Monday, January 26, 2009

don't you want to know what kind of MUD it was?

Chatting with my brother in my kitchen yesterday, while making a salad:

Me: "I met a new friend on Friday. She used to program MUDs, and now runs a startup making an MMO."

Tom: "Does she have a younger sister?"

Me: "I don't think so. Actually, come to think of it, she's your type physically. She's chinese, with long straight hair, and really skinny."

Tom: "Her younger sister is?"

Me: "No! She doesn't have a younger sister!"

Tom: "Bah, so useless!" [gets up and leaves]

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Chef Charlie's new restaurant

Charlie, former head chef at Google, is opening a restaurant at Town and Country Village in Palo Alto. It's called Calafia.

I managed to elicit an invite to his Friends and Family pre-opening tasting event this past Sunday. This was very exciting for me.

My reservation was at 9pm, and by 5:30pm I was ravenous. I cooked some pasta with meat sauce to tide myself over.

My handiwork, in progress.

Tom gave me advice on cooking this meal.

I asked him, "Which do you think will taste better, this pasta or dinner at Charlie's restaurant?"

This was supposed to be a joke, because Charlie is a famous chef with a cookbook of his own recipes, whereas I can't even get my own mother to acknowledge that I can cook.

But Tom thought carefully, trying to come up with an answer that wouldn't hurt my feelings. Finally he said, "If this meal is better, that would mean we can open our own restaurant. So I think the other one will taste better."

Finally the ordained hour arrived, and I drove to Calafia.

The interior space just inside the door.

Bar area. The font on the wall boards (over-exposed in this photo) reminds me of Google cafe fonts, for some reason.

Lovely open space for the kitchen.

I had the fiery bbq pork rice bowl (with brown rice, yay!). It was great.


It was better than my pasta, I can tell you.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

true friendship = responding in the middle of a puzzle hunt

Something came up that frustrated me. I sent a venting email to Dan. Then, because he came online the next minute:

niniane: i am frustrated!
niniane: just want to express my frustration through as many mediums as possible
niniane: next i will send you a sms
niniane: and then skywrite it
niniane: with flares
niniane: in the night
dan: Lol
dan: MIT mystery hunt is this weekend, I'm in the middle of it
dan: I validate your frustration!
niniane: sorry
niniane: go go go
niniane: go beavers!
niniane: caltech beavers only
niniane: do not go, MIT beavers
dan: [silence]

Friday, January 16, 2009

or maybe a balanced binary tree

At breakfast, I was chatting with "Lenny" about meetings. In particular, we discussed meetings that leave you feeling drained vs. ones that don't take up energy.

Lenny: "It's different when you're meeting with someone new. That's more draining."

Me: "That's true. Because you are creating a new entry in your memory, rather than appending to an existing entry."

Lenny: "Yes, it's expensive to make a new entry."

Me: "Deletion is also time-consuming."

Lenny: "Human memory must be a sorted linked list."

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

yelp elite

Tom: "Are you registered on yelp?"

Me: "Yup."

Tom: "Are you elite?"

Me: "No, that would take too much time."

Tom: "But you satisfy two of the three criteria embodied by all yelp elite."

Me: "What, female and ...?"

Tom: "Female, Asian, and angsty. Seriously, go to any yelp restaurant page and read the elite review. You'll see that I'm right. Or in rare cases, the reviewer is a guy, but if you click on his photo and scroll to the right, he'll be standing next to an Asian woman who probably writes all of his reviews for him."

Sunday, January 04, 2009

just in time for new year's resolutions

I think it's good when the president serves as a role model.

The paparazzi snapped a photo of Obama in swimming trunks. Now guys are taking his photo into the gym as inspiration.

I saw a news clip of a Midwestern-looking man asking a personal trainer, "Can I go from here (gesturing toward his gut) to here (gesturing at Obama photo)? Is there hope?"

"There's hope," said the trainer, studying the photo. "There's hope."


Maybe men will copy his haircut too. Instead of "the Rachel", we'll have "the Barack".

group weddings and celebrating the elderly

Over Christmas I visited a friend in China. We first spent a couple days in the city of Kunming.

I found a random hotel through Google Maps. It had Victorian statues of Venus all about the grounds.

My hotel was home to a "group wedding" tour group. All these couples came on this tour to get married. I've never seen this before. The tour guide provided bouquets, corsages, red scarves, and red umbrellas in case of rain. (Red is the lucky wedding color in China.) Later they were all going to their honeymoon in Lijiang.

I wonder if group wedding tours happen in other countries. I can't imagine it taking off in the States.

This mango juice stand is cute, from the name "Mango Tango", to the 2-d grid of mangoes in glass cases.

Bamboo patch in the Western Hills.


I liked seeing how Chinese culture respects the elderly. The Kunming newspaper ran a promotion in collusion with the local hospital, offering free glaucoma operations to anyone who has celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary (60 years). Gold wedding anniversaries get a huge discount, silver gets a small discount, etc.

The newspaper kept referring to elderly women as "little old ladies" in an affectionate way. It was sweet.

customer service around the world

A few days ago, I purchased a VPS plan (virtual private server) for a fun site I'm making with a college friend. The VPS company has a 7-day moneyback guarantee, which is common since people want to test connection speeds, uptime, reliability.

I was not happy with one aspect, so I asked for my money back. To my surprise, the company started arguing. I am used to US service, and this company is based in the UK, so maybe that is the reason for the different expectations. In the US, you can return shoes to Nordstroms after 3 months without a receipt.

I recall one British friend saying that customer service in America is so fakely sweet that it discomfits her. Is this just a culture difference then? Are the Brits actually happier with their tougher customer service reps?

It seems that China is moving toward the US model. Chinese stores used to be pretty gruff, but in recent times I keep hearing them say, "The customer is God".