Friday, December 20, 2002

it's been a tough semester...

School's out for the holidays. It's about time!

I've got to say that Physics Honors and Trigonometry were tough as hell. Though I'm not taking any AP classes this year, the idea that 11th grade is the hardest year in high school certainly isn't without foundation. I'm really glad I have the next two weeks to catch my breath.

The semester isn't actually over until a week or so after the break ends. This means I still have to study for the finals during the holidays. Go figure.

Sunday, December 15, 2002

worst weekend ever

I had a pretty shitty weekend.

So there was a school dance on Friday that I had planned to attend. However, my mother advised me to stay home and finish my American Literature homework instead. Because I'm a bit behind in the class, she was concerned that Mrs. Herrera would see me partying instead of studying and get a bad impression. I felt Mom had a point and skipped the dance. This was a huge let-down as I had been looking forward to it for a long time.

Of course, having to miss the dance alone wouldn't have been so bad as there are always other things to do. For example, my family often goes hiking on weekends. But that didn't happen either because the trails were all soggy from the rain. I decided to watch some TV shows instead - only to find that the storm had knocked out the signal.

There's some more bad news: one of my favorite forums just shut down today. I was a very active member and had over 3,000 posts there. It really sucks to see this site disappear. Topping it all off, I had a shitload of physics, trigonometry and web design homework in addition to the American Literature assignments. How wonderful.

The good news is that I had plenty of time for video games during study breaks. The best part is that I managed to get level 70 Mining in RuneScape and can now mine adamantite ore without boosts. Here is a screenshot of my current stats. I was so excited that I forgot to press PrtSc after leveling up. D'oh!

Update: I asked my mother for a month of RuneScape membership for giving up the dance. She said she'd consider it as long as I did well in school. I guess I better work hard. :-)

Currently playing: Blackhawk Striker

Thursday, November 28, 2002

Thanksgiving with the Lu family

Thanksgiving was nice as the Lus invited us over for dinner. This was really awesome, especially considering that we didn't get to spend much time together during the 4th of July weekend.

It was just our two families as the Lus didn't invite anyone else. Lisa prepared a large turkey and several other dishes. There was more than enough food for the eight of us. I had a great time hanging out with Thomas and Connie, although my new TI-89 also kept me occupied. Can you get any geekier?

Speaking of which, I'm very thankful for my new graphing calculator this year. It's a great source of entertainment in addition to being useful. The fact that I brought it to a party pretty much says it all. :P

Currently watching: Interceptor Force 2

Wednesday, October 30, 2002

more DLS vulnerabilities

You may remember that I found a security issue in my school's student information system about two months ago. Since then, I've discovered several more vulnerabilities. Now that they've all been patched, I don't think Mr. Randall will mind me posting about them. So here they are:

Changing another user's account settings

The web form for entering profile information had a hidden field containing the internal ID of the user. By modifying this value, an attacker could overwrite another user's account settings. This was a serious issue as it could allow the attacker to compromise any account - including those with administrative privileges. I'm really glad I discovered this problem before someone with nefarious intentions did.

Forced file uploads and spoofed IP addresses

The DLS is configured to accept only files with certain extensions. This is important because some files could contain viruses or even allow an attacker to execute arbitrary code on the server. However, because the file extensions were only validated on the client side, the user could bypass the check by invoking the JavaScript function that submits the form. From what I've read, file inclusion vulnerabilities are very common in web applications.

The server also records the user's IP address when a file is uploaded. Like in the above case, the IP was stored in a hidden field in the upload form. This allowed me to spoof my IP address. Even invalid values were accepted.

Other DLS features were similarly affected. For example, I was able to rename myself to "l337 h4x0r" even after the name change feature was disabled. ^_^

Viewing another user's recycle bin

Only the files in a user's public folder were intended to be accessible to other users. However, one could view the contents of another user's recycle bin via URL manipulation. This was a relatively minor issue but could have posed privacy concerns.

The majority of these issues seem to be the result of not validating parameters. Chances are the DLS still has undiscovered vulnerabilities. But because I don't have access to the source code, I could only find so many bugs. An independent software audit would likely uncover much more. After all, I'm only a high school student and not a web developer. :P

In other news...

There was a Halloween dance on the 25th. This was something LAHS had never done before. Though I didn't feel like going because it was a little expensive, I'm nevertheless looking forward to the dance in December. :-)

Saturday, October 19, 2002

new graphing calculator

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

At any rate, the TI-89 is really awesome. It has so many features and functions that I don't even know where to begin. This thing can also run a large number of applications. Speaking of which, the TI-BASIC programming language is much more versatile than the one on the Casio 9850 series. In a sense, the TI-89 is 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 considered valuable targets. One thing for sure is that I'm going to have a hard time concentrating in class for the next few weeks. Haha.

Currently playing: Phoenix

Friday, October 11, 2002

I got kicked out of Spanish class :-(

Today sucked as Mrs. Schiffman kicked me out of Spanish III. It was my parents who told me as she didn't say anything about it in class. I can't say I didn't see this coming because I had always sensed that Mrs. Schiffman didn't like me very much. However, this still ruined the mood, especially considering that I had just celebrated my 17th birthday the day before.

On the other hand, Mr. Miller has kindly agreed to take me into his web design class. The good news is 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*

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

I just turned 17 years old. It's hard to believe I'll be legal next year. In any case, happy birthday to me and everyone else born on October 10. :-)

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. The food was really good, especially the seafood enchiladas. Yum!

We also took my maternal grandparents to lunch at a Chinese restaurant this past weekend. I'd normally have picked something else - mainly because we usually eat Chinese food at home - but Mom wanted something the grandparents would also like. Family comes first after all.

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

Friday, September 27, 2002

sometimes I really hate Asian parents

I'll probably regret posting this, but here goes...

So my father and I got into a bad argument after dinner. He was ranting about how I never seem to study for my classes. Finishing my homework quickly is apparently a bad idea because Dad will think I have too much free time. It didn't help that he was very stressed after coming back from a long business trip.

But the straw that broke the camel's back was when I called him an idiot for not knowing what "I've already finished my homework" meant. He totally lost it and became really mad. Let's just say things turned ugly afterwards. It was a rough night - I'm glad nobody called the cops on us.

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

Friday update: I hope people won't think my father is a terrible person. Though he has hot temper, 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

back-to-school dance report

The back-to-school dance was lots of fun. I had been looking forward to it for several weeks and certainly wasn't disappointed. 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!

You may recall that my family recently went on a trip to Hawaii. Although I still have the post-vacation blues, the dance brought back memories of the nightlife in Oʻahu. :-)

Currently listening to: "Cry" by Mandy Moore

found a vulnerability in my school's student information system

So our school district started using a new student information system this year called the Digital Locker System. The software is being developed by a company called ACMA while the administrative tasks for LAHS are managed by our two physics teachers, Mr. Randall and Mr. Florendo. The company is still working out the kinks as the DLS is bleeding-edge software.

I was familiarizing myself with the DLS today when I noticed a serious issue: every student's default password could be found in the URL of their profile. This was quickly fixed after I reported it to Mr. Randall. He was definitely glad that I told him about the problem.

Of note is that someone else had discovered the same vulnerability before I did. However, that person abused it instead of doing the right thing and reporting it to the school. He apparently used the exploit to compromise several dozen accounts. I'm glad we found out what was going on before he could cause more damage.

Update: The culprit has been identified. From what Mr. Randall told me , the student wasn't only banned from the system, but also had his computer privileges revoked. Good riddance.

Currently watching: Dolphins (2000)

Monday, August 26, 2002

I'm now an upperclassman!

I'm now back at LAHS for my junior year. It's hard to believe I'm 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 in high school due to AP classes. The good news is that I don't have any at this time. Though I still have to take them next year, I'll worry about that when the time comes. :P

Speaking of which, I'm taking Physics Honors to prepare for AP Physics. This class isn't a walk in the park either. That said, Mr. Randall is an awesome teacher. He's really funny and definitely knows how to liven up an otherwise difficult subject. It also helps that I love science. :-)

I'll have to admit - it's so hard to go back to school just after returning home from Hawaii. On the other hand, the back-to-school dance on Friday is certainly something to look forward to. Four more days to go!

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 guide in Oʻahu

Summer ended with a bang as we just got back from Hawaii. The trip was especially fun as the Shiehs were also there. Though they had a different itinerary and only stayed five days, our families got to spend time together.

Day 1

The first leg of the trip was a morning flight to Honolulu. Because Hawaii doesn't allow the import of fresh fruits, travelers had to go through an agricultural inspection. Speaking of which, my mother had a pear in her bag that she had forgotten about. Imagine her surprise when it showed up on the X-ray machine!

Mom thought she would get in trouble, but the agents merely told us to get rid of the pear. Dad didn't want it to go to waste and ate it instead. It was a funny sight to see him munching on a pear next to the inspection station. At least we didn't get fined. :P

The five-hour flight to Honolulu wasn't too bad. For one, the lunch was delicious as far as airline food goes. I also saw Spider-Man and Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron on the plane. Both were good movies, although I personally liked Spider-Man better.

It was only 2 p.m. when we arrived in Honolulu due to the time difference. Dad got hungry after checking into our hotel in Waikīkī and decided to go to Taco Bell for a quick bite. As far as I can remember, this was our first time eating at Taco Bell. The quesadillas were quite good.

There was plenty of time to see what Waikīkī had to offer. The waterfront was full of people as this is a popular tourist destination. I can see why Oʻahu is called the Gathering Place. There were also hot chicks everywhere, although I was too shy to talk to them. Oh well.

We later went on the Aliʻi Kai dinner cruise as part of a package deal. The host welcomed us aboard the catamaran and talked about Hawaiian culture. This was followed by a buffet dinner. People gathered on the deck to watch the sunset as evening approached. The entertainment consisted of various shows and dances, after which the DJ played party music and invited us to hit the dance floor. The cruise was easily the best part of the trip.

Day 2

The morning began with a stop at the Polynesian Cultural Center, also included in the package. It was amazing to watch the natives climb coconut trees unaided. The live Hawaiian music and the hula dances were also enjoyable. Even more impressive were the fire dances - those guys were like martial arts experts. I didn't know Hawaii had such a fascinating culture. Our day at the Polynesian Cultural Center concluded with a buffet lunch. Yum!

The Shiehs arrived in Hawaii in the afternoon. We met up with them at their hotel before it was their turn to go on the Aliʻi Kai cruise. I had so much fun on the cruise that I wished we could have gone on it again with them. However, one cruise is certainly more than enough.

At any rate, my family spent the evening checking out Honolulu's nightlife. Mom later noticed a large crowd gathering on the beach. It turned out they were showing Ocean's Eleven on a projector screen. The three of us watched it for a few minutes before continuing on. That was a neat experience.

Day 3

The highlight of the day was the Pearl Harbor tour. The focus of the tour was the USS Arizona Memorial. For those who fell asleep during history class, Arizona was the ship that suffered the most losses when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941. There was a wall with the names of the Americans who perished. It was a touching tribute.

We visited a few nearby beaches in the afternoon. The blue waters of the Pacific Ocean were beautiful and made for great pictures. After dinner, my family spent the evening checking out the nightlife as we did the day before. Party on!

Day 4

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

We met up with the Shieh family again before exploring Kauaʻi together. Our first stop was the Kauai Kookie factory in Kalāheo. The company makes cookies with unique flavors and even had samples. I regret not buying some.

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 was ruined by the red clay during a storm. Instead of writing off its losses, the company decided to sell the shirts as is - and they became really popular. I wish I had bought one.

Day 5

The morning was nice as we went to Waimea Canyon State Park with the Shiehs. Our group hiked to the Waimea Canyon Lookout to see the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. The view of the valley was amazing - pictures don't do it justice at all. This was definitely one of my favorite stops.

Because the trails were wet and slippery due to the moist climate, I was afraid one of us would slip on the mud and fall to our doom. It didn't help that there were no guardrails anywhere. To my relief, everyone survived. 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. Though this wasn't a big deal for them as they had been to Hawaii before, I could tell Cathy wasn't too happy about going home. It was a bittersweet morning as we helped the Shiehs pack up and accompanied 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, I couldn't help but feel a little guilty because the suite was very expensive - about $400 a night to be precise. Yikes.

Day 7

Because Kauaʻi is pretty small, there wasn't much to do other than drive around the island again. One place we hadn't been to was Spouting Horn. This was one of the coolest sights in Kauaʻi. The area around the blowhole was fenced off for safety reasons, but some teenagers ignored the warning signs and entered the closed area. Stupid is as stupid does.

One unusual thing about Kauaʻi is that there are wild chickens everywhere. I couldn't help but wonder if people hunted them for food. It wouldn't surprise me if they did.

Day 8

I was also a little sad to leave Hawaii as this was the last day of our trip. The three of us had to go to the airport right after breakfast to catch our 10 a.m. flight to Honolulu.

It was then time to fly back to San Francisco after a short layover. The time difference meant we would lose the two hours we had gained. The flight was uneventful as there weren't any good movies. On the other hand, there was an amazing sunset just before we landed. This incredible sight was the perfect ending to a perfect vacation.

Conclusions

There was never a dull moment in Hawaii. Everything we did was fun, especially the dinner cruise. I liked Oʻahu more, but Kauaʻi was pretty enjoyable too. Its beautiful views were unforgettable - no wonder Kauaʻi is called the Garden Isle. I wish the trip didn't end so soon.

Hawaii is a fascinating place due to its unique culture. Considering that we only visited two of the eight main islands, this trip had barely touched the surface. One thing for sure is that we'll have to go to Hawaii again. Speaking of which, I've heard great things about the Big Island and Maui...

Now that we're home, I should probably get back to studying as school starts in three days. Post-vacation blues aside, I'm looking forward to seeing everyone again. :-)

Currently watching: A Ring of Endless Light

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 the SAT preparation class at Gunn High School. As much as I hate to say this, the class wasn't exactly a positive experience.

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

Mom paid around $300 for the class and wasn't too happy either. The only positive thing to come out of this is that the workload was lighter. I guess every cloud does have a silver lining.

In other news...

We're heading to Hawaii with my cousins Connie and Cathy's family later this month. I've never been there before and am extremely excited!

Thursday, August 8, 2002

1,000 skill total in RuneScape

I just reached 1,000 skill total in RuneScape after playing for 18 months. Here is a screenshot of me leveling up!

Though this isn't such a big deal anymore - mainly because it's easier now that there are more skills - I'm still proud of reaching this milestone. Being a member for a month definitely helped. :-)

Currently playing: RuneScape

Sunday, July 7, 2002

four barbecues over the weekend

As crazy as it sounds, my family had four barbecues during the 4th of July long weekend!

The 4th was great as we invited my grandparents over. Mom had recently bought a new electric grill and wanted to put it to good use. It was great to see my grandparents even though Grandpa goes to bed early and wanted to leave right after dinner.

I spent the rest of the evening lighting fireworks. Speaking of which, there seemed to be more fireworks than usual. I'm actually still hearing firecrackers and bottle rockets every now and then. I guess people are feeling more patriotic following last year's terrorist attacks.

We then invited the Lins and another family over on the 5th. It was just us and the Lins as the other family canceled at the last minute. Moonway usually doesn't eat much meat but absolutely loved our hot dogs. They were already gone when I went to get one. The hot dogs must have been really good. At any rate, Moonway and I spent the evening playing video games.

It was then the Lu family's turn to visit us. This was our first time seeing them in a while. I had a great time playing video games with Thomas and Connie. They didn't stay too late either because their father Wen-Juei is also an early sleeper, but I'm sure we'll get together again soon.

Dad invited several colleagues over today as we still had lots of supplies. But to tell you the truth, the same thing gets old after four days. Although everything was delicious, I don't want to have another barbecue anytime soon. :-)

Currently playing: Pinball

Monday, July 1, 2002

just got RuneScape membership

It took weeks of trying to convince my parents, but they finally gave in and let me become a RuneScape member for a month. Thanks, Mom and Dad!

There's so much content in the premium version of the game that I don't even know where to begin. I've already completed a few quests, but there's so many more things to do. 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 just started an SAT preparation course at Gunn High School. The class focuses on building vocabulary - which is one of the most important aspects of the exam. Our teacher is very diligent and she makes every effort to ensure we don't fall behind. She's also very kind, although she gives out many assignments. No wonder they say Gunn is a competitive school.

Currently playing: Deus Ex

Friday, June 14, 2002

halfway through high school

This was the last day of school before summer. The Spanish II Honors final was very tough, even with all the bonus questions. The other exams weren't easy either. I just hope there won't be a nasty surprise when I get my report card. *crosses fingers*

Having finished 10th grade, I'm now halfway through high school. It's hard to believe I'll 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. It should be pretty awesome. :-)

Currently playing: Thief: The Dark Project

Friday, June 7, 2002

and now for our feature presentation...

I recently mentioned that we had to film a soap opera for Spanish II Honors. Our project was finished yesterday and presented today in class, along with all the others. I think everyone did a great job!

About our project

Our production is called Amor y Mentiras ("Love and Lies") and took about three weeks to make. Shannon was our de facto director as most of the filming was done at her house. Our roles were as follows:

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

Part 1

Davíd and José are two bad guys who rob a bank during a crime spree. This part was filmed at a mom and pop store in Los Altos called J & R's Foodland. The manager of the store was kind enough to allow us to shoot there. He even guest-starred as a bank teller!

Part 2

The crooks use the ill-gotten money on a vacation to the Bahamas. They cross paths with the girls while there and fall in love with them. The girls find them charming and invite them to their vacation home. This is where the love scene takes place.

Part 3

The romance is short-lived as Davíd and José plot to frame the girls. But when the girls find out what's going on, the thugs burn down the vacation home and shoot Sarita dead. Davíd and José flee the country as the scene ends.

Special thanks

This project wouldn't have been possible without the help of others. Special thanks go out to the following people:

  • 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 guest-starring as a bank teller.

Conclusions

On the whole, I'm really proud of what we accomplished. Although we had our disagreements from time to time, our group generally worked well together. It's too bad I can't share the video as I don't have a copy myself. You'll just have to use your imagination!

Sunday, June 2, 2002

love scenes are so awkward...

"Do you want to kiss her instead?" -- Michelle, after I refused to hug Sarah

For the final project in Spanish II Honors, our class has to film Spanish soap operas, also known as telenovelas. I was assigned to a group with four other people, namely David, Shannon, Sarah and Michelle. Shannon is our de facto director as most of the filming is being done at her house.

We've been working on the project for about two weeks and just finished the obligatory love scene. The most awkward moment was when I had to give Sarah a hug while professing my love for her. But because I'm still shy around girls, I adamantly refused to get close to Sarah, much to everyone's annoyance. In the end, she and I just held hands instead. *blush*

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

So yeah, love scenes are always awkward. Especially when you're the actor.

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