Monday, June 29, 2009


I turned 30 over the weekend. On Saturday, my brother took me to afternoon tea at the Ritz Carlton.

Tom, looking earnest.

Finger sandwiches, and little cakes. I like the warm scones with clotted cream.

Relaxed with tea.

They brought out a little cupcake for me.

Tom: "When I called, they asked me to spell your name over and over. I spent five minutes correcting them laboriously, and they ended up just writing 'Happy Birthday N'."

Me: "Is there an N? I think it's an exclamation point."

Tom: "You know the pastry chef probably got a notecard from the phone person, with misspellings of your name crossed out six times, and then 'Niniane' with a question mark at the end."

Sunday morning, a few friends went hiking in South San Francisco. is a great web site for finding hikes.

Picnic breakfast. I am so impressed that Meghana actually packed fried eggs and individual cups of sliced fruit.

Later in the day, I wanted to go hiking again. I requested a place with trees and water. Dan picked Land's End in northwest San Francisco.

Dan called out with relish how the hike contains both trees (pointing at trees) and water (pointing at ocean). I like how you can see the Golden Gate Bridge in the background of this photo.

Good job, Dan! I am surprised the hiking trail was not overrun by tourists. It was actually pretty empty.

The trail ends on the beach.

Then we went to Sushi Bistro, where I ate a lettuce wrap with unagi and sashimi. It's the first time I've seen a lettuce wrap in a sushi place. It was great.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

eating contest!

My brother and I have been invited to an eating contest!

In high school, Tom ate a pound of chocolate in 22 minutes to win a bet. Last month, his Sims 3 team held a contest to eat 30 chicken mcnuggets within an hour. He came in second place, finishing in half the allotted time.

The contest is in August, in Mountain View! Discussing the contest with my brother, over tea:

Me: "I'll make a war banner that says WANG in chinese."

Tom: "And I'll bring mustard and ketchup, and use them as war paint." [mimes streaking paint onto his cheeks]

Me: "Okay. I'll pick a theme song too."

Tom: "This is so much setup. What if I eat one hot dog and I'm done? You'll still be trying to extend the war banner, and the song won't even be playing yet."


Later, chatting over IM with the eating contest host:

y.w.: say hi to your awesome-sounding brother for me.
niniane: ok
niniane: my brother says hi back, in an awesome-sounding voice
y.w.: cool. i imagined guitar riffs playing as he said hi.

Friday, June 26, 2009

show him the hand, jenny

I would like to hereby show my support for Governor Sanford's wife. Finally there is a politician wife who is not standing idly in support through her husband's infidelity.

"His career is not a concern of mine," she told reporters as she departed the family's vacation home in Sullivan's Island, South Carolina. "He's going to have to worry about that. I'm worried about my family and the character of my children."

She added that she would be fine, with or without her husband.

"I have great faith and great friends and great family. We have a good Lord in this world and I know that I'm going to be fine and not only will I survive, I'll thrive," she said.

... Jenny Sanford would not reveal whether she was headed back to the family's home in Columbia. "Right now we're taking it a day at a time. Right now we're going out on a boat."

Photo from previous times. She was a Wall Street executive before marrying him.

You go, Jenny Sanford!

(My previous thoughts on this matter)


Dinner at Chez Panisse last night with David and Nina, who are here for a wedding. They live in New York City.

David told a story of his friend visiting recently from Berlin. He took the friend around Manhattan. They stopped at a bagel shop.

Friend: "This bagel is amazing."

David: "Yup."

Friend: "I wish we could have bagels this good in Germany."

David: "Well, whose fault is that??"


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Aziz Ansari

Last night, I watched a live standup comedy routine by Aziz Ansari. It was a one-night performance at the Punchline club in San Francisco.

It is hard to believe that a single human can be so funny.

He joked about how he's addicted to using his phone at stoplights. One day his parents will get a call that their son died in an automobile accident while googling his own name in quotes.

I hope next time he googles "aziz ansari", this blog post shows up in the results! And that he leaves a comment on this post. Because he is the funniest person that I have seen in person.

Partway through the show, Aziz took out his cell phone and said he was dialing Kanye West. He asked Kanye for permission to tell a story involving him. (My companion said he attended this same show two months ago, and the material was similar but there was no phone call.)

One audience member asked him to put Kanye on speaker phone and have him sing. Aziz said into the phone, laughing, "Did you hear that? No auto-tune!" Then he put the phone into speaker phone, and the person at the other end sang a verse from "Heartless".

I was very excited at the thought that maybe it really was Kanye. But Kanye doesn't have a Twitter account to update the world on his every movement, so I cannot verify.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

nom nom singularity

Eating with my brother Tom and another companion YY.

Me: [to YY] "Tom used to eat so much. I called him the Vortex."

Tom: "Yup, that's me."

Me: "You know that scene in Star Trek where a singularity opens up, and starts sucking in all the ships and planets around it? It was like that."

Tom: "That was my cameo."

(Image from James Clyne)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

When visiting my parents two weeks ago, I saw a photograph in the upstairs hallway. It was of me at eight years old, holding a six-month-old Tom. I took a photo of it, and later showed it to Tom:

Me: "You must have weighed 15 pounds. I'm surprised I could carry you."

Tom: "You were stronger back then."

Me: "What?!"

Tom: "You could lift me up back then, and you can't now."

Friday, June 12, 2009

for the deer with a refined palate

Last month, on a houseboat trip for Memorial Day Weekend, a deer came up to the boat:

One of my companions, "Bob", ran over with grapes to feed the deer.

Several other people: "Don't feed the deer! You're not supposed to feed human food to wild animals."

Bob: "I'm not feeding it human food. It's grapes! Grapes existed before humans."

Dan2: "Are they seedless grapes?"

Thursday, June 11, 2009

server hosting mimicking the show "24"

A surprising amount of drama happened with my server hosting company over the weekend.

I use two Virtual Private Servers for the software that I'm working on -- one in Atlanta and one in Texas. They are hosted by VaServ, a UK-based company.

Sunday morning, my monitoring service alerted me that my site went down. I attempted to ssh in, and found both servers unreachable. I began to realize the severity of the outage when my emails to VaServ bounced, and even their home page was down.

A moment later, VaServ sent an email saying that they've been hacked via a vulnerability in HyperVM, a piece of software that they license. I went on the WebHostingTalk forum to get the scoop from other customers. It is revealed that there may be data loss. The forum is divided between extremely anxious people:

I have no clue what server I'm on, don't know if I have data loss or not, and certainly have no idea when I'll be back online.. I can't do this anymore, and to retain what sanity I still have I'm getting drunk. Let's hope I pass out and wake to at least one of my servers up

Can ping the node, but not my VPS. Been down the entire time and although I understand they're working very hard, I can't help but pass my customer's frustrations on to them. I've got pages and pages of Paypal disputes.. Down for 2 days and I may be ruined here

and others rebuking those people:

If one company going down can ruin your business and lose you customers, that's just not sound DR planning. Disasters *will* happen. Plan accordingly! Especially if you have paying customers.

The next morning, I am surprised by this Register article about the founder of LxLabs, which owned the flawed software HyperVM that Vaserv licensed:

The boss of Indian software firm LxLabs was found dead in a suspected suicide on Monday.

Reports of the death of K T Ligesh, 32, come in the wake of the exploitation of a critical vulnerability in HyperVM, a virtualization application made by LXLabs, to wipe out data on 100,000 sites hosted by the UK web hosting firm VAserv.

On the forums, most people write their condolences, and how it was not worth giving up his life over his job, no matter how dire it seems at the time.

There are also a significant fraction of the posts asking "What control panel software will I use now??" followed by lengthy discussions on the merits of alternatives to HyperVM.

A few hours later, I am shocked to see a post from someone purporting to be the hacker, addressed to the CEO of the company, Rus:

...We were in ur networks sniffing ur passwds for the past two months... Telling you this cuz we got bored of this ****, it's just too easy and monotonous so patch ur crap, if your too dumb to secure a simple web server my rate is $100/hour or one night with ur sister hauhaiahiaha.


[logs to show how he hacked the system, and passwords he stole]

The next few forum posts were all along the lines of "OMG." One said, "This is better than watching a tv show."

By this point, the VaServ people had worked nonstop for 48 hours to restore servers, while customers screamed unabated. Two hours later, I received an email that VaServ was just sold to a larger web hosting company, Blue Square.

On the forum, Rus wrote:

I've personally reached the end of my physical and emotitional tether. With customer attrition etc I'm not sure we could deliver the level of service that we do aim to deliver. We have worked pertty much continsouly for the last few days firefighting. Taking I'm also debating if I'm responsible for someones death I'm not in a good place currently. As such I was left with two fairly stark choices

1) Run away and hide and just say to everyone "good bye"

2) Do what is best for the customer "base" as it stands and get some big boys in behind to help get things back up and running and give people a chance.

This broke my heart a little, to think of this hardworking guy building up his company over five years. They weren't the biggest operation, but they were always responsive and competent. Gradually they were expanding to the US and working on different brands for market segments. It took only one night to undo it all.

The next morning, it's finally confirmed that while my Atlanta server is intact, my Texas server has lost all data. I had backups of data and code, but not of the server configuration. As I began the process of moving onto Amazon EC2 and re-creating the configuration:

sha-mayn: did you find out what happened?

me: one server is ok, the other has 100% data loss.

sha-mayn: oh no!

me: doesn't seem quite as bad when you consider that someone lost his company last night, and someone else lost his life

sha-mayn: that's true. we should all have more perspective about work

Monday, June 08, 2009

supernova in your eye

One of my friends is considering a job switch. He made an updated resume and sent it to various software companies.

Friend: "I feel like Silicon Valley judges your resume less by your actual skills and more on how hot your current company is."

Me: "Hehe, you have a point there."

Friend: "I bet some recruiters aren't even reading the resume carefully. They just see how much hotness jumps off the page."

Me: "Yes, you should take advantage of your current hotness."

Friend: "They're asking themselves, 'Is this mildly scalding, or is it a supernova in my eye?'"

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Honest Sim

My brother gave me a copy of Sims 3 as a gift on Friday. He watched as I selected traits for my Sims avatar.

Tom: "I think you should remove 'brave' and add 'good sense of humor'."

Me: "Oh yeah?"

Tom: "Well, are you trying to model it after yourself?"



Here is a screenshot of my Sims avatar. She already progressed into the Elder stage.

birthday costume

Our friend Lily's birthday was last week. We surprised her with a Gossip Girl themed party.

Omar decided to dress up as a character from the Gossip Girl show. He picked his favorite character, the 15-year-old Jenny:

Here he is, as Jenny:

I think he did a great job on the costume. I helped him put on the smoky eye shadow and smoldering eyeliner:

Adit brought a birthday cheesecake:

We also took a freeze frame of the women from the show:

Prasanna's colleague Michael photoshopped Lily in place of the third woman. Then we found the Gossip Girl font and used it to write a note:

We had it printed onto an ice cream cake.

It was vanilla cake with strawberry ice cream:

Lily was pretty surprised.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

best tweet I've seen

This is the single best tweet I've read:

checking "remember me" every time i log into a website, doesn't seem to stick, feels like a "poignant personal metaphor"

The entire stream is also very funny. Read from the bottom up.

Monday, June 01, 2009

xbox controller-free gaming

When is Project Natal (Xbox controller-free gaming) coming out? I hope there will be an API for it, so that random people (me) can make games with it.

The DirectX API for joysticks and steering wheels is called DirectInput. I think the Natal API should be called DirectNoInput.

Dan will probably say that doesn't make sense, because there is still input. In fact there is more input.

Anyway, it's been five minutes and I already thought of two ridiculous games I want to make. I hope they actually get the camera recognition to work with reasonable quality under all types of lighting and clothing & skin colors. The disclaimer of "actual functionality may differ" is concerning.

the tragic shooting of George Tiller

I am horrified at the shooting of George Tiller yesterday. He was shot at church, while he was ushering and his wife was in the choir. Now his family won't even be able to seek solace from their grief by going to their family church.

It is impressive that Tiller did not mentally buckle under the 18 years of death threats he received. He was already shot in both arms during a murder attempt sixteen years ago. His name was found fifteen years ago on an assassination list. He fortified his clinic with bulletproof class, and traveled with a bodyguard.

The story of his earlier life is also poignant (article):

... his path was altered by a 1970 plane crash that killed his father, mother, sister and brother-in-law.

The former Navy flight surgeon was left with his father's family practice in Wichita, and he soon learned a secret. One of his father's patients asked him whether he, like his father, would perform abortions.

At first, Tiller said, he did not believe his father had risked his medical license by performing then-illegal abortions. But after the Supreme Court's landmark Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortions in 1973, Tiller began providing them.