Road Trip to Stratton, Vermont

August 16, 2018 § Leave a comment

It’s been over a month since my girlfriends and I rented a car and drove to Vermont — I’ve visited the northern part of the state before, but it was the first time for the three of them!

I planned pretty much the whole thing because one of the biggest benefits of my company is that employees get a yearly stipend to book one of our travel deals to experience personally, so I covered the hotel costs and booked all our activities.

I also had a fun time vlogging the trip because my friends are much more fun on camera than when I’m alone, haha.

Stratton is a resort town with a little village, a number of ski lifts and a ton of hotel capacity. The mountains are gorgeous in summer, but I guess most tourists don’t bother visiting when there’s no snow — when we arrived on Thursday afternoon, the place was a ghost town. We had the place to ourselves! It was creepy but fun in a faux-post-apocalyptic way.

Fortunately, Stratton’s restaurants were still open, though I can’t say the same for the restaurants we tried to visit in nearby towns. Two of the ones we attempted to eat at were closed for summer renovations. D’oh…

The highlight for me was probably Saturday morning, when we bought a bunch of produce at the West River farmers market and also visited Taylor Farm and got to feed chickens, cows and horses (but not goats, sadly). Doing yoga on the mountain summit on our last morning was pretty cool too, so I’m glad Sarah requested it.

Also, we watched so. much. Harry Potter.

My only regret is that we didn’t get to hike on the mountain because of rain. Next time!


From Blogging to Vlogging

June 21, 2018 § Leave a comment

Oh my! It’s been half a year since I’ve updated here — partially because I haven’t done that much traveling in the past six months, but also because two of the trips I did take were captured in video format. Even writing my thoughts in these few sentences feels foreign already.

During Memorial Day weekend, I spent a week in China with my relatives that I haven’t seen since 2010:

Editing a video is definitely more work than editing photos and writing a blog post, but I feel like it’s much better at encapsulating what a place and time really felt like in the moment. A photo has to be near-perfect to warrant a spot in a blog post, but even a random video clip can be perfectly imperfect within a longer video.

Plus, people have been trained to either pose or seize up when being photographed — it’s easier to catch them being candid on video.

The downside is that vlogging entails me having to talk to the camera, and I hate listening to myself talk. I don’t think I’ll ever get better at it!

I don’t feel like paying for Adobe Premiere, so I just used iMovie, which makes editing fairly simple except for its garbage caption/title options. It takes me twice as long to make those separately in Photoshop and then import to iMovie, but it must be done so long as I fail at narrating most of my clips, hehe.

Hurricane Hygiene

November 3, 2012 § 2 Comments


Damn, you knew you should’ve taken a shower this afternoon before the power went out. You were too busy reading hurricane updates to actually prepare for the hurricane. Before going to bed (much earlier today than usual), you wash your feet by flashlight because you still have some dignity. Being in the bathroom in the dark is scary. Bloody Mary bloody Mary…


You don’t bother to apply makeup because you know for sure you’re not going outside today. Also, hair is up in a bun because you were supposed to wash it yesterday and now it’s been three days and it’s getting kind of icky. If you’re lucky enough to still have running water, you can at leaset wash your hands and face. Otherwise, there’s always hand sanitizer! There’s no point in washing any other part of your body because you’ve been completely sedentary the whole day.


What? That’s not dandruff…it’s…kindling…for the fire you’re building in the middle of the living room to keep warm! Rub some coconut oil on your head; it’ll help.

Today you put on some makeup because you’re heading to a friend’s place uptown. If you’re one of those people who won’t go out in public without a little eyeliner or mascara, you’d better hope you’re applying something semi-permanent because you, in your rushed naiveté, assume that you’ll be back home by nightfall and thus neglect to pack anything. Even a toothbrush.

Now would be a really nice time to own some comfy sweatpants, but you only have jeans because this is New York, where your closet (if you have one) doesn’t have enough room to store extraneous clothing items. Sigh.

After hiking five miles to your friend’s apartment (still faster than a bus!) without breaking a sweat (because it’s cold outside), you are rewarded with a shower. Now you really wish you had brought a change of clothes or toiletries, but you bum a toothbrush, towel and some gym shorts off your friend. You don’t bother washing your hair (still wound tightly in a bun) because it’s long and plentiful and you’re just too tired to deal with it. Without your Clarisonic brush and the daily 5-product regimen you use on your face, your skin also gets dryyy. But considering how oily your face usually is, perhaps it’s an improvement.

You sleep in the shirt you’ve been wearing all day. Don’t worry; it’s okay to do that if you didn’t sweat. No shame.


Your friend kindly lends you a shirt, and you don your pants, socks and hoodie from yesterday and journey to another friend’s casa. By now, your hair (still in a bun) is a certified mess. When hair is in need of washing, some people’s scalps are oily enough to start a grease fire, while others’ are dry enough to start a forest fire. You finally let down your hair and give it a thorough washing. How did people deal before showers were invented?

None of your friends had floss. Who needs floss anyway? You’ve never heard of anyone actually getting gingivitis. You use your old t-shirt to wrap your wet hair and wear your friend’s shirt, the one you’ve been wearing all day, to sleep. You realize that you haven’t shaved your legs in two weeks (it is fall, after all) and hope the extra fuzz will keep your legs warmer. In any case, it’s November now, so you have a valid excuse not to shave all month.


You don’t bother changing after waking up — your friend’s clothes are actually pretty comfortable, and besides, you’re just spending the day bumming around her apartment while she’s at work. Amazingly, your eye makeup has managed to stay on, which means you haven’t rubbed your eyes for 60 hours. What self-control!

After hearing that electricity is back in your apartment, you gleefully return home to find your kitchen only faintly smelling of the rotting garbage and perishable food you left behind. Forget taking a shower; the water is still blisteringly cold. The thing you’re most excited about doing? Changing out of the underwear you’ve been wearing for the past three days.

Cengage Your Brain Into A Death Trap

October 17, 2011 § 6 Comments

I was so confused on Saturday night. I am writing this blog post mostly as a warning to other people who are considering using CengageBrain or CourseSmart or other e-textbook services in general. As always with online purchases, make sure you only spend money on trusted websites. And if the only comments about the website are negative, don’t let your desperation get the best of you! It’ll only result in a waste of money and time.

A tale of woe:

B is currently enrolled in an online class at Mizzou, which requires the textbook Presidential Leadership: Politics and Policy Making. He figured it would be easier to complete the assignments using an e-textbook instead of a physical one, so on Friday, he bought a copy from the only place it was available: It wasn’t cheap, but he was paying for convenience.

The next day, B wanted to work on something for his class, so he tried to access his book. This is as far as he could get:

No matter what page or chapter he clicked on, only the preview version of the book was available. We were both flummoxed. He had very clearly made the purchase, and it very clearly showed up on his Cengage Brain dashboard:

You’ll notice that in the upper-right corner, it says that the “Unsealer” is “Not Installed.” Well, obviously that was the solution! We quickly went about installing the Oracle Unsealer Reader thing on his MacBook [which also required that he install Adobe Reader] and went back to access the book.

Same result: preview only. Back on the dashboard, it still said that the Unsealer wasn’t installed. Clicking on “Install Now” again led to this page:

Clicking “Verify Install” led to this page:

Seriously? Only Internet Explorer? This was getting ridiculous. B tried installing Unsealer on his brother’s PC laptop but got the same results. There was clearly a lot going wrong.

At this point, B had already wasted enough time in this fruitless effort and needed to study for his other classes, so he handed the reins over to me. Very well then!

We had two options: Either get someone to figure out why the book wasn’t working properly, or return the darn thing. I figured returning it would be the better choice, considering you can buy the book used for less than a dollar. The restrictions regarding returns are somewhat contradictory. Under FAQ, I found this:

But under Terms of Service, it says this:

The bigger problem was that apart from these mentions, I couldn’t actually figure out how to return a purchase. Nowhere on the site could I find a “Returns” page or option. I was flummoxed. If I am unhappy with my purchase [especially if I am hindered from actually using it], I have every right to return it, right? It was time to contact customer service. recommends that people use their 24/7 technical support, so I complied. I poked around on that website and even found a video tutorial on how to use CourseSmart, which was both hilarious and unhelpful. [“Simply click ‘Open’ and you’ll have instant access to your book.” NOT!]

I decided to file a case, so I wrote a brief summary of the problem and submitted it. I was then given the option of chatting with a support person, which was what I was looking for in the first place. “Kenneth,” however, proved to be pretty useless. Our unsatisfying conversation:

What’s up with the “Tier 2 level of support” holding everyone back? The main point I gathered from this was that the buyer basically has no power. I understand that the ebook business is a bit different than simply returning a pair of shoes, but I find it absurd that I have to wait an ambiguous length of time to receive an email approval for my return when they give me a 2-week time limit to complete the process. What if they just filibuster my complaint into obscurity?

I couldn’t get very far with CengageBrain, so I decided to try CourseSmart. I don’t understand why it takes two different companies to read one etextbook, but I guess the reading material is hosted on CourseSmart while CengageBrain…takes the money? Except you can also purchase the ebook on CourseSmart. I don’t know what the point of CengageBrain is anymore.

When I went to the CourseSmart “Bookshelf,” this is what I saw:

“Free Trial”?! “Add to Cart”??? Are you kidding me?? B already paid for this book! That is just messed up.

Fortunately, the CourseSmart Help page is infinitely more useful than that of CengageBrain, which at this point seemed more and more like a scam. CourseSmart offers instructions on where to go if you’d like to process a refund, so I dutifully followed its directions and wound up here:

Well. Nothing to refund, eh? I had no choice but to call CengageBrain’s customer service and inquire into their utter uselessness.

When you call CengageBrain’s customer service, there’s a long preemptive spiel geared toward people who are having trouble accessing their purchases. Is this a common problem, or do they just get a lot of stupid questions?

I waited for a while to get through to a real person, and it didn’t take too long for her to approve our refund and process it. I wanted to get to the bottom of our technical issue of not being able to use our ebook, but it wasn’t worth wasting my minutes waiting for an explanation. In the end, we ordered the physical version of the textbook for a dollar and definitely wouldn’t try CengageBrain again.

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