May 20, 2012
Married to Christina
Christina and I had our marriage celebration today with a small group of friends and family. Everything went very well and Christina looked beautiful in her wedding gown and Chinese dress. We held the ceremony beside a lake (water hazard) at Summitpointe Golf Club and then had the reception afterwards in the main hall. It wasn't the most fancy venue but the outdoor ceremony was very nice and most importantly everyone enjoyed it.
My friend Anthony did a great job as our ceremony officiant, reading a script prepared by one of my other friends Matt who unfortunately couldn't make it because he got stuck in Indonesia on business. We had a sand ceremony of red and blue sand that we poured into a heart-shaped vase Christina found in China. Christine, one of Christina's friends, was her maid of honor and Jasmine was her bridesmaid. Calvin was my best man and Dennis was my groomsman. Naomi wore a pretty little white dress and was our flower girl.
Christina was particularly happy with the flowers that we had that day. That was probably the best decoration of the entire celebration. We took all the flowers home and they're all over our bedroom right now. Some of the other stuff didn't go as well: we didn't find out that the room wasn't going to be decorated until the day before and had to make rush arrangements to get that done and the changing room was very small and was primarily the event coordinator's office.
At the reception, Dennis was the DJ and he did a really good job at it. We played 'Eyes on Me' by Faye Wong as the song for our first dance. During our dinner at the sweetheart table we had a special guest because Caitlin came to eat with us. Calvin and my mom said a few words for the toast. Christina didn't like the food that much but other people said it was good. I played a lot with Naomi and Caitlin which was lots of fun, and was happy to see Shannon and Mei-Ling again after over a year since last time.
We all had a good time but we're glad it's all over so we can relax again.
June 11, 2010
Where I Am
I guess I need to post this. I used to post a lot about what was going on in my life. Now not so much. Partially that is because I've been busy with other things, like running Neko Audio. Partially because I can't really maintain the rate at which I was posting reviews of all the movies, music, and video games I go through. But also partially because things started unravelling in my personal life in the past couple of years.
Anyone who has either followed my blog or bothered to read through will have noticed a large number of posts mentioning Luna. We're no longer married; we split last year. I debated with myself about posting this, but I figure my blog needs to contain a complete picture of things. Otherwise visitors, and myself when I read through the past, would only understand half. At least for the things I do post about.
I have started posting a bit more. There is a giant one year gap in my blog between the end of 2008 and the end of 2009. I won't be posting as frequently as I used to (which is somewhat disappointing to me as I used my blog to record what I thought of movies and video games) but I intend to continue posting about interesting things I come across and interesting things that are happening in my life.
April 18, 2010
Florence + The Machine
I just got back from seeing Florence + The Machine live at Mezzanine in San Francisco. It was great and I had a lot of fun. Her music is unique and very engaging. There's something about her songs that is very hard to pin down; when asked what type of music it is I don't know that I can say something better than Alternative-Indie, and yet that's wrong. She sings real lyrics that remain catchy and magical. The backing band, and in particular The Machine, brings it all together to create an experience and music I want to listen to over and over again.
I ended up spending the night with Becker, whom I sold my extra ticket to, and a pair of sisters, Heidi and Mary, from Oklahoma who flew over for the weekend just to attend the concert (and do some tourist stuff). Becker was crazy excited the entire time. We also met a girl from Ireland who was stuck on holiday due to the volcano ash. Having them to hang out with did make it more enjoyable for me, although I spent most of the night just enjoying the music.
Before Florence + The Machine came on, some music was being played by DJ's Aaron and Nako. I liked some of what they spun, but probably less than half. The intro band was Holy Hail. Unfortunately it seems as though their setup was messed up because none of us could understand anything being sung. What little I could understand didn't impress me. Pretty much everyone was just standing around waiting for Florence + The Machine to show up.
Florence has an awesome voice and really gets into the music while singing, except she does it while being herself. When watching her on stage, I feel like she's dancing and flailing just the way she wants to and not through some choreographed set. I feel like she dances and moves the way I do. She sounds quite different when speaking instead of singing though.
I particularly like The Machine (Isabella Summers) who is on keyboards. I feel as though the drums provide the musical foundation but Isabella provides the glue. There are drums, bass, guitar, and harp. Everything else that flows throughout the songs is provided by Isabella. So I gave her a heart-hand and she gave me one back. ^_^
After the show, said good-bye to Becker as he was buying a Lungs T-shirt and gave Heidi and Mary a ride back to their hotel.
I should also mention that by chance Carol Chang happened to walk by while I was waiting in line. We talked for a minute or two as she was on her way to meet some friends for diner. I haven't seen her in years. It was really nice to see her again.
August 10, 2008
Wedding BBQ + Picnic
Luna and I had our official wedding celebration yesterday at Almaden Lake Park. It wasn't anything fancy, although we were both dressed up in suit and wedding dress. That was somewhat uncomfortable because I had to do a lot of heaving lifting and cooking and all of the setup. It was a barbeque with some Chinese food ordered from Mimi's Chinese Kitchen (a small family owned Chinese restaurant). The cake was from Flower Flour.
Of course my parents and brothers were here, along with both my brothers' girlfriends. Wendy and Brian were there. Mei-Ling and of course Shannon and Yvonne. Alla and her boyfriend Eric. Hsiuli and Spencer, plus I think an aunt or Hsiuli's aunt. Tintin made it. The BBQ and picnic lasted a few hours. Afterwards we went back home and some people came with us. Spencer really got into playing Settlers of Catan. Shannon and Yvonne liked to visit the kitties, of course.
At night I basically collapsed. I had been going on adrenaline the entire day in order to take care of everything. All the setup, cleaning, and hanging out with people. Once the adrenaline stopped I couldn't even really move.
On Sunday it was just Luna and me with Dennis and Iris, Calvin, and Spencer. We ate lunch at Round Table and then played a round of miniature golf at Golfland.
June 30, 2008
LAFF 2008 + Electric Daisy
This year Netflix's film festival-related party was in Los Angeles as part of the LA Film Festival. Luna and I drove down and stayed in a hotel near the beach. We spent some time exploring there, and ate at a theme seafood restaurant (not super great). But probably the most memorable part of exploring was this pet store we found near the hotel that had some kittens and cats for adoption. Of course Luna wanted to bring them home, but we can't take care of any more cats than we already have.
Netflix's party was co-hosted by FOX again, in some expensive house up in the hills. I guess someone actually lives there, but it was available for rent. It has a really great view of Los Angeles, and there was a swimming pool and it was fairly large in comparison to the types of houses that you might find in the area. Luna mostly ate some food, and met Reed for the first time. I danced a little bit but not much. We didn't stay too late.
Since we had gone down to Los Angeles before, this time we went to Universal Studios instead of Disneyland. The park was much more movie-oriented of course, and more shows than rides. So I didn't find it as much fun but there were certainly a lot of interesting things to see. We did the ride that goes through the park and stage sets. There was a Mummy ride in promotion with the new Mummy movie. We had a good time for the most part.
At night I went with Greg Orzell to Electric Daisy. That was definitely the most exciting part of my trip. Luna isn't into that sort of music or dancing so she didn't go. It took us a long time to get inside, but it was really great. Tons of people, but not too many so you didn't have room to dance since it was outdoors at a stadium. Although it was too many if you wanted to try and get in and out of the stadium. I wasn't really dressed the part. I should have worn shorts and a T-shirt instead of slacks and a clubbing shirt. A lot of people were wearing a lot less clothing.
The best set was definitely by BT. His music is upbeat enough to keep the body moving, but intricate and beautiful at the same time instead of just being a bunch of drum 'n bass, jungle, or house. Paul Oakenfold was also there, but I thought his set was just okay. I also remember Paul Van Dyk's set, because he was last and probably the most heavily promoted of the artists. He included a strong laser light show, and it was probably good to place him last because his music is more trance and ambient so it slowed things down a bit. But that also meant it wasn't really the most exciting music to listen to in this party environment.
There was one scary incident during the carnival, when a girl collapsed. I ran to find the local paramedics, but by the time I actually found them someone had already called it in. I'm not sure what ended up happening to her, but I think she was okay when they found her.
Overall a really fun time. I danced pretty much non-stop for around four hours. Massive leg cramps but I danced through those too. :)
April 13, 2008
Karen will be leaving to Switzerland soon. I have to remember it's Switzerland and not Sweden by remembering it's the neutral place. She and Sebastian are moving there, because Sebastian got a professorship at the University. It's going to be a big change for her, and this'll probably be the last time I get to see her for a few years.
We drove up and then took BART into San Francisco to meet up with some of her other friends. Ended up going around to a few bars and just hanging out. One place was really tiny and crowded and the music was really loud. The other place was larger and so we had more room. Played one of those cheap video game kiosks and some darts. A bunch of people were playing beer pong in the back room. Looked kind of gross considering everywhere the ping pong ball was going.
Anyway, Karen had a lot of fun so that's good. It'll give her a good memory before leaving.
March 29, 2008
I helped Tintin move today. The person she had been renting a room from had her daughter and son-in-law move in because they're pregnant and so they need the room again. So Tintin moved into a room at a different house nearby, still in East San Jose. She doesn't have too much stuff so it wasn't bad. But I did end up breaking her mirror by accident.
Tintin's parents also showed up later to help, at the new place. It took them a long time to drive up, so it was good we had most everything in her new room already. They treated me to lunch at a Phở place nearby which was yummy.
February 28, 2008
It is Luna's birthday today. We didn't do much of anything special, but Silke did come over and gave her a potted flower as a gift. They were watching The Animatrix when I got home, because Silke came over earlier. For dinner we ate Chinese take out and Luna cooked some vegetables. Then we had a Sogo Bakery cake that we bought from 99 Ranch this past weekend. Later on we spent some time just sitting on the floor talking about random things, before it got a little late and Silke left.
February 23, 2008
Visit from Silke
Silke's back in San Jose again after about two years. She's the new team lead for development in Germany, and Karsten who used to be the team lead is now a manager. So IBM flew her out to meet some of the people she's working with in San Jose and for some training. This was her first time meeting Luna, although I'd mentioned Luna to her the last time she was here.
We went to eat at Sato Sushi. The food was good although a little pricey as usual for a Japanese restaurant. We mostly talked about how things are at IBM and what the people there that both of us know are doing now. Luna talked a little bit about her classes. Luna thought it was strange that Silke would go to live at a monastery and learn Kung Fu.
Afterwards, we came back home and played a game of Hunters and Gatherers. It was actually a very close game until I got lucky and pulled out the shrine which let me get all of the field, which we were previously sharing, to myself. If I hadn't pulled that I wouldn't have won, because I was trailing by a fair margin the entire time.
January 24, 2008
Luna's First Day of Classes
Luna had her first day of classes today. She's started taking a graphic design course at the Central County Occupational Center which is part of Santa Clara County's public continuing education system. We had looked at a program at Western Career College earlier, but it really wasn't going to provide her with what she wanted. They spent about a week each on various software packages or basic design concepts rather than going in depth, and Jamie told us later they aren't very good. They're also much more expensive. The course provided by CCOC looks much better, with focused work on actual graphic design for the duration of the course.
January 9, 2008
Wii with Karen + Sebastian
Luna, Iris, and I went up to visit Karen and Sebastian tonight because Sebastian will be leaving to Switzerland soon to start working there as a professor. Karen won't be joining him until after she graduates from Stanford, which should be sometime this summer. We went out to Thai food, which was good and reasonably priced, and I think I spent most of the time talking to Sebastian and Karen about the Presidential candidates and public policy ideas. Karen thinks it is unfair that people are fined based on their income in Switzerland, for example, while Sebastian and I think it makes sense because fines are supposed to be punishments rather than to be fees or to reflect any particular costs.
Afterwards we went back to Karen's place and played Wii Sports. It's the first time Luna or I had played a Wii; Iris had played before. I was okay at Wii Tennis, but I couldn't do well at Wii Boxing or Wii Bowling. Boxing seemed to have a very heavy delay between movement of the remote and nunchuck, and the most effective techniques really didn't look anything like what the characters on screen were doing. I don't really know what was wrong with bowling though, because I just couldn't get it to swing the arm and release the ball correctly.
Lastly we played a round of Pictionary. The teams were Karen, Luna, and me versus Sebastian and Iris. Our team pulled ahead early on very quickly, but then we got hit by a short period of losses and they caught up. In the end we got to the finish first though, and won the game. A couple of times it was easier to guess off the other team's artist, but that's okay because Sebastian likes to do that and so it's acceptable strategy. :)
December 28, 2007
Home from Christmas
Luna and I just got back from spending Christmas at my parents house in New York. We were there for four days, not including the two days spent flying. Dennis and Iris were there until the 24th, after which they went to Iris' parents' place. Calvin took the same flights that we did.
Luna was really excited to see so much snow, and the first day she wanted to go outside and play in it. But it was raining at that time and she hadn't packed the right clothing for us. In fact, she only packed me one pair of pants and the wrong shirts, so I ended up having to go buy some pants and wash the clothes often. Luna also bought some boots and a bag while we were out. We never got around to actually playing in the snow afterwards.
And I actually spent two days just watching season one of Heroes on my mom's laptop. Luna watched season one just before we flew out, without me. Heroes has excellent characters and a great plot. That's really what's so good about the show. There is a pretty large cast of people, some with super powers and some without, who find themselves bound together through taut strings of destiny to save the world. As things are revealed and you try to piece together the puzzle of motivations and challenges, so are they doing the same thing.
Unfortunately, while there's a really strong cast and excellent plot, the execution itself is plagued with sloppiness. That's a real turn off for me, and Luna didn't like it either after I started pointing them out to her. There are scenes that show up in one episode, and then you see them again in the following episode but the dialog, action, and even the set have changed. Part of me thinks this must have become a deliberate choice, if it didn't already start out that way. There's even one character who shows up and then mysteriously disappears without explanation. And some Ando-paradoxes are never answered.
Still, it's a great show and I can understand why people really like it. There's a whole lot of inside jokes and little gestures as well, such as George Takei's license plate or Stan Lee's cameo. I did appreciate those, although I suspect the vast majority of viewers didn't even notice.
Christmas day Luna and I spent sleeping. She wanted to wake up early to get presents, but then after that we both went back to sleep and ended up spending a lot of the night actually awake instead of sleeping. I got a new pair of sneakers which I really needed because mine are so old; I was actually looking at some when we went out earlier to buy the pants, but ended up not buying any. I also got socks and some money. Luna got a coat and a pair of warm socks. Calvin got me Transmission and Luna a scarf. Dennis and Iris gave us Genki Hats of Luna and Artemis.
The day after Christmas Luna and I took Amtrak to New York City. She wanted to see the Statue of Liberty and ground zero. The train ride was about 2.5 hours each direction, and was convenient because once in the city we could just take the subway and walk. Unfortunately the actual Statue of Liberty ferries and stops took four whole hours to do. We had to wait in line for a long time to get onto the ferry, which has airport-like security screening, and then again on the way to Ellis Island and back to Manhattan. We couldn't get into the Statue of Liberty itself though because all of the time passes had been given out; you need to reserve well in advance it seems. So other than some quick pictures it wasn't very fruitful. It's also a lot smaller than I thought it would be. The tickets are sold out of Castle Clinton though, and the whole thing brought back memories of Deus Ex.
Afterwards we went to ground zero but didn't enter the special memorial thing they have set up while construction is going on. Luna just snapped some quick pictures through holes in the fence they set up around the hole. When we saw some local cemeteries she thought the people that died there had been buried right there, but of course those are just regular cemeteries next to churches.
Dinner was at Roxy's Delicatessen which is pricey but nice. I probably wouldn't go back again though. Service was a little slow and I saw one of the wrapped muffins fall on the floor and then get put back onto the shelf (it was wrapped, so not really a big deal, but still feels weird). We walked around Times Square for a long time, visiting places like the M&M store and Hershey store until it was time for our train back.
It's the flight back to San Jose that was really annoying. Our plane at Albany arrived late, so there was no airplane for us to take to Detroit even though we could have left if a plane and crew had been available. As a result, we missed our connection in Detroit and ended up taking a later flight to Minneapolis/St. Paul on standby. And since we were late arriving there, our flight to San Jose had already left and we would have to stay overnight if we wanted to catch the next one. Instead, we got on standby for a flight to San Francisco, and arrived at SFO around 12:30am without any of our luggage. We had to wait a long time for a shuttle that would take us to where Luna and I parked at SJC, and finally arrived home at 3am. Northwest needs to find our luggage and somehow get it back to California to deliver to our home.
December 12, 2007
Dinner with Samir + Jamie
Luna and I had dinner with Samir and Jamie tonight. Originally we were going to have dinner with Dantam, because we haven't seen her in a while since she started working for Akamai. She no longer lives or works close to our place, so we've only been keeping in touch via IM. Unfortunately, Dantam had something else to go to and she wasn't able to make it (this was actually her second cancellation; the first time she forgot about her Spice Girls concert).
We went to a nice Mexican place called La Fiesta Restaurant. It's kind of on a back street that doesn't look like it would contain any commercial buildings, with a parking lot that is way too small for it and would have been impossible to navigate with a long car or large truck. The food was pretty good, although I was surprised they didn't serve horchata at all. I'm not even sure the waiter knew what we were talking about.
Mostly we talked about Luna's school plans, the landscaping work we were doing, Samir and Jamie's plans for a trip to Japan, and a few things about work. Of course there was a little talk about our cats as well. For some strange reason one of their cats (Rosemary I think) is trained to come to you when you whistle, and the other (Mojito) is trained to go to the bathroom when you whistle.
November 28, 2007
A Visit from Iris
Iris visited us this afternoon/evening because she was here for a couple days interviewing with Cisco. They had some sort of group interview program going on for something Iris called Choice, which lets you pick what you're going to work on after they hire you. They paid for her flight and hotel, but no car because she was just shuttled around.
So I picked her up this afternoon after her interviewing was done. We talked a little bit about her job hunt and interviews and the different companies she has been talking to. She had a lot of questions about how startups work and compensation in terms of stock options and going IPO or getting acquired. When we got back home, Luna spent a lot of time talking with her about random things.
For dinner we went to Sweet Tomatoes because Luna really likes the place now. The first time we went there she didn't like it at all and complained about eating raw vegetables. But now she likes the vegetables and soup and dessert. We did end up talking about family things a little bit over dinner, and Dennis because Iris needs to start working right away but Dennis doesn't yet. I don't think Iris likes Sweet Tomatoes that much though.
Afterwards, we took Iris to the airport. They've reworked some of the roads at the San Jose International Airport. It's a little easier to get out of the airport, but I'm not sure if it is possible to loop around anymore. You can't wait at the curb to pick up passengers, so you either have to keep looping around or park in the mobile phone lot or outside the airport for a while. If you can't loop around, though, then I think many people would leave and not be sure how to get back in.
November 11, 2007
Settlers of Catan and The Crazy Stone
Tonight was originally a movie night, but Mitch and Tintin had to cancel which prompted Wendy to ask if we could have a game night instead; she said she was movied-out. So it ended up Wendy, Brian, Matt, Ling, and Thomas showed up, but I was a little annoyed because everything came together so haphazardly. For starters, Brian asked if we had any coupons to get food after I IM'ed him that morning, and I thought we had confirmed going to King Buffet at 7pm; that Matt and Ling would be carpooling with Wendy and Brian; and that Thomas was not coming because he never replied to the mailing list and Brian said not to count him in. Brian did say he would call back if that changed, but I missed his calls and didn't see any of Wendy's IMs (which ended up on my work computer).
With me, things aren't going to go very well with last minute changes or decisions because I am not easy to reach when I am home. I also rarely like to do things on short notice. Anyway, what happened is Luna and I drove to King Buffet and it was only after we were there for a while that I discovered Wendy's voice mail. We ended up ordering from Golden House Chinese and picked up on the way home to meet Wendy and Brian to eat. Matt and Ling would show up later, because they already ate, and I didn't even know Thomas was coming until later.
Regardless, we played a Seafarers scenario of Settlers of Catan. Wendy and Brian played as a team. I ended up getting trapped into a corner very early in the game because I took a risk on more resources rather than ensuring I could not get trapped. So it became a very tough game for me to enjoy. Luna had a lot of fun though, because she kept exploring. The rest of the players thought she was far ahead because she explored so far, but she wasn't building anything which would hurt her later. Wendy and Brian ended up having enough room to build a little on the mainland while maintaining the resources needed to explore out and establish themselves on another island. That, with their development card victory points, won them the game.
Afterwards, we watched Crazy Stone because Luna really wanted to watch it and kept talking about it all night. Wendy and Brian ended up staying, I think, just because Luna was so enthusiastic about it. They were really tired though, and left before it finished because Wendy was falling asleep. I thought it was okay; I don't like that kind of humor so much and found the way it was cut a little disorienting. Matt thought it was very funny though.
October 20, 2007
Night Watch and Vampire Effect (The Twins Effect)
We hosted a pretty big movie night tonight, and as it turned out it was sort of good that Wendy and Brian had to cancel at the last minute because we used up all the seats as is. Matt and Ling showed up a little late, and Mitch and his wife showed up for the first time. Tintin, Thomas, and Greg filled the rest of it out. We had two XL pizzas from Round Table because I had some coupons from the raffle I entered for Anthony's son's school Halloween party.
The first movie we watched was picked in a sort of democratic fashion. Even though it was supposed to be a scary movie night, a lot of people didn't really want to watch something that scary. So our first movie was Night Watch, a Russian film about good vampires versus evil vampires. It's a strange film, because the world of these vampires is a little kooky, rather than dramatic and beautiful. Their cars have jet engines on them and the bad guy boss plays video games while directing his minions. It looked a little low budget as well, and the storyline wasn't all that deep. Tintin liked it, but I thought it was just okay.
Greg, and Mitch and his wife left at that point, because they all had things to do the next morning. But the rest of us watched a second movie, Chin Gei Bin, which is primarily sold as starring the pop duo of Charlene Choi and Gillian Chung, with a cameo of Jackie Chan. Jackie Chan actually shows up for more than a cameo, and Karen Mok also makes an appearance which was pretty cool. I liked this film because it didn't take itself too seriously and was just a lot of fun. The action scenes are over the top but cool and exciting. The jokes flow freely and they aren't afraid to poke fun at themselves. And there's a odd-couple love story that makes things interesting. Ling told us afterwards that all of the subtitles were completely made up though. I've put the sequel, The Twins Effect 2, onto my queue. :)
October 14, 2007
Game Night at Karen's
Luna and I just came back from having a game night (afternoon) at Karen's place. Ilya and his wife Katya also came; the last time I saw them was at Jamie and Keelan's wedding in Philadelphia. We played a game of Settlers of Catan, without any expansions. It was a close match, but in the end Katya had more resources and managed to pull ahead because I lost longest road to Karen. With longest road, I only needed one more victory point but Katya managed to pull that one off with a development card. Luna even tried to help me win, but she only traded me enough to upgrade to a city and get one point. Ilya suffers from the same sickness as Sebastian, and was constantly peeking at Katya's cards.
Ilya and Katya had to leave because they had other dinner plans, but the rest of us went to dinner at a fancy Indian restaurant. Good food, but not a whole lot of it for the price. I guess some of it was too spicy for Luna, because even though we ordered non-spicy dishes she said they were all too spicy for her liking.
Sebastian will be leaving for Switzerland at the beginning of next year, and Karen will be going after she graduates. So I'm not sure if we'll meet up with Sebastian again before he leaves. He's going to be doing post-doctoral work at a university there, and Karen plans to get a job in industry.
After dinner, we played a couple games of Apples to Apples. It's a party game where you try and pick a card from your hand that best matches the idea for that round. For example, the idea might be arrogance and you might have a card that is for an actor you think is arrogant. Or you might have nothing similar, in which case you'd play something completely unrelated. Each round, there is a judge who picks the card they like best, and whoever played that card wins a point. Conceptually it sounds like it might be amusing to play, but in reality it wasn't that much fun. Perhaps with more players, or judges who picked by some more ridiculous criteria, it would be.
October 7, 2007
Game Night at Matt & Ling's
Luna and I just got back from a game night at Matt and Ling's place, up in Fremont. They live very close to Shannon and Yvonne, actually. Wendy, Brian, and Quyen were there and Thomas showed up later at 8pm. We ate some random stuff for a while before starting the games. Luna wanted to play Bohnanza again so we played that first. Wendy won that with 13 points; I had 12 and Luna had 9. By that time Thomas had arrived so we needed to figure out how to get eight people into a game. We ended up splitting into two groups. Luna played Settlers of Catan with Wendy, Ling, and Brian. And I played a game called Nexus Ops with Quyen, Thomas, and Matt.
Nexus Ops is a little remiscent in the look of its units to Starcraft. The basic idea is to acquire victory points by completing missions and winning battles against the other players. There are six types of units, with the cheaper ones being very weak and the more expensive ones very powerful. The mid-level units have certain abilities that make them more useful in some situations than in others. You're also limited in the number of a type of unit you can purchase, and the combat system makes it benficial to have a good mix of unit types.
The main mistake I think many of us made was to consider this a territory game. That's how the board looks, and also how many similar games are designed. But Nexus Ops is a capture game, which means there is no reason to try and take and hold territories unless there is some immediate benefit. Losing a territory makes sense if that lets you win a battle somewhere else. It's a pretty fun game, but tense because just about everything you might do is likely to leave you open to a successful counter-attack. It becomes important to figure out the trade-offs. I ended up coming in second place, with 11 points; Quyen was the first to 12. I think if I'd been more aggresive I could have won, because I would only need to win one more battle to reach 12 points before Quyen.
September 30, 2007
The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords
I started playing The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords a long time ago, with Shannon. In fact, I pretty much bought it because it can be multi-player and I wanted to play it with Shannon and Yvonne. But we haven't seen much of each other in a while so I decided I might as well finish it up. While this Zelda is really good, it is just more fun to play with other people because that's how it was designed. Plus, you can only play the Tingle mini-games with more than one player.
This version of Zelda is much closer to the types you find on the Game Body platform, instead of the recent console platforms. Partially because it makes use of the Game Boy Advance screen to provide different views for each player. It's very similar in look and feel to The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past from the Super Nintendo, but with updated gameplay and nicer graphics technology. Being able to control four Links, either on your own or with other people, lends itself to new and interesting puzzles that require cooperation or can be done more quickly or easily with friends at hand.
Nintendo really did something cool, with GBA multiplayer games. It's an expensive hardware investment, but it does make for some really fun and engaging play with friends.
September 16, 2007
Nine Person Game Night
We hosted a pretty big game night yesterday evening. It started out with plans for just Brian, Wendy, and Tintin in addition to Luna and me for a total of five people. But Thomas, Matt, Ling, and Quyen (somehow pronounced like Quinn) showed up as well. Matt and Ling brought four huge pizzas from Mr. Pizza Man because they had organized a tailgate type party up in San Francisco and there were leftovers. I'd never heard of Mr. Pizza Man before. The pizzas aren't great, but they were free and a lot. They only brought cheese and pepperoni, which I don't like so much anyway, so maybe the ones with lots of toppings taste better. The crust was pretty nice where it met the pizza.
Quyen brought a big tub of games to choose from, but with nine people it was pretty hard finding a game. We played something called Bohnanza. Basically, each turn you are forced to plant beans that you have in your ordered hand or that you received by trading, and the goal is to create large bean patches that you sell into the discard piile in exchange for gold. There is a different number of each type of bean, which is inversely proportional to their gold value. Selling beans removes some number of those beans from the game. The person with the most gold at the end wins. I thought it was okay, but not really my type of game. Luna, however, likes it because it's straight-forward and moves quickly.
Next we played a six-player game of Settlers of Catan with the Seafarers expansion. The doubled-up teams were Matt and Ling, Luna and me, and Wendy and Brian. Even on the same team, Wendy and Brian didn't always act in agreement, which shouldn't be a surprise. I think if this game had involved military pieces, they'd have somehow gotten themselves into a civil war. :p Despite that, they won very handily because they were the primary producers of wheat, with enough sheep and ore to puchase a huge number of development cards. They ended up winning with cities, victory points and largest army, and always had a huge stock of resources since seven didn't come up very much. Luna and I were in second place, and would have done better if I had listened to Luna and placed our second settlement at the corner of some resoures on the other side of the board, but instead I chose the wood port on a single brick hex.
Luna keeps making fun of me for losing whenever we play Settlers of Catan. I think it's been too long and I'm out of practice, since when we played in North Carolina, it was often me or Alan in first place.
September 9, 2007
Tintin & Bottle Rocket
Tintin came over yesterday evening to play a game of Settlers of Catan. We played the basic version, just Tintin, Luna, and me. Tintin didn't pick very good starting locations, which ended up making it very difficult for her to do well. Luna got really lucky with a bunch of rolled elevens and ended up winning by a pretty good margin.
As it happens, Tintin's movie also arrived yesterday and so we ended up watching it after the game. She got Bottle Rocket, a Wes Anderson film starring Owen and Luke Wilson as a couple of reckless friends who don't really know what to do with themselves and end up holding up a bookstore. This is followed by escaping to a motel where the maid becomes a love interest, and then returning to try and pull off one more heist that couldn't have gone more wrong.
If you're familiar with Wes Anderson's quirky sense of humor and movie style, and you like it, then you'll probably like Bottle Rocket. If his movies don't really appeal to you, then it's more of a 50/50 chance as to whether or not you'll think this movie is something special. This was his directorial debut, as well as the acting debut of the two Wilson brothers.
August 26, 2007
First Game Night with Wendy
We had our first game night with Wendy, Brian, and Thomas just now. They have game nights fairly often, with a usual crowd which Luna and I haven't met before. This time, though, game night was at our house and it was just the five of us. Which is a good number. We ordered take out from Buca di Beppo because I had a $10 gift card that I received in the mail at some point, but Thomas is picky about food or something and brought his own Chinese food. Wendy was really happy to meet Nami and Kiba, and to play with them. I think she said she likes Nami more, but that might have just been because Nami was wearing her cone which makes her look cuter. Brian couldn't remember their names. :p
Afterwards, we played Settlers of Catan. I think SoC is my favorite board game, and it's one that Wendy and Brian really like to play also. I guess they are used to playing with someone who has some house rules and does some things a little differently, while I'm only used to playing by the specific rules mentioned in the rule books. I guess they have also never played any of the non-predefined maps, because this time we played random (which actually shows up in some of the map books) and they were a little surprised. Brian won the first game, and Wendy the second; we played with Seafarers the second game.
Wendy and Brian are incredibly competitive, but Brian more so I think. Brian spends a long time trying to figure out the right move, and tries to be tricky about his cards and trading and stuff like that. They were sitting next to each other and often arguing (in a friendly manner) about trades and points and strategies and other things like that. Often poking or pinching each other too. :) Thomas was a lot quieter, but built steadily. Luna and I were also kind of poking at each other, but not so aggressively as Brian and Wendy. Even though Luna played before, with Karen and Sebastian, she'd forgotten all the rules.
It wasn't anything bad, except for one time that Brian tried to take one of Wendy's resource cards after using the robber without waiting for her to give it to him. He grabbed a development card instead, which Wendy smacked down on to make sure he couldn't see what she had. But that ended up bending the card pretty badly. Brian gave me a replacement card though, which was nice of him. Otherwise it'd be really easy to spot the card in the development card deck.
For the second game, Luna and Brian switched seats so Brian and Wendy couldn't reach each other anymore. Things became a little calmer then; I think it's probably best if they are out of each others reach for these kind of games. After the game though it doesn't matter. They don't hold grudges or anything like that.
The second game ended after I traded a sheep resource to Wendy, which allowed to her build a city and reach twelve points. In retrospect, it may have been wiser to not trade with her, but I don't think I had that good a chance of winning anyway. The early game had stuck me with very little resources after being cut off by one of Wendy's settlements, and I needed longest road or largest army to have a chance, but Thomas was far ahead of me in road length and Wendy had like six soldiers out.
Anyway, we ended around 3am, and they left shortly afterwards. Luna had a really good time. Better than she thought she was going to, and she wants to play again sometime soon. It'll probably be a while before we play again though. Alla is coming back for the Labor Day weekend so we're going to meet up with her then. Maybe the weekend after.
August 12, 2007
Rita and Ryne's Birthday
Luna and I just came back from Rita and Ryne's joint birthday. It's not actually Rita's birthday until next week, but since the two of them have birthdays close to each other, they celebrated together with dinner at T.G.I. Friday's and then bowling at the STRIKE bowling alley, both next to the Vallco mall. We got there late because Luna took too long to get ready and then we went the wrong direction after getting off I-280. There were probably about thirty people there in total. I only know Rita and Ryne, of course, and Ellen, Brian, Marty + Huong, Karissa, and Veronica. We ended up sitting near Karissa and Veronica, and a bunch of other SVL IBMers that I don't know.
We ended up not going bowling though. Luna did not want to stay out late. However, Luna's father's birthday is coming up soon and she wanted to buy something for him. We first tried walking through the Macy's at Vallco but they closed right when we went in. The stores in Vallco close earlier because it doesn't have as much traffic. So we went to Oakridge on the way home, and looked around a few places. Luna wanted to find something collectible first, but you can't really buy that sort of stuff from stores at the mall. Instead we ended up getting him a tie from Macy's.
August 7, 2007
Luna Got Her Learner's Permit
Luna got her driver's learning permit today. She walked to the DMV this morning and took the test, but had to wait a long time to do so because it was so busy. Not too surprising, since it was a Monday morning and nearing lunch time. The person there didn't say how many, if any, she got wrong, but Luna tells me she guessed on about three of them.
July 28, 2007
Alla's Off to School
So, Alla left to Philadelphia this evening to attend the Wharton business school for two years. She's going to be a poor student for a while, but she's going to learn a lot of good stuff and meet a lot of people, and this will be the first time she's been so far away from home for so long. Luna and I went to the airport to see her off. Her parents were there as well as Eric. She checked two suitcases, both of which fell just under the 50 pound limit, and took a big duffel bag as her carry-on, along with her new laptop. We stood around for about an hour until the security line started to get long, shortly before her flight would leave, and then said bye for now.
Luna spent some time talking to Alla's mom, and a little about how things were for Alla's family when they left Ukraine and came to the United States. Their story is interesting, and Luna found it very interesting too. I think it was a good thing she and Alla's mom talked for a while, since Alla's mom understands how it is hard to have to speak and listen to English all the time now.
We did learn something while at the airport. It seems that even if you don't have a boarding pass, you can get a special pass that would allow you past the security checkpoint if you are there to help someone. Such as a small child or disabled person. Which makes a lot of sense, of course, but I hadn't thought about that. Alla tried to get a second pass so Eric could go with her up to the gate, but she didn't really look like a small child or disabled person, so it didn't work.
July 21, 2007
Dinner w/Kat & Baby Tyler
Luna and I met up with Kat, Dixon, and their new baby, Tyler, last night for dinner at a Shanghainese restaurant in Milpitas Square. This is the first time we've seen them since Tyler was born. He's about four months old now. We ended up mostly talking about babies and stuff like that. Luna thinks Tyler is really cute and looks like Dixon. It seems they got really lucky because Tyler is really well behaved and doesn't throw tantrums or cry a lot, and also sleeps a full eight hours each night.
I went to the ATM over there to get some cash because the restaurant only takes cash, and I think I left my ATM card in the slot, because later on when we went to the bookstore it wasn't in my wallet. We went back to the ATM but it wasn't there anymore, but it's not a problem because I called the bank after coming home and made sure the old card got blocked and I will get a new card soon.
July 16, 2007
Dinner at Hsiuli's
Luna and I went to have dinner with my mom, brother Calvin, Hsiuli and her son Spencer, and Spencer's grandma yesterday afternoon. Hsiuli lives up in Walnut Creek, so it took a little over an hour to drive up, and again back down. I already wasn't feeling that good from Saturday, because instead of being able to just take care of Niea and Nami, run some errands, and sleep, my mom wanted to go have dinner with Calvin at a restaurant. And then still with not enough sleep having to drive for so long in the really hot sun was very tiring.
We left home around 1 o'clock and then left Hsiuli's new place at 5 o'clock. The food was pretty good. I think Hsiuli spent a while working on the food. But there wasn't much to do there. We ending up looking at some of Spencer's stuff for a little while, and then watching America's Funniest Videos on TV.
Although we left at 5 o'clock, we didn't get back home until around 7 o'clock or a little after, because Luna wanted to stop at 99 Ranch to buy some vegetables. Even once we got home, I couldn't shower and sleep because all of the stuff we needed to do but couldn't, like cleaning up and taking care of the cats, had to be done.
July 6, 2007
The Last Carcassone
So Alla will be leaving soon for the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania to get her MBA. Her orientation classes start at the end of the month, and next week is her last week at IBM. She's really busy getting everything ready, and planning to take a short vacation before she flies out to start classes. And so last night she and Eric came over for one last game of Carcassone. I ended up making some mistakes, and didn't build any cities which is why I didn't win the game. Luna ended up with the most points by playing under the radar and won the game.
Alla also met Kiba and Nami for the first time, and she really liked Nami until she tried climbing up her back during the game. She played with Nami a little bit before dinner, but Kiba didn't come down until later.
It also seems like Alla might have broken her toe. She told me someone at work stepped on her foot by accident, really heavily and with some hard shoes, and it's been a week already but it still hurts to walk and move. I think it should be okay.
July 2, 2007
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End with Karen
Karen came down to visit us today. It's been a long time since we've seen her. We introduced Nami and Kiba to her, and she had fun playing with them even though she's allergic. Because she played with them, she started sneezing a lot. We'd vacuumed a lot before she came over, so she wouldn't be uncomfortable, but playing with them kind of defeated the purpose. She brought over a couple of movies, but we decided to head out to see Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End.
We got the to theater a little early. It turns out we were able to use those $5 vouchers I got back from a Century Theaters in North Carolina, even though that was three years ago. Since we were there early, we played around in the arcade. Luna and I tried some shooting games. Karen tried a shooting game one time, but then moved onto pinball.
There weren't a lot of people in the theater. Probably about twenty or thirty. This third intallment of PotC didn't feel as good as the first, or even the second. It's basically a straight continutation of Dead Man's Chest, which was sort of a problem for Karen since she didn't remember the previous movies. The first half of the movie was a little boring to me. I thought they could have done more there to make it a little more exciting. And while I found the climax very exciting, it did leave a lot of unanswered questions. It seemed that all of the pirate ships were destroyed, yet afterwards they weren't. And the issues between Will and Elizabeth aren't really resolved, they just sort of get ignored.
After the movie, it was pretty late so we drove to a Vietnamese place on Capitol Expressway near the Target. They stay open a little later, and have good food for a good price. Apparently Karen's never eaten that kind of Vietnamese food before.
June 28, 2007
Movie Night: Breach
Had some different people over for a movie night tonight. Tintin and Ken came again, but Greg and Angelika are new attendees. Both of them work at Netflix with me, although Angelika just started. I wasn't sure if Julie was going to show up, and she ended up not coming, but I'd ordered Round Table pizza this time at her suggestion. There was some communication issues about the movie, and it ended up that no one put anything on the queue. So Tintin and Ken brought some movies that they'd had at home, and we ended up watching Breach.
Breach is a dramatization of the capture of a U.S. operative, Robert Hanssen, who delivered intelligence to the KGB over many years while working in Russia. Chris Cooper plays this double-agent, and Ryan Phillippe plays the young and ambitious FBI rookie who befriends and then exposes Hanssen. The rest of the cast is filled out with other excellent actors like Laura Linney and Dennis Haysbert. And the acting is superb.
The plot and dramatization is pretty intense and interesting. Although Hanssen is introduced as the bad guy, he really doesn't seem like one. Even if you disagree with his very conservative and religious morals, you can't help admiring him for his integrity. Which makes it all the more difficult to accept him as a traitor. I think that dichotomy is really the films strongest point.
June 19, 2007
Luna's Green Card
Luna's Green Card arrived yesterday. It's not green, just like Alla said. It's a fancy ID card with special colors and flashy things on it, and a big metallic-looking area on the back. It looks way hard to forge. Basically, there's a photo, birthdate, country of birth, and also an expiration date. It expires two years from now, which is when we have to go through the next part of the process. With this, Luna is all set and can get her driver's learner's permit and look for a job.
June 17, 2007
Shannon & Yvonne for Dinner
Shannon & Yvonne and Mei-Ling came over for dinner last night. It's been so long since Luna and I last saw them, which was when we went over to their house shortly after Luna arrived. Luna made a bunch of Chinese dishes for them to eat, and a fruit plate. They brought some leftover ice cream for dessert, even though we'd bought ice cream before, and orange juice too. Of course the first thing they all wanted to do was find the kitties. They all ran under the bed at first, but after a while Niea and then Asuka came out. Yvonne managed to scare Chie out later on, and after I held him for a long time he calmed down and Yvonne and Mei-Ling could also hold him.
After dinner, Luna started playing her PSP, and Yvonne looked for a movie to watch. Since Shannon wanted to play a board game, Yvonne could watch whatever she wanted and she and Mei-Ling watched Monty Python's The Meaning of Life. Shannon and I played Scrabble, and I won by a few dozen points. Shannon kept trying to make up words so she could use her high-point letters. After a while Luna sat next to us to watch.
It was after the movie ended that Yvonne actually scared Chie out. And Shannon petted Shelly while I held him out of the aquarium. Shelly wasn't too scared. Probably since he'd spent a lot of time around Luna and me while I was trying to grow the plants and Ellie was having disinfectant put on every day. I put Blue Man Group's The Complex Rock Tour Live on to play in the background during this time. After they all left, Luna and I watched it for a short time, before going to bed.
June 11, 2007
Luna is a Resident
I got an email today from the USCIS because I signed up for case status notifications. Luna has officially been accepted as a permanent resident. The email says her card may take up to 60 days to arrive, although the official we spoke to at our interview said it should take about two weeks. I'm not sure yet if we should make an appointment to get her passport stamped with the approval, since then she can do things that require resident status before her card arrives. The official notice should arrive in the mail within a few days.
June 2, 2007
Letters from Iwo Jima
The movie night I scheduled for tonight was cancelled because no one could show up except Samir. So we ended up with just me, Luna, and Samir to watch Letters from Iwo Jima. Jamie had gone down to Los Angeles to visit her family. Letters from Iwo Jima is a Clint Eastwood movie (as in he's the director) about the U.S. victory of Iwo Jima during World War II but told from the side of the Japanese troops that tried to hold the island despite being outnumbered and outgunned. It's a bleak film that depicts the horrors of war, but also one that portrays the Japanese soldiers as human beings who struggle despite knowing their homeland and families will be lost. This is a very good movie, but also one of those which you would not want to go through a second time.
I thought the actors were very good, and convincingly played the character roles they were given. Eastwood tries to give each of the characters some time to illustrate their basic humanity to the audience, with flashbacks and dialogue between the soldiers before the U.S. troops stormed the beachhead. I found myself a little confused though, at some times when I thought the social deference of officers was not correct.
Samir did not think it made sense for the soldiers to commit suicide, but Luna tells me that is how things were in reality, once the Japanese soldiers heard from their Emperor that they had lost the war. She says that many soldiers even killed their families and babies before killing themselves. This mental disposition continues today in Japan, and was recently discussed in a Slate article: Why are there so many suicides in Japan. But the article does not go into the real cultural and social reasons as much as arguing that public policy and social aversions towards mental illness does nothing to prevent this.
Luna and I are planning to watch the companion film, Flags of Our Fathers sometime soon. It wasn't rated as highly as Flags of Iwo Jima, although that may only be because Flags of Iwo Jima has much more of a freshness factor to it.
May 27, 2007
Luna and I got back from FanimeCon 2007 at around 7pm. We got on the light rail this morning around 10am, and got to the convention center around 10:45am. Unfortunately, that was too late. This was the first time I'd gone so late, and it also seems like anime's increasing popularity is being represented at the cons (there are more cons this year as well). We ended up having to stand in line for at least 2.5 hours! The longest I've ever had to stand in line in previous years was about 15 minutes, although I'd never gotten there so late before. There were a lot more staff members this year as well, and I think they expanded into more rooms.
Anyway, we spent the vast majority of our time in the dealer's room, since both of us just really care about picking up some hard-to-find collectibles. At first, Luna got really sidetracked by seeing some of the dolls, because she saw some people selling clothing and accessories for them in the artists' room. And so we ended up not going through systematically and sort of running around to look for the doll seller. They're too expensive though, so she won't buy one until later.
Luna also ended up not always knowing what she wanted until after we had left a store, so in a couple of cases we actually ended up coming back to the same store to buy things a second time. Which is bad because you can usually get a little discount by buying more things all at once. So we probably could have saved a little more money if she would have known what she wanted at the beginning instead of only deciding later.
Yvonne had told me she wanted something from Paranoia Agent or Romeo x Juliet, but I couldn't find anything about those two shows. We ran into Sonia later on, and I asked her what Yvonne might like instead, but she couldn't think of anything except Romeo x Juliet. So we ended up getting Yvonne and Shannon one plushie each. Although now I'm not sure if Yvonne already has the plushie I ended up picking for her. Luna also picked up a Gackt single to send back to her cousin in Shanghai.
Anyway, I purchased a Gunslinger Girl wall scroll, while Luna got one of Kyo Kara Maoh!. I got a Tachikoma 1/24 scale model, although not at the greatest price, and the four figure Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children figure collection. Luna got a five-piece One Piece figure collection, but they didn't make a figure of Sanji who is Luna's favorite character. She decided not to get the special versions of Nami or Usopp. I got one doll of Lain in her bear pajamas, and also a doll of Kasukabe Saki in her President cosplay outfit, from Genshiken. I want to get the Ohno cosplay dolls as well, to go with Saki. I didn't see any of Ohno at the convention. Luna got the first eight volumes of xxxHolic and a Mokona doll that wiggles when you pull a string.
We walked a lot today, and carried back a lot of stuff. Both of our feet hurt now, but I think we found a lot of pretty good stuff that we wouldn't have found elsewhere. The One Piece collection is actually from a Japanese store that has two branches: one in Japan and the other in Los Angeles. The sellers were actually Japanese, and one of them didn't know very much English. So Luna talked to her in Japanese asking about the collection. They were also selling a Keroro collection but for the size of the pieces, neither of us thought it was a good price.
I did think it was interesting that this year's most popular characters were from Kingdom Hearts 2, by far. Organization XIII and Sora were popular cosplay costumes, and so many of the doujin artists featured Kingdom Hearts 2 characters. Final Fantasy and Naruto were not as popular anymore. There were a few people dressed as Princess Mononoke, more than I expected. The girl in front of us in line actually had a very good costume. There was also a bunch of Mario Bros. characters, and one group of girls came together as Princess Peach, Daisy, and Toadstool. A Shy Guy and Mario found them and they made a good group picture.
May 24, 2007
Our I-485 Interview
Luna and I had our Adjustment of Status (I-485) interview today at the Department of Homeland Security office in San Jose. The waiting room was very barren, and when we first walked in I didn't even know if we were in the right place. There were no government officials or clerks or employees anywhere, and I just had to look around and find the little drop box sticking out of the metal-shuttered window where we put our appointment letter. Anyway, after waiting for a while, we were called in by one of the processing employees.
As far as I can tell, things went okay. But we were told by the person interviewing us that he needs to get the documents Luna handed over to the U.S. embassy in Guangzhou sent to him, so all of our documentation is in one big file. The first thing he had us do was swear in to tell the truth, while raising our right hand and standing up. Then we showed him our passports, my driver's license, and the pictures we have. We also gave him printouts of Luna listed on my insurance and our joint bank account. Later on, I asked if there was anything else that might help, and so he photocopied our joint credit cards, Costco membership cards, and insurance cards.
He said once he receives the documents from Guangzhou, then he can make the final decision and we should get a letter in the mail about a week after he gets the documents. So total time until we get the letter should be about two weeks. Two weeks after we get the letter, we should get Luna's residency card. But once we get the letter it would be possible for us to go into the office and get her passport stamped showing residency approval. At which point she can apply for work and a driver's license.
It turns out we could have applied for the work authorization at the same time as applying for the adjustment of status. But doesn't matter now since it's already so far along the process. Luna also did not need to get the full medical examination done again, even though we were told earlier that we needed to when we first visited the office and spoke to one of the clerks. We only needed a registered civil surgeon to sign off on Luna's vaccinations, and get those vaccinations if she didn't already have them.
We got back Luna's original birth certificate as well, and exchanged it with him for a photocopy. That's good since now we have the original and can hold onto it. Hopefully everything will go through just fine and in about a month Luna will be all set to get a driver's license and look for a job.
May 18, 2007
Can't Get Driver's License
Luna went to take the driver's license written test today, so she could get her learner's permit. But as it turns out, she can't take the test and get the permit because she doesn't have her green card yet. Which makes sense, since in a lot of ways a driver's license represents the fact you live in the U.S. with legal status. But this whole process is very annoying because it's so slow and Luna can't do so many things until the process is finished.
There's also that new proposal for legalization of illegal immigrants. But as I read it, applicants would get a new Z visa under the plan that would require them to leave the country for at least eight years, and as much as thirteen. I suspect even if this passes, there is absolutely no incentive for illegal immigrants to apply. The primary reason many such people left their native country (at great financial hardship, endangering their health, and risking incarceration) was to get away from horrible conditions. Like no education, lack of health care, physical danger, etc. Having to go back for eight years, essentially starting over in their native country, and then coming back to the U.S. again, to start over a third time, seems like exactly what someone will not want to do. Especially if children are involved.
May 15, 2007
Pochi-chan (a.k.a. Sonia) is a really good artist who still has a little bit of trouble believing in herself. So I figured I'd plug her Pochi-chan deviantART page. Her style is very unique, in my opinion, and also very good. She's been spending a lot of time working on her style and technique, and has gotten a lot better. Some of her stuff looks amazing. Sonia thinks she needs her imagery to look sharper, with stronger distinct lines. But I think part of what's great is her softer approach to things. A more blending of colors and imagery.
Here's a link direct to her gallery. Some of the pieces I like are Time Mailman, 2007 Yay (more nostalgic than anything), Reincarnation, Eternally Hopeless Situation, Amelie, Mother's Day, and Fairy Tale In The Heavens.
Anyway, check it out. She's really into talking to people about art and technique so if you like something leave a comment on for her. Her dream is to do this professionally, and I think she has the talent and determination to make it. She just needs a little more confidence.
May 14, 2007
Luna and I celebrated Calvin's birthday today. We went over to his place in the afternoon to watch Children of Men with some of his friends, and then went to have dinner at A&J Restaurant in Cupertino Village. The food was good, although Luna thinks it was just okay since it wasn't really anything special. There were about eight of us total at dinner. I think most of them are friends Calvin met through work.
Children of Men is a movie that I had heard a little about and was slightly interested in seeing, but not really wanting to see it a lot. I feel a little funny about Clive Owen as an actor. He's good, but for some reason I don't really like his personality or something as an actor.
Anyway, the movie is about a police-state near-future variation of Britain where crackdowns on terrorism and illegal immigration have become both everyday background noise and also the political movement. The rest of the world has fallen into chaos, supposedly, with refugees trying to get into mainstream British society to live a better life. Of course, there is a political movement against these draconian policies. But the core of the plot is that humans are no longer able to conceive. The opening sequence is about the murder of an 18-year-old who is a celebrity only because he is the youngest person in the world.
Supposedly the movie is changed from the book in many ways to make it a political and social criticism of the current state of affairs. And I actually found that part of the film to be the most interesting. There isn't a lot of focus on the science, or reasons, or social changes that would result from a world without children. Although there is brief attention given to the violence that would arise from an entire species without hope of the future.
Unfortunately, I don't think there was anything that revolutionary or really special about how the film went about it. It kind of feels like the world situations and ideas are put together in a collage, but without any real thought about what that means. As someone that already knows about what goes on in the world, I don't feel like I got a whole lot out of it. And if someone doesn't know what's going on in the world, there's nothing in this film that would help them make the connection.
May 7, 2007
Little Miss Sunshine
I watched Little Miss Sunshine because it was one of the most popular Sundance Film Festival choices last year. Both Dantam and Samir liked it a lot. In fact Dantam loves the characters and the story and the jokes and just about everything. But I wasn't that entertained by it. The acting and everything is top notch, and it's probably one of the best dark comedies every made, but that's just not my preference. I need a movie like this to be more amusing throughout the duration, which it wasn't. Amusement started to kick in when grandpa died, and then I laughed out loud during the beauty pageant ending. But otherwise I was just watching a dysfunctional family on a road trip.
If I were to give points, Little Miss Sunshine would win a lot for the acting. Everyone does a really great job. Olive, played by Abigail Breslin, feels like such a natural and real little girl, and not at all like a character or an actor. There are some really excellent scenes where you can see the body language coming across as if unconscious behavior. But the caliber of acting really carries over into all of the characters. The father and mother are played by Greg Kinnear and Toni Collette who are not moviestar characters but stressed-out and honest people. Alan Arkin plays an over-the-top grandpa who only has sex on the mind and speaks his mind quite loudly, which is a somewhat unrealistic character premise but one that really works and fits in with the family. Paul Dano plays the rebellious, gangly, sloppy, overall discontent teenager who feels stuck with his dysfunctional family. And he plays the part perfectly. Steve Carroll as the uncle kind of fits into the same odd place as the grandpa because of his mannerisms and personality, but in a strange yet insightful way it works out considering he tried to commit suicide at the beginning of the film.
It's possible I would have enjoyed the movie more if I could have watched it straight through without interruption. But Luna kept interrupting me to do things or ask me things or something. The upstairs computer crashed because she turned off the air conditioner even though I intentionally left it on, and she kept bugging me until I restarted it. At one point she even unplugged the projector which initiated a ground loop hum and instantly cut out the fan and bulb, possibly shortening the bulb life because it would have overheated a little at that point.
Magic: The Gathering Draft Tournament
I drove up to Stanford myself today to participate in a Magic: The Gathering draft tournament. Luna doesn't have any interest in playing, so I went by myself to an event organized by Karen's boyfriend, Sebastian. It was the first time I'd participated in a draft tournament, so I didn't really know what to do. Plus, the expansions we were drafting from were ones I was totally unfamiliar with. I ended up building a blue and white sliver deck which didn't do all that well. I won two out of six games, resulting in 2nd-to-last place.
Basically, in a draft tournament each participant opens a booster pack and selects a card before passing the remaining cards around the table. You then pick a card from the bunch you just received from your neighbor. And you continue this way until you've picked cards from the pack. You repeat this with two more booster packs, resulting in a total of 45 cards in your hand.
I was kind of operating under the assumption that I would need a fair amount of the picked cards to build my deck, so I ended up picking only blue and white, and only cards I felt would be compatible with each other the entire time. But in reality you should end up using only about 25 of your picked cards to build a 40-card deck. After I lost the first round (partially due to mana problems), Sebastian advised me to build a 40-card deck that included 17 lands. I did a little better once I did this.
I should have been more flexible in my drafting and picked cards from many different colors, independently of what I originally started drafting. Because I would have a decent chance of selecting 23 cards from a pair of colors that would be compatible with each other, and would have ended up with stronger cards. Instead, I didn't even incorporate any rares into my deck, and only had one viable strategy at the end. If I had not limited myself to blue and white as cards were passed around, I could have done better.
Plus, the new expansions are more complicated than the old cards. There are things like double-strike, and flanking, and other strange things like cards that can be used as either one or another card. The Time Spiral series also includes things like vanishing and suspend, or other time-based effects that result in cards appearing and disappearing from gameplay over time.
Anyway, there were eleven of us total, and the tournament took about five hours to complete, once you included organization overhead and then the final rare redrafting process at the end. This redrafing is done to prevent people from just taking rares during the draft process so they can keep them, regardless of whether or not they build a good deck.
April 6, 2007
Luna had her biometrics appointment this morning, at a small unassuming USCIS office building near downtown San Jose. The procedure was simple but a little time consuming. We had to fill out a form containing some biographical information (a little strange, considering that is information they should already have) and present her passport as ID along with the appointment notice. Then she waited a while to get fingerprinted. I'm not entirely sure what the next step is, but Luna said we should be receiving something in the mail soon. I believe we just need to wait for her residency card.
I understand why the government wants immigrants to be fingerprinted; it's a simple way of getting immigrants into their identification databases for whatever reason they may need in the future. Criminal activity being a good example. People are also willing to do things like this as part of this sort of process without becoming upset.
But if you really think about it, it's somewhat unfair. In the same way that it's unfair that naturalization requires knowledge of U.S. laws and facts that the majority of people born as U.S. citizens do not know. Since I was born in the United States it is easier for me to get away with a crime than Luna, since my fingerprints are not in any database. Being born within the political map line also means I don't need to speak English to live here. While there are pressures and even some requirements being talked about for immigrants to become fairly proficient at speaking and reading English.
I guess this sort of thing is some burden upon the immigrant to be an intelligent and integrated member of society. But I'm of the mind that people should be treated equally, whereas in this sort of situation they are not. But immigrants have no real say in legal proceedings, politics, or law since they are not citizens. And once they become citizens, it's over with and there's no real motivation for change. Plus there is always the threat of unofficial punishment for anyone who might try to rock the boat.
March 16, 2007
Luna received the biometrics appointment notice from the USCIS today. Her appointment is scheduled for April 6, about three weeks from now. We need to bring the notice (and possibly the previous notice as well since it said we should bring that notice to the appointment too) and photo identification, i.e. her passport. I guess her birth certificate documentation is being handled by a different department, or is something that can be processed in parallel.
March 13, 2007
Birth Certificate Requirement
Luna got another letter from the government today about her Adjustment of Status application processing. It turns out we needed to include a birth certificate, or statement in Chinese and English, stating her birth if her certificate is lost. Her birth certificate was actually lost when the police station in her neighborhood burned down, if I remember correctly. So her mom is sending us the statement from Shanghai. We have a little under three months to send in her birth certificate, so we have enough time. But of course any delay is undesireable.
March 11, 2007
Bridge and Settlers of Catan
Karen and Sebastian came over yesterday night. Luna spent most of the afternoon preparing food for our dinner. She made beef curry, mapo tofu, some cooked vegetables, some sort of soy sauce flavored chicken, and a fifth dish I can't remember now. This was the first time Sebastian's been here, so he spent some time looking at the bookshelves and turtles and playing with the cats. I think Karen sort of played with the cats vicariously at first, but then later on she played with Niea with Luna's rope. Her allergies didn't act up because I'd vacuumed a lot that day.
After dinner we played bridge for a few hours. I was partnered with Sebastian this time, so it was boys against girls. We didn't play perfectly; Luna didn't bid something she should have when she probably had ten of the clubs and both Sebastian and I bid wrong once. But in the end Sebastian and I beat them by a hundred or so points. It was a pretty long game.
There was some time left after bridge before Sebastian and Karen wanted to go home, so we played a game of Settlers of Catan. Luna dropped out after a while because she was too tired (although after she napped for a short time she was awake again). Near the end of the game Sebastian and Karen were vying for first place, trading the Longest Road points and attempting to build as quickly as possible since they were both getting most of the resources. But I built slowly, with three cities cut off from expansion and each other, and with very few resources. And on my final turn I grabbed Largest Army and revealed two victory point development cards, allowing me to leap from six to ten points as a surprise to both Karen and Sebastian.
March 3, 2007
Tonight's movie night featured Half Nelson, a Sundance film selection that Tintin brought. Ken came with her, and Wendy and Brian showed up and brought along two new people: Ling and Matt. Thomas and Julie also showed up. Half Nelson was okay, in my opinion, although it has gotten excellent reviews from critics. It's a very intelligent and interesting character study, but not very entertaining or thought provoking in my opinion. The acting is certainly very good, and the plot and environment are both believable and well developed. I think the film has a firm basis in reality.
March 2, 2007
Luna received a notice yesterday stating our I-485 Adjustment of Status application had been processed, and that we would soon get a letter informing us of her biometrics appointment time. I believe she is required to give a blood sample and fingerprints at this appointment. Although I'm led to believe there are some religions that would prevent giving a blood sample, so I wonder what would happen in that case. Anyway, the application was processed fairly quickly since it's only been about two weeks since they received it.
February 20, 2007
Luna's Birthday Lunch
Shannon and Yvonne had school off today and Mei-Ling also had work off today, and they said today would be the only time they could get together to celebrate Luna's birthday. So we had lunch with them at King Eggroll and then I went back to work while they took Luna home and played with the kitties for a couple of hours.
I thought Luna would like to go to a Chinese restaurant so we tried to go to the plaza off Story Road. But it's the Spring Festival and it was unbelievably packed. Impossible to find parking without stalking someone, and hard to stalk someone because there were so many cars. People were parking wherever it might be possible, not just in parking spots.
So we gave up on trying to park there and instead parked nearby where there are some Vietnamese restaurants. But the only place Mei-Ling had heard about was King Eggroll so we walked there to eat lunch. It's really a fast food type of place though, and the tables weren't clean because the people eating there didn't bus their own trays like they should have. So we had to wait for them to clean the tables.
While we were there, Shannon and Yvonne and I played a game where someone would say a quote and the other people had to guess where it was coming from. I wasn't very good at coming up with quotes because I can't remember things like that. I need my memory to be triggered by something, and then I can remember it.
February 16, 2007
Logitech Harmony 550
I got a Logitech Harmony 550 remote for my birthday, to control my second setup which consists of a GameCube, PlayStation 2, and Dish Network. It was the addition of Dish Network that brought the number of remote controls from two up to four. And made things annoying. The remote is very good and very convenient though, and a great birthday gift. Thanks Alla, Dantam, and Ellen. :)
I had some trouble with software installation on Mac OS X when using a user account that has its home directories NFS mounted. This user is also not in the group that allows administration, so the software was actually installed as a different user. Basically, the software would just quit or sit there doing nothing without crashing or any messages at all, after it started up. So I ended up having to install and run the software as the non-NFS mounted user that also has administrator privileges.
But once that was done, it was very easy. They've got a huge database of devices, including the GameCube, PlayStation 2, Sony STR-DE597 receiver, Panasonic PT50LC13 television, Impact Acoustics 3-Play, and Dish 381 set-top box. So I didn't have to make the remote learn anything manually. I even gained remote on/off access to the PlayStation 2, which doesn't come with a remote by default.
Now things are very nice with four macros: PlayStation 2, GameCube, Watch TV, Listen to CD. It works extremely well and I just hit one of the macros to start up the components and set their inputs/settings automatically, and everything's running.
Even though I didn't do any heavy customization, the software does allow for it. You can assign different functions to different buttons in any of the modes. And if you choose not to use macros, you can still access devices directly by pressing the Devices button on the remote.
February 13, 2007
Adjustment of Status Application
I mailed out Luna's Adjustment of Status application today. This is the application we need to file for her conditional permanent resident status, or green card. It took us about a month to put together all of the documents, figure out what those documents are, and everything else. But finally we had everything we needed and I sent it out with delivery confirmation and certified mail. I don't know how long it will take for the paperwork to get processed, or when Luna will have to get fingerprinted, but this means we're done for now until we have to file to remove conditional status two years after we get the conditional status.
We mailed the following documents:
- I-485: Application to Register Permanent Residence of Adjust Status
- G-325a: Biographic Information for Luna
- G-325a: Biographic Information for me
- I-797: Notice of Action (photocopy)
- I-864: Affidavit of Support
- I-693: Medical Examination of Aliens Seeking Adjustment of Status (sealed)
- Supplemental Form to I-693: Document of Immunization (sealed)
- Luna's Passport (photocopy)
- Luna's I-94 and K-1 Visa (photocopy)
- My Passport (photocopy)
- Two passport photos of Luna
- Two passport photos of me
- Most recent bank statement (photocopy)
- Most recent pay stub (photocopy)
- Most recent W-2 (photocopy)
This was all mailed to the Chicago lockbox address of:U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
P.O. Box 805887
Chicago, IL 60680-4120
February 11, 2007
I had my 27th birthday party today. Luna and I cooked Italian food, including spaghetti and meatballs, some fried salmon, and a tomato-based chicken dish. We had bread and cheese, some green grapes, and ice cream cake for dessert. Alla showed up, of course, as did Ellen, Tintin, and Samir and Jamie. Dantam couldn't make it because she was caring for one of her friends who was sick. A lot of people arrived late, and then Ellen left early because she had plans to go dancing in San Francisco, and Samir and Jamie left around the same time as her.
Alla, Ellen, and Dantam pitched in to get me a Logitech Harmony 550 remote control for the upstairs system. Samir and Jamie got me Xenosaga: Episode III, and Tintin got me an interesting little postcard for Neon Genesis Evangelion. Luna got me the two volume manga of Le Portrait de Petit Cossette and a copy of .hack//AI buster.
Since Alla and Tintin stayed around, we played a game of Puerto Rico. It moved a lot faster this time since we knew what we were doing, and we also discovered that some of the things we'd done the first time were incorrect. This time Luna won. For a short period of time in the middle Tintin and Alla weren't paying much attention because they started talking about French movies and the language.
February 10, 2007
Dinner with Calvin
Luna and I had dinner with Calvin tonight as a sort of late birthday dinner. We would have gone last weekend, closer to my birthday, except I was sick. We went to Cupertino Village, which is about 20 minutes away, and had dinner at a fancy Chinese restaurant. The menu said Cantonese food, and we ordered a bunch of dishes. Most of it was very good, although pricey because it is fancy, except for some fried tofu where the outside had a large and heavy coating. Afterwards, Luna bought some packaged chestnuts from 99 Ranch.
January 29, 2007
Social Security Number
Some people may not know this, and I wasn't aware of it until last week, but it's possible for someone on a K-1 visa to get a social security number, without having to file paperwork with the USCIS (formerly INS) asking for a work authorization card. All you need is the I-94 form that was given to you when you entered the country and passed through immigration. So Luna and I were able to apply for her social security number at the local office today. We should receive her social security card in one or two weeks at which point she can find a job and also start doing all those things which require a social security number.
Apparently, it may help to wait two weeks or so after entering the country for the I-94 information to get into the system. I don't know if that is really true though, and I read that if you go before the information has been entered they can still process your application it will just take longer because they need to wait for it to get into the system. Luna's I-94 form stub is stapled into her passport next to the K-1 visa, and it's actually a very important document to have because it's also used on the adjustment of status application.
January 27, 2007
Back from Disneyland
Luna and I just returned from a two-night trip to Disneyland. We drove down on Wednesday, spent all of Thursday in the park, and then drove back today. It's about a five or six hour drive, which isn't horrible but it isn't great either. Since Luna can't drive, she spent a lot of the drive sleeping. Traffic in some parts of the Los Angeles area is pretty bad as well.
We stayed at a motel called the Parkside Inn & Suites, which is located very near Downtown Disneyland. The location is very convenient, and we could walk to the Downtown area and to the park, but the quality of the rooms is somewhat low. The floors were stained and dirty, there was no TV remote, and the old refrigerator was actually off and we didn't realize it. The first morning we found a grasshopper walking around. However the bathroom area looked very clean and well kept. There was a strange hole in the ceiling near the beds that we couldn't figure out though.
The first night we had dinner with Alan and his girlfriend Gen at a New Orleans style restaurant in Downtown Disneyland. I hadn't seen Alan since leaving North Carolina, and it was cool to catch up. He works for Disney now as a developer for their web site. Since he works for Disney, he could give me and Luna two free park tickets which was really nice.
We woke up early the next day and got to the park entrance around 9:15am. But it turns out the park doesn't open until 10am. I don't know if that is just because of the season, or if that's the year-round time that the park opens. People who stayed at one of the Disneyland hotels could enter at 9am though. It was warmer than Luna and I expected though even at 10am, and we should have worn lighter clothing. Instead we ended up tying our jackets around our waists the whole time.
There weren't a whole lot of people, but the park was still very active. A few rides were closed down for whatever reason, but they tended to be rides Luna didn't want to go on anyway. She found the more "violent" rides, like Indiana Jones or Star Tours, scary so we didn't go on many of those. She liked the more calm storybook rides like Pirates of the Carribean or Winnie the Pooh. Actually, she found a lot of the park somewhat boring, but we did end up going on just about all the rides. We did have a good time and it was fun though. I was hoping they'd be selling the large turkey drumsticks but they weren't, and of course all the food and drinks in the park were expensive.
January 22, 2007
Magic: The Gathering and Bridge
Luna and I just got back from visiting Karen and Sebastian. We went up and first played a little Bridge. Karen had to re-teach me and teach Luna how to play. I think Luna and I did okay, especially considering that Karen is really into it. She didn't really know what to do when I started playing a little irrationally, but that made things more interesting. After playing a while we got hungry and went to a Thai restaurant to eat. The food was pretty good. We talked about random things like Sebastian's research and television shows, then went back to their place to play cards a little longer.
I also played a few games of Magic: The Gathering with Sebastian. He's still really into the game, and recently went to a tournament. While we played that, Karen and Luna played a different card game but I'm not sure what. Sebastian has some newer cards and dealt more with direct damage or disabling effects which posed a major problem for my creature-based decks. There are some very interesting cards available now, which unfortunately can really alter the balance of gameplay in my opinion if you're not up-to-date.
January 21, 2007
Trip to Berkeley
I wanted to show Luna Berkeley so we drove up yesterday. We walked around a bit and took pictures. She liked the top of the Campanille, but we couldn't get into Soda Hall because it was the weekend and closed unless you have a keycard. We stopped at the student store and she bought some souveniors to send to her relatives, and also walked along Telegraph Avenue. Afterwards we went to that street past the north tunnel for dinner.
We ended up eating at an Indian restaurant. They actually gave us the order of the people sitting at a table next to us, so we got some free extra food. Luna really liked some of the food, but it turns out the dish she liked most had butter in it, and she's lactose intolerant. We left a pretty big tip since we ended up with free extra food and the waiter was very nice about the whole thing.
Afterwards, Luna wanted to look at some watches and we'd found an upscale watch store on the same street near the Indian restaurant. They were closed, but it's a family-run store and they let us in after-hours. Luna picked a Tissot watch that she liked. It's analog and shows both the day of the week and the day of the month. It runs of a kinetic energy store, so as you move it around it keeps itself running.
January 20, 2007
Dinner with Kat
Luna and I went to have dinner with Kat and Dixon tonight. We were going to have dinner at a small Shanghainese restaurant in Milpitas Square, but they couldn't or wouldn't put together a table for the four of us. So we went to a different restaurant instead. Luna liked the food but she still felt it wasn't as good as food in Shanghai, because she thought it was a little oily. We talked about a few things and Kat is almost due for her baby. I hadn't seen them in a really long time, almost a year, so it was good to meet up again. They treated us to dinner so we'll have to treat them next time.
January 19, 2007
I got Alla the board game Puerto Rico for Christmas. It's an economic building game where players compete against each other to produce goods and build the colony. This was our first time playing. Alla also invited Christian, Marcus, Duncan, and Marie. Luna and I were on a team, as were Alla and Marie although Marie didn't really pay attention. The rules are a little complicated so we spent a lot of the initial time reading each rule as the game progressed.
Once we got the hang of things, the game is actually pretty fun. I still don't like it as much as some other games because although you are competing against each other, you don't directly interact with each other as much. The way things progress is a little strange at first, but then makes sense. And the way you pick roles ends up introducing some strategy which is more subtle than one might first think.
January 18, 2007
We had a fair number of people over yesterday as a sort of "meet-Luna" movie night. Dantam showed up, but Alla couldn't make it (we stopped by to see her before though), as well as the Wendy-gang: Wendy, Brian, Thomas, Anh, and Kristina. Samir also showed up for the first time in a long time, but Jamie couldn't make it because she was up in San Francisco. Tintin and one of her coworkers, Ken, also showed up.
We had pizza for dinner, and spent some time talking about random things. Dantam wore a pair of Luna's Keroro-Gunso slippers (I think Dororo).
When it came time to pick a movie, no one was sure what to watch and we ended up watching XX/XY, which Anh brought from his Blockbuster subscription. Luna didn't understand a lot of it other than the main character, Coles, was basically having sex with everyone else. The beginning was strange in an artsy way, but then basically it got a little boring. It's supposed to be a look into relationships and a man who really doesn't know what he wants or what he's doing, but it just wasn't very fun to watch. The only person who seemed to like it was Ken. And we'd never met him before. :p
January 17, 2007
Luna and I were officially married on Tuesday, January 16, 2007 in the little "chapel" of the Santa Clara County Clerk-Recorder's office. Calvin and my mom were witnesses. We arrived on time just barely but the couple two spots before us was still in process. So we had to wait a while before our turn actually came. Turns out you're supposed to have the witnesses sign in front of the officiator, but I didn't know that. And Calvin also put a little cross-out when you're not allowed to. But they said everything should be okay.
Calvin video taped the whole thing using our camcorder, and my mom took photos but she didn't know how to time it right. So she kept making Luna and I fake kiss over and over again to try and take the photo of that, but then she didn't even get one.
The officiator did this whole routine about how you need to love and respect each other no matter age or whatever might happen and also said that kind of corny saying about not finding the right person but being the right person. She actually said a lot more than I would have expected, and I don't remember most of it.
Afterwards, we all had lunch at a Chinese restaurant in Los Gatos where it turns out the waitress is also from Shanghai. So she and Luna could take to each other in the Shanghai dialect.
After lunch, Luna and I went to Netflix to meet a bunch of my coworkers. Luna felt very shy about the whole thing and it actually took us a long time to get to the building because of some sort of traffic accident on Winchester Boulevard. We had to go all the way around to go maybe 200 feet.
January 15, 2007
Going to San Francisco
Luna and I spent the yesterday making a trip to San Francisco. It took the whole day to go up and come back down because we took Caltrain and BART instead of driving. Luna thought it would be too tiring to drive, but as a result we spent a lot of time going there and coming back instead of actually spending time in San Francisco. When we got to the train station we walked to Market street and then into Chinatown. We had dinner at a Thai restaurant that Luna thought was very good. She wasn't much impressed overall and it was really cold and she was a little scared because it was so dark.
January 14, 2007
Luna arrived in the United States for the first time yesterday. She took the same flight I used, a direct connection between Shanghai and San Francisco. I went to pick her up at her arrival time, even though I knew it would take a while for her to get through immigration and customs, because she insisted. I also brought some flowers, although she wasn't that interested in them. While driving home, Luna compared many of the cars on the road to those in Shanghai but there wasn't much to do by way of sightseeing along the highway.
The first thing we did after getting home and unloading her luggage was drive to the Santa Clara County Clerk-Recorder's office to get our marriage license. The office is actually not very busy, and we were able to get in and out in about 15 minutes. Fairly straight-forward except they had no remaining ceremony slots open, and we have to come back to get officially married on Tuesday morning.
Luna is suffering from some jet-lag, so she took a nap right away when we got back from the clerk's office. I started unpacking her things and putting them away. I'd made room in the closet and dresser and bookshelves ahead of time and she didn't bring a lot of things, so there weren't any problems finding space. We just need to buy some picture frames for the posters and pictures she wants to put up on the walls.
December 30, 2006
Dark City Movie Night
I had a bunch of new people show up to tonight's movie night, since Wendy and Brian have too many friends and so always have more people to bring. Although all of their friends do happen to be Asian. Anyway, Alla also showed up, and so did Thomas. New people Anh, Kristina, Roger, and Naomi showed up as well. Alla didn't stay for the movie though. This was the first movie night I've held with the new subwoofers, and I played back the Irene scene from Black Hawk Down as a demo. I'm not sure they felt as much as they could, because everyone was sitting in the second row during the demo.
We ended up watching Dark City, in large part because Kristina thinks Keifer Sutherland is really attractive from his role in 24. He plays a completely different kind of character in Dark City though, so I don't know if that worked out for her. Naomi actually only showed up shortly before the movie started, and left right after.
Most people left after the movie, but Wendy, Brian, and Thomas stayed longer. We decided to watch another movie, and Wendy picked The Avengers. She found it amusing in the beginning, but both she and Brian fell asleep pretty early into the movie, since it was so late. I was pretty tired too, but I stayed up to watch the whole thing.
December 24, 2006
Alla's Final Essays
I spent most of today over at Alla's place, going over her MBA application essays. Got there around 11:30am and left around 6:30pm. I'd say we probably spent about four or five hours with me reading and offering suggestions for improvement. But these should be her final drafts, pretty much. She's getting some feedback from Ellen and Tomer as well. She also hired a professional review service for $300, but wasn't entirely happy with the results. I think I've probably spent a couple dozen hours working with her on her essays over the past few months.
We also exchanged Christmas gifts. I knew what she was getting for me because she told me not to order "anything". She gave me season five of 24. I also gave her present to her, although I'd had it ready a while ago. She didn't want it before. I got her the board game Puerto Rico. She wasn't very surprised. But I haven't played a board game with her in a long time. This might be the last board game I get her, since it's hard to find really good games and you don't want too many since you won't play them that often.
December 20, 2006
Luna Was Approved
Luna's K-1 visa application was officially approved today. :D She had her interview at the U.S. Consulate in Guanghzou, which is about a day's train ride away from Shanghai. The interview was about ten minutes long, although she didn't get in to see the interviewer until maybe an hour and a half or two hours after her scheduled time. She was asked how we met, a few basic factual questions about me, and some simple things like that. Nothing tricky. She had to hand over all of the information about both of us for their records.
The only bad thing that happened was sometime before or during the interview she lost her Keroro wallet. Nothing important in it, only some cash. But Luna says that it's okay because the good thing balances out with the bad thing. And she can try to buy the wallet again from the store in Shanghai near her workplace. She thinks it might have been stolen when she wasn't paying attention, because Guangzhou is so crowded and busy, and people visiting the consulate might be convenient and good targets.
Anyway, she has to go to the Guangzhou post office on Friday to pick up the visa packet, along with her passport. I'm not really sure why the packet is sent to the Guangzhou post office to get picked up, and not just picked up at the consulate or actually mailed from the Guangzhou post office to the Shanghai post office or her home. It's probably a good idea for it to be kept very safe so the visa couldn't be intercepted and used by someone else. But still seems strange. So she's staying in Guangzhou until she can pick up the visa there.
December 19, 2006
Sealed Sonotube Subwoofers
In my quest for the ultimate subwoofer (restriction being no infinite baffle) flat to 5Hz, I purchased four 15" TC-2000 single voice coil drivers. After going through WinISD Pro and forums and gathering information and advice from many sources over a few months, these are the drivers I ended up with and the enclosure design would be to use sonotubes. I decided to use a sealed enclosure rather than a ported one because the port volume would be too great and a passive radiator would have too much group delay and somewhat extreme mass requirements for reaching 5Hz. I've put up photos of the construction process.
The sonotubes are approximately 4' in length, and 20" in diameter. Each endcap is three layers of 3/4" MDF, with two layers inside and one layer outside. Having three layers for the endcaps posted a problem because you cannot purchase binding posts long enough to go through that far. So what I did is run brass bolts in from the inside to meet with short binding posts run in from the outside. The end caps, dowels, and protective grille over the top driver brings the total height of each subwoofer to approximately 4.5'.
Most people cover their sonotubes with a black fabric "sock". I wanted something that would look a little nicer, so I covered mine with cherry veneer. Unfortunately, due to bumps in the outside of the tubes, there are some ridges in the veneer. And Alla and I had some issues with the glue, so there are some glue marks on the outside near one of the endcaps. We also had glue on our hands for a few days afterwards. So overall the finished look is not commercial quality when seen up close, but from a distance they look very nice.
The project as a whole took a few weekends to complete. A lot of time was spent waiting on the endcap paint to dry, and sand, and recoat. I purchased a high quality mask to protect myself while cutting the MDF, as MDF creates a very fine sawdust when it is cut, and contains carcinogens. It's really best to cut MDF outside in the open air, rather than in the garage. I wish I'd found and purchased a larger circle jig though, because my makeshift one was not perfectly accurate.
I am driving the finished subwoofers with a Behringer EP2500 subwoofer and giving it low-pass boost and equalization to mimic a Linkwitz-Transform using a Behringer DCX2496. You can accomplish the same thing with a cheaper unit, but the DCX2496 provides some additional flexibility. The cables were cut from a spool of Impact Acoustics 14/4 (four runs of 14awg in the sleeve) I won in a contest a while back. I'm doubling up the runs so the signal path is 14/2 each. Each channel of the EP2500 is driving two drivers in parallel, for a ~2Ω load.
Using a Behringer ECM8000 microphone with an M-Audio MobilePre, I calibrated and equalized the subwoofer response flat down to somewhere below 5Hz, possibly even 2Hz, because of room gain benefits. The subwoofer can be driven to reference levels without clipping.
At reference levels, it's a tiny bit noticeable. It's possible to increase the low-pass filter to boost those frequencies several more dB, in which case it really feels like there is a rotor passing over you. I'm not really sure what the dB level is supposed to be; 0dB implies 115dB to me, which I don't necessarily think I can reach at 5Hz, but at ~105dB it's already vibrating the entire house. The whole movie plays way loud at reference levels though, since it's all gunshots and explosions.
Regardless, at this point I feel like I've accomplished building the ultimate traditional subwoofer, and can reproduce all the infrasonics I might need. Now I just need to get much better speakers that have flatter overall response and can reproduce high frequencies well. :)
December 11, 2006
Christmas Presents w/Shannon and Yvonne
Yesterday I went to visit Shannon and Yvonne having not seen them in a long time. I brought them their Christmas presents, but also had to show them how to order things online to order my own Christmas present. :p They both wanted to get me Kingdom Hearts 2 because they want to see it. Hopefully they know how to use a shopping cart and go through the checkout process now and can do it again in the future. During dinner we talked a little bit about things like the video game controversery and the different attitudes towards sex and violence seen in the United States and Europe.
Afterwards, we decided to go to rent some movies. Wasn't sure what to pick. It's hard to find good movies at the store because the selection is so small. Shannon wanted something funny. Yvonne kept picking weird movies like the black and white Robin Hood. We settled on Beetlejuice, The Princess Bride (again), and Back to the Future. Beetlejuice is too creepy for Shannon, so only Yvonne and I watched it. Yvonne got creeped out too though. They both really liked Back to the Future and we need to rent the sequels next time. Back to the Future gave Yvonne a chance to make fun of me for being old. XD I'm just going to have to get them a copy of The Princess Bride rather than keep renting it.
December 4, 2006
Ellen's Indecisive Birthday
So this year I've christened Ellen's annual event as her "Indecisive Birthday". Because we spent like two hours just figuring out what to do after dinner. Alla and I got her a gift certificate to some dance studio she likes, but Alla wasn't able to make it to the party. We had dinner at an Italian restaurant named Fiorillo's. Nice atmosphere and food, but fancy-pricey. Huong and Marty were there, along with Rita and her boyfriend, Ryne, whom I'd never met before, and Karissa and Brian, plus the usual Ellen-birthday-regulars that I don't remember names of. The original plan was to go roller skating afterwards. But things got all weird after dinner.
So after dinner the group of us were going to Cal Skate Milpitas. I'd brought my rollerblades, and it was Huong and Marty, Ellen, Rita and Ryne, and I think and Justin and a Brian. But when we got there, a few of them got spooked by the atmosphere and some people they say, so we decided to go to the Dave & Buster's at the Great Mall.
D&B's seemed so much more like a Las Vegas casino than it did when I went to one with the IBM Extreme Blue team over in New York maybe four years ago. People were getting carded to get in, and if you didn't realize you were looking at arcade games, you'd think it was a casino floor. Anyway, once we got in, people weren't sure what to do and started thinking about going to a movie. Or to the miniature golf place also at the mall. Justin didn't even really want to see a movie.
Anyway, I gave up trying to figure out what we were going to do at some point during the discussion and we ended up going to see the movie Deja Vu. The movie was okay. It got some of the technical details right, and there are lots of interesting clues along the way. And I really liked how they approached the terrorism subject and that it was not overly focused upon as anything more than a crime. But parts of it were predictable and other parts were just scienfically convenient/irreconcilable.
November 30, 2006
Had a bunch of new people show up tonight to watch Cars, Pixar's newest feature film. Dantam came after not being here in a long time, and Julie showed up again. Kristen and her fiance (or husband) showed up also. As did Wendy and Reza. Unfortunately Brian had to work late and couldn't make it. Originally even more people were coming but there were a number of last minute cancellations. We ordered Round Table pizza this time, which turns out to be much more expensive pizza, although also more food and toppings. Kristen brought salad and wine.
Kristen is supposedly allergic to cats. She showed up and had forgotten to take her allergy pill, but wasn't so bad. A few sniffles maybe. I vacuumed a lot the day before so that probably helped. I didn't open the windows though because it's too cold these days. Reza and Kristen's fiance seemed to have some interest in car subwoofers. And Reza seems to know a lot about cars. He recognized a lot of the cars in the movie right away.
Cars is one of Pixar's best films yet. There are a lot of subtle and little jokes, that show an extreme attention to detail and overall fun. The credits were filled with lots of fun stuff too. And I especially liked the John Ratzenberger sequence. The story is excellent and while not the most original, the execution was superb.
I think the new technology featured in Cars is lighting and motion blur. Anyone familiar with 3D rendering knows that one of the reasons you need high frame rates is because there isn't any natural motion blur when you render a scene. It's a static image. So if you only show 24fps of a static image, the brain won't be able to fill in the missing frames and you'll see jerky motion. But in Cars, motion looked real. Absolutely necessary for something as fast paced as car racing.
The special deal with the lighting was in the reflection, gloss, and refraction. Cars have a very reflective surface, and many things both in nature and man-made have certain lighting behavior. Dealing with things like mirrors and bending of the light to match the material requires enormous computation time because each individual light ray needs to be traced as it bounces around the scene. But Pixar got it, and it's all over the place in this film. The car reflections look right, and so does the lighting from headlamps on the pavement and the ambient look of highway signs.
Although the sport of car racing doesn't interest me, I think Cars is an amazing movie and wonderful story.
November 24, 2006
Thanksgiving with Alla
Thanksgiving 2006 is over, and I spent the majority of the day working and continuing to spray paint my DIY subwoofer endcaps. I've found that the best results come from painting, letting it dry, then sanding, and then painting again to cover the exposed or roughened parts. Then repeat. You can use successively finer grit sandpaper and in this way end up with a very smooth (visually and physically) finished product. Then just cover with sealer. For dinner, I went to Alla's house in Fremont. I spent most of my time helping her with her business school applications, when we weren't eating. The food was really good. I had some mashed potatoes, two kinds of stuffing, turkey, potato salad, some purplish beats salad thing, and bread.
November 18, 2006
Impromptu Movie Night
I originally invited some people over tonight for a game night, because Luna was supposed to have French class today. But people ended up being more interested in having a movie night instead. So I ordered some pizza and Wendy, Brian, Christian, Tintin, and two of Wendy's friends, Jennifer and Thomas, showed up. We watched Shiri first, and then 2LDK.
Shiri was Wendy's pick, because it looked interesting to her as a Korean combination of action and romance. But it turned out she'd already seen it. She just didn't remember. She only remembered the original poster, with Hyun/Hee on the front, which is not on my version of the DVD because I have a special edition from Korea.
2LDK was a sort of group pick, between Wendy, Thomas, and Jennifer. Brian didn't watch it because he had something he needed to work on. Everyone really liked it, although Wendy thought the end went too extreme and gory for her taste.
November 16, 2006
So I've started watching Genshiken and it is so extraordinarily good. It's smart, funny, insightful, thought-provoking or goofy depending on your mood, and introspective all at the same time. This is an anime, based off a manga, that goes into the otaku subculture with a critical and appraising eye. It's also a perspective that I can really relate to, because these sorts of things are exactly what I go through myself. All I can say is that I'm super lucky to have found someone like Luna who is the same as me.
The only crappy thing (and thus the reason for the :_( in the title) is that Netflix doesn't have the third disc! That's crappy because now I'm stuck wanting to find out what happens next and I can't. I'm probably going to have to see if some place like Hollywood Video, Blockbuster, or the library has it. But I really doubt it. None of the searches are turning it up either.
November 10, 2006
Tonight's movie night featured The Rundown, an action comedy starring The Rock, Seann William Scott, Rosario Dawson, and one of my favorites, Christopher Walken, as the bad guy. I ordered food from Buca di Beppo because I had a $10 off coupon. But it turned out more expensive than I wanted even with that coupon. At one point, up to ten people were going to be here, so I cooked a lot of spaghetti and meatballs, but there ended up being only six of us. Wendy and Brian came, and so did Christian and Alla, and one of Wendy's friends who is a new attendee, Julie.
This was a pretty hectic movie night since I had to cook spaghetti and meatballs, and stop at Albertsons to get French bread. I also picked up Christian from his place and dropped him off afterwards, but he lives close. I picked up Julie from nearby as she took public transportation. Alla left at 10pm right after the movie because she had to do some other things, and sort of started the exodus. Which was probably a good thing because it took me about an hour to clean up everything. One of the kitties had tasted some spaghetti and meatball which resulted in some vomit.
The Rundown was fun, funny, and exciting. All of the primary actors acted in the way you would expect, if you're familiar with them, and as always Christopher Walken was great as himself. The bullet dodging was a little extreme, but nothing you wouldn't expect from this sort of movie. I do think the director cheated a lot of the action sequences by using fast cuts and extreme angles to make things more exciting than they actually were. But it was still cool to watch. Julie was exploding with laughter throughout the movie.
October 30, 2006
A Spanish Skeleton
This weekend I spent a lot of time with Shannon. She came over with her mom on Saturday because they needed back the mattress. They don't sleep over anymore because they're all so busy with school and things like that. And they have a guest visiting now so they needed the mattress. We played some more of The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures and Shannon ate some of the food I cooked even though it has tomatoes.
I took Shannon back home and then slept over that night because we worked on making her a skeleton for her Spanish class today. They do this every year for Día de los Muertos, although Shannon didn't pay attention and didn't know what it was for. We ended up cutting out the basic shapes from styrofoam and sticking them together with the metal wire from inside of twisties.
The rest of the day both Shannon and Yvonne did a lot of studying and homework. I helped Shannon study her Spanish and also a little with her English. But for some reason I was very tired so I took a nap. I think maybe because it was so cold.
October 28, 2006
I had some people over last night to watch Silent Hill, the movie adaptation of the first game of the series. It's close to Halloween, and so Wendy said a scary movie might be a good choice. Silent Hill isn't a gory or slasher movie. It's a creepy movie. And I thought it did a very good job of being creepy, although the acting and dialogue wasn't wonderful and the plot seemed a little rushed near the climax. But everyone agreed it was creepy.
Wendy's husband, Brian, also came. As did Alla and Christian and Tintin whom I hadn't seen in a long time. Alla had some trouble understanding what was going on, I think because the movie progressed somewhat like the game would in revealing clues over time and making it so things were confusing and disorienting. This does heighten the creepiness in my opinion. But she didn't like it because it wasn't realistic to her.
October 22, 2006
I gave Killer Bunnies to Shannon for her birthday, and got to play it with her and Yvonne this weekend. It turns out to be a very fun game, as recommended by the owner of the Legends store at Oakridge. The rules are a little bit complicated, which made Shannon give up on reading them, but once you understand them the gameplay is very simple and relatively fast moving. What's great is that strategy, planning, and competition are strong elements while not being overwhelmingly complex. And it's just plain fun. It would be even more fun with more players.
One drawback is that winning is to some extent luck. You can do a great job of dominating the game by killing off the other players bunnies efficiently and quickly, but if you don't happen to end up with the correct carrot, you can still lose. So even though you are the better player, you aren't guaranteed to win despite winning everything along the way. I suspect this was done to make things a little less annoying for younger children where poor players might just give up completely. It also makes it so the game can continue even though one player has gathered a plurality of the carrots.
Another issue is that you can keep buying expansion packs to get stranger cards and more wacky behavior. I do think they took a less money-grubbing approach than other collectable card games, since you just buy specific expansion packs in a certain order that provide specific cards. And that certainly allows the game to stay fresh for longer. But there are a lot of expansion packs and you probably do want to get them all.
After we played Killer Bunnies, we watched The Chronicles of Narnia. Shannon and Yvonne both remembered the books much better than I do, and were able to point out some minor inconsistencies that seemed to have crept in as a way to meet the film's time limits and make things a little simplier to absorb. I think they both liked it, and Yvonne did agree the women in the film weren't exactly the greatest. Mei-Ling kept getting scared for no real good reason. She said the music was very erie and that was making her get scared, even though the rest of us didn't feel that way.
Before I left, I helped Yvonne with her chemistry homework. I hope she understands better the shells and energy levels and concepts about atomic geometry a little better now. But mostly she just tries to find the answer and write it down without thinking much about why that's the right answer. We found the Atomic orbital entry on Wikipedia quite useful. Especially for visualizing the orbital shapes.
October 10, 2006
I got back yesterday from Jamie and Keelan's wedding which they held at The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America's Pennsylvania Headquarters (that's a long name) this past Saturday. I had a good time catching up with them, and also Karen Cheung who died for three years. Ilya and his wife, and also Kai from Wolfe House showed up. On Sunday, I had brunch with them and their relatives before flying back to San Jose.
The hotel I stayed in, a Travelodge on Race Street near the convention center, was cheaper and closer than some of the other hotels but I suspect a little more run down. The floor didn't seem very clean, although the bathroom was very well taken care of. The front desk employees were very helpful and friendly though.
The Travelodge was close enough to the Colonial Dames building, so I walked there and back. But wearing the stupid dress shoes I ended up peeling off the skin on the back of my left foot from all the walking.
While there, I found out that Karen Kapur's boyfriend Sebastian got her interested in Magic: The Gathering and she likes it. He wants us to get together to play sometime. But Karen has a craving for Bridge, and wants to play that more, although there isn't a fourth person to play.
I made fun of Karen Cheung for dying for so long, and also found it very amusing that she and her boyfriend Steve put so much into the advice for the newlyweds contest. I think they spent like 30 minutes putting their thing together, but they did win. They won a box of chocolates. :P There was also a trivia game, and those of us who were in Deutsch Hall had some additional knowledge that helped. But then we'd also lost touch with Jamie and Keelan more recently so we didn't get some of the other answers. I did somehow remember that Keelan's first dinner for Jamie was Spaghetti though.
At the table I sat at, there was also a girl sitting next to me named Carolyn, I think, who I ended up talking to a bit because she also likes Star Trek. It was fun talking to her about things from the show. Her favorite series is Voyager though, which I didn't like as much. The stories weren't great, in my opinion, and I thought Captain Janeway was stiff and somewhat lacking in personality. Her character always seemed forced. And Tuvok was a black Vulcan (don't be politically correct to the extent that you break genetics!) and also played by someone who played a hijacker in an episode of The Next Generation. Carolyn did tell me that Neelix played a Ferengi in one of the other series. I didn't know that before.
I was very tired the whole time I was in Philadelphia though. I had trouble trying to go to sleep early on Thursday night, and I can't sleep on airplanes, and I also had trouble sleeping in the hotels. I wasn't able to get a good night's sleep until I finally got home.
September 24, 2006
Love Fest SF 2006
I just got back from the San Francisco LoveFest, 2006. I didn't go the previous two years (when it was called Love Parade) because Shannon had her birthday parties. But this year Shannon isn't having a birthday party. I took Caltrain up to BART right to the middle of the event. Took a little under 2 hours that way. I met up with Alla and some of her friends as the parade was moving down Market Street.
The parade wasn't as good as I thought it would be. For starters, most of the people were not dancing. The crowd got larger in the afternoon, but most people just stood around. It seemed more of a San Francisco parade where people were more interested in dressing funny and strutting around than in the music and dancing. We saw a bunch of naked men walking around, and also a naked transvestite. The number of naked men far outnumbered the number of topless women. Alla's friends weren't much interested in dancing either; they just kept walking around and standing in front of floats.
The music also had good points and bad points. I would say about half the floats had music I didn't like, and the other half had decent music that was just messed up because the speakers were being overdriven and creating a lot of distortion. They also boosted the bass frequencies and at times, because the floats were so close in the plaza, it seemed like a war between DJs as they tried to out-bass their neighbors. During the parade, there were large sections without music, which also wasn't that great.
Unfortunately, it was so loud my ears were ringing within the first few minutes. I should have brought my earplugs.
There were a few floats that were good. And DJ Rap showed up to do a set later in the afternoon, which was really cool to see. She was doing a little less breakbeat and a little more drum 'n bass, so while I liked seeing her and was excited, I didn't like her music as much as her debut album. But it was the right type of music for this venue, I suppose. Alla didn't like what she did with the synthesized music at all; she said it made her feel naseous.
I did find out about the promotional tracks off Beatport though, which I was able to download for free. Not WAV format, unfortunately, but MP3. They gave out a download card if you gave a $10 donation to enter the plaza. Turns out you really didn't need to get the card in order to access the promotional tracks. Two of Alla's friends thought the $10 donation was required, partially because of how they set up the entrance, and decided not to enter the plaza.
I feel a little sick now, with a headache and I notice now a sunburn. I think the sun, the activity, and a lack of water has left me dehydrated and with a headache. I bought some Gatorade that I hope will help a little. Not sure if I will go next year. If I do, I'll have to remember to bring ear plugs.
September 6, 2006
Mom over Labor Day
My mom visited this past weekend because it was Labor Day weekend. She arrived Saturday night and left early on Tuesday morning. She did bring me the pluge router I wanted. She also brought me two small albums of the wedding photos Luna and I had done last time I was in Shanghai. The photos look good, but the albums are a little crappy if fancy looking. They have the name of the studio on the front, instead of our names, and the veneer is missing from the back of one of them. My favorite picture is the one where Luna looks angry and is holding the Hello Kitty dolls.
Sunday morning my mom and I went to a Church in Fremont because Calvin went there to say a few words about Labor Day. He really only talked for about 5 minutes, and I had to sit through all the sermon stuff and preaching. I wonder if preachers recognize some of the hypocricy they spout. In this particular sermon, the only reason you might not consider it hypocritical is if you aren't willing to question your own faith. Which is the point, I guess.
August 11, 2006
V for Vendetta
A few friends came over tonight to watch V for Vendetta. Jeannie, Gary, and Dantam showed up and Bryant was supposed to be he never did and we couldn't reach him by phone. The movie turned out enormously better than I was expecting. Natalie Portman and Hugo Weaving were excellent, and I was especially impressed by how well the personality and emotion of V could be portrayed even from behind the mask. The visuals, action sequences, and sound were also very good.
One aspect I particularly liked was the basis in reality that the world of V exists within. Although this is a comic book adaptation, the people are not supers and do not have any abnormal powers. There aren't any strange guns or weapons, and the characters are human in their normality and emotion. This is extremely important because the ideals and morality of this film is built upon the idea of you and I, and not the idea of something supernatural or larger than the individual.
There really is too much to say about the ideals and morality present in this film, and they come directly from the comic. The original work is sometimes said to be a satire and criticism of the UK government when Margaret Thatcher served as prime minister, because the comic features the opposing views of anarchism and fascism. The movie was modified to some degree to feature the opposing views of liberalism and (religious) conservatism, to some degree. It's taken a little farther than simple left-wing/right-wing politics.
Unfortunately, the thing that really made this movie have an impact upon me is because it captures so well exactly how I feel about certain things today. I think it's been such a long time since a movie that does this has been produced, where the current political, social, and economic situations are the real focus rather than an intellectual side-note. And it's certainly the first one that takes it as far as this one does for something that I am living through.
I do hope people will understand when it is said "artists use lies to tell the truth" that the statement is as much about the movie itself as it is about what's going on in the movie.
July 25, 2006
Yvonne's Faux Birthday
So Yvonne had a faux birthday party today. She refers to it as a faux celebration, although I'm not really sure why. I guess maybe because it was more like just having some friends and relatives over to hang out instead of really celebrating. Mei-Ling served Subway for lunch and then a birthday cake that said "Happy Birthday Polyp". Since it was so hot, people spent a lot of time in front of the fans and then later on getting wet with the water hose in the backyard. Shannon and fun attacking me with the hose.
Other than that, Shannon and I played one game of Settlers of Catan but she lost pretty badly because she picked bad starting places for her settlements and ended up without much resources. We also watched Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, and then The Swan Princess. All of which are filled with clichés and perhaps inappropriate interpretations and meanings.
Later on, Shannon remembered that she had to do an art project for her summer class at Ohlone. So I helped her with that but it was horrible work because she had to take a pattern and then paste it onto special thick paper in certain layouts. Her class is 2D design. It took like three hours to cut everything out and paste it down, even though her mom photocopied the pattern to begin with. I told Shannon we should have just used the computer or photocopier to lay things out or resize them, but she said she didn't think she could. Then later she told me one of the other students did and the teacher said his was one of the best ones. >_<
Anyway, I was glad I could go visit them because I hadn't seen them in several weeks and usually I visit much more often. But Yvonne's been busier with school and starting to feel pressure to get into college. So I guess they're too busy now for me to visit them, or them to visit me, as much as I'd like.
July 13, 2006
Baby Shopping w/Alla
No one was interested in a movie night tonight, so instead Alla and I ended up going baby shopping. Although I told her I didn't want to buy a baby. One of her friends just gave birth and Alla is the godmother, so she wants to buy the baby girl a lot of gifts and things. We went to Target to look around for things, and I bought a bunch of household things I needed. Alla couldn't really find exactly what she was looking for, but ended up buying a few good gifts.
While at the mall, we also saw Ashmi. I hadn't seen her in a long time, and apparently neither has Alla since she moved upstairs at work. She's doing the same as always, as far as I can tell, although she moved again, and is going to move again later on too.
June 28, 2006
Queen of the Damned
Today I held a small movie night, with only Dantam and Alla attending. I moved it from tomorrow to today because Alla has something else planned for tomorrow night. So I cooked some food at home, which seemed to impress Dantam for some strange reason. And then we watched Queen of the Damned. Unfortunately, I think this is a movie that sort of gets more content for having read the book, and also loses some of its appeal for having read the book.
Stuart Townsend does a very good job at portraying the Vampire Lestat, but I really think casting Aliyah as Akasha was messed up, or at least what the director had her act out was just wrong. It doesn't fit the role of Akasha very well at all, and I also recall the physical description of Akasha being different in the book. Townsend matches Lestat very well, on the other hand.
I also thought there was way too much emphasis on the rock music and also messed up special effects. Blurring people to make them seem faster doesn't accomplish that effect. It only makes things look messed up. And then there were some sequences with crazy visuals that really didn't make sense either. Some aspects of the plot were inconsistent with the mood and emotional aspects that I think Anne Rice tries to convey in her stories.
I think the most memorable part of the evening was Dantam's opinion on Stuart Townsend.
June 15, 2006
Must Love Dogs
A bunch of people were going to show up for movie night tonight, but at the last minute the roster got shuffled. So Alla, Dantam, Zhao, Sasha, Femi, and then at the last minute Kristie, showed up. Originally the girl-to-boy ratio was going to be higher, but regardless we watched Must Love Dogs which has a very clichéd and predictable plot, but some really funny points which is what made the movie enjoyable. Otherwise, it would have been just another typical romantic comedy.
MySpace became a big topic of discussion at this movie night for some reason. I'm not a member and don't plan to be, but everyone else attending has at least an empty profile on there, and some are actively using the site. The discussion about MySpace, and also other things, seems to reinforce the idea that the universe is actively working against Dantam when it comes to certain things.
June 10, 2006
Netflix 5M Celebration
Today Netflix had a company party to celebrate reaching 5 million subscribers. Shuttle service was provided to Nestldown, a private park-like area in the Santa Cruz mountains. The theme of the party was a carnival, so there were some carnies, carnival games, and food like hot dogs and cotton candy.
I learned how to play Bocce Ball from William, and played against him, his wife, Donna, Tod, and one of the event people (who was also a Netflix subscriber, going through the top 250 movies off IMDB). I did okay, especially at the beginning, but later on I wasn't thinking about it as much so didn't do as well.
Afterwards, Tod and I went down to the pond and listened to some live music from a quartet playing a violin, two guitars, and an acordian. All of the instruments were amped though. I saw Lin's daughter Alexandria there so went up to talk to them. Then Alex wanted me to go with her into the forest so I went up. We walked around in there for a while and we were going to go back but then she changed her mind and started hiking some more. She ended up seeing the train and running after it, and I couldn't get her to stop so we could tell Lin we were going after the train.
We followed the train for a while then stopped in the games field to play some volleyball and frisbee and use the swings. Then we'd been gone for a while so I told her we had to go back, and followed the train tracks back to the pond where she met back up with her dad. Turns out Lin didn't realize we had run off and so went looking for us back at the cabin area.
Afterwards, I met up with Samir and Jamie and we rode the shuttle back down to Netflix HQ and then I drove home.
June 9, 2006
Poker at Alla's
Tonight was the first time I'd played Texas Hold'em, although I'd watched Bryant play before. Alla wanted to have people over so she invited me to play at her place. I didn't realize, although I should have known, that we would be playing for money until after I got there and asked. I also didn't want to stay very late. We were going to start at 8pm, and I was planning to leave at 9pm.
But things didn't really turn out that way. No one else showed up until 8:20pm, and even then many people didn't know how to play either so we didn't actually start playing a game until 9pm. A lot of people showed up, I think 13 total people were there including Alla. And so we split into two games. I ended up at the table where most of the other people didn't know how to play either, other than Paul and Alla.
Anyway, I started with $9, and we played maybe a dozen hands. In the end, I tied with Kristie at finishing with $17, although she started out with $10. The last hand also resulted in me giving her a couple of dollars because I was already pretty ahead, and so I played it through even though I knew she had better cards than me. It was kind of uncomfortable playing, because it was very warm with so many people there.
June 6, 2006
0:2 at Settlers of Catan
Alla came over last night to viist, mostly motivated by desire to pick up her movies. Anyway, we ended up playing two games of Settlers of Catan, the second one with the Seafarers of Catan expansion. Unfortunately, I lost both games.
May 30, 2006
Building a Pushcart
Yesterday Shannon and Yvonne had the day off from school. I also technically had the day off, but I came in to do some work for a few hours anyway. Anyway, Shannon had to build a pushcart for one of her class projects because they just read a book called The Pushcart War. I picked up some balsa wood and carved wheels (made in China) from Michaels and then went over to their house in the afternoon.
It took us a few hours to build the pushcart, but it came out pretty good. I tried to let Shannon do as much as possible, but Yvonne wanted to cut some wood and also liked to use the sandpaper a lot. And Mei-Ling didn't want Shannon to use the saw, even though using a hand saw is safer than using a utility knife. Afterwards, Shannon and I made little paper boxes and bags filled with beads and stickers to put into the cart for her to sell. Shannon kept rejecting other ideas for what to sell.
While I was there, Yvonne got tortured by some guy who was visiting. He kept trying to make her use her MP3 player and then said he would show her how to clean up her hard disk because she has almost no space left. Which of course would have been a tragic thing if he had succeeded in his attempt. Yvonne is doing a lot of schoolwork stuff lately because she's been thinking too much about getting into a college and doesn't think she can get into any good ones. But her levels of failure are, in general, much higher than reality. So she should be fine. Only she needs to figure out what she wants to study.
May 29, 2006
Today Shannon and I went to FanimeCon 2006. I woke up early at 7:40am because I had to go pick up Shannon from her house. Then we came back and got the usual orange juice and bagel sandwiches before taking the VTA light rail from my house up to the San Jose Convention Center. We got there around 10am, and it was actually very quiet. Lots more people showed up around lunch time.
The only thing that really interests either me or Shannon is the dealer room. Finding hard to find items at lower than usual prices (if you shop smart and have a knack for bargaining) to make up for the registration fee is what we're both interested in. The first thing we did is find gifts for the people we wanted to get stuff for. I found a set of Keroro dolls for Luna, some Sailor Moon figures and accessories for Dantam, because I missed her birthday, and a Bleach plushie for Yvonne. Shannon bought some Inuyasha figures for her friends and a Bleach plushie for Yvonne.
Afterwards, we went around and bought stuff for ourselves. Shannon got some Pokémon plushies, and a Yu-Gi-Oh! booster pack. I think she should have bought something else too at least. I found a bunch of good stuff, including Range Murata's Robot Vol. 2, a bunch of Ghost in the Shell figures, some of which I got real cheap because the dealer wanted to unload them, and a really cute Tonberry plushie.
We met up with Alla's brother, Sasha, for a few minutes and his friend Simon shortly before we left. But then came home as soon as we'd finished shopping. Shannon was a little tired from all the walking and standing, and she wanted to visit the kitties and and I wanted to play video games with her.
I challenged her to a two-player battle in Pikmin 2 where I thoroughly stomped her even though I tried to help. She didn't really want to play that anymore. I thought it was fun. So we switched over to The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures which I specifically bought so we could play together. This was lots of fun, and Shannon really liked it too. Although she has trouble defeating enemies efficiently sometimes.
We got to Death Mountain before I had to take her to meet her mom and Yvonne at some place for them to go have dinner with someone they know. Today was a long but really fun day.
May 24, 2006
Alla got back from her trip to Europe last night. She went there originally to attend Wendy-Ann's wedding but stayed longer to travel around a little bit. She went to Luxemberg and also Prague. So she stopped by tonight and we just talked a bit while eating some sandwiches. I gave her the comb that Luna got her as a gift, and also the slippers I bought her for wearing at my house.
May 15, 2006
Karen visited me today, and we went out to eat at Mimi's Chinese Kitchen. I still think it's one of the best Chinese restaurants in the area, perhaps because it is a small family-owned and family-run restaurant. Unfortunately, there wasn't as much vegetarian choice for Karen, but they can of course provide custom orders so we were able to get stuff that Karen would eat. Afterwards, we came back to my place and watched Elizabeth. Karen enjoyed the film, and it's probably the fourth time or so that I've watched it.
May 13, 2006
Picking Up Kitties
I drove up to Fremont to pick up the kitties and turtles from Shannon and Yvonne's house the day I got back from Shanghai. They were all doing okay, and Shannon tells me that all of them were feeling more comfortable, although Chie was still hiding a bit when I arrived. Apparently Niea also ate some of the plants Shannon gave her mom and then threw up. Mei-Ling also put the litter box right next to the water and food again, so litter had been kicked into their water and food.
Before leaving, I stayed around and had dinner with them. I also played some of The Adventures of Willy Beamish with Shannon but it seems we are stuck in save game without enough time left to finish successfully. So we started to play The Island of Dr. Brain. Shannon will only play that when I'm there because she doesn't like games that require thinking. :P
On the way home, all of the cats were pretty unhappy to be in the car. I think Chie peed a bunch in the middle between the two front seats, and maybe on some of the trunk-area fabric. I'm not entirely sure where the pee got other than into the area in the middle console where the parking brake is. At least that was easy to clean once I found out that's where it was. For a few days I was driving around with a urine smell though.
May 10, 2006
The Ringworld Throne
I finished reading The Ringworld Throne on the way to Shanghai. This third book in the Ringworld series is not as interesting, although still enjoyable to read. The focus of this book is more upon the culture and different species of humanoid that have evolved on the Ringworld, rather than as much of the hard science. I think that is partially why this book is not as interesting, as how things have evolved is more arbitrary than anything.
I left this book with Luna, because she said she would like to try reading it. I think some of the vocabulary might be hard for her, and also that there are some words and ideas which are sort of made-up just for the book. But maybe she will enjoy some of it.
May 8, 2006
Visiting Luna Again
I just got back from my second visit to Luna in Shanghai. I flew out on April 29th and got back today, because the first week of May is a Chinese holiday and she didn't have work, so we could spend a lot of time together. The week went by really fast, and I was sad to leave. Luna's family picked me up at the airport, and I had dinner with them at Pizza Hut because Luna wanted either that or McDonald's. Afterwards, her dad took me back to my dad's place.
One of the things we did was to take a bus trip to her uncle's house, someplace north of Shanghai. The bus trip took around four hours, and including waiting time probably six hour total. I met her uncle's family and we went to a nearby park with his grandchildren to ride paddle boats. I accidentally dropped Luna too hard on the ground and she hurt her knee. We stayed overnight in a nearby hotel, and the next day went to a different park which involved lots of hiking. Some parts of this park were almost too crowded to enjoy. To return, we took a train back. Boarding the train was a little crazy, with everyone pushing to get on even though it is not as if the train will leave until everyone is on anyway.
While in Shanghai, we visited her grandparents, and also the family of one of her cousins. Her cousin has a PlayStation 2, and we played a few games including Naruto: Narutimate Hero 3, Devil May Cry 3, and Shinobi. I wasn't very good at the Naruto game, because I didn't know the controls for any good moves, and Devil May Cry 3 was very boring. Shinobi was a little fun, but not much. It's very much like a 3-D version of the original.
Luna and I watched lots of various things. She wasn't at all interested in Sneakers, but after I finally convinced her to watch Battlestar Galactica: The Miniseries, she got into it and wants to watch the rest of the seasons. She originally said she didn't want to watch it anymore because a baby was killed early in the show. We also watched Juon, which really came across as a B-movie to me, but it is a bit creepy. Just very hard to follow because of how it is structured. Luna says it helps to have read the story first. She also really likes Kamen Rider, even though I think it is silly.
Shanghai was extremely crowded, even more so than last time, because of the holiday. Many Chinese tourists were there. In the popular spots, such as The Bund, you could sometimes barely move. The pollution and smoking got to me much more this time, especially when we went to a fancy restaurant and there was so much smoke in the room I started to feel sick. Luna kept taking me outside or to the window to get fresh air. I got a sore throat from all the pollution, I think.
Two special things we did were to get Luna her engagement ring, and to take the wedding photos. We went to a lot of different jewelry stores, probably more than a dozen, although that's not as hard to do as it sounds as a department store will have several jewelry stores on a single floor. After looking at a lot of different styles, we found a signature cut at one of the stores that Luna really liked. It was a decent price, although I still haven't figured out how the discount was calculated and why, and she's happy with it.
For the wedding photos we went to Milan Studios, which Luna says is the best wedding photo studio in Shanghai. It's certainly a big production, and they provided the clothing and makeup, and seem to have purchased a fake building in the park for their photo shoots. I asked Luna not to pick any of the photos that have fake English words in them. The photo shoot took around twelve hours to finish, because there were so many people and not enough photographers and sometimes even not enough clothing (of the right type). Some of the costumes were a little strange to consider for wedding photos, unless you are specifically looking for an older time period, and it was very tiring for Luna. Partly because she had such a hard time following directions for posing.
All of those activities took up most of the week. Saturday and Sunday we finally relaxed. We were both very tired from so much walking around and doing so many things, including time spent shopping for gifts. So these last two days are when we just spent time at home watching things and resting.
Luna and I wanted to watch a movie while I was visiting. Instead of going to the Peace Cinema at Raffles City, which is new and tends to show the newer blockbuster releases, we went to a different, smaller cinema which seemed to have been recently renovated, and saw Eight Below. This movie claims to be inspired by a true story, but I would consider that a lie. There also weren't any English subtitles, but that's okay because dogs don't talk and it was extremely easy to figure out what people were saying since the dialogue was so simple and predictable.
I consider the idea of this movie being based on a true story to be a lie because from what I can tell, the only thing based on a true story is the idea of Antarctic scientists/explorers getting beaten up by the elements and having sled dogs. I don't think any significant sequence of events that occurred in the storyline of the movie has any relation to a sequence of events that took place in reality.
I also didn't really like how personalities were given to each of the dogs by having them act certain ways on command and the use of camera angles and sound effects (dog noises). I suppose giving the dogs personalities is essential to the film, because the story is in large part about how the dogs survive on their own for so long. But their personalities were too artificial for me.
While I don't think the length of time the dogs are left down to survive, without water, is realistic at all, I do think this is a decent "Disney" movie and can be enjoyed in that respect. I just don't have much interest in that sort of movie these days.
April 22, 2006
Hanging Out w/Alla
So I hung out with Alla this past Wednesday and also tonight. On Wednesday, movie night got cancelled (although Zhao never told me he was coming so it's not my fault he waited outside for 30 minutes) and Alla and I ended up cooking some dinner and just hanging out. Today, we went to Oakridge on the excuse that she needed to buy a dress for Wendy-Ann's wedding.
But she didn't find anything good in her size, and ended up buying some shoes instead. I ate some Chinese food at the food court, and then we went to Borders to sit around and read stuff. I read the first volume of Ray (can't find a good link) which is pretty good. I think I'll probably buy the series. I didn't buy from Borders though because the book was a little dirty, and they only had volumes 1-3, but the sale is for four manga books.
April 13, 2006
Fun with Dick and Jane
Just watched Fun with Dick and Jane with an unusually large number attendees. A total of nine people showed up, including a few people I wasn't expecting such as Christa and Vince, and also Mike Liu because he was back in town. Although he didn't stay for the movie, just to talk. Samir and Jamie were there, and also Zhao. Ellen showed up as well, although she caused some trouble earlier with refusing to eat Chinese food. Dantam was a last minute attendee so I ended up cooking extra food because I thought Mike and Dantam would need more food than what Jamie bought. But ended up that Jamie had bought enough food without my extras.
Unfortunately I didn't get to talk with Christa that much because she arrived much later than everyone else. Although she socialized with others a bit. She also washed her dishes, even though she shouldn't have.
The movie was pretty entertaining. This was one role where I was very amused by Jim Carrey, as well as his character's wife played by Tea Leoni. The premise is also pretty fun, in a timely way, as it goes through some extreme comedic relief associated with the recent financial scandals involving high-ranking corporate officials. They poked fun at those people a few times.
April 6, 2006
The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe
We watched The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe tonight. Jamie and Samir showed up, as well as Dantam and Zhao. Lin showed up for the first time today. I turned the volume way up on the movie so that the low frequencies would create the proper visceral feeling. Of course this made the movie really loud in general, and I also ended up increasing the center channel volume a little because I had a hard time making out the dialogue. But it paid off on some critical scenes and everyone really enjoyed it. Lin screamed and jumped a couple of times.
The movie was very enjoyable from an action and basic plot point of view. The visuals were pretty spectacular, as was the audio. But as a story, it is a little simplistic. More so, I think, than some other childrens movies that are spectacular in the same way. It's all very straight-forward and you're not really trying to discover anything or come to any sort of realization. Things are presented at face value, although the symbolism is high.
One thing I did notice very clearly was the inferior attitude towards women. Susan is given a bow, and Lucy a dagger, but neither of them ever use them in any serious manner. Instead, they only call for help and heal others (think motherly). The evil white witch is a woman, while the good Aslan is a man. There are only a handful of female warriors shown, and they stay far back and only fire a few arrows. In contrast, there are hundreds of male warriors who engage in direct combat. And in a very obvious presentation, Aslan is shaved to look like a woman before being killed on the stone table. So in total, there are only a handful of extremely useless women, women are evil, and Aslan is insulted by being dressed like a woman.
April 3, 2006
Tim Moshier's Gone
I just got a message from Jess that told me Tim Moshier's helicopter was shot down yesterday and he was killed in action. Tim went to West Point after high school and started flying helicopters down in Louisiana. He was always a big kid, looked just like a soldier too. He was also a really good person, and the kind of person I would trust to always do the right thing in a situation where he has to be a soldier. His wife, Katie is also that kind of person. I imagine it must have been very scary for him.
April 2, 2006
Yvonne's Colorguard Team Wins 1st
Yvonne spent the day at Sacramento with her colorguard team (I think she said there's eleven of them) from school because a competition was held there and they won first place! Yvonne was super happy, although she looked a little funny to me wearing blue eyeshadow and blush. I think Mei-Ling made the eyeshadow too high and added too much blush. Mei-Ling also tried to take credit saying they won because she drove them. Probably because they drove her crazy by singing 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall.
Anyway, no one at the school seems to even know what colorguard is, so I told Yvonne she should get them to write something up in the school paper so everyone would know. And since they won first place, other people would probably get interested in it. Just because it would make them feel like something special even though they had nothing to do with it. But for some reason you have to apply to be a school paper staff member and can't just submit a story. Maybe she can get one of them to start interviewing the colorguard members.
Alhambra and Shannon
Around noon, I drove to Irvington High School and picked up Shannon from her Chinese class there. I was really hungry by then, as I hadn't eaten anything in a while, so we went to Sweet Tomatoes. I hadn't been there in a long time, and so I stuffed myself. Didn't eat any dinner or anything else as a result. Shannon wanted to play Settlers of Catan because she really liked it when we played last time. So we drove to Great Mall and picked up a copy of Alhambra, winner of Spiel des Jahres 2003.
Alhambra is pretty fun, although not as interactive as Settlers of Catan because you build a city in your own space, without affecting other players. Instead, your city plan might be influenced by the purchasing actions of other players, but you can't really do anything that would ruin another player's strategy. Shannon liked it though, so that's good. I left the game at her house so we can play it whenever I'm over there.
I also fixed their coffee table and some of their chairs. They weren't really broken. Just the screws were loose or had come out and Mei-Ling had no idea what to do. Easy to fix, just took some time to screw everything back in and tighter. There's still a gap in the base of one chair, which is because the screws went in at an angle that drew the boards apart from each other, but that's only an asthetic problem.
March 31, 2006
Movie Night - Saved
I had the usual crowd over last night for a movie night. This time, Alla brought a guest, César, one of the coops working for IBM at the SVL lab. Dantam, Zhao, Jamie, and Samir all showed up. Because of last time, this was supposed to be a night when Samir would be free to exercise his opinion. But he didn't really exercise anything. We ordered Chinese food instead of pizza, and I also bought some hot sauce and red pepper for Dantam and Samir since they like spicy food.
For the movie, we watched Saved. I think everyone really enjoyed it, and it was a much more light-hearted movie than our previous movie night. Dantam pointed out that Mandy Moore plays evil very well. I think everyone did a pretty good job in the movie.
March 24, 2006
Scott's + Stephen's Birthdays
Some of us celebrated Scott's and Stephen's birthdays today by treating them to lunch at Chevy's. Jeannie brought an ice cream cake that was very good: cookies and cream flavor. It was cool hanging out with some of my friends whom I haven't seen in a while. Besides Scott and Stephen, Ashmi, Jeannie, Bryant, and Ellen also showed up. Alla couldn't make it because she had a team lunch with her coworkers. As usual, I was on time and everyone else was late.
March 21, 2006
Just Like Heaven
I hadn't seen Alla in a while, so we decided to meet up tonight. She is on her eating-healthy kick right now so she didn't want to go out to eat at any restaurants. I ended up buying some fresh vegetables and cooking that with some chicken. She liked the black vinegar chicken and deep-cooked onions (with too much soy sauce), but not the boiled vegetables. Afterwards, we watched Just Like Heaven, a movie she's already seen but liked. We watched it in French with English subtitles.
Just Like Heaven is a decent movie, but it follows a typical romantic comedy storyline. Nothing really new here except that Reese Witherspoon can really act out spunk instead of just saying things, and she is a good actress. I don't really like Mark Ruffalo as much. What I did really like about the movie were the funny parts involving Reese's interactions with Mark. Otherwise, there's nothing much here.
March 19, 2006
Today Shannon finally came to visit me at my place, although Mei-Ling and Yvonne didn't come. I think Shannon's the only one that's actually interested in coming to my place, and I don't think Mei-Ling likes the long drive. So I picked Shannon up from her house around 3:30pm. They had all gone to the dentist today, and Shannon got one of her teeth pulled out because she says the dentist said it would have crowded her mouth. We stopped at Target on the way back so she could buy birthday gifts for Winnie and someone I don't know named Samuel.
The first thing we she when we got to my place was to look for the kitties. Asuka and Niea were around just fine, but Chie was hiding. I'm not really sure why he hides whenever Shannon comes over, but he does. I think Shannon needs to visit more often so he will remember her better. Then I taught Shannon how to play Settlers of Catan. She liked this game, and it was pretty close; she almost won except I built some roads and stole the longest roads points from her.
Then we talked to Luna for a little bit on the webcam. This was the first time Luna got a chance to see Shannon. Her mom and dad also saw Shannon. For dinner Shannon wanted a bread bowl, so I put some soup in the cut ends of some fresh French bread I bought this morning. I also made some spaghetti and fish, but Shannon was full off the soup and bread bowl so didn't eat much of that. We watched Bruce Almighty while eating.
We played a couple of games of Magic: The Gathering. I let Shannon use my old deck, which my mom brought over when she visited for Christmas. She had some problems with the deck though, and lost both times. I think my old deck has better cards and is better balanced for a wide variety of opponents, but my new white deck does have a much more aggressive creature approach which Shannon was unable to defend against. Plus, new cards often have effects that can only be efficiently countered using cards from that same series.
March 17, 2006
I had another movie night today, which Zhao, Dantam, Jamie, and Samir attended. People brought movies to watch, and from the selection we ended up choosing North Country, which was contributed by Samir and Jamie. The movie is based on real events, but presents a fictional dramatization of those events with different people and companies involved. Josey Aimes got a job working as a miner at a corporate environment that encouraged and hid a culture of sexual abuse towards women. The best thing about the movie was the acting. I think the story and other aspects of the film was about average.
March 13, 2006
No Pokémon Cards
I visited Shannon (pretty much only Shannon, since Mei-Ling was out and Yvonne barricaded herself in her room) last night. I drove her to Target to buy some Pokémon cards, but she ended up not buying any because her mom would have been unhappy with her. But she whined about it instead, until we got back to her house. I picked up some Mexican food for dinner on the way back, and Shannon discovered that she likes refried beans.
Afterwards, we watched Star Wars: Clone Wars as I saved the discs until she could watch them. We had to watch on Soujiro because their DVD player is still broken. They need to get a new one, but Mei-Ling wants to buy one for like $20, which is very rare. And probably crappy too.
Besides that, I tried hooking up an old USB webcam so Shannon and I could videochat with Luna, but it didn't seem to work with Windows XP or maybe the USB ports on the laptop have a problem. Unfortunately, my only other webcam is a Firewire one, and I don't think there are Firewire ports on Soujiro. We had fun talking to Luna via IM though, and Luna said Shannon acts like she is five. We also ended up talking to Christian via IM, and Shannon said he is not that tall at ~180cm.
March 9, 2006
Cranium + Scattergories
I had some friends over for a game night today. Dantam, Alla, Samir, Jamie, and Ellen showed up, although Ellen didn't play anything and left early. Jamie and Dantam didn't want to play any "brainy" games, so although Alla and I would have preferred to play Settlers of Catan, we ended up playing Cranium and then Scattergories.
For Cranium, the teams were Samir and Jamie versus me, Alla, and Dantam. Ellen wanted to be the question reader, and also sat next to me so my left ear got some pounding. Samir and Jamie had gotten the game for Christmas (as well as Scattergories) and this was the first time they'd played. I find the game fairly easy, and we got some lucky purple rolls, so we ended up winning, although it was a little close at the end.
I don't think Scattergories is much fun though. The basic idea is to come up with different words that start with the same letter, one item per category. And there's a three-minute time limit. But you're really just playing against yourself, as you look at the lists and come up with words, with almost no gameplay involving other people. Jamie likes it though.
March 3, 2006
Dinner with Karen
I just got back from meeting up with Karen. I hadn't seen her in a few months now, and so I drove up after work so we could catch up a little over dinner. We ate at a Chinese restaurant called Jing Jing on University Avenue. We talked a little bit about Luna, and her work, and other random things. Afterwards, we met up with her boyfriend, Sebastian, and drove into Mountain View to a pool hall where we played a game I'd never heard of before. It ended up being one win each.
The new pool game, which Sebastian described to me, is that each player must hit the smallest numbered ball first, and you get points equal to the number on any balls you sink. Karen tried to do some smart bounce calculations, but got all confused about the rules of physics. So she ending up doing those angle shots wrong, although more than once that worked to her advantage.
March 2, 2006
I just got back from going ice skating at Logitech Ice. It's the first time I've been ice skating, except for one time I can barely remember as a little child. I was very bad back then, shuffling my feet, but since I am a good rollerblader, ice skating was not difficult for me even though this kind of counts as my first time. The ice is more slippery though. Alla, Dantam, Alin, Paul, Marie, Vitor, Sebastian, and Michael (I don't really know the last people) came as well.
February 23, 2006
I had some friends over for a movie night tonight. Alla, Zhao, Dantam, Samir, and Jamie showed up. A bunch of other people couldn't show up because Stephen had bible study, Bryant had hockey, Thomas was studying biblical hockey, and Mike was studying Thomas studying biblical hockey. We ordered pizza, the usual deal although I haven't had a movie night in a long time, and ended up picking Monsoon Wedding as the movie to watch.
It's a pretty good movie, and everyone liked it quite a bit. Zhao said it was the best movie he's seen at a movie night, although he hasn't been to a whole lot. Alla had to leave early though, so she might come over tomorrow to watch the ending. Samir and Jamie said the behavior and dialogue and everything was very authentic. I have to agree, that it is a really detailed and well done film. It has a lot of emotion and drama, as well as comedic elements. And it seems very realistic and full.
February 20, 2006
I've wanted to see Corpse Bride for a while now. I'm a big fan of Tim Burton's movies, and he brought along some of his usual suspects to make this movie (i.e. Johnny Depp and Danny Elfman). He also did a good job of matching Helena Bonham Carter as Corpse Bride. I've noticed more people are taking the approach of casting voice actors who physically match in real life the characters of the movie. And it tends to pay off quite well. Corpse Bride contains some amusing musical numbers, and also Tim Burton's characteristic dark vision that I enjoy.
I watched this movie with Shannon and her friend Joyce. Joyce talks a lot during movies. It was a little hard to watch and hear what was going on because we had to watch on the laptop with some un-powered speakers. Mei-Ling had a big dinner party and so it was pretty loud. I ended up playing with Shannon most of the time, as Yvonne was her usual self interested in the computer until the baby showed up with one of the guests. Then she paid a lot of attention to the baby.
It's funny that Yvonne looks like her mom now, from behind. They're about the same height now, and have the same hair cut and body shape, although Yvonne is a little slimmer. Shannon told me that she got them confused from behind too, and one time hugged Yvonne thinking that she was their mom. So of course Yvonne bopped her on the head.
February 5, 2006
I celebrated my birthday last night with some of my friends. I had the party last night instead of today because today is once again Superbowl Sunday, just like last year. The attendees were: Alla, Ellen, Sasha, Dantam, Spencer, Julie, Samir, Jamie, and Jeannie. I was surprised that so many people ended up showing up. I made some salad, bread + cheese, stir fry, pizza, and ham, and ordered Chinese food also. We basically ended up sitting around and talking.
Jamie kept her boots on though. At least they were new boots, so I'm guessing not particularly dirty. Jeannie and Alla are of the opinion that shoes should be worn inside the house, regardless of their outside status. Jamie really didn't want to take off her boots because she was wearing white socks. She said her socks didn't match; I thought she meant they were two different colors, but really it only meant that they didn't match the rest of her clothes. She will know better now that next time she needs to dress for non-shoe wearing.
Samir and Jamie got me a little box of cat toys, which is great because the cats don't have that many toys to play with, and have sort of gotten bored with their existing ones. A bunch of other people chipped in to get me something organized by Alla, but it hasn't arrived yet so I'll get it later.
Most people left by around 10pm. But Alla and Sasha stayed later and we watched D.E.B.S.. I think Sasha enjoyed it, but Alla thought it was a little dumb at first because she didn't realize it wasn't supposed to be taken seriously. I think she would have enjoyed some other movie better, but she wasn't really good at picking something from the shelf.
January 24, 2006
I was talking to Ellen this morning on AIM and out of the blue she invited me to Brian's birthday dinner, which I just came back from. I think she had ulterior motives for inviting me, be regardless, I went to dinner. I only knew Brian, Ellen, Rita, and Huong. The rest of the people that showed up were friends of Brian's (I think Ellen knew them) but strangers to me. Anyway, it was pretty fun and the food was decent. We ate Vietnamese food at a place called Vung Tau. Brian, Rita, Ellen, and Huong went ice skating afterwards, but everyone else went home. I didn't feel like staying out too late, or like ice skating, so I didn't bother to go.
January 16, 2006
I took Yvonne and two of her friends, Cecilia (Floopy) and Ying, to see Brokeback Mountain today. Yvonne really wanted to see it, although I'm not sure how much Cecilia or Ying wanted to see it. It was a good movie, although the love story in it was not really that special. Ang Lee did a great job directing, and all of the actors performed excellently, especially Heath Ledger and also Anne Hathaway, the two of whom you might not expect to be good actors. I think this movie is getting some extra credit for its subject matter, which is handled honestly and brilliantly by the film.
After the movie, we were all really hungry, and went to Fresh Choice to eat since it was right outside the theater. I ate a lot, since I hadn't eaten any breakfast or lunch, and so did Floopy even though she kept saying how full she is. And then she would go get more food anyway. I think she said she was full like ten times, and kept eating more soup and went back for seconds on the salad, and then said she was full some more while eating the ice cream on the way back. She failed at her attempts to kiss her full stomach.
We got lost on the way back though, because I took the wrong exit off I-880 and ended up driving a lot of extra miles before I found a familiar road and got back onto Paseo Padre. I took Floopy straight home but Ying came back to Yvonne's house to play flag stuff and also the piano. Which she was annoyed at for being out of tune and kind of extra-resonant.
And then we had to eat again, because Yvonne told me after we were already eating at Fresh Choice that her mom told her not to go eat anything after the movie before coming home.
January 15, 2006
Yahoo! Messenger w/Shannon & Yvonne
Tonight I went over to Shannon and Yvonne's house and installed Yahoo! Messenger on Soujiro so that I could do voice and video to Luna in Shanghai. Yvonne asked her how to translate some things from Chinese to English, but Shannon had the most fun because she kept saying "bloopy" to Luna and telling Luna to make funny faces. Mei-ling doesn't have a webcam though, and the microphone in the laptop is not that good, so Luna couldn't hear us very well or see us at all. Luna thinks Shannon acts and sounds really cute though.
Later on, Shannon and I watched Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Ron is the most useless in this one, and this is also the movie where all of them appear to have hit puberty. This is actually my least favorite of the movies so far. The story isn't as interesting as the others, I think, and there wasn't really anything new and amazing to see. And most of the important characters had very small roles.
Their DVD player is still having lots of problems. It froze in the middle of the movie, and we ended up having to skip over a couple of chapters to continue watching. The first time, Shannon thought that the first disc ended in the middle of the movie and it was continued on the second disc. Most likely because that's how their VCDs are. But the second disc, which contains all the special features, won't even play. They need to buy a new DVD player sometime soon.
January 12, 2006
Today was Bryant's birthday. Several of us treated him out to lunch at Sato Sushi, which was his requested restaurant. Besides me and Bryant, Ellen, Stephen, Thomas, and Sergio were there. Scott and Jeannie couldn't make it. We learned, although I think Bryant already knew, that Stephen is planning to ask his girlfriend Michelle to marry him. It's okay for me to write this because she already knows that he is planning to do this. She just doesn't know when or where.
January 10, 2006
Kitties are Home
Alla picked me up from the airport on Sunday morning, and when I got home I took a nap because I can't sleep on airplanes and so was really tired. Afterwards, I went to Shannon and Yvonne's house to pick up the kitties and turtles. Chie was still hiding under Shannon's bed, but Asuka was coming out more. And Mei-Ling said Chie is the friendliest. Probably because he listened to Buddha's teachings with her one time.
I gave Yvonne her presents: a L'Arc en Ciel CD, three mangas, and a Prince of Tennis chibi keychain. I gave Shannon a Naruto mousepad, Leaf headband, and a magic trick. She and Yvonne really liked the magic trick, but when Shannon tried it on her mom, she didn't trick her.
The kitties and turtles are glad to be home. The turtles can swim around in their tank again, instead of being stuck in the little terrarium with sometimes-dirty water. And all of the kitties are happy and back to their old habits. They slept with me on my bed all next to each other last night.
Shanghai is Cold
Over the new year, I visited Shanghai which was my first time in China (excluding Hong Kong). I stayed at my dad's place because he has an apartment/office there, and went because I wanted to visit Luna. Shanghai is a lot like New York City, only more so in the ways I don't like New York City. It is even more crowded, dirtier, and noisier. Buses were frequently packed way past capacity, and no one obeys simple traffic rules like driving in one lane or not running red lights. So it is also pretty dangerous because you can be easily hit by a motorist and people can steal easily on the buses.
Despite that, the city planners have done a good job in many ways. There are separate lanes for bicycles and motorcyles in many areas, and raised or subterranean walkways for crossing busy streets. You can also find completely underground strip malls. And the traffic cops are doing their best to enforce good and safe pedestrian and motorist behavior in many places.
The biggest problem for me was the extreme cold. Temperatures hovered very close to 0°C or only a few degrees higher for the majority of my stay. I ended up getting sick on Wednesday or Thursday because it was raining heavily at freezing temperatures with strong winds and I got very wet while walking around. Plus, my dad doesn't like to use the heater so even on the 23rd floor when it is so cold outside, he had the bathroom window open and the heater set to 18°C or 20°C in the main room. So I would be really cold when there, and also when sleeping. He only turned up the heat later after I got sick. It was warmer to leave and get on the bus or go to the shopping mall.
Food is cheaper there, and of course there is a great variety of authentic Chinese food available. But if you decide to visit one of the new Western chains such as Pizza Hut, KFC, McDonald's, or Burger King the prices are the same as what you'll find in the U.S. (The same goes for any other imported brands of clothing or electronics.) But the menus are very different, and more like restaurants rather than fast food joints. You will find yourself waiting for a table at Pizza Hut, and the menu is Chinese-flavored at all of these places. I did really like the food at Ajisen Ramen though.
Coca-Cola and Pepsi have a strange sort of competition going on though, with Coca-Cola clearly spending much more on advertising. Both of them have created "teams" of celebrities to promote their brand, and you can find their faces pasted all over the place individually or as a team with their respective company brand in the background.
While I was there, Luna and I visited the TV broadcast tower, which is the 3rd tallest tower in the world or something like that. We also went to the museum which was featuring the paintings of many renaissance artists, but Luna wasn't interested in seeing any paintings. Plus the line was really long. Instead we looked at the gemstones, which she really liked. Shanghai also has a really cool aquarium with lots of different types of fish and other ocean and river life. The introductory exhibits are not that exciting, but later on you go down deep into a really long underwater tunnel so you can see all sorts of animals up close.
One thing that I did get a chance to do was visit a HiVi store and listen to a pair of Swans 2.2. These are amazing speakers featuring ribbon arrays for the tweeter and midrange, and four woofers. What I heard was excellent. Unfortunately, no one in Shanghai knows how to sell speakers. The room was acoustically horrible, and the salesmen did not know what they were doing (the DVD player and integrated amp were not configured correctly). The salesmen didn't even turn off the nearby television or close the doors into the rest of the mall. The room was glass walls and a hard floor, although there was a suspended ceiling. The speakers are rear-ported, but were placed way too close to the wall.
A Chinese Tall Story
I saw another movie with Luna this past Saturday: Ching din dai sing. It also wasn't that good, but there were some goofy entertaining parts. It seems like this movie is a mixture of traditional Chinese folklore and parodies of contemporary pop culture. And the angel flight reminded me a lot of a similar scene in Barbarella.
Also interesting was that A Chinese Tall Story also starred Nicholas Tse, who was in The Promise. In both films he played a bishonen crazy/goofy person. Except A Chinese Tall Story is deliberately a comedy, rather than an action film.
Luna noted that the composer for this movie was someone famous from Japan. But she could not remember the name. The web site lists the composer, who is indeed famous and explains why Luna really liked the music. I also like the music of Joe Hisaishi.
January 1, 2006
I saw Mo gik with Luna today at the Peace Cinema. There were only a few movies to choose from, and she picked that one. It was a very expensive movie to make, and apparently is shooting for awards in the foreign film category in other countries, but it was a very confusing and strange film. Even if you could understand Chinese.
A goddess gives two different people a chance to make a deal, and both of them accept. But a lot of things do not make sense, such as why one man volunteered to have himself set on fire and afterwards he becomes the servant of the evil ruler. Or why the evil ruler never just kills his enemies, but instead keeps tying them up. There is supposed to be some sort of time-manipulation aspect to the movie, but I couldn't figure it out.
Plus, there are a lot of goofy things going on, such as the funny hand staves of the evil ruler, or the corny lines that some of the actors say at times. I'm not sure if it was really meant to be campy or not, but I think it probably was because sometimes it was so blatant.
The special effects were impressive, except for when it was clear that they were fake. Which was most of the time. In that regard, the special effects were not well done at all. It was very obvious when a blue- or green-screen had been used, and the action movements of some of the superhuman powers were rendered imprecisely.
If you like the martial arts aspect but couldn't care less about the story, then this film will probably suit you just fine. There is a fair amount of combat going on, and at times it is fairly impressive since all of the main characters have superhuman abilities.
December 29, 2005
My friend Tintin, who works at IBM in Poughkeepsie, sent me a copy of Catch-22 by Joseph Heller as a Christmas present. She says it is one of her favorite books. After reading the book, I can understand why, as it matches with her sense of humor perfectly. I found it entertaining to the same degree as Me Talk Pretty One Day. Each chapter of Catch-22 focuses on one character, and the irony and futility of things in life that the phrase Catch-22 has come to represent. Sometimes I found this repetitive, but at least Heller kept the ideas flowing. I should probably send her a copy of Me Talk Pretty One Day if she hasn't already read it.
December 27, 2005
Luke just IMed me to tell me some bad news. Adam Greenberg died from what seems like complications from hip surgery last week. This is such sad news. Adam had been fighting what I think was Hodgkin's Disease for several years now. But I thought, and so did Luke, that he was better and doing fine. He was still finishing school too. He was one of my best friends growing up. I think I met him in third grade, and I even saw him once or twice after leaving for Berkeley.
Adam's house was the first place I saw Saturday Night Live. He used to really like watching it, and I slept over a few times and we would watch it downstairs then fall asleep there. I also remember the time he stuck his tongue to a DC adapter and got shocked, and the time we tricked Sean into getting stuck outside the back door and pretended to order pizza. Sean also once pretended to Alyssa that he could speak in "tongues". Adam told me as a kid he drank some beer one time without his dad knowing and woke up in the closet.
Adam's dad also liked to get a lot of gadget things. I think he was the first person I knew to have a Palm and then a Windows CE handheld for his work. Adam's dad also introduced Adam to the real Internet, and not a BBS. Adam then showed me how to get on too.
I had just talked to Adam on AIM a month or two ago. He always has strange buddy icons, like a Martha Stewart one while she was being prosecuted. I know his parents always wanted him to get better grades, and Adam was always scared for them to find out what his report card was. But he was also one of the most knowledgeable persons I know when it comes to politics and current events. Probably because of his dad.
I normally never say bye to anyone. There is that Japanese saying which goes something like "one meeting, one lifetime". I always kind of felt that way but it didn't really matter if it really was one meeting or not. Luna tells me that I should think of it as him just going travelling, but not returning to here. But I have a hard time with that because I don't believe in anything outside of this. So I'm saying bye to Adam now.
Saying Bye to Kitties
My parents and Dennis left today. My mom insisted on me going to the airport, even though I was supposed to get to Mei-Ling's house at noon and so my car was filled with the cats and turtles and all of their things. So it was a waste of gas and time, and a little dangerous for me to go to the airport. My mom rode in the passenger seat. Once I got to the airport, I just let her out really quick because I did not want to risk the cats escaping at the busy airport, then I left and drove to Mei-Ling's house.
Mei-Ling had cooked a lot of food because she was expecting everyone else to show up, but instead only I did. Arthur and David and their mom came over for lunch. I spent some time setting up the Playstation 2 they borrowed for playing DDR, and then also installed the BenQ DW1610 DVD burner for Yvonne. Turns out this drive does not like all DVD-R media, so later we went to Fry's to try and find a replacement DVD player (they were sold out of the $20 ones) and to buy some DVD+R media. The DVD+R media worked fine.
We later went to Hometown Buffet for dinner because Shannon had a coupon for her to eat free there. I stuffed myself with way too much food.
After dinner I spent a lot of time with the kitties, trying to make Chie and Asuka feel better, and playing with Niea. They were all acting strange. Asuka did not like getting hugged, and was very frightened of something. Chie was hiding as normal, but I managed to get him into Shannon's cave. Niea was acting funny because she seemed way too energetic.
Anyway, I am really missing the cats. This will be the first time I am away from them for so long, and the first time I will be sleeping in my bed without them next to me. When I hear the cabinets close, it reminds me of them. I hope they will be okay while I am gone.
Iris' Departure Day
So Iris left yesterday at noon time. I took her and Dennis and my parents to the airport, dropped them off, then circled around to pick everyone back up except for her. Afterwards, we came home and I took a three hour nap because I was so tired. My leg also felt better after the nap, but my mom woke me up before I was done sleeping because she wanted to go out to eat with everyone.
We drove to pick up Calvin and then looked for a place to eat. Since it was Christmas day, everything was closed. Dennis didn't want Chinese food, but the only thing open was King Buffet which serves Chinese, Japanese, and other stuff like seafood and steak. So we ate that. My dad likes buffets because they are all-you-can-eat. I thought I had a coupon for it but I couldn't find it. Turns out it was in my wallet, which my mom started going through when I wasn't looking.
Later that night, my mom played some DDR and I played a little bit too. Then we watched Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, which I think both Dennis and my dad really liked. And then after that, Dennis and I watched Black Hawk Down.
December 25, 2005
Christmas Eve Presents
Since Iris has to leave tomorrow, we opened all our presents tonight. I got a digital camera from my mom and dad, which has 10x optical zoom. That's much better than the current digital camera I have. I also got some clothes from someone. Hsiuli got me fancy bathroom soap. Calvin got me a couple of books and also the Battlestar Galactica SciFi miniseries. Iris and Dennis eventually got me stuff I like: a stuffed Chococat and Batman Begins. Shannon and Yvonne got me the Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi DVD collection.
I got my mom some perfume, my dad some noise cancellation headphones, Hsiuli a picture frame, Spencer a GameBoy Advance game, Calvin the Ghost World comic and Diana Krall's Love Scenes album, Dennis a drumming DVD, and Iris two CDs: Tori Amos' Tales of a Librarian and Sarah McLachlan's Surfacing.
Christmas Eve Shopping
Today was less busy than yesterday, but I was feeling kind of exhausted. Dennis and Iris still needed to buy me a Christmas present, so I took them to Oakridge. They had a hard time finding what to get me, but eventually bought some stuff from Borders. I bought a cheap second dance pad for DDR. While we were doing this, my mom went with Hsiuli and Spencer to buy food. My brother and dad disappeared somewhere else.
When we got back, my mom and Hsiuli started cooking. Dennis went to sleep. Iris, Spencer, and I started playing DDR. But Spencer kept smashing the floor way too hard; I don't think I'll let him play at my house again. Iris is extremely good at DDR, and can handle standard difficulty just fine, and even move onto heavy. I think she did a song on heavy just to impress me. Spencer's ego continued to get artificial boosting, which probably isn't a good thing since he hasn't learned humility yet.
Spencer also kept walking around on my carpet and into the kitchen with his shoes on.
December 24, 2005
Today I drove about 150 miles, mostly in parking lots, and spent around nine hours at various stores in preparation for Christmas because my mom didn't finish her shopping. First I had to go to The UPS Store to finally return Alla's defective jewelry armoire for a refund. Then my dad and I went to Home Depot to buy a Christmas tree. We put it up, and then immediately I drove off to Valley Fair with my mom, Dennis, and Iris.
While at Valley Fair, the only thing I bought was the final volume of Tuxedo Gin which I am glad is finally over in volume fifteen. Dennis didn't buy anything, and Iris only bought some mascara. My mom bought a bunch of presents. Suncoast is at that mall, but I never buy anything from there because all of their retail prices are way over what they should be. In other words, MSRP. We spent about two hours at this mall total.
I took a pit stop at home to drop off Dennis and Iris before taking my mom to the post office to send out a package. Expensive for express mail delivery on Sunday. Then we went to Oakridge so I could buy Iris' presents and my mom could buy presents for Shannon, Yvonne, and their mom. I told her not to get Mei-Ling a sweater this year, and so she bought her something useful instead. This whole process took another couple of hours.
Once we got back home, it was immediately time to go out to dinner. I took Dennis and Iris with me, and my mom and dad went with Calvin, up to the Mayflower restaurant in Milpitas Square. The food there was okay. A little expensive because it is a more fancy Chinese restaurant. At least eating there meant we could walk around afterwards to see if there was anything interesting in the stores. None of us bought anything from those stores, but we did stop at 99 Ranch to get some food.
Then we were finally going to get home around 9pm, but instead my mom wanted us to go visit them in their hotel room. Iris wanted to go, but Dennis and I didn't want to. We ended up going because my mom kept saying so and didn't want to come back to my place. Everyone just sat around watching some TV show where Sarah Jessica Parker was being interviewed. I was really bored and started reading the comics and doing the puzzles. My dad was also bored and just reading the newspaper.
We finally got home around 10pm and I am really tired. I don't want to go anywhere tomorrow.
December 23, 2005
My parents and Dennis and Iris arrived tonight. Since there were so many of them, and lots of luggage, they wouldn't all fit in my car. Calvin couldn't come pick them up because he was working, so I ended up calling Ellen. I thought I could borrow her SUV to pick them up, but she didn't want me to drive it so instead she came to the airport with Rita and drove my parents back to their hotel. Dennis and Iris are staying at my place.
My mom and dad wanted to go eat Chinese food, but everything was closed by the time we got home at around 9pm. And they also wanted to treat Ellen and Rita. So we went to Chili's for dinner. I wasn't very hungry, but I figured I should just eat something. I noticed that Iris says "exciting" and "intense" a lot.
December 18, 2005
Ellen invited me to Huong's potluck tonight. Mei-Ling and Yvonne went to her company holiday dinner, so around 5pm Shannon and I went to Huong's house and brought an apple pie from Bakers Square. A lot of people were there; much more than Ellen said were going to be there. Besides Huong and her boyfriend, there were Ellen and Rita, Alla and Georges, Brian, Karissa, and some other random people that I don't know.
Besides food, I played a round of DDR. Then Rita and Karissa started playing Karaoke Revolution. Shannon wouldn't do either of them in front of anyone. So we ended up playing Cranium Turbo. Shannon and I were on one team. Karissa ended up joining our team when she helped me cheat. But people started to lose interest and instead wanted to go play poker or watch Karaoke Revolution singers. We were winning when we had to leave though.
Shannon and I had to leave at 9pm to get back to my place at 9:30pm because that's when Mei-Ling and Yvonne would be done and they needed to go home. Their dinner ran a little late so Shannon and I started playing DDR at my place.
Only when I got home, I found that there was a really long line of ants going from near the fireplace to the sink, because the ham stew pot had been sitting in the sink all day.
December 17, 2005
I while back I ordered a Jewelry Armoire for Alla's birthday present off Overstock.com. The first one arrived broken. The second one, after an exchange process that took over a month, arrived broken also. In fact broken worse than the first one. The second one is sitting downstairs right now waiting to get returned for a refund. So finally, we bought the same thing at Mervyns for even less (holiday sale) and this one was not broken when we inspected it in the store. With the remaining money saved from the sale, Alla wants to get a poker set. This should be the end of the most annoying present ever.
December 11, 2005
I had a potluck today with a bunch of people. I picked up Shannon early, and she helped me to make the plomeek soup (various recipes are available online) and also to plan the tribble trap. Georges was the first to show up, with Alla's tiramisu. Alla arrived a little later and then Sasha. Ellen and Rita arrived around 6pm, and Yvonne and Mei-Ling around 7pm.
Besides plomeek soup, I also made durani lizard skins, and a ham with vegetables. Sasha brought bananas and pasta. Alla showed up with some white wine that Mei-Ling ended up taking the rest of. Ellen and Rita brought pasta and mashed potatoes. Szu-Huey brought a pumpkin cheesecake that she made. There was also chips, crackers, cheese, pepperoni, drinks, and a few other things to eat.
After making the food, which Georges also helped out with a little since he arrived first, people seemed a little bored so we put on The Incredibles. It was after the movie ended that Shannon asked Rita to get something for her from the cabinet, and the tribble trap was sprung. Unfortunately, my photo timing was a little off so I did not get the tribbles actually falling on her, only her running away a second later.
We started playing Scrabble afterwards. Alla had to leave to a birthday party, so she and Georges and Sasha left around then. Ellen and Rita were not very good at making words and scoring a lot of points. It was them on one team versus me and Shannon. They challenged "raze" and then also tried to put down "coe" so Shannon and I ended up two turns ahead. We more than doubled their score very quickly. Rita also tried to find music to play that she recognized (not much since she only listens to the radio and is Clear Channel brainwashed). So Shannon called her the useless one.
Yvonne and Mei-Ling arrived while we were playing, and Rita and Ellen left before the game ended, but they had no chance of winning. Yvonne finished up on their side and scored the two highest turns for their team. We ended up using every single letter, but of course Shannon and I won. Yvonne and Mei-Ling started using the computer to look at random things then while Shannon and I went upstairs to play DDRMAX2. Later Mei-Ling started playing too but she was really bad. Yvonne just watched. We stopped when Shannon got an A score. Mei-Ling couldn't even get a B on beginner.
December 5, 2005
Sushi Factory Again
I just got back from dinner at Sushi Factory, even though I didn't really think we should go back there. But Georges wanted to go, so it was me, Alla, Georges, and Bruno. I'm stuffed on rice again, since their food is so much rice and not so much non-rice foodstuffs. When we were leaving, a couple in a booth next to us ended up leaving two or three rolls on their plate, so they got charged extra but started arguing about it. I still don't think the service is that great, or the sushi.
December 4, 2005
Mei-Ling has finally started using the fireplace, but she bought some of those artificial logs. They are better for the environment, because they're cleaner burning, and also easier to get started than regular wood. But they don't seem to produce much heat at all. Yvonne brought the couch right up to the fireplace stoop, and I was sitting on the stoop itself, and I barely felt any heat hitting me. I think they just don't produce enough heat. And that was what Mei-Ling wanted to use instead of the central heat.
Other than that, I got there earlier than usual. Shannon and I went to Target so she could buy some Pokémon cards again. I told her it would be cheaper and easier to buy the entire EX Delta Species set off eBay, but she didn't want to. We stopped at the bookstore, then got a fruit smoothie, and ended up spending some time at PetSmart looking at the animals.
That night, we went to Hollywood Video to rent The Addams Family. It's a great movie, and I really like Christina Ricci as Wednesday Addams. Shannon liked it just as much as the sequel. Their old Apex DVD player wouldn't read the disc though, so I had to hook up their laptop to the TV and use computer speakers. They really need a new DVD player, even though Yvonne doesn't want a new one.
November 25, 2005
Thanksgiving at Spencer's
Spence, who is one of my coworkers at Netflix invited me to have Thanksgiving dinner with him and some other people he knows. There were a total of nine adults and four kids (approx. ages 2 and 4). I bought a big tub of vanilla ice cream because that's what Spence asked me to bring; apparently he didn't really mean a big tub, but just a regular sized carton. It was a pretty good dinner, and we talked about some fun and interesting stuff. I was the youngest adult there; I guess the next youngest was around 30's or mid-30's. Julie, Spence's wife, has dozens of different kitchen and dining items to serve any conceivable need.
Last night Shannon and Yvonne came over to sleep over. Yvonne didn't do much except read. She brought and finished some fantasy book by Mercedes someone, and also The Lost World. She also read my copy of Fight Club. Shannon started reading volume one of Azumanga Daioh.
In the morning, Shannon and I watched Star Wars: Episode III. She hadn't seen it before; Yvonne didn't want to stop reading to watch, even though she hasn't seen it yet. She'll have to watch it some other time. What's interesting is that if you consider President Bush as Emperor Palpatine, the movie takes on a very specific political stance. One which I happen to agree with. We also watched some of the special features, which made Mei-Ling say that she feels bad about watching pirated copies because they do so much work to make the movie.
Shannon went on a hugging rampage with Asuka and Niea. She kept trying to hug them a lot, but was usually holding them wrong so they would wriggle away. Chie kept hiding under the beds, but he did come out last night while I was sleeping, and also again around noon. I took him down so they could pet him, but he got scared and ran away back upstairs to hide inside my bed again.
After we finished watching Star Wars, Shannon and I played some Magic: The Gathering. I beat her with my deck so we swapped, and then she won with my deck. So she started to redo her deck but got annoyed at it because she picked too many cards. She doesn't know how to decide between cards, and always just tries to pick cards that are good without thinking about strategy or cost. That works in simple games like Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh but doesn't work in Magic.
While we were doing that, Mei-Ling watched Hero, and Yvonne started to watch with her after she finished reading. Then they left to have Thanksgiving dinner with some people they know.
The Iron Giant
I watched The Iron Giant last night. It's an animated film that received very little publicity, but was done by Brad Bird, who was later hired by Pixar to work on The Incredibles. The Iron Giant is a pretty good animated film. The artwork is a little basic, but it's rich with detail and there is a great story without the typical children's clichés. The jokes are funny and the story is pretty good.
About half-way through watching, Shannon and Yvonne showed up to sleep over. Shannon thinks she has seen the movie before, but she wasn't sure because she couldn't remember right. But she kept trying to tell me what was going to happen next near the end.
November 22, 2005
My Sassy Girl
October 6, 1999.
November 21, 2005
Harry Potter Day
I promised Shannon and Yvonne I would take them to see Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire a while back. Well, Yvonne decided to ditch us and instead went to see it with some of her friends. So only Shannon and I went to see it. We got to the theater about five minutes before showtime because I got off at the wrong exit. It wouldn't have mattered anyway because the line for each showing started forming an hour early. So we went to the next showing and got in line right then.
I liked this Harry Potter film more than the last two. I think this one, and the first one, are the best of the four so far. Shannon liked it more than the previous one also. Unfortunately, Ron was exceptionally annoying and dumb in this movie, and the major players of the previous films had much smaller parts in this one. The latter isn't really a problem, except that it is strange to see previous characters replaced by new ones.
Afterwards, I made a deal with Shannon that she could go buy some Pokémon cards only if she ate good food. Since she never eats well enough on her own. She'd rather eat lots of bread or mashed potatoes or junk food. We went to Sweet Tomatoes and she ate a lot of good stuff, and only a little junk food. They have a really good chicken pot pie stew with biscuits for the entire month of Novemeber. Probably one of their tastiest dishes of all time. One of Shannon's friends from school showed up with her family; there were about twenty people in their dinner party total.
Then we went to Target so she could buy the Pokémon cards. I said she could only get two boosters, even though she wanted four. She also bought her mom's Christmas presents there. I ended up buying copies of Blade 2 and the Dune Miniseries.
When we got back to Shannon's house, Cecilia and Annie came over. They're sleeping over tonight. Yvonne dragged Cecilia into her room for a while, and then they turned into fangirls in front of the computer. Shannon and Annie and I played tag for a bit, then buried each other in the closet using stuffed animals and pillows and blankets. That turned into a pillow fight. We played a 3-way game of Pokémon which Shannon won. Then it was late so I came home.
November 20, 2005
I'm hosting a potluck next month that turned into a Star Trek theme party. So I want to make it as much Star Trek-like as possible. I failed to win any tribbles, tricorders, or phasers off eBay for a reasonable price, and I wasn't able to find any Star Trek items at the mall today. I ended up buying some balloons, paper mache, and furry yarn to make my own tribbles. I'm going to shove them into a cabinet and watch when someone opens it.
I also want to have some sort of costume. I wasn't able to find any uniforms or Vulcan ears or anything like that. I ended up buying some weird RBK (or Reebok) sports clothing that is generic enough that I could pull off a Vger Probe, Binar, or one of those two-color-faced characters that I don't know the name of. Most likely I'll go with Vger Probe, as that doesn't require me to paint my face or wear a strange mask. Technically I should shave my head, but I'll just wear contacts instead.
I didn't realize the clothing was so skintight when I bought them though. So I'll also have to wear the bottom-only bathrobe that I have, over the pants. Still fits the part, although it is white instead of gray. Maybe I can find some gray fabric instead. Might be cheap enough from the fabric store.
November 19, 2005
Ellen's Birthday Dinner
Ellen had a birthday dinner tonight at Frankie Johnnie & Luigi Too, which is actually only about ten minutes from work. So I went straight after work. A lot of the same people from her last birthday dinner were there, and it was lots of fun. I got her a Hello Kitty pop-up doll house book. She also got a yoga mat, Alias season one, the game Taboo, and some gift cards. Alla and Jeannie's present is on its way. One of her friends baked a delicious three-layer cake.
Afterwards, we thought about coming back to my place to play Taboo, but Karissa didn't want to because it was far. In the end, a few people said they were too tired to play anyway. Even though it was only around 9pm. Instead, Ellen, Rita, and eventually Karissa started badgering me to "dance techno". Alla was supposed to be on my side but instead just gave Karissa instructions. Brian tried to defend me as Ultraman. I eventually gave in and played Puppy from my car.
I accidentally put my finger next to Ellen's head as if flicking her, when she was blowing out the candles and that ended up in the photo. I didn't realize she was blowing out the candles, otherwise I wouldn't have done that. x_x
November 14, 2005
I just got back from the hospital, and after three hours of mostly waiting, the X-rays came back okay and the official diagnosis is foot sprain. I got a special shoe from them, which I am to wear as needed for the next 2-3 weeks. Other than that, nothing special. I guess I messed up the muscles on both the top and bottom of my foot. I wasn't planning to go in to see the doctor, but last night it felt like needles and little bits of fire in my foot. Alla drove me even though she is super busy with work.
Black Pasty Stuff
Mei-Ling took me to see that guy I mentioned earlier. He examined my foot and told me that it swollen with liquid, where there is a bump on the top of my foot. He poked other places on my foot and ankle and rotated my foot around, and it didn't hurt other places. The rotating hurt, of course, but not too bad. Anyway, he gave me some black pasty stuff to make a compress from each night. I'm supposed to put it on at 9:30pm each night and keep it on while I sleep. That should get the swelling down in a few days, and he gave me enough of the stuff for a week. Yuliya is afraid it might be broken, so she told me to go see a doctor if the swelling is still there after a couple of days.
November 13, 2005
My Foot Hurts
I came over last night to visit Shannon and Yvonne, and we went to a plaza near New Park Mall to spend some time looking around a Chinese store. There were a few things I liked, but they were all more expensive than I wanted to pay. We watched the rest of Azumanga Daioh. Shannon thought the ending wasn't good enough; Yvonne thought it wasn't angsty enough. Then we watched Chungking Express. Sometime during the movie, my foot started hurting. It was late and my foot hurt so I slept over. Now my foot feels swollen and hurts a lot.
So Mei-Ling called someone she knows that is supposed to be able to fix these sorts of injuries. Whatever it is, since it just started hurting while I was sitting there. We're going to that guy soon. He is like her grandma's grand-nephew or something. If it doesn't get fixed, then I'll have to stop at Netflix on my way home to get my laptop and probably have to work from home tomorrow.
November 12, 2005
Dinner and Movie
Alla IM'ed me tonight while I was still at work to ask if I wanted to go for sushi. She wasn't sure though which restaurant, but I suggested Sushi Factory because I hadn't been there. She told me we'd meet at 7pm, but 7pm came and I couldn't reach her by phone. So I ended up driving around aimlessly for a while. We ended up leaving together from her apartment, with her brother and Paul also. The service at Sushi Factory turned out to be pretty bad. We left a small tip and I could tell the waitress was disappointed. I would rather go to Sato Sushi or Todai next time.
Afterwards, Alla decided she would rather go out to a bar instead of watching a movie. So she stayed home and Paul and I came back to my place to watch a unique movie called Time Code. Instead of displaying a single scene and cutting between them, this movie displays four scenes at once, one in each corner of the screen. The events unfold in real time and the four cameras are following different people who end up all interacting with each other over the course of the day. The movie was improvised based on a loosely defined structure.
I found the approach interesting, but somewhat confusing. It's difficult to keep track of four different scenes at once, especially since at any given point in time, one specific scene is dominant. As a result, it is hard to figure out what's really going on and I think a person probably has to watch it at least twice to absorb all of the events. The acting was very good though, because some very good actors were brought in, and I suspect it is easier to act natural when you're making it all up as you go along. I do wish the earthquakes were better executed sonically though.
November 7, 2005
This morning, Mei-Ling had some sort of Dalai Lama thing to go to in San Francisco. So I slept over at their place last night and took Shannon to her class in Sunnyvale this morning. Someone from Mei-Ling's workplace named Ruth also slept over because she went with Mei-Ling to the thing in San Francisco. We stayed up kind of late watching Azumanga Daioh, and for some reason Yvonne had music on kind of loud at like 4 in the morning. It woke me up so I knocked on her door and she said, "Go Away" because she was trying to sleep.
I stayed with Shannon during her class, and she is the only girl there with five other boys. Most of them were acting like whiney babies and kept talking and not paying attention. So the teacher kept having to scold them. For the first half I started reading The Green Hills of Earth, but the second half they read some chapters from The Little Prince. So I read along with them. Shannon decided to call me a nerd again because I explained why hubris is different from pride. And the teacher thought I was in high school.
Afterwards we went to Milpitas Square to eat lunch but Shannon was being picky again and kept whining for McFlurries or something. We ended up eating at a Vietnamese restaurant (of course Shannon ate almost nothing), and then looked around in the shops there. I found something for Ellen's birthday gift. When we got back, Shannon worked on her math homework and then we went outside to play hide-and-seek with McKenzie. Yvonne wasn't there because she had Chinese school.
November 5, 2005
Alla, Paul, and Michael came over tonight. We ate some Chinese food (except for Alla, who is on a diet) and we ended up watching Ghost World, which I liked, as did Paul. Alla didn't like it so much because there wasn't a clear point or ending. But she didn't have a better choice, and no one else made any different choices. Since Alla came late, we watched Jack-Jack Attack and also the crazy old-school short of Mr. Incredible, Frozone, and Mr. Dippydoo.
What's interesting about Ghost World is that it's this strange look at the life of one girl who doesn't really know who she is or what she wants to do with her life, and so looks for ways to both amuse herself and find fault in others. But what happens is she starts to understand and accept the differences in other people, without being able to figure out who she is. And when things change in ways that she has no control, she starts to feel lost. In the end, she decides her only option is to escape from it all.
Amazingly, Scarlett Johansson and Thora Birch are perfect choices who pull of the look of the original comic perfectly. And they also provide excellent performances.
October 30, 2005
Fireplace Door Installed
I installed the fireplace door for Mei-Ling tonight. It was actually very easy to install, but I wonder if there needs to be more insulation packing around the sides; because the brick wall is not completely flat and so there can be some gaps around the edges. Later Shannon and I went to Hollywood Video and rented Addams Family Values and Son of the Mask. Shannon wore my bluefish hat in the store. Addams Family Values was good, of course, but Shannon picked Son of the Mask based on the commercials she saw. And it wasn't good at all. It wasn't funny, and it was like an adult tried to take Looney Tunes to the big screen without knowing what makes Looney Tunes funny.
October 28, 2005
Dinner with Karen
I had dinner with Karen tonight. I hadn't seen her in a long time, so it was good to catch up. She's still working on her Ph.D. in statistics at Stanford, and has somehow ended up working on at least three projects and become the head TA for a class because she's the only responsible one. She also showed me pictures from her trip to India; she recently went there with one of her friends, Paula.
October 27, 2005
Another Night with Silke
Silke left back to Germany today, and Alla and I had lunch with her at Sato Sushi (again). Last night Silke ended up coming over and we watched both Equilibrium and Gattaca. Silke's favorite movie of all time is The Matrix, but after watching Equilibrium, she says that might change. I also showed her the Jack-Jack Attack short from The Incredibles, which is quite funny.
October 25, 2005
Monday Night with Silke
Silke came over tonight, and we talked a bit and watched The Talented Mr. Ripley, which she's never seen before. She actually laughed at quite a few scenes in the movie, which I thought was odd. But at least she liked it. We talked a little bit about her plans, which include training at a monastery in Hunan, China. She plans to live at the monastery for a year. I put on Dehli9 while we were talking; I should have mentioned to her that this music is from Germany, but didn't think of it at the time.
October 24, 2005
Fireplace Door Too Big
Mei-Ling asked me to buy a fireplace door for her fireplace, because she wants to use it this winter instead of using the central heat. The OSH near her didn't have the one she wanted, so I found it at another OSH in Mountain View or Sunnyvale or something. Only it turns out she didn't check to make sure the ticket number she wanted was the right size for her fireplace. She told me to get the large, but her fireplace opening will only work with the small. So I need to go exchange it.
October 23, 2005
Dinner at Kat's
On Saturday night, Kat had a dinner party with a bunch of her friends from Cisco and other people too. It started at 6pm, and I got there a little early at 5:40pm. They ordered Korean sushi for dinner, and Korean sushi seems to be different because the pieces are bigger, and I think they use less vinegar in the rice. I hadn't seen Kat in a really long time, so it was good to see her again. There still isn't any furniture in their house. After dinner, people talked and we ended up playing some cards. One of Kat's friends brought her six- and eight-year-old daughters, and they kept stealing the poker chips.
Since I had lunch with my uncle right beforehand, and Kat lives up near the restaurant, I had a few hours between lunch and dinner. I ended up finding a comic book store and bought a poster of Batman and Nightwing. I ended up having to spend $40 at Michael's for a frame. I also bought four issues of Tank Girl, and afterwards ended up buying a bunch of Tank Girl trade paperbacks and comics off eBay and Amazon.
Lunch with Uncle
My uncle from Chicago invited me to lunch with him (and my aunt and cousins and their husbands) at Kirin Chinese Restaurant. This is like their favorite restaurant or something. They also brought their baby Eva. And of course my uncle took a bunch of pictures. We had a late lunch at 2pm because that was the only time that was good for Eva or something like that.
October 21, 2005
Disney on Ice
Alla and Silke were planning to go to Disney on Ice with someone Alla met, but he cancelled after she already bought the ticket. So she invited me instead. We had dinner first at Sato Sushi, and took longer there than we should have. So we sat into our seats about a minute or two after the show had started. The theme was jungle stuff, so the movies they put into it were The Jungle Book, Tarzan, and The Lion King. Silke and Alla enjoyed it a lot. I liked it, but not as much as them.
October 19, 2005
Pirates of Emerson
The Pirates of Emerson is a haunted house type thing in Fremont. IBM rented the entire thing out for the night for all IBMers to go for free, and to bring friends and family. So Alla invited me and I went with her, Silke, and Georges. It was actually lots of fun. There was a haunted house, where Alla and Silke got a lot of surprises. Also a weird strobe maze where the strobing makes it hard to see where a wall is. And finally a sort of 3-D haunted house with less scaring and more 3-D effects.
Alla's mom also showed up, although she didn't go through any of the stuff with us. Silke was very interested in knowing how the 3-D glasses work, and we figured out that it acts like a lot of tiny prisms and refracts different colors of the light at different angles. That forces different colors to appear like they are coming from a different point in space, thus causing a 3-D effect when multiple colors are involved.
Alla got a big scare at the beginning when a pirate came up behind her. We had a few run-ins with that pirate later on, because Alla is an easy target for jokes and scaring. Even Silke scared her a few times just while going through the haunted houses.
October 16, 2005
Shannon's Stone Age Weapon
I picked up Yvonne from her volunteer job yesterday at 5pm. When we got back to her house, Shannon was sleeping and didn't open the front door. For her school project, Shannon had to make some sort of stone age weapon. She wanted to make a bow an arrow, but she refused to buy any materials. She wanted to find arrowheads, feathers, and string outside. But of course, finding all of those are too hard. So we ended up switching to making a hand axe, and we just sticking a chipped rock into a cut tree branch. The rock stays in as long as you don't hit anything too hard.
Later, I made a Pokémon deck and beat Shannon twice. She used her two best decks. Her best deck she probably could have beaten me with because in the card game, you can pretty much win as long as your Pokémon are stronger. There's not a whole lot of strategy or tricks. But I think she was just tired of playing so she kind of gave up.
Then we started watching this really bad quality pirated version of Shota no sushi which is a really silly drama of a person who wants to become the best sushi chef ever. It was filled with stereotypical shonen sports manga/anime stuff, so Yvonne and I could figure out what was going on and make predictions.
Alla's Birthday BBQ
Yesterday Alla had a huge BBQ birthday celebration at the Almaden Park. Probably around thirty people showed up over the course of a few hours. There was a lot of good food and I ended up eating too much. Some of us chipped in to buy her a jewelry armoire because she's been making jewelry as a hobby lately. We also got her a monkey card and a $25 gift card to Macy*s. Since she made me run around so much, I told her she better give me a really good birthday party.
The jewelry armoire was 20.5kg, and Ellen was saying that she thought I was some weakling who couldn't pick it up. I told her before that I could carry 100 pounds, because that's how much my television weighed. She tells me she was shocked. And then Jeannie said that she thought I'm a weakling too. So I told Ellen to try and carry the armoire and she could only go five halting steps before she had to put it down. I carried it the rest of the way to the picnic tables.
One yucky thing that did happen was Jesse got pooped on by one of the ducks or geese. So Jeanne and Ellen tried to hide behind me the next time they flew over us. That was the first time I've ever actually seen someone get pooped on by a bird in real life.
Other people that showed up: Zhao, Bradley, Georges, Paul, Femi, Silke, John, Sasha, Mattias and Daniela, Rodney and his girlfriend Amy, and Alin. Plus a bunch of people I don't know.
October 10, 2005
Eric's Hawaiian BBQ
Alla met someone working at Google named Eric, and he invited her to a Hawaiian Barbecue Party today. She invited me, so we made some macaroni salad (mostly made by Alla) and got there a little early to help set up. A number of people showed up, most of them also employees from Google, although there was one from Cisco technical support, and another person from a company I didn't recognize, like DML. Eric spent quite a long time putting together some really great food, which I guess he was working on since 6:30am. Alla and I spent most of our time talking to some people named Nate, David, and David's girlfriend.
I had a good time; it was pretty fun just talking to Nate because he was a funny guy. And the food was really good. Of course Alla was having a good time too, although she got sleepy after a while and never got a chance to nap. She ate a lot of food too, but at least it was good food. She particularly liked the fried rice that Eric made. Georges didn't come because he decided to go sky-diving.
I hadn't been up to see Shannon or Yvonne in a while, so I was glad that I could go visit them yesterday. Yvonne has been sick so she had a very sore throat and could only talk in a whisper. This is, of course, an almost exact opposite of her usual speaking volume. But when we went to Borders, she saw someone she knows and suddenly could talk at normal volumes again. She claims it was the Brambleberry Tea (by Tazo; no link as they are browser-centric) that healed her throat.
After having fun goofing around, and looking at random stuff at Borders, we ended up watching Patch Adams because Shannon wanted to watch. Yvonne had only seen the second half, and stopped watching after she saw the first half. Shannon fell asleep. But this was the first time I'd seen Patch Adams, and it was both lots of fun to watch, and a decent drama about the real Patch Adams's inspiration.
October 7, 2005
SVL Co-op Return Party
Paul had a small party tonight to welcome back some of the co-ops who worked at IBM's Silicon Valley Labs site, and are now back for full-time positions after going back to Europe. So I got to see a few people again whom I haven't seen in a while, plus a couple of new people. Silke was also there because she is here on business.
October 1, 2005
Szu-Huey's Birthday Dinner
Szu-Huey had a group birthday dinner with two other people at IBM who had their birthdays this week. I didn't know the other two birthday people, and one of them couldn't show up because he had a business dinner. We went to Korea House, and got some strange service. The first waitress wouldn't let us order or get appetizers until she had finished delivering all of the food to this other table, even though the food was still in the kitchen and they were eating fine already. Another waitress gave us some rice bowls, then took them away and gave it to that other table. I gave Szu-Huey Pooh's Heffalump Halloween Movie. Some of them went out to Suite 181 but I've been tired early lately so I decided not to go.
September 25, 2005
Shannon's Eleventh Birthday Party
Shannon had her birthday party this Saturday, and it was lots of fun. When I got there, two of her friends were already there eating lunch. But they had to leave soon afterwards. I don't remember their names, but I've seen them before. Tiffany was also there at some point but then left. Then Winnie and Vincent showed up. Vincent went on a non-stop chomping spree, and was kind of as bothersome as always. :-\ Later, Johanna showed up. Diane was supposed to show up but never did. I got Shannon a Naruto poster and the Uzumaki: Kishimoto Masashi Illustration Book.
We were kind of waiting for David and Arthur to show up, Diane to show up, and also Tiffany to come back. But Diane was unreachable by phone, and Tiffany never came back. David and Arthur were late, so we ended up going to Gomes Park where they showed up later to meet us. We played Lava Monster, basketball, cops & robbers (i.e. Manhunt or Jailbreak), and kickball. I also gave piggy-back rides to and did wheelbarrows with a few of them, but Vincent still weighs too much for me.
Johanna talks a lot but she's lots of fun because she's so silly and likes to goof around. Winnie got really bored for a while, but once we started running around outside she wasn't bored anymore. Vincent kept doing kind of stupid things like not running away from the cops, and passing the kickball to nowhere. Arthur and David are just Arthur and David.
September 6, 2005
Spencer, one of the people on my team at Netflix, hosted a Labor Day barbecue at his house today. I went with Alla after we chaperoned her youth group's fund-raising car wash. Christian showed up with his wife, second daughter, and son. Marc showed up with one of his friends from LA. Michael came but his wife was out of town visiting family. And Samir came with his wife. We basically hung out talking and had some good food.
September 5, 2005
Hanging Out With Jeannie
Today was a hanging-out-with-Jeannie day. We went to see The Skeleton Key and we both thought it would be one of those jumpy scary movies. But I'm kind of glad it wasn't because although it was kind of freaky scary in the beginning, it turned into a puzzle type of thriller later on and so didn't leave me feeling as scared afterwards. It's actually a pretty interesting movie because there's a lot of unique stuff going on that has to do with New Orleans and the history there. And it isn't too predictable. There is a plot twist or two which I doubt most people would be able to predict. Unfortunately, I think everything shot in this movie is now buried under water.
Afterwards, Jeannie found some running sneakers she needed to buy, at like the third or fourth store we looked at. She's pretty picky about her running shoes because she runs so much and is going to be in a relay race sometime in the next month or two. She doesn't like Nike sneakers and only likes Adidas. She was looking for a particular sneaker model, but instead found one that is similar.
Then we went up to a Greek Festival at a church way up near San Mateo. It was pretty cool just to sit around, people watch, talk about things, and eat some Greek food. The food was pretty good. I didn't get to try all the stuff I would have liked to. Too expensive. But it was kind of like a fund raiser for the church. I made a joke about the traditional folk dance they were doing. You'd have to ask Jeannie if you want to know what it was.
Black Angus + Airplane
Yesterday, I visited Shannon and Yvonne. Yvonne is trying to beat the classics reading record set by one of her classmates also named Shannon, and so is going to try and read 1000 pages a week. To do this, we tried to find classics that would be really big and also pretty cheap. The library closes at 5pm on Saturdays, so we went to Half Price Books and found a huge book of Lewis Carroll stories, and two of Ayn Rand's books: The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged.
Afterwards, we went to Black Angus for dinner because they had a coupon. Shannon ended up eating way too much because she ate too much bread and potato stuff, and so I told her she had to eat some chicken and a shrimp before she could have dessert. But the chicken was a buffalo wing and so she kept drinking her iced tea at the tiniest taste of the spicy stuff. So she peeled off the skin, but it took her like ten minutes to do that. She wouldn't eat the prime rib because she thought it was yucky or something. I ordered mine medium rare which had more blood left in it than I thought it would.
Later, we watched Airplane, one of the movies I got Yvonne for her birthday. I hadn't seen it in a long time and it was really funny to watch again.
August 20, 2005
IBM Farewell Movie Night
I had a farewell movie night yesterday, in recognition of me leaving IBM to join Netflix. Quite a few people showed up, including Jean, who hasn't shown up for anything in a very long time. It was the first time that Cindy, Chris, Stef, and Jeannie had been to my place too. Most of the time was spent making fun of people.
The movie we watched was the 1967 Wait Until Dark, starring Audrey Hepburn. Alan Arkin played the bad guy, and although the voice is the same, he looked very different back then. I thought it was a pretty good movie, although some of the "younger" crowd thought it was really corny at times. Mostly because of the gender-specific roles that were portrayed, consistent with a 1967 movie. There was one point where a bunch of people screamed because of a scary shock.
There was also a ton of food. People brought too much food. Or not enough people ate enough food. I've got a lot of leftovers, but at least some people took food home. I have enough food to last me a while.
August 19, 2005
Santa Cruz Bonfire
Last Saturday, the New Hire Network at IBM organized another Santa Cruz bonfire this year, and I went down with Yuliya. It was a good time, although it was kind of chilly because the sky was completely cloudy. We ate at the Crow's Nest, and as it happened, someone I knew from Berkeley showed up. Lexan (I think that's how you spell his name) is attending RIT now, and worked for IBM over the summer as an intern.
August 8, 2005
Santa Cruz Trip
On Saturday, Karen and I met up for lunch. In the afternoon, we drove down to Santa Cruz to meet up with Jeni, Andrea, Ryan, and Eric. Jeni and Andrea wanted to get there early to walk around and go shopping. That was kind of boring for me. Turns out it was Ryan's birthday weekend. For dinner we ate at a place called Costa Brava. It was fancy and expensive, but apparently peanuts to Eric because he works in Hollywood and paid for all of us. Afterwards, we went back to Ryan's place for a little bit before heading home.
There was a shop called Eco Goods down there. They sell organic clothing and stuff like that. It is pretty expensive stuff. Some woman who seemed to have stopped in for the very first time spent $170 on like four items. And they looked like small items: hat, T-shirt, etc.
There was also a store that was almost entirely shoes, next to a store that was entirely hats. Karen, Andrea, and Jeni spent a long time in there.
July 26, 2005
Yvonne celebrated her birthday on Sunday. I got her two DVDs: Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Airplane. We visited her Dad's memorial (Shannon wanted me to come along) and then had dim sum for lunch. We went to New Park Mall to find presents for some of the people they are going to be visiting in Taiwan, and then went to Fry's when we couldn't find something good. I ended up buying the Lain Soundtrack by Chabo, Face/Off, and Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex.
We also ended up watching two sports movies. Yvonne really likes Shaolin Soccer, and has seen it a few times already. I thought half of it was kind of boring. She pointed out that it is a lot like Prince of Tennis but with soccer. Since so much of the stuff is crazy like fireball soccer balls.
Later we watched The Rookie, which both Yvonne and Shannon found boring. A lot of talking going on. I thought it was okay. Nothing special.
July 19, 2005
White Water Rafting
This past weekend I went white water rafting on the American river. Alla organized the event again, only this time there were even more of us in the group. Some of the same people as last year. Some new people this year.
The first night up there, I had a lot of trouble sleeping. A bunch of the people there didn't stop talking and laughing until close to midnight. The rafting part was lots of fun, although I think there was a bit too much water fighting going on. I lost my left contact because someone threw a bucket of water into my face. So everything was really weird to look at after that. The guide for my boat was new for us this year; a girl named Erin.
At dinner, a few people started playing chess. One of the people who came, someone named Ilya, has played in chess tournaments and is very good. He can see four of five moves ahead, he said. He played against Femi and also John. Both of them got trapped pretty soon.
After dinner, Fabian took out his guitar and I enjoyed listening to him play, while others sang, for a few hours. I mostly just sat there with my eyes closed listening to the guitar strings. Of course, since he was doing requests and different people were singing, there were times when either he or the singer(s) messed up. But it was still great to listen to.
The only bad part about the weekend was the heat. It got so incredibly hot up there. It's been getting into the 90s in San Jose, and I think it got even hotter up there. Standing in the sun was horrible.
July 11, 2005
Yesterday, I was woken up by my manager because there was a problem and they needed someone to investigate and come up with a fix. So I spent a few hours on Saturday working on that. Then I picked up Yvonne from her volunteer work and took her to Ohlone College to watch Vivian play tennis. Shannon and I had some Subway for dinner, but then Yvonne and Shannon got hungry again later. We went to McDonald's to get a happy meal, so Shannon could get a Neopets plushie, then ended up at Denny's for food.
We got back around 11pm. Mei-Ling had tried to call us earlier but my cell phone ran out of batteries. So she had not taken a house key with her, and Shannon locked the garage door. So she was stuck in the garage by herself without any way to get home until we got back from eating.
We ended up watching the first part of some sort of golfing movie, then we watched Johnny English which was very funny. A lot funnier than the previous Bean movie which wasn't good at all. After that, we watched some movie that had an English title translation of I Not Stupid. This is a comedy that is also a social satire about Singapore. There are some pretty funny parts, but also some really emotional parts. And the whole thing is filled with anecdotes and personalities that a lot of Chinese people can relate with. A good movie.
This afternoon (I woke up at 1pm) we all went up to some sort of regional park. In the Sunol area. Shannon and I splashed around in the creek, while Yvonne reverted into her annoy-others-to-retaliate and obnoxious mode for having been dragged out there. She kept carrying around her book even though if she had dropped it, it would have gotten ruined and then she'd have been mad at everyone else even though it would have been her fault. We tried finding a place called Little Yosemite but ended up going the wrong way twice. And then we drove back.
July 6, 2005
O Brother, Where Art Thou?
On Sunday I visited Shannon & Yvonne. I played some games outside with Shannon, and we also watched a couple of movies. I don't remember the name of the first movie; it was some strange Warner Brothers movie that had hired famous actors for the voices, but the story wasn't very good. The second movie we watched was O Brother, Where Art Thou?.
Apparently this movie is losely based on The Odyssey. It was a somewhat amusing movie, and a lot of strange things happen matching up with events in The Odyssey, to some degree. The acting was pretty good. And the story was interesting. But I'm not sure it's that great a movie. I don't think I'd bother watching it again.
June 26, 2005
I came over to Shannon + Yvonne's house yesterday around noon so we could use a $6.95 lunch coupon at Black Angus. It was very good and we all got stuffed. When we were there, Mei-Ling said that this was the celebration for Yvonne's junior high graduation. But we don't really believe her.
Afterwards, Mei-Ling went to Du Jin Ban while the rest of us went to Borders because I had some 30% off coupons. They were playing the original 1971 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory so we sat to watch it. I bought Nightmares and Fairytales Vol. 1 by Serena Valentino. Yvonne bought Prince of Tennis Vol. 7 and Shannon bought Naruto Vol. 4.
Then, back at their house, I saw that they had 99¢ coupons for movie rentals at Hollywood Video. So Shannon stayed home to play with Arthur and David outside while Yvonne and I went to rent movies. We ended up getting Ghostbusters, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and The Princess Bride. Shannon fell asleep during Ghostbusters since we watched it so late. And Yvonne is now obsessed with Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
Since it was so late, I slept over. Now we are going to go pick up some of my relatives from Hsiuli's house.
June 20, 2005
Shannon + Yvonne Sleepover
Last night, Shannon and Yvonne slept over. I picked up Yvonne from her volunteer job at The Discovery Store and then got Shannon from home.
After that we watched Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. I originally didn't want to watch the movie until after reading the manga, but then I learned that the movie only covers part I of the manga. So I figure it's okay, especially since Miyazaki Hayao was so involved in the film's production. There were some slow-moving parts, which bored Shannon. She has a very short attention span.
Then, since we didn't have anything else to do, we went to The Tech Museum of Innovation. They had some pretty cool stuff there, and it was lots of fun. But we got there pretty late around 3:15pm and they close at 5:00pm. So we didn't get to go through the whole place. We'll probably go back some other time. For dinner we ate at Johnny Rockets.
June 13, 2005
Szu-Huey came over this afternoon and we washed our cars. My car was pretty dirty because I hadn't washed it in a long time. Afterwards, we watched Porco Rosso. It was a pretty good movie about a man cursed to become a pig after World War I. There is some ambiguity about what meaning the movie might have, beyond the action and straightforward plot. In particular, Porco sometimes reverts back to his human form. There is also a particularly moving dream sequence, or flashback, depending on how you look at it, about the pilots that died in the War.
June 12, 2005
Shopping with Alla
After coming back from Berkeley on Saturday, I dropped Yvonne off at The Discovery Shop, for her volunteer work. Instead of going home, I went to Alla's house in Fremont. I went to Fry's with her, Sasha, and their mom. She was looking to get a digital camera but instead of buying it there, she ordered it online later for much cheaper. Instead she got a USB key as a gift for her cousin for when she goes to see him.
After Fry's, we went to the Great Mall. Sasha and I mostly tagged along as Alla and her mom went shopping for shoes and clothes to take on her trip to Israel. And of course, after Sasha carried a bunch of the shoes around the mall, Alla went back to return three of them.
I did stop at MediaPlay to see if they had volume two of Azumanga Daioh, but it was $28. I did pick up copies of Porco Rosso, Nausicaä of the Valley of Wind, and The Cat Returns because they were each $16. Since these are Disney releases, finding them at this price is actually a deal when it wouldn't be for other movies. Disney never lowers their children's movie prices. Ever.
[Hm, this is interesting. The woman on the Great Mallstore directory page is the same as the one I have seen in magazine advertisements for learning a second language.]
After shopping, I ate dinner at Alla's house. Her mom cooked a lot of really good food. And we didn't get close to finishing it. I didn't eat a whole lot because I was still pretty full from eating pizza from Zachary's.
After dinner, I came home to take care of the kitties and fish and turtles. But went back to Alla's apartment for a little bit to help her pack. Georges was there too. Most of the time I was actually just doing stuff online.
Taking Yvonne to Berkeley
On Friday night I slept over at Shannon & Yvonne's house, because on Saturday morning Yvonne needed to go to Berkeley for her summer class orientation. She is taking two classes, one on tort law, and one on geometric trigonometry. I always thought a tort was a lawsuit against a big company for doing something wrong, like the cigarette companies. Turns out a tort is any injury or wrong committed to someone or something. So pretty much anything you might sue a person over.
We got there at 9am and the orientation was held in the Pauley Ballroom. I dropped Yvonne off outside the building and told her to go in while I went to park, but instead of going in she just stood there reading until I came back from parking. The orientation was kind of boring, but she met her two teachers and got her first homework assignments. For her law course, she is going to have a mock trial in a real courthouse before a real judge.
Then we went to Ned's Bookstore to get her books. Everyone at the orientation went at the same time, so the crowd in a single aisle and the line was super long. We should have gone back to get the books after visiting her classrooms. I had some trouble remembering where Boalt and Tolman are. I got Boalt mixed up with Cheit, and Tolman mixed up with Dwinelle. Going to the classrooms after buying books also meant having to carry the books everywhere.
After that, we drove to Solano and got a Stuffed Chicken pizza from Zachary's Chicago Pizza. I haven't gotten a pizza from Zachary's in a really long time, since there are only two locations: Berkeley and Oakland. It was really good.
Yvonne's Puppet Show
Thursday afternoon I was in Redwood City. I was done at 5pm so I decided to go to Shannon & Yvonne's house instead of going home, since there was so much traffic. Crossing the Dumbarton Bridge did not have as much traffic as 101S. Yvonne was recording her puppet show of a scene from A Midsummer Night's Dream with Sonia and Michelle. Michelle isn't actually in the show; she was only recording it. Since I'd left work early to go to Redwood City, I spent most of my time there working.
June 5, 2005
Yvonne and Sonia are supposed to re-enact a scene from A Midsummer Night's Dream in a puppet show, video tape it, and show it in class. So I went over today and the three of us built a puppet box out of plywood and 2"x4"s. They painted it using green and brown paint and some glitter to have some trees and bushes. It came out pretty good.
I also brought Quest for Glory: Shadows of Darkness over for Shannon. It was a little tricky getting the old game from 1993 to play on Windows 98, but after tweaking the sound settings it worked. She is playing as a fighter.
May 14, 2005
The Ring 2
Last night I went to see The Ring 2 with Alla, Georges, Jeanne, Ellen, Rita, and Hung. I normally don't like seeing scary movies but Jeanne persuaded me. But it turns out this sequel is not as freaky as the first one. The first one had a lot of psychological scariness, but in this one there really wasn't any of that. When you expected something bad to happen, either nothing did or it was too obvious. There also wasn't as much background development in this one as the first.
Before the movie, we ate dinner at Giorgio's Italian Food & Pizza. It was good food but a little pricey. We finished dinner with about an hour left before the movie started, so we went to Mervyn's and Alla bought socks and a swimsuit. I think Jeanne bought some earrings.
May 9, 2005
Star Wars IV, V, VI
Shannon and Yvonne slept over last night, but didn't get here as early as we wanted to watch all three of the original Star Wars trilogy: A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi. So we watched Episode IV and half of Episode V last night. Yvonne fell asleep during Episode V though. And then we watched the rest of Episode V this morning before I took Yvonne to her Japanese class in Fremont. While we were gone, Shannon started watching Episode VI, and we got back to see the second half of it.
We also started watching Gettysburg, but Yvonne and Mei-Ling both fell asleep. Shannon wasn't interested in it at all, so she played Metroid Fusion. Since Yvonne wasn't watching anymore, I stopped it and went up to play Final Fantasy X-2. I'm about 27% done now. Yvonne worked on her science homework while I was playing, and asked me questions about nuclear fusion.
May 7, 2005
I visited Karen Kapur today. We had some Thai food for dinner and then rented Closer after not being able to find a good independent film in local theaters. The film really only has four characters, played by Julia Roberts, Jude Law, Natalie Portman, and Clive Owen. I thought it was very good, though Karen just thought it was decent.
The film starts of relatively light and engaging, and then quickly becomes intense and engaging. The characters' love lives and emotions are presented in a very raw and honest fashion. On one hand it is hard to believe that people go through what the characters went through, but on the other hand it is entirely plausible and I am certain there are many people who can relate to their situation. While the plot and behavior is very clear, there is a lot of depth to these characters. And there is always more going on in each scene if you take the time to think about things carefully and thoroughly.
I think the greatest strength of the film is that at no time does it ever feel like a character is being anyone other than who they are. There are no attempts to do the right thing, or to be a good person. Instead, each person is simply making decisions and acting on those decisions however they are compelled to at the given moment. Some of the strongest but most difficult human emotions are portrayed this way: love, guilt, suspicion, dependence, cowardice, selfishness, spite.
The musical score was very well done. Perfectly moody and emotionally complementing throughout the film. It became an essential part of each scene, when music was present. At no time was it ever overwhelming.
May 6, 2005
Szu-Huey's Hair Cut
Yesterday Szu-Huey gave me a hair cut. She was afraid to use the electric clippers the whole time, so she mostly used the scissors until the end when I wanted to back and sideburns cleaned up. It looks pretty good.
April 30, 2005
I finished working with the IBM Director people this morning, so after doing some work I left the IBM RTP site and drove over to Chapel Hill to visit some of my former professors: Ketan, Kevin, Jan, and Sanjoy. I also got a chance to visit with Josh, who was my carpool buddy during Extreme Blue. We did some catching up and talked about what's going on. Later on, I went over to the UNC Student Store and picked up a copy of Mac OS X Tiger.
John Siracusa over at Ars Technica has been providing in-depth technical reviews on Mac OS X for years now. He put together a really great review of Mac OS 10.4 along with his usual rants about what could be better. The review does make it quite clear that picking up Tiger is worth it, and that he believes Apple is making some progress in redefining (or implementing, depending on how you look at it) the modern OS for the general public. Apple is starting to bring back some of the things that made the original Mac OS so much more powerful and useful than the alternatives.
April 29, 2005
Back in North Carolina
I got back from Las Vegas Tuesday night, and Wednesday morning I had to fly out to North Carolina to meet with some IBM Director developers. So I was able to meet up with some of the people I haven't seen in a couple of years, like Peter, Shari, Marcel, John, and Kevin. Keri wasn't at the Extreme Blue lab today though.
Peter and I had lunch at a local BBQ place, where they serve "real" BBQ: shredded pork with vinegar BBQ sauce. Peter had shreded pork, but I had chicken. Carolina BBQ is an aquired taste. I had Papa John's pizza for dinner; I haven't eaten Papa John's since leaving here because there isn't one near my in San Jose. Their pizza is very good for a chain restaurant.
Saturday through Tuesday I took a vacation with Szu-Huey to Las Vegas. We stayed the first night at a Super 8. The next two nights we stayed at Harrahs for only $40 because we went to a time-share presentation by Fairfield Resorts. They gave us $20 and free buffet tickets for spending three hours listening to their sales pitch.
We didn't do much on Saturday except walk around. Szu-Huey played some Roulette and won $1 from betting $20. She was super happy for the rest of the day. Sunday we checked out of Super 8 and into Harrahs but had to leave our bags in the baggage check because they had no rooms available in the morning. We ate at the Rio seafood buffet. It was super-expensive but Szu-Huey's favorite buffet there.
Szu-Huey wanted to keep playing Roulette but lost so I convinced her to play Blackjack because the odds are not against you in that game. On Sunday I won $20 from $30, and on Monday I won $40 from $60. Tuesday before leaving for the airport, we played again and actually more than doubled $60, but instead of stopping we kept playing and ended up losing everything.
On Sunday we saw Mystére at Treasure Island. It was a very funny and entertaining show. We had excellent seats in the very front row, center section. After the show we ate at their buffet but Szu-Huey didn't like it as much. It wasn't as much as the Rio buffet but not as cheap as some other buffets.
Monday we saw the Bellagio water show, the Mirage volcano, and the Treasure Island Sirens of TI show. We ate at the Harrah's buffet with the free tickets we got from Fairfield Resorts. After that, we got on the strip trolley trying to get to the Stratosphere to see Bite but the trolley was going the wrong way. So we had to hop off and get a taxi to get there on time. I liked Bite, and they had some interesting plot twists and a really good acrobatics show. Szu-Huey was scared a few times though.
April 6, 2005
I went over to Bryant's house yesterday after work to calibrate his new home theater setup. He just ordered some new equipment: an Onkyo TX-SR502 receiver, Hsu VT-12 6-speaker system, and a Hsu STF-2 subwoofer. We spent about four hours calibrating his audio and video.
His room has a pretty big peak in subwoofer output (or dip everywhere else, depending on how you look at it) at the mid-bass range. It also has a big dip around 70Hz. I think the 70Hz dip is due to the room. His bass response may also be compromised by placement on the thick carpeting.
The remainder of the 1/6 octave test tones played decent with a few peaks and dips. The VT-12 sounds great for such an inexpensive system with satellites. The satellites can't compete at full-range, but for the price they sound a lot better than other satellites. The subwoofer is also very nice.
We also calibrated the video on his Samsung TX-P3075WH television. The basic settings were easy to set, however there were a couple of issues. First, when turning the set off and then on, it seems to switch off of the custom settings and back to dynamic. Second, there is some visible bending of the picture in one corner, which I was unable to correct from the service menu. Fixing one corner would bend the other corner.
April 3, 2005
Making Motorboat Materials Matter
I went over to Shannon & Yvonne's house today around 2pm. I just got back after spending nine hours working with Shannon on her science fair project: Making Motorboat Materials Matter. Yvonne had her volunteer work at the Discovery Shop (sort of like Goodwill). But she's been sick and had a headache so went to bed early coughing and feeling yucky.
For her science fair project, Shannon wanted to build five motorboats and race them to see which construction material would be fastest. The five materials she wanted to use were paper, cloth, aluminum foil, wood, and plastic. But we could not figure out a good way to get the paper and cloth boats to float. Waxing them would make it impossible to hold their shape. So we decided to get rid of those two boats. The aluminum foil one was also very hard to keep floating, so Mei-Ling suggested replacing that with a rectangular tin lid.
For the plastic boat, we cut a SunnyD bottle in half, taped the two halves together, and closed off the cap opening. We built one wooden boat out of a kit purchased at Michaels, with additional pontoons added by drilling 3/4" holes into a dowel, with the ends capped. A second wooden boat was also introduced by Mei-Ling: an old marker holder.
To keep the boats moving along a straight line, Shannon and I each held one end of a thread slipped through a straw attached to the side of each boat. Without this, the boats would tend to go in circles as there were no rudders and the propeller is angled.
The results of the experiment were that the rectangular metal lid went fastest. This is even though the plastic boat was the lightest. The wooden boats were very heavy, and the motor and propeller were barely able to move them.
After all of this was done, Shannon and I put together her poster. The science fair is on April 11.
March 27, 2005
Pepper @ The Brit
On Thursday night, I went to The Brit on Almaden. My technical mentor at IBM was there: Tim Pepper. Just stayed for a little bit. Scott, Ellen, and Jeanne were there too. Apparently it was someone's birthday who I don't know. Cuong and Stella were there with their new baby. Alla stopped by after her French class.
March 21, 2005
Dodge Ridge Ski Trip
I got back from a skip trip up at Scott's cabin at Dodge Ridge. Alla, Szu-Huey, Ellen, and Jeanne also went. Ellen and Jeanne left early on Friday, while the rest of us left around 5pm. But somehow Szu-Huey and I got ahead of Ellen and Jeanne anyway, and unfortunately Scott's car broke down in Fremont. We ended up getting to Scott's cabin around 10:30pm, after stopping for dinner.
Alla and I went to Helm of Sun Valley on Friday to rent skis for the weekend. But they were selling used rentals so I got rental skis, boots, and bindings, and new poles for $165. They'll have paid off in about five trips. Unfortunately my new poles got scratched up on this trip.
Saturday morning we all went early to the mountain with free lift tickets because Scott had some free passes from his previous ski patrol days. The weather was really bad. Lots of snow, some hail, sleet, bad winds. The lift to the peak was covered in icicles. All of the ski patrol people were staying inside. I stayed with Szu-Huey on the runs because she kept falling down and so the going was really slow. Alla went back to the lodge to sit out for a while, because conditions were bad and her rental boots were hurting her toes. Jeanne stayed at the cabin because she didn't feel like taking ski lessons.
So Alla decided not to go skiing again today because her boots hurt and the weather wasn't good. She came back early today with me and Szu-Huey. On the way back we stopped at the outlet stores in Tracy, which weren't that great. Alla bought some monkey clothes. I bought a pillow for when I am listening to music downstairs, and some socks. Szu-Huey also bought socks and some books for her niece Kristin.
March 15, 2005
Alla gave me a haircut yesterday. Szu-Huey helped a little bit in the beginning, but then went to work on her homework. It came out pretty good and looks a lot like what it would look like if I had went to the barber shop. It helps that Alla is a perfectionist. Just have to see if people can figure out if Alla gave me the haircut or if I it was done professionally.
March 14, 2005
I went to visit Shannon and Yvonne today. Yvonne has to build a motorboat for her class, and Shannon is going to build some for her science fair project. She wants to race five boats built out of different things to find out which construction material lets the boat go fastest. We went to Michaels, Radio Shack, and HobbyTown USA to buy a wooden boat model, a motor, and propellors respectively.
We were able to finish Shannon's plastic boat, using a old SunnyD bottle and tape. We built the wooden boat model but it doesn't displace enough water to float once the motor is attached. So our plan is to attach a couple of pontoons built out of hollowed out wooden dowels. Shannon also wants to build an aluminum boat, paper boat, and a boat out of cloth made waterproof with wax.
February 26, 2005
Rudeness at the HP Pavilion
Video recording of the show is prohibited, but taking photos is not. Szu-Huey had her digital camera with the LCD screen on, and pointed at the stage so she would be ready to take pictures whenever the skaters stopped moving. However, the HP Pavilion staff believed this meant she was recording the show to video. So one of them came over and said, "Turn it off." Szu-Huey replied that she was not recording, and his response was, "Just turn it off." He was quite gruff and did not make any attempt at politeness. Szu-Huey was not happy.
So we are boycotting the HP Pavilion from now on. And possibly HP as well because this service reflects badly upon their venue. It may not be operated by HP, but it is an official HP venue named after HP.
February 16, 2005
Ellen and Alla gave me my birthday present today: a remote control light dimmer. I installed it in the home theater today and it works great. The previous incandescent lights were making a lot of noise when dimmed though, so I went to The Home Depot and purchased some expensive high-quality halogen bulbs and checked the filaments by shaking them at the store. The noise created during dimming is sometimes called humming or singing.
These new halogen bulbs have a short neck, however, because the long neck ones rattled a lot when I shook them. Probably because there is a longer binding post for the filament in the long neck bulbs. Since my recessed lighting receptacles are built for long neck bulbs, I had to take them apart, bend the insides with pliers, and now the short neck bulbs can fit although it looks a little funny. The noise is greatly reduced when dimmed with these bulbs.
So I've finally got a remote dimmer for the home theater lights. No more getting up to adjust the lights. It's very good.
When Alla and Ellen gave me the present, they wrapped it in a bag that says "Party Girl" or "Pretty Girl" on it. And then Ellen crossed out the Girl part on one of them and replaced it with Boy. Jeanne helped them plan this gift wrapping.
February 14, 2005
I met up with Mehnaz today and we went looking at television sets. She wants to get a flat-panel set for her apartment. Looking at a bunch of models, it narrowed down to an open-box 42" Sylvania 6842PE or a 26" Panasonic TC-26LX20. Going with the open-box Sylvania would get her a much larger picture and save her several hundred dollars. However, the picture of the Panasonic does appear better, and there is no risk of burn-out as her primary viewing patterns are for standard-definition.
While we were there, I looked at some of the audio gear in Good Guys. The Monitor Audio speakers I bought last year have gone down in price. I would be interested in upgrading my speakers, but I don't think I'll be doing that anytime soon. I'd want to go much better, which means several thousand dollars more than what my current speakers are worth.
February 7, 2005
I had my birthday party today. My real birthday was yesterday, the 5th, but I celebrated today. Szu-Huey cooked a lot of stuff and a bunch of my friends came over: Shannon + Yvonne, Mei-Ling, Alla, Stephen and his new girlfriend Michelle, Vandy, Everend, Scott, Karen, and Ellen. We ate a lot of stuff and then had chocolate blueberry cake. Yvonne got to play with the big foot-long matches I bought to light the furnace; she and Stephen used them to light the candles on my cake.
January 23, 2005
FF: X Sleepover
Shannon and Yvonne slept over last night. They got here really late. Shannon and I played one game of Magic: The Gathering and then she watched me play Final Fantasy X for a while. This morning, she wanted to watch me play some more, but she also fought a few battles and walked around talking a little bit.
When they left, the door was open for a while and Niea ran outside (as I suspected). So I chased her back in and then gave her a bath, but without shampoo. I hope she didn't get any bugs or anything while she was outside. But if she did, I guess they all drowned. And those that didn't drown are now getting licked up by her.
January 10, 2005
Kat and Dixon had their U.S. wedding ceremony yesterday. They did some of the Chinese ceremonial stuff in Taiwan last year, and other Chinese ceremonial stuff yesterday too. I've known Kat for about five years now. I met her at UC Berkeley a few months after she started dating Dixon. She was in my CS61B and CS61C classes.
A bunch of Kat's cousins played musical instruments at the ceremony, which was held at One Ricon Center. Her cousin Sarah played a Chinese instrument very well, and someone else who I'm not sure is a cousin or not played the piano and sung and that was also very good. Unfortunately, the area was not acoustically friendly.
The dance time started around 8:30pm and ran until 10pm, but the DJ (who also was the music coordinator) didn't do very well with requests and seemed to play music she liked more than music other people liked. About half the time people left the dance floor because they didn't like the music or didn't know how to dance to it.
January 1, 2005
New Year 2005
Last night I went to Pedro's new apartment with Szu-Huey to countdown to the new year. There were about 15 people there, but I didn't know everyone. He showed us some weird Ali G TV show that was kind of stupid. Then we counted down and Martin had bought ribbon blowers instead of Kazoos so everyone was disappointed. It was raining really hard and was really windy yesterday.
December 13, 2004
Yesterday I went over to Shannon & Yvonne's house and we finally finished Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles. We had probably been playing it for something like nine months by now. A couple of weeks ago, I asked them if I should play our characters single-player to raise their stats faster. So I put in about twenty hours on my own and got our characters enough artifacts for us to easily get through the final stage. The ending was pretty good and the story at the last stage was good too. I liked how the stuff we had experienced along the journey became clearer and more tied together once we'd gotten to the end.
December 4, 2004
Alla came back from her Thanksgiving vacation in Philadelphia, and found out that the same memory stick the got corrupted last time after her Europe trip was corrupted again. All the files had been lost. Last time, I was able to recover them by running fsck_msdos and recovering the lost files. But this time, the FAT was clean. So recovery needed to be done off the raw data.
I found a web page that describes the Exif file format. This is the format her Sony CyberShot camera saved the images in. So, I have the capability of reading the raw data (I made an image of the partition using hdiutil) using HexEditor or through a small program and saving the found images back to disk.
But even better! Someone had already written a really simple application to do that, with additional support for special devices. Exif Untrasher did exactly what I would have had to do. There are lots of commercial programs that do exactly this, and can cost a decent amount. But the solution is so simple, I'm surprised no one has made their source code available. I may do that at some later point.
November 21, 2004
Today Ellen celebrated her 26th birthday. Her real birthday is on the 23rd or something like that. But she always celebrates early because of Thanksgiving. We had dinner at Buca di Beppo's at Oakridge Mall. Our reservation was for 7pm but because the restaurant couldn't kick out the previous large party, we ended up being seated an hour late. To make up for this, they gave us free appetizers.
There were 20 of us total. One of those was Ellen and three of them were small children, so the bill was split between the remaining 16 of us. I calculated an 18% gratuity on the check post-tax, and then that number was rounded up per person to the dollar. Ended up that if the gratuity was calculated pre-tax, then it ended up being a 20% gratuity. That's okay though because we did get like $100 worth of free appetizers and the waiters were very good. Of course there had to be more than one water for such a large group, although one guy was our head waiter.
This is the first time I'd eaten in this restaurant. Also the first time for Szu-Huey and Alla. The food is really good and we all over stuffed ourselves. I took home some pasta and salad leftovers. It is kind of strange if you actually pay attention to the hundreds of mostly black-and-white photos they have up on the walls. There are all sorts of strange people doing strange things in those photos.
November 20, 2004
Today was Karen's birthday. So she had a little get together at one of her friends' places in San Francisco. Unfortunately, we got lost on the way. We left my place at around 6:10pm and the driving directions said it would take about an hour and ten minutes to get to Andrea's place. There was some traffic, but we got lost so much that we finally arrived at 8:45pm. That's more than double the time it should have taken.
I got Karen a copy of Supreme Beings of Leisure's self-titled debut album. Paula or Andrea got her some hair glitter, make-up remover soap, and a little carrying box for them. The other one of the two got her a card. I can't remember who got what. Some other people I'd never met before were there also: Mike, Nick, Beth, and someone else. Wade was there of course.
Turns out Andrea is a real Star Trek:TNG freak, so after most everyone had left, she and I ended up making Wade feel like a weirdo by talking about random episodes that no one else there had any idea what we were talking about. She has seasons 1-5, and 7 of ST:TNG.
October 25, 2004
Sonia and Emily
I picked up Shannon and Yvonne from their classes today, but was late because Szu-Huey's computer broke and we rushed to Fry's to buy replacement parts. Then I tried to get Yvonne to do her homework but she was very reluctant. Instead, she started to do it when Sonia called. And then Emily called. I suggested that Emily come over because it made more sense for them to work together in the same room instead of over the phone. Then Sonia called again, and then she came over also.
Emily tends to rant about things and then laugh. But Sonia is insane, with a personality very much like Yvonne's. Both their attentions jump randomly from things into anime or manga. Like when Sonia said something about Kenshin and then McDonald's. Or something like that. Sonia was also very upset about her lack of X when everyone else she knows has X and she is getting rejected.
Eventually, like three hours later, Yvonne finally finished her physics homework. Emily was basically already done when she came over. Even Sonia had more done than Yvonne. Now Yvonne is working on math. I think we need to arrange for some way to get her a padded room with restricted Internet access so she can do her homework uninterrupted and without any possible distractions. Except then she will not be able to work with distractions, which is a very useful skill.
At least Shannon did not call Joanna just to tease her that I am there.
October 4, 2004
Pots & Pans
Yvonne almost burned down her house yesterday morning. She put some soup to cook on the stove, with the ladle in it. Then she left for something. When she came back, the pot and ladle had been melted and burned. The house was filled with smoke. Yvonne went a little crazy, and got help from a neighbor to open all the windows and then Shannon drowned the pot and ladle in the backyard with the hose.
This is why Mei-Ling wanted me to baby-sit. Apparently this is the second time in something like four months that Yvonne has destroyed something on the stove. She refuses to cook anything on the stove anymore. Yvonne should have remained starving until I got there at 3:30pm. It's just safer for everyone involved.
Yvonne, Shannon, and I went to Target after I got there. We were going to find a pot and ladle that would be just like the one that got killed, as a peace offering. But we couldn't find one there at Target that was the same type. Shannon bought some Yu-Gi-Oh cards with a gift certificate she got for her birthday. She also remembered that her mom originally got the pot and ladle from Bed, Bath & Beyond. So we walked behind Target to Bed, Bath & Beyond and found a pot and pan set for $60 that kind of matched.
Mei-Ling, of course, wanted to return it. But I told Yvonne ahead of time that this was to be expected, and figured that the correct solution would be for Mei-Ling to take the pot and ladle matching the ones Yvonne killed, and I would take the rest of them. I can use more pots and pans, but don't need that many. Now I have a good smaller skillet and nice stewing pot. I told Szu-Huey I had a surprise in my trunk because kitchen things are like toys to her.
October 2, 2004
Yesterday, I got a postcard from Alla (in Germany at the time). I was supposed to get the card about a week ago, but both Alla and Ellen could not remember my address. Instead of looking it up, they decided to guess. They transposed my street number and used the zip code of IBM's Cottle Road site. So, obviously, the mail was delayed. In fact, Alla had to spend some time talking to the Postmaster at my post office and explain to them how bad she is at mailing something from Germany, and then ask if they would be so kind as to look for the postcard and make sure it gets to my house.
I'm not too sure about how the mailing stuff works in the EU, but the postcard is of Vienna in Austria, and comes from this company: Verband der Österreichischen Ansichtskartenverleger und -Hersteller. That's a really long name. Alla put a German stamp on it (well, it is in Euros but the picture is German) and there is a German postmark on it. But there's also a Luftpost sticker on it for air mail. All my Google searches for Luftpost send me to zeppelins.
Anyway, apparently at the time, Alla was close to in need of medical attention. She was sick, her knee was shot, and her hip was broken. Ellen requested the money transfer for Alla's medical bills (and shopping) be sent to Ellen's account, as Alla was also on the verge of passing out. Probably due to the pain. It is kind of hard to read, because Alla tried to squish something like two hundred words onto half the postcard.
Love Parade SF
Today, Love Parade comes from Germany to the US. Perhaps the most famous of all electronic music parades, Love Parade is an annual event in Berlin. This year San Francisco will host Love Parade and dozens of DJs and floats and maybe a million people. Love Parade San Francisco begins a Mission & Beale, and goes 1.5 miles to Terry Francois. You're not supposed to stand and watch; you are supposed to mix in with the entire parade and dance.
However, I won't be attending this year's Love Parade. Maybe next year. Mei-Ling, my cousin (I did not know this until recently), is going to be away for work so I will be baby-sitting Shannon and Yvonne. It isn't much of a big deal for me, since I'm not into live venues so much anyway. I prefer to listen to music at home where it sounds good.
We'll probably end up watching some Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water and playing Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles. Yvonne also has to finish her homework, so I'll be helping her with science. And Shannon wants to play Stratego and build something using the Radio Shack Sensorlab I got her for her birthday.
October 1, 2004
Komen Race for the Cure
The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation is one of the many groups that organize fund raisers to help find a cure for breast cancer. One of my friends, Jessica Giordano, is going to participate in a race in Florida tomorrow to help raise money for the Florida Suncoast affiliate of the Komen foundation. She's looking for donations to help her reach her goal of $1000. Please consider helping out with a donation.