the course of the project, I am happy to say that we generally worked well as a team. I really wish I could share our telenovela with you, but I don't have a copy of the video myself, nor do I know of any websites that allow people to upload large media files for free. You'll just have to use your imagination!

Sunday, June 2, 2002

love scenes are so awkward!

Shannon: You're going to hug Sarah for the next scene.
Me: Crap.
Shannon: Do you want to kiss her instead?


For the final project in Spanish II Honors, our class has to film Spanish soap operas, or telenovelas. There are four other people in my group, namely David, Shannon, Sarah and Michelle. Shannon is our de facto director as most of the filming is being done at her house.

The five of us have been working on the project for about two weeks, and we just finished the obligatory love scene. The most awkward moment was when I had to give Sarah a hug. But because I'm still very shy around girls, I adamantly refused to get close to her, much to the annoyance of my fellow team members. Pretty sad, I know. In the end, the two of us just held hands instead. *blush*

In hindsight, this is definitely something I regret. Sarah is a very sweet girl, and I'm sure she wouldn't have minded. In fact, she was probably a little offended that I didn't want to touch her. Oh well.

Currently reading: Java: Your visual blueprint for building portable Java programs by Ernest Friedman-Hill

Wednesday, May 29, 2002

a very close call in RuneScape

For those who haven't seen the RuneScape front page, Jagex just did a major crackdown on cheaters. They reset the stats and inventories of almost 2,000 accounts that were caught using RuneBot within the last 24 hours. RuneBot is a modified RuneScape client that can automate simple tasks.

I'll have to admit that I was curious enough to try the bot on my alternate account a few days ago. I was also tempted to use it on my main account before deciding it wasn't worth the risk of getting banned. The fact that users were complaining about lag only affirmed my decision.

Although I didn't touch RuneBot again since then, there was no guarantee that Jagex wouldn't find a way to detect its use beyond the original time frame. I actually checked the list of wiped players several times between classes to make sure my name wasn't on there. It was a nerve-wracking experience, but luckily nothing happened to me. That was a close call.

However, I do feel bad for those who were wiped. It must really suck to lose everything - especially if you never actually cheated. Case in point, one of the top players was wiped because he accidentally logged in with the bot on his main character. Despite his excellent reputation, Jagex has said they are making no exceptions.

I'm really glad I didn't continue to use RuneBot after all. It was definitely divine intervention.

Currently playing: RuneScape

Friday, April 26, 2002

an impromptu school dance

I just came back from a dance at my school. The best part is that it was free. It's not often that this happens!

So the radio station WiLD 94.9 recently held a voting contest in which we placed second. The prize was a free school dance. From what I've heard, the school officials had planned to charge an admission fee because the dance was only "free" in the sense that the DJ would provide music at no charge. Greedy jerks. Following lots of complaints, the administration wised up and dropped the fee. Thank goodness for common sense.

Besides a couple of slow songs, the DJ played mostly electronic music. Don't get me wrong - electronic music is pretty awesome - but too much of the same stuff tends to make things dull. On the whole, the event was lots of fun.

Currently playing: Rebel Moon Rising

Sunday, February 24, 2002

winter break + Southwest U.S. trip report

The break was nice as we went to the Southwest U.S. again. Though we just went there not too long ago, this was an awesome trip as we visited many new places. It was also great to get back in touch with old friends.

Day 1

The trip began on the 16th with an afternoon flight to Denver. Getting through security took a while due to the 9/11 attacks. Because it was late when we arrived, the layover was uneventful aside from a quick stop at McDonald's for dinner. This was followed by a short flight to Albuquerque.

Dad rented an SUV and took us to his friend Chih-Yue's house in Los Alamos. It was already past 11 p.m. when we got there, but we were all too excited to sleep after seeing the Kaos for the first time in years. I also met their son Aaron and daughter Samantha. Chih-Yue brought out some snacks and chatted with us for a good while before we went to bed.

Day 2

The Kao family took us to local attractions, starting with the Bradbury Science Museum. There was a major focus on nuclear weapons. Speaking of which, Chih-Yue actually works at Los Alamos National Laboratory as a climate researcher. Even though they're not in the same field, the Wen Ho Lee case made for an interesting topic.

Up next was Valles Caldera National Preserve, the site of a massive volcanic eruption. Our stay was short due to time constraints, but we got a few pictures. The morning ended with a stop at Pizza Hut for lunch. I must say the Meat Lover's pizza was delicious.

Aaron and Samantha later invited me to play video games on the PlayStation 2 with them. Final Fantasy VII was my favorite, although Final Fantasy X and TimeSplitters were pretty fun too. I'm not going to lie - Tifa from Final Fantasy VII and Yuna from Final Fantasy X are rather attractive. *blush*

Day 3

It was time to say goodbye to the Kaos as we had other places to go. I enjoyed their company and was a little sad to part with them. Two nights in Los Alamos just weren't enough. :-(

When I was younger, we used to go to the Fa Yun Monastery for the ceremonies. They later moved to New Mexico and split into two branches - one in Taos and the other in Vadito. Because we happened to be in the area, Mom wanted to visit the Taos campus. Getting there was like a spiritual journey as the monastery was high up in the mountains. The snow only added to the "spiritual" atmosphere.

The people at the Fa Yun Monastery were very hospitable. They gave us a tour of the place and insisted that we stay for lunch, to which we obliged. The food was really good despite being vegan. Mom felt we should give something back and donated a bag of oranges we had bought earlier.

The rest of the day was spent driving as our hotel was in Durango. On the other hand, the scenery along the way was nice.

Day 4

We headed to Mesa Verde National Park after checking out of the hotel. The park is known for the cliff dwellings where the Pueblo people lived. The tour was short but very informative. It was cool to see what life was like for Native Americans. Mesa Verde was a fascinating place.

Not far away was the Four Corners Monument - which marks the intersection of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah. The ability to stand in four states at once made for fun photos. Dad started getting hungry and bought some Navajo fry bread at one of the stands. The fry bread turned out to be quite good. I'd say the Four Corners Monument was the most memorable part of the trip.

Day 5

Our day began with a visit to Zion National Park to see the famous Zion Canyon. The scenery alone made the drive worthwhile. The hoodoos in the nearby Bryce Canyon National Park was also really cool. Although we had been to both places before, this was a nice experience.

The last stop of the day was Moab. It's easily one of the most scenic cities we've ever visited.

Day 6

We spent some time exploring Moab before going to a Chinese restaurant for lunch. Of note is that the servings were generous. The food was a little greasy but not too bad otherwise.

The first real stop of the day was Arches National Park - named for the many natural arches scattered around the area. They range from the teeny tiny ones to the impressive Landscape Arch. From what I've heard, there are over 2,000 of them!

I was tired from walking and stayed in the car while my parents hiked to a spot where Delicate Arch was visible in the distance. Only later did I realize that Delicate Arch was very famous. This was my biggest regret of the trip.

The nearby Canyonlands National Park also had many arches. I couldn't help but wonder how many of them there are in the Four Corners area. However, time was tight as we had a long drive ahead of us. I'd love to visit Arches and Canyonlands National Parks again in the future.

Natural Bridges National Monument was our last major stop. Dad feared we would be stuck here when it closed and turned back after passing Sipapu Bridge. I assured him that wouldn't happen, but he didn't want to take chances. Because it was a one-way road, my father went the wrong way the whole time. I'm glad there were no other cars.

It was then time to head back to Albuquerque. The original plan was to take Route 666 from Monticello to Gallup. However, Mom felt a little uneasy driving on a highway associated with the number 666 - especially at night - so we took a detour on Route 191 instead. I guess you can never be too careful.

There was a point where we saw a series of signs telling drivers to slow down. The reason wasn't clear until the road suddenly took a sharp turn. Our car would have gone off the road had we not paid attention. It was unsettling to know we almost became a statistic.

The rest of the evening was uneventful aside from a stop at McDonald's in Shiprock for dinner. I had hoped to visit the Kaos again, but there wasn't enough time due to the detour. Given that it was midnight when we checked into the hotel, the three of us went to bed shortly afterwards.

Day 7

Because our flight was in the early afternoon, there wasn't much to do other than browse the airport shops. Some of the snacks looked tempting - particularly the cactus candy - but everything was expensive. I wish I wasn't such a cheap bastard. The flight home was mostly uneventful, although I loved the music selection.

Conclusions

This was an awesome trip as we visited many new places. Speaking of which, the Four Corner Monument was my favorite stop. The national parks were really nice too. Scenery aside, I also enjoyed the company of the Kaos and the local culture. The memories from this trip will last a long time.

I probably get back to studying as school starts tomorrow for me. The worst part of coming home is the post-vacation blues. On the other hand, I can't wait to tell everyone about our trip. :-)

Currently listening to: "Turn the Tide" by Sylver

Thursday, February 14, 2002

an awkward Valentine's Day

You probably won't believe this, but we had to make Valentine's Day cards for the opposite sex in Spanish II Honors. In other words, Mrs. Schiffman made us write love letters to each other. How awkward!

The cards were exchanged yesterday as the class doesn't meet on Thursdays. I was paired up with a girl named Stella and gave her a homemade card with a cheesy love poem. Before anyone asks, it wasn't one of those "Roses are red, violets are blue" varieties. Stella was a little more generous and gave me a chocolate snack along with her card. Go figure.

But that's not all: every year, the school sells chocolate roses for Valentine's Day as a fundraiser. Imagine my surprise when I got two of them: one was from a girl on the student council while the other was from a "secret admirer" who wished to remain anonymous. That was quite unexpected. *blush*

It'll probably be hard to find out the identity of my secret admirer unless she comes forward. I'm definitely no Sherlock Holmes. To the girl who sent me the rose: if you're reading this, then I just wanted to say thank you!

In other news...

1. I'm hosting a Valentine's Day drop party in RuneScape this afternoon. It'll be in the Falador Park on server 1 at 3:30 p.m. Pacific Time. Just don't expect me to drop too much stuff as I'm not that rich. :-)

2. Dad is planning to take us to the Southwest U.S. again during winter break - which is in two days. I'm so excited!

Currently playing: RuneScape

Monday, January 21, 2002

MLK weekend + Reno trip report

So we went on a short trip to Reno over the Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend. It was a little boring at first but turned out to be a great experience.

Day 1

Our trip to Reno with the Liangs in 1995 was a lot of fun. But things were very different this time. The place looked old and reminded me of a ghost town. There were few attractions besides casinos and a handful of shops. The fact that I'm not old enough to gamble didn't help the issue.

The other thing is that I didn't have my laptop or Game Boy with me. I left them at home because Mom thought I was silly for bringing my computer on our trip to Tahoe in December. Lesson learned: it's better to have something and not need it than to need something and not have it - my laptop in this case.

I'm not going to lie - we seriously considered canceling our reservation and going home. The only reason we decided to stay is that the fees were non-refundable. On the bright side, the hotel gave us a voucher for a complimentary hot dog and drink from the bar. So there's that.

Day 2

The plan was to head directly home after checking out of the hotel. However, Dad wanted to make the most out of our trip and decided to take a detour to Lake Tahoe. Our options were limited because the weather was too cold for skiing and most of the stores were closed, but we got to visit Donner Lake again. It was quite satisfying to smash through the ice with the hammer.

I later spotted a large snowball on the Truckee River, likely the remains of a snowman. Dad and I then decided to push it into the river for shits and giggles. The snowball rolled down the bank and made a gigantic splash as it smashed through the ice. This was definitely the highlight of the trip, although the rest of the day was uneventful because it was freezing outside.

On the whole, the vacation wasn't too bad. I'm glad we didn't go home early after all. Reno would probably be more fun if I were 21 - the legal gambling age - but that won't happen for another five years. I guess it's time to play the waiting game!

Currently playing: Dragonheart: Fire & Steel

Monday, January 7, 2002

back to LAHS for spring

The spring semester has started. Now that I'm back in school, I should probably be focusing on my classes.

Christmas break in review

The nice thing is that we went skiing in Tahoe right after school ended. The not-so-fun part is that I had to get my wisdom teeth removed right after Christmas. Studying for the finals wasn't too exciting either. On the other hand, the company of my grandfather and his partner was good for my morale. Despite the occasional disagreements, I enjoyed having Bien-Chuan and Ms. Chen over.

The other good news is that the recovery from my wisdom teeth operation is going really well. It looks like things will be back to normal in about a week - just in time for the Martin Luther King Jr. Day long weekend!

Currently playing: Tamale Loco

Tuesday, January 1, 2002

a bittersweet New Year

It's hard to believe 2001 is over. I hope everyone had a great New Year's Eve. To tell you the truth, mine kind of sucked. :-(

Because my paternal grandfather Bien-Chuan and his partner Ms. Chen are visiting from Taiwan, my parents took them and the Shiehs to a Chinese restaurant for dinner. However, I stayed home as I just had my wisdom teeth removed and can't eat most foods. It also happens that my finals are coming up. I'd very much rather have them before the break than having to worry about them over the holidays.

Though it was my own decision to stay home, Ms. Chen kept accusing Mom of grounding me. Even if that was the case, she was in no position to criticize my mother. Only when my uncle Dong told her to STFU did she finally stop. Go figure.

The rest of the evening was all right as I got to play computer games during study breaks. RuneScape and Alchemy were great time killers. Speaking of which, there were some unofficial events in RuneScape for New Year's Eve. That was pretty cool.

I also just finished setting up my own forum. Be sure to check it out if you haven't done so!

2001 in review

All in all, 2001 was pretty good. The highlight of the year was our trip to Canada in June. I love the outdoors and really enjoyed the unspoiled wilderness.

On the flip side, my least favorite part of 2001 was having my wisdom teeth removed. As mentioned earlier, I still can't eat any solid foods. The full recovery will probably take at least another 10 days. Blah.

Currently playing: Alchemy