Whirlwind

July 19, 2010

Oh man, the past month has been such a whirlwind of events. So much has happened, I don’t even know where to start. I guess I’ll go in order like a sensible person. Get ready for a long one:

España (6/6-6/11)
So the month started off with the OHBM conference in Spain. Barcelona to be specific. The conference was pretty standard; lots of posters, lots of talks. I’m not going to bore you with the details. The city, however, was fantastic and definitely worth talking about. Unfortunately, I really only had a day and a night free to look around, so I decided to hit the high points of the city like a good Asian tourist. I started off with the Sagrada Família, this gigantic church that’s been under construction for the past 130 year:

My ticket told me that my money will be used to help finish the church, but I’ve got a sneaky feeling I won’t get much recognition for the contribution.

Following that, I visited Park Güell, which was apparently also designed by Antoni Gaudí, the same man who designed the Sagrada Família. What I was told is that his architecture is scattered, fairly prominently, all across Barcelona. Of course, I never got to see the others, because the park was ridiculously large. I ended up spending about 4 hours just walking around, looking at the various structures:

The final night, I went with a colleague to see the coast and grab some Tapas. Incidentally, this was my only picture of Barcelona with me actually in it:

As always, Europe was gorgeous. I need to meet someone that’s willing to go vacationing there with me.

Boston (6/21-6/25)
After a week back at home, I was off to Boston for a workshop. It was a collaboration workshop, so I spent my mornings/afternoon coding with a girl from BWH, but I had most of my nights free. My birthday was on Tuesday, therefore I continued my five year tradition of spending it with random strangers(or by myself). This time it was with some dude my Dad went to grad school with.

The following night I had dinner with Ling and Franco who are working in the area, and the final night I spent with Chil and Ryan who are working at Philips(where I did my internship). Over the week I came down with a cold and was running a fever for most of those nights, so everything was kind of a blurr. Hopefully I wasn’t sprouting nonsense all night(more than usual at least).

Camping(6/26 – 6/27)
Coming back from Boston, I had a night to do laundry and then I was off camping with Dan, Ian, Jesse, Chris and Tobis for Ian’s bachelor party. We hiked part of the Appalachian trail, which was fun. I was still exhausted from my cold though, and I vastly underestimated how hot it is to hike with long hair. Definitely need to bring more water and a bandanna next time.

*Note – All the pictures from here on out are from Dan or Kai’s collection. I’m so horrible about remembering my camera.

So here’s us pretending to know what we’re doing:

Tobis ended up not feeling well, so rather than trekking to our campsite, we  just set up camp at a nearby site off the road. Jesse cooked hot dogs, Chris set up a fire, and the rest of us put up the tents:

The next day we went intertubing, and yes, that’s me doing my “Sexy” look. You can tell because I was sticking out my stomach to appear more like a man of wealth and status:

The whole experience kind of made me miss home. Some of my fondest memory from Utah are of hiking and camping with my family and friends. Maybe I’ll add it to the Utah roadtrip I’ve been brewing in the back of my mind for the past few years.

Wedding (7/1-7/3)
The weekend after was Morghan and Ian’s wedding. Dan and I were ushers, so we had to be there by Thursday for the rehearsal. This, along with Monday off for the 4th, made it the longest vacation I’ve had in a long long while. The wedding was, of course, beautiful:

You’ll notice those are watermarked. That is because I am very much not going to pay $10 bucks for a print of someone else’s wedding photo. But here’s a group photo of the Cornell folks without the watermarks: (Unfortunately my eyes were closed, but who can tell right?)

The reception ended up being exactly what you would expect from Morghan and Ian:

It was styled to be kind of a games night, in memory of the first time they met(at a “Regression Session” at Cornell). There was no alcohol, so there was only a brief period of awkward dancing from me. Unfortunately, Dan caught it all on video. As if I wasn’t already indebted to him. =(

Every time one of my friends get married, it always make me feel like I’m behind. I suppose it’s a kneejerk reaction, because 24 is still pretty young to be married. But seeing the wedding definitely confirmed that it’s something I want, and that I should make an attempt to move forward in this department. The past couple of years has been so stagnate, and I suppose I can come up with all sorts of good reasons, like moving to a new city, or being busy with school. Realistically though, it’s because I just haven’t made an honest attempt at it in such a long time. Definitely time to change that.

The Fourth (7/4)
The Fourth was mostly spent with Dan and Kai. We went to a baseball game(where the Nats got demolished):

and followed up with a visit to the DC Zoo. It was hot though, so all the animals just laid on the ground:

Later that night we met up with Nolan, Chin, and Tobis and saw the firework show on the mall:

I can’t remember if it was Kai or Dan that mentioned that the red lights make the monument look like a monster, but now I can’t stop seeing it.

It was a great show, but I think what sealed the deal for me was the company. Fireworks(and I suppose even weddings) come fairly often, but it’s rare to have a chance to just hang out with a group of old friends:

Overall, a very good month.

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Noël à Las Vegas

December 27, 2009

The first few days of my break this year was spent at Vegas. We(me and my parents) drove down on Tuesday with a couple of my parent’s friends  and Lin(the random girl my mom convinced to stay with us this Christmas). Normally the drive is about 8 hours, but the way my parents see it: “What’s a road trip without a few detours?” So on our way down, we visited Bryce and Zions national park, which added another 4 hours to the drive.

Visiting national parks in the winter sounds like an excellent idea on paper. You can imagine pristine rock formations layered with a sparkling layer of snow. In reality? Here’s what Bryce looked like when we got there:

I had the particular pleasure of making the drive up to the park, and let me assure you that the road was not shoveled, and yes, there was 7 people in the car which made snow driving all the more fun. I think we stayed about 5 minutes at the park, took 3 pictures and then left.

Next was Zions, which surprising was actually pretty good. I think it’s because it’s a bit more south and at lower altitudes than Bryce. The rock formations aren’t as interesting as the ones in the other parks, but it was gorgeous never the less:

If I can convince someone to come on a road trip with me, I’d like to go to all the national parks again. I went to most of them as a kid, but I don’t really remember them(nor appreciated them at the time).

So we finally get to Vegas after the 12 hour drive, and that’s about when the trip ended for me. Since I’ve been in the States, we’ve been to Vegas at least 5 or 6 times. I think my parents like it because it was one of the first places they went vacationing at in the States. Also it’s relatively close and well known, so it’s easy to take people visiting from out of the country there. For me though, it’s gotten pretty boring. When I was younger there was some fun kids areas with arcades and carnival games in the casinos, which always kept me entertained. But those don’t really hold my interest anymore, and I’m not a huge fan of gambling. So whenever we visit there nowadays, I usually just sit in the hotel room on my laptop or read a book. I think someday I’d like to revisit there with some friends or a girlfriend, and do some of the stuff that’s a bit awkward to do with your parents.

Since I don’t get reception for most of the drive through Utah, I woke up early Christmas Day to make some calls(which only two people answered, everyone else is jerks!). Then we drove back.

END!

Oh I forgot! One of my Christmas presents this year:

I’m not quite sure, but I think It’s a face towel.

What do they all have in common? That’s right: Things you you can find at Pita Pit.

I kid of course.

The first half of last month was spent with my parents and my favorite cousin in Greece, where beautiful women lay on sandy beaches and fetta cheese flows from fountains like water(They seriously put it on everything).

Overall, the trip went great, the only stumble was when I got a bit sick for about 2 days in the middle. It wasn’t anything seriously, just a stuff nose and a light cough. It could’ve just been allergies for all I know.

But anyways, here’s the breakdown in arbitrary categories I thought up two seconds ago:

Food – Was fantastic. I made a point to try a different dish every time I sat down for dinner, so there were the stuff we’re familiar with state side like gyros, falafels, souvlakia, etc. I also had an assortment of fish and other seafood on the islands. Surprising enough I think the VIP of the trip had to be the calamari; they were absolutely amazing and enormous. If you want to get a sense of the size, take your forefinger and your thumb and make a circle, that’s how big they were.

One of the nights, by luck, we ended up at this Chinese restaurant that just happened to be one of the most authentic Chinese restaurants in Athens area. Apparently it’s where the Chinese embassy takes it’s people for dinner. It ended up being some of the best Chinese food I’ve had in years. A few of the dishes we ordered I haven’t seen since I was in China almost 11 years ago.

Attractions – I think overall we covered most of the touristy stuff. It’s hard to list them all, so it’s probably better to just look at the pictures(at the bottom of this post). We also visited two islands: Crete and Santorini. The two were very different. Crete felt a lot more like an urban city than anything. If you couldn’t see the sea you wouldn’t even be able to tell we’re on an island. Santorini on the other hand was very quiet and remote, less touristy, and definitely one of those places you go to see a sunset(which we did).

Lastly, we spent one of the days just on a beach in Crete and for the first time in my life I got seriously sunburned. Interesting enough the sunburn was entirely localized in the pale sections of my arm and legs that were not covered, whereas the dark parts just got darker. For a while it looked like Neapolitan ice cream. My cousin thought it was hilarious, but I was not amused.

Out of all the place, my favorite was probably the Temple of Poseidon. An ancient temple set on the crest of a hill, overlooking the sea in 3 directions. Very storybook.

Travel – The plane ride was alright. I met up with my cousin and my parents at Atlanta and then we all flew out together. The flight was about 10-12 hours(depending on which direction) and naturally I slept the majority of the way. When we got there we had originally planned on renting a car for the trip, but my parents saw the drivers near the airport and decided to cancel it and rely on cabs and public transportation. It ended up being a pretty good decision since the Greek drivers are all insane. One of the cab drivers we rode with was going 150 kmph(roughly 95-100 mph) on our way to Delphi. He also had the poor taste of making a joke about being drunk. Mama Chen nearly threw him out of the car.

The subway system in Athens was great(cheap and covers most of the lower peninsula). Overall we ended up spending less money than if we had rented a car, which reaffirmed what we learned the last time we were in Europe: don’t drive if you can help it. It’s both less bothersome(no need to worry about parking) and less tiring for the person that has to drive(in our case my dad).

People– The Greek people are an interesting bunch. I’ve decided that they fall into two groups. There’s the jolly people who always have a smile and make an effort to help you out, even if you’re a complete stranger and have nothing to offer them. These people remind me of Santa Clause. Then there’s the people who just give you the most off-taste vibe. They’re not mean, but there’s just something about the way they interact with you. These people remind me of the Godfather. I guess you can divide any population into these two groups, but for some reason or another the people we met always fell on one extreme or another.

Ranking– Out of the European countries I’ve visited, I would probably put Greece at 2nd (out of 4). I’m doubtful that anywhere I go is going to beat Switzerland. It’s got both a nostalgic factor since I lived there as a kid, along with amazing chocolates, and the Alps which is probably one of my favorite places on Earth. However, Greece definitely beat out France and Italy.

Pictures- We took almost a thousand pictures(not exaggerating) over the 12 days, I picked out the ones that I thought looked least horrible and uploaded them onto photobucket. For some reason if you click through them manually some of them glitch out and don’t show up, but if you set it on fast scrolling it works. So change the mode if they suddenly start showing up all black. Enjoy!

Pictures