Monday, August 30, 2004

my first class at Cal

The fall semester has officially started. I just came back from the Chemistry 1A lecture. It was my first college class ever!

Just as I expected, the class was very large. There were around 300 to 400 people in Pimentel Hall. This was also a new experience for me. The other thing is that Prof. Nitsche is totally hilarious. He certainly knows how to make freshmen feel welcome.

Of note is that courses are normally split into lectures and discussions. Some also have a lab section, depending on the subject. Unlike the lectures, the other sections usually have few people. Speaking of classes, I should probably start getting ready for Math 1A. :-)

Saturday, August 28, 2004

report of my first college dance

I just got back from the Dance & Casino Night. This was my first college dance and certainly a new experience. As the name of the event suggests, there were games like blackjack and roulette. I'm not really good at them and decided to just watch.

Of note is that there were no slow songs. I had never been to a dance that didn't have slow music. That was a little weird and didn't make much sense.

The event was supposed to end at midnight, but the dance floor was empty by 11:15 p.m. The DJ stopped the music at this point. Though it's not her fault that people leave, she should have kept the music going. Just my two cents. Feel free to read my review of the dance for more details.

In other news...

There was also a game night at the residential computing center. I got to play Doom 3 for the first time. The game was kind of scary but also pretty fun!

Currently playing: Doom 3

Sunday, August 22, 2004

first day of college!

The big day has arrived. I moved into the dorms at Berkeley this afternoon, and so begins a new chapter in my life.

One thing for sure is that college is very different from high school. Though I was nervous at first, I'm already getting used to the new environment. Speaking of which, my roommate Scott seems like a cool dude. The other six people in our suite are really nice as well. Oh yeah, and hot chicks are everywhere. ^_^

While the classes don't start until the 30th, new students are encouraged to attend Welcome Week to get a feel of the school. The schedule is filled with activities, including a dance on Friday evening. I'm pretty excited.

In other news...

The Lu family invited us to dinner at HomeTown Buffet. Everything was totally delicious. All of us then went to their house to hang out for the evening. The gathering was supposed to be last night, but the Lus agreed to move it to Friday because I wanted more time to prepare for my move. I truly appreciate their consideration.

Currently playing: The Incredible Machine: Even More Contraptions

Historical note: Pictures from Move-In Day are available here.

Monday, August 16, 2004

the anxiety is killing me...

So I'm moving to Berkeley in six days. The transition to college is one of the biggest changes in my life. Though it's very exciting, I'm also extremely nervous. The stress has been getting to me, especially considering that I had an anxiety attack after coming back from Alaska a few days ago. Yikes.

Having said that, everything will probably be fine. After all, almost every high school graduate goes to college!

In other news...

1. I finally got to try the chocolates I bought in Alaska. They were delicious and worth the price.

2. I recently got my own cell phone. :-)

Currently playing: Hoyle Puzzle Games (2003 edition)

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Alaska trip report

So my family just came back from Alaska. I know it's a little weird to go on another trip so soon, but Dad had some miles that were about to expire. Although we just went to the Pacific Northwest last month, I still had an awesome time.

Day 1

It was a somber morning as we had to bury my grandmother Pi-Tan first. The service was about an hour long and ended around 11 a.m. The three of us had lunch with two family friends before heading home to pack up.

The flight to Anchorage was fairly late. Upon checking into our hotel, Mom noticed our room smelled like cigarettes. How unpleasant. Finding the right person took a while, but they allowed us to change to another room. It was almost midnight when we were ready for bed.

Day 2

The morning began with a visit to Wrangell–St. Elias National Park and Preserve. The route took us through the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel. Because it has only one lane, traffic is limited to one direction and alternates at regular intervals. That was a cool experience.

At over 13 million acres, Wrangell–St. Elias is the largest national park in the United States. The view of the wilderness was spectacular. The downside is that mosquitoes were everywhere. I was bitten several times during our short stay here. Blah.

The journey brought us to Valdez (our destination for the next two nights) in the evening. This was a quiet little place; my parents and I checked into our hotel and had dinner at a Mexican restaurant. The food was delicious!

Day 3

Valdez marks the southern end of the Alaska pipeline, one of the most famous landmarks in the state. The 800-mile Trans-Alaska Pipeline System is an impressive feat of engineering. The pipeline runs along the Dalton Highway and was a cool sight.

Dad took us to Worthington Glacier in the late afternoon. The glacier looked small from a distance, but we were surprised by its size when we got close. Upon returning to the parking lot, I noticed one of the car doors was open. Oops. To our relief, everything was accounted for. That was a close call.

Day 4

Our next destination was Fairbanks. Due to the distance, most of the day was spent driving. On the other hand, the scenery along the route was amazing and made the drive very worthwhile.

About 15 miles south of Fairbanks was North Pole. The town isn't related to the real North Pole but has a strong Christmas theme. The whimsical street names like Santa Claus Lane and Kris Kringle Drive made for some memorable photos. The funny thing is that we came across this place by chance. Sometimes the best things are unplanned.

Day 5

One thing I was looking forward to was crossing the Arctic Circle. Because most rental agencies don't allow their vehicles on unpaved roads - such as the Dalton Highway - we decided to book a tour. Our guide Tank (a cool guy with a cool name) was an outdoor enthusiast who knew everything about Alaska. Of note is that we were the only ones who signed up. That meant we got to take all of the extra food. Talk about VIP treatment!

The four of us arrived at the Arctic Circle after a four-hour drive. The only feature was a large wooden sign, but stopping here was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. This was followed by another long drive back to Fairbanks. On the whole, the tour was my favorite part of the trip.

We said goodbye to Tank before heading to downtown Fairbanks for groceries. Speaking of which, I picked up a box of chocolates from Alaska Wild Berry Products at Fred Meyer. They caught my eye because of the unusual flavors. I can't wait to try them.

The fun ended when Dad got pulled over for speeding. It just happened that he was going very fast because of the downhill slope. This was rather unexpected, especially considering that we rarely saw police. The fine wasn't too steep but still put a damper on our mood. :-(

Our lodging for the night was a cabin in Cantwell. With a population of about 200 people, Cantwell was a desolate place. Despite the remoteness, the cabin wasn't too bad.

Day 6

I'm glad we bought our groceries the day before because the food was insanely expensive. For example, the full breakfast was around $16 according to the menu. Yikes!

After checking out of the cabin, my parents and I headed to Denali National Park and Preserve for another tour. We got to see all kinds of animals, such as bears, elk and moose. Denali was definitely another highlight of the trip. Like the Arctic Circle tour, this one was also around eight hours long. All of us completely exhausted by the day's end. Back in Anchorage, my family had a nice dinner at a Japanese restaurant before returning to the hotel for some well-deserved rest.

Day 7

Our flight home was in the afternoon. There was some spare time, during which we explored the downtown. I wanted to visit the Alaska Wild Berry Products store, but our time ran out. This was unfortunate because the factory tour and free samples sounded interesting. Oh well. :-(

The flight to San Francisco was uneventful. Our family friend Karen picked us up and gave us a ride home. I was totally exhausted at this point and went to bed shortly after unpacking.

Conclusions

Though we just came back from another trip, this one was no less exciting. The Arctic Circle tour was my favorite part by far. While the scenery was average, not many people can say they've crossed the Arctic Circle. Denali was also fun as we saw all kinds of wildlife. The memories from this trip will last years.

Alaska is one of the most unspoiled places in the world. Of course, the downside is that it gets extremely cold in the winter. It's certainly not a place I'd want to live for the rest of my life. That said, I wouldn't mind a vacation there every so often. :-)

Currently playing: Field & Stream: Trophy Bass 4

Historical note: Pictures from the trip are available here.

Wednesday, August 4, 2004

buried my grandmother today

It was an emotional day as we laid my maternal grandmother Pi-Tan to rest at the Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Los Altos. She had passed away two and a half months ago. Her funeral was held in Taiwan, but we brought her ashes back to California because she loved living in America.

The service at Gate of Heaven was a fairly small affair. The only attendees were my aunt Jill, the Shiehs and two close family friends. The ceremony took about an hour and was quite sobering. As the service concluded, I realized how precious life really is. I'm going to miss Grandma for sure. :-(

In other news...

On a happier note, my family is leaving for Alaska later in the afternoon. This will be our second summer trip!

Currently watching: The War of the Worlds