Tuesday, December 25, 2007

feliz navidad: a post which is not only boring but also cranky

Merry Christmas from Madrid!

I am stuck in the negative feedback loop where you have low blood sugar from not eating, which makes you too tired to go out foraging for food. Also, I am waiting for my parents to get ready next door.

All the cafes are closed anyway for Christmas Day. I have visions of a delightful Spanish breakfast with eggs broken over potatoes, but instead in thirty minutes I will become so desperate that I will eat this large can of pineapple I bought yesterday.

The Prado is closed as well. Yesterday we checked its web site. The museum is closed Mondays, but open 9am to 2pm on Dec 24. Tom said "the more specific rule" should trump the Monday rule, so we took the subway over there. Of course it was closed.

Christmas is so inconvenient!

Bah humbug.

On the positive side, this morning Tom presented me with a lovely pig calendar, as a Christmas present. It features pigs in rose petals, pigs lying on fluffy pillows, pigs eating grapes. Tom said he felt strange walking up to the register to buy a calendar called "Pigs -- pretty in pink".

I love it, of course.

I haven't gotten him anything yet, because I'm lame.

Far and away the best Christmas present of all is that my parents are super relaxed during this trip. Six months ago, a turning of the tide occurred when they paid the last installment of my brother's tuition. With that worry out of the way, they've turned into happy-go-lucky versions of themselves.

It's the holy grail from my childhood that I never thought I'd actually see.

Yesterday I bought four coffees at a little sandwich shop. My mother insisted on sharing a sugar packet with my dad, so she could save her own sugar for later. You know, in case an emergency sweetening procedure is required later in the day, and there is no other sugar on hand, she would be able to pull out this packet.

My dad opened his mouth, and I cringed a little inwardly, expecting a jab about the ridiculousness of carrying a sugar packet around Madrid. But instead he offered a tip on how to carry the sugar so it would have least chance of spilling out.

Life is great.

Even if I'm cranky.

That pineapple is looking pretty good now.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

it was still faster than 40 days

At Burning Man in August, as I huddled on the desert plain during a sandstorm, I decided that I wanted to travel more and see my family more. This holiday season, we're traveling together in Madrid and Paris.

Our flight out of Philadelphia last night was delayed by five hours, as technicians switched out the cockpit door. I slept during the delay, and throughout the ensuing seven-hour flight to Madrid. Upon arrival:

Tom: "I can't wait to get off this plane. They only served drinks once, seven hours ago. I'm parched!"

Me: [very amused] "I've never heard anyone say that, except a talking plant in a cartoon."

... getting off the plane ...

Tom: "I can't believe we've been traveling for 24 hours. Why does it take this long, just to get from one side of the world to the other?"

Me: "Tom, it used to take a lot longer. There's a book 'Around the World in Eighty Days'."

Tom: "Well, we didn't even go around the world! We only went halfway around!"


We checked into our hotel, and Tom has been napping for the past four hours, curled in a ball. Awww.

Friday, December 21, 2007


I am in a nostalgic mood. Maybe because I ate in the main Google cafe tonight, under an enormous Christmas tree with multi-colored lights. The cafe was uncharacteristically devoid of people, and the combination of an empty hall with a giant Christmas tree got me in a wistful mood.

One story that comes to mind is a ridiculous one from college.

In my dorm, there lived a young man "Rah" from Bangladesh. Rah was a pretty close friend of mine. He was very smart at physics. He liked to make up elaborate lies to see if he could convince people. Another interest involved singing certain songs over and over. One year, he started singing "I just called to say... I love you" every single freakin' day. He sang it in our House courtyard, in the hallway, in the bathroom. After six months, I got so annoyed that as soon as he opened his mouth and the first melodic "I" emerged, I would yell at him to stop. But he would of course finish singing the chorus.

To this day, I cannot listen to that song without becoming agitated.

One day, Rah told us that his family arranged a marriage for him back home. He was now engaged to a young woman. We dismissed it as one of his fabricated stories. Over the next two months, he let slip more details every few days. He griped about the annoyances of international phone calls, of getting to know his fiancee through this constrained manner, of worries about her youth and inexperience, of his doubts about the upcoming marriage.

Eventually many of us were mostly convinced that it was real. Then Rah announced it was all a huge ruse, for him to see how many people he could trick.

The House became divided. Some thought it was his most elaborate ruse to date. Others thought the engagement was real and fell through, and he claimed it was fabricated to avoid admitting that it didn't work out.

Rah spent the next weeks explaining details of how he tricked us, why he picked particular lies.

I still don't know if the engagement was real or not.

At another college, Rah might be ostracized, or at least considered very strange. But we didn't bother asking "Why would someone make up these ridiculous lies?" We accepted his game and played along. And I'm nostalgic for this -- for a community of bright minds who collectively engage in these pointless yet highly entertaining pursuits.

From a dialogue yesterday:

"My point is that never doing anything even slightly askew of the ordinary routine of life, career, families, parties, and whatever is really awful. And yes, I recognize that this is not as important to you, perhaps not important to you at all."

"No, I also like non-conformists. Normal is boring."

I'm not sure how a post about Christmas ended up being about non-conformists.

the eleventh visit will involve throwing away 1024 pieces of toast

"You should get over your reluctance to waste food. It's placing a restriction on your life."

"You're probably right."

"So, the first thing that needs to happen is you need to watch me throw away this piece of toast."

"Oh my God! [pause] Okay."

(Piece of toast is taken across the room and thrown into garbage can.)

"[shaky breath] That went all right."

"Good. So how is this going to work? Every time you come over, you'll watch me throw away more and more food?"

Thursday, December 20, 2007

best quote from 2007

Dan went to his brother's wedding earlier this week. At the wedding, he met some of the bride's relatives for the first time.

Bride's relative: "It must be a lot for you to handle, meeting all of us at once. We're kind of a weird family."

Dan: "There are two kinds of people in the world: people who come from weird families, and dumb people."

It's true.

I love it.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

airports, sappiness

Maybe I'm just in a sappy mood, but I found this story incredibly poignant.

Anyway, I finished my "Okaeri" sign, and on the Saturday she was due to arrive in Japan, I headed for the airport. She'd bought her tickets a few months ago, and then a schedule change allowed her to come back 3 days earlier than the original ticketing. At first, we planned to keep the schedule change a secret - she'd come and spend the time with me, and then go back to her family. However, her parents ended up finding out about the schedule change and, none too happy, demanded she come straight home after her flight arrived. She told me that, in light of this, I didn't have to meet her at the airport.

And perhaps it would have been wise to stay at home. From where I lived, a round-trip to Kansai International Airport costs 4000 yen. I had about 4500 yen to my name. I could stretch 4500 yen into basic meals for 2, maybe 3 weeks. But, I wanted to meet her at the airport. I knew all too well the sadness of arriving at an airport and having no one be there to greet you. I wanted to at least ride the train back with her to Kyoto. I'd worry about eating some other time.

... [snip] ...

suddenly I gained an almost Jedi-like sense of clarity here. Literally, it was like someone turned on a switch in my head, and suddenly I knew. I really should have known before, but now everything was crystal clear.

"There's someone else, isn't there?" I ask her.

Her head drops. "Yes." She says softly.

It reminds me of an article I read once about Brad Pitt. When he was in his early 20s, he was dating an actress who has since faded into obscurity. He only had $900 to his name, but he spent $700 of it to fly to Europe, where she was filming.

When he got there, he discovered that she was already dating her new co-star.

I bet she regrets it now! She gave up Brad Pitt, yo!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

food is always a good analogy

"When's your first date?"

"She's really busy this week, and then I'm going home for Christmas, so it might not be until January."

"That's a long time from now."

"I know, but I already waited this long."

"Wei-chao had a good analogy for this. Think about when you're hungry. If you wait three hours, you don't feel hungry any more."


"Or you go find a snack."

i debated a long time whether to write this

"If you're her first relationship, she's probably going to go very slowly. It's going to be like two years before you sleep together."

"Actually, she's religious. I'm pretty sure she's waiting until marriage."

"You're okay with that?"

"Yeah. I'm not looking to just have fun. I want something real."

"Sure, but you're going to commit for life before you know whether you're compatible in this important way?"

"She's the most amazing girl I've met here."

"That's like buying a car without test-driving it."

"With the new 107 lamborghini, you in fact cannot test-drive it before you buy it."

"Yeah, but with the lamborghini, you know other people have test-driven it and they say it's good."

Sunday, December 09, 2007

brothers: the most skilled people at poking fun

I took my brother to the Google Holiday Party. He said he recognized 50 ex-classmates from Stanford. I only recognized about 30 friends from around the company.

Somethin' ain't right there!

Some young Googlers invited us to after-party, but just the thought of it made me tired.

Around 11:30pm, things were winding down:

Me: [looking around the room] "This room is half cleared-out. All the kiddies have left."

Tom: "Yeah."

Me: "It's past their bedtime."

Tom: "No, they went up to San Francisco to party some more."

Me: "Oh, that's true."

Tom: "Let's not kid ourselves over whose bedtime it is."

Friday, December 07, 2007

one-liners that made me lol

"Someday the sharks will be extinct, so you should eat them now, or you may never get another chance."

Me: [sending a blackberry note to myself]

Tom: "Is this a communication from Niniane of the past to Niniane of the future?"

"Interacting with X is like accessing memory which has already been freed -- most of the time, it's fine, but sometimes you get completely unpredictable results."

Thursday, December 06, 2007

first writings about Ronald McDonald House

Sunday was my third volunteer session with Ronald McDonald House. The House sits only six blocks from my San Francisco crash pad, and I enjoy the walk despite it being along busy streets.

Volunteering has exceeded my expectations by far. It gives me mental clarity, somehow. Sometime during the three hours of vacuuming, laundry, picking up free Starbucks pastries, cleaning the fridge, and other sundries, life comes into focus. Decisions become easier.

My friends do not empathize.

"Do you even do these errands for yourself?" they say.

"No," I say, "I hire housecleaners."

"So you're probably not even very good at doing them. I could just hire housecleaners for Ronald McDonald House, and it would be more effective than you volunteering."

I find something awe-inspiring about being around the families. The House consists of ten bedrooms, one for each family. To qualify, the family must have an under-18 child in the hospital, and must reside over 50 miles away. The House provides them a place to stay, since it's impractical for them to drive home daily. Since this House is close to UCSF, most of the residents are new parents with prematurely born babies. These babies often weigh only a pound or two, and stay in Intensive Care for weeks.

On Sunday, two volunteers from Deloitte cooked a pasta dinner, and three families came down to supper. We ate at square tables, over quiet conversation. I sat with one couple, whose son has a dangerously weak immune system.

There is an impressive quality to these families. They talk about their baby in the hospital, the surgeries, logistics of where they're staying. They throw out medical terms about maintaining this-or-that above 400, or inserting a tube to drain the something-something fluid. They ask where I'm from and how long I've been volunteering. They make jokes.

Through it all, they are calm. There are almost always two of them. A young couple. A teen girl with her father, or her grandfather. They often have relatively low income, and are going through one of the biggest crises of their lives, but their unwavering support for each other is clear to see. They have each other's backs. It's inherent in the way they sit together, talk, eat. It's so ingrained that it's taken for granted -- and not in a bad way.

It is really nice to see. It's a welcome change from the glitz of Silicon Valley, with the gold-rush mentality and dissatisfied multi-millionaires and geeks-turned-players and hype and glory and excess.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

let me become one of the sheep, because this is too awesome

Well, everyone has surely blogged this, but it's so good that I will happily be one of the lemmings.

It's been shared on FriendFeed six or seven times amongst my friends.

I nearly died of laughter here:

launch party, nicely dressed
what's the point, sausage fest
blue shirts, khaki pants
looking like a line of ants


Awwwwww, Valleywag followed the requested name, but TechCrunch did not. What's wrong with you, TechCrunch!!!!

Monday, December 03, 2007

but don't throw out your first ten babies

Last night at sushi.

Elad's friend: "Are you going to try to publish your nanowrimo novel?"

Me: "Heavens, no. It's not nearly good enough. I figure my next attempt at writing a novel will be better, and if I do it ten more times, the eleventh novel might be good enough to publish."

Neha: [bursts out laughing]

Me: "What?"

Neha: "All through November, your twitter posts were things like 'I am so miserable' or 'this is so much harder than I expected'. Now you want to do this ten more times??"

It's like the amnesia after childbirth.

Friday, November 30, 2007

the taste of victory is sweet indeed

Well, it nearly killed me, but...

I reached nanowrimo.org victory!!!!

I am much more relaxed now.


The "prize" given by the official web site for reaching the 50,000 word mark is an icon.

It's a JPG file which you are free to copy to your own web site.

Last year, Trescott told me that after finishing nanowrimo, he embedded the JPG into his home page. I burst out laughing. "It's just an icon!" I said.

Turns out it's different when you yourself do the contest. After you sacrifice a month of evenings to your novel, forsaking the warmth of in-person human interaction as you sit in front of your laptop night after night, despairing as you hit the wall at 30,000 words and then slogging on from peer pressure and sheer force of will, finally approaching the finish line and realizing you created a novel you're not entirely ashamed of (just mostly ashamed), turns out you feel differently about that icon.

I spent many tense minutes tonight scouring the nanowrimo site for the method on officially validating word count, so that I could download the icon. I pored through the FAQs. I looked through every option on their pages. I scanned the header and footer of each page. Finally I found a reference on one page that made me realize the button was not appearing because I set the time zone incorrectly. Then I immediately corrected that nonsense.

What I'm saying is ... lo and behold ...

And here's a bigger one!


Some people have written me to ask for an excerpt. I was initially hesitant, because the novel is unedited and in its raw (hence crappy) form. But people said I should show an excerpt anyway.

Here is an actual real-life excerpt from my novel:

"... the ... "

Have a good night. I love all you guys.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

12550 words to go

I've been writing my Nanowrimo novel at night, while staying up too late from jetlag.

It is arduous.

My first attempt at Nanowrimo four years ago was a piece of cake. Unaware of plot arcs and character development and concise prose, I pumped out 1666 words of sheer crap, day after day.

Now, four Stanford writing courses and two dozen writing books later, I am aware of these things. Now, extracting the words is painful.

Googlers started emailing the internal creative-writing mailing list with their Nanowrimo results. Today one person wrote:

I wrote all day Friday and Saturday, and somewhere in there, I passed the 50,000 word mark.

WTF? He didn't notice passing the mark? I notice when I pass every hundred words!

That's like saying, "I ran a marathon yesterday, and somewhere in the fourth or fifth hour, I passed the 26-mile mark."

Another Googler, "Richard Lederman", kept saying how trivial it was for him to sit down and dash out thousands of words. He sent an email seven days ago (i.e. ten days before the deadline):

My novel is finished. It can be found at [link to novel]

Over IM with my Googler friend "trescott":

trescott: I'm at 33000 words. You?
niniane: 30k.
trescott: You know who sucks? Richard Lederman.
niniane: LOL.
trescott: He finished in 15 days or something.
niniane: He did basically paint a huge bull's-eye on his own ass.

You might be thinking that trescott and I are only saying this because we are jealous. You would be absolutely correct!

(Richard Lederman, if you are reading this, we don't actually think you suck. Come November 30, when we too are winners, all will be forgiven.)

The Nanowrimo organization sends out pep talks once or twice per week. Most of them are corny and useless. But last week they had one from Neil Gaiman, which I and all of my friends agree was truly uplifting:

The last novel I wrote (it was ANANSI BOYS, in case you were wondering) when I got three-quarters of the way through I called my agent. I told her how stupid I felt writing something no-one would ever want to read, how thin the characters were, how pointless the plot. I strongly suggested that I was ready to abandon this book and write something else instead, or perhaps I could abandon the book and take up a new life as a landscape gardener, bank-robber, short-order cook or marine biologist. And instead of sympathising or agreeing with me, or blasting me forward with a wave of enthusiasm---or even arguing with me---she simply said, suspiciously cheerfully, "Oh, you're at that part of the book, are you?"

I was shocked. "You mean I've done this before?"

"You don't remember?"

"Not really."

"Oh yes," she said. "You do this every time you write a novel. But so do all my other clients."


After posting this entry:

niniane: are you okay with my latest blog post?
niniane: sorry, i should've asked before i posted it
trescott: I am not OK with this part:
trescott: (Richard Lederman, if you are reading this, we don't actually think you suck. Come November 30, when we too are winners, all will be forgiven.)
niniane: LOL
trescott: I will still think he sucks.
niniane: Okay, I'll note that.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

some good writing

I'm always a fan of fine writing.

Monitor Zombies.

My cell phone actually has a GPS remote locator. I guess, in theory, if you were to lose your phone, you could activate the GPS remote locator with your computer and find out where your phone is. Again, this is an absolutely wonderful idea. In theory.

Her: Where were you last night?
Me: Last night? Oh, uh, I was at the library doing some research of course.
Her: Uh-huh. Your cell phone GPS locator however puts you at the strip club downtown.
Me: What? WTF?! Well, I guess I lost my phone or something, because I wasn’t there…
Her: Your cell phone is right there in your pocket.
Me: Oh yeah, some guy returned it to me like 5 minutes ago.
Her: ……….
Me: Ok, fine, I was at the strip club. But I got dragged by the guys, and I didn’t enjoy it at all!
Her: Oh really? Your phone’s vital stats monitor says you had 14 different erections.
Me: ….What the fuck kind of phone is this?! Goddamnit I hate technology.

I’m starting to find that with each passing day, I grow closer to running away from it all and adopting an Amish lifestyle. Hey, if there are any Amish people reading this, why don’t you drop me an email or add me on Facebook so we can chat about this?

some photos from the wedding

Yay, happy groom.

This tradition symbolizes that both people will wear the pants equally in the relationship. That's why it's over both chairs.

When I get married, the pants are only going to be over my chair.


This is half of the banquet hall where the wedding was held. In total there were 500 guests.

Cake cutting.

I ended up catching the bouquet. As a result, I was dragged onstage, where the MC asked me a bunch of probing questions in front of 500 strangers.

The bride's second gown for the night. Every appearance was preceded by lots of dramatic build-up. The couple has already been legally married in the US for two months, so they were very relaxed during the ceremony.

Friday, November 23, 2007

what to do, what to do??? about sharks.

Recently I watched a riveting movie about sharks.

An IMDB user comment said, "I had to retreat to the hall of the theatre to regain my composure."

The start of the film showed the filmmaker underwater, hugging a shark and caressing it. I kept cracking up because it was so funny to see this man embracing a shark into his bosom.

Anyhow, later it revealed how sharks are endangered but are being hunted for their fins! Because shark fin soup is a delicacy for Chinese people.

So I'm going to Wei-chao's wedding in an hour, and there will definitely be shark fin soup served. This is the one guaranteed dish at a Chinese wedding, similar to turkey at Thanksgiving.

Should I drink the soup? I am very touched by the film and do not condone shark killing! But the fin has already been cut off the shark and cooked into a soup, and if I don't drink it, my bowl of soup will just be thrown out, and then the shark would've died for nothing!

What to do, what to do?

Thursday, November 22, 2007

best thing I've seen in Taiwan

Walking along the street in Taichung tonight, we passed this shop:

The window sports a faded poster which looks like it's been hanging there for at least ten years.

The chinese line down the left-hand side reads: "BEAUTY begins at your fingertips."

I nearly died.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

amusing convo between my relatives

Riding in a cab with my aunt and uncle. Before retirement, my uncle was a ship captain in the Taiwan Navy.

Aunt: "Your uncle's voice is so loud! He says it's not that he's loud, but rather that I'm too quiet. He says I sound like an ant."

Uncle: [very loudly from front seat] "Not like an ant! Ants are mute! I said like a mosquito!"

Aunt: "He said when he spoke at the head of the boat, it had to be audible even at the boat stern."

Uncle: "I never said that! But there is a lot of wind on the boat! If you speak quietly, it's useless!"

Me: [laughing in backseat]

Cab driver: "I get a lot of passengers from China. The ones from Zhejiang province are really loud."

Uncle: "Not as loud as me!"

dashed happiness

Yesterday I ordered milk tea at a cafe in Taipei University.

Me: "One large milk tea, with tapioca."

Cashier: "Do you have a student ID? You get a discount."

Me: [thinking] "Yay! I look young enough to be a college student!"

Cashier: "Or a faculty ID will work too."

Sunday, November 18, 2007

priceless photos

Yesterday I visited my uncle who lives in Taipei. During the end of the 1940s, he was a boy in China, and visiting his uncle in the army. When the losing army withdrew to Taiwan, they took him with them in the chaos.

He exchanged a few letters with my grandparents, but later communications were severed between China and Taiwan. There was no more contact between them for the next 40 years. My grandfather passed away without seeing his son again.

My mother met my uncle for the first time at age 41.

But that's a story for another day.

I visited his house yesterday, and he brought out a photo album of old photos. Some were from his own life, and some were sent by my parents throughout the years.

This was sent by my grandfather before communications were severed. It's my grandparents and four of their children. That's my mother in the upper right.

I stared at this photo for at least ten minutes. The facial features of each of my uncles are clearly visible in the faces of these children.

On the back of the photo is a caption written by my grandfather, labeling each of the people. It is the only time in my life that I've seen my grandfather's handwriting. I couldn't stop staring at it.

A picture from my toddler days in China. That's my grandmother, then me (looking super-fat), and my mother (looking super-gorgeous).

This is a photo of my parents and me. My parents sent my uncle this photo years ago as a keepsake.

I really like the pants I'm wearing in the picture. I think I'm going to buy a pair just like that, and wear them around Google.

so Taiwan is like this too?

Dinner last night, with our family friends who live in Taiwan. The last time I saw them was when I was seven years old.

Mrs. FF: "Do your parents insist that you only date within your race? Only Chinese?"

Mr. FF: "Only from Anhui?" (Anhui is the Chinese province of my ancestry. My grandparents moved from there to Beijing before my mother was born.)

Me: [laughing] "Heavens, no."

Mrs. FF: "They're okay with you dating non-Chinese?"

Me: "Yeah."

Mrs. FF: "As long as it's not a black person, right?"

As soon as the words left her mouth, I thought, "God damn it, not this again." Modern-day Chinese people will say such things without batting an eyelash. The anti-racism social pressure is not as high as in America.

Me: "My parents have no racial restrictions on who I date."

Mrs. FF: "My friend emigrated her family to America, and her big fear was that her daughter would marry a black man. Because then you know, they'd have mixed children."

Me: [in horror, grasping for the fastest way to shut her up] "My mother says it's fine even if I'm gay."

Mr. and Mrs. FF: "What???"

Friday, November 16, 2007

pet peeve + away

It really gets on my nerves that so many web sites have their own messaging system. Why would I want a yelp.com inbox?? Just send yelp messages to my email address!

Ditto Facebook.

Ditto YouTube.

Ditto LinkedIn.

When questioned, one founder said, "What, I should send my traffic to Gmail instead of back to my own site?"

YES. It's a much better user experience!!!

In unrelated news, I'll be in Taiwan over the next week, for Wei-chao's wedding.

More than one person said, "Have a good time! Don't eat too many puppies."

Monday, November 12, 2007

my car is apparently a traveling museum

Three little exchanges from my life this past month.

1. At dinner with Nina and Dan:

Me: "I had a really rough week earlier this summer, when everything went wrong in a single week. I was really upset one night during the thick of it, and Dan stayed up until 2:00am talking to me on the phone. I will never forget that, for as long as I live. I mean, he usually goes to sleep at 1:45am, but he stayed up that extra fifteen minutes to console me."

Dan: "Which phone conversation was this again?"


2. Exiting my car with my brother, outside his apartment.

Me: [picking up package of instant noodles from my backseat] "Do you want this yakisoba?

Tom: "It's been in your car for five months, but sure. It's time to give the yakisoba a home."

Me: "By home, do you mean your apartment, or your stomach?"

Tom: "First one, and then the other."

Me: [laughing very hard] "And then the one again."


3. Driving in my car with my brother. I hit the brakes in my car, and an object rolled from the backseat under the driver's seat. I picked it up. It was an extremely withered apple, deep wrinkles lining the surface.

I handed it to Tom. "Want an apple?"

He cupped it in his palm. "This is Apple before Steve Jobs."

Sunday, November 11, 2007

when giants walked the earth

Today, in my Stanford writing class, the professor said Hemingway claimed he could write a story in six words.

Here is the story:

"For Sale: baby shoes. Never worn."

Hemingway was bad-ass.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

and then I was obliged to leave the room

At dinner, discussing a past decision that I now think was misguided.

Me: "You know how some people appear to be completely assured, and never experience regret or doubt? That would be nice."

Dan2: "Those people are disliked by most other people."

Me: "Naw, that's not true."

Dan2: "I think it is. However, they probably don't care about others disliking them, because they're just above it all. But then they don't self-correct, and can go down disastrous paths."

Me: "I guess if you never experience doubt, eventually you become Hitler."

Dan2: "Godwin's Law has been invoked. This conversation is over."


Final Halloween photos for 2007.

People standing in the lunch line next to me.

Off the bottom right of the photo, you can see part of the stuffed sheep that Brad threw at people.

Across the ass of the pants, he taped a banner that read "Super Poke". There was some temptation to poke it with my costume parasol.

One of the few times when I've found a dog cute.

He's wearing a pirate hat, and a YouTube T-shirt.

That's right, his costume is "pirated YouTube videos".

The Eye of Sauron was my favorite costume from Googleween. Because the original character from the movie -- the Eye -- was just so cool. And so hot!

Anyway, here I am defending against the Eye using my parasol.


She taped sentences across her back, including "What an adorable baby", "I like your haircut", and others.

Her costume is White Lies. She said I was the only one to get it, all day. A common guess was "Things that Men Say". :(

Some Googlers will understand why this costume is so hilarious.

Unabomber, complete with badge photo of the Unabomber.

Monday, November 05, 2007

these are some of the nation's best and brightest

A week ago, I attended a party in Oakland with Caltech friends. The conversation turned to our college classmates. (all names changed)

Mark: "William might be coming back to do a startup, if the funding goes through."

Me: "Wow, he'd move back here from China? That would be a big change. Did you know he's currently living in a house without running water or heat?"

Mark: "Why is he living without running water or heat???"

Me: "Yes, this is the question I posed to him also. He gave some long answer about pipes bursting, and how they have a water well. I understood every sentence he said, but afterwards I still didn't know why he's living without running water or heat."

... [later] ...

Stefan: "Tim performed the ceremony when Lina and I got married."

Mark: [to me] "You see, Tim is a man of the cloth."

Me: "Is he the one who's on the run?"

Mark: "No, I said he's a man of the cloth. He applied on the internet to become a priest -- "

Me: "I know, but is he a man of the cloth on the run? Didn't he escape the country?"

Stefan: "Tony is the one on the run from the law, not Tim. Tony is wanted for arson."

Me: "Oh, right. But wasn't Tim busted for dealing acid?"

Mark: "Yes, but he just got suspension for a year. He got fingered by another student, but he wouldn't rat anyone else out, so he ended up with the suspension."

Me: "That's really noble of him, to not tattle on anyone else even though it was done to him."

Stefan: "Yeah, he's a stand-up guy."


The next day, talking to my brother.

Me: [after recounting the conversation] "Do you have these conversations with your Stanford alum friends? Like, who's on the run, who was dealing acid, who is a man of the cloth?"

My brother: "No."

Me: [pause] "I'm glad I went to Caltech."


I like non-conformists.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Halloween photos II

Pirate holding a little chicken! The chicken is sucking its thumb. Awwww. AOL! (That means "'awww' out loud".)


Convenient that she can balance her drink on her costume.

I like these cookies. Form and function!

Cute OMG pumpkin.

Cute fractal pumpkin.

Cute witch pumpkin.

Cute spider web pumpkin, and jack-o-lantern pumpkin.

Okay, now are you ready for the shocker? The pumpkins in those last two photos ... are not real pumpkins. They're actually CAKES. I ate a piece. They look like this inside:

How awesome would it be if during your everyday life, you regularly discovered that objects around you are actually cakes.

"That keyboard had a strange reflective glint to it... [huge bite] Oh, butter cream filling!" etc.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

T + 2 hours

From nanowrimo.org:

National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30.

Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved.


In 2006, we had over 79,000 participants. Nearly 13,000 of them crossed the 50k finish line by the midnight deadline, entering into the annals of NaNoWriMo superstardom forever. They started the month as auto mechanics, out-of-work actors, and middle school English teachers. They walked away novelists.

This year 90,000+ people have signed up.

My word count so far: 384.

If I get stuck, I can do what my friend Rory suggested.

rory: how's your nanowrimo.org thing going ?
rory: are you simply dumping huge chunks of code into your novel ?
rory: "and then.. the programmer wrote this: ...."
niniane: lol
niniane: yeah!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

first set of Halloween photos

Friday night party in SF Potrero Hill.

The hostess, sporting a Justin Timberlake "Saturday Night Live" Dick-in-a-Box.

The woman in the green dress is wearing a fake ass.

There's nothing to say here. Except: awesome.

Guess what this costume is? The doll's shirt says, "Sean Preston Federline".

He's a PC! From the "PC vs. Mac" commercial.

He's wearing a blue shirt, with cutouts pinned to him labeled "Australia", "South America", etc. He's fanning himself, between exclamations of "It's so hot!"

Yes, he's "global warming".

Monday, October 29, 2007

"it just works"

Driving in my car, with my brother.

Tom: "Skill at work can be transferred to dating, right?"

Me: "No."

Tom: "It would work for some people. Like Steve Jobs. He can just convince you that he's good in bed."

Me: [laughing]

Tom: [in Steve Jobs voice] "Steve Jobs will show you something amazing tonight."

Sunday, October 28, 2007

You Know You're an Engineer When...

by Niniane Wang, Tom Wang

1. When you agree with someone, instead of saying "Yeah" or "Okay", you say "Obviously" or "Clearly."

2. You think Track 1 of the CD is the second song on the album.

3. There are things you wouldn't do for $1000, that you would do to win a free T-shirt.

4. You've never dated anyone who doesn't use vi.

5. You've never dated anyone.

6. You think the author line of this article should be written as "{Niniane, Tom} Wang".

7. "Big O" has a totally different meaning to you.

Friday, October 26, 2007

funniest thing I heard this week

IM with my friend David. We started on the same day at Microsoft, and independently came to Google around the same time. David endured some negative events at Microsoft.

niniane: [complaining about Silicon Valley stuff]
david: did you see? microsoft up to 35???
david: didn't think i'd see that this decade
niniane: hah
david: damn, we should have stayed there!
niniane: lol

photos from the city of angels

I spent the weekend in Los Angeles, prior to my Caltech tech talk.

Chateau Marmont, the bar that Elaine chose for Saturday night.

Token LA celebrity encounter! In the parking lot, we ran into Nicole, lead singer from the Pussycat Dolls.


Lovely LA morning with my friend's baby. My friend is half-Filipino half-Caucasian, and her husband is half-Japanese half-Caucasian, but for some reason, their baby looks completely white.

I know I'm inviting trouble (in the form of snarky comments) just by saying the word "Caucasian", but damned if I'm going to self-censor. Bring it!

My friend's backyard. This is the best house I've ever seen.

The rotunda in her house.

She excitedly showed me an interior design magazine with photos of a "dream house", which confused me because her own house looked just as impressive to me.

I like how the brunch restaurant thwarted my attempt at healthy eating, by topping the salad with a stack of onion rings.


I prefer the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to the Getty Museum. The Getty is high-maintaineance, with laborious parking and a 20-minute shuttle just to enter.

LACMA architecture is all high ceilings and glass. I approve!

Some of my actual friends don't look this alive.

I want to sit in this chair every day at work.

Software on the Edge of Forever

Tonight, I laid out a map on my brother's dining table to plan my family's Christmas trip.

It reminded me of a conversation I had with Dan about Google Local / Maps, and about how Chrysanthemum had ideas for a maps product in 2003 but didn't end up working on it.

Me: [to Tom] "If you could have worked on any product throughout history, which one would you pick?"

Tom: "Any product?"

Me: "Right."

Tom: "The Bible."

Me: [laughing]

Tom: [jovially] "I'll be Jesus Christ, your savior!"


Me: "So if you could pick any software product within the last twenty years to have worked on, which would it be?"

Tom: [after a few minutes of thinking] "The Sims Online. It had so much potential. The potential wasn't realized, but it was there."

Me: "My choice is Starcraft. It's still being played today. You know, if I had been willing to leave Caltech one year sooner, I could've worked on it. [pause] That game was the pinnacle of the real-time strategy genre."

Tom: "Until now."

Me: "I don't see how Starcraft can possibly be topped."

Tom: "Sure. You just have to name your company Blizzard and kick ass."

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Caltech photos

I gave the Google recruiting tech talk at Caltech yesterday. Afterwards I traipsed around campus.

Jorgensen, home of the undergraduate computer lab. It was the hot hangout in my time, but I hear that now students mainly program from computer in their own rooms. Ode to the loss of forced social interaction!

Cute soda machine. The top middle says "Mysterious Random Soda". The bottom panel says, "Pseudo-Random soda" with a probability formula.

Mural on a wall from my student days. Each of these fish was painted to resemble one of my peers.

Courtyard of Dabney House, known for its hippie lifestyle and tie-dye-wearing denizens. I lived here during all four years of my undergraduate life.

I told two students that I belonged to Dabney, and they eyed me curiously. "You're not dressed like it," said one.

"This is what happens later," I said. "Hippies turn into yuppies."

They pictured their most hippie Dabney friend, morphing into a Starbucks-drinking tie-wearing yuppie, and burst into uncontrollable giggles.

Pumpkins for the Halloween liquid nitrogen pumpkin drop.

Student who agreed to pose as a token undergraduate. Represent!

He's a physics major.

"So you stuck to physics," I said. "Half the incoming freshman class say they'll major in physics, and they all switch to computer science at the end of first term."

"Not quite," he said. "Actually, the incoming freshmen say they'll double major -- physics plus math."