Sunday, December 28, 2003

Southern California and Las Vegas trip report

As my aunts Wei-Jen and Wei-Fang are visiting from Taiwan, Dad decided to take all of us on a road trip down south. The trip was one week long; our party left on the 23rd and just got back about an hour ago. The places we visited included Anaheim, Las Vegas and several national parks; while my parents and I had been to most of them before, that didn't make our vacation any less exciting. You can read more about it in my report below. :-)

Day 1

Before starting out, my parents first had to pick up an SUV at the local car rental agency. I imagine it'd be rather hard to fit the five of us and all of our luggage into a sedan. They took the SUV back to our house, and it was time for a long drive to Anaheim. There weren't many attractions along the way other than the big Casa de Fruta store in Hollister. The store had lots of snacks that looked delicious, and I bought a bag of potato chips to share with everyone. Yum!

The five of us had dinner at a restaurant in Bakersfield later in the evening. I was somewhat worried at first because Bakersfield was one of the sites of the recent flu outbreak and that somebody had died there as a result, but much to our relief, none of us got sick or anything.

Our group arrived in Anaheim a couple of hours later. All of us were pretty tired at this point, so we called it a day after checking into the hotel.

Day 2

It goes without saying that no trip to Southern California is complete without a visit to Disneyland. But as my parents and I had been there before, I wanted to go somewhere new. Therefore, the three of us decided on a side trip to Joshua Tree National Park after dropping Wei-Jen and Wei-Fang off at the Happiest Place on Earth.

Joshua Tree National Park was much farther than we had anticipated. As its name suggests, the main feature of the park were the strange-looking Joshua trees; the desert was full of them as far as the eye could see. The place wasn't very interesting otherwise - and it was also extremely windy - so we didn't spend too much time there before turning back.

The rain began as soon as we left the park. It was actually pouring so hard that the road become completely wet within minutes. To complicate matters, all the cars were driving very fast; my mother couldn't catch up to them even at over 80 mph. I couldn't help but worry about our safety during the entire drive; this was certainly the scariest part of the trip. The three of us eventually arrived back in Anaheim safe and sound after a harrowing two hours. Come to think of it, I would rather have gone to Disneyland instead.

Speaking of which, my parents still needed to pick up Wei-Jen and Wei-Fang. The three of us made our way to the Happiest Parking Lot on Earth and took my aunts back to our hotel for the night.

Day 3

The morning began with some good news: Dad checked my e-mail and found out I had been accepted into SJSU. The decisions generally don't come until don't come until March or April, so this was like an early Christmas present. At the very least, it meant my college education was guaranteed.

Continuing on, our main stop of the day was Universal Studios Hollywood. I had been here with my parents before as well, but we felt it would be too mean to leave my aunts on their own again. The attractions had mostly remained the same, although there were some new ones as well.

Our theme park experience began with a little mishap at the Mummy Returns: Chamber of Doom attraction. I was reliving my childhood fantasy of being a badass action hero by pretending to knock out what I thought were prop monsters popping out of the walls. Unbeknownst to me, they were real cast members, one of whom I almost punched squarely in the face. Needless to say, he wasn't too pleased about it. Oops!

The five of us later went on the famous Studio Tour that took visitors to various film sets. The tour had not changed much from when my parents and I went to Universal Studios Hollywood a little less than eight years ago, but that didn't make it any less exciting. Our group also checked out many other attractions; the Terminator show and the Back to the Future ride were among my favorites. The only downside was that some of the lines were very long.

While my parents and I generally prefers national parks over amusement parks, we still had a great time at Universal Studios Hollywood. I'd say it was actually the best part of the trip.

Day 4

It was then time to head to Las Vegas. The drive to Sin City wasn't quite as long as the one to Anaheim, but we still arrived fairly late because of the traffic. Nevertheless, there was more than enough time to take my aunts on a tour of the Strip. Our hotel for the night was Stratosphere Las Vegas.

Day 5

Our party explored Las Vegas for a bit more before heading to Barstow, with the first stop along the way being Pahrump. One cool thing about this town is that it had several large fireworks stores. I visited the Phantom Fireworks storeroom, and it was hard to believe how much stuff there was. We didn't buy any fireworks as the nearest place to legally light them was on the other side of Las Vegas, but it was nonetheless a memorable experience.

I purchased some more potato chips at one of the convenience stores to share while my parents bought some prune juice at Walgreens to treat Wei-Jen's constipation. For those who don't know, prune juice is a great natural remedy when one is unable to answer nature's call. This was something we had been looking for since the start of the trip, and it was a relief (no pun intended) when we finally found some.

Our next destination was Death Valley National Park. I wanted to visit Ubehebe Crater, something we didn't get to do during our trip to the Southwest in 2000. Unfortunately, the crater was still too far this time, and we decided it wasn't worth the extra drive. I certainly hope we'll be able to go there on a future trip.

Wei-Jen started feeling ill as we were leaving Death Valley later in the evening. Dad was afraid she had altitude sickness, but it soon became clear that she had to go to the bathroom really badly. The laxative properties of the prune juice were apparently starting to take effect. Let's just say we had to make several "emergency stops" in Death Valley in the middle of the night. *whistles innocently*

Other than that, our party arrived at our hotel in Barstow without any problems.

Day 6

Our day began with another long drive, this time to Sequoia National Park. Most of the park was covered by snow, so we didn't get to do much other than stop for pictures. That said, the natural scenery was still quite enjoyable. The bad news was that I slipped on the ice and hurt my butt outside one of the visitor centers. Shit happens.

Dad wanted to visit the adjacent Kings Canyon National Park, but the road between the parks was closed for the winter. It was also getting late, so we decided to head to our hotel in Oakhurst. This was actually the same hotel my parents and I stayed at on our trip to Yosemite in February.

Day 7

Our final major stop of the trip was Yosemite National Park. Like Sequoia, Yosemite was also mostly covered by snow. On the other hand, the five of us had a nice brunch in one of the picnic areas. It was also pretty fun to visit Yosemite Village and the stores there.

Mom noticed some wolves trudging through the snow at one point. This was a rare sight, so we stopped for pictures. But as soon as my aunts rolled down the window for a better look, I started freaking out because I was afraid the animals would jump in and attack us. However, the wolves didn't even bat an eye as they passed our car. Perhaps I'm too paranoid. In any case, I felt like an asshole for yelling at my aunts like that.

One of our family traditions to eat at the Kowloon seafood restaurant in San Mateo whenever we came back from the mountains. But things weren't the same as they used to be: the restaurant had been renamed, all the menus have changed and everything was more expensive in general. The five of us still decided to eat here, but the food turned out to be mediocre. It seems the restaurant had changed owners, and that the new ones just didn't have the same expertise. We figured this would be the last time we would eat at Kowloon. It was sad to see such a great tradition come to an end.

Conclusions

Even though most of the places we visited weren't new to us, the trip was still had a lot of fun. The fact that we had company made it even more so. It's not very often that we get to travel with other people. Speaking of which, the best part of the trip was Universal Studios; my parents and I don't frequently go to theme parks, so this was pretty nice for a change.

Our original itinerary included Grand Canyon National Park. However, my aunts were opposed to the idea as they felt bad about us having to spend so much more money on the trip. It was ultimately decided that we would skip Grand Canyon, especially considering that my parents and I had been there before. This did shorten our trip by about two days, but it also reduced the cost by several hundred dollars. I certainly appreciate my aunts being so considerate.

All in all, everyone greatly enjoyed this vacation. I look forward to taking Wei-Jen and Wei-Fang on other trips in the future.

Currently playing: The Incredible Machine 3

Friday, December 19, 2003

my last Christmas break of high school

Today was the last day of classes. It's hard to believe I only have one more semester left of high school. In any case, Christmas break is going to be awesome!

One thing to note is that the LAHS community recently voted to move the finals to the week before the break. This was something I've always supported; the idea that we had to study during the holidays never stuck well with me. Thank goodness for common sense. The change also means students now have less time to prepare for the exams, but I guess we can't have our cake and eat it too.

Currently playing: The Incredible Machine

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

a little choir party

So the LAHS choir classes had a get-together during lunch today. It's apparently a tradition of the LAHS choral department to have an after-party following a major concert. Mr. Shaull put on some Christmas music, and some people even got up to dance. There was also no shortage of food. It's certainly a great way to celebrate a successful event.

The gathering was fairly short because of the school's schedule, but it was still lots of fun. In my opinion, it almost makes up for the recent holiday dance I had to miss out on. :-)

The finals are starting tomorrow for us seniors, so I guess I better get back to studying. Wish me luck!

Currently listening to: "White Christmas" by Irving Berlin

Saturday, December 13, 2003

my first choral performance!

I just got back from my first choral performance. The concert took place at the Los Altos United Methodist Church. The event was part of the Chorale curriculum, but it involved the entire LAHS choral department. It was overall a very enjoyable experience.

The LAHS choral department consists of five choirs: Chorale, Varsity Men's Glee, Girls 21, Concert Choir and the Main Street Singers. There's also Choral Union, which is all the choirs combined. Each of the choirs sang various Christmas songs, after which Choral Union assembled for Joseph Haydn's Missa brevis Sancti Joannis de Deo.

Chorale is the least advanced choir, so we didn't have to spend too much time on stage before joining with the other choirs for Haydn's mass. I was very nervous at first, but it wasn't long before I started feeling comfortable. But then again, it's not like I had to sing solo or anything. Haha.

Because my aunts Wei-Jen and Wei-Fang are visiting from Taiwan, my mother invited them to the concert as well. It made me very proud that they would come. Dad couldn't attend as he's currently on another business trip, but I'm sure he was there in spirit. I would certainly have asked Mom to record the concert for him, except neither of us remembered where we put our old mini camcorder.

The tickets for the concert were $7 per person, and all of the proceeds go to the LAHS choral department. The downside is that we singers don't get a cut of the profits. But the money isn't such a big deal; everyone had a great time performing, and that's pretty rewarding in itself. :-)

Currently listening to singing: "Rise Up, Shepherd and Follow"

Friday, December 12, 2003

had to miss out on another dance :-(

The week ended on a sour note as I had to miss out on the "Holiday in the Sun" dance tonight. I had been looking forward to it for several months, so this was rather disappointing. Sounds familiar, doesn't it?

The reason I didn't attend this one was because of the recent flu outbreak. Mom advised me not to go as germs spread easily in crowded places. She had a good point; it just wasn't worth the risk of getting sick as my health is far more important than a school dance. The change of plans didn't come as a complete surprise because I was prepared for the possibility this time; after all, my mother has always taught to expect the unexpected. But I'm not going to lie: having to miss out on a dance sucks no matter how you look at it.

The sad thing is that the back-to-school dance in August might be the last dance I'll ever attend at LAHS. While there are three more this school year - winter formal, Sadies and prom - I'm not planning to attend those because the formal ones are much more expensive, not to mention that it'd be weird to go to them without a date. Mom assures me there will also be dances in college, but I guess I'll know for sure when the time comes.

On the bright side, I don't have a bunch of homework that would take up my entire weekend this time. The other good news is that my aunts Wei-Jen and Wei-Fang are coming to visit us from Taiwan tomorrow, and Dad plans to take all of us on a road trip to the Southwest U.S. during Christmas vacation. So at least there's something to look forward to. :-)

In other news...

I'll be performing in a choral concert for the first time tomorrow night. I'm somewhat nervous about it, but also very excited at the same time. Wish me luck!

Currently playing: Chasm: The Rift

Sunday, November 16, 2003

college applications

Like most other teenagers, I hope to go to college after high school. Therefore, I've been rather busy with college applications over the past few weeks. I'm glad I'm almost done with them!

I'd say writing the essay is probably the hardest bit. For the most part, the same one could be used for multiple applications with minor changes. But it all adds up when you're applying to over a dozen schools, not to mention the fees involved.

Then there's the rejection letters. The decisions generally don't come until March or April, which means I have several months to prepare for them. After all, I don't think too many people look forward to being rejected. :P

Friday, October 10, 2003

so I'm legal now...

It's hard to believe how fast time goes, but I just turned 18. In other words, I'm now legally an adult. Of course, that doesn't mean I'm going to stop listening to my parents - after all, they can now kick me out of the house anytime. :P

As for celebrations, my family went to Pizz'a Chicago for dinner last weekend. I hadn't eaten there in several years, but I must say that their pizzas are really good.

In other news...

I didn't feel like making a separate post about it, but I reached 1,200 skill total in RuneScape two days ago. You can see the screenshot here. Speaking of RuneScape milestones, I've changed my goal to level 99 firemaking because fishing was getting too boring. At my current rate, I should reach 99 firemaking sometime next spring!

Currently playing: RuneScape

Tuesday, September 2, 2003

accidentally let my RuneScape membership renew itself...

Now that school has started for me, I decided to cancel my RuneScape membership in order to focus more on my classes. But when I logged in yesterday afternoon, the membership had already been renewed. Though I immediately requested a refund, Jagex told me this wasn't possible.

This was pretty cheap of them in my opinion. Because the RuneScape website never made it clear when the automatic payments would occur, I had always assumed it was the last day of the billing period. At least the same thing didn't happen last year. Shame on you, Jagex.

While $5 isn't a big deal, companies should be clear in this matter. On the bright side, I can't exactly complain about another month of membership. :P

Currently reading: Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse

Friday, August 29, 2003

my last back-to-school dance at LAHS

Tonight was the back-to-school dance at Los Altos High School. It was so much fun!

Though it wasn't that much different from previous dances, this was the most enjoyable one to date. I'd like to thank the administration and the student body for making such an event possible. I definitively can't wait for the holiday dance in December.

One thing for sure is that I'll miss these dances when I graduate. Let's hope there are dances in college!

Currently listening to: "Angel of Mine" by Monica

Monday, August 25, 2003

first day of my last year of high school

School just started for me. It's hard to believe how fast time has gone. At any rate, I'm now a high school senior!

I should mention that I'm taking Chorale this year to satisfy the fine arts requirement. Though I was reluctant at first due to my fear of performing in public, the class doesn't seem as scary as I had made it out to be. It's actually quite fun, especially with all those cute girls. No wonder Mom has always told me not to judge things before trying them.

You're probably aware that we just returned from a trip to Japan and China. Due to the limited availability of flights, my mother and I almost got stuck overseas. I'm really glad I didn't have to miss the first week of school. That was a close call.

In other news...

I recently beat Duke Nukem 3D: Atomic Edition for the first time without cheats. The fourth episode was quite challenging compared to the first three. It took me numerous tries to defeat the final boss!

Currently listening to: Duke Nukem II soundtrack - "Dukin' it Out" by Bobby Prince

Saturday, August 16, 2003

East Asia trip report

I just got back from East Asia with my mother. Because Dad is there on a business trip and didn't want us to miss our annual summer vacation, he told us to meet in Japan so that we could travel with him while he worked. Mom and I spent about eight days each in Japan and China. The trip was exhausting but also loads of fun. Read on to find out what we did!

Days 1 and 2

There was little time for preparations as Dad had asked us to meet him in Japan just two days earlier. Despite the hectic schedule, the two of us managed to get everything in order. We took the shuttle to the airport and boarded our flight to Tokyo.

The movies kept me occupied during the long ride. X2 and Shanghai Knights were my favorites, although Treasure Planet and Atlantis: The Lost Empire weren't too bad either. I actually liked X2 and Shanghai Knights so much that I watched them more than once!

The plane landed in Tokyo about 12 hours later. I was a little nervous because my father didn't accompany us - especially with the language barrier - but we passed customs and met up with Dad without issues. He then took us to Akihabara after we unpacked our stuff at the hotel. Akihabara was a place that made our first trip to Japan so much fun.

Dad wanted to take us inside a pachinko parlor but was told that I was too young to enter. Though I was just two months shy of the age requirement and could have bluffed my way through, I didn't feel like lying about my age. However, that wasn't a big deal because I already knew how the game worked, the reason being that pachinko machines appear in Shadow Warrior in some levels. Who says video games aren't educational?

Because we were all a little tired after returning to our hotel, the rest of the evening was uneventful. On the other hand, my parents let me renew my RuneScape membership. Thanks, Mom and Dad!

Day 3

The morning began with a trip back to Narita International Airport for our flight to Fukuoka. The funny-sounding name was the first thing that caught my attention. I imagine it's the subject of many jokes. Let's just say my mother insisted it wasn't pronounced "fuck you, OK?"

The highlight of the day was a tour of Mt. Aso, the largest active volcano in Japan. The bus took us to the crater of Mt. Naka. That was a cool sight, although visibility was limited in the dense smoke. The noxious gases were making us uncomfortable, so we didn't stay here too long except to take pictures.

I took the opportunity to check out the gift shop at the Mt. Aso Ropeway terminal before we got back on the bus. The decorated cookies quickly caught my eye. They looked tasty but weren't exactly cheap. After careful consideration, I decided to save the money for other things.

Day 4

About an hour south of Fukuoka was Kumamoto. One of the city's biggest attractions was Kumamoto Castle. Though historical sites aren't my cup of tea, the castle was pretty impressive. The people dressed as palace guards outside the entrance were a nice touch. The rest of Kumamoto was also beautiful.

This was followed by a stop at a mineral spa. The water seemed dark and uninviting but turned out to be fairly clean. Every so often, someone would check to make sure we hadn't passed out from the heat. They probably didn't want to get sued in case something happened to us.

Dad's colleague Naoki invited us and another business associate to a teppanyaki restaurant for dinner. The food was insanely expensive and cost around ¥12,000 per person. Mom felt it was wrong to let Naoki spend so much money on us as this was supposed to be a business affair. Therefore, she and I agreed to share a plate. One reason the meal cost so much is that it included the famous Kobe beef. It looked unappetizing because of the blood but turned out to be delicious.

Day 5

We took the train to Nagasaki after a good night's sleep. Our first stop here was the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum. The exhibits had a strong focus on world peace. The nearby Nagasaki Peace Park contained memorials for those who perished. The most notable feature was the stone monument that marks the spot above which "Fat Man" detonated.

The café at the museum was the perfect spot for lunch. The sandwiches were so good that we ordered seconds. They also weren't expensive at all. This was unusual because food is generally pricey in tourist areas.

The three of us explored downtown Nagasaki afterwards. Dad started getting hungry again and bought some champon as an afternoon snack at one of the eateries. Mom said the noodles were the best thing she ate on the trip.

Day 6

Our journey brought us back to Fukuoka. Aside from an evening stroll, the rest of the day consisted of packing up because we had to catch an early flight to Shanghai. On the bright side, I had lots of time to play RuneScape after dinner.

One thing I noticed while in Fukuoka is that women would congregate on street corners. Some of them were actually rather attractive. They just stood there like they were waiting for someone. I couldn't help but wonder if they were hookers. From what I could tell, they most likely were. I guess it's a good thing I didn't try to chat them up. *shrugs*

Day 7

It was a crazy morning as the taxi driver took us to the wrong airport. The last thing we wanted was to miss our flight. The chauffeur was very nervous as well but eventually found the right place. That was a close call.

The airport was virtually empty when we got there. This was kind of creepy and reminiscent of horror movies. The Langoliers definitely came to mind. On a lighter note, at least our plane didn't get sucked into a pocket dimension full of deadly creatures. :P

The flight to Shanghai was uneventful. One reason people like to visit China is that everything is dirt cheap. I had a great time browsing the street markets, especially with the amazing deals. This was the best part of the trip.

Some vendors had software for sale. I got The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring for just ¥5 at one of the stands. The copy turned out to be a bootleg with DRM removed - which explains the low price. Other than that, the disc worked fine. It wouldn't run on my laptop due to hardware limitations but worked on Dad's without issues.

The final stop of the day was my great-uncle Bao-Chuan's house. Our party had some rest before Bao-Chuan took us to a local restaurant for dinner. On the subject of which, Shanghai has an active nightlife. The streets were full of people and often crowded. But what really caught my attention was all those hot chicks making out with their boyfriends. Lucky dudes.

It was late when we returned to Bao-Chuan's place. I checked my e-mail and briefly logged into RuneScape before going to bed. Of note is that many websites are blocked in China, but a proxy easily solved the problem.

Day 8

Having enjoyed downtown Shanghai so much the day before, the three of us decided to go there again. This time, my parents bought a briefcase to carry all of our stuff. It was originally ¥120 - an already great deal - but Dad talked it down to ¥80 with his haggling skills. What a steal!

However, I soon noticed the combination locks were fake. Talk about "made in China" - no wonder the lady was willing to let it go for such a low price. The briefcase nevertheless did its job and held together for the rest of the trip.

Bao-Chuan and his wife made us a nice home-cooked dinner with lots of dishes. Their hospitality was second to none. Having lived in China for many years, my great-uncle had interesting stories, particularly his experiences with hydrogen bomb tests.

Day 9

It was a somber morning as we went to a cemetery to pay respects to my late great-grandparents on my paternal grandfather Bien-Chuan's side. Bao-Chuan then took us and my aunt Susan to an upscale plaza. Seeing that the weather was fairly warm, Dad treated us to sorbet at a pastry shop. Susan doesn't like cold foods and didn't eat hers - which meant more for me. :-)

Day 10

About 85 km west of Shanghai was Suzhou. The city is sometimes called the "Venice of the East" because of its many canals. Suzhou had a historical feel and was fairly quiet compared to Shanghai. Of the local attractions, the Classical Gardens of Suzhou were our favorite. It's too bad we didn't have time to see all nine of them. On the whole, our stay in Suzhou was quite memorable.

The reason we were short on time is that we had to catch a plane to Beijing in the afternoon. The two-hour flight was also uneventful. Given our late arrival, my family didn't do much other than check into the hotel.

Day 11

Dad was in meetings for almost the entire day. I couldn't play RuneScape or even browse the web because my father needed his computer - the only one with Internet access. It didn't help that there were no nearby Internet cafés. However, the good news is that I had other games that don't require an Internet connection. I actually completed Duke Nukem and Duke Nukem II for the first time without cheats. W00t!

Day 12

The day was much like the previous one: I was again stuck with my old laptop because Dad had more meetings. Though Mom and I went shopping for clothes, the afternoon was pretty dull. But at least I managed to beat Doom II: Hell on Earth without cheat codes. I'm not going to lie - the final boss was annoying as hell.

The evening was more exciting as we went to some supermarkets. The nice thing is that we bought lots of local snacks. Yum!

Day 13

They say no trip to Asia is complete without a visit to the Great Wall of China. The three of us took the cable car to a spot where the wall was accessible. The structure was impressive, especially considering it was built over two millennia ago. However, the Great Wall wasn't without its costs: according to historians, many workers have died from exhaustion during its construction. I guess labor laws didn't exist back then.

Day 14

The Forbidden City was our next stop. One of China's most famous landmarks, the imperial palace once served as the emperor's home for almost five centuries. The whole complex has 980 buildings, but most of them are being renovated and only a handful are publicly accessible. While not as impressive as the Great Wall, the Forbidden City was a sight to behold. I definitely hope the rest of the palace will eventually be opened to the public.

Day 15

We spent the morning exploring parts of Beijing that we hadn't seen. The downtown was huge and full of stores. I could spend days here alone.

Dad took us to the scenic Beihai Park after lunch. The park has a lake and several Buddhist temples. There wasn't enough time to see all of them, although we enjoyed strolling along the lake. The light fog made the view even better. Beihai Park was truly an incredible place.

Days 16 and 17

It was finally time to head home after two long weeks. The Chinese government had ordered a quarantine due to the SARS outbreak in Southeast Asia. It just happened that I had a fever from a cold. The inspectors detected my fever with thermal imaging equipment and kept questioning us. That was a nerve-wracking experience, but they eventually let us pass.

The three of us then boarded our flight to Tokyo. I saw the first half of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers on the plane. The reason we missed the second half is that the movie was longer than the flight itself. Oh well, I'm sure my local library has some copies.

Dad has to stay in Japan for a couple more days due to business reasons. Because his executive assistant had booked the wrong flights, Mom and I had to fly back to Fukuoka and then to San Francisco. There was no direct flight from Tokyo. Shit happens.

At any rate, the outbound flight wasn't too shabby either. I watched The Ninth Gate before trying the SNES games. Street Fighter II and Super Mario All-Stars were great time killers. The only downside is that the controller sucked compared to real SNES hardware. The 12-hour flight was finally over, after which we picked up our luggage and took the shuttle home.

Conclusions

Lasting over two weeks, this was one of our longest trips to date. I actually got a little homesick - which usually doesn't happen when we travel. Of note is that the limited availability of flights made it hard to return home on time. Mom says we had to pay $100 in ticket change fees to avoid being stuck overseas. But at least it's a relief to know I won't miss the first few days of class.

To say the trip was fun would be an understatement. Shopping in Shanghai was the best part because everything is so cheap. Getting used to the prices back home will be tough. Nagasaki, Suzhou and Beihai Park were also worthwhile. The memories from this vacation will certainly last a lifetime.

I hope I can recover from the jet lag before school starts on the 29th. Speaking of which, I'm completely exhausted right now and am off to take a nap. Peace.

Currently playing: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Historical note: Pictures from the trip are available here.

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

finished my summer internship

This was the last day of my internship at Arcadia Design Systems. It was definitely a new experience for me.

The first week went pretty well. Jeff taught me how to write MATLAB programs and always took the time to answer my questions. I also went out to lunch with him and our executive assistant Eileen a couple of times.

However, the last few weeks were dull and unproductive. The office was largely empty because the company has downsized over the years. Because there was nobody to assign me work or teach me new things, I mostly played RuneScape whenever I wasn't studying MATLAB. Of course, this probably isn't something I should be doing at a regular job. *whistles innocently*

At any rate, it's time to enjoy the rest of summer. Speaking of which, Mom and I are heading to Japan tomorrow to join Dad on his business trip. I'm so excited!

In other news...

On the subject of internships, I also recently received an offer for one at ACMA Computers, the company that designed the LAHS student information system. They were impressed that I found all those vulnerabilities in their software. Though I couldn't take up the offer because my family will be in East Asia, I'm extremely grateful that ACMA would consider me.

Currently watching: Jackie Chan Adventures

Monday, July 7, 2003

1,100 skill total in RuneScape

So my parents recently let me become a RuneScape member again. This was the perfect time to catch up on the new skills. Speaking of which, I just hit 1,100 skill total. W00t!

The addition of the agility skill certainly allowed me to reach this milestone a lot faster. You can view the screenshot here. I love how the gnome trainer congratulates me on completing a lap just as I level up. That was purely coincidental, but the timing couldn't have been better. :D

Currently playing: RuneScape

Monday, June 23, 2003

summer internship

I just started my internship at Arcadia Design Systems. Figuring it would get me into a good college, Dad had arranged for me to work at his company as an alternative to summer school. This is my first time working in an office!

The day began with Jeff showing me how to run MATLAB simulations. He then asked me to try to write some code. Jeff says MATLAB is a powerful programming language, but it's all Greek to me. I guess everything takes practice.

To be honest, the internship wasn't something I was interested in. It was my parents who pressured me into accepting the offer. On the other hand, I can't complain about the extra income. :P

Currently watching: X-Men: Evolution

Friday, June 13, 2003

done with 11th grade

I just finished my junior year of high school. This semester was definitely the hardest one so far. I'm glad it's finally over.

Though I didn't take any AP classes, Physics Honors and Trigonometry were already quite tough. The good news is that I had great teachers, but that didn't make the subjects any less easier. Speaking of which, the finals were pretty hard. I hope I didn't do too badly on them. *crosses fingers*

Oh well, none of that matters anymore. It's time to enjoy a well-earned summer. :-)

Currently playing: Space Quest: Chapter I – The Sarien Encounter

Saturday, May 24, 2003

the party that almost wasn't

Today was fun as we had a party for the Memorial Day weekend. Mom and I did all of the work because Dad is out of town again. The good news is that everyone had a great time. However, the party almost didn't happen.

You see, my maternal grandfather was extremely upset this morning for reason. Though we're not sure what set him off, he was madder than a wet hen. Because our guests were all relatives and close friends of my grandparents, Mom was afraid they'd decide not to come. Had that been the case, all the effort we put into the party would be wasted.

To our collective relief, Grandpa cheered up shortly before the party began. I'm glad things worked out in the end. Old people are so weird sometimes!

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

RuneScape account hacked :-(

The thrill of getting level 99 cooking in RuneScape was short-lived as my account got hacked.

The first sign of trouble was that my character was in an unfamiliar area. I checked my bank to find that most of my valuables were gone. The hacker took 33 Hallowe'en masks, 52 Santa hats, my combat equipment, all of my gold and a bunch of other stuff. I know it's only a game, but this still pisses me off.

Of note is that an online virus scan picked up a Trojan on my computer. I suspect that's how they got my password. Though I'm pretty careful with what I download from the Internet, I've heard some malicious websites can install viruses through browser vulnerabilities. On the other hand, this was probably partly my fault because my password was simple.

It's also possible that the hacker decided to specifically target me. The fact that I'm somewhat well-known could have been the reason. But considering that Jagex doesn't return items, none of this really matters. Oh well, better start earning my stuff again...

Update: A bit of good news: my friend Sandman2002 gave me a green mask to help me get started again. There are no words to express my gratitude. Thanks, dude!

Currently listening to: "Sandstorm" by Darude

Wednesday, April 9, 2003

level 99 cooking in RuneScape

I've finally reached 99 cooking in RuneScape after eight months of non-stop grinding. You can see the screenshot here. I still can't believe I actually achieved this goal. W00t!

Of course, this monumental task would have been much harder without the help of friends. I'd like to thank Vera02 and Jeboy for swapping their raw lobsters for mt cooked. I also owe my gratitude to Cbkmy for letting me cook his swordfish. The same goes for everyone else who sold me supplies. There are too many people to name, but you know who you are!

In my opinion, the biggest problem with RuneScape is that there is too much grinding. Doing the same thing over and over again gets boring really fast. I'd probably be among the top 10 cooks right now if I really tried. That said, being the 36th person to reach 99 cooking certainly gives me bragging rights. :-)

In other news...

On a related note, good luck to fellow RuneScape player Thehate on his own goal of 99 cooking!

Currently playing: RuneScape

Monday, February 17, 2003

Yosemite trip report + rest of winter break

Happy Presidents Day!

Winter break is off to a great start as I just got back from Yosemite National Park with my parents. Because I was sick during Christmas break and couldn't go anywhere, Dad decided to take us on to Yosemite over the long weekend. This was nice as we hadn't been to Yosemite in ages.

Day 1

The first stop was our family friend Tiffany's house in Fresno. Mom wanted to visit her because Tiffany often brings her daughter over to study Buddhism. There wasn't much to do at their house, but Duke Nukem II kept me busy while the adults talked.

The three of us arrived in Oakhurst about an hour later. Our hotel was nice and quite comfortable. Other than that, the evening was uneventful aside from dinner at Burger King and a stop at Kragen Auto Parts for snow chains.

Day 2

The air in Yosemite was very fresh and made our stay very worthwhile. The fantastic views were the best part of the trip. I also enjoyed visiting Yosemite Village and checking out the Village Store. Our final stop of the day was Curry Village. This was our first time staying in the cabins!

Day 3

We had to leave fairly early because Dad has to catch flight to Japan tonight. Though we considered stopping in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, there just wasn't enough time. However, I'm not going to complain because a short trip is better than no vacation at all.

Speaking of which, there was a funny moment: my mother and I were packing up when we were greeted by an awful stench. It seems someone in a nearby cabin just took a really big shit. The smell was so bad that we couldn't stay outside for more than a few seconds. The whole thing was gross but hilarious in hindsight. Mom and I had a good laugh about it on the way home.

February 24 update: I'm now back in school as winter break as ended. I didn't feel like making a separate post as the rest of the break was uneventful.

Currently playing: Duke Nukem II

Historical note: Pictures from the trip are available here.

Monday, January 6, 2003

a crappy Christmas break

So the spring semester has started. To tell you the truth, the break was awful because I was sick the whole time. I'm actually still not feeling well and can barely talk because of laryngitis. :-(

The other thing is that we mostly stayed home due to our current financial situation. Though we went hiking in Stevens Creek County Park three days ago, that's pretty much all we did. Other than that, I had to spend most of the time studying for the finals. Fuck that shit.

All that having been said, there were some high points. One of our family friends gave me a tray of dried fruit from Casa de Fruta. It was nice to share it with my parents. I also got to play RuneScape during study breaks. If everything goes well, I should reach level 90 cooking in a few days. :-)

Currently playing: RuneScape

Wednesday, January 1, 2003

an unhappy new year

I hope everyone had a great new year because mine sucked. The worst part is that I caught a bad cold just after the break started. I'm actually still very sick at the moment. The fact that finals are coming up doesn't help the issue.

2002 in review

The last few months have been rough. For a start, the workload was heavy - which isn't unexpected for 11th graders. It doesn't help that my father decided to start an argument with me over my studying habits. Mrs. Schiffman kicked me out of Spanish III two weeks later. I then had a crappy weekend before getting this nasty cold - what a shitty way to end the year.

Despite all the bad things, 2002 had its highlights. Our trip to Hawaii was probably the best part of the year. I really enjoyed visiting the Southwest U.S. as well. All that having been said, here's to hoping 2003 will be better. :-)

Currently watching: True Lies