Blog: Entries From 2011

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A Very Long Winter Vacation - Monday, January 3, 2011
Until this year I hadn't ever taken the entire week between Christmas and New Year's off from work. But this year, since both holidays fell on a Saturday, my company gave us Monday, Tuesday and Friday off during the week following Christmas, so I ended up vacationing in LA from December 24 till January 3.

During the long break I hung out with two sets of high school friends, went to three holiday parties (four, if you count the one at my house that I caught the tail end of), saw two movies in the theatre (Narnia and Tron), worked out with a friend once (not nearly enough), helped my dad install shelves in the garage, did a lot of work on the website I'm making for church, played many games of Monopoly Deal with Aaron and other people, and found gift money that had apparently been sitting around for years.

I of course spent the majority of days with the girlfriend. We decorated her family's Christmas tree, cleaned her room, did our weekly study discussion while walking at Balboa Park, did puzzles, watched random Youtube videos, and had a lot of meals with different people.

This vacation time has been good, but I'm ready to get back to "normal" life. For one, my body is in dire need of exercise after a plethora of holiday food combined with inactivity. I've also more or less repaid my entire sleep debt, so I'm looking to go back to work refreshed and to start off this year on the right foot!
Productive Weekend - Tuesday, January 11, 2011
I had a pretty productive weekend. On Saturday I cleaned my room, read through pages and pages of legalese for Raytheon's stock tender offer sent to holders of AST stock, and fixed up a program that I made for a friend that she's been bugging me about.

On Sunday I went biking with housemates for four hours, and we had burritos at a hole in the wall place that has the biggest super burritos I've ever seen, for under $6. I also made a lot of headway into a problem at work and found a quick and clean solution.

There's still so much to be done!
Massive Layoffs - Friday, January 14, 2011
My department laid off 16 people today, which is a significant number considering that we comprise maybe a couple hundred people. I knew half of the group that got laid off, which includes two of my team members as well as Dave and Fred. They all seemed optimistic; Dave seemed almost happy, saying that he's been wanting a change of scenery, and Fred cited a few potential job prospects.

We let go of some talented and hardworking engineers, but according to management it was a necessary evil due to a shortfall in customer funding. Management also assures us that the rest of our jobs are safe for the near future.

I really feel for those who got laid off, especially my friends, but I'm glad they seem to be taking it well, probably even better than I am.
Weekend Fun and Automotive Failure - Thursday, January 27, 2011
Priscilla hit the cap in her vacation hours and was told she had to use some hours or forfeit them. Being an awesome girlfriend, she decided to drive up impromptu to visit me last weekend.

Friday night we went to my company's holiday party, where my company went all out on expenses (perhaps since this will be the last AST holiday party). There were four food stations- Japanese (sushi and California rolls), Mexican (tacos and fajitas), Italian (ravioli and pasta), and American (salmon and roast beef). There were some pretty sweet raffle prizes including a PS3, 55" flatscreen TV, netbooks, iPads and gift cards up to $500. There were also casino games where chips were redeemable for tickets for the final raffle.

Unfortunately there was a miscommunication, and everybody received the same number of tickets for the final raffle, regardless of how many chips they earned or whether they played casino games at all. Furthermore, all the good prizes had been raffled off in the previous raffle, where everybody had the same chance of winning. It was disappointing to find out, after the fact, that the casino games were purely for fun and had no bearing on peoples' chances to win prizes, and that aspect could've been handled better, but altogether Priscilla and I had a great time at the party.

But the real fun began on the drive home, when a wheel bearing on my car gave out (but I didn't know what was wrong at the time) and the car started shaking violently and became unable to drive straight. We were in a remote part of San Jose, 20 miles from home at midnight, and I felt it was too risky to try to make it home. Priscilla has AAA but she left her member card and all forms of ID at my house, so AAA couldn't help us out. I had to call my roommate to bring the card to us, but by the time he reached us we decided to ride home with him and return the next day.

So Priscilla drove me to my car on Saturday and we called AAA to have my car towed to a mechanic. I rode with the tow truck guy, a burly, entertaining guy named Wayne who told me that his favorite tow jobs are "PD impounds".

On Sunday Priscilla and I visited a sister church, CCIC South Valley, and met some cool people mostly in the same demographic as CCIC MV. Priscilla also cooked a lot of food (chicken for tacos, herb chicken breast and baked pasta) ahead of time so that we had more time to do other things, like start watching Autumn's Concerto, a hackneyed Taiwanese drama that she seems to like for some reason. ;)

This week the mechanic called me in and showed me the busted wheel bearing as well as an outer tie rod end that was in sloppy condition. The wheel bearing explains why I've been hearing a whirring noise while driving as well as why the tread on that tire kept wearing out abnormally quickly. The mechanic ended up replacing both wheel bearings and tie rod ends for $740, and he comped me coolant because the job was finished later (this morning) than promised and because my coolant reservoir was empty. I still have a coolant leak, but for now it's cheaper to use some Stop Leak, top off coolant and keep an eye on it than to isolate and fix the leak.
Moved Again - Saturday, January 29, 2011
After a few months of waiting, Kenny's short sale purchase finally concluded and we moved into our new home, Monroe, today. The place is not as spacious as Erica and is two miles further from everywhere I go, but I'm now paying $650/month in rent, about $100 less than at Erica.

Excluding my one-month stay in corporate housing, Monroe is the fourth place I've lived at since moving to the Bay Area three years ago. Fortunately, I now have the option of not having to move again in the foreseeable future.

It started to rain towards the end and Fred took some time to get his stuff ready, but overall the move went well. Anton came down from SF to help, and Kenny's parents came up from LA with a huge fridge.

The house has three bedrooms and there are four of us, so Bao will be in the living room (his choice), which is pretty well sequestered from the rest of the house. My room is a bit smaller than before, but the layout allows me to keep an extra nightstand in the room, albeit with the dresser in a funny but functional location. I also get twice as much closet space in my room than I did at Erica.

Everybody seems pretty happy with what they're getting. And there's a trail 500 feet from the house, so I anticipate I'll be biking on the weekends much more often!
AST Merged With Raytheon - Tuesday, February 1, 2011
As expected by almost everyone, Raytheon's stock tender offer for shares of Applied Signal was approved. 12,413,103 votes (shares) were received in favor of the acquisition. This represents a total of 87.8%, over the 76.3% threshold needed.

Today AST became a wholly-owned subsidiary of Raytheon. We've been told that there won't be major changes for the first year; however, in the long run anything is possible. I don't yet have a substantial reason to be nervous about the future of our company, so I'm taking the default position of being optimistic.
Priscilla Visited Again - Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Priscilla drove up this weekend with Victor, who was attending a conference in Boulder Creek. On Friday we rendezvoused at Taqueria Vallarta in Santa Cruz - their tacos and salsa bar are alright, better than average.

I ended up driving back to Santa Clara on Route 9, a dark and windy road, in heavy rain and fog. I was following my GPS, and I had forgotten that I previously put it in "highway avoidance" mode.

Priscilla was busy with some work she had brought with her, so most of the time we worked diligently, taking breaks to watch Office Space, read our predictions from last year, read our study book, make homemade chili (could've used more than just one serrano pepper), work out, and go to Indian buffet where we irked the servers by eating way too much and asking for a lot of garlic naan. I left a nice tip though, so hopefully my picture is not taped to the wall with a note saying "Do NOT let this person eat here!"

It was a fun weekend and we got a lot of stuff done. Hopefully next time we won't be so busy!
Dad and Brother Visited - Monday, April 11, 2011
My dad and brother drove up on Thursday and stayed in the area (with my uncle and aunt) until Sunday. My dad worked on my car on Friday, changing out the transmission fluid, while Aaron was in the East Bay visiting friends. On Saturday my dad and I changed out as much power steering fluid as we could (with a turkey baster), and put in new spark plugs, spark plug wires and a distributor cap.

They also brought up a ton of food that my mom made for me- pork chops, salmon, chicken with green beans, bok choi, seafood soup and vegetable soup. My family is awesome.
Tire and Cuesta Park - Tuesday, April 12, 2011
When I got to work this morning and got out of my car, I heard a loud hissing sound. Turned out I ran over a screw somewhere and my tire was slowly leaking air. I couldn't leave the car sitting there, so I drove very carefully to America's Tire Company in Mountain View where they fixed the tire, for free!

I had an hour to kill while the tire was being repaired, so I walked around the area and visited nearby Cuesta Park. It was the first time I've been there since I was maybe in middle school. My uncle used to take me and my brother there to play tennis, but I don't remember ever having explored the whole park. It's certainly as nice as the parts I do remember.

The morning was a nice time of relaxing and reliving some childhood memories. I was longing for a break from work, but I certainly wasn't expecting it so suddenly!
LA For a Few Days - Tuesday, May 3, 2011
My uncle and aunt were down in LA from last Thursday through today, and I caught a ride with them. I naturally spent most of the time with Priscilla, and she planned our activities this time around with the deal that I would plan the next time.

On Friday I picked her up from work and we explored her world: the pet cemetery next to work where she goes to read (you know, because it's tranquil), New Life Church, 24 Hour Fitness, and Trader Joe's and a bunch of other stores.

On Saturday we went to the LA Times Festival of Books at USC. I was leery when she told me we were going to USC but wouldn't tell me why. But we had a fun time, even though (or perhaps because) we spent no money, and we scored some free Ben & Jerry's ice cream, tea, fresh flowers and airbrushed dragon tattoos. Afterwards we drove to Santa Monica Pier, walked the pier and watched people catch swarms of fish, and ate sandwiches on the chilly beach after the sun went down (my fault, for wanting to stay on the pier too long).

On Sunday we ate at my parents' house, where my mom per custom made a feast. Needless to say, I did not need a midnight snack that night.

Finally for Monday, Priscilla had the awesome idea of riding the Metro across town (day passes for just $6) to visit some tourist spots that we've never seen despite growing up in LA. The first stop was Hollywood and Highland, where we saw Grauman's Chinese Theatre, El Capitan Theatre and the Walk of Fame. Next was Olvera Street, in all its quaintness and homogenous trinket shops, where we had some greasy and probably authentic Mexican food. Finally we hit up Chinatown, where we were surprised to see many Vietnamese shops and very few Chinese shops. Unfortunately, since it was a weekday and getting late, most of the shops were closed/closing by the time we got there and we managed to only buy some sparklers for her and a pair of sandals for me. It was a fun day. Sadly, we forgot to bring a camera.
More Time in LA - Tuesday, May 31, 2011
This month might have the record for the most days I've spent visiting LA. I was down there at the beginning of this month, and again from last Thursday till today. It was Priscilla's birthday recently and Memorial Day yesterday, so I figured I'd take a couple days off work to enjoy a (relatively) long vacation.

Priscilla's been needing a new computer since her laptop has been acting up, so one of the things I did was build a new computer with parts I had shipped to her house. I built her a mini-tower with an Athlon II X2 250, 4 GB DDR3 RAM, 500 GB hard drive, and Ubuntu 11.04- basically more than enough computing power for her Youtube/email needs. She seems to be happy with it.

For exercise, we went hiking at Lake Balboa, where I was sad to find that the peddleboats from my youth were no longer there. We hiked all the way to the Sepulveda Dam and even found, when venturing off the beaten path, an arbor, bench and cot somebody had skillfully fashioned out of tree branches and twine. On a different day we went hiking on one of the trails in the hills around my house, and saw a large number of rabbits.

Sunday we had lunch with a bunch of CCAC friends at King's Burger, where we also played Monopoly Deal. And speaking of food, my parents made no shortage of it during the time I was down there. I had BBQ ribs and chicken, salmon, ceviche, corn soup, spinach, mashed potatoes, meatloaf... and they packed me a ton of food to bring back with me!

Since I drove my car down this time, my dad took a look at it and found what looked like the cause of my coolant leaks- a loose hose. He tightened the clamp, and so far so good.

I love my family.
We Found a Low-Fare Bus - Monday, June 13, 2011
Priscilla decided to visit me this weekend to celebrate my birthday. I think she cares more about my birthday than I do. ;)

This time she found a low-fare bus line, CA Shuttle Bus, and got a $25 ticket up and $29 ticket down. With our closest stops being in San Jose and North Hollywood, it's pretty convenient for when we don't care to drive or pay more for flying. Priscilla said the rider demographic seemed to comprise mostly American students and European travelers, and people were quiet and considerate. That's great considering that some other low-fare bus lines, without naming any in particular, are known to be frequented by... let's just say people of a louder nature.

So I picked her up from San Jose on Friday and we had some tasty but somewhat greasy Middle Eastern food at a hole-in-the-wall place called Falafel's Drive In. It's apparently a popular place- people were still lined up to order half an hour after the posted closing time. On Saturday we walked to the Santa Clara farmer's market, two miles from my house, which was interestingly the first time I've ever been to a farmer's market. We got yellow and purple potatoes, carrots, onions, green beans and almond butter. Though I don't anticipate buying stuff from farmer's market regularly, I appreciate that the produce we got did seem to last longer and taste better than what I get from the supermarket.

During the weekend we also worked out, went to Shah (haven't been there in a while), baked banana walnut bread, cooked, studied and worked, watched silly stuff on Youtube, and just enjoyed each others' company. Time together always runs out so quickly!
Happy July 4th - Monday, July 4, 2011
Kenny and I drove down to LA for Independence Day weekend on Friday. On both the drive down and the drive up, we hit heavy traffic around the Buttonwillow area due to the single lane closures caused by construction. Traffic was backed up for what appeared like miles due to two lanes merging down to one in each direction, but we took a detour on local roads and saved probably at least an hour of waiting in stop-and-go traffic.

On Saturday, Priscilla and I made lots of healthy food at her house: ceviche, crab cakes and spaghetti. For dinner her dad made curry chicken, which we had while watching Apollo 13 (since I've never seen it) on VHS (who uses those anymore?). We also worked on writing a letter to our 30-year old selves, lit sparklers to celebrate the holiday, and did some light weight and cardio exercise.

On Sunday we had lunch with a dozen CCAC people at King's Burger, where it was totally packed because a couple other large groups also had the same idea. Then a few people in our group came to my house to play Dominion, and Victor won both games. For dinner, Priscilla's parents joined my family for bbq at my house. My parents made salmon, ribs, drumsticks, beef and potato salad, and Priscilla's parents brought a chicken salad.

This morning Priscilla and I went hiking at 9, which I thought would be early enough to avoid the heat, but apparently not. We came home early and worked out there, then my dad made us lunch, and then it was time for me to go back to the Bay Area.

Finally tonight, Bao, Kenny and I went to see not fireworks, but Super 8 at the AMC Mercado theatre. It was a pretty intense and suspenseful movie, and I enjoyed most of it except the end, which felt a little too perfect and cheesy. The action and special effects were pretty good, and I wouldn't mind seeing it again for mainly that reason. I definitely felt it was worth my $11.
Partying on a Bike - Friday, July 15, 2011
I was chilling at home around 11:30pm when I heard loud music outside going slowly by, too slow to be from a car. Peering out the window, I watched hundreds of bicycles pass by, some sporting multi-colored LEDs and some towing sound systems, and lots of people sounding like they were having a good time.

A quick Google search told me it was San Jose Bike Party, a ride around South Bay held the third Friday of every month. Tonight was science themed. The last six miles of the route passed by my house. I decided I might as well join and get some exercise and see what the fuss was all about. I caught up with the mass at a regroup in Santa Clara University where I saw probably over a thousand cyclists, and soon we were off to the final destination at Taylor and 9th in San Jose.

The ride was fun, but with so many people it got crazy. A lot of people were naturally clumped at the head of the group, causing problems with traffic flow and creating a Critical Mass mob mentality. People rode in the left lane even when there were cars behind them. People blatantly ran red lights and sometimes didn't even check cross traffic before doing so. I saw two fallen riders, one of whom had paramedics at the scene all around him. I can guess how that happened.

Bike Party is designed to be fun and safe, with calls for safety on their website and volunteers along the ride to make sure things go smoothly. But some people disregard safety and the law, making the rest of us look bad. Hopefully that will improve.
Sushi and Stanford - Monday, July 18, 2011
Victor C and Flora drove up to the Bay Area to watch Billy Elliot the Musical, so they gave Priscilla a lift. They arrived at my house Saturday night, and Minh and Christine happened to be there making Thai hot pot with Kenny, so the seven of us had hot pot together. For the broth, Christine used chicken broth and flavored it with lemongrass, tamarind and fish sauce, which is much different from the "plain" Chinese style hot pot I'm accustomed to.

Priscilla and I made sushi on Sunday, which was my idea even though I don't care for sushi, since she loves it and I'm such a caring boyfriend! I got avocado, cucumber and carrots from Sprouts, nori and expensive sashimi-grade salmon ($25/lb) and tilapia ($20/lb) from Nijiya Market. Lisa let me borrow some Nishiki rice, rice vinegar, and sushi mats and dishes. The sushi turned out really well, especially for a first try. Priscilla was definitely happy. Success!

After sushi, we visited Stanford since Priscilla hadn't been there before. We biked to the Caltrain station, took the train to Stanford, and walked/biked around the campus. I'm really envious of the beautiful buildings and landscape, even if they do have a lake that's all dried up!

Finally on Monday, Victor and Flora rejoined us and we went to dim sum at New Port Restaurant. I discovered that I actually like some kinds of dim sum, just not buns.

It was a short-ish but enjoyable weekend filled with good food, exercise, and good times with friends.
Some Old Places, Some New - Monday, August 1, 2011
I wasn't expecting to see Priscilla again so soon, but this weekend she came up with her parents because they had a funeral to attend in San Jose.

Friday evening, shortly after they arrived, Priscilla cooked pasta for us. It could've used more ingredients, but it was fine for what we had on hand. Afterward, the two of us went to Murphy Street in downtown Sunnyvale, got frozen yogurt at Tutti Frutti and sat outside a bar listening to a band covering some rock songs.

Saturday morning we biked 16 miles all the way to Moffet Field and back. Priscilla tried to keep up but I think my bike is a little uncomfortable for her (it definitely is for me). We had lunch buffet at Sweet Tomatoes and then drove up to Berkeley, where Minh gave us a tour of the campus. The buildings and scenery were so beautiful! I'm envious.

Afterward Minh's wife Christine joined us for Thai food at Thai Noodle. The food was pretty decent, 4 stars. I especially enjoyed this one salmon dish. Finally as the night waned, the last activity was watching Cowboys and Aliens at the Regal Theatre in downtown Berkeley. It was an ok movie, but I had really high expectations due to all the hype (I think I saw a trailer for it as early as a year ago).

On Sunday after church, Priscilla, her parents and I tried to go to Gombei Bento but it was closed, so we went to Shanghai Restaurant next door and got lunch specials. We were given way too much rice, but even the food that was not rice was very plentiful and we had leftovers. And delicious, fattening cheese wontons! I think Priscilla enjoyed them.
Camping and Rafting - Monday, August 15, 2011
I went camping and rafting this weekend with Kenny, Minh, Christine, and Christine's brother and cousin. Friday night we arrived at our campsites at American River Resort in Coloma. Unfortunately we drove up much later than planned, so we had to unload and pitch tents in the dark. We rented two adjacent sites, with Kenny in his small tent and me in my medium tent in one site, and everybody else in Minh's large tent in the other site. I thought I would be sharing my tent with somebody, but nobody cared for it, so I ended up having a lot of space.

On Saturday we drove to the meetup location in Foresthill for rafting the Middle Fork of the American River. We went with a company called All Outdoors and our guide, Cory, really knew his stuff. Cory's steering and direction made even the Class IV rapids seem easy. He even told us a lot of history about the river, like about Gold Rush era settlements and a man-made flood caused by a burst dam that changed the landscape.

Cory was the head guide in our pack of 5 boats, so he played lookout for the other boats. At one point, two people from another boat fell out, one swam to a rock, and Cory's boat had to row across the rapid to save him. That was pretty awesome.

We ended up rafting a 16-mile stretch of the river, which took 6 hours at a comfortable pace, with one of those hours for lunch. Unfortunately during the rafting, my legs got massively sunburned and I didn't know it till the end. Either I wasn't thorough with the sunblock or it washed off. I probably didn't feel my legs getting sunburned because they were frequently getting wet.

The rest of Saturday and Sunday morning were spent back at camp. We had really good food that Minh and Christine prepared, but way too much of it. Saturday night we had chicken wraps, steak, hot links, corn and smores. Breakfasts consisted of eggs, potatoes and steak. There was also way too much fruit, some of which went bad. We ended up not eating half the food we brought. Next time we'll try to estimate better.
August Bike Party - Saturday, August 20, 2011
Kenny and Bao joined me this month for San Jose Bike Party's monthly ride. This month was Post-Apocalyptic August and the route took us 27 miles through San Jose, Santa Clara, Milpitas and back. An estimated 3500 riders were in attendance.

The regroups were fun albeit a bit long. There was jousting at the first regroup between a mountain biker and a BMX'er. Several food trucks followed us between the three regroup locations and were bustling with business from hungry riders. Amongst the rides I saw were a guy towing a tall table with a functional grill mounted on top, a guy riding a monowheel, a unicyclist, and a guy towing a car seat. Somebody even set off small fireworks when we were passing through uninhabited land in Milpitas.

I saw a lot more police this time, which I think helped deter most of the red light runners. SJPD, SCPD and MPD were camping at certain intersections, at the regroup locations and patrolling parts of the ride. Despite that and the organizers' requests to ride safely and courteously, I saw and heard about some stupid behavior by some of the riders. Too many people were also riding with no lights. But fortunately the vast majority of people this time seemed to be riding courteously and following the law.
Festival of Arts and Moroccan Food - Monday, August 29, 2011
Priscilla bought three Southwest round-trips a few months back when they were having a sale, and one of those trips was for this weekend. I picked her up from the airport early Saturday morning, and our first stop was Valley Fair where I wanted to go to Old Navy to use my giftcard that I've had for three years. Unfortunately we got there an hour before any of the stores opened, so we walked through adjacent Santana Row looking at all the buildings. And unfortunately, once Old Navy opened we weren't able to find anything we liked, again.

From there we went to the Palo Alto Festival of the Arts. There was a whole side street lined with artists doing Italian street paintings, with featured artist Chris Brake in the most prominent spot. We saw a ton (literally, a few tons) of metal sculptures that an artist welded out of all sorts of scrap metal, that had a Tim Burton style. There were countless booths selling paintings, photographs, jewelery, bright clothing, wood carvings and fused metal art pieces. There was a live band covering funk/R&B songs that was decent, but the female vocalist was noticeably off key sometimes. We got lunch at different booths- I got a teriyaki chicken plate and Priscilla got a falafel and a $3 cup of hibiscus tea that tasted like Snapple. That was the most expensive Snapple we've ever bought.

That evening we watched Ip Man (awesome film) and made Moroccan chicken with garlic, onions, tomatoes, carrots, green and red peppers, potatoes and paprika. Priscilla thought it was really flavorful even though we didn't use too much salt! We ate it with naan, which is not really authentic Moroccan but hey, naan is good.

Sunday after church we ended up at Hon Sushi in Mountain View after trying to go to Sunny Bowl next door and finding it closed. The sushi at Hon was probably cheaper than at comparable places, especially with the 30% off all rolls they were doing. It was surprisingly good. I think I'm not adverse to sushi anymore after making it with Priscilla that one time.

Afterward we went to AST to work out and for me to do a bit of work. When we got home, Priscilla made baked chicken and potatoes with the rest of our ingredients from the other day. I'm so happy that she likes cooking for me!
Biking, Hiking and Food - Tuesday, September 6, 2011
I decided to take Friday off to drive down to LA for the long weekend. I left at 8:15am and traffic was remarkably smooth the entire way down until I hit San Fernando. I was surprised that traffic was good even through the Buttonwillow area where two lanes narrowed to one due to construction, but apparently there weren't enough cars on the road yet to create a bottleneck.

After I got to LA, Aaron and I went to his bike shop and picked up the Specialized Crosstrail Sport that he ordered for me. The difference between the Crosstrail and my old Huffy is like night and day. I never imagined it'd be possible to climb hills with ease!

The following day, Priscilla and I rode our bikes to and around Lake Balboa. We did a little offroading towards the end and followed a narrow trail through overgrown brush that ended up at nowhere, and unwittingly rode through mud and got huge mud-covered tires.

Priscilla made chicken kabob for lunch and seafood soup for dinner and we juiced a lot of fruits and veggies with her power juicer. She really tries to make me healthy food! We watched Ip Man 2 and Fist of Legend, both excellent films.

On Sunday after church we had lunch with Tom and Amanda at a Vietnamese place that had a delicious chicken and rice dish. Priscilla and I went to Kohl's to use a $10 off $10 coupon I had, and after scouring the store for half an hour failing to find anything cheap, we ended up getting a bag of socks for me that cost $5 plus tax after the coupon, just a dollar less than Walmart sells it for normally.

Afterward, we dropped by Warner Park for an hour to watch CCAC and New Life people play ultimate frisbee. We didn't play since we weren't dressed in athletic clothes.

Dinner was back at my parents' house where they made a ton of food for us, including two kinds of salmon, chicken drumsticks, shrimp kabobs and turkey barley soup. My mom had the soup slow cooking for hours. No wonder it tasted so good.

Finally on Monday, we went hiking in the morning at the creek near my house. We managed to hike for an hour and a half before it got hot. The rest of the day was spent catching up on work and reading. We both took a long nap but were amazingly productive afterward.

Today I drove back to the Bay Area, and traffic was again very smooth. Taking a long vacation definitely helped with that. I'm ready to get back to work, but in the meantime it's 10pm and I could totally fall asleep now.
The Goose Life - Tuesday, October 11, 2011
In honor of Indigenous People, or Columbus, or what have you, Priscilla had Monday off so she got plane tickets a few months ago to visit me from Saturday till Tuesday.

Saturday afternoon the weather was perfect, so we biked to Lake Shoreline and brought turkey sandwiches in my new rack-mounted bag (very convenient). While we were picnicking, a bunch of squirrels ambushed us for food, and one was really brave/friendly with Priscilla and took food out of her hand and ate it right next to her.

Friendly squirrel

To compensate for doing healthy activities, we had buffet at Turmeric Saturday night, where the food was good except the second batch of achari chicken tikka, which had a really bad aftertaste and might've been tainted. We couldn't finish it, but fortunately we didn't get sick. The next day we had lunch at Bagel Street, Priscilla's first time there. She had a tuna salad which may have inspired her to eat more salad, since we had salad in every home-cooked meal afterwards.

That night Priscilla made me salad with avocado and some of the leftover sliced turkey, and curry chicken based on a recipe she learned earlier. We had a bit of curry leftover, which we used the next day to pour over Atlantic salmon that we cooked in the microwave, which turned out pretty tasty.

My company didn't give us Monday off but I took a vacation day, and we made the morning showing of Courageous, the fourth movie made by Sherwood Pictures, centering around godly fatherhood. I heard about the movie after researching the Casting Crowns song by the same name. The movie was really inspirational and was a reminder of how a godly man ought to live and be a model for his family. It made Priscilla cry. A lot.

After the movie, we went shopping at the adjacent mall for two whole hours and managed to finally use my Old Navy gift card to buy a t-shirt for me. I still have $16 on the card, which at this rate, will take several more years to spend. We ended the day singing 90's songs with Priscilla playing my rented guitar. I'd been secretly taking lessons for five weeks and surprised her on Saturday with a very newbie rendition of "Good Life" by One Republic where I changed the words in the chorus to "goose life". But I think she liked it. Since she's so good with guitar, I'm going to make her teach me guitar so much that she'll get sick of it!
Weekend of Work - Monday, October 17, 2011
My friend Andrea is "funemployed", so she decided spur of the moment to drive down to LA to visit her long distance significant other and offered me a ride. How could I refuse? We drove down at 7:30 Saturday morning and she dropped me off at Priscilla's house just in time for lunch. Priscilla made curry chicken, salad and pork chops for me and her parents. I'm glad that she likes to cook for me!

Sunday night my parents cooked a feast like they always do when I come down. There was salmon, chicken stew, chicken broth that was way better than anything that comes out of a can, green beans and honey bbq chicken. Needless to say, I was given a lot of food to take back with me. I'm glad that my parents also like to cook for me! ;)

This weekend I helped Priscilla's dad reconfigure the router, since he reset it trying to do something, and reinstall XP on one of his computers. I helped Priscilla reconfigure her microphone in Ubuntu, and I helped my dad with making an XP slipstream CD and reinstall it on a computer that died. For some reason things that stop working for people start magically working again when I try them.

Priscilla and I got in lots of study/work time. She needed to get caught up with her online accounting class, and I needed to wrap up loose ends at work and write a "letter to my 30-year old self", a "fun" project that was a year overdue. Nothing too exciting this weekend, but it was productive.

The drive back to the Bay Area on Monday was mostly uneventful, except for dangerous debris on the freeway leading up to the Grapevine. We narrowly avoided a cinder block in the middle of our lane, and I also saw wood boards and a couch cushion in the road. It's a good thing we were driving during the day when there was visibility. I hope that stuff got cleared off soon. Apparently situations like these can be reported to Caltrans via this form, or by calling (213)897-3656 according to this page.
The Rapture - Friday, October 21, 2011
After his May 21 rapture prediction failed, professional nutcase Harold Camping decided that May 21 was actually a silent judgment day, and the real rapture would occur on October 21. Well it turns out he was right. The rapture commenced at 8pm PST, as wheels hit the streets in San Jose Bike Party's 4th anniversary ride.

This month's theme was appropriately named "The Rapture" and riders were encouraged to show up as angels or devils. In honor of the 4th anniversary, there were four start locations: Santana Row (northwest), Berryessa Theaters (northeast), Campbell Community Center (southwest) and Eastridge Mall (southeast), all converging at the first regroup in downtown San Jose. Riders from all corners of San Jose, being raptured up into a great multitude to rule the streets for a night. Genius, if you ask me.

According to the Bike Party website, there were over 4,100 riders in attendance. The first regroup was in the parking lot of the Children's Museum and it was packed full. There were the usual Bay Area food trucks present, amateur fireworks, and a guy putting on a fire dancing show.

Thankfully I didn't see any motorized bicycles this time- those are not fun to ride behind. I did see a couple on razor scooters (they must've gotten tired pretty quickly), as well as a bamboo bike.

Unlike the past two rides I've done, I saw nobody hurt this time, no ambulances, and very little police presence (maybe most of them got raptured). I saw only one police car, and it was just passing through and drove off. Compare that to last time where there were squads of police at some intersections handing out tickets to red light runners. Despite the lack of police presence, I saw only a couple of red light runners this time. I guess people are becoming more behaved, or the troublemakers are active mostly during the summer, as somebody mentioned on the forums.

It was a great ride tonight. Thanks Harold Camping, we wouldn't have had a rapture ride without you!
Scenic SF - Sunday, October 30, 2011
The weather was perfect this Saturday so my uncle and aunt invited me to go sightseeing in San Francisco with them. They took me to the scenic spots along the northwest coast, and wow, I never knew the coast was so beautiful!

Our first stop was Fort Funston, where we spent an hour walking the trails, looking at the ocean and taking pictures. My uncle brought two DSLRs and he and I traded off back and forth. Little did we know that he had the wrong filter on one of the cameras, so most of the 250+ photos from that camera would turn out too blue.

After Fort Funston we continued up the coast to Cliff House and the Sutro Baths. A picture of the Sutro Baths from before the place burned down shows how grand and immense the place was. It was seriously impressive.

From there we visited Eagle's Point, China Beach and other parts of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, taking more pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge the closer we got. We made it all the way to Fort Point, which is just about right next to the bridge.

Our sightseeing concluded at Twin Peaks, where we took lots of pictures overlooking the city as the sun was going down. Half the city was cast in shadow and the other half was still light- a perfect shot.

To reward our all-day "hike", we wrapped up the day with Chinese food at All Season Restaurant. It was alright- they had a corn egg flower soup with crab meat that I really liked. The bowl was huge and I finished most of it, since my uncle and aunt didn't want to get full on soup. There was also a Chinese wedding banquet going on in a partitioned-off area. They had people drumming while two dragon costumes came in and did the dragon dance. The drums were a little loud and went on for maybe 15 minutes, but it was an interesting experience.
Climbing, Grilling and Work - Monday, November 7, 2011
Priscilla bought plane tickets to visit me this weekend (again from the previous Southwest sale), and after picking her up early Saturday morning, we joined some church friends at Planet Granite for some fun and strenuous climbing.

It was her second time climbing indoors, the first time being at a place that had a difficult and limited selection. She completed a 5.6 and a 5.8, better than I did my second time. I completed a 5.8, 5.10a and made it halfway up a 5.10b. The last climb was pretty technical and required switching between the side and the front of the wall and strategically using cracks. I couldn't find a handhold halfway up and I was dead tired by then, so I bailed. I will get it next time!

Afterwards a few of us went to Sunny Bowl in Mountain View at my suggestion for some bibimbap. I've been there a few times but it was everybody else's first time; everybody seemed to like their food. The place actually moved a couple doors down into a much larger and nicer-looking space. They added stone pot to the menu and kept the original bibimbap prices the same, but sadly they no longer serve free frozen yogurt for dessert.

Priscilla and I did plenty of home cooking as well. I bought turkey burger patties, salmon and a bunch of other stuff from Sprouts. Saturday night we cooked salmon in the microwave and had salad. The salmon didn't come out too bad. Sunday night we grilled the remaining salmon and turkey burgers with my grill pan. The burgers were tasty and can be a healthier substitute for beef. The salmon came out pretty good- grilling it has the advantage that each side gets cooked while the center remains slightly uncooked.

Priscilla also brought pasta and Soyaki chicken up with her, and we had some when we went to my office to work and work out. We got a lot of studying/work done this weekend. She's studying for her online accounting class, and I figured out the root cause of an intricate problem that I've been working on for four weeks. I'm glad that we can help each other get so much done!
Modern Ohlone - Wednesday, November 9, 2011
San Jose Bike Party was supposed to have a third test ride tonight, but it was cancelled because everything was worked out during the first two rides. The guy who sends out the SJBP emails also blogs regularly about bike events all around the Bay, and through his blog I found out about Modern Ohlone, a ride that happens yearly. They were doing a 20-mile test ride in Sunnyvale tonight, so I figured I'd join and do a ride tonight after all.

I went expecting actual Ohlone people, but the ride was merely named in honor of them, not actually consisting of any. About 17 people showed up, I was able to talk to most of them, and some told me about various rides that are popping up all around the Bay that probably amount to something going on nearly every night.

We had rest areas at Baylands Park, a hill next to the SMART Station that covers what used to be a landfill (nice views though), and atop the parking structure at the Sunnyvale Caltrain Station. There was a lot of pot smoking at each rest area, which is cool if that's peoples' thing, but the smoke bothered me. The ride was also cut several miles short because people were getting tired and wanted to hit up a bar. Again, that's cool, but I'd prefer to ride the whole thing out with minimal stops.

The most awesome set of wheels was a recumbent trike belonging to a guy named Cosmo. He had a windshield attached to it decorated with EL lights, headlight fixtures, a phone mount, and a sound system with amp powered by a 120V battery.

I like the smaller rides more than those with thousands of people. I can get to know everybody when the ride is small, things don't get hectic on the streets, and people are less inclined to ride/act like idiots, because if they do, everybody in the group will know.
Sapphire Sagacity - Friday, November 18, 2011
Well the planned proposal is coming up in 7 days, on Priscilla's and my 5th anniversary. Obviously this post will be hidden until then. I picked up the ring this week- it's gorgeous and quite unique- 14k white gold with a round green sapphire.

Originally I was going to look for an emerald stone, since green is my favorite color and emerald is Priscilla's birthstone, but I learned that emerald has a tendency to chip and thus a lot of jewelers don't sell them in rings for everyday wear. I learned that Shane Co sells green sapphires which are a lot harder than emeralds and a little less expensive, so I figured I'd just get a sapphire- I don't care what it is as long as it looks good. So last week I headed to Shane Co's Cupertino store to look at rings.

I was originally looking to spend $200-300 on a setting, but the ones in that range were all thin and flimsy looking. I found a thicker ring with a swirl shape that came with a wedding band that slips in through the middle. Quite unique.

I was also looking to spend $300-400 on a green sapphire, but the ones in that range were small and not the deep forest green that I wanted. The guy helping me, Steve, went into the backroom, looked all over and was able to find a larger one with the perfect color- and it sparkled brilliantly. The setting and stone each ran for about $700, a bit more than I was expecting to spend, but they were perfect and thus to me worth the extra money.

So now that the ring is squared away, and the preparations to Avalon on Catalina Island have been made, all that's left is to finish writing "The Book". I never and still don't know what to call it. A few years ago I gave Priscilla a small diary-like book in which I handwrote quotes of encouragement and Bible verses. I asked for it back a couple years ago in order to add things to it, which I never got around to. Now I'm going to add 100 things I like about her, grouped into 10 sections, which she'll be allowed to read a couple sections at a time during our day trip. The last section will be read at the right time (I'm thinking when we go biking and are in a secluded place overlooking the town), after which the book will transition to the (probably corny) start of the proposal. So the book will play a key role throughout the whole day. You can say that my keeping it this long was part of the plan all along. ;)

I can't wait until next week! Priscilla has no idea about any of this, so I have to hide my enthusiasm from her. One thing's for sure- it'll certainly be a day to remember.
New Guitar Class - Saturday, November 19, 2011
From September through October, I took a 6-week guitar class with Rich Hawthorne at Santa Clara Adult Education. I rented a guitar for two months before I borrowed Priscilla's, partly because I wanted to surprise her with my new guitar skills when she visited in October, and asking to borrow hers before then would give everything away.

When I went to return the guitar at The Guitarist, Rich's studio, Rich asked me if I wanted to join one of his 8-week continuation classes. It would be held on a different day, Saturday, than the Wednesday continuation class he previously announced to our class. I decided that Saturday would fit better with my schedule and eagerly signed up.

Today was the first session of the new class. A few people were absent, but from what I can tell, all the other students are older and are from the De Anza Community Education class that Rich also teaches. The pace of instruction is still the same- Rich goes step by step, covering and building upon the very basics. We're currently learning how to read notes on a scale, how to find those notes on the guitar and how to play those notes in different positions. In the community course we played "The Groovin Blues" at the end of each session. In this continuation course, we're going to be strumming along to "Brown Eyed Girl". I like that song a lot better. I'm going to know it very well by the end of this course!
Five Year Anniversary - Friday, November 25, 2011
As of today, after a five-year relationship, Priscilla is now my ex-girlfriend. Unfortunately for her, that's because she's now my fiancée, which means that she's stuck with me for another five years, and another, until the end of our days. Muahaha.

I woke up this morning before dawn to have breakfast at Priscilla's house and take her to the Long Beach cruise terminal. She of course had no idea what we were going to do today or that I had been planning a second trip to Avalon on Catalina Island for months. I'd booked a one-way trip to Avalon by helicopter, and after a quick weigh-in and safety video at the Island Express office at the cruise terminal, it was off to Avalon on a calm, 15-minute ride.

After we landed, we took a shuttle into town and took a walk up a residential street and found an amphitheater-shaped terrace half enclosed by the backs of some nice houses. The terrace was composed of high stone walls and grass. The area is probably the most serene and secluded place two blocks from the main part of town.

Next, we walked down to the mini man-made "beach" next to the pier, and I brilliantly decided to stand too close to the water and got my jeans and shoes soaked when the tide suddenly came in. I'd brought a towel, so we sat in the sun for an hour trying to dry me off. However, socks don't dry well in partly-cloudy November weather. I had to go without socks for the rest of the day. Serves me right, I guess.

After resting on the beach, we took a stroll on the pier and found a company taking signups for a 50-minute scenic bus tour. Our guide, an older lady named Becky, took us around the island and shared some interesting facts with us. For instance, 99% of the residents rent their homes from the Island Conservancy. There's a 15-year waiting list to bring a car onto the island, and a gallon of gas runs for $7. The only export good out of Catalina is rock from the quarry.

Instead of going to a restaurant for lunch, we got a rotisserie chicken, chips and ginger ale from the local Vons store for $9- less than what we would've paid per person at a restaurant.

After the late lunch, we walked through the town and up the main road to the entrance to the Wrigley Memorial and Botanical Garden, but we didn't want to pay the $7/person to get in, so we started heading back. I wanted to take a detour and go on a 1.75 mile hike up a mountain and propose at the top, but Priscilla's feet were hurting by that time due to all the walking and her uncomfortable shoes. Still, I managed to coax her into going up about halfway, which during the whole time she was probably hating me. At the point where we stopped, we could start to see the town at the bottom of the valley (a semi-nice view), and the sun was starting to go down, so I decided that that was the right moment to propose.

Over the course of the day, I had let her read segments of "The Book" in which I handwrote 100 things that I appreciate about her. The final segment transitioned into a corny "proposal speech" and she started crying just reading it. I told her to hurry up and get to the last page, and when she did, she was met simply with:

Will you take the next step with me?

Will you marry me?

And two checkboxes- one for "Yes" and the other for "Of course!". I also said something corny and did the one-knee thing. She was totally crying at this point but managed to say yes. I then pretended like I didn't have a ring, which she said was fine, but then I fished it out of my backpack. She loved it. And the rest of the way back to town, her feet mysteriously stopped hurting. Love conquers all, I guess.

Aside from taking the ferry back to the mainland, we ended up doing completely different things today than the first time we visited Avalon, which was totally unintentional. I'm happy with how the day turned out and wouldn't change anything about it. Well, except maybe the part about having wet shoes the whole day. ;)
Christmas and a Wedding Dress - Tuesday, December 27, 2011
Since Christmas and New Year's fall on Sundays this time around, we get this Monday and Tuesday and next Monday off from work. I could've chosen to use my vacation time for the remaining three days this week and had over a week of not having to work. Instead for whatever reason, I took last Thursday and Friday off, drove down to LA with Fred Thursday night, and came back up today. So I didn't get as long of a vacation as I could've.

On the upside, I get to return to the gym sooner, since when I'm in LA I don't have access to one. Not getting ample exercise plus stuffing myself with a mountain of food everyday is a dangerous combination.

On the food note, Saturday was another family reunion with Priscilla's extended family. Various people brought short ribs, sticky rice, vegetarian skewers and pasta; and for desert, a very delectable Kentucky Derby walnut pie courtesy of Johnson. The guys also faced off against the girls in Wii Pictionary and got our butts kicked.

Priscilla and her parents came over Sunday night and brought chicken and duck. My parents made jook, bean threads, chicken drumsticks and curry salmon. The next day, my dad and Aaron made chicken pie and pizzas in the oven while I was out with Priscilla and her mom at David's Bridal, where Priscilla tried on a few wedding dresses. We were there for two hours, but it wasn't so bad since I had my iPod Touch with a bunch of games with me. And we were able to pick out a simple yet elegant dress for $250 after tax! That's one more thing crossed off our long to-do list.
New Office - Friday, December 30, 2011
After nearly four years of being in Building 490, I've been moved along with Lisa to an office in Building 460. The company is shuffling people around partly because it's not renewing the lease on Building 400, and because renovations are being done in every building including putting new carpet in the offices in 490.

I'm now further from all the amenities I care about: a break room, restroom, printer room, shipping and receiving, and even the bike racks. On the bright side, I'm closer to the lab where our servers are set up as well as to some team members who frequently have baked goods to share. And best of all, my new office has windows! The view of the parking lot isn't spectacular but it's an improvement over no view. Also, we're on the south side of the building so we get the sun shining through. I like being able to have the office lights off and just work in natural light for part of the day.

So whether I feel better off in the new office is a close call. The window view and being able to save electricity are a nice perk, but there are disadvantages to being in this location. Then again, that just means I have to walk further, which probably isn't a bad thing.