Monday, July 31, 2006

dangers of using an exercise ball as your desk chair

I use a blue exercise ball instead of a desk chair. This allows me to bounce on it since I am prone to fidgeting.

Five minutes ago, I was preparing my expense reports from last month. I stood up to get a paper clip from my shelf. When I sat back down, at the moment where I should've contacted the ball, there was only air. There was a loud thud as my ass fell hard onto the carpeted floor.

I looked around me, and the ball had rolled to the far side of the cubicle. People ran over from two offices down to see what the source of the thud was.

too vague

Me: [... long tale of my weekend ... ]

Dan: Sounds like an emotional roller coaster.

Me: Yeah. Too much drama.

Dan: Want to see a movie?

Me: Sure. Something distracting.

I should have specified that by "distracting", I meant "hilarious and action-packed" in the manner of "Home Alone" or "South Park: The Movie".

Instead Dan took me to see "A Scanner Darkly". An hour into it, I was recoiling in my seat away from the three onscreen drugged-up men ranting about conspiracies and threatening to fight each other with hammers. For the next 20 minutes, I debated leaving the theatre because the characters were so out of control. I stayed, which was fortunate as the ending was satisfying.

Walking out of the theatre...

Dan: Was that sufficiently distracting?

Me: Uh ... in the "fighting fire with fire" sense.


Moral of the weekend: Use more specific words when speaking.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

gone to waste

Last night my college friends Tao and Sam came to Google for dinner, with Tao's new girlfriend.

Me: I'm really into basketball now! I wish I'd played on the Caltech women's team.

Tao: You would've gotten on the team for sure.

Me: I know!! Most of the women players were 5 feet 2, and I'm 3 inches taller.

Tao: How tall are you then?

Me: 5' 5".

Sam: [bursts out laughing]

Me: [indignantly] What??? I am 5' 5"!

Sam: [in between laughing] I'm laughing at the fact that you said they're 5' 2" and you're 3 inches taller, and Tao still needed to ask how tall you are.

Me: [also laughing] Yes... Good thing we spent 4 years getting that Caltech education.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Why I Don't Date Asian Men

This post was written as a joke.

But I have now deleted it.

It was supposed to be funny, because surely people would not take it seriously. This was wrong. Many people took it seriously. Despite disclaimers.

So now, after a year and a half, it's deleted.

Instead, for a laugh, you can go read "Differences Between Men and Women", and then write ridiculous flames about how the article author must hate all men and all women.

Sunday, July 23, 2006


I discovered that I can find all the music videos to my favorite songs on YouTube. I just watched Baby Got Back, 18 and Life, and 對面的女孩看過來 (Will the girl across the way please look this way).

I might never leave the house again.

Embarrassed candle

It was 105 degrees in Mountain View today. It was so hot that one of my candles became impotent.

This is the first time it's ever happened, swears the candle.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Update on rock situation.

I went to eat some food, to see if that would fix the lethargic-rock problem. I drove over to Queen House, my standby, got a table, and ordered:

- cashew chicken
- a plate of dumplings
- scallion pancakes
- rice
- hot tea
- lychee tea with taro balls

"Will there be someone joining you?" asked the waitress.

"No, it's just me," I said, and giggled.

"Okay, is that all then?" she asked, and then we both laughed.

The food did help. So now I have to watch out to not go too long without eating. The reason I previously thought it was from drinking is probably because I often avoid eating before drinking, so that I can get tipsy more quickly on an empty stomach.

Unmoving rock.

I was wrong last month when I attributed a day of slug-like slow movement to
Asian alcohol intolerance.

Today it hit me again, worse than ever, and the only alcohol I drank in the past week is a tiny amount of champagne yesterday afternoon.

This morning I sat for 20 minutes unmoving on the couch, staring off into space, because anything else required too much energy. Then I went downstairs, where the temperature is cooler, and impersonated a wax statue in my armchair for another 15 minutes.

Why is this happening? I don't feel ill, and even the times when I've had a fever I had more energy than this. This morning I woke up after 6 hours and despite being exhausted, couldn't fall back asleep. Am I dehydrated? Is it sleep deprivation from the past week?

Is my blood sugar too low? Maybe it's because the only thing I've eaten in the past day were some snacks at TGIF at work. Maybe my eating philosophy of following your body's hunger has its downsides. I'm going to try eating some food and see if it helps.


One of my friends is having a family crisis, and is moving away. It's the right thing to do, for loyalty and family, but I will miss her so much!!

-- 祝福 - 张学友

(Sorrow over parting which is before our eyes
Say goodbye, and our next meeting will not be too far off
If we are fortunate, we can wait for tomorrow
You and I will meet again in the spectacular season
-- "Blessing", Jackie Cheung


This decision came as a shock, as I knew things were bad but I didn't realize the extent. Last week she skipped an outing that she committed to, and I crankily asked her to give us more warning next time. Now that I fully empathize with her situation, I see that I was a callous, horrible human being.

Two other friends are going through traumatic ER health ordeals involving either themselves or their family.

I know life throws us sometimes good cards and sometimes bad ones, and I try not to take it too seriously when either one happens. But it's still saddening watching my friends go through these tough times.

My dad likes to say, "Some people's lives are like cosine (x) -- starts at 1 and then goes to 0. Other people's lives are like sine (x) -- starts at 0 and then goes to 1. But when you take the integral from 0 to 2 pi, it comes out to 0 for everyone."

This may be a melancholy weekend.

(details in this post changed for privacy protection)

Thursday, July 20, 2006

I never saw this happen in the NBA.

My basketball team was supposed to play the Google Ads basketball team at 5pm today. I was nervous all day, because I didn't want to drag down my team.

Me: I need to mentally set low expectations so that I have some chance of meeting or exceeding them.

Alipé: I know. Why don't you just make it your goal that this time, you will not fall over onto your ass?

Me: Brilliant, that's what it'll be.

We arrive at the courts at 4:45pm and warm up. 15 minutes pass, and there's no one but us out there. It's 5:05pm. 5:15pm. My teammates start to become dejected.

At 5:25pm, a beige car pulls up and 5 guys in Google shirts jump out. It's the other team, making a fashionable entrance.

We start, and it's a tight game. My team let me start, because they are so nice, and they call out directions to me the entire time. They also pass me the ball and let me shoot a couple of times, but I was always too far away to make it.

10-7, our lead. There is a big struggle over the ball right under their basket, and the other team fumbles the ball. I manage to catch it, hold onto it tightly before it could be stolen, and then pass it to my teammate. It was my highlight of the game.

15-15, tied. My team has taken me out of the game by this point, and I watch appreciatively from the sidelines.

Me: [to other team members on sidelines] You have my undying gratitude for being so supportive despite how much I suck.

Adil: I don't know why you would say that. You're actually useful.

Me: Adil, that is the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me about basketball.

Then 19-17, their lead. Players from both sides began jumping on each other to try to steal the ball. Huge pileups of several people. Guys falling onto the ground, tripped by each other. It looked more like rugby than basketball.

A white-shirted opponent complained that players from my team were playing too aggressively. "I'm going to start calling fouls!" he exclaimed.

The play then went like this: 10 seconds of play. White-shirt guy calls a foul. Return to check position. 15 seconds of play. White-shirt guy calls a foul.

He called 5 fouls in a row. Then they scored 2 more points and beat us.

I wish I knew enough about basketball to determine whether our players were indeed crossing the line of aggression, or whether the other team was overly picky.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


The cafe downstairs in our building (building #45) is opening, and the celebrated chef is soliciting email suggestions for the cuisine type.

Joby: I want it to be meat. Lots and lots of meat.

Phil: A slaughterhouse?

Me: It should be called Slaughterhouse 45!!!

Personal trainer

Today I had my first gym personal training session with Google's subsidized program. I went to Megan, who is Joby's personal trainer and oversaw his amazing transformation.

Megan is an energetic petite blonde. She had me do lunges across the length of the gym, while she walked backwards facing me. After two sets, she announced that the next set would be duck lunges.

"Oh my God!" I said.

"You can just call me Megan," she replied, thus sealing my love for her.

Two minutes later, I felt the familiar sensation of light-headedness. This time, my hearing also became muffled and distant, which I took as a bad sign.

"Uh, I need to sit down," I said. "Can we sit for a moment?"

"Are you tired already?" she asked. "Okay, we can walk it out."

"I'm not tired, I'm just afraid I'll pass out."

So we sat down.

"Did you eat before you came to work out?" she asked.

"Not since lunch," I said. "Oh, and I only ate soup for lunch, because I wasn't hungry. Was I supposed to eat before this?"

"Yes! It's 5:30pm!" she said, and then ran across the gym and retrieved two Balance bars in peanut butter crunch and caramel apple. "Pick your poison."

I stared at them in dismay. "These bars are going to taste disgusting! I only have a limited number of meals in my life! I can't eat this!"

"You must!" she said, and went into an explanation of blood sugar. The result is that I was forced to eat 10% of the caramel apple Balance bar, thus wasting valuable stomach real estate.

We did weird balancing exercises and bicep curls and push-ups.

To my delight, she said, "You're stronger than I expected! You were able to do 12 push-ups with good form."

"It's practice from pushing people away," I said, and she laughed heartily and said we could delve into that emotional shortcoming some other session.

I signed up for 10 more sessions.

stomach is a pool of acid

This morning I spent 1.5 hours on the phone changing my XX Airlines ticket.

Peter and I have vouchers left over from last year when we decided not to go to Paris for Thanksgiving because his family was worried about the riots. The XX agent told us we had a year to rebook, but when Peter called last month, he was told it's actually only 90 days. He called their customer service over and over, and filed complaints, and emails, and they just refused adamantly.

So this morning I was dreading making the call to use this ticket for my Brian-hosted Egypt trip this fall. Indeed the agent told me the same problem with the 90 days, and I made my plea plaintively!

Then I was put on hold for an hour while she went to find supervisors.

At last it is done. They issued waivers and allowed me to use the ticket.

But my stomach is a big pool of acidic stress. If you dipped a rod of iron in my stomach juices right now, it would just melt.

a day in the worklife

Today, Joby came into work in nicely fitted black pants, button-down vertical striped shirt, soft-black undershirt, and snappy belt.

Joby: I bought new clothes.

Me: I see that! They're showing off your new trim figure! You look so skinny, Joby. You're half the man you used to be.

Joby: [jubilantly pumping fist] Yes!!


At 7pm, I convinced a couple coworkers to play basketball. They're not on my basketball "league team", so we were just having fun.

I announced that I would make basketball one of my goals for the quarter. At Alipé's recommendation, I did that HORSE game of switching between positions and seeing how many shots it took me to get 5 baskets.

After ten minutes, I was at 2 for 23. :( Then I suddenly got 3 shots out of the next 4, resulting in 5 baskets out of 27, i.e. a 18.5% accuracy rate.

Me: Okay, my goal will be to increase it by 50%, to 27%. How accurate were you guys?

Alipé: I got 5 baskets out of 7.

Henry: I got 5 out of 8.

Me: Oh my God, my league mates should just throw me off the team right now.


We went to dinner. While walking with our plates out into the outdoor seating, I saw Reza, an ex-roommate of our intern Darryl.

Me: [very loudly, with a friendly big wave] Hi Reza!!!!

Reza: [momentarily startled, then waving back]

Henry and Alipé: [quietly to me] Isn't his name Ralph?

Me: God damn it.


We sat down and began eating.

Me: You know what would be fun and bonding? Sharing embarrassing stories.

I shared a story of how I had to heat water in our school microwave when I was 12, and I did it wrong (we didn't own a microwave at home). Henry shared a story involving his high school chemistry teacher. Alipé shared a story where he wrecked his dad's car as a teenager.

Me: Okay, so what do you think is the most embarrassing imaginable event that could occur in your life?

Alipé: [immediately, solemnly] Why, it's greeting someone by the wrong name loudly in a public setting. I couldn't imagine anything more embarrassing than that.

another Saturday night in pics

I had quite a few drinks on Saturday night.

Sunday I woke up and looked at my camera, and was startled to see that amongst the pictures were half a dozen that I didn't remember taking. That's never happened before!

So I'll just make up some captions.

The many arms of Vishnu:

Closer... closer ... maybe I can meld with her into a single two-headed entity...

This one I remember. At Fluid with fabulous music and fabulous company. I was the Dancing Queen. Either that, or my inebriated evaluation is non-objective and I actually looked like a fool.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Too oft repeated.

Last week Cindy told me that on a trip to Spain, people kept saying "konichiwa" to her, even though she's Chinese. At first it was just amusing but after the 800th time, it really got on her nerves. One night near the end of the trip, after a few drinks, when yet another guy said it to her, she erupted at him. "Why the fuck would you say konichiwa? Do I look Japanese? I'm Chinese!! Why would you fucking say that to me???"

Me: "Poor guy. He probably went home thinking to himself, 'Japanese girls are mean.'"

There are two phrases that people say to me over and over, that have gotten tiresome.

Scenario 1.
Me: [meeting someone new] Hello, nice to meet you.

Person: Nice to meet you too. What kind of work do you do?

Me: I'm a tech lead at Google for a new project.

Person: A secret project??

Me: Yes.

Person: So you could tell me, but then you'd have to kill me! Ha! Ha!

Me: [thinking] Oh, if only I could. [out loud] Ha ha, yeah.


Scenario 2.
Me: [talking to friend] Hey, how's it going. What'd you do today?

Friend: I woke up, ate some leftover pizza, watched the World Cup, and then came to this party. Hey, is this going to go in your blog?? Are you going to blog this to everyone?

Me: [thinking] No, I only blog interesting things. [out loud] Ha ha, no.

witty line

Me: I heard a good line this afternoon.

Alipé: Oh, what was that?

Me: I was walking down Haight Street, and two tall black guys were coming from the opposite direction. They were chatting with each other, and then one of them looked at me and said loudly in freestyle rhythm, "Asian Persuasian! And I'm not Caucasian!"

Alipé: [chuckling] Ha ha! I'll have to remember that one.

Me: But Alipé, you ARE Caucasian.

Zidane parody

Thank you to Reza for providing this glorious link: Zidane as seen around the world.

Saturday, July 15, 2006


Two weeks ago, Alipé and I were chatting about disgusting stories, and we each announced that we had the Most Disgusting Story Ever. How to resolve this?

I put a calendar entry for a meeting on July 14, "The Gross-Off". All entrants were invited to tell their most disgusting story, and then we would have blind voting.

Yesterday was the long-awaited day.

Alipé: My story is truly disgusting. I will surely win! I wish more people would enter this competition, so that Niniane isn't embarrassed about being the only one whose story gets blown out of the water by mine.

Yonatan: I bet Alipé is going to win. Niniane's story is going to be something really mild. Like ... 'One time someone wore pink shoes with red trousers! It was disgusting!'

Joby and Alipé: [chuckling]

Me: We shall see. WE SHALL SEE.

At 5:30pm, I gathered 5 coworkers in an office to listen to our stories. We did a coin toss, which I won. I elected to go second.

Henry: How are we going to decide on the winner?

Me: Blind voting.

Cue: We should see which story induces the most vomiting.

Henry: [poking the trash can with his foot] Let's weigh this after each story.

Alipé told his story, eliciting groans of disgust.

Then I told mine.

When everyone sufficiently recovered from rolling on the floor in disgust, we did the voting. The results:

    Niniane -- 4 votes
    Alipé -- 1 vote

After I preened a bit at being crowned the new Gross-Off Champion...

Me: [extending hand] Good game, Alipé.

Alipé: [shaking my hand] Well, the best man ... lost.

(If Alipé grants permission, I will post both stories here.)

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Smugmug comments.

I discovered to my great amusement that my smugmug photo gallery was posted along with my bio on a chinese web site, and I now have a bunch of smugmug comments written by chinese people. My favorite ones:

"She is so excellence!"


"is the instinct from the interest of something ? lack always is perfect!" (Any guesses what this one means?)

and lastly, my absolute favorite, my reason for writing those Google China blog articles, the one that means more than anything else:

"After reading your introduction,I think I ,a girl, can also be a software engineer! Thank you!"

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


Two months ago, in a bout of glorious enthusiasm, I signed up for a Google recreational basketball team, despite having never played basketball with anyone other than Peter (and that only half a dozen times).

Today I played in my first game against another Google basketball team. It was also the first real full-court game I ever played in my life. Previously we had a few pick-up 3-on-3 practices amongst my team.

I really, really enjoyed it. It was a lot of fun, and not as scary as I feared.

However, in comparison to my awesome team, I sucked. My team got to see me perform feats such as:

  • while jumping up to catch a ball, fell backwards onto my ass

  • forgot to follow the opponent I was defending against, such that he got the ball and scored a point while I was standing 15 feet away

  • not score any points. I attempted 2 shots, one of which bounced off the rim and the other of which was blocked. This was very sad, as shooting is one of the few basketball things that I'm any good at.

My teammates were very kind, allowing me to play for half the game, and saying things such as "You improved a lot since our first practice!", "You're making all of your passes!", "You're doing really well!".

At dinner, I chatted with Lu, one of the other players.

Lu: Did you enjoy the game?

Me: A lot. [pause] You know, I had a revelation.

Lu: Yeah?

Me: When I was in my master's program, for one class I was on a project team with 4 other people. One of them was a guy who had already gotten a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering, and he was now switching to computer science. He obviously wasn't very technically savvy, so when we coded up our project, he didn't actually contribute any code. So we asked him if he'd take all the applications that the rest of us wrote and benchmark them against each other, make a couple pretty graphs. It turned out that he couldn't even figure out how to run a Java program. At the time, I was annoyed at this guy and shocked that he got into a top-notch CS grad school and he couldn't even execute a Java program.

Lu: I see. And what brought on this memory?

Me: I realized that in our basketball team, I'M THAT GUY.

Lu: Oh, it's not the same.

Me: Well, I realize now that that guy deserves sympathy!

Wedding and a funeral

I was so honored to be invited to Andrew & Jennifer's wedding.




I was sitting next to a very relaxed, fun family consisting of a Googler with his wife and baby. The baby foot! It's so tiny!

Monday morning, I sauntered into work. "Hello hello hello!" I said chirpily, before lurching to a shocked stop in front of my desk.

The beautiful round yellow exercise ball that I usually sit on was gone. In its place was a yellow ball-corpse flat on the floor. I picked it up, and felt the rubbery textured edge where it had split down the middle.

"It missed you so much that it deflated," said Joby, trying to draw attention away from the fact that one of the last times the ball was seen before its death was when it was brutally kicked by Joby.

"Well, let's say a few words in memory of the ball," I said, picking up its lifeless body. "OH BALL, we knew ye well..." I began.

"Throw it away!" said Finn without turning around from his monitor.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Saturday night in pics

The San Fran crash pad is serving its purpose. I went to 3 parties on Saturday night. The no-drinking embargo has ended (duration: 1 month).

8pm: Girls Night at Shirles' place.

10pm: "Single & Fabulous Party" thrown by Ingrid's friend Anna (who is no longer single). Ling dropped by, bringing 3 Asian girlfriends and a Caucasian guy with an Asian fetish.

Humoring the guy:

At this party, I meet 2 friends of Ingrid's: one English and the other Irish.

Me: Did you meet each other by standing at opposite ends of the English Channel and sending messages in a bottle?

English Bloke: I canoed over. [mimes paddling a canoe]

Me: [to the Irish bloke] So what do you do for a living?

IB: [with foreboding] You don't want to know.

Me: It can't be as bad as what I'm imagining right now.

IB: Trust me, it is.

Me: Really, it's as bad as the zookeeper who has to manually give the animals their suppositories? [using right arm to demonstrate shoving a pill up a large elephant]

IB: What is that job called?

Me: I have no idea.

IB: A zoo-supp. It should be called a zoo-supp.

Ingrid: [wandering into the conversation, casually] What are you guys talking about?

IB: [matter-of-factly] Zoo-supps.

12:30am: "An Evening at the Dolores Estate", a preppy house party. In the kitchen with my friends Ingrid (left) and Sara (right), and Sara's new roomie Karey (middle):


I was rear-ended on Sunday, en route to Andrew's wedding. I'm okay, but my beloved car is injured.

Last night, while carpooling up to San Francisco:

Alipé: [talking about a new model of car] It's like the Audi TT, but a longer body.

Me: That sounds nice! But I still love my car.

Alipé: Even now that it's damaged?

Me: Especially now, in its hour of need! In sickness and in health, Alipé.

Monday, July 10, 2006

World Cup.

Today I watched soccer for the first time in my life, and I LOVE IT.

The reason is that all these tough men are showing massive amounts of emotion. In the finals, one Italy team member reached out and ruffled the hair of a French team member to show good sportsmanship. It was so sweet! Right before the penalty kicks, the goalies embraced, and patted each other on the neck in goodwill, and I was really touched. When else do you see grown men doing that? I certainly don't see Joby patting Alipé supportively on the neck before we go into our VP reviews.

When they lose, they kneel on the ground in agony of defeat. When they win, they hug and run screaming around the field.

Also, I discovered to my pleasant surprise that soccer players have beautiful, tall, lean, tight bodies.

Next World Cup, I am watching every single game.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

the family jewels

Google's hallways are littered with exercise balls, and in the past 2 weeks, I've taken to sitting on a yellow exercise ball instead of in a desk chair. When I get deep into thought, sometimes I bounce up and down on it.

Today I was coding away, sitting on the exercise ball as usual. Suddenly, from behind me, I hear Joby's voice say, "Hey, it's time for our group meeting." at the same time that I feel my exercise ball bump gently below me.

I turn around, while saying, "Did you just kick ..."

When I see Joby's little smile and simultaneous looking away to the side, the culprit is clear without me needing to finish the question.

"Joby, please don't kick me in the ball," I say.


I get so lost, sometimes
days pass and this emptiness fills my heart
but whichever way I go
I come back to the place you are

all my instincts, they return
and the grand facade, so soon will burn
without a noise, without my pride
I reach out from the inside

in your eyes
the light the heat
in your eyes
I am complete
in your eyes
I see the doorway to a thousand churches

- "In Your Eyes", Peter Gabriel

Tonight Jill told the story of the start of her relationship with Adam. I know both of them, so as she told it, I re-enacted the two of them in my mind. He pursued her for many months, ironclad in his faith that they would be great together. But she had reservations, so for months he stayed madly in love and she resisted.

Then after many months, he declared that he was going to stop insisting and agreed to just be friends with her, and talked about how much he still valued the friendship. This melted my heart, because it's a rare man who actually will hold dear to a friendship with a woman who turns him down.

THEN she changed her mind and they had a date. She told us about the first time that he held her, and the sweet sweet things that he said. "You are my dream girl" was just the beginning.

I imagined Adam, that reserved engineer who was too private to even tell us which suburb he lives in, gushing these unbelievably sweet things, and WOW. My heart was beyond melted. There was a big puddle in my chest cavity where my heart used to be.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Offensive pickup lines

[Kevin (one of my SF roommates) says I should have sympathy for the man in the story below because it's hard to start up conversations with female strangers, so I almost didn't post it. But then desire to write overcame sympathy!]

Sunday night I'm at Harry's Bar waiting for Cecilia and her boyfriend. They're lost driving up to Pacific Heights, so I sit on a stool and watch the bar's plasma TV playing "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" on mute.

A Caucasian man, around 30 years old, 5'10" with short wavy brown hair, comes up next to me.

Guy: I'm going to put my drink here next to your water, okay? [Editor's Note: This line isn't the bad one -- it doesn't go bad until a couple minutes in.]

Me: Okay.

Guy: Hey, so where are you from?

Me: Originally? China.

Guy: Where in China?

Me: Beijing.

Guy: But you don't have an accent. You must have been very young when you came to the States.

Me: Yes, I was 5.

Guy: So you're basically American then. You're an AMERICAN GIRL. You're not really Chinese. You can't call yourself Chinese.

Me: Can.

Guy: You can't! You're not Chinese! You can't call yourself Chinese! [keeps going in this vein]

Me: [slightly annoyed, starts looking away from him]

Guy: Okay, okay. So where did you go to high school? Did you go to high school?

Me: [in disbelief] Did I go to high school? What kind of question is that??? By U.S. law, everyone under the age of 16 is required to go to school!!

Guy: Oh. Hey, what the hell would I know about US law?

Me: I guess you can't call yourself an American then.

Just then Cecilia came in and saved me.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Johnny Depp, sweet

This positively biased interview with Johnny Depp made him sound like a truly upstanding man:

He is hugely loyal, hugely old-fashioned, and I think he just wants to be involved with Vanessa, so much so that even a screen kiss with Keira Knightley for Dead Man's Chest got him twitchy and feeling a little awkward.

and really knows what's in his heart:

Johnny Depp seems straightforward but you know he's complex. "Well," he says, "I was given the 'weird' badge but I think everybody's weird and that's the key to it. We should celebrate our individuality, not be embarrassed or ashamed of it. We all have idiosyncrasies, tics that are obsessive-compulsive. People do themselves a great disservice by not allowing themselves to see who they really are because they are afraid."

It's so sweet that I find myself wanting his marriage to work out. Because then it's a sign that it really can happen, a celebrity mobbed by thousands of women daily can stay true to his wife and love her and be loyal for the rest of their years. And then there would be hope for all of us.

It's also why I want Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie to last.

San Fran, fish out of water

My weekend crash pad is 4 blocks from Haight St (of the famous Haight-Ashbury), and these 2 days I've felt like a fish out of water.

Where are my Starbucks on every corner? With their trusty Internet connection and decaf Java Chip frappucino! Instead I'm writing this from the Sacred Grounds Cafe (kudos on the witty name). Sitting on a chair outside the cafe is an Asian man sporting dreadlocks, smoking a joint. He was originally smoking it at a table 10 feet from me, until the waitress asked him to move outside.

Another reason for fish out of water is that the Internet at my crash pad is broken, and an internet connection is definitely water to my fish. We pay $20 per month to use the connection from Tully's directly below us, and their router is on infinite reboot. When I went down to tell the barista...

Me: Hi, I'm trying to use your internet, but the connection is cycling on and off. It looks as though your router might be rebooting.

Barista: [blankly] Our what is what?

Me: Your internet isn't working.

Barista: The technical support said our power supply might be broken. Hey, maybe that explains why the ice machine next to it is broken too!

Me: Wait, if your ice machine also isn't working, then it's probably not the power supply on the router. It's probably the electrical outlet or the wiring in the wall.

Barista: [slowly, as if speaking to idiot] No, it's the PO-WER SU-PPLY. See, there are surges of power, and then no power.

Me: Uh...

Barista: They're sending out a technician on Monday.

Me: [with relief] Thank you.

I do like it, this challenging of my comfort zone. And there are perks nearby which are right in the middle of my area of comfort. I'm a few blocks away from Golden Gate Park and the de Young Museum. Check out this cocoa pod sculpture from de Young. It's a coffin.

That's right, the artist was a maker of coffins, and his fisherman uncle asked for a special one, so he made a boat. Then more friends started asking for special coffins. He lived in a country where the main export is cocoa. Hence, the cocoa coffin.

One of my favorite paintings is this one:

My mother said on our visit a few weeks ago, "This painting is so easy! Just a few rough slashes with a brush!"

But I was captivated. The man and woman are looking straight at each other, in a gorgeous room with high ceilings and sunlight streaming in through picture windows, yet the scene screams desolation.

Most of us have been at that place before, yes?