Monday, August 28, 2006

Oregon Coast

View from the beach house in Lincoln City, Oregon

I spent the weekend (plus Friday) in Portland visiting my sister and Rebecca. My parents were there as well, after their vacation to Alberta earlier this month. I took a flight from LAX instead of SNA which meant I had to leave work early and fight rush hour traffic Thursday afternoon. The ticket was cheaper from LAX but in hindsight, I probably should have left from SNA. In addition to paying $33 to park my car in Lot C, I got the lamest parking ticket ever. Evidently, LAPD comes around and checkes each car in the lot. I got a $25 ticket for not having a front license plate on my 350Z. Sheesh, is that how you reward your customers? Next time, I'm going to pay a bit more and leave my car in a private parking lot.

The plan for the weekend was to drive to Lincoln City on the Oregon coast and spend a couple of nights in a beach house my sister rented. Since there will be 5 of us, I rented a SUV from Avis via Priceline. They gave me a new Ford Explorer for $38/day which was much cheaper then the prices at the Avis website. The Explorer was roomier than my 4Runner but handled like a boat and the interior was ergonomically incompetent.

First stop: Tillamook Cheese Visitor's Center

Typical Oregon beach weather

We did have nice weather for one afternoon... it was still cold though


There was not much to do in Lincoln City so we ended up shopping at some outlet stores and the local Indian casino. Having been to Las Vegas many times, Chinook Winds was pretty crappy in comparison. I think there were less than 10 tables (blackjack and craps) total and the rest were slot machines. The did have free soda dispensers though. We also spent the majority of both evenings playing mah-jong. I ended up winning $5 from my parents!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Mac mini Surgery

Yup, that a meat cleaver (with Chinese characters on it)

I forgot to buy a putty knife to open up the Mac mini so I looked around the house for a comparable tool. I also had to use another knife (paring knife) and a couple of Dave & Buster PowerCards to get the case open. It ended up taking me about 20 minutes of prying and cursing to get the !*@&#^% cover off.

Naked Mac mini, cover, and "tools" on my nice placemat

Once the case was open, I had to detach the AirPort (802.11g) antenna and remove 4 tiny screws. It's amazing how much hardware Apple packed into such tiny box but it makes it hard to upgrade components. There are two DIMM slots in the Mac mini which comes with 256 MB modules for a total of 512 MB.

New memory modules on top vs. original memory modules at the bottom

The 1 GB modules had a lot more chips, with chips on the back of the DIMM as well. The actual memory ICs on the new DIMMs were manufactured by Elpita(!) while the original ones were made by Nanya. On my first attempt, I didn't seat one of the new memory modules properly so when I rebooted the Mac, only 1 GB showed up. Good thing I anticipated this and did not close up the case thus saving me another 20 minutes of grief... :)

2 GB!

Amazing. My first computer (Commodore VIC-20) had about 3,500 bytes (that's right, no-prefix bytes) of RAM while my next computer (Apple ][+) had 48 KB of RAM. With 4x the original memory, my Mac mini is a totally different machine. It now boots up quickly and launching/switching applications is really quick. I'm going to reinstall Warcraft III and see how fast it runs compared to the PC version.

The obvious question is why Apple ships the Mac mini with only 512MB? Before the memory upgrade, the Mac mini was really slow and definitely not useable for business. To switch between MS Word and Excel would take at least 15 seconds. Apple should have included at least 1 GB of memory which would only cost an extra $30-$40. Instead, I had to spend >$200 for the new DIMMs and now I have two useless 256 MB DIMMs. Grrr...

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Del Mar (last time!)

Our finance department event at Del Mar went okay. Several people backed out at the last minute but we still ended up with about 75 people. I brought a camera but was too busy running around to take many pictures. I only bet on two races, winning one and losing the other, so I was up a whopping $0.30 for the day... :)

For the eighth race, we were able to send two people down to the winner circle to congratulate the winner and get pictures taken. I took a picture from our skybox balcony; they're the ones in beige and pink.

Also for the eight race, a group of us (not including me), managed to pool $240 and bet on the longshot to win (#6 horse). It was 25:1 when they placed the bet and the odds jumped up to 43:1 at post time. I think the horse came in 6 out of 8 but it was pretty exciting in our skybox during the race.

I've organized this event for the past four years. If I still have staff next year at this time, I'm delegating.

Slow Mac mini

I finally got tired of my slow Mac mini. Launching programs and switching between applications is incredibly slow. Even my old Compaq 1.0 GHz Pentium III with only 256 MB of RAM runs faster.

It has the 1.66 GHz Intel Core Duo processor but only 512 MB of RAM. I've been reading that the slowness is due to memory shortage and a slow hard drive so I ordered two 1 GB memory modules. I'm hoping that giving it 2 GB of RAM will minimize the frequency of virtual memory swapping so the slow hard drive won't affect performance too much. Of course, that brings the cost of the Mac mini >$1,000.


Oh, to get the Mac mini case open, I need to go to Home Depot (or Lowes) to get a very thin putty knife. Apple decided not to use screws to hold the Mac mini together but rather 15(?) plastic tabs that are next to impossible to open without breaking. Sigh... I remember having to buy special tools to crack open my Mac Plus almost 20 years ago to add memory (from 1 MB to 2.5 MB!).

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Del Mar again

I went to my manager's party at Del Mar on August 6th. Since we were in one of the private skyboxes, it was a lot more fun than the last trip. I brought my old Canon camera so I can use up the roll of film that's still in there but I did get one picture on my digital camera.

I'll be at Del Mar one more time this Thursday for our finance department event. This is the 4th year I've organized the event; I think I'll delegate that job next year. We'll also be in a private skybox and I chartered two buses for the trip. My only task left is to buy beer and other refreshments for the bus ride Thursday morning.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Why Do They Hate Airplanes?

UK Panel Asks: Why Do They Hate Airplanes?
by Scott Ott

(2006-08-10) — The British Parliament, in a rapid response to a terror plot foiled by Scotland Yard yesterday, announced formation of a study panel today to determine why some Muslims hate airplanes.

Early reports indicate 21 men have been taken into custody in connection with a plan to take down an unknown number of U.S.-bound passenger jets originating in Great Britain.

The expert panel will examine various theories about why airplanes engender such hatred among devoted followers of a peaceful religion.

“Is it the horrendous noise? The speed? The condensation trails?” said one unnamed source close to the panel, listing some of the areas of inquiry the experts plan to pursue. “Because if it’s any of those things, we can get to work on engineering changes to make airplanes more tolerable to our Muslim brothers.”

Tuesday, August 1, 2006

Agape/MBCLA Outing

Here are some pictures from this past Saturday. A coworker invited me to her small group's beach outing at Salt Creek Beach in Dana Point (next to the Ritz Carlton). It was jointly sponsored by another small group from a different church so there were a lot of people. Since both groups were Mandarin/Taiwanese speaking, it was a bit Chinesey™. I don't think I spoke English the whole time but everyone was pretty nice, putting up with my kindergarten Mandarin.

Singing... Chinese songs. Not sure why the guy's shirt is open. Nice houses in the background though.

My coworker is the one in pink

Mmm... BBQ meat!

Canon PowerShot SD600

The Canon digital camera I ordered for my mom arrived so I brought it with me on my "day off" and took some pictures. I decided I would drive to Torrance and revisit some of the places that were part of our wedding day.

This is PCH Seafood Restaurant. It looks a bit run down on the outside (and inside) and hasn't changed since I first ate here in 1985. While I was at USC (1st time), John Chen and I used to eat here every Friday after our morning class. It has nothing to do with my wedding; I stopped here to get lunch. Their cashew chicken is one of two dishes that I will drive an hour to get... the other is #6 (garlic chicken) at Versailles.

Chinese Community Church of South Bay: this was my home church for almost 10 years and it's where the wedding ceremony was held.

Our photographer took us to a catholic church in Palos Verdes that morning and took some photos. I remember is was windy and we almost lost Shirley's veil over the side. I still have a 12"x18" picture of us... not sure what to do with it now.

View of the costline from the church

Redondo Beach from Avenue E and Esplanade. I proposed somewhere down there almost eight years ago.