Monday, November 28, 2005

McRib is Back

On the way back home, I decided to get a McRib for dinner instead of cooking something; it's a real pain to cook for one. I went to the McDonalds on Imperal Highway and surprisingly, the guy taking the order didn't ask me whether I just wanted the sandwich or a "Meal" with fries and a drink. They always ask! Anyway, I ended up getting two McRibs but could only finish 1-1/2 sandwiches. They're going for $2.49 and come in a paper box. I thought the last time I had a McRib it was only $1.99 in a paper wrapper; maybe this limited availablilty is a marketing trick since people forget how much it cost last time.

The Joys of a Parliamentary Government

Canadian Government Falls on No-Confidence

A corruption scandal forced a vote of no-confidence Monday that toppled Prime Minister Paul Martin's minority government, triggering an unusual election campaign during the Christmas holidays.

Canada's three opposition parties, which control a majority in Parliament, voted against Martin's government, claiming his Liberal Party no longer has the moral authority to lead the nation.

The loss means an election for all 308 seats in the lower House of Commons, likely on Jan. 23. Martin and his Cabinet would continue to govern until then.

Full article...

US Citizenship and Immigration Service

I sat in the USCIS office in El Monte for two hours this morning because the government cancelled my citizenship application. I had to postpone my oath ceremony twice since I was going to be out-of-town. Following the instructions, I sent in letters explaining why I was unable to attend the ceremonies but I guess no one ever got my letters. So this morning, I sat for 20 minutes waiting to see a case manager, talked to him for 10 minutes, and waited another 90 minutes for them to generate a new oath ceremony appointment letter. I guess I should be happy that everything was taken care of in one trip but throughout the entire naturalization process, I sat around a lot in different waiting rooms. I think I probably spent about six hours in waiting rooms total; that's probably a low number compared to other people. Since my Treo has a built-in camera, I couldn't even bring that into the waiting room so when I say "sat around", that's all I did.

The worst part about this was trying to call the USCIS on Friday when I received the "application abandonment" letter (certified mail is never good news). Since there were no phone numbers on the letter, I called the national 800 number. I ended up talking to three people, none of them asked for any id numbers to look up my file, and essentially the message was, "We're not here to help you. Follow the instructions on the letter. Dumbass." The final guy I talked to was so rude; he kept cutting me off and wouldn't even let me ask questions. I even drove to the USCIS office on Friday only to find that they were closed (I couldn't get a phone number from anyone to check hours).

I just know if I worked like a government employee, I would get fired or our company would go out of business. I think we should have two or three "government" agencies competing for our tax dollars so the most efficient and professional group wins out. Not sure how the logistics would work but monopolies definitely suck. Anyhow, my oath ceremony is on Dec. 9th along with about 10,000 people. I'm not going to miss this one for anything for fear of getting sucked into the bureaucratic black hole again!

Monday, November 14, 2005

Car Spy Photos!

I saw a Lincoln Zephyr parked at the Doubletree Hotel near the Block at Orange Sunday morning. NewSong NOC was holding their service at the hotel and I showed up to help setup the sound system. I guess it's not really a "spy" photo since they show the car on their website but it still had the camouflage padding on the front end.



Treo 650 Pics

I'm tired of typing... here are some more pictures I took with the Treo in Thailand/Taiwan instead.

Thai Elvis impersonator... his English was really bad

Some "girls" dancing in a bar in Patong Beach... okay, they weren't girls

Thai boxing

Thai girls boxing

NT$138 (US$4.30) dinner I got at a food court in Taipei

Tuesday, November 1, 2005

One Night in Bangkok

I arrived in Bangkok on Sunday at around 11:30am. The first thing I noticed while the plane was landing (turned out to be the same 747-400 I was on from LAX to TPE) was the golf course right in the middle of the airport, between the two runways.

I found this picture on the web. The dark green area between the runways is the golf course. I saw people actually playing golf on the course as we were landing. How can you concentrate with 747's taking off/landing right next to you? What if you slice a golf ball off the tee into a jet engine? If you have Google Earth, you can get a bettew view of the golf course at 13� 54' N and 100� 36' E.

From the email exchange I had with Xealot people, I thought I was going to arrive by myself and would need to make my way to the hotel after arrival. So I was surprised when several boxes labeled "NewSong" rolled past me on the baggage conveyer belt. I followed the boxes around the conveyer and ended up meeting the rest of the group, 3 guys from the Brea small group. The boxes contained a new Dell computer they were helping to bring over from the U.S. We met Bryant from the Xealot team, who has been waiting at the airport for 4 hours due to the same miscommunication, and we took a van to our hotel. The weather was hot and humid, probably not as hot as Singapore but more than Taiwan or Hong Kong.

As I mentioned before, our Bangkok hotel was the Pathumwan Princess Hotel. It turned out to be a pretty nice hotel. At check-in, they gave us some sort of fruit drink that tasted a lot like sweet winter melon juice. The hotel is attached to one of the largest shopping centers in Bangkok so after dropping off our bags and changing into shorts, we went to MBK to have some lunch. The stores that lined the corridors were very small, and some were stalls in the middle of the walkway. Unlike the U.S., similar stores were congregated in one area instead of spread throughout the mall. We had lunch at a Japanese restaurant. The food was decent and really cheap but we found out that Thai serving portions are much smaller than in the U.S. After lunch, we walked around the shopping center looking for a SIM card for one of the tour members. Like the rest of Asia, they had the coolest cell phones and accessories compared with what we find back home. I even saw Bluetooth phone headsets for $3; that's about how much we sell our Bluetooth chip!

Now boarding...

I just realized that I was on 8 flights this past trip to Thailand/Taiwan, one more than the 7 flights during the June trip. For some reason, the Bradley international terminal at LAX seems to be the most chaotic and disorganized out of all the airports I visited this trip. Even the little single-runway airport in Udon Thani was more orderly. On the day of departure, it took me over an hour to get my one piece of luggage scanned and check-in at the EVA Air counter. I'm not sure why but everyone seems to spend a long time at the counter. Were they haggling for seat upgrades? It only took me about three minutes to check-in and I even got aisle seats all the way to Bangkok. Waiting for the flight was crazy too. My flight to Taipei was departing at 1:20am at gate 101. For some reason, China Airlines had a flight to Taipei at 1:15am departing from gate 102. Why would you fly basically the same route 5 minutes apart? Even worse, I knew that there was also a Singapore Airlines flight from LAX to Taipei leaving at 1:05am. To make the waiting area even more crowded, there was a Korean Airlines flight to Seoul at gate 103 leaving at about the same time. Lots of people...

Picture of the waiting area taken with the Treo

View from seat 54H (it was a completely full flight)

I sat next to a 70-year old woman from Jakarta and a younger woman from Vietnam. The flight attendents kept speaking Chinese to all of us in my row even though I was the only one that could understand. I had to "translate" for the Indonesian woman (from Chinese to slow English) so much that they thought she was travelling with me. I guess on EVA Air, if you look remotely Asian, they're going to speak Chinese to you. When I flew EVA Air business class back in June, I wasn't very impressed. Well, I'm even less impressed with their economy class service. The seats were really small (34" - I should check with other airlines) and the food was not very good at all. In hindsight, maybe I should have spent $200 extra for "deluxe" economy class where the food was still bad but the seats are much wider. I ended up watching almost every movie shown and getting my customary 30 minute nap on the 13+ hour flight to Taipei. I also tried taking notes on my Treo during the flight but was told that I had to turn off PDA phones during flight. I explained patiently that I turned off the cellular/wireless radio but in the end, I had to "turn off" the Treo (it doesn't really turn off, it only goes into standby mode) to avoid getting into an argument about FAA rules with the flight attendent.

Anyway, my entire flight path this time was:
Los Angeles -> Taipei -> Bangkok
Bangkok -> Udon Thani
Udon Thani -> Bangkok -> Phuket
Phuket -> Bangkok
Bangkok -> Taipei
Taipei -> Los Angeles

Total mileage: >18,000 miles (per Google Earth)

Wallace and Gromet in Taiwan


Gromet (the rabbit is missing an ear)