Friday, November 27, 2009

Sep 11 text messages

Some of these alleged leaked September 11 text messages are chilling:

"I know you have a new relationship and do not care about me. But just in case anything happens know I love you hon. Missed Ya good bye."

"I want to hold you now."

"if i do not hear from you by high noon, i am going to pick laura up at school and tell her her father is dead."

"Honey wanted to tell you how much i love you. I was a little worried. I Don't want to lose you now that I got you back. You mean everything to me. You have my whole heart and life. I love you so much."

Buenos Aires

I've been in Buenos Aires for the past few days, with my dad. A few photos:

Mechanical flower statue. The flower sometimes opens. It's unclear what criteria causes it to open: solar power?

I felt a strong desire to sit in the park with my laptop, watching for the flower to open. It is like the Deer Hunter game where the user sits for many minutes waiting for a deer to appear. Top-selling PC game in 1999!

There are a lot of beef dishes in Argentina. This was a particularly good one.

Bought an empanada on the street during the Sunday fair. I chose pumpkin, corn, and cheese stuffing. Turns out it doesn't taste very good to have a starchy dough stuffed with numerous other starches.

My dad and I went to watch a soccer game. This is a photo from an hour prior to the match. 90% of the seats were filled during the actual match.

There were at least 100 policemen outside. We saw several streets where a dozen policemen stood in a line next to one another, each holding a heavy glass shield. There were policemen on horses, policemen in cars, policemen in armored vehicles. All this for a regular Sunday soccer match between two local leagues!

"Why do they have horses?" I said.

"To chase you if you cause trouble," said my dad.

"But why horses, when they already have cars and armored vehicles?"

"To chase you using every available method."

We passed mobs of fans wearing the local team's colors: yellow and dark blue. Fortunately I happened to be wearing a dark blue Google shirt. My dad lamented that China will never get into the World Cup again. "Look at these fans," he said. "China has to get this serious to stand a chance! It's not going to happen."

During the game, everyone around us stood for the entire match, singing songs in unison for three hours.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

agreement on thankfulness

Talking to my dad over breakfast.

Me: 爸,你感谢什么? [Dad, what are you thankful for?]

Dad: 什么感谢?对谁感谢? 感谢神? [What? Thankful to whom? God?]

Me: 今天美国过感恩节。 有个传统是讨论一下你感谢什么。 [It's Thanksgiving in the US today. A normal tradition is to discuss what you're thankful for.]

Dad: 我感谢苏明给我生了一个女儿和一个儿子。 否则一辈子光倒霉了。 这件事太重要了。 [I'm thankful to your mom for giving me a daughter and a son. Otherwise my life would just be full of unlucky events. This item was extremely important.]

Me: 哦,对我也很重要。 [It was very important to me too.]

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

gladwell parody

I'm amused by this Vanity Fair parody of Malcolm Gladwell:

Why baby Jesus? Research confirms there were upwards of 157 hotel-cum-stables in Bethlehem that night, with estimated 97 percent occupancy levels. So why did that star shine so brightly over his?


The results—codified and analyzed on a specially devised and integrated grid system known as blsht—were astonishing. All 323 volunteers experienced a quiet night in. In other words, they waited up all night, but no one—specifically, 0.0000 percent of a total world population of 6,783,940,189 human beings—bothered to come by.

So what does this blsht metric tell you about your appeal, compared with the appeal of the baby Jesus?

It tells you this: he was special.

And—here’s another thing—you are not.

I am gratified at the upwelling of backlash against Gladwell. For a long time, I've objected to the way that he uses jargon to sound authoritative and convince the masses that his ideas are scientifically accurate when they are not. He has been spreading misinformation on matters that I value, such as discrimination against minorities, and sexism.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Me: "What's a good gift for a guy, around $100? I've never met him -- it's my friend's cousin."

LG: "I'm probably the wrong person to ask."

Me: "Why, what would you suggest?"

LG: "A github membership."

Me: "You're right. You were the wrong person to ask."

Saturday, November 21, 2009

slashdot taking a lesson from Fox News

It irks me to see clearly biased journalism presented as fair articles. Take a look at this slashdot article:

Headline: "Bing Gains 10% Marketshare"

Wow, you might think, Bing gained a delta of 10% market share? That's quite a lot!

The article reveals that Bing gained market share for a final total of 10%. That is very misleading. If I say "Tom gains 150 pounds", what would you intrepret that to mean? By this usage, it would mean he gained a few pounds to reach a total of 150.

Here's another example from the slashdot blurb:

That's a gain of two large points in five months.

Oh, these are "large" percentage points? That must be a lot more impressive than two "small" percentage points. What about the five months -- are they large or small?


Friday, November 20, 2009

sha-mayn visit

Sha-mayn was in town last week, visiting from Beijing. I hesitate to write this, because at least one of you will email her, "Why didn't you tell me you were in the Bay Area?"

Anyway, we had dinner at Calafia, the restaurant of chef Charlie from Google. The salmon was very good.

Afterwards we talked at my house for a couple hours. I played with bubble wrap from a package Sha-mayn received. It was even better than the iPhone bubble-wrap application.

Talking to Sha-mayn in person was like eating at Fuki Sushi after a long break. I was struck by how awesome it was.

Sha-mayn was much more cheerful than the current Bay Area vibe. She's naturally positive in general, but I wonder if also Beijing is more optimistic than California right now. Ever since the market crash a year ago, the entire SF area has shifted from Tigger toward Eeyore. I wonder if this is on par with the rest of the US, or if the Bay Area has been hit especially hard with people stressing about personal finances, raising their next round of funding, etc.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

self poking

Tonight Lily, Charles, and I cooked.

Afterwards Charles was washing dishes in the kitchen, while Lily and I were in the living room.

Charles: "These forks are sharp!"

[small delay]

Lily: "Did you poke yourself?"

Me: [puzzled for a few seconds] "Oh, I thought you meant on Facebook. I was going to say, I didn't know that was possible."

Thursday, November 12, 2009

ice & errors

My Antarctica tour is canceled. The boat engine crankshaft broke. I received an email notifying me of this on Monday. I was supposed to fly down to Argentina next week, and make my way down to the southernmost tip to board the boat at the end of the month.

I should be singing "I'm on a boat" Antarctica-style in a couple weeks! Instead now I am scrambling to figure out alternate travel arrangements in South America.

Right now, it looks like I will be spending a week in Buenos Aires with my dad, and then a week in Santiago, Chile.

I am changing the plane tickets right now. The change fee is $200, which causes me stress. I want to make sure to research flight prices thoroughly. If I make a mistake and need to call in again, I would have to pay another change fee.

My dad likes to say that my brother and I are suited for a job where mistakes can be tolerated, like computer science. If your program doesn't compile the first time, fix the error and try again. In fact, it's rare to have a non-trivial program run perfectly the first time.

Most things in computer software are fault-tolerant. Accidentally push out bad code to your web server? Just roll it back. Faulty client code can be auto-updated (provided you did not hose the auto-updater).

An example of a job that Tom and I would do poorly at, according to my dad, would be performing arts, where it is important to deliver an impeccable performance on stage. Another example is being an athlete.

Recently I learned that being a lawyer would fall into the same category! Lawyers have deadlines by which they must file certain motions. If they miss the deadline, their client could lose the case by default. Also, if your case goes to trial, you cannot undo mistakes at the trial. If the trial ends and you discover another precedent you could've cited, it's too late.

I never appreciated how difficult it is to be a lawyer! Also there is so much guilt, if your client loses the case and goes to jail, but you believed them to be innocent. It is a tough profession.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Halloween photos

On Halloween, after attending a wedding, I went to a pub crawl for an hour. It was in the Mission district of San Francisco.

I saw this couple across the room. He's wearing a penguin hat. She's wearing an insect hat. I walked across the pub to ask if their costume is "linux bug". They confirmed that it is.

This girl came as Mike Tyson. We all agreed this was a well-executed costume.

This guy had 16 remote controls strapped to him. His costume is "control freak".

Omar as a box of wine. He wore a five-pound bag inside the box, and hooked it up to a spigot. You could actualy serve yourself wine from his costume. The pub wasn't too thrilled about him doing this.

C3 and I also visited my friend Kevin Fox's haunted house in Sunnyvale. It was stunning.

Mad scientist room. There is a robotic laughing-scientist, as well as a live actor. Guess which one is which.

The "biohazard" hallway, with a live actor halfway down.

Pirate room. There was appropriate pirate music.

Spider lair.

I was awed that Kevin, his wife Rachel, and their neighbors were able to construct a professional-quality haunted house in their spare time. In this world of commercialism, it's inspiring to see people create art just for the enjoyment of making it.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Halloween! With Tom

My brother is in town for two days, visiting me and his college friends.

I picked him up from SFO in costume, and we had breakfast at Cafe Borrone.

Tom: "What time is the wedding?"

Me: "I need to leave in an hour."

Tom: "Where are you going to change?"

Me: "I brought a dress, but now I'm thinking of just going in costume. This isn't a scary costume."

Tom: "It's not a costume wedding though."

Me: "It probably won't matter that much."

Tom: "No! Don't go in costume. How would you like it if some yahoo came to your wedding in a costume?"

Me: "Oh, that'd be awesome."

Tom: [at the same time] "Yes, okay, you would. But don't do it!"


I listened to Tom, and changed beforehand. I was very grateful for this, when I arrived at the wedding. There were eight bridesmaids and eight groomsmen. All the attendees were in very formal wedding attire.