Zumba Dance

What happens when you join a dance class and you are the only male in the class? Haha. That’s what happened to me when I joined the Zumba Dance today. Zumba Dance “combines Latin and international music with dance in an effort to make exercise fun” [wikipedia]. It’s something like La Bamba dance in VJC’s mass dance list, including the fast pace, the shakes and what not. Of course it feels weird to dance with a huge group of girls, but the dance is really fun and is a good workout. I hope the class doesn’t mind a male dancing with them. lol. The instructor said usually there’s 2 or 3 guys but I’m the only one now.

Time flies. 60 more days left in California!

The program combines Latin and international music with dance in an effort to make exercise fun

Close Encounters with Singaporeans

Over the last few months, we had a few close encounters with other Singaporeans in America. One interesting encounter was at Hollywood over the spring break trip. While we were on the way back from Universal Studios, kep and law saw someone walking near us who look like a typical Singaporean, wearing jeans and slippers…and then they were thinking if he was one. On the other hand, the Singaporean overheard our conversations and thought our accent was strangely familiar. Inside the metro station, he turned around and asked kep if we were Singaporeans. We started a small conversation and realised that he’s about the same age as us, here on a business trip. A small conversation led to us inviting him to join us for dinner, since he was alone. We had an interesting chat with him, talking about stage hypnosis and other stuff, and he said that we made him feel home away from home.

The other day, before sending steph to the airport, we decided to try some Malaysian/Singaporean food in the bay area. Layang Layang was closed, so we went to the Merlion instead. Yes, there’s a miniature Merlion outside and inside the restaurant. Pretty cool.  The waitress is a nice Singaporean lady who’s the sister of the owner and she’s been here for more than 30 years. We ordered Char Kway Teow (which is USD 12.95 for a big portion, tasted more like Dry Hor Fun), Beef Rendang (the serving was a bit small), some Singaporean Fried Noodle (which turned out to be some fusion hokkien mee), some vegatables and chicken rice (just the rice only, which is not as fragrant as we expected.) She explained to us that the food is a fusion mix to cater to the tastes of the locals. Sadly. But in any case, she was pretty nice and it is a nice though expensive place to eat.

And recently, I got to know someone from intervarsity whose parents are Singaporeans. How rare is that? Haha. Of course, he is born here and is fully American. He only went to Singapore once when he was eight.

Better a nearby friend than a distant family – Proverbs 27:10

My First Drawing Assignment

This is my first drawing assignment for my art class, which is to draw an object repeatedly using different media and techniques. It was my first time playing with char-kole sticks and charcoal pencils, as well as graphite sticks and pencils. I haven’t drawn like this in a long time, and I always wanted to learn drawing formally in order to draw better for storyboards, graphic designs, mock-ups and what not. So this is a good time to learn and experiment, although the materials were expensive. I still remember I used to draw a lot of different trains by tracing them out on paper when I was young, and I still have a great fascination with trains. I think I still need some patience and (divine) inspiration in order to draw more proportionately. I did some drafts on smaller paper, and this was the outcome of my second attempt:

What do you think it is? It is my pencil box =)

Winter Summary and Spring Preview

Winter was a wonderful quarter. Time flies and 10 weeks went by. Went out on road trips on almost every weekend except those which has mid terms. Each trip is accompanied by wonderful company, a mixture of students from NUS, Hong Kong and Korea. These are the trips which I went to so far:

1. Monterey Bay / 17 Mile Drive
2. San Jose (Stanford, NASA, Winchester Mystery House)
3. Lake Tahoe (Snowboarding!)
4. Mystery Spot / Gilroy / Milpitas
5. San Francisco: Castro / Japantown / Chinatown
6. Salinas, Half Moon Bay, San Francisco: Alcatraz

As for the modules (or classes as they are more commonly known here) which I took last quarter, they went well! Thanks to unmerited favour, I scored pretty well for all of them. The interesting thing about exams in UCSC is that they seem like just another quiz, with not much fuss involved and most of the venues are in LTs. Heck, I even saw someone listening to his iPod while doing the exam! This is in contrast to NUS, where all the final exams make it seem like you are taking ‘A’ Levels all over again, with all the formality in seating arrangements and rules and regulations. And also, for some of the exams, they only test the topics taught in the last few weeks, instead of the whole module, which is helpful. Less things to memorise! On the whole, the workload in UCSC is much less in NUS. Even though there are more lectures per week (2-3 times), most of the subjects do not have tutorials. And I manage to scrap through without buying any textbooks and going to the library more often instead!

For my Biology class, The Human Genome, which is going to be mapped over as Genes and Society, the lecture was pretty boring and dry. It was hard to keep awake most of the time. There were a lot of things to memorise, but fortunately, the quizes were not too tough, and since most of them were multiple choice or fill in the blanks anyway. There was also a research paper component, and I thought I would struggle in it, but blessedly, it was only a few pages long and I wrote about homosexuality and genes. There were a total of 3 quizes (including the final), 4 homeworks and the research paper. In UCSC, the lecturers are required to write an evaluation for each and every student, apparently, I was in the top 5% in a class of 275 students.

For the computing class, Introduction to Computer Networks, the lecture was pretty dry as well. I had to rely on reading the textbook to catch up. Fortunately, the quizes and homework assignments were do-able and often repeating past year’s questions. There was also a lab component, in which there were 4 lab reports relating to pinging, LAN configurations, and playing with IP addresses, MAC addresses, bridges, routers and ethereal on Linux. It was time consuming, but definitely easier than programming an FTP client as that’s what my friends did in NUS.

My last class was Software Methodology, which I am very blessed to be able to take it here than in NUS (all computing students in NUS would know why!). It was a small class of 38 students. The lecturer was quite engaging, and her teaching style makes you pay attention in class. There were also alot of opportunities to ask questions and argue with her. This is one of the things unlike in NUS, where usually in lectures, nobody asks any questions. Out of the the stuff we learnt…UML, unified process, waterfall, teamwork etc. we were also supposed to do a project which was 50% of the grade. I joined a group programming an iPhone game and contributed to the design and graphics. However, I sorta regretted not picking up Objective-C and hence did not contribute to the coding of the game. Here’s what my lecturer wrote for my evaluation:

Weijian did ‘A’ level work on the in-class exams. Weijian submitted all of the five required journal readings comments on time.

Weijian’s 6-member group designed a single-player, turn-based dungeon crawler game for the iPhone. Most of the deliverables (including requirements specifications, design and technical presentations) were good to excellently done. The final product was delivered on time and satisfied the initial product requirements. I have suggested to this group to submit their project for a Dean’s Award.

Overall, Weijian did A level work for the course. His performance was the best in this class of 38 students.

It is really undeserved, umerited favour!

I’m like so-not-a-computing student this Spring, taking classes like Introduction to Drawing for non-majors, Introduction to Theater Design and Technology, Seeing the Invisible: A Critical Look at Film Editing, as well as Introduction to Probability, which is the only subject with a final exam. Everything (except Probability) has been pretty fun so far. We watched a mockumentary called “This is Spinal Tap” for theater class, and also a documentary “The Cutting Edge: The Magic of Movie Editing” for the film class. I wanted to enter a film production class initially, but they didn’t accept me as priority was given to film majors and there were limited spaces =(. I also crashed two other classes in the first week of school: Walt Disney and Early Christianity. Walt Disney is a really cool class, study about the history of Walt Disney, how it affects America, its animated classics and its theme parks. The assignments include creating your own animation and theme park attraction. How fun is that! Early Christianity is pretty interesting too, and the lecturer has many assertions, such as Jesus was certainly not born in Bethlehem?

Spring quarter is going to be awesome as I am a beloved child of God!


Easter Weekend

It was a wonderful weekend as I visited 5 different places of worship.

First off was Good Friday noon service at Calvary Episcopal Church, exactly at the time which Jesus was crucified. Coincidentally, “Calvary” is the name of the hill of the crucifixation (Golgotha), and “Santa Cruz” means “Saint of the Holy Cross” in Spanish. It was an interesting traditional Anglican service with Holy Communion at the end.

On Friday evening, I went to the KCCC (Korean Campus Crusade for Christ) Gethsemane prayer service. We car-pooled and drove to the Salvation Army at Newark. There were many Koreans and Asian Americans present, pretty cool. It started at like 9.30pm lasted until midnight (yes pretty late!). The worship was awesome! I love the songs they sing…mostly Hillsong and a few Chris Tomlin. There was a short sermon about why God turned his back on Jesus, and then there was some prayer time for the campus and for the nation. They have a shout at the end of the service that goes “Win the campus today, win the world tomorrow!”

Saturday afternoon, I went to Twin Lakes Church at Cabrillo. It is one of the few megachurches in Santa Cruz, and it’s probably occupying a few of the older buildings at Cabrillo College. The church campus is pretty big, with a few separate buildings for Sunday School and offices. There were many people for a Saturday afternoon, and there was cupcakes! It was a short 1-hour service, not like the long 2+ hours services that we have, but it was good. The auditorium was pretty big, probably can sit 1000+, They even gave a year’s supply of eggs to someone each service. (Although easter is not about eggs, many churches still have egg hunts and what not.) The sermon was about What happens when you meet the Risen Christ, and there were a few song items which were pretty good.

Saturday night, I went to a potluck house party with Bridgett. The house was pretty nice. And then there were more cupcakes! It was pretty cool to get to know new people and having fun with them.

Sunday morning, I went to a traditional choir service at First Congregational Church (part of the United Church of Christ). The choir sings pretty well, there were a couple of hymns. One unique thing about the almost 2-hour service was that there were a couple of people who came up to share their testimonies. Another interesting thing was registered members get a nametag so that they can identify one another. Newcomers were also asked to introduce themselves to a small crowd. The sermon was from a poem, on “what urgency calls to your One Love”.  There was Holy Communion too, and the bread was a real huge piece broken into small pieces.

After that, I went to Vintage Faith Church, my second time there. It was packed, overflowing with many people! The 1.5-hour service themed “Awaken” was about the empty tomb. The sermon was about the road to Emmaus. One of the interesting parts of the service was to write a letter addressed to yourself, to talk about your commitment to Christ. The letter will be sent by the church to you in 6 months’ time. There was a lso a very cute song item by the kids. Pretty cool. I ate lunch with some of the IV/UCSC people at Shunfeng after that.

I’m so looking forward to the rest of April…Starfield, Chris Tomlin, Joel Osteen, Rick Warren, and then Leeland and David Crowder in May. It will be an awesome spring!

Spring Break Trip

Spring break was just over and it was awesome. Here’s a summary of what happened

Day 1: Hollywood Strip, Santa Monica

We took an overnight greyhound bus to Hollywood, took the metro train a stop to Super 8 motel, had nice Thai noodle lunch, and we walked to the Hollywood/Sunset Strip. Coincidentally, there was an anti-war protest going on, pretty interesting. They were like making signs and giving them out. There were also people giving out evangelistic dollar bill-like notes with messages behind them. There were like fake ‘coffins’ and someone wearing an Obama-like mask. They started marching onward, a much bigger protest than the one we saw at UCSC.

The weather started to get warm, and we decided to head back to our motel, changed to shorts, and head to Venice Beach. But Google gave me wrong directions and we ended up at Santa Monica beach. It was a long bus ride, almost 2 hours, like taking a bus from Woodlands to ECP! The Metro Rapid Bus looks pretty cool, it looks like a very trendy-looking LRT-like bendy bus on the outside. Unfortunately, the ride isn’t that comfortable/smooth, probably due to the roads being bumpy. We reached there and there were people evacuating from the amusement park cos of a bomb threat lol. We went down to the beach anyway and watched the sunset. It was amazing, cos it was a completely clear day without clouds, and the sun literally set behind the horizon. Quite a rare sight in Singapore since it it is always too cloudy. After the sun set, a fog came over the area. We had dinner at downtown Santa Monica before heading back.

Day 2: Universal Studios

It’s the REAL Universal Studios day! We took the metro to Universal City and there was a shuttle bus up. Didn’t know it’s so near. It started to get crowded as the park opened at 10am. After taking photos with the globe, we started off with the House of Terror and Terminator 2. Then we went to watch Shrek 3/4D and Waterworld (which Singapore has). The Simpsons ride was pretty cool, as it is like a simulator but with a giant Omni-Theatre-like dome screen. The Studio tour is quite cool too, we went through the Desperate Housewives’ Wisteria Lane, some backlot sets, Norman Bates’ Motel, a few cool cars, floods, earthquake in an SF metro, an overturned plane and more. After all those boring rides, we finally went to the lower lot to try the Jurassic Park boat ride, which we will get wet. But it wasn’t that bad after all! Was quite fun, the sliding down was pretty short. Then we took The Mummies roller coaster ride, this was the best and we actually did it twice! It was an indoor roller coaster, and it has many twists and even went backwards! We also went to watch the soundstage demos of green screen, sounds and fire, quite similar to what I saw  in MovieWorld some time ago. On the way back, we met a Singaporean! so cool and so rare. Julian’s about the age as us, and he’s here on some business trip (hypnosis?). We invited him to have dinner with us together at a Thai-Chinese restaurant at Little Thai Town on east Hollywood. It was good food and good company.

Day 3: Disneyland

We woke up super early the next day to chiong Disneyland. Took us like >2 hours to reach there at about 9.45am. We started off with a jungle cruise and Indiana Jones indoor roller coaster. We took another Pirates of the Carribean cruise, before taking a super wet boat ride! haha. We then took the mine railroad roller coaster, and the bob sleigh ride thing. After that, we walked around the kids area and took some photos, before chionging to the other side of the park, tomorrowland. We watched a Michael Jackson 3D show, and then rushed back to the main street for the Celebrate Street Party parade, which was awesome! It was very dynamic and very cool with all the dances and mascots. After that, we took the Haunted Mansion ride, before chionging over to the other California Adventure park. It was about 4.30pm. California Adventure park is much more fun, since the rides are suited for our age group, and less crowded. We took some fast pass tickets, and took another wet rapids ride! This time, we got super wet as the rapids were strong! lol. We then went over to the highlight of the day: the screamers roller coaster. It was the BEST and most AWESOME ride ever! It stops you at the starting point, counts down “Screamers, are you ready? 5, 4, 3…” and then it zooms up the ramp, down a few drops, up again, and upside down in a loop, then a few more dips and turns and twists! it was so cool that we decided to take it another time immediately! Then, we took the tall free-fall drop ride, but this one it was the acceleration upwards that was scarier. After another simpler roller coaster, we walked through a Bug’s land to the Hollywood Tower of Terror. It looks really suspicious looking from the outside: a tall, eerie looking building with the words “Hollywood Hotel” on it. I thought it was really a hotel. After realising it is actually a ride, I was wondering if the building was used for other purposes, like offices or something, as it was reallyy huge and tall! After queuing for a long time and going through the many staircases and doors, we reached the ‘service elevators’. Initially, I thought it was a simple ‘elevator’ ride, showing you every level and some ghosts and effects. I took out my camera, and then WHOOSH! It zoomed ALL THE WAY up to the top of the tower in a split second. The doors open, we could see the scenery and lights outside. then ZOOM! it went all the way down. This repeats for a few times, and I was grasping for my breath and holding on to my camera super tightly. Lol. totally didn’t expect it to happen. It was awesome! After that, it was time to rush back to Disneyland for the fireworks, after which there was some shopping and we took the long bus ride home.

Day 4: Warner Brothers VIP Studio Tour, Getty Museum, Chinatown

What’s up, doc? Yay, Warner Brothers, my favourite. We took the metro and a bus to Burbank and went for a exclusive small group tour. It brought us through the soundstages, the backlots, which include the places where Spiderman and other films were created, as well as a WB/Harry Potter Museum, a FRIENDS studio set, an automobile soundstage which includes the batcar and the Mystery Machine. The best part was when we were allowed into an actual soundstage set used for the upcoming Miami Medical drama series. It’s really cool to step into a hospital set, complete with all the studio lightings overhead and around, in a sound-proof soundstage. There’s even a fake elevator! and a fake wallpaper outside the balcony. After the tour, we ate at the historic Bob’s Burgers, before taking another long bus ride to Getty Museum. There was a La Vinci exhibition, and the view from there is pretty nice, overlooking the whole of LA. And the best part was the museum admission is free. After that, we took another long bus ride to Chinatown, which seemed super quiet at night, sadly. Fortunately, we found a restaurant which had pretty good Chinese food, roast pork and other stuff.

Day 5: Hollywood Sign, Drive to Las Vegas

We collected the car at Hertz, sadly the online coupon didn’t work, hence it was slightly more expensive than Enterprise. Our first stop was the Hollywood sign, driving up to as near it as possible. Since we are not going Death Valley anymore, we drove straight to Vegas in order to catch the night scene. After an Argentine lunch in LA, Kep managed to drive the 5 hours, but he was zonked out at the end. haha. We reached Vegas slightly after 7pm. After checking in at Sahara, we drove down to Treasure Island and walked around T.I., ate dinner at the Venetian, and walked down the Strip towards Bally’s and back. However, due to unsure planning, we did not manage to catch any of the free shows. But the sights and sounds were amazing, more beautiful than NY Times Square or SF or anywhere else. I like how each hotel has its own theme and architecture, from Roman to Venice to modern times. There were pimps giving out cards of girls, many people walking around, and some street performers/buskers.

Day 6: Hoover Dam, Grand Canyon

We woke up early to compensate for the long 5-hour drive to Grand Canyon. We stopped at Hoover Dam, at the borders of Arizona and Nevada, where Transformers was filmed. After that, I managed to drive the full route, it was a very scenic and enjoyable drive. Truly an American road trip, with all the mountains, dessert, rocks, and snow! They all look so fake, like we are driving into a ‘wallpaper’. Saw some elks along the way. We were very surprised to see snow at Williams, at elevation of about 4000 ft. It was pretty cold and we were not prepared! We ate a super heavy lunch at Denny’s, before continuing the remaining journey to the Grand Canyon, reaching there at about 3pm. Sadly, it was a cloudly day, so the colours of the canyons were not as saturated, and there was no sunset. And there was not enough time to do much hikes, and we did not wear thick enough jackets too. We walked around the rim trail, taking photos here and there, and then hide from the cold in the Observatory Point/Gift shop. Should have planned to stay a night there! Next time, maybe. After it got dark, we headed back for another 5-hours drive home. We wanted to stop at Kingman for dinner, but the popeyes was closed =( In the end, we skipped dinner and drove all the way back. Some of them were contemplating to watch a strip show, but they didn’t watch any in the end. too tired!

Day 7: Las Vegas

It’s a whole day dedicated to “Paradise, NV”. We ate THE Buffet at Bellajio’s, which was a sumptuous meal of sushi, chinese food, american food and lots of desserts! We drove down to the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign, then to the Luxor Pyramids, MGM, where we walked to New York New York, M&M’s, Coke, Hard Rock cafe and more. After that, we went to watch the Circus Circus free show, and then went to Treasure Island again. But too bad the show was cancelled due to weather conditions. We watched the volcano eruption at the Mirage, had dinner at Venetian again, before trying out a few casino games. Haha. Jackpot is pretty dumb, sucks all your money. But one of us managed to win $10 though. Playing blackjack with the computer/plasma screen is quite simple and time-wasting, it lets you win money after a while, and then makes you lose all of it later, then makes you win a bit again, it’s a vicious cycle. After sending the girls to the airport, which is like super near, we went back to Sahara to chill chill.

Day 8: Kelso Dunes, San Diego

After sending Steph to the airport in the morning, we had brunch at Popeyes (finally, but the chicken shrunk), and we started our drive to San Diego via the Mojave National Preserve. It was a scenic detour on a laid back, slow-down-and-enjoy-the-scenery-and-chill-chill day. It was pretty fun to drive in the middle of nowhere and enjoy the ‘wallpaper’ sceneries. We arrived at Kelso Depot and got to know the history of the area as a WW2 rail boomtown. After that, we drove on a off-road dirt track to the Kelso Dunes, which are really sand mountains. It was a short hike to a super sandy area, reminds me of the Dunes which I slided in Brisbane last time. It was hot in the dessert, yet it was cold and windy. Weird uh? After playing with the sand, we continued our drive, via Walmart at Barstow and down all the way to San Diego. On the way, we saw a few super long trains, as long as 40 carriages or more! Amazing how they pull so much weight over mountains and deserts. When we reached San Diego, it was already about 7pm. We drove over the San Diego Bay on the bridge to Coronado Island and saw the sun set. We tried to search for a nice area at the beach, but ended up in the navy area. lol. We found some parking in the condo, and walked on a small stretch of the beach. It seems so exclusive, and the condos there look very beautiful. Imagine, waking up to a view of the Pacific Ocean (not just some Straits with ships) every morning! Must be expensive. After that, we drove to our motel at Old Town San Diego, where California was born. It’s a pretty cool and rustic place, with many Mexican restaurants and gift shops. We ate at one of them, and we got owned by the amount of food, the tortilla chips, and the burrito flour wraps etc. At one of the gift shops, there were weird Jesus action figures. lol.

Day 9: Back to Santa Cruz

All good things come to an end. We drove back to L.A., returned our car. After waiting very long for the metro bus, we realised that we were pretty late. We ran to Subway, grabbed lunch, and ran through union station to the other side where Denny’s is to catch our china CABus. Phew, it was 12 noon, but the bus was not there yet and there was a lot of poeple waiting. The bus came like 20 minutes later, it seems so much cleaner, newer and better than Greyhound. The people were nicer too. And strangely, they didn’t check our tickets or ID, and only did so when we alighted. It was a straight 6 hours plus journey to San Jose, with a stopover at Burger King halfway. At San Jose, we missed our 17 bus and took the next one. We ate dinner, which is the guys’ last dinner at SC, at Ocean Buffet. It was fantastic value, $12 with all the sushi, salmon and Chinese food. Very fulfilling at the end of the day!