Las Vegas. Phantom of the Opera.

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Las Vegas is an interesting place.

A city that hibernates during the day, and comes alive at night.

A luxurious city built on people that lost their minds to pulling a lever all day and giving away all their money.

A city where sex is more abundant than hamburgers.

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According to my parents, it’s my third time being here, but I don’t remember the first time, and it still felt exactly like it did second time I was there – very loud streets, a lot of lights, a lot of smoking, and lineups of people handing out cards with a picture of a (usually) naked girl, and a number to call – I have to assume that’s legal here, since I’ve seen them doing it in front of cops. Everywhere you look down, there are 2 things – beer bottles, and the aforementioned cards with naked girls. It’s a city that really shows how infantile people can get – answering nothing but their most primitive desires. It’s like a place where it’s socially acceptable to show your dirtiest side.

On the more positive side, Phantom of the Opera!!

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It’s something I’ve always wanted to watch, and it just happened to be playing at Las Vegas while I’m here! It’s a shortened version, adapted for Las Vegas, instead of the original Broadway. Still magical, though!

The singing and orchestra were absolutely phenomenal. I have heard all the music over and over again on my phone for the past 5 years, and imagined the scenes that go with them countless times, but it was very different hearing it live, and finally see the real thing in all its glory.  All the passion and talent. Ahh. Delicious! Definitely bring tissues if you are the teary type.

The fact that I knew the story already didn’t prevent me from enjoying the show at all. On the other hand, if you have never heard of it, it’s probably a good idea to read up on it first, if you don’t want to spend the whole time epicly confused, because it IS a complicated story. http://www.venetian.com/uploadedFiles/The_Venetian/Content_Blocks/Shows/Resident_Shows/PhantomSyn.pdf#zoom=100

Special effects were pretty awesome, too. Definitely not what I had in mind, but it was all very well done. A lot of surprises, and lot’s of fire. I’m glad they didn’t change the original elements at all, though.

I sat right underneath the iconic chandelier that falls down. That was pretty scary!

Highly recommended if you end up in Las Vegas in the next few months. I believe the last showing is in September this year.
httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=58CVbvqQvww

The next day, we watched Le Rêve (The Dream) at the Wynn hotel. That was pretty cool, too. A lot of water, fire, thunder, and amazing acrobatics!

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http://www.vegas.com/shows/production/le-reve-las-vegas/

Pretty cool!

1.5 hours flight later, I’m back in Santa Clara, and have to go back to work tomorrow… It’s like alternate reality has ended, and reality just came back from lunch break. Delicious.

Chocolate and Hedgehogs

Another Valentine’s day passed by.

1AM in the morning, and I’m not sleeping. Not because of hot steamy sex, but because I realized I need to do my laundry tonight (or what’s left of it), or I’ll have to go to work in a pillowcase tomorrow.

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Come to think of it, I haven’t had anyone to spend Valentine’s day with since… grade 9? I did have a girl to spend it with, except neither of us knew what we were doing, and I think we went on a date in Science 9 class or something… Or maybe a sword fight? Knowing myself, that’s far more likely.

Maybe I’m just not cut out for girls (home ownership is fine, though). I remember blogging about this 2 or 3 years ago, and came to the conclusion that I make sense, girls don’t, so we are not compatible. Or something to that effect.

If I could type my own Facebook relationship status (I tried), it would read “waiting for a miracle”. I wouldn’t settle for anything less than a miracle. There have been a few miracles in my life, except almost all of them are married and have kids.

Writing this post reminds me of someone I met in my high school years, in an orchestra, that I totally fell in love with. In the end, she was one of my main motivations to continue attending those Saturday 9:30AM rehearsals (9:30AM!! every Saturday, across the city, for 3 years). I played the clarinet, and she always sat in front of me… the good thing about playing in an orchestra is you don’t get to pick your seat. If the girl is right in front of you, she will always be right in front of you.

She was the nicest person I have ever met – incredibly considerate, mature (for a 17 years old!), friendly and warm towards everyone, and always seemed like she can swallow a shark with her smile. Her mere presence always brought optimism to everyone around her. She just didn’t seem to be living her life for herself.

I wouldn’t say she is very pretty, and she didn’t care about what she looks like much – always wearing baggy clothing and no makeup. She didn’t have to. Everyone can see past that, and see the stunningly beautiful girl that she is. Confidence is the best outfit.

And the random friendly hugs. And the awesome Moonlight Sonata. And the running around the stage at Gateway Theatre few hours before concerts.

We talked a few times then and afterwards, and became friends, but nothing more. Afterwards, we parted ways, both intellectually and geographically. She went on to become a great artist, while I devoted my life to blowing up things. Nothing more ever happened, and I doubt she remembers me much, because I never told her how I felt, because I was too shy to do anything.

Ever since that time, though, she has always been a figure I subconsciously and consciously tried to imitate. If you have known me since high school, I was a totally different person at that time. I was very pessimistic (almost depressed), quiet, didn’t have any friends, and just didn’t do much. I’d like to think I have changed a lot since then.

I’ve heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return
Well, I don’t know if I believe that’s true
But I know I’m who I am today
Because I knew you

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jx3rjS_vSM4

I haven’t found a girl comparable to her. Finding one would be a miracle, and I’m waiting for a miracle. She has become a bit of a benchmark, and I can’t bring myself to settle for less. A few girls have asked me out since then (life of a pimp?)… and there are even more that I had some feeling toward, but I just couldn’t stop comparing. I’m sure some day, there will be a miracle.

(If you happen to be that person reading my blog… I think you do once in a blue moon? you probably know who you are. And yes, all of the above is true. At least, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!)

All that is history.

In the mean time, I’m living my life with no regrets. My biggest childhood dream was flying. I always wanted to be able to see the world from above, and soaring through the sky in a powerful machine. I’m in the process of fulfilling that dream right now. I’m glad that my dream wasn’t any more expensive. For example, I never dreamed about becoming an astronaut…

PS. Why hedgehogs?

OMGTHEYARESOCUTE!

Laundry is done! That was a very long (lone) stroll down the memory lane. But sleep at last!

Santa Clara, California

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So it has come to my attention that, I haven’t written a post about California, and I have been here for 3 weeks now.

In short, it’s absolutely AWESOME!

All the stories I heard about California weather, turned out to be all true. Clouds are a rare sight, and there has only been 1 raining period (3 days of intermittent very small rain) in the past 3 weeks. All other times it was sunny and cloudless. This is the coldest time of year, and it’s about 15C outside. I can still walk down the street in a t-shirt on sunny days. I wonder what summer will be like, but luckily my place has AC, so I’m not TOO worried.

The trip here and settling in was a little hectic, and the fact that it was my first time living by myself far away from home, in a new place, have 8 hours jet lag (I flew in from Taiwan a day ago) and that I have to work the next day, didn’t really help.

The first day was just running a bunch of errands, on foot, because I didn’t realize how bad public transit in Santa Clara is. For the record, it is really bad. I’m not sure if it was because people here are too rich to take the bus or what, but the public transit system is nowhere near as convenient as in Vancouver. Bus stops are few and far between, and they come once or twice an hour for the most part. I ended up logging about 12km on foot on that day. Wasn’t really that bad, since I am used to long distance walking/running, but still, a better mode of transportation would be desirable. I did get a good look of the city, though. Residential area is definitely rich. All the houses look really nice, like what you would see in movies, in upscale American communities. The people are generally nice, but I did encounter a few shady people, though I guess that’s the same in Vancouver.

Then work started at NVIDIA. It has been relatively uneventful. We are doing some post-silicon work on Kepler GPUs (which will be absolutely AWESOME!!). Got to play with a few really cool toys, like a 12.5GHz oscilloscope that costs more than my house, with a 10GHz active differential probe that costs more than my car. I also witnessed a lab technician soldering a 1700 balls BGA chip in about exactly 37 minutes (and then de-solder it… for unspecified reason). I wish my job could be more creative, but money is good, and I guess they generally don’t let interns do GPU architecture.

Typical work day is from 10am to 7pm, because NVIDIA offers subsidized dinner starting at 7, so everyone stays till 7. Totally conspiracy.

Luckily my place is within walking distance to work, so I don’t need to worry about transportation on weekdays. Weekends, though, is a little more problematic. Especially since I have to go to the airport across the city every week to do flight training. What we decided on is to rent a car on weekends to get around. It’s about $60-70, depending on season, per weekend, which is not too bad, since I’m splitting the cost with 2 other people. In comparison, renting a compact car for a month, plus insurance, is about $600. Technically, all car rental companies charge a young renter fee of about $15/day for people between 20-25. In reality, at least for Hertz, that’s regularly waived by a promotion that’s always on.

A few things I realized –

  1. Sliced bread is the best invention after Google Maps + GPS. I got 3G phone plan before food on my first day.
  2. Yelp is really useful when you are in a new city, and need to find some place to eat.

After the first week, things became less chaotic, and I started my flight training!

There are so many places to go to around here – San Francisco is about 45 minutes away, through Palo Alto, Mountain View, Sunnyvale, basically across the silicon valley. Then there’s Los Angeles and Las Vegas that are about 5 hours away (or 2 hours and a plane, if you have a pilot license). So far we have only been to San Jose and Palo Alto, and only to Walmart and IKEA, respectively. Sacramento, capital city of California, is also only 2 hours away. A lot of exploring to do in the next 7 months!

Overall, the city feels very positive. I’m sure the weather plays a big part, but also the people. It’s in the middle of the Silicon Valley, so the people here are pretty much all rich, happy, and well educated engineers. It’s a place that makes you feel like engineering is the best profession in the world. If you are an engineer with good skills, you can get a good life here. There are opportunities everywhere, and the only thing stopping you is what you are capable of. Of course, that also means, if you don’t have good skills, you won’t find a job because good engineers are everywhere.

For future reference, when people here (in Santa Clara/San Jose) say “the city”, they are referring to San Francisco. For a lot of people, Silicon Valley is where they work on weekdays, and SF is where they go to have fun on weekends (if you are into unhealthy drinking, crazy clubbing, etc…). Very interesting place!