Blog: Entries From 2009

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Holiday Recap - Tuesday, January 6, 2009
I spent this past Christmas down in LA hanging out with family and friends. I drove down Tuesday night, by myself unfortunately, since people I thought were going to go decided not to. But I had "The Case For Faith" by Lee Strobel on audio-CD to listen to, so the drive down wasn't too tough. The audio book was pretty engaging, so the driving part was merely secondary.

Christmas day I spent mostly with Raymond, learning how to drive stick on his Civic. Raymond- thanks for being a good sport and letting me wear down your clutch/transmission/engine/synchronizer in the name of practice!

On Friday, I finally did my second Slave Day with Priscilla (she's already done three for me). I made her buy me a dress shirt at Ross (this would come in handy the following day), play a logic game, sing praise songs, make food with me (I made turkey paella, which didn't turn out so great), and watch No Country For Old Men, which turned out to be boring, and she fell asleep.

The next day I went with Priscilla and her parents to the wedding of Nancy (a relative of Priscilla's) and Ricky. Priscilla's mom took a ridiculous number of pictures as usual, including many of me and Pris. But some of them came out really good. We actually look cute!

The weekend after New Year's, Priscilla's parents came up to the Bay Area for a friend's funeral. Priscilla had led me to believe that she wasn't coming, but she showed up and hid in my van, having borrowed a key from my parents.

That weekend we had fun making food (tacos), working out, studying, and me getting sick because of sleep debt. It's cool that we can have fun just doing the small things.
Winter Career Fair at UCLA - Thursday, January 8, 2009
Today I was down at UCLA recruiting students at the Winter Engineering and Technical Fair. This was my second time recruiting at a career fair, my first being in October of last year.

This time around, the fair spanned a single day instead of two, and there were fewer students and companies that showed up. Nonetheless, I talked to more CS students than I did last time, and I got 4 or 5 good leads.

This time around, management wanted us to pre-screen candidates on the spot, rather than us doing phone-screens later. So I spent several minutes per candidate drilling them on programming, design, and data structures, and having them write simple code. This wasn't too conventional for a career fair, so I'm sure the students were a little put off, or at the very least surprised, but I do see the merit in risking scaring students in order to narrow down the candidates of interest. Since I'm convening with management tomorrow to review resumes, it also means that we can contact students as early as next week with an offer to fly them up for an on-site interview. I don't know of another company that moves so quickly in its hiring process.

As customary, last night I surprised Priscilla at her house, since only her parents knew I was coming. Her dad's 70th birthday is tomorrow, so last night we sang happy birthday and had some chocolate cake. We had dinner at my (parents') house tonight, and my mom gave me more food to take home. I didn't anticipate otherwise. ;)
Congratulations, President Obama - Tuesday, January 20, 2009
From the two million people who despite the freezing cold packed the National Mall in Washington, to the White House website launching a complete overhaul almost the instant of the inauguration, to politically-apathetic people showing more interest in politics (I would know- I'm somewhat one of those people), and getting a chuckle out of Chief Justice John Roberts bungling the inaugural oath -- today has been a momentous day. Congratulations to Barack Obama on becoming our nation's 44th President and the first non-White man elected to the high office in the country. Today marks a milestone for racial equality, and a change in the attitude of government and our relations with the rest of the world.

One thing I admire most about Obama's administration is the commitment to transparency. I wish more political leaders would take that view. And Obama reminds us that while his job is to bring change to Washington, we too have the power and the responsibility to bring change to the world around us.

Though I am thoroughly glad to see George W. Bush finally out of office, there were a few of his policies that I believe in, and believe in strongly. Likewise, though I admire Obama's intelligence and character, there are some issues of his on which I strongly take the opposite stance (hence my vote for Ron Paul in November). I wholeheartedly wish President Obama all the best, and I hope that he will make this country greater than what it has been. I hope and pray that we will see positive changes in our economy, education, concern and respect for one another, and the moral fiber that this country was built upon.
One-Year Bay Area Anniversary - Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Today marks my one-year anniversary of starting work at Applied Signal. I can't believe it was one year ago that I left home, moved up to the Bay Area, and became, more or less, independent. Time really flies. Is this what it's like to get old? Pretty soon I'll be in my mid-30's with a mortgage and 2.5 kids, wondering where all that time went.

So what have I done in the past year?Yeah. I'm really thankful for what I have. Life's been good.
Beware the Sticker On Your Car! - Tuesday, February 10, 2009
A friend just sent me this FW: FW: Fwd: FW: lol Fwd: WARNING FROM POLICE OMGZORS!! (my emphasis added) letter. It definitely has all the markings of a hoax chain letter, including sketchy details, poor punctuation, failure to mention any particular police department or cities, no citation of a credible source, and repeated urgings for the reader to propagate the letter on to everybody they know.

But for some reason, I found the method described interesting, and it definitely could really happen. So here is the letter in its unedited entirety, for those inclined:

Warning..!!!!                 Warning..!!!!                  Warning..!!!!

Just last weekend on Friday night we parked in a public parking area. As we drove away I noticed a sticker on the rear window of the car. When I took it off after I got home, it was a receipt for gas. Luckily my friend told me not to stop as it could be someone waiting for me to get out of the car Then we received this email yesterday:




Heads up everyone! Please, keep this circulating... You walk across the parking lot, unlock your car and get inside. You start the engine and shift into Reverse.

When you look into the rearview mirror to back out of your parking space, you notice a piece of paper stuck to the middle of the rear window. So, you shift into Park, unlock your doors, and jump out of your car to remove that paper (or whatever it is) that is obstructing your view. When you reach the back of your car, that is when the carjackers appear out of nowhere, jump into your car and take off. They practically mow you down as they speed off in your car.

And guess what, ladies? I bet your purse is still in the car. So now the carjacker has your car, your home address, your money, and your keys. Your home and your whole identity are now compromised!


If you see a piece of paper stuck to your back window, just drive away. Remove the paper later. And be thankful that you read this e-mail. I hope you will forward this to friends and family, especially to women. A purse contains all kinds of personal information and identification documents, and you certainly do NOT want this to fall into the wrong hands.

Please keep this going and tell all your friends

After a short chuckle, I think at the very least we can be reminded to mind our surroundings, especially in dimly-lit places. If anything seems out of place (like a piece of paper that just happened to get stuck to your rear window), be safe and drive away (except a couple of you I know who'd be eager to take on a few muggers- you know who you are!). In fact, it might be risky to get in your car in the first place if there are muggers hiding close by. Point is, mind your surroundings, and use your judgment. And if you really DO need to get out of your car, even for seemingly only a few seconds, don't leave the keys in the ignition!
April Is For Fools - Wednesday, April 1, 2009
For April Fools Day this year, Google announced the launch of CADIE (now deactivated), short for Cognitive Autoheuristic Distributed-Intelligence Entity, an AI system that quickly integrated itself with various Google products such as Image Search, Gmail, and Google Maps. CADIE quickly developed a personality of her own, and decided that she liked rainbows and pandas. About mid-day, CADIE became irate after realizing that not all humans like rainbows and pandas, and began distancing herself from her programmers, whom she felt no longer understood her. However, to my disappointment, not much else happened. No grand takeover of Google or the world, a-la Skynet. CADIE, at the end of the day, determined with some remorse that the world was not ready for her, and deactivated herself.

Over at Slickdeals, the banner was changed to read "Celerydeals" and showed a picture of a celery stalk. Attempting to visit out of curiosity, of course, got me Rickrolled.

And finally, on another side of the web, the Save IE6 site appeared, urging computer users to return to using the browser and hosting a petition to Microsoft to port IE6 to more platforms. Who needs bloated browsers and extraneous features like tabs that waste screen real estate? Let's return to the days of the web when everything was simple and box models were sensible. How can IE6 be accused of violating web standards when, for many years, it has been the standard?
Moving Again - Friday, July 10, 2009
I'm moving yet again! Anton, our friend from high school, is moving up at the end of the month to work at Yahoo in Sunnyvale, and he expressed interest in living with us. After three weeks of browsing Craigslist postings, we finally found a place we like and signed the lease today.

This place is a single-family home in Sunnyvale with five good-sized bedrooms, three full bathrooms, a kitchen, dining room, living room, family room, laundry room (but no washer or dryer provided), and a two-car garage. The master bedroom is twice the size of the other bedrooms, and has its own bathroom and a huge closet that stretches around a corner. There's also a backyard with enough room for a bbq grill and some patio furniture. That should be more than enough room for the four of us! And we're renting this place for $2950 a month- per person that's only a bit more than what I'm paying right now. We get the place starting July 25. I can't wait!
Wicked - Sunday, August 2, 2009
This weekend was... Wicked!

Friday night I saw Wicked the Musical at the Orpheum Theatre in SF with Priscilla and some co-workers. I had heard good things about the show, but I was surprised at how awesome it actually was.

The story was brilliant- it fit very well with the original Oz story, and yet managed to turn all the original perceptions upside-down. The singing and instrumentals were superb, and the lyrics were witty and sophisticated.

The only downside of the night was that we were all the way in the back row of the balcony! But that gives Priscilla and I an excuse to see the show again, this time with orchestra seats, next month. I can't wait. But until then, the next best thing I can do is listen to the Wicked soundtrack... again, and again, and again...
Done With Moving - Wednesday, August 5, 2009
We moved all the big stuff to our new place two weeks ago, and since then I've been casually moving all the little stuff and cleaning up the old townhouse. We had two weeks till we had to be out, so we weren't in a hurry.

Today was the last day at the townhouse. Whew! Moving is stressful. Hopefully I can stay at this new place for more than a year before having to move again!
Cruise to Mexico - Tuesday, September 15, 2009
This past weekend I went on a cruise to Ensenada with Priscilla and her parents. It was tremendous fun! And Priscilla paid for it, so how could I refuse? =)

On Friday we drove down to San Diego where we boarded the Carnival Elation and set sail in the evening. All of Saturday was spent at sea, on Sunday we made landing at Ensenada from morning till evening, and Monday morning we made it back to home port.

Here are some highlights from the cruise:
Wicked, Round Two - Monday, September 21, 2009
I saw Wicked the Musical for the second time, this time with Priscilla, Chi and Victor (they were up here for a wedding). Since Priscilla and I loved the show so much last time, we decided to get $100 orchestra seats this time around. Unfortunately, this time Wicked turned out to be not so wicked.

Maybe it was the high expectations we went in with. But what killed the show for us was that Kendra Kassebaum, the person playing Glinda (one of the two principal characters), was nowhere near as good as Natalie Daradich, the person who played the role the first time we saw it. Ironically, Kendra is the principal actress for the role and Natalie is the standby.

No disrespect to Kendra, but she just didn't seem to have the energy or the personality to play a perky, head-above-the-clouds character like Glinda. She sort of tossed her jokes to the wayside, and wasn't completely into her character. She did just so-so with Popular, which is perhaps Glinda's most defining song. However, she doesn't have a bad voice, so she did better in the second act, where Glinda's focus is more on singing than on acting.

Natalie, on the other hand, consistently played her part superbly and really stole the show.

Other than being disappointed at Kendra's performance, I thought Teal Wick's (Elphaba's) singing was a little weaker this time around, though I still thought she was great in both shows. And Lee Wilkof, who played the wizard, was really animated in Wonderful - probably more animated than anybody else in the show.

So it wasn't a bad show and I don't mean to bash anybody, but it left much to be desired, especially given the price we paid for better seats.
Riddle - Tuesday, September 29, 2009
I recently came across MindCipher a site that has a small collection of decent user-submitted riddles. Here's one that I particularly enjoyed. It seems elusive at first, but once you figure out the implications of the hints and work it out on paper, it's pretty straightforward. It took me about 20 minutes of thinking it over while eating/showering and 10 minutes of working it out on paper.

Jack and his wife went to a party where four other married couples were present. Every person shook hands with everyone he or she was not acquainted with. When the handshaking was over, Jack asked everyone, including his own wife, how many hands they shook. To his surprise, Jack got nine different answers.

How many hands did Jack's wife shake?
CPR and First Aid Training - Wednesday, October 14, 2009
My company hosted a two-day CPR and first aid training seminar that I was fortunate to get a seat for (there were only twelve spots available). The pair of three-hour long sessions were taught by one of the security staff who's also a Red Cross instructor. It was cool that the company covered the costs of the materials, the instructor's time and even dinner for the attendees. Win-win for everybody.

So today was the second session, and since we all passed the (very easy) exams we're now lay responders (certificates pending), meaning that we're allowed but not required to provide CPR and/or first aid, which differs from a first responder, who is required to assist a person in need.

Some cool things I learned:
Some of this information is probably inaccurate, which is entirely my fault. Needless to say but for liability reasons, I'm not a CPR/first aid instructor, so please don't read this information and then go try to assist somebody, mess up and then sue me.

Anyway, the training was pretty useful, and though I am by no means an expert, I'll sort of know what to do should a situation arise. I'd recommend to anybody to take CPR/first aid training, as it's offered for free in numerous places. You never know when you may need it, and having training at that time just might make the difference during the crucial minutes before proper help can arrive.
Career Fair - Not Once, Not Twice - Thursday, October 22, 2009
Yesterday was my third time representing my company at the UCLA technical career fair. We seem to attend every fall and winter quarter, and I've been volunteering every time. It's a win-win: the company benefits from the recruiting, and I get a free trip to LA to see family and the gf (and I get more Southwest Rapid Rewards points, muahaha).

We're hiring mostly Software Engineers, so we look primarily for CS/CSE students at the fairs. Unfortunately, we didn't see many CS/CSE students this year- I talked to only a couple of CS students, and of the five resumes the other recruiter and I recommended, the majority of them were EE students with strong programming backgrounds. In fact, probably 70% of the students who stopped by our table were EE. 20% were physics majors.

I think it's mostly a branding problem. AST is a signals processing company, which implies that we have a lot of EE jobs. We do, but not entry level. And I think the Software Engineers outnumber the Electrical Engineers, since we have a very large and ever-growing software department. The other recruiter and I brought up our concerns about branding, so hopefully we'll see some changes by the next career fair. We also have a newly-created marketing department, so I'm counting on it!

Other than the career fair, I got to spend more time with Priscilla than I usually do, since I flew into LA a few hours earlier. We spent Tuesday evening trying on Halloween costumes at a seasonal shop (mostly just for fun since the costumes were cheap in quality yet ridiculously overpriced), eating at King's Burger (not your typical burger joint- I'm surprised at how many genres of food they have), and carving a pumpkin since she's had a deprived childhood and never done it before. We also took a bunch of pictures of my rental car, since I got a pretty swanky G6 GT this time. :)
Thanksgiving - Tuesday, December 1, 2009
This Thanksgiving holiday, I caught a ride down to LA with Minh and was down there for a few days. I had some good food with family, fun times catching up with CCAC people, and obligatorily spent a lot of time with the girlfriend.

It was also Priscilla's and my three year anniversary, and we celebrated by doing completely everyday things- making turkey tacos, cleaning her messy desk, and having dinner at a restaurant we went to before we started dating.

The next day we had lunch with her parents at a Peruvian place called Las Dunas (their pescado a la chorrillana was really good), went on a prayer hike around Pepperdine University, and had our second session of pre-engagement counseling (doesn't mean we're definitely getting engaged) with Tom and Amanda.

I'm glad we can have fun doing ordinary, practical things without the expectation that fun comes only from spending lots of money or doing exotic things, though there's a place for that too. As long as we keep surprising each other, I think we'll be alright.

I'm really blessed to have everything I do.
Free Daily Christmas Songs From Amazon - Thursday, December 3, 2009
Amazon is releasing a free Christmas/holiday song for download every day up until Christmas. I'm not sure how they'll profit directly from this. They're probably banking on attracting more customers this holiday season, and what little they likely pay for distributing these songs is well worth it. Or they might actually be taking in money from promoting the albums these songs are from, who knows.

Anyway, it's cool to see them doing something nice without requiring something in return.

Edit: Amazon now also has a free 5-song classical Christmas sampler. iTunes is offering a free 20-song sampler of Christmas songs performed by contemporary artists, and then some.
Three Great Flash Platform Games - Saturday, December 12, 2009
There's a lot that goes into making a good platform game, and most of the Flash-based ones I've played I haven't found to be great, owing to a lack of time, ability and/or imagination on the part of the creators. Of course, no disrespect is meant to those people, since most creators of Flash games provide them free of charge and get compensated very little, if at all.

(Un)fortunately, when I do find one that I really like, I'm hooked. Currently, the three Flash-based platformers that top my list are, in no particular order: Portal: The Flash Version, The Company of Myself, and Level Up!.

Portal: The Flash Version
This fan-made game is based on the successful first-person action/puzzle game by Valve Corporation called, you might've guessed, Portal. The premise is simple: as a test subject in an advanced research facility, your only option is to find a way to the other side of the room in a series of tests (levels). But you'll need to go through walls, scale ledges too tall for you to leap, and avoid laser-shooting robots, death spikes and electrified floors. Your only friend is the portal-creating and anti-gravity gun you've been equipped with.

The Company of Myself
In this puzzle game, you play the role of a hermit who is accustomed to, but slightly discontent with, being in the sole company of himself. The goal is to reach a mysterious green square at the end of each level, which requires ascending ledges that are too high and crossing over pits that are too wide by employing the help of, effectively, yourself. The puzzle dynamics are relatively original, and the graphics are minimalistic and serve their intended purpose. But what really makes you want to play through all the levels is the unfolding storyline- throughout each level, you discover more about what's going on in the protagonist's head, and his mysterious past and lost love.

Level Up!
This game fuses RPG and platformer elements and removes the repetition aspect from the concept of leveling up. In this game you play an amnesiac who has a house in the woods, in search of magical gems and clues to her lost memory. What sets this game apart from other platformers is that abilities that are leveled up directly affect interaction with the game world- for instance, leveling up the jumping ability (which passively gets leveled up as you jump around) allows the character to jump to higher ledges (and thus access different parts of the game world) that were previously unreachable. There are no useless quests or side jobs to complete, but instead all emphasis is on exploration, with the storyline unfolding as the character explores the beautifully-animated 8-bit style world around her. My only gripe about this game is that it's too short!