Solar-powered decorative night lights

A very long time ago, my dad bought some lights that were on sale at our local hardware store. There was a 100% rebate offer on the lights, so he figured that there wasn’t really a reason not to get them, as they would effectively cost the price of a stamp and a little bit of time.

When he brought them home, he realized that they didn’t work, and he figured that they were on sale for 100% off through rebate because they were broken. He obviously didn’t really mind, seeing as they were essentially free, so he kept them around to use as day decorations.

Then, one day, he randomly decided to open them up and found out that there was a protective sticker over the solar panel. He removed the sticker, set them out again, and magically, they lit up the same night.

We’ve had these lights for a few years now. Last night, I was out late and decided to snap some photos of them.

Solar-powered decorative night lights

Solar-powered decorative night lights

They look pretty nice at night, seeing as they actually light up now.



parade champeon nomber 1st plaec

A few weeks ago, I posted about my martial arts academy building a float for the upcoming Independence Day parades.

I figured that progress updates might get a little boring if I just posted them without a twist, so I decided to turn my photo today into a doge meme.

While we were out there, we also saw two birds fighting in a death match. They were literally flapping around like crazy, clawing at each other.

I tried to get close to take a photo of them, but as I got near, they gradually took their fight away from me. So, unfortunately, I had to use the zoom on my phone’s camera (which isn’t that great) to get a pho­to.



My martial arts academy is making a dragon parade float

The United States’ Independence Day is coming up in a little over a month, and parades are starting late next month.

The martial arts academy where I occasionally train and teach is building a float for this year’s parades. I re­member hearing that they placed second or third in the parade competition last year, and it seems like they’re taking it up a notch and trying to win first place this year.

The owner and CEO of the academy is building the float himself, with the help of other staff and students. He came to visit me next door yesterday afternoon (we have neighboring businesses) so I could check out his progress.

He already has a bunch of pieces cut out, and he still has a bunch of panels of wood left for the rest of the design.

He was hard at work the entire day; when I went to visit him again late at night, after I had closed my family’s business, he had a lot more pieces cut out, and had already started putting some parts together.

I personally don’t really have much of a passion for sculpting, so I don’t really go out of my way to experience it. As a result, this is particularly novel and interesting to me to see the process behind some­thing like this being built.

I’ll try and keep up with their progress on designing the parade float, and post progress photos here for those of you who might also be interested.




K.H. Kim’s 15th Biannual Taekwondo Tournament

Back on November 2nd of last year, I went to K.H. Kim’s 14th Biannual Taekwondo Tournament (and posted about it on Google+ and my website). I went again this year for the 15th tournament, again as a coach.

I had Emma, one of my students, be my assistant for this tournament. Unfortunately, she’s a little too young to actually be a real coach’s assistant, so I instead gave her my camera for the event and asked her to take photos.

The quality of the photos were pretty much what you would expect from a nine-year-old girl (a lot of blurry and a lot of selfies), but she still managed to get a bunch of good shots.

Unfortunately, I have chosen not to post those publicly on my website in order to protect the privacy of the underaged competitors (and if I were to have chosen to post them, there are a lot of liabilities that go along with it that I don’t want to deal with).

However, I do have one shot that I can post, and that’s the full group photo of everyone competing, as well as the staff:

I’m not in the photo because I went as more of a private coach rather than a staff member, even though I was associated with the school the assistant director owns. I was instead on the other side of the shot, escorting my assistant so she wouldn’t get trampled by all the people.

Yes, that is indeed fake grass – apparently the main competition area had a capacity of 420 people, so they used this field as the waiting area so there wouldn’t be a fire hazard due to exceeding capacity. It was also the place where the opening ceremony happened.

This is one of those tournaments where everyone is a winner – they split the competitors up into very small groups, and they award small trophies to every participant. So, the placement isn’t really that significant (at least, not very significant relative to other more legitimate tournaments), but I’m still pretty impressed at the performances from some of my academy’s students.

My primary role there was to make sure the students were feeling comfortable. From what I’ve perceived, the most common reason students underperform is because of nervousness due to sudden exposure to a novel environment.

By being there, chatting with them, and helping them practice their routines in the new location before they’re out to get judged, it accustoms them to the new setting and helps them relax a bit. That will reduce the chances of the students losing confidence, forgetting sequences, and/or disregarding the technicalities that may reduce their presentation score.

And finally, one thing that was particularly memorable to me was a girl with a limb-control-related disability who participated in board breaking. I’m not entirely sure what handicap she had, and I’m not medically educated enough to even take a guess, but simply put, she could barely walk straight.

Each round is judged relatively, meaning, students of similar age and skill level compete against each other. Obviously, this girl with the handicap had to be placed in her own division, as there was nobody else there who would be on fair judging grounds as her.

She did end up missing a few attempts, but ultimately, she broke all three boards in her sequence, received a standing ovation, and got the one and only perfect score of 10.0 in the entire tournament.

Some people might wonder why she deserves to be given a 10.0, but when you look at taekwondo from a traditional viewpoint as to what it’s intended to be – a martial art revolving around discipline, designed to build your character and better every aspect of your life – it’s pretty understandable why this girl deserved the score she got.

It takes a lot of courage and confidence to go to a tournament and perform your art in front of hundreds of people. The fact that this girl already achieved a level of mental maturity high enough to accept her handicap and not allow it to hold her back shows that she overcame a huge hurdle in her life already – a hurdle of such a magnitude most people her age haven’t even encountered yet.



My phone finally randomly updated itself to Android 5

If you’re familiar with Android, you might already know that version 5, also known as Lollipop, was re­leased back in late 2014.

I have a Samsung Galaxy S4, and every time I went to check for updates, it said that I already had the latest version, even though I had Android 4.4.4.

Today, it finally updated itself to Android 5, and it’s a pretty huge change.

Overall, I think I like it because it seems a bit cleaner and more organized.

I’m personally big on distinct contrast because I think it makes things more crisp and easy to see. I think each individual item should be easy to separate from another, and contrast helps out in that regard quite a bit.

Ironically, it seems like Android 5 has reduced variance of contrast, but for some reason I’m not having too much difficulty telling apart different on-screen elements.

The first thing I noticed that I really like is the changed look of the QWERTY keyboard. Version 5 has much smaller keys than version 4.4.4, which makes it a lot easier to type. Not only is there less possibility of unintended key presses due to being off-center and accidentally touching borders between keys, but it also forces more accurate key pressing of there being less buffer space on the edges of the key.

Unfortunately, not everything is amazing, and the biggest issue I have is a buggy gallery. Every time I open my gallery, all my images appear gray, and I need to wait several seconds before they start loading up.

On the topic of pictures, the Picasa integration also seems to be gone. Now, the only way I can integrate with Picasa and manually backup my photos online is to either use the Photos in Google+ (which doesn’t let you pick the album to which you’re uploading), or to get a separate third-party app (which I did).

Another buggy thing I noticed was the display of widgets. Not only were the widgets moved to a different location (now they appear when pressing and holding your finger on a blank space on your home screen, and I’m not sure which location I like better, the new one or the old one in the apps menu), but they don’t always pop up.

Immediately upon updating, my parents’ weather and alarm widgets disappeared, and I had to manually add them back onto their corresponding pages. Mine was fine at first, but my weather app randomly disappeared after a period of time.

I tried Googling why this was happening, but all I found were basic solutions (like just dragging the widget back where it used to be), rather than possible explanations as to why it was happening.

In order to try and catch potential problems with the new operating system before I fell victim to them, I looked up common problems and bugs with the new operating system, but all of them seemed to be problems that couldn’t really be avoided with any preventative measures, and they were problems that I didn’t encounter even though I tried to intentionally reproduce the problem.

Overall, I’m content with the new update, because the useful things are actually quite noticeably con­ven­ient, and the problematic things are either bearable or have workarounds.



A visit to the Golden Corral in Algonquin, IL, USA

Earlier today, my parents, relatives from California, and I went to the Golden Corral buffet in Algonquin, Illinois.

Golden Corral in Algonquin, IL

Apparently some other relatives from New Jersey had gone here while they were visiting Illinois, and rec­om­mended the restaurant to us.

We sat over in this corner, away from most of the other people. It wasn’t actually as dark as it seems in the photo; my phone’s camera just happened to have a bit of trouble adjusting to the bright outdoors, and compensated the lighting in the wrong direction.

Golden Corral Buffet in Algonquin, IL

The first thing to mention is that they have a senior discount and an “after 1 PM” discount. We didn’t actually realize this time-based discount until we were leaving the restaurant, and I was a little upset because we had arrived at about 12:56 PM.

But, when we checked the receipt, we noticed that the cashier had given us the post-1:00 price without us having to request it, even though the payment was made before the eligible discount time. It’s always nice to see businesses be flexible and value the happiness of their customers, rather than stick hard to the rules in order to make more money.

As for the buffet itself, it wasn’t really my preferred style of restaurant, but from a neutral perspective, it’s a pretty decent restaurant. It has a lot of different American food, so if you’re a fan of American, this might be the place for you.

I personally prefer to get American food from fast food restaurants where you just get a large serving of one item, rather than tiny bits of a variety of foods. This is important to keep in mind when I say I wasn’t that thrilled at this restaurant – it’s more of a conflicting preference thing, rather than the restaurant doing anything wrong.

While I was getting food, I didn’t notice any strange odors, but when I went back to my table to sit down, there was a strange smell in our corner. It’s difficult to describe, but the best I can do is the smell of undried clothing mixed with the sweat of someone who eats a lot of fatty foods. So, if you plan on going to this particular restaurant at this particular location, you might want to avoid that corner.

My favorite part of the trip was the dessert. They have a massive variety of desserts, including cakes, chocolate fountains for strawberries, cotton candy, and an ice cream dispenser. This was actually the first time I had ever had cotton candy on a stick since I was a tiny child.

We had an older male as our server, and he seemed a little bit too nice. He made sure that we had every­thing we needed, and came (almost excessively) often to refill drinks. One peculiar thing I tend to do at buffets is to reuse my old plate for my second serving in order to help them cut down on dishwashing costs. At the Golden Corral, I didn’t even have a chance to do that because my old plates were taken away so quickly.

Overall, from my own personal perspective (which means taking my own preferences into consideration), I would rate this restaurant 5/10. From a non-biased perspective, I would rate this restaurant 7/10. I would say it’s a solid restaurant, but there was nothing that made me say “wow,” which is generally needed for me to give anything a 9-10/10 rating.