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.


Strider Aragorn said...

I read all your stories about your past friends and it makes me somewhat sad that I missed out on that type of life. I almost wish I had gotten my degree through the standard methods instead of the military.

All my stories have to deal with almost being blown up or trying to do homework while working. I would have liked to have more stories of intrigue or just knowledgeable chit-chat.

Such is life I guess...

Anonymous said...

You are Chinese and like Christmas..

Is that conforming?

I have come to realize that women love all holidays that may benefit them.

Reguardless of background.

So I guess you are typical on some levels.

Niniane said...

Where in this post does it say that I like Christmas?

Anyway I do like parts of Christmas (sending cards).

Andrew said...

Oh, anyone can write a post about Christmas and end up not discussing conformists. That would be terribly normal of you...

Niniane said...

I think that was mockery, but it was too subtle for me. Maybe you're implying that I'm pretentiously claiming to be oh-so-unique and non-conformist? But anyway it's over my head because I'm not subtle enough.

Anonymous said...

Of course Niniane likes Christmas. She is white.

Joanna said...

I really like your writing Niniane!
It's oh so very. And, very JD Salinger ish. It's sparse. To the point. And, there's always a surprise at the end of the story.

Bravo. I wish there were more east coast chinese women who could write like you. I'd be their best friend in no time!

Anonymous said...

Joanna: Niniane is not Chinese, she is not even Asian. She is white.

John K. Lin said...

Nice nostalgic post.

I thought Google didn't serve dinner on Friday night's...

As I think I had mentioned before, whenever I read your posts on Caltech, I wonder if there are truly any similarities to "Pacific Tech" in the movie "Real Genius" which was supposed to be based on Caltech.

Matt said...

I cannot stand liers. They do it for attention, and mostly because their own life is so very boring.

day said...

I like reading your blog.

There are so many out there and you cannot read them all.

I like this blog because...

You are local, (mention many things close to me)
In the same industry,
Cute.... (obligatory annotation)
Geeky some but yet oh so hip,
You have unique perspectives
and are able to convey your thoughts in an inquisitive way.


For yourself and you seek input from others.

The same as many but...

You have the guts to open some of it here for all of the world to see.


If you stop adding to this blog
I will feel like the people following Forrest Gump
when he stops running.

Sad it is over but happy for the exercise.

Joanna said...

If by white you mean Niniane can write in gramatically correct English sentences with properly placed articles, yea, OK, Niniane is white. So? What?

I salute to anyone who can write perfectly in any language.

Elizabeth Fong said...

You've got to be kidding me. Is this story really true? I don't think I've ever heard it told around Dabney. :)

Craig M. (past IHC Chair) mentioned some kind of project to compile a list of alumni stories that he wanted to kick off, and this definitely strikes me as something he'd be interested in hearing retold.

Mac said...

If everyone's a nonconformist... then no one is.