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 the approximately 2,000 accounts that were caught using RuneBot within the last 24 hours. RuneBot is a modified RuneScape client with macro capabilities.

I'm not going to lie - I did briefly test the bot on my pure mage account a few days ago, albeit out of pure curiosity. I was tempted to use it on my main account as well, but I figured it wasn't worth the risk. Had I given in to the temptations, both of my characters would likely have been wiped.

Although I didn't touch the bot again since then, I was still worried about losing all of my hard work should Jagex find a way to detect the use of RuneBot beyond those 24 hours. I actually checked the "wipe list" several times between classes to make sure my name wasn't on there. Much to my relief, nothing happened to either of my characters. Phew!

That said, I couldn't help but feel bad for those who were wiped - even if they did break the rules. It would really suck to lose all that hard work - especially for those that had no intention of cheating. Case in point, one of the top players was wiped because he accidentally logged in with the bot on his main character instead of his test account. Despite that, Jagex has said they are making no distinction between players who used the bot to cheat and those who merely experimented with it.

I'm so glad I decided to follow the rules. As silly as it sounds, I think there was definitely some sort of divine intervention that made me stay away from RuneBot.

Currently playing: RuneScape

Historical note: Jagex has removed the original announcement from their website, so I replaced the link with one to the unofficial RuneScape Wiki.

Friday, April 26, 2002

if only every school dance was free...

I just came back from the WiLD 94.9 dance at my school. The nice thing about this event was that it was free!

LAHS had won the dance by placing second in a voting contest held by the radio station. Funnily enough, the administration had still planned to charge an admission fee because the dance was only "free" in the sense that WiLD 94.9 would DJ it at no charge. Or at least that's what I heard from rumors. As you can imagine, this drew the ire of many students. Fortunately, the administrators wised up and made the dance free after all, as it was supposed to be. Thank goodness for common sense.

One thing that made this dance very different was that the DJ played mostly electronic music. I'm surprised he didn't leave out the slow songs. Don't get me wrong - electronic music is pretty awesome - but too much of the same stuff tends to make dances less interesting. Other than that, I still had a great time at this dance.

Currently playing: Rebel Moon Rising

Sunday, February 24, 2002

winter break + Southwest U.S. trip report

Those who read my blog may remember that my family went to the American Southwest during the Christmas season a little over a year ago. That trip was so much fun that we decided to go to the Southwest again during winter break!

Like the December 2000 trip, this one was also a week long; the three of us left two Saturdays ago and came back last Friday. The previous trip was only 14 months ago, but this one was still extremely fun as we visited mostly new places. Below is the obligatory trip report. :-)

Day 1

Our adventures began with an afternoon flight to Denver. It was pretty late when we arrived, so we bought some sandwiches at McDonald's while waiting for our connecting flight to Albuquerque. The second flight was relatively short, but the numerous security measures that were put in place following the 9/11 attacks have made the boarding process much longer.

Dad picked up our rental SUV at the airport before driving us to his friend Chih-Yue's house in Los Alamos. It was already past 11:00 p.m. when we got there, but none of us wanted to go to bed just yet because we were all too excited. After all, this was our first time seeing the Kao family in years. Chih-Yue brought out some snacks, and all of us chatted for a good while before finally calling it a night.

Day 2

The Kao family took us to several local stops, the first of which was the Bradbury Science Museum at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. The museum was really cool; it had life-sized models of various atomic bombs, as well as many other neat exhibits. Speaking of which, Chih-Yue actually works at LANL as a climate researcher, so my parents and I were fascinated by his job. Even though his work did not involve nuclear weapons, the Wen Ho Lee incident was nonetheless a major subject of our conversations.

The other point of interest was Valles Caldera National Preserve, the site of an ancient volcanic caldera. It wasn't anything more than a dry lake bed, so all we did there was take a few pictures. The morning ended with a nice lunch at the local Pizza Hut. The Meat Lover's pizza was just delicious.

I spent the rest of the day playing video games with the Kaos' children, Aaron and Samantha. The three of us mostly played Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy X on their PlayStation 2, although we also got in a few rounds of TimeSplitters later in the evening. I'm a bit embarrassed to say this, but I think Tifa from Final Fantasy VII and Yuna from Final Fantasy X are kind of hot. *blush*

Day 3

As much as we enjoyed their company, it was time to say goodbye to the Kao family as we had other places to go. It seems two nights in Los Alamos just weren't enough. :-(

When I was younger, my family would often participate in the Buddhist ceremonies at the Fa Yun Monastery in Danville, California. We stopped going there in favor of a closer temple (the Gold Sage Monastery in San Jose) after a few years, and the Fa Yun Monastery eventually moved to Taos. As we happened to be here in New Mexico, my parents figured we should pay them a visit.

The monastery was located high up in the mountains, and getting there was almost a spiritual journey in itself. The folks at the temple were very hospitable; they insisted that we stay for lunch, which we did. The food, albeit completely vegan, was really good. Mom felt we should give something back in return, so my parents donated a large bag of oranges they had bought earlier.

There weren't many other things to do in the area, so we headed to our hotel in Durango.

Day 4

The first stop of the day was Mesa Verde National Park. The place is famous for the cliff dwellings in which the ancient Pueblo people lived. The tour guide allowed us to go inside some of the kivas to get a glimpse of what life was like for the natives. I'm not a big fan of archaeological sites, but Mesa Verde was undoubtedly a fascinating place.

We then headed to the nearby Four Corners Monument, which marks the point where Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico intersect. This was by far the most memorable part of the trip. Dad started getting hungry at this point, so he bought some Navajo fry bread at one of the stands to share with me and Mom. Yum!

Day 5

Our day began with a side trip to Zion National Park to see the picturesque Zion Canyon. The drive through the park alone made the trip very worthwhile. Next up was Bryce Canyon National Park, which is known for its unusual rock formations called hoodoos. It was an incredible sight; Bryce Canyon is definitely one of the most underrated national parks in the United States.

Although we had been to both Zion and Bryce Canyon before, I really enjoyed visiting those two parks again. Some places just never get old. The last stop of the day was our hotel in Moab.

Day 6

This was probably the busiest day of the trip, with the first stop being Arches National Park. As its name suggests, the park is known for its many natural sandstone arches, ranging from the teeny tiny ones that are just a few feet across to the majestic Landscape Arch. There are over 2,000 of them to be exact!

But time was somewhat limited, so my parents and I only visited the best-known ones. I was tired from all the walking, so I rested in the car while my parents hiked to a vista point from which Delicate Arch was visible. I later learned this was the most famous arch in the park, and I had missed out on seeing it. This was undoubtedly my biggest regret of the trip.

The next stop was Canyonlands National Park. It was very similar to Arches National Park in the sense that it also had many natural arches. I couldn't help but wonder how many of those formations there are in the Four Corners area. Canyonlands wasn't that interesting otherwise, so we didn't stay here for very long.

Our drive brought us to Natural Bridges National Monument. The place was named for its three natural bridges, which were not unlike the arches we had seen. The only road in the monument was a one-way loop that took visitors to each of the three bridges. We turned back after seeing Sipapu Bridge because Dad was afraid we would be stranded in the monument when it closed for the evening.

I must admit that we drove the wrong way on our way out, so it's a good thing we didn't encounter any other cars. As we left the monument, it became apparent that the entrance gate was usually kept open; the three of us would have taken the time to visit all three bridges had we known about this.

It was then time to head back to Albuquerque. Our original itinerary involved driving a 102-mile stretch of Route 666 from Monticello to Shiprock. Mom felt a little uneasy traveling on a highway associated with the Number of the Beast - especially at night - so we took a detour on Route 191 instead. As silly as it sounds, one could never be too careful.

There were a series of signs telling drivers to slow down at one point during the drive. We couldn't figure out why until the mountain road suddenly took a sharp turn to the left. Had Dad kept going at the original speed, our car would have driven straight off the cliff. It was very unsettling to realize we were just seconds from becoming a statistic.

Due to the detour, my parents and I didn't get the chance to stop at Chih-Yue's house again as we had hoped. It was actually pretty late when we got to the hotel because of the extra driving; the three of us arrived there just as the clock struck midnight!

Day 7

It was hard to believe our trip was almost over. Our flight was just before noon, so we didn't get to do much other than browse the gift shops at the airport. There were many Southwestern treats that looked rather tempting, particularly the cactus candy. I really wanted to try some, but didn't buy any because everything in the shops was very expensive. Perhaps I should be a little more generous to myself next time. :P

Conclusions

Although our last trip to the American Southwest was just 14 months ago, this one was still very exciting because we mostly visited places that we had never been to before. The best part of the trip was the Four Corners Monument; I don't think the novelty of being in four states at once will get old anytime soon.

The scenery wasn't the only thing that made this trip so special; the local Native American culture was also very fascinating. While many folks are quick to dismiss the desert as a boring place, I certainly beg to differ.

School starts tomorrow for me, so I guess I better get back to studying. On the other hand, I have a great story to share with my teachers and classmates. :-)

Currently listening to: "Turn the Tide" by Sylver

Thursday, February 14, 2002

an awkward Valentine's Day

You probably won't believe this, but one of the recent assignments for Spanish class was to make a Valentine's Day card and an optional gift for a classmate of the opposite sex. In other words, Mrs. Schiffman made us write love letters to each other. Heaven knows where she got that idea!

In any case, our class had to participate as the assignment was worth points. Because we don't have Spanish on Thursdays, the cards and gifts were exchanged the day before. The girl I was paired up with was a freshman named Stella, to whom I gave a cheesy homemade card with an even cheesier love poem. In case you're wondering, my poem wasn't one of those "Roses are red, violets are blue" varieties. Stella was a little more generous than me, returning the favor with a chocolate snack of sorts along with her card. Go figure. All I have to say is that this whole thing was really awkward.

Oh yeah, and it gets even better: every year, the school sells chocolate roses that are delivered to the buyer's recipient on Valentine's Day. To my surprise, I received two of them this time: one was from a girl in ASB that sent them to almost everyone, while the other was from a "secret admirer" that wished to remain anonymous. I definitely didn't see that coming. *blush*

Unless my "secret admirer" reveals herself, it's probably going to be hard to find out her identity. I'm not Sherlock Holmes or Batman, mind you. To the girl who sent me the chocolate rose: if you are reading this, then I just wanted to say "thank you"!

In other news...

1. I'll be hosting a Valentine's Day drop party in RuneScape in about 30 minutes. It will be at the Falador Park on server 1 at 3:30 p.m. PDT. I'm not that rich in the game, so don't expect me to drop too much stuff, but I still hope people will show up. :-)

2. My family will be going to the Southwest U.S. again during winter break. Only three days and counting!

Currently playing: RuneScape

Monday, January 21, 2002

MLK weekend + Reno trip report

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Day weekend was pretty fun as my parents and I went on a two-day trip to Reno as planned. We left yesterday morning and got back just now. The trip had a rather boring beginning, but we still had a great time in the end.

Day 1

Reno was a lot of fun when we went there with the Liang family six years ago, so we had high expectations for this trip. However, the town turned out to be completely different from what we remembered. It just seemed like a very archaic place, and we could not find many attractions that interested us.

The hotel wasn't all that bad, except there weren't any good movies on TV. But what sucked more was that I didn't have my laptop or Game Boy with me. Mom thought I was kind of silly for bringing my computer on our trip to Tahoe in December, so I left it at home this time. Lesson learned: it's better to have something and not need it than to need something and not have it.

I'm not going to lie: the three of us seriously considered going home at this point. We might actually have done so had we not wanted our hotel fees to go to waste. Speaking of which, the hotel gave us a voucher for a complimentary hot dog and lemonade from the bar. So at least that's one redeeming thing about our vacation.

Day 2

The original plan was to head directly home after checking out in the morning. Dad still wanted to make the most out of our trip, so he decided to take a detour to Lake Tahoe. Our options were somewhat limited because the weather was too stormy for skiing and most of the stores were closed for the holiday season, but we still found a few things to do. Like in the case of our last vacation, my parents and I again visited Donner Lake. There was more ice on the lake this time, and it was especially fun to break through it with a hammer.

Sometime during our drive home, I spotted a giant snowball on an embankment along the Truckee River. I figured this was the remains of a snowman. Dad and I then decided to push it into the river for fun. The snowball smashed right through the ice and made a gigantic splash. This was definitely the highlight of the trip. Other than that, none of us spent much time outside because of the freezing weather.

As with all good things, the fun soon came to an end as it was time to begin our drive home. Despite the first day being kind of boring, I really enjoyed this vacation. Chances are Reno itself would have been more fun if I were old enough to gamble, but that's not going to 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

This was the first day of the spring semester, so I guess it's back to homework and studying.

The break had a pretty good start as my family went skiing in Tahoe right after school ended. But the rest of the holiday kind of sucked because I had to get my wisdom teeth removed right after Christmas, not to mention that I had several finals to study for. On the bright side, I still had plenty of time to relax at home. It was also nice to have my paternal grandfather and his companion over for a while, considering that they live in Taiwan.

All that having been said, the recovery following my wisdom teeth operation is coming along nicely. It looks like things will be back to normal in about a week or so - just in time for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day weekend!

Currently playing: Tamale Loco

Tuesday, January 1, 2002

Happy 2002!

Happy New Year, everyone!

For New Year's Eve, my parents took Bien-Chuan, Mrs. Chen and a few family friends to a Chinese restaurant for dinner. But I stayed home for two reasons. For one thing, I wouldn't have been able to enjoy the food as I just had my wisdom teeth removed the other day. I also had several finals to study for, thanks to stupid schedule that puts them right at the beginning of the school year. Other than that, I got to play some RuneScape in my free time. There were several in-game events for New Year's Eve, which were kind of entertaining.

That said, there was one thing I wasn't too happy about. Although it was mostly my own decision to stay home, Mrs. Chen kept accusing my mother of grounding me for no reason. Even if she did ground me, it wouldn't have been any of Mrs. Chen's concern. The nagging continued on until Dad finally told her to STFU. Fun times.

I know I've already said this, but I started my own forum yesterday. Be sure to check it out if you haven't done so!

2001 in review

I'd say 2001 was overall a good year, the highlight of which was my family's trip to Canada in June. I love the outdoors, so I really enjoyed the unspoiled Canadian wilderness.

Getting my wisdom teeth removed was my least favorite part of 2001. As mentioned earlier, I could still barely eat any solid foods right now. It'll probably be at least another ten days before things go back to normal. *sigh*

Currently playing: RuneScape