Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving - Chinese Style

To celebrate Thanksgiving, we had the traditional Chinese meal: roast duck. This was a step above though. It's not Sam Woo roast duck but Peking Duck at a restaurant.


Traditional style, with pancakes and hoisin sauce.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Snow - The Movie

OK, it's about as exciting as watching grass grow. That's the old ATI headquarter building; now it has AMD signage. In the middle of the building, there is a huge four story open area with an indoor waterfall. Other BRCM people told me that the pools of water also have gas jets that shoot flames, kinda like the Mirage. Must have installed that when times were good. Now that I have an AMD badge, I should sneak in and take some photos.

Be Healthy Counseling

Website for Shirley's private practice.

Scam Email

I got this in my work email inbox:
Dear Customer,

We wish to inform you officialy that due to your delay in complying with the courier service delivery to your given address through courier company here as programmed, your fund has been diverted to the issued bank head office here with instruction to process and effect remittance of the fund to your account $1,200.000.00 United States Dollars pending when you establish communication with the bank head office which is very urgent that you contact the bank urgently for immediate remittance of your fund and bank to bank wire transfer into any bank account of your choice.

Therefore, below is the contact information of the issued bank which you required only to establish communication with the Foreign Remittance Operation Department.

Continental Bank Benin
Contact Person: Dr. Donald Geronime
The Director Foreign Operation Department,

Email:( Kindly communicate with the bank with above contact information, so that they will advise you further and commence the proceesing of your wire transfer.

Dr. Bright Morgan
Western Union Branch Office
Cotonou-Benin Republic

Wow, that first paragraph is one sentence. Where did they learn their English? Also, why would a "doctor" work for Western Union? In fact, from all the emails I've received, it seems almost everyone in Africa has a "Dr." title.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Snowing Again

It's more rain than snow. I hope it's not too cold tonight, otherwise everything will be covered by a layer of ice tomorrow.

Expiration Date

I let my guard down at the market today and now I have some VITA sugercane drink that expired last week. Dang it, I'd better drink it fast then.

Sunday, November 23, 2008




A tip:

When it's that cold outside, don't use the washer fluid to clean your windows. The wipers will spread the fluid all over the windshield and it freezes immediately, reducing your visibility to zero. No fun when you're pulling onto the freeway.

Friends and Family Day

Today was a day spent with family and friends. I drove to Oakville this morning to have lunch with my parents. I had a craving for a Chinese breakfast and my parents said there was a new restaurant in Mississauga called 油条大王. However, it turned out to be a Cantonese place so they eat their fried dough with congee instead with soymilk like in Taiwan. :(

After lunch, we went to visit uncle Charles in Mississauga. Auntie Amy (his wife) passed away in September. After that, we went back to my parent's house for me to do laundry. I felt like I was in college again, coming home on weekends to do laundry and pick up food.

Later in the afternoon, I drove to my friend's house to watch football. This is someone I met in the sixth grade and we went to school together for the next six years, until I moved to the U.S. Other than family members, I think I knew Cyrus the longest (~30 years). We watched most of the Giants vs. Cardinals game then switched to the Grey Cup (Canadian Football League championships). The game was between the Calgary Stampeders and Montreal Alluettes. Nobody really watches the CFL, even in Canada. There are only eight teams in the entire league. BTW, Calgary won.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Tallest Building

Which structure looks taller?

CN Tower: 553.3 m (1,815.4 ft)

Taipei 101: 509.2 m (1,670.6 ft)

I've been to the lower observation deck of the CN Tower which is 346 m high. There is a higher observation deck at 446 m; if I go up again, I'll probably buy a ticket for the higher deck. The indoor observatory in Taipei 101 is on the 89th floor at 383 m.

Above the clouds at Taipei 101.

Both CN Tower and Taipei 101 are "short" compared to the Burj Dubai which is still under construction.

Ontario Science Center

Having worked until 8pm yesterday, answering work questions from people in Irvine, I decided to get away from the computer and take a trip to the Ontario Science Center today. Since parking is $8 and a TTC day pass is only $9, I parked at Finch station (free parking) and took the subway/bus.

Inside a subway car. The subway system in Toronto is pretty small. There was only two lines when I lived here in the 80's and the system hasn't grown that much. They've added two short spur lines and added one extra station on the west end of the east-west line. On the subway (and bus), they announce the next stop so you know when to get off. In Taiwan, the announcements were in 4 languages: Mandarin, Taiwanese, Hakka, and English. I think in Beijing, the announcements were in Mandarin and English. In Toronto, it was English only... no French, even though it's one of the official languages of Canada.

TTC bus route 34. I took the subway to Eglington station and got on the bus to go to the science center. I think it added an extra hour to the trip versus if I just driven there.

The science center is built on the side of a valley. The entrance is at the top of the east side of the valley and the remaining center is down below, connected by corridors and escalators.

On Level C, there was a huge metal contraption that had a lot of tracks for rolling balls. It was pretty cool.

One of the exhibits about the vastness of space. There is a planetarium inside the science center. They just replaced the mechanical projector with a digital one this year.

What?! M&M and Smarties in the same vending machine? There were a lot of vending machines and everything was quite expensive.

An exhibit where you build stuff with old computer/printer components. I thought this was poisoning villages in China?

Tall columns with air blown upwards. You can put paper cups and other stuff in the tube and it would blow it out the top. There is a cone cup at the top that was just blown out.

Bobsled simulator.

A projected koi pond. If you step on the ground inside the "pond," it causes ripples in the projector. Again, pretty cool.

Van der Graff generator and "making hair stand-on-end" demo.

Pedal power! I remember playing with this and other exhibits in the Science Arcade 25+ years ago. Actually, it looks exactly the same... pretty good maintenance.

Tornado generator.

Rainforest exhibit inside the science center. It was hot and humid, not like Canada at all.

Large cockroach exhibit. I hat cockroaches.

Stand behind the yellow line! Reminds me of "My Sassy Girl."

Some guy playing guitar in the subway station at Bloor-Yonge. At the Finch station, there was a long-haired guy with an electric guitar singing Led Zepplin songs.

After taking a different bus (route 25) from the science center to another subway station (Pape), I went all the way to Union Station to check out the CN Tower. From here, you can take trains to Ottawa, Montreal, and even New York.

A view of downtown Toronto from the Skywalk connecting Union Station to the Convention Center and CN Tower. I think it's looking north on York Street.

CN Tower. It used to be tallest building in the world. I was going to go up to the observation deck to take a look but the tickets were $22 so I skipped it. :)

Thursday, November 20, 2008


I had a sudden craving for a Harvey's burger. We used to go all the time while growing up; it's the only burger that my dad liked. I think the one we went to was near Lakeshore Road in Mississauga; I can't find it on the store locater though. Anyway, I found one nearby on a map and drove out at 10:30pm to look for it. In the end, I couldn't find the one I was looking for but did find another one that was closed. Bummer. On the way back, I stopped by a Burger King and got a chicken sandwich and some onion rings. Add that to my Chinese dinner earlier, I'm still not spending very much of Broadcom's money on food. I'll have to look for a Harvey's later this week.

I'm thinking of going to the Ontario Science Center this weekend. It's not that far from Markham. The admission is $18 and parking is $8 so it won't be that cheap.


I found a Harvey's, inside a Home Depot for some reason, and had a burger and fries for lunch on Friday. Eeeh, it wasn't as good as I remembered.

Working in Canada, Day 2

OK, last snow photo. This was my rental car this morning. Under the snow was a layer of ice so it took awhile to clear the windows.

Today was another day working on mostly FP&A stuff at work. I'm getting used to working on two computers since the network connection is so slow. Most of the work is being done by remote access on my other computer back in Irvine. I also tried contacting AMD's help desk (by calling HELP on the phone) about connecting to a networked printer. After 30 minutes, we decided there is no way for me to print. The printers are still on an old ATI (pre-AMD acquisition) print server and the only way for me to see the printers is to get an userid and password on the AMD domain. That probably won't happen. I wonder what a new Broadcom hire will do if they're hired at the Markham site.

I had to get a visitor badge again this morning. I wonder if I can just sneak in tomorrow. The receptionist asked if I need an escort in. Sigh... I told her twice that I have my own cubicle here. There's also another problem. After 6pm, the doors are all locked from both sides and you need an AMD badge to get out. I was lucky that another employee was walking out at the same time. Not sure what I will do if I need to stay late or need to come in on nights/weekends.

After work, I decided to find a Chinese market to get some groceries/snacks. I looked on the web and found a website to Pacific Mall, the largest indoor Asian market or something. It turned out to be a huge barn-like building with hundreds of tiny stores, pretty much selling the same things: cell phones, boba milk tea, books, computers, counterfeit DVD's, and ugly clothing.

South entrance.

One of the "streets" inside. There are several long corridors with stores on each side. Both store clerks and customers seem to be pretty young.


Food court on the 2nd floor.

Each food vendor had lots of photos of each dish. They all looked very similar... probably hired the same photographer.

I ended buying dinner at this place. I was swayed by the sign stating "Hong Kong Chef Management."

$4.75 including drink (not the can of Pepsi). That's only US$3.90! Not China cheap but pretty inexpensive. It was pretty good, better than the $40 dinner I had with my parents last night.

On the way back to the hotel (I got dinner to go), I saw a 350Z with snow tires. The stock Bridgestone Potenzas are terrible in rain or snow.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Still Snowing

Arg, I think I have mini-jetlag or something. It's 1:30am Eastern time and I'm still up; it's only 10:30pm back "home" in California. Looking out the window, the snow is still falling. The hotel I'm staying in does not have underground parking so I'll probably need 10 minutes to clear all the snow off the car. I knew I should have brought my hiking boots instead of my dress shoes. Also, there must be a lot of Indian/Pakistani families staying in the hotel and cooking dinner. The hallways have a strong curry smell. The apartment we lived in 30 years ago in Mississauga had the same smell.

Snow covered tree outside my window. It's pretty dark outside so the shutter speed was 1 second long. I was holding my breath so the camera wouldn't shake.

Parking lot with one lonely car. There was a bit more light so the shutter speed was 1/2 second. I shot this through a window with a mesh screen; I wasn't about to go outside to take photos.

"High Speed" Internet

I ran a speed test on the Internet connection at the hotel since a Skype video call to China connected very poorly. At 400 kbps, it's hardly a "high speed" Internet connection. I'm getting about 10+ Mbps at home with my RoadRunner cable model connection. The interesting thing about the results is that the upload speed is almost 3x the download speed; it's usually the other way around. Maybe my video signal was getting to China without any problems and the limiting factor was my download speed. Oh well, at least it's free (included in the room charge). I had to pay an extra $8/day last time at the Sheraton.


I just ran it again and it's twice as fast. Maybe everyone has gone to bed. The weird speed difference between upload and download speed is still the same.

Working in Canada, Day 1

Today was my first full work day in the Markham office. They set me up with a small cubicle. Last time I was here, I asked for a monitor. I think the admin was going to give me a old CRT but my buddy Larry, the help desk manager, set me up with a new LCD panel (Dell 22" widescreen); a new hire didn't show up so it was reassigned to me.

My little cubicle

As I was setting up the LCD panel and docking station (I brought that up from Irvine myself), the mail room delivered another LCD panel (same model) to me. Both were FedEx'ed from our office in Richmond, British Columbia. Earlier this evening, I got a call from the help desk in Richmond, asking me to ship the other LCD panel back to them. For a moment, I thought I was going to have a dual widescreen setup.

I spent most of the day working on my normal job stuff. The network connection back to our Irvine data center is horrible. I would double-click on Excel files and it would take minutes to open. I ended up connecting remotely to my 2nd work computer, normally used for presentations, so I can get work done. They're also using the old AMD phone system until moving day next year. To call long distance, you need a special passcode. I think each person has a code; the finance manager gave me his code to use but told me not to call any 900-numbers (mostly phone-sex hotlines). I think he was just kidding. I also haven't figured out how to connect to the network printers yet so I can't print anything.

At around 4pm this afternoon, it started snowing and it's still snowing six hours later. Good thing rental cars come with snow brushes. My parents were in Scarborough visiting some friends so they came by to have dinner. We went to some Chinese restaurant nearby; there must be hundreds of Chinese restaurants in this area. After dinner, I stopped by a supermarket to pick up some sodas and water. Groceries are more expensive compared to the U.S., even after converting the currency. The average salary is lower and the weather sucks; I wonder why so many people live here... :)

I tried taking a picture of the snow as I was leaving work. It was already too dark and the flash just reflects off the falling snow.

AMD parking lot. The building we "kept" doesn't have an underground parking garage whereas the AMD building next door still does. Since their old badges still work, some ex-AMD people are still sneaking in and parking in the underground garage. My Broadcom badge doesn't work at all here and they won't give me a temp badge to open doors. In addition, the receptionist is making me sign in each morning as a guest since my badge doesn't say "Markham" on it. I've been to our offices in Vancouver, San Jose, Singapore, Taipei, and Beijing and never did I need to sign in as guest as long as I had my work badge. Lame.

Parking lot outside restaurant. It's only -2°C outside so the snow is fairly wet. Only the large roads are salted before a snowstorm so driving in the parking lots is a bit slippery. I fishtailed the SUV a bit coming out of the hotel driveway on the way to dinner... fun!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Home Sweet Home (or something close)

I just checked in to a Residence Inn across the street from our Markham DTV office, which we're still renting from AMD. This is my 2nd trip to Toronto in several weeks and this time I'm staying a bit longer, until December 1st. I'll only spend six work days in the office though, since Nov 27 and Nov 28 are U.S. holidays; I'm moving out of the hotel and going to stay with my parents during Thanksgiving.

This time, I connected through Chicago on the way here and will connect through DFW on the way back. Even though you spend time more time in transit, I avoid having to drive to/from LAX from home. Last time the drive on the 405 took close to 2 hours for a 9:30am flight. You also get a few more miles vs. flying direct from LAX to YYZ. If I connect through DFW on my planned Dec-08 trip, I will end the year with ~50,050 miles which is just enough to qualify me for AA Platinum status next year. It was also a bit more hassle this trip since I'm bringing two laptop computers: my work Dell and my personal Sony Vaio. I had them both in my backpack so going through security took a bit longer. I brought my Apple Airport Express base station hoping I could get it to work in the hotel room so I can connect both computers to the Internet at the same time. It will be just like home!

I rented a car again from Avis. Last time they gave me a compact car which isn't what I reserved. This time, I got a Ford Escape SUV after reserving a standard car. Oh well, even though it's 2WD, it may be handy in the snow. Right now it's about -3°C outside and it's supposed to get down to -8°C later tonight and snow lots tomorrow afternoon.


Chicago O'Hare Airport. All airports pretty much look the same from the outside... lots of concrete.

Driving to the hotel from my parent's house. It's hard taking pics with a big DSLR when you're driving. This is the QEW (Queen Elizabeth Way).

Some guy was driving a old pick-up truck with a message on the tailgate. Not sure what or why.

Downtown Toronto at night at warpspeed. Need to go back later to take better pitures.

I got a one-bedroom suite/apartment at the Residence Inn. It's about 1/2 the size of my apartment but it has two TVs! The room rate is ~C$120/night and it comes with free breakfast and room cleaning twice a week. I stayed at a few of these back in 2004; this is actually quite a bit nicer. The hotel staff seems to be all Chinese for some reason; the front desk girl was pretty cute but I thought it would be inappropriate to take her picture for my blog.

Kitchen - my mom gave me some soup/stew so I'm putting the fridge to use already.

Living Room