Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Bash!

The Christmas Dumpling party was very successful. We hand-made the wrappings and the two types of filling. One was a pork/cabbage mix and the other was a pork/ji cai(Shepherd's Purse)/mushrooms mix. The entire making process took about 2 hours with everyone pitching in and making dumplings. PP was in charge of quality control and those deemed fit to boil were boiled while the rejects (too much filling, bad wrapping, improper sealing) were made into pot stickers.

BluPnutMM also make her signature pork ribs and we also had various other people bring in fruit platters, a giant ham, and even some Taco Bell (Por Que?). We were so starved after the end of the making process that just about everything was rapidly devoured, leaving only some ham and Taco Bell.

We had a Wii going downstairs and Rock band 2 going on upstairs so everyone found a little of something to do. Overall a very successful party!

So glad I am not a brad....now if only I can min/max this...

I Am A: Lawful Good Human /Sorcerer (3rd/2nd Level)


Ability Scores:

Strength-12

Dexterity-16

Constitution-14

Intelligence-15

Wisdom-17

Charisma-16


Alignment:
Lawful Good A lawful good character acts as a good person is expected or required to act. He combines a commitment to oppose evil with the discipline to fight relentlessly. He tells the truth, keeps his word, helps those in need, and speaks out against injustice. A lawful good character hates to see the guilty go unpunished. Lawful good is the best alignment you can be because it combines honor and compassion. However, lawful good can be a dangerous alignment because it restricts freedom and criminalizes self-interest.


Race:
Humans are the most adaptable of the common races. Short generations and a penchant for migration and conquest have made them physically diverse as well. Humans are often unorthodox in their dress, sporting unusual hairstyles, fanciful clothes, tattoos, and the like.


Primary Class:
Monks are versatile warriors skilled at fighting without weapons or armor. Good-aligned monks serve as protectors of the people, while evil monks make ideal spies and assassins. Though they don't cast spells, monks channel a subtle energy, called ki. This energy allows them to perform amazing feats, such as healing themselves, catching arrows in flight, and dodging blows with lightning speed. Their mundane and ki-based abilities grow with experience, granting them more power over themselves and their environment. Monks suffer unique penalties to their abilities if they wear armor, as doing so violates their rigid oath. A monk wearing armor loses their Wisdom and level based armor class bonuses, their movement speed, and their additional unarmed attacks per round.


Secondary Class:
Sorcerers are arcane spellcasters who manipulate magic energy with imagination and talent rather than studious discipline. They have no books, no mentors, no theories just raw power that they direct at will. Sorcerers know fewer spells than wizards do and acquire them more slowly, but they can cast individual spells more often and have no need to prepare their incantations ahead of time. Also unlike wizards, sorcerers cannot specialize in a school of magic. Since sorcerers gain their powers without undergoing the years of rigorous study that wizards go through, they have more time to learn fighting skills and are proficient with simple weapons. Charisma is very important for sorcerers; the higher their value in this ability, the higher the spell level they can cast.


Find out What Kind of Dungeons and Dragons Character Would You Be?

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Pre-Bash Bash

This Holiday season isn't over yet, but has already been particularly eventful. The BluPnutMM couple came over during the Christmas holidays and stayed until Sunday. On Thursday, we all had a holiday gathering at my house. We played Mafia/Rock Band 2/Various Wii games. One of the best parts was when we all took turns playing Wii Fit. My hula skills were especially awesome as I managed a staggering 2 loops before failing. I did redeem myself later by doing a hundred or so, but the first time playing was truly epic. Papaya did some insane 300 loops on his first try!

The most entertaining game by FAR though was this little game inside Wario ware. It's basically a 8 bit game where two people each control a character as they jump over sand traps and potholes. The trick was that the two characters were connected so if your partner failed, your entire team was slowed down. The control scheme for this game was for one person to hold the Wii-mote and another to hold the nunchucku. You jumped by lifting the controller up, however the controls were so insensitive that sometimes you had to make rapid jerking movements for the jumps to register. Somehow, this little game entertained everyone for a long long time with everyone trying to set the highest score. PP and I (The Dynamic Duo) set the record with a flawless run of 2996 feet!

Friday, BluPnutMM's parents invited us to have dinner at Tokyo1. This place was essentially a Sushi/Seafood buffet. The select was enormous with various sushi rolls, sashimi, BBQ, and seafood. The best were the humongous crabs that were cut in half. They basically disappeared as quickly as they were brought out. PP loved them so much, she still craves them to this day. Dinner was followed up with a long round of karaoking. The selection of English songs was so limited such that the majority of songs we sang were Chinese with a smattering of random Britney Spears and Backstreet Boys tossed in. We ended the night with a soulful rendition of "Beijing Welcomes You" (title theme of Olympics) which continues to plague my thoughts up to this day.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Adventures in Dallas!

Went to Dallas this weekend to visit PP's aunt and uncle. The drive there was pretty monotonous and took about 5 hours. The first thing we noticed about Dallas was that it was much colder than Houston, but much sunnier. PP's aunt had a super large house and a lovable little dog named cookie. This dog was sooo cute and was super quiet. Perfect house pet but rather useless as a guard dog. We had a giant feast prepared for dinner including PP's uncle's famous salt water duck (so good....) Two of PP's cousins were also at the dinner party and they were all very nice.

After dinner, we played a bunch of table tennis and even got in several rounds of 80-points. PP's cousins were so awesome and really made me feel like part of the family!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Enter: Nostradamus

BluPnutMM made a semi-joking, semi-snarky remark last year about how there seems to be a pattern to people getting married. Papaya/Mango was in December of 2006, BluPnutMM couple was in 2007, and so naturally someone had to get married in December of 2008. As of yesterday, the most likely candidate this year is now me. PP and I had talked about Greened Wage (We're Engaged) since Thanksgiving, but I wanted to surprise her with a nice Magnet Gene (Engagement) ceremony!

The entire process required a lot of help from a great number of friends and family. The first order of business was to find a suitable Domain Grind (Diamond Ring). Mango was the hero when it came to this as she was the one who helped me discreetly get PP's Zig Siren (Ring Size) and she was also the one who helped me pick out a truly great Diamond for the ring. The place I ended up buying the diamond from was a direct referral from my boss. It's a Round Brilliant Cut, VS-G, 1.08 C. We had gone to a couple of different mainstream jewelers (Jared's, Diamond Cutters International) and while they provided wonderful education on how to choose the right diamond, these vendors' prices were from 10% to 15% above the wholesale price of diamonds. This referral from my boss was selling them from 20%-25% below wholesale.

The original plan for the proposal was at Bush's speech on Friday. Presidents George and George W., as well as Barbara Bush were all at the commencement for Texas A&M. The president gave a pretty good speech to the graduating class. A memorable line went something like:

"...some of you already have jobs lined up and I wish you well in your pursuits. Some of you don't and are about to face uncertain waters. I know how you feel!"

This plan was quickly scrapped because I couldn't keep my mouth shut and told PP about the plans. The second plan was to propose during a Rockets game via the Kiss Cam. Unfortunately, in order to do this, one had to be a season ticket holder, have a corporate sponsor, and tell the arena a month in advance. The final plan was a plan thought up by BluPnuMM.

BluPnutMM had been experimenting with cake-baking recently and wanted to bake a cake for the occasion. It just so happened to be her husband's birthday so we developed to plan to have a birthday party be the mask for the engagement. BluPnutMM would bake a cake that had the letters "Say Yes" on the top covered by flower petals. She would then ask PP to remove the petals and as the last petals were removed and the message revealed, I would get on one knee. Olive Garden was chosen for the party as that was where PP and I had our first date.

The plan worked out perfectly. PP had no clue we were planning all of this and was totally surprised. I would like to thank everyone who helped with suggests and encouragement!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Winter Wonder Land

Was just doing some work around the office, when suddenly, the entire office is abuzz with excitement. Seems like we got some light snow here in downtown H-town last night. Since I went to college in the Northeast, this whole "snow" thing wasn't exactly big news to me, but for a lot of people here, it was like Christmas came early.

They even allowed employees to "leave earlier" to avoid the ice on the roads. Unfortunately, this announcement came when I only had about an hour left in the day. Felt like one of those Cornell "snow days" where all my classes were canceled after I had already gone to all of them. If I wanted to skip classes, I would have just kept playing EQ....

This weekend, lots of stuff will be going on. The BluPnutMM couple will be in town because her parents are back from Nigeria. It also happens to be the husband's birthday so we are gonna have a little party along with the Magnet Gene. "Meter-Maid" is also coming back from China after an extended medical leave so it would be nice to see her again. I am also attending the commencement speech for PP's graduation with President Bush as the speaker.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Where the pot isn't the only hot item in the room

PP came over to spend the weekend in Houston. She was suffering from a pestering cold and so we didn't really go out anywhere. This was actually pretty good because it was cold outside and we managed to have Hot Pot for two days straight! We invited Papaya/Mango couple over to have Hot Pot on Saturday night. We had our own Hot Pot pot and used some store-bought base for the soup. We had a wide assortment of foods like thinly-sliced beef, shrimp, fake shrimp (tasted better than the real shrimp!), tofu, fish balls, various different kinds of vegetables, and rags (really just some kinda vegetable...but Papaya thinks they look like rags...)!

The Hot Pot was so good but we had way too much food. We had so much left over and PP and I were able to have Hot Pot again on Sunday night. After the Hot Pot, Papaya and I went off to play some Rock Band 2 while Mango got PP's Zig Siren (For Great Justice!). PP spent the rest of the weekend watching some wacky Korean TV series while I managed to clean some warehouses in Vesperia. A great weekend!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Grinding along

It's that time of the year where the holidays are so close but yet so far away. I am pretty excited about this holiday season though. Lots of good friends should be back in town and I am looking forward to hosting a nice party. All this anticipation just makes the Domain Grind even harder. So many things to do, so much stuff to research and so little time!

Monday, December 01, 2008

Thanksgiving!

Had a wonderful Thanksgiving holidays. Because of my 9/80 schedule, I was able to start my Thanksgiving on Wednesday as opposed to Thursday. Drove over to CS on Tuesday evening to spend some time with PP. We drove back on Wednesday to start the holidays. Thursday was a light day with M preparing a turkey and PP having to read a case study for classes. Friday, was big day! PP cooked a nice lunch for M with multiple dishes. In fact, she made so much she practically used every pot and pan and dish in the house, leaving lots of cleaning duty for me!

She made pork short ribs w/black bean sauce, shrimp with asparagus, cold-mixed Chinese vegetables, sauteed chicken gizzards, and Chinese cabbage with tofu. In particular, the pork ribs were exceptionally delicious. I think I ate practically the whole thing. During the evening, I took PP and M to see the Nutcracker at the Houston ballet. I had never actually seen a live ballet performance and I had all these preconceived notions of sissy men in tights prancing about. I was pleasantly surprised as the story was acted out brilliantly through dance and every dancer was incredibly graceful and powerful at the same time.

Saturday, we had a nice lunch with Papaya/Mango couple, and SomeoneWhoDoesn'tWantAFruitAndVeggieNameWhoJustCameFromMichigan. We chatted for a while, then PP and I went to the Premium Outlets that was on the way to CS. I picked up some cookware for M and PP found a nice jacket and sweater at Banana Republic. Checked up on Greened Wage news afterwords. Overall, it was a fantastic Thanksgiving weekend! I am totally thankful.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Umm.....Sextuple Entendre

Probably very old, but I just saw this today. Maybe they are just talking about....umm preserving life..

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The New Microsoft Wii

So I logged in and took a look at the NXE (New Xbox Experience) that Microsoft launched yesterday. Things didn't start out so nicely as the very first time that I logged in after the update, it crashed my Xbox and I had to restart it. After the restart though, things were pretty cool. The main thing I noticed was how MS totally ripped off the whole Mii thing done on the Wii. You can create these "Avatars" that look suspiciously like Miis. Of course, it has a lot more detail and you can add accessories like changing their clothing/jewelry/hats/etc.

Too bad you can't play as your Avatar in games, that would rock for stuff like GoW2. Who the hell is this dude in glasses and a T-shirt chainsawing the drones?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

L4D initial impressions

Was able to try out a little of Left 4 Dead last night with PSPmator. All I can say is this game is incredibly intense and addictive. After a little trouble figuring out the friends system on Steam, I found it really easy to create a game with just friends. Just add the Steam ID to friends list, then when you start the game, the options to play with friends is available. The other friends then can then either be invited or they can just click on a friend's name and select join game.

We played the first campaign (escape to some hospital). Initially, I had read the difficulty of this game on normal wasn't too challenging and that most people liked playing it on Expert for maximum enjoyment. Since this was our first time playing, I decided to tick it up to the 3rd difficulty setting, right below Expert. This turned out to be a good idea as I think this difficulty was just right for the level of experience we had with the game. Several observations of the game:

1. It's dark, very dark. While some areas are fairly lighted, most of the level was very dark and all you have to light the way is a little flashlight attached to the end of your gun. It's a bit disorienting at first, but soon adds to the creepiness of the experience.

2. The gameplay is intense. It's almost nonstop action from the get go. There are some safehouses where you can restock on ammo and such, but once you get out there it's just frenetic action. Infected hordes coming from all directions, random team members getting assaulted by the various special infected so you have to save them. It was just insane. It almost feels like Serious Sam with the number of enemies on the screen at one time.

3. Speaking of Special infected, There are 5 kinds of special infected: Boomer, Smoker, Hunter, Tank, and Witch. Boomers are slow, and explode when shot, but can vomit on you which causes additional hordes of infected to show up and rush you. Smokers can use their tongues to lash out and grab a player and drag them away to be killed. Hunters are super agile and can pounce on a player, immobilizing and doing continuous damage. Tanks seriously suck...they have massive life and do great amounts of damage per hit. The witches are non-hostile at first but if you hit them for whatever reason, it basically means instant death for you. They are faster than hunters and do absolutely zomgwtfbbqpizza damage.

4. The weapons all feel pretty good. Only had access to shotgun, SMG, assault rifle, and hunting rifle so far but the guns feel powerful without becoming unbalancing to the game. My favorite weapon has to be the pipe bomb though. It's basically a grenade, but when you throw it, it emits this beeping sound that actually attracts infected to it. One of the best moments was when I threw one of these into the middle of a horde assault and killed over 20 infected at once.

5. This game feels really polished and stable. Even with the humongous amounts of enemies on the screen at once, I never experienced any kind of FPS drop. There are so many ways to get through the same level that even after playing the third stage of the 1st campaign multiple times (kept dying...), it still felt fresh and new.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Popular with the Cats upstairs

Because of the trip back to China, I was late on completing the Ethics and Compliance course that was required of all employees. I hadn't thought it as too serious of an offense because I was only 1 business day late and had been in China, but apparently I was wrong. I was alerted that I was the ONLY person who was late on it in the entire company and was even mentioned in a board meeting today....Talk about the wrong way to get noticed.....

In The Future....

Fallout 3 has been an amazing experience so far. It's pretty awesome the amount of detail they put into the game. The entire Washington DC area is done very well in a post-apocalyptic state. I happened upon the White House in my explorations and it was pretty amusing. This got me to thinking though, if sometime in the future, humanity is indeed wiped out to only be rediscovered eons later by some other curious sentient race, how much of it would be left? Would they see ruins of great cities or more likely, find little to no traces of our legacy? This site has a few insights and links into such a possibility and I found it a pretty interesting read.

One of the most interesting things it mentions is how can mankind protect these future discoverers from our mistakes such as radioactive materials? If you were an archaeologist in the future and you learn of this great (hopefully) previous civilization who had all this technology and you find out the burial site of extremely deadly radioactive waste, what kind of warning signs could possibly dissuade you from going inside to your doom? This D&D metaphor the link provides is particularly illuminating on this subject:

"GM: Having climbed for days, your party reaches a summit in the Sierra Nevadas. There is a clearing here, with a raised dais adorned with engravings depicting horrible, ritualistic deaths. Many of them feature people touching barrels and being smote with disease and suffering. A heavy metal door hangs ajar, but it is surrounded by the contorted corpses of other mountaineers.
D&D Player: There must be phat loot in here! "

Monday, November 10, 2008

Stupid Fish

BitterPotatoe (not a typo) and I have been playing through GoW2's cooperative multiplayer lately and so far, there have been some mixed reactions. While the main shooting portions of the game are awesome, the "platforming" elements and vehicle portions really really put a damper on the overall enjoyment. Putting teeth/acid/poison gas/maze/outrageous amount of blood coupled with sluggish controls into one level is just trying to do too much. Perhaps it's because this was at 4 am in the morning, but the level was overly frustrating and felt like it was just beating your head against the wall until the wall broke or your head fell off.

The most frustrating experience so far has been a semi-boss fight against a stupid fish. Without spoiling any parts of it, let's just say we spent an hour alone on this ridiculous boss encompassing about 15-20 restarts. The instructions on this boss are entirely unclear and even then, the controls really really make it annoying. The whole encounter just feels like they used boxes/bad controls and ambiguous directions to artificially increase the difficulty.

These annoyances aside, the shooting portions of the game are done awesomely. The story is written decently well, and a lot of the sequences have a cinematic feel. Lemon with 2 buddies, BitterPotatoe, and I played the horde option and it was a blast. While not entirely original (copied from survival mode in UT2003), the mode was an awesome adrenaline ride and totally gives you that "starship troppers" feel.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Death by Wasabi Peanuts Part II.

The party on Saturday was really fun. We had about 10-12 people arrive in costume. Some were more extravagant and some had more effort put into them, but everyone had that Halloween spirit!

The first event of the party was supposed to be pumpkin carving. Everyone was to bring their own pumpkin and we would have a contest to see who can carve the best pumpkin. Sadly, the pumpkins I ordered could not be delivered in time so we had no pumpkins to carve. The punishment for not bringing a pumpkin was to eat 5 Wasabi Peanuts at once. These things are sooo strong, but sooo good. I am getting tears in my eyes from eating them, but I want more because they are so good.

Instead of pumpkin carving, we played some Rock Band 2 instead. After a good hour or so of playing, most of the guests had arrived and we went outside for some pumpkin bowling. We half-filled 10 water bottles and used those for pins. The BluPnutMM couple brought two roughly circular medium-sized pumpkins that we were to use as bowling balls. While setting up the bowling, we took a whole bunch of pictures outside with our costumes. The weather wasn't very cooperative however as it was super hot and humid that afternoon and everyone was dying because of the costumes. We quickly abandoned the bowling and decided to play some Mafia instead.

Generally, our mafia games last way too long. This is because everyone gets to talk and the day rounds last forever because of voting deadlock, changing nominations, and endless deliberations. We adopted a new set of rules that PP uses to play with her friends and this caused the games to go by much faster and smoother. Everyone had a lot of fun with the new rules. BluPnutMM also had the most memorable defense ever.

We split up into two groups afterwards. The larger group headed to Du(2) Yi(1) Chu(4) to have Peking duck, while the smaller group stayed at my house to watch the Texas/Texas Tech game while ordering some Papa Johns. I went with the Peking Duck group and our dinner was awesome. We were all starving from being out in the sun and not really eating anything all day long. I had ordered 2 ducks in preparation for the party and we ordered some vegetables thinking this was way too much food. What actually happened was a feeding frenzy of epic proportions. The first duck had JUST arrived and we devoured the thing in about 5 seconds. I even had to ask the waitress to bring the second duck out as soon as possible. We ate everything there and the meal was practically over in about 30 minutes leaving nothing but barren plates on the table. The management must have thought we were freaks...

After dinner, we went back, played a bit more RB2 and then went to sing karaoke. Two more friends that couldn't join us for the main party joined for karaoke and we had a good time singing until our voices gave out.

Death by Wasabi Peanuts Part I.

Busy Halloween weekend for by PP and I. Thursday, I had my company Halloween celebration as mentioned in the previous post. Friday, was PP's business school party in CS. Before the party, we first had a surprise party for one of PP's best friends in the school (Let's call her CC).

CC was turning 30 and was feeling a bit depressed about the passing time, however, because the party was supposed to be a surprise party, everyone had to sort of avoid talking to CC. This led to CC feeling unappreciated and forgotten. The party though went off like a charm, CC had no idea her friends were planning this. We hid in the bedroom of a friend's house, and the friend used "borrowing chairs" as an excuse to get CC over. We all jumped out of the room and totally surprised her. CC was so happy she had tears in her eyes!

After the surprise party, PP and I dressed up and headed to her business school Halloween party. There were all kinds of interesting costumes there because the costume party there had cash prizes. We went around for a long while taking lots of pictures of people in costume and chatting with her classmates. First place in the contest went to the Joker, second place was to a Palin/Dead Deer combination, and third was to a Vegas cocktail waitress. I finished in 4th.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Early start to the festivities

We had a costume/pumpkin carving contest here at work as a part of the Halloween festivities. Normally, I don't participate in these, but this year, since I already had a costume ready for my party on Saturday, I joined in. Our team also had an entry in the pumpkin carving contest.

There was pretty fierce competition for the solo costume contest and the contest must have been rigged as the winner was a "NASCAR" fan. All he had on was a NASCAR t-shirt and a flag. That was the extent of the costume with no other props nor effort. The winners of the group costume contest were "The Network." These costumes were pretty dumb as well since all they did was wear a hard hat and regular work clothes. There was another team who actually dressed up as the Addams' Family and it really showed they put a lot of thought into their costumes.

After being robbed in the costume contest, I joined my other team members for the pumpkin carving contest. Our pumpkin was an awesome design, with the eyes/nose forming our company stock symbol and the mouth zig-zagging down then up to represent our stock price. We totally blew away the competition, coming in first and winning a $50 certificate to Treebeards.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Why didn't anyone tell me it's BARD????!!!


Just an amusing conversation I had with a veggie. So how would one dress up as Chrome anyways?

Cornbread @ the Oasis and random Halloween oddities

Spent parts of the weekend in Austin visiting the BluPnutMM couple and hanging out with PP. Saturday, I had lunch in Houston with the Papaya couple, our mutual high school friend who was back from business school in Michigan, and Triple S. The lunch ended up being a gossip-fest that lasted for over 3 hours. A key accomplishment was that the Papaya couple will be coming to the Halloween party dressed up!

Drove to Austin afterwords and by the time I arrive, it was time for dinner! We went to Rudy's BBQ for dinner and we all ate way too much. Their brisket was awesome though, so tender, so moist... We followed dinner up with some pool and shuffleboard at Dave and Busters after meeting up with RainbowFruit.

Sunday was an action-packed day that started with my picking up PP from the airport. She was in a cute burnt orange sweater that totally blended in with the rest of the UT crowd. After picking her up, we went to have lunch at Z-Tejas. I have a strange fetish about their cornbread and every time that I had gone, I had eaten nothing but the cornbread. PP was craving some meat and I originally thought Z-Tejas served steak. Unfortunately, they only served steak during dinner and that didn't start until 3 pm. After stealing some cornbread, we changed locales to a place called The Oasis. It turned out to be a great idea as the restaurant was situated above a lake and the view and weather were spectacular.

After lunch, we went costume shopping at a Halloween specialty store. After trying on countless costumes, we all arrived at a pretty cool costume for the party on Saturday. Needless to say, PP's costume is super cute.

Friday, October 24, 2008

And I would drive 500 miles...

Lots of driving this week for me! Princess Pineapple's car had some problems with her axle but needed to get to Austin on Thursday for a flight out to a Job Fair. It was a pretty fun drive (Houston -> CS -> Austin) as I got to see the mostly rural patch of farming land between CS and Austin. There were cows that were about 5 yards from the highway, unfenced, just sitting there lazily grazing! More Austin shenanigans to come this weekend which literally means I would have driven about 700 miles!

I think I am developing some bad habits highway driving all the time. I caught myself going almost 90 in a 45 zone coming into Houston on Thursday. My strategy is typically find some guy who is going fast and just follow him!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Halloween!!

This Halloween, BlupnutMM suggested we should host a cool party that involves pumpkin carving, costumes, and horror movies. Seems like a novel ideal as I don't remember ever hosting a costumed Halloween party. Should be a good time, I think I'll go dressed as Tommy!.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Day 14: Oh Wait....

Not in China anymore...At work...

Well, at least I kept my promise to post about each day of my trip to China! =p

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Day 13: Onward to Home!

Last partial day in Beijing today. Finished up what was left of the packing and had a nice lunch with my family members. We called a University driver (specializes in driving from the various universities in the Beijing area) to take us to the airport. It was a Saturday so traffic was pretty light which allowed our getting to the airport about 3 hours before my flight.

It was a good thing too as the line to check in for my Continental flight was literally 100 people long. The Beijing managers for Continental must be totally brain-dead as they only allowed economy passengers to check in at the automated kiosks. This would have generally been a good idea, except 3 of the 5 kiosks weren't working and the ones that were working were in English. Needless to say, at least 50% of the people there knew little to no English and so had to be helped by the Continental attendants with every step. Counting that everyone had at least 1 bag to check and it all just compounded the wait. The kicker to this whole situation was that they had at least 6-manned booths available to help with check in but they were reserved for first/business class only. There were maybe 15 of those in total, so only 2 of the booths were being used leaving the other 4 completely idle as the rest of us waited in line. Eventually after about a 45 minute wait and constant not-so-subtle suggestions from the people waiting, they finally opened up the non-automated booths for general use. I was quickly finished with the check in 15 minutes later. The one hiccup being they wouldn't let me take Catnip's gift aboard which was this Olympic torch-looking lighter that when ignited, had a flame that constantly changed colors in accordance to the colors of the Olympic Rings. Luckily, there were duty-free stores nearby to compensate.

The flight itself wasn't too bad. The main bad point was there were lots of babies on this flight. Babies + turbulence + regular crying + crying + crying + freaking annoying crying + more crying = no sleep again on the way back. We had the personalized entertainment sets again, but they were the older version and didn't allow us to choose what we wanted to watched. As a result, I watched Get Smart 2 times, Hancock 2.5, and some other random gibberish the rest of the way. The elderly person sitting 2 rows away was on his way to see his grandson in Philadelphia but had to change from plane to train at Newark. He knew very little usable English and his son was apparently too busy or unwilling to come get him once he got off the plane so the other passenger in my row and I tried to help him out as much as we could. The flight from Newark to Houston was uneventful and the Papaya couple picked me up from the airport and took me back home.

Overall, the trip to China was phenomenal. I got to see all my relatives, ate way too much (and somehow only gained 2 lbs...), and even smoothed out some plans for the future!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Day 12: Random Shopping

The internet was out for most of the day at my Grandparent's house so I decided to do a little shopping for the Veggies. I had already picked up some gifts for coworkers but hadn't really gotten anything for =VGI=. We went to this Bai Huo Lou (literally building of 100 wares) to look for cool stuff.

It took a while, but I managed to scrounge up a lot of goodies for all the Veggies...excluding Catnip, since Catnip will be going to China in about a week and can buy her own souvenirs.... =p including Catnip, who is totally awesome and whom I had forgotten was helping me bring a new camcorder to my cousin in Shanghai. Won't go into details, but they are 1337 on a whole new level!

Spent the rest of the day at my Aunt's new house and basically got back around 8 and finished up the final packing. Tomorrow, I head back to the States and what will no doubt be ultimate Stock Market Recovery!

On a strange aside, I have noticed that a lot of the shows in China use video game music when they create montages. Like during this Soccer montage, they were playing the Soul Calibur character select screen music. During another show, they were playing music from FF. I could swear that the after race music during the swimming portion of the Olympics all play the Dynasty Warriors 6 victory music. OMG, It seems like I wasn't the only one who noticed!!

Day 11: The Silence of the Lambs

Didn't really do much today, mostly just resting at home and enjoying some relaxation. The highlight of the day was going to this restaurant called Lu(4) Ce(4) Lou(2) Lan(2).

Mmmmmm....
The story goes that Lou Lan was once a thriving town that was known for it's awesome lamb dishes about 2000 years ago. The town was located in northern China near the Lop desert and over time, was consumed by the desert leaving nothing but ruins. However, people still visit this place for its mystique and for supernatural happenings that supposedly take place there. This restaurant specialized in cooking Xin(1) Jiang(1) cuisine meaning they have the best lamb dishes ever! They even imported their lambs from that region.

China has a very strict immigration policy..this is what happens to illegal immigrants!
As I had stated before, there were three things that I really wanted to eat in Beijing. I had already had Peking Duck and Tang Hu Lu so this restaurant took care of the lambkabobs. These kabobs were absolutely awesome. The spit was some kind of wood that added to the flavor, and the meat was seasoned so nicely. It was cooked to perfection, super tender and flavorful. These were the best lambkabobs I had ever had anywhere.

Omega Demon Chaos!!!
As a result of the awesomeness, I ate nothing but these kabobs and as the dust settled, the body count was 10 kabobs destroyed and no survivors. Woot! The rest of the day was spent recovering.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Day 10: A Taste of History

Today, I went to the historic Qian Men/Tiananmen area to do the usual touristy things. The main goal going to Qian Men was to pick up some souvenirs. We took public transportation to stay away from the choking Beijing traffic and it was the usual massive barbarian hoards of people everywhere. The subway was basically one big lovefest with everyone pressed against everyone else.

First cool thing I saw was Tang Hu Lu!! These things are basically shiskabobed haw fruit in a sugar coating. When I came to Beijing, there were three things that I HAD to eat, Peking Duck, Lambkabobs, and these sugar coated haw fruits.

Mmmmmmmmmm.....
I wandered around for quite a while picking up some small gifts from the various stores that were strew about the place. The main attraction was that these stores were all remodeled to look like what the street would have looked like in ancient times.

I am totally not out of place!
I had lunch at a famous place called Gou Bu Li. The main attraction was the Baozi there. The story goes that there was a guy named Gou Zi who was totally awesome at making these steamed buns. His place was so popular that he was too busy to chat with any of this customers, hence they called the buns Gou Bu Li (Gou doesn't notice us). Sadly I was too busy eating these awesome buns to actually take a picture, but here's one with ole Tommy on a golden throne inside!

Bring me a Jumbo Jack, no cheese...and Bafmodads
After Qian Men, I headed to the nearby Tiananmen Square to look for the remaining souvenirs. I have been to the square multiple times, but no matter how many times I go, the size of the square always impresses me. It's so huge that no matter how many times you see it in pictures, you have to go there to truly appreciate it's grandour.

There were various decorations in place such as a giant lantern,


the olympic mascots, and various other unique floral arrangements.

I am totally not jealous!

After finishing up the gift buying, I passed through Tiananmen one last time on the way back. See you next time!

Maybe one day, my picture will hang from something famous!
Can't have a day end in China without a banquet, so dinner was a banquet with many of my Grandfather's past students and coworkers. Felt just a bit intimidated sitting in a room filled with professors and PhDs.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Day 9: Beijing Welcomes Us...Again

Even though today was supposed to be a travel day, my mom still decided it was best to visit even more relatives. This time, it was my great aunt. We took the subway this time round to get a taste of public transportation and besides the barbarian hoards of people everywhere you go, it was very smooth.

We only had about 2 hours of time to visit before having to head back, but of course, they had the usual banquet waiting for us. Now, these crabs are really good and all...but after having them day after day after day, it gets a bit routine. We chatted about the usual family things and were about to leave. We had already gotten on the bus when my mom realized she had left her cell phone at the great aunt's place. We hurriedly headed back and to welcome us back for the second time, we had another banquet (okay, not really, but it totally could have happened).

We still had some errands to run so we headed to the shopping district to buy some snacks and withdraw some cash. This is where I learned that the chinese banking system is retarded. According to my mom, if you deposit money in Shanghai, you can't actually withdraw it in Beijing. The only way to transfer was to manually withdraw all the money and then redeposit it all. This made no sense to me at all, but my mom insisted this needed to be done.

After errands, we headed home, packed it all up and went to the airport. We flew Hainan Airlines this time and the experience was pretty pleasant again. The only annoying thing was after landing in Beijing, the plane taxied for almost 20 minutes before arriving at a gate.

Day 8: More Feasting

Today, my mom and I went to vist my Grandfather again. As usual, we were greeted by a feast for the ages. This time however, only 2 of us came while the feast was prepared for 12. Following a session of gorging, we talked some more and left grandfather's house at around 5 in order to make it to...what else, another banquet.

One small problem we encountered was that it was actually two banquets. Some my mom's friends in Shanghai had been trying to get a hold of her the entire day to let her know of this banquet, but we had already agreed ahead of time to go to another banquet at my aunt's place. So, for the best of both worlds, my mom's friends decided to have their banquet at the same place where my aunt was having hers. This lead to our room-hopping to entertain both parties.

The highlight dish was the "drunken shrimp." The dish consisted of live shrimp, that were soaked into some kinda wine. The shrimp were then consumed raw while still alive. It was a bit disturbing to see the shrimp still moving their tails as you bit into them, but they actually tasted pretty good...if you can stand the weird factor.

If you look closely, they are still moving!

It was also my cousin's 30th birthday so we had this awesome cake. It was super tasty with delicious frosting. Usually, the frosting is way too thick and tastes terrible, but this cake had light, fluffy frosting that tasted awesome!

Yum!

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Day 8: The Ancient Capital

Today is the big day! The day that I am travelling to Nanjing to visit Princess Pineapple's parents.

The day started very early as the train ride was at 6:07 am. I woke up at 4:00 am and got dressed for the occasion. I also tried on the previously purchased anti-perspirant. I had a nice black striped CK dress shirt, some Ralph Lauren Khakis, and black dress shoes. Unfortunately, it was raining outside but my uncle managed to hail a taxi for my cousin and I and we got to the train station about an hour before the scheduled departure. The train we rode was the super fast magnetic rail train that runs between Nanjing and Shanghai. A one-way trip only took about 2 hours and 30 minutes. Pineapple's parents greeted us at the train station and we were off!

We first went to get some breakfast at the company recreation center. This place was awesome with courts for just about any racket sport, pool, hotel, etc. We had some light conversation during breakfast and I learned of the day's plans: A visit to the Sun Yat-sen Memorial followed by lunch on Hunan Street, then freeform.

I had visited the Sun Yat-sen Memorial before in 2001 as part of a tourist group and remembered lots of stairs. This time, the visit rekindled the fondness I had for those 294 stairs. The weather was super awesome and the temperature was cool, but climbing the stairs briskly while wearing dress shoes and a dress shirt still caused me to sweat like crazy. But Velius, didn't you wear that fancy Chinese anti-perspirant? Yes, but it doesn't work at all, even though I had a triple application. However, the scenery more than made up for the loss of electrolytes as it was absolutely stunning. From atop the Mausoleum, you could almost see the entire city of Nanjing. There was also this awesome floral placement with individual potted flowers that shaped into the logo for the 2008 Olympics.

It was more beautiful when seen in person
We also visited an amphitheater designed with spectacular natural acoustics.

This is the before scene, I'll spare the after pictures of bones picked clean
There was a live concert going on and there were hundreds of doves on the grounds as well as various people that were being eaten by the doves. These doves were super aggressive and flocked to anyone with food. They even flew on top of people's head and arms for better shots at the food from above.

Before he lost his right arm!
The entire time, Pineapple's parents and I were discussing many different topics like my job, my family, the hurricane in Houston, and many inquiries about how Princess Pineapple was doing.

After the Sun Yat-sen Memorial, we went to Hunan road and had lunch at Shi Zi Tou (Lion's head). This restaurant chain purportedly has been around since the Song Dynasty which is roughly about 1000 years. At the restaurant, I met Pineapple's uncle and aunt. The food was excellent with the best food being the signature Lion's Head dish. We talked a lot more in detail during lunch and the conversation was good. I had some difficulties expressing myself in Chinese as sometimes, I just couldn't think of the proper phrases fast enough. I have to definitely work on that in the future.

After lunch, Pineapple's parents really wanted to show us around some more, but the morning's activites were pretty tiring so we suggested they take a rest and meet up with us at the train station later on. My cousin and I decided to spent the remaining time touring Xuanwu Lake. The lake was huge with many things to see so my cousin suggested that we should ride one of those two-person bikes that were available for rent. This turned out to be a horrible mistake as the bike we got sucked.

Check out the Rims on this Baby!
It was totally rusted over and besides the bell, everything else on the bike made sounds. Luckily this benefited in that it was very hard to hit any pedestrians because they could hear our coming from a mile away and make preparations to avoid us. This was a good thing because the steering was also crooked on the bike and the best we could do was the zigzag the bike around. After 15 minutes of pedaling, my legs were about to fall off because the chain and pedals were so rusted that it felt like we were pedaling in quicksand. We finally stopped at a bird sanctuary to watch more birds attacking humans for food.

The problems with the One Child policy..
Coming out of the bird sanctuary, we decided to just ditch the bike and walk on foot.

After the tour of the lake, we headed back to the train station to meet Pineapple's parents again. They gave me stuff to take back to Pineapple and gifts to give to my relatives in Shanghai. Overall, Pineapple's parents were super nice and often times went out of their way to make sure my visit was enjoyable. I sincerely hope that I was able to put forth a good first impression.

The train ride back was uneventful and Pineapple's friend's brother picked us up at the train station. He also gave me some stuff to take back to his sister. The day was tiring as we got back home at around 10 pm. It was just in time to watch Walden defeat O'Sullivan 10-8 in the Shanghai Masters snooker tournament.

Day 7: The Calm before the Storm

Today was another pretty restful day. The only line of duty was a bit of shopping in the morning. The objective was to find a store that carried shot glasses with some kind of Shanghai or Chinese insignia. It's hard to imagine how hard it was to look for these. We looked all over Xu Jia Hui which is one of the largest shopping districts in Shanghai and none of the stores carried any decorated shot glasses. The closest were plain clear glass ones. We finally found some shot glasses with the olympics logo but decided that it would probably be best to look for them in Beijing instead.

I also picked up some deodorant/anti-perspirant for the trip tomorrow. Apparently, Chinese people don't really use the stuff because I almost couldn't find it in the store. It took a bunch of searching and doubling back over the same aisle to finally find 1 kind of deodorant. It's also the weirdest thing ever as it looks nothing like the kind you find in the US.

Honest, what do you THINK this is...
The rest of the day was spent basically in leisure. Dinner was hand-made dumplings which tasted fantastic!

Just lick the monitor if you want a taste!
Tomorrow is the big day!

Friday, October 03, 2008

Day 6: Remembrance

Today, I went to visit both my dad and grandmother. The cemetary provides it's own transport and usually it's very hard to get a seat on the bus. However, because of the National Day celebrations, there was not the usual number of people riding so getting seats was relatively easy. The trip there winds through many of the outlying areas of Shanghai so I got to really see what life in a rural (Xiang(1) Xia(4)) setting was like. The houses were small, mostly rundown, and there was trash just lying everywhere in sharp contrast to the image Beijing tried to paint of China as a super modern nation.

After paying my respects, I started walking back to the bus, but noticed on the way that for some reason, this cemetary has live peacocks. Upon closer inspection, they had almost 20 peacocks in this small enclosure, mostly adults, but one mommy peacock had 4 little chicks.

No, you can't tame one Faalena
None of us was really wearing anything vibrant or colorful so none of the male peacocks fanned out his feathers.

I am too sexy for this picture
Getting back, my cousin and I went to purchase some random stuff just to stretch out our legs. Shopping in China is definitely another experience. There are just massive hoards of people in the streets and most stores are jam packed with people. I saw an IKEA, Best Buy, and even a Dairy Queen! The first order of business was to upgrade my cousin's computer. Her computer only has 256 MB of RAM. As such, trying to blog everyday took quite a long time. We upgraded her computer to 2 Gigs of memory which sped up the performance considerably. We also needed to buy a couple of 2 gig USB drives. I ended up getting a 8 gig one for myself.

We had lunch at this Korean restaurant. While seated at the table, you see these nicely wrapped wet towels sitting on the table. You would think that these are complimentary, but no, they actually cost about 5 RMB each which is a ludicrously high price as 5 RMB can easily get about 5 of the same towels at a store. The most under-handed thing is they wait until you USE the towel to let you know there is an extra charge for it! Overall though, things are comparatively a lot cheaper in China. The entire meal probably would have been at least $40 or so, but only cost about 110 RMB (17 bucks or so).

After the shopping, we headed back and basically spent the rest of the night watching the televised Shanghai Snooker Championships. Snooker is wildly popular in China and televised snooker events often gain exceptionally high ratings. I was never really a snooker watcher, but I gotta admit, those people have some amazing skills.

Day 5: Leisurely activities

Today was basically a rest day. Stayed home the entire time and had lunch and dinner with various family members. The food was spectacular as usual, with my aunt cooking a double whammy of fried chicken wings AND sweet and sour ribs. My cousin also brought over the baby and outside of one small milk regurgitation episode, he acted really well.

Cuteness Overload!!
The night was spent watching the world snooker championships and this awesome obstacle course show where contestants humiliate themselves for a cell phone. It's always great watching the types of people that compete in these.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Day 4: The Shanghai Connection

Today, I went over to my grandfather's house for a Xu family gathering. Everytime I come back to China, my grandfather always hosts a large party consisting of many many delectable foodstuffs. This time was no exception.

I need to L2HoldHandStill.  I phail at photography
The food was awesome and we all talked about various Xu family topics (75% about Princess Pineapple of course..) and I got to play around with my nephew. He's about 8 months old and super playful. He really really likes heights, as everytime I hold him up above my head, he laughs and giggles like crazy. He also cannot seem to hold his body still as he's always moving. He can't quite crawl yet since his legs aren't strong enough, but he sorta uses his arms to pull himself along. It kind of looks like he's swimming, but on the floor. Phelps better watch out, this kid's doing the breast stroke at 8 months!

We stayed at my grandfather's house all the way until about 6:30 pm when we all called a couple of taxis home. I was totally exhausted afterwards because of last night's tea mishap and basically slept like a log from 7 pm until about 4 am. While definitely not helping my jetlag, the good night's sleep hit the spot.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Day 3: Relax?

A very light half day today as it was mostly reserved as a travel day. Had lunch at Uncle's house consisting of noodles and some delicious homemade sweet and sour ribs. Soo tasty.

Aunt came over later on and there was much inquiring about Princess Pineapple, complete with pictures and stories of origin. Afterwards, we had a light dinner of more crabs. Shanghai is known for these amazing crabs that come in multiple sizes and come into season just around National Day.

I think that one was named DreadPirate..

The gruesome aftermath...

Actually, a rather common occurence during our Karazhan Raids

After dinner, my cousin and I delivered some stuff to Pineapple's friend. The entire ordeal seemed more like a drug deal. We got there, I exchanged goods with one hand, received cash with the other. Got some goods to take back to Pineapple, and left. The entire transaction took less than a minute.

Watched Iron Man...again, with Chinese subtitles this time and went to bed. I must not be over the jetlag yet (or maybe it was all the ice green tea I had...) as I woke up at 4:30 am.

Day 2: Duck Hunt

Didn't really do too much today, the event of most significance was giant Peking Duck Feast. We went to this restaurant that specializes in Peking Duck of course and my aunt ordered 2 whole ducks. The ducks were brought in and sliced up right in front of us. We only had 4 people, but somehow we managed to eat almost all the food. The duck was so awesome, with just the right degree of oilyness (Artery thickening, but just below Heart Clogging) and the meat was super tender.

Yes, they are real!

Because it is the National Day celebration week in China, we were not able to get the usual train tickets to Shanghai. Instead, we had to go by plane. Of course, going by plane is much faster, but you tend to waste half a day traveling whereas by train, you travel during the night, and upon waking up in the morning, you arrive at the destination. My flight was at 9 am in the morning so I called a taxi for 6:30 am. While the military vehicle mostly obeyed traffic laws, the taxi driver most definitely played too much GTA. He drove super fast and weaved in and out of traffic like Niko (Well, maybe not Niko controlled by me since I tend to just crash into everything). We got to the airport almost 20 minutes earlier than expected as a result.

The airline I was traveling with was China Eastern Airlines. My previous trip with them was not particularly good as smoking was allowed on the plane and the trip ended up with the left engine being on fire and blowing out while we had to make an emergency landing in Tokyo. As a result, my expectations were rather gloom for this trip. However, I was pleasantly surprised as the jet seemed new this time, with friendly flight attendants, no smoking, and best of all, no explosions. They even served drinks and food during the two hour flight.

I arrived in Shanghai on-time and met my uncle in the airport. Shanghai's weather is warmer than Beijing's and the air seemed much cleaner! What gastric adventures lie ahead? Only time will tell!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Day 1: Rock and Roll in my HEAD!!

Watched China's first spacewalk yesterday. It was a pretty amazing experience and you could totally sense the Nationalism in the air as the astronaut hoisted the Chinese Flag.

The major plan for today was to visit my great uncle?? (brother of my grandfather). He happens to be a retired general in the Chinese PLA so we usually get some forms of preferential treatment when we visit him. As usual, he sent a military vehicle to pick us up in the morning. The good thing about a military vehicle is that they are typically above the law. If the driver wanted to, he could have driven however way he wanted! Luckily, he has never played GTA before so we generally followed traffic laws.

After some moments of conversation which involved many questions about a particular Princess, and the showing of the General's latest book (Basically poetric description of famous battles in 5000 years of Chinese history), we headed off to lunch. Typically, trips to China devolve into a series of massive feasts with people encouraging me to keep eating until I inevitably explode. This meal was no different.

We went to this really upscale restaurant that specializes in serving military personnel. Initially, they put us in this massive dining hall complete with TVs, elaborately decorated sofas, and enough space to sit about 30+ people. Unfortunately, our lunch party only consisted of 6 people. They switched us to a smaller and slightly less elaborate room shortly afterwards. The food was pretty amazing, they had some kinda strange sea cucumber appetizer dish, peking duck, various types of chicken, shrimp, fish, and even steak (was actually pretty good). To top the meal off, they ordered 2 batches of egg tarts. These egg tarts were super awesome, way better than most of the tarts offered in US. The most unique thing that I tasted though, was the drink. I had never had Apple Vinegar drink before. This thing tasted kinda sour going down, but left a really really awesome aftertaste that was amazing. My grand uncle quickly caught on to how much I liked this apple vinegar and proceeded to order 5 bottles of the stuff for me to take home!

On the way back from lunch, we stopped by Tiananmen Square to check out the floral preparations for National Day. It was pretty spectacular and the news even reported that it was a world record for most amount of fresh flowers ever in one display. One small damper on things was the traffic. It was absolutely terrible. Beijing has a series of 6 "ring" roads (basically loops) that go around the city. None of these loops have any form of traffic signals so you would think that traffic would be relatively fast moving on these roadways. However, the sheer volume of cars caused bumper to bumper traffic and it took us a good 1.5 hours to travel about 20 miles.

I am living with my grandparents who live in these housing projects off the main campus of Chinese Agricultural University. As such, we basically drive right through campus any time we leave to go somewhere. This time coming back, I noticed this awesome dude wearing a felt black jacket that was designed to look like leather with huge letters written in glitter that was designed to look like rhinestones. The letters read "Red Panda, Rock and Roll in my Head!!" Soo awesome, even better than the "Bimbo" brand ice cream I saw earlier.

Dinner was "relatively" light to compensate for El Feasto Gigante and consisted of...2 giant grabs. I love eating crabs, my particular technique involves separating all the meat from the carcass before consumption.Mmmm. My lost baggage finally arrived in the evening and everything was intact. Operation: Nanjing is still on schedule!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Day 0: Travel Day

Had to wake up at 4 am to drive to the airport for my 6:30 am flight so after much thought, I decided to just stay awake the entire night grinding in Vesperia. It worked out pretty well and I was pretty exhausted and ready to just sleep the entire flight away. Unfortunately, my plans did not come to fruition.

The first part of the flight was from Houston to Newark, then after a plane change in Newark, directly to Beijing. I slept about 4 hours on the plane to Newark but was stil pretty tired for the next leg. The plane to China was a 777 and as such, every seat had individual entertainment modules complete with a lot of the latest movies, music, and sitcoms. While boarding, I noticed a hoard of kids sitting pretty close to where I was and was a bit concerned about the noise level. After talking with a little boy who sat next to me and noticing he had pretty good manners, I thought maybe I would be granted a reprieve.

Right before the plane took off, the trip leader for those kids decided it would be better to switch out the boy for the most annoying girl possible. I began to doubt the future of the US as this girl didn't listen at all, was walking around even as the pilot was telling everyone to be buckled down and constantly made really ignorant remarks about the plane. I think the best one was "Does this plane have gravity?" She also constantly tried to work the entertainment modules even after being told repeatedly that the module was turned off for takeoff. She even tried swiping a credit card (repeatedly) thinking that if she paid, they would turn the module on specifically for her.....After finding out the module wasn't working for her, she demanded to call her mom using the onboard phone, even after being told that it was going to be really really expensive. Her response to this was "It's okay, I have a credit card."

Needless to say, this girl was a chatterbox the entire trip and so I didn't really get that much sleep. Instead, I watched Iron Man, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Kung Fu Panda, and Iron Man again. Mixed in a bit of DS as well. The flight for the most part was smooth and we got into Beijing airport about 20 minutes after the arrival time. At the baggage claim, I waited about 40 minutes for my bag to show up, but finally learned after all the bags were out that my bag did not make it onto the plane in Newark....After some fun filling out forms in Chinese....Continental said they would deliver the bag as soon as it arrived.

My mom was at the airport to pick me up and after a 45 min or so taxi ride, I arrived at my grandparent's house. I must say, the air quality was a lot better than I remembered it to be as I could actually see portions of the blue sky. The evening was spent with lots of different family members coming by and my being interrogated with many questions about Princess Pineapple. All in all, a pretty eventful day 0.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Why stop at milk?

For some strange reason, PETA thinks that this is a good idea. But I question their dedication to the cause. Why only go so far as milk? Why not reduce the suffering of these oh so poor farm animals even more while also helping society eliminate some of its more seedy elements. I propose we substitute beef/pork/chicken with human meat! I mean it's brilliant! After all, you are what you eat right? So this is just making us more Human! Maybe even Too Human!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

China Trip

Going back to China this Friday. Moonfleck suggested I keep a running daily blog on what occurred in China. While on paper, this sounds like a wonderful idea, I am not so sure I can keep the motivation to do such a thing as I have enough trouble posting once every week.....but nonetheless, never know what I am capable of if I don't try!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

L2NightElf n00b!

It is often rare to meet with fellow MMORPG gamers IRL. Without meeting face to face, I often tend to associate the voices and persona with whatever video game character they currently play. Recently during my whirlwind California trip, I had the fortune to meet two WoWers that I used to play a lot with, Truflight and some vain druid beginning with Faa and ending with Lena.

I was exceedingly disappointed to discover that they were not Night Elves IRL. What travesty is this??!! I expected Truflight to come with his Epic Frostsaber and a giant monstrous, vicious, bloodthirsty crab following quickly behind. Vain Druid was to swoop in in epic flight form to pick some random flowers or something next to the hotel. What actually arrived to pick me up were two humans in a Prius.

Despite the initial shock, I soon realized that these people were actually really cool. They had set up a raid of a local seafood chain and just like IRG (In Real Game), we were on time and well prepared with the necessary gear (I quickly replaced Truflight's missing DreadPirate and gave vain druid the only thing that she lacked, a mirror with which to admire herself), enchantments (Nothing like Old Spice deodorant to cover up that none-showered, fresh off the power plant smell), and appetite for blood (or food in this instance).

The seafood was divine, never before had I tasted such great food. It probably boosted all my attributes for 15 minutes. We chatted about various things like what's the best way to farm for epic flying mounts, and what types of patterns to make while making aerial passes for mining nodes/herbs. The dinner passed quickly and soon we were off to the final challenge...the LVL???RB.

As soon as we got to the house, I realized this was indeed the home of Night Elves. The house contained a plethora of exotic animals, in this case, a house cat. I imagine the other animals were all in hiding in some tall tree to protect them from the sounds of battle against LVL???RB. After briefing entertaining the geeky side by scoping out their WoW UIs, I started the encounter. Unfortunately, we wiped several times during the first few attempts, but after recalibrating our gear, we soon rocked out.

Overall, it was a very nice evening and I look forward to future visits to other OOM members.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Houston: 3 Days since last Hurricane

You hear it on the news, but in person, it's even worse. On the drive back to Houston from College Station, as soon as I got into town, I started noticing things. Things like almost all the billboards are destroyed. Any high shop signs are either completely blown off or severely damage. Even highways signs show wind damage. There are still downed trees everywhere and piles of debris on the highways. None of the traffic lights I have run into function and you see makeshift power lines everywhere.

In my neighborhood, there are numerous fences that have been blown down or completely blown away all together. I don't really see any broken windows, but there is still significant debris on the roads. My house had its main fence get blown away, and my mom lost all of her potted plants. We had some minor water leakage as well. All in all though, I would say we came out well. We are also lucky in that we have power.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

We aren't in Kansas anymore

Hopefully Hurricane won't blow my house away. Need to get prepared!!! California trip was fun, will try to update later....

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Riverwalk and Hot pot

Spent a day in San Antonio over the weekend to show Princess Pineapple the Waterwalk and Alamo. At first we decided we would park at the motel and just walk over to the Riverwalk. However after walking about 100ft and noticing that we were definitely in a very very run-down part of town, we decided it was more practical and safer to drive.

Got to the Riverwalk rather late and at dinner ate this Italian placed called Paesanos. She had the Shrimp Paesano with Spaghetti, Lemon Butter, and Garlic and I had the Penne with Grilled Chicken, Mushrooms, Spicy Peppers and Tomato Cream. Pineapple didn't really like her choice as the shrimp in the Shrimp Paesano were too buttery and the accompanying pasta too bland. The Penne however was excellent. The chicken was marinated just right and the sauce was creamy with just a hint of spiciness. Pineapple ended up mixing her spaghetti with the sauce in the Penne and I ended up eating all the shrimp. The Tiramisu dessert was excellent and ended the meal on a high note. We walked around afterwords for about 3 hours looking at the various little shops and businesses that ringed the waterways, picking up many little gifts for my trip back to China.

The next day, we only had about 3 hours before having to head back to College Station for a birthday party so we made a very brief stop (~15 min? maybe) at the Alamo just to remember it...har har..and spent the other 2.75 hours walking around the Riverwalk again.

The birthday party in College Station was a blast though. The theme of the party was a hot pot style dinner followed with birthday cake and a heaping helping of Mafia. Everything went pretty well....except the birthday girl was busy attending another party and didn't arrive at this party until about 10 pm. By that time, we had already finished eating the hot pot (hunger >>> willingness to wait for guest of honor) so we went right to the birthday cake. The cake was an Oreo ice cream cake from Dairy Queen and tasted so awesome. It's been quite a while since I had had any type of ice cream so perhaps that's why this one tasted particularly good. Mafia was good as always with much killing, either premeditated or otherwise random lynching by the mob.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Operation Redecoration

Over the labor day weekend, Princess Pineapple came over with a very important mission: to transform the upstairs into something a bit more hospitable. It was a lot of work as the place was really messy with random stuff lying everywhere, furniture arranged in non-optimal locations, and strange smells coming from the restroom area.

We ended up going to IKEA since they were having a labor day sale. We ended up getting a new chair, several containers, and even new shower curtains. After cleaning for an entire day, several rooms looked really nice. The computer room is now much cleaner and very uncluttered. The restrooms are soooo much cleaner and even smell nice! There is still a lot of work to do though, but time was running short so the project will be completed at a later date.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A Perfect Excuse to Crash a Castle

Going to get a yearly physical examination on Wednesday. What was that you say? Castle Crashers just so happens to be coming out 12 am Wednesday morning! Did I plan it like this so that I can get a leg up on the competition, could I be so conniving as to plan a doctor's visit JUST for this? I say no....

Monday, August 25, 2008

Moving Day

Spent the past weekend in College Station helping Princess Pineapple move in. Over the past summer, Pineapple had been practicing driving so this was the first big test. Despite impending dark clouds and some thundershowers, we all made it there with few difficulties. I got to meet all of Pineapple's MBA friends during a dinner party and I totally enjoyed the atmosphere as it reminded me of when I first came to the US and attended my parents' parties. Not particularly rich, but living a very happy life with lots of friends.
We played a different version of Mafia as well. The rules were significantly different and I think it made the game go by much faster. Rule changes were:

1. Multiple police and no medic. There were the same number of police as mafia but to balance the game, the mafia wins if they kill all villagers OR they kill all police.
2. Each person can only speak once per daytime turn. They talk, then say 'done' and the next person talks. I think this speeds up the game tremendously.
3. Deaths on first turn (night or day) have a chance to speak before they die.

We helped different people move in on Sunday and had lunch at another friend's apartment. Papaya gave me a ride back to Houston later that day and I treated him to dinner at Fuddruckers. Overall, a very good weekend!

Up next: Remodeling! Where Princess Pineapple transforms an ordinary bathroom and den with help from IKEA. Tune in next weekend!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Prince of Tennis

I finally "convinced" myself to take up tennis after forcibly buying a racket a couple of weeks ago. I have always wanted to learn how not to hit the ball out of the court and so far, things look kinda bleak. The main problem the first time out was that I only brought 1 can of balls. It's amazing how unfun it is to have to pick up tennis balls every 15 seconds. I should have borrowed BlupnutMM's lovable lab to come retrieve the balls for us.

Anyhow, my main playing partner is Papaya who after playing that incredibly unsatisfying trial, decided to buy a basket and 48 balls. Drive A here I come!

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Wii-eal Olympics

Sure sure, we have the Olympics going on in Beijing. The spectacular opening ceremony, the years of history, the records in the making. Who can forget the incredible come-from-behind victory in the 4x100 freestyle. (Freedom fries ftw!) However, the WII-eal Olympics happened over the weekend in my house. This spectacular event featured 9 competitors representing 3 nations from all over Texas! We had national anthems, national foods, and real Medals! (made in China...) We even had our own Olympic Mascot: Teddy the Lab!



The three nations represented were China, Hungary, and USA. Well, China was "slightly" over-represented, but with some creative naturalization, the BlupnutMM couple joined Papaya on team Hungary!

Breakdown of the teams:
China:
He of Many Cousins
Cucumbernator
PrincessPineapple

Hungary:
BlupnutMM
BlupnutMM's other half
Papaya

USA
Maximo Guru
BitterPotato
Cousin of He of Many Cousins

We kicked things off with a spectacular opening ceremony consisting of Rock Band and dinner (Eat your heart out Zhang Yimou). The original plan was to light the Olympic torch before the event, but we decided to help the IOC out and lent the torch to Beijing to light some other Flame for some other sporting event they were having. FedEx couldn't get it back in time!

Breakdown of Events and Winners:

Pin the Medal on the Wii-lympian!
Tagline: How can this NOT be an Olympic Event??!!
Winner: He of Many Cousins

Boxing:
Tagline: There can only be one survivor!
Winner: PrincessPineapple

Into the Pool!
100m Freestyle:
Tagline: B is to recover Stamina, not A
Winner: BlupnutMM's other half

4x100m IM Relay:
Tagline: Miis only have 1 style apparently...
Winner: He of Many Cousins

En Guarde!!
Fencing:
Tagline: My name is Inigo Montoya!
Winner: BlupnutMM's other half

Onto track and field!
110m Hurdles:
Tagline: Obviously the most important event, only fitting that China wins!
Winner: Cucumbernator

400m:
Tagline: It's about how long you can flap your arms!
Winner: BlupnutMM's other half

Archery:
Tagline: Big Game Hunters
Winner: He of Many Cousins

Gymnastics:
Tagline: A, B, B, B, A, Twist, B, A, B, Twist, B, B, B (for 30 lives...)
Winner: BlupnutMM

Single Sculls:
Tagline: You sank my Battleship!!!
Winner: Papaya (in classic come-from-behind fashion)

Table Tennis:
Tagline: In an event ruled by China, was there ever any doubt!!??
Winner: He of Many Cousins

At this point, we had a 4 way tie for Bronze so we had a winner take all event to break the tie!
Dream Race:
Tagline: Who the HELL hit me with all those stupid lightning bolts?????!!!
Winner: PrincessPineapple

China finished first in the medal count with 6 golds, Hungary was second with 5 golds, and team USA finished in 3rd. Of course, there are no winners and losers in the Olympics...but in the Wii-lympics there are, so take THAT team Hungary and USA! Did you all forget to eat your Wheaties??!!

What Olympics would it be if there wasn't a signature vocal performance? To cap the night off, we all went out to sing Karaoke. PrincessPineapple dazzled the crowd with Faye Wong vocalizations while Papaya wowed the masses with a mastery of Chinese lyrics.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The Cliffs of Insanity!!!!

Thanks to tropical storm Edouard, I got to spend the day yesterday away from the office. I was hoping for a storm of epic proportions, but it ended up just being lots of rain..what a a letdown! However, I was able to watch Red Cliff. I have always been a fan of the Three Kingdoms periods and overall, I think John Woo did a good job with Red Cliff. Here are my general impressions of how each of the characters was played and how they matched my "vision" of what they were supposed to be like.

Shu:

Liu Bei: Decent, the movie portrayed him as little more than a peasant. He had no martial abilities, no general vision for his future, and primary Musou attack was "fix straw shoes for everyone." They did emphasize his deeply righteous beliefs on how a ruler should act.

Zhuge Liang: Totally did not match the impression in my head. He doesn't speak eloquently, seems insecure all the time, and generally just frowns a lot. Also has Brokeback scene involving zithers with Zhou Yu which totally didn't work for me. He also fondles horse uterus.

Zhang Fei: Pretty good, they toned down his drinking, but kept his general profile to what I envisioned. Loud, obnoxious, always looking to pick a fight, and having strength of 100 men.

Guan Yu: Dynasty Warrior. Face not Red enough, no Red Hare, but they obviously paid tribute to Dynasty Warriors with this incarnation of Guan Yu. Speaks little but absolutely slaughters legions of troops with a single stroke of his halberd. It's almost as if troops were just walking up and impaling themselves since no matter where he swung, heads rolled. I could totally see the body-count counter rolling up every time he appeared. I think the best scene in the film to illustrate this is when Zhang Fei is trying to hold Chang Ban against overwhelming odds, Zhuge Liang rides in and Zhang Fei asks him "Where are the reinforcements???!!!" Zhuge Liang simply points, and you see Guan Yu mysteriously emerging from the fog of war and then proceeds to slay about 40 soldiers with 1 swipe of his halberd

Zhao Yun: A good portrayal. Loyal and fearless. The movie actually featured the battle of Changban bridge and I thought his charge was a lot more realistic in the number of enemies he slew.

Wu

Sun Quan: For some reason, all the leaders were portrayed as these frail little things that had no other abilities other than sitting there. Basically does nothing the whole movie except frown and make fun of Sun Shang Xiang (SSX).

Zhou Yu: Wow, he was portrayed really well. He's basically the perfect commander. Brilliant military tactics, superior martial abilities, and exceptional love-making skills. He demonstrates all three to a high degree in the film. In fact, I think his sexiness is so powerful that Zhuge Liang could not resist.

Gan Ning (Named Gan Xing in movie for some odd reason): Same attitude, same elite fighting abilities, no bells. Pretty good portrayal

Xiao Qiao: Token female. Passes the days petting horses and passing wanting glazes toward Zhou Yu. Her lines sucked, "Cao Cao has army of death bringing and will surely destroy all of us, but he lacks one thing that you have....friends!" all in that super high pitched annoying voice. This is one character that I wish matched its Dynasty Warriors counterpart. Give her some fans, and watch her run amok.

Sun Shang Xiang: My favorite character from the movie. This was the best portrayal and basically matches my impression of her perfectly. Sassy, sarcastic, me-against-world mentality, and total self confidence. Even though she has a relatively small role in the film, her scenes were always the ones I enjoyed.

Wei

Cao Cao: A little too conniving, backstabbing, plotting, and generally evil for me. In history, he was a very charismatic leader with many good traits. In the movie, he is basically portrayed as obsessed with bedding Xiao Qiao. They did perfectly portray his rashness and arrogance as a military strategist.

Zhang Liao??: Can't remember which general it was, but he is the only named general I remember on Wei who does anything significant. Basically gets his army destroyed, and runs away.

Various other Wei Generals: Only job is to provide the other generals with stat power-ups and morale boosts. They slay a few foot soldiers or peasants, then immediately gets cut down by a Shu or Wu general.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Hans Zimmer roXXor!

Was just looking around youtube and stumbled upon some Hans Zimmer music from movies. He's such a great director, I wonder if there is a "greatest hits" CD that he offers? It would really be cool too if somehow Harmonix scored these for Rock Band!

Crimson Tide
The Rock (Not the Wrestler....)
Gladiator

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Time to brawl in the Toyota Center...

Umm, so apparently the Rockets have traded for Ron Artest. This actually seems like a pretty good trade, on paper. Artest brings hard-nosed defense, and an offensive (literally and figuratively) touch to the SF position currently occupied by Battier. This certainly increases the Rocket's offense and if they can rotate Battier, better defense as well. Plus it adds a layer of perceived toughness to a relatively soft Rocket's team. Now if McGrady and Yao can just stay healthy the whole season....

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Shut up PETA

Some people just have nothing better to do than complain. Take this article for instance. Yes, shooting animals is bad, but where else would you rather troops practice triage on live subjects? Maybe draw straws and randomly shoot the soldiers who drew the shortest straws? Civilian volunteers? Shoot POWs?
They mention a trauma simulator but nothing really simulates treating real wounds like treating real wounds. If a few wounded pigs can provide the experience to save the life of even 1 soldier, I say shoot the pigs.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Dark Knight

Went to see Dark Knight last night. I went into this movie with extremely high expectations resulting from all the hype and reviews of the movie. I am happy to say that this movie did not disappoint. All of the actors put in superb performances and the plot was just as well-written. Special props to Heath Ledger and his Joker portrayal. While this may be a Batman movie, Ledger totally stole the show with his dynamic performance. This all leads to the question of how can you possibly find a replacement villain for the Joker in the other movies? It was done that well.
Not going to mention anything about the plot for those who haven't watched it.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Beijing!

I love Beijing! =)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Rubik's Cube

Always been interested in these little puzzle boxes. I have seen people solve them really fast so I know there are some fundamental algorithms to doing it. Hopefully with some diligence, I can learn to solve these things fast too!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Hancock

Watched Hancock over the weekend on Saturday. I really didn't have any expectations for this movie as I didn't know anything about the plot or the history of the comic. Turns out, I was pleasantly surprised by the movie. One important thing I learned was that every superhero has 1 phrase which will just cause them to blow a gasket when uttered. Overall, I think Fe-Man still holds the crown of best superhero movie.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Watermelon Lore

What could be more scary than Vampire Watermelons? This is just too amusing to me, especially the part where it states:

"The belief in vampire fruit is similar to the belief that any inanimate object left outside during the night of a full moon will become a vampire. According to tradition, watermelons or any kind of pumpkin kept more than ten days or after Christmas will become a vampire, rolling around on the ground and growling to pester the living. People have little fear of the vampire pumpkins and melons because of the creatures' lack of teeth."

Monday, July 07, 2008

Fission Mailed!! Almost

Saturday was the big Crawfish boil. Last time, there were some complaints that the crawfish were a bit too spicy so for this second round, I got the usual 30 lbs of regular and an additional 10 lbs of mild. This turned out to be a mistake because the mild ones basically had no taste. It was like eating boiled crawfish with no seasoning. On really bad thing that happened was I had invited one of my coworkers to attend this party and I had completely forgotten that the coworker did not eat seafood at all. So this led to a very awkward moment when we were preparing to eat:

Me: Okay, have a seat
Coworker: Gives me this blank look
Me: You don't like Crawfish?
Coworker: I don't eat seafood, remember?
Me: Ohhh crap...

It was particularly bad as there was no other food available except for some cookies and grass jelly drink. The coworker just ended up playing Rock Band upstairs while the rest of us gorged.

Besides that little blunder, the rest of the evening went off very well. We spent quite a bit of time playing Rock Band and Mafia. Originally, we were supposed to go Karaoking, but time constraints led us to just have a really late dinner (~10:30) at this Chinese restaurant and calling it a night.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

All the pretty Horses



Borrowed from a Chinese Website: How many horses do you see?

Monday, June 30, 2008

Fireworks, Pew Pew Pew

My company is hosting a fireworks display for the coming July 4th holidays. Instead of the usual sitting outside, being eaten alive by mosquitoes, this event will occur indoors on the 64th floor of the office building. The interesting thing I found out was that the fireworks are actually going to be bursting about 20ft away from the building itself so we get a level-eye view of the fireworks as opposed to the usual ground-side view. There should be explosions all around and I just know I am going to instinctively reach for the shock paddles to do some medic-whoring!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Viva la Crawfish!

4th of July is coming up and since there hasn't been a really big social event in Houston for a while, I have decided to host a big party on Saturday, the 5th. As per special request from BluPnutMM, crawfish will be the main course again. It may be harder to get as they aren't in season anymore, but it's always worth a shot. Besides the crawfish, I am hoping this will be a potluck of sorts with everyone bringing some other foods to share.
Entertainment will probably be a healthy dose of Rock Band, Mafia, Bang!, and most likely some Karaoke at night.

*Update* Well, apparently, crawfish are actually still in season. Now the question becomes, Live or Cooked? Last time, the cooked crawfish was pretty good, if a bit spicy. Votes?