Thursday, December 30, 2010


I am in Luxembourg with my parents and brother. I'm reading a bunch of Kindle books on the plane, train, at night in the hotel.

One thing about the Kindle is very annoying. When you press on the directional knob, if your finger twitches at all (so that the motion is not straight down), your Kindle will delete the book instead of opening it. I've accidentally removed two books in the past day. There is no way to retrieve them until I return to the US, because the Amazon wireless doesn't extend to Europe for my device.

Anyhow, I just finished "Kitchen Confidential". Stephen King said once that people love reading about other people's jobs. It's so true. This entire book is an autobiographical account of a chef's career. My brother commented that he previously thought being a line cook would be fun, until he read this book. It takes a lot of strength to lift 100-pound cuts of meat or masses of dough. Also you need to be time-sensitive so that the sauce is created at just the same time as the meat and side dishes, so that nothing gets cold. Plus everyone's food needs to arrive at once, so it's a mastermind synchronization operation. On top of that, the chef needs to be creative at combining ingredients to taste good, plus he needs to be a strong people manager who can soothe egos, recruit cooks, and fire delinquents.

Next I'm going to read "Complications" about how surgeons are fallible humans, who start out scared to press down the scalpel on actual skin. The book opens with a frightening story about the author as a hospital resident, struggling to perform a heart operation for the first time. He forgets important instruments, his hand slips when he's putting a wire into the patient's artery, and he keeps poking the clavicle when he means to slip the tube under it. I was flinching every couple of paragraphs.

The top Facebook games also center around taking up a profession: Restaurant City, Farmville. Someone should write Surgeon Room as a game.

If you know of any other books that eloquently speak about an interesting profession, send me the recommendation!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

quips from my brother

Me: "So I have this friend Victoria..."

Tom: [smiling] "Does she have a secret?"

We are in a hotel in Luxembourg with an ambilight television. There is a light source behind the TV which emits light to match what is on the screen.

Tom: "The resolution on this TV is terrible! Why isn't it all HD?"

Me: "Maybe there are some HD channels that we haven't found yet."

Tom: "If I were this hotel manager, the TV would be automatically tuned to HD as soon as it turns on. Plus the ambilight is using RGB interpolation instead of LAB 1976."

[various questions about color interpolation removed]

Tom: "This TV is trying to distract me from its crappy resolution by literally using smoke and mirrors."

Me: "My friend Alco does a type of martial art that's supposed to be very deadly."

Tom: "What is it?"

Me: "Krav something."

Tom: "Krav maga? That's the deadliest type of martial arts!"

Me: "Yes, he's a black belt or something."

Tom: "That's the hand-to-hand combat used by the Israeli army."

Me: "Also, he can dismantle and re-assemble a gun very quickly."

Tom: "He's probably more deadly than his gun!"

Me: O_o

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

poem about boredom

A snippet from a poem referenced by my friend Lillers.

We did invent boredom,
a fruitful state.
It hid the size of our desires.
We were spared many murders,
many religions
because we could say, "I am bored."
A kind of clarity
came when we said it
and we could go to Paris or the movies,
give useful parties, master languages,
rather than sink our teeth in our lover's throat
and shake till things felt right again.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


My CEO likes to say to me, "You have a warped sense of time. You think a lot of time has passed, when it's only been five minutes."

It is true. I had not realized before, but I am very impatient! There are times when I've thought, "Why hasn't so-and-so replied to my email?!" and I search for the thread to write a demanding followup, only to find that I had only sent my email the night before.

The state of feeling impatient is uncomfortable. I am in this state of discomfort multiple times per week, where I'm waiting impatiently. I would like to lessen this feeling.

I heard from one startup founder that his investor will send followup emails every hour until he gets an answer. That seems a bit too pushy, but it is one solution.

Or perhaps I can try some type of meditation, where I imagine myself as a cactus in a timeless desert, or focus on breathing, or some such.

If you are impatient, how do you deal with this? If you are patient, what is your emotional reaction to people like me who are impatient? Do we seem inexplicable?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Hollywood separations

Scarlett Johanssen and Ryan Reynolds are getting divorced. I'm sure most of you have no idea who these celebrities are. But I am saddened by this. There are so many Hollywood splits recently.

Sunday, December 05, 2010


I wish I could wear a hat every day. But it would be weird if everyone else is in jeans and I'm wearing a hat. It's stifling that it's only really acceptable to wear a huge hat one day out of the year.

What can I do to create occasions where it's acceptable to wear a huge Victorian-style hat?

ways of the wor[l]d

Mitch: "I met these two girls last Saturday, and they're so aggressive!"

Me: "Why, what did they do?"

Mitch: "I texted one of them a few days later, and she answered within five minutes with an excited reply."

Me: "Wait, but you texted her first. How is that aggressive?"

Mitch: "I dunno, it just was."

Me: "Is she attractive?"

Mitch: "Not really."

Me: "I see. If she were really attractive, then the same behavior wouldn't be aggressive, right?"

Mitch: "Oh, I choose the wording based on the situation. In that case, I would say, 'Wow, this girl is so responsive! It's awesome!'"

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

frank lloyd wright

I'm reading a book of historical fiction based on Frank Lloyd Wright's life. It's called "Loving Frank".

It's making me very curious about visiting his houses, and seeing how the interior blends with the exterior. Also seeing how sometimes the ceiling is low to create coziness, but other times it feels lofty.

Also, this book makes his love affair sound so all-consuming. It's hard to imagine that he and his mistress would both leave their children for a year to live together in an Italian villa by themselves. It seems such a foreign concept for them to put their own passion above seeing their kids over an entire year.

But it's also rather inspiring, to hear a story of people who believe so strongly in their work and their love that they would endanger perfectly comfortable lives for it.

UPDATE: My friend Brian saw this post, and said he enjoyed visiting Taliesin West in Arizona. I had no idea there was a Frank Lloyd Wright house so close by -- I only knew about museums on the East Coast like Fallingwater or the Guggenheim. Now I am gripped with excitement over the prospect of going to visit! They have night tours and desert walks and behind-the-scenes tours!!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

pastries and moving

I had some friends over for tea yesterday. Afterwards my apartment felt cozier, so I suppose it was an unanticipated housewarming.

I bought these pastries from Golden Gate Bakery, which is just five minutes' walk from my apartment.

LG had only eaten egg tarts once previously (he claims from Safeway). He was pleasantly surprised how a properly-cooked egg tart can be far tastier.

I've ended up walking to Chinatown a couple times during the past week. I like hearing the kitschy music from little shops. It reminds me of being in some parts of Beijing, and also of the Chinatown section of Santiago in Chile.

Now that the apartment is warmed, I am realizing that moving turned out to be more psychologically taxing than expected. I'm going to minimize the number of times I move, during the rest of my life.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


This baby is so cute (from this Minted holiday card):

Sitting at work this afternoon:

Me: "Babies in costumes are so adorable, especially when they look unhappy about being in the costume. When I have a kid one day, I'm totally going to put them in all sorts of costumes."

GP: "What if your kid is happy in the costume?"

Me: "That's okay. Happy is good too. Also, I'll leave them in the costume all day. Eventually they'll get unhappy about something."

Monday, November 22, 2010

korean music video

Omst & Lori showed me this. The dancing is really nice! Also I like the way it sets up the story. Though the ending is a tiny bit odd.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

chrome extension

This chrome extension is really funny: Add the terrifying visage of Jimmy Wales to every web page you visit.

One of the user comments on this extension:
Chrome extensions might as well close shop. This is the alpha and omega of extensions. No other is needed.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

game mechanics!

The game-mechanics line was the best.


For a few weeks, I've been bemoaning my uprooting from Mountain View. Today I woke up still in a funk, but over the next 15 minutes, it dawned on me that there is beauty all around me! San Francisco is a gorgeous city.

View from my living room ten minutes ago:

Omst is visiting from Toronto and staying with me. Today I'm going to a pilates class a few blocks away, and then we're having breakfast at a cafe.

Me: "San Francisco is so beautiful!"

Omst: "It's actually raining right now."

Me: "Why do you have to be like that?"

Monday, November 08, 2010


I just bought this couch from overstock!

I hope it will look good in my San Francisco apartment.

By the way, this photo is a stock photo from the Overstock catalog. It is not an actual photo of the couch. I am waiting for the couch to arrive in 1 to 6 weeks!

Sunday, November 07, 2010


Me: [walking upstairs] "Oh, nice song. What is it?"

Azer: "Farez, a new Persian rap."

Me: "I like it."

Azer: "I'm organizing all of my music!"

Me: "Spoken like a guy with a broken foot."

Azer: "Yep."

Saturday, November 06, 2010

mental distress over moving

Tomorrow I'm moving a few items of furniture from my Mountain View townhouse to my new San Francisco apartment.

I'm totally distressed over it!

All day I've been stressed to no end. I'm hiring professional movers who will do all the furniture disassembly and packing into a truck, and yet I am still in great stress.

Faram said it's obviously due to moving out of a place where I've lived for six years. As soon as he said that, I protested, "I'm not totally moving out!" Just the words are causing me stress.

I set down roots in this house! Now I'm pulling them out. It's really unnerving.

But the view in the new apartment is good. Here's another angle that shows more of the Bay view and less of the Financial District cityview.

If you know me, you should come by to visit the apartment! Maybe that will help it feel more like home.

Friday, November 05, 2010


During a discussion on what to name the new server.  We decided to give it a logical sequential name.

B2: "That saves us the trouble of coming up with names."

Me: "Are you going to name your children KidZero, KidOne, etc?"

B2: "Yeah!  Then when they ask why their name is KidTwo, it'll be clear."

Me: "What if one of them runs away? It'll be really obvious when you introduce them.  'Here are my kids: KidZero, KidOne, and KidThree."

B2: "Should've had a failover for KidTwo!"

Me: "Or just redistribute the love amongst the remaining kids."

Saturday, October 30, 2010

apartment on a hill

I signed a lease on a new apartment, very close to Minted.

It was difficult to commit to this apartment! I'm very attached to my Mountain View townhouse. Anyway, I'm renting the townhouse to Azer, while I stay in this SF apartment for a year.

The apartment is at the top of a huge hill.

Even though it's on the first floor, it feels high up, due to the hill.

This is the previous tenant's furniture. I'm moving out of my crash pad this weekend, and into this permanent apartment in a week.

I still go to Mountain View once or twice per week. It's always lovely to see my house, catch up with Azer's latest adventures, co-host the Sunfire weekly presentation, and see my personal trainer. I'm very fond of Mountain View. I'm more of a MV person than a SF person.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

zurich & brussels

I'm going to Zurich and Brussels over New Year's, with my family.

Here is a photo of Zurich in winter. My brother and I fear the cold, but we couldn't agree on a warm place to go. I suggested Mexico City, which he vetoed due to drug wars. I suggested Sydney, which my dad vetoed due to cost. Finally we all agreed on Zurich.

Despite being 8 hours to the north, Brussels is supposed to be 10 degrees warmer than Zurich.

The last time that all of us traveled together was Madrid and Paris in 2007. I hardly remember going to Versailles and the Champ-Elyssee and all that, but the most vivid memory is that my brother's hotel bed had a broken leg, which would collapse during his sleep every night. Then the bed would tilt at a 20-degree angle. He told the hotel front desk, but they refused to act. So, every morning, the maid would prop the bed back up, and every night during his sleep, it would tilt over again.

We ate at a little chinese restaurant in a Parisian avenue near the hotel. The proprietors told us that the French have many government benefits when they have a kid. My parents decided that if they had immigrated to Paris instead of the US, they probably would've had a third kid. That was very strange for Tom and I to consider.

The first morning in Paris, I convinced my family to eat at a breakfast place nearby for 8 euros each. My dad was dismayed at the price. Thereafter, he found a pastry shop that sold four croissants for two euro, and he would go out every day for a morning walk and bring back four croissants. Then he would cheerfully invite my brother and I to eat at "Wang's Breakfast Shop".

On the train from Paris to Rome, my dad met a math professor who teaches in Rome. They bonded by complaining that their students are becoming lazier. This Italian professor asked my dad, "What is the biggest culture shock for you in Paris?" My dad said it was that the coffee cups in France are so tiny. He made a circle with his hands. The Italian guy said, "The cups in Italy are even smaller."

It's interesting how the things that my dad remembers are these daily occurrences with the hotels, the food, the coffee.

Anyhow, since I have a few days in each city, what are the most interesting things I should see in these places?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

darwin, clever

Discussing a startup.

Ganh: "Did the founders seem like they understand 'social'?"

Rob: "Y says they just innovated a lot, rather than trying to come up with the perfect user experience."

Ganh: "The age-old question of evolution vs intelligent design."

Me: [lol]

Sunday, October 17, 2010


All week, one of the popular San Francisco radio stations has been promoting a giveaway of concert tickets for Chris Brown and another star (Dre?).  The DJ talks about how hot Chris Brown is, how good of a dancer, how easy his backflips look.

Have we all forgotten that he brutally battered his girlfriend and showed no remorse for months?

I am incredulous that this radio station is acting like nothing happened.

One caller, a woman, talked about how attractive he is.  The DJ said, "You know, he's single now." The caller said, "Mmm, then I'd better get myself to that concert."

He's single because his pop-star girlfriend finally left him after he bashed her head against the car dashboard until the windshield was splattered with her blood!  And his fans are only focusing on the fact that he's single?


Neha visit

Neha came out to visit San Francisco this past week. She used to live in SF, but has been in Boston for the past three years, studying computer science at MIT as a graduate student.

She stayed in my little sublet with me, on Telegraph Hill.

She arrived at 1pm last Sunday, and had a paper deadline for an ACM conference at 5pm, so she immediately settled into finishing the paper. I liked having the flurry of activity followed by intense focus.

My sublet is quite small -- effectively the size of a hotel room. CM said to Neha, "I can't believe you're going to stay with Niniane in her tiny apartment!" But Neha and I both agreed it was really nice.

The best part of the apartment is the view that spans one wall.

This is the view.

Yesterday Neha and I woke up and chatted for half an hour, then realized that we were out of time to eat brunch. We walked down the hill together, where she got a chocolate croissant at the Italian French bakery and I got a slice of vegetable pizza from Golden Boy's. I loved the zucchini on this pizza, which is strange because I usually dislike zucchini.

It was really fun. What factors lead to some people being really enjoyable to talk to, and others being less compatible? I don't think it's due to common interests. It's some combination of humor and being analytical.

Monday, October 11, 2010

my new job

I am really happy to share that I have a new job, as CTO of I became involved with Minted earlier this year when Yishan Wong and I became advisors to them. Over time, as I got to know the team and product, I grew to really like the company, and now I've joined!

Minted is a blend of graphic design community and thriving e-commerce site. The company started with ongoing design competitions, which are then sold as printed christmas cards, wedding invitations, and other paper goods. The success in that market has allowed us to now consider expanding into new businesses. The business model is covered in greater depth in this article from last week: GigaOm: "For Minted, Crowdsourcing means Money".

It's a 25-person startup located in San Francisco. One of the best aspects is that I get to work with highly talented people who previously played key roles at Yelp, Goldman Sachs, eBay, etc.

One of the things that won me over was how much it helps the community of graphic designers find an outlet for their creativity. Many of them are women whose design talents are under-appreciated in their corporate job. Some of them are stay-at-home moms. It's very fulfilling to hear them gush about finding peers in the Minted community whose critiques have helped them improve their skills and build a portfolio.

It's also very nice to work at a startup with a solid business model, and with interesting technical challenges: applying computer graphics techniques to real-world consumer experiences, and building the most compelling social network for graphic designers.

I'm moving up to San Francisco, but I'm going to continue being involved in Sunfire with Yishan, and co-hosting every weekly mixer with him and Elaine.

It has been truly great working with Minted so far. We're hiring engineers! I've been lucky enough to already hire a former Caltech classmate, and we need more engineers! If you're a star programmer or know someone who is, send me an email and also check out our jobs page!

Saturday, October 09, 2010

canvas print

I bought today's Groupon, which is a canvas print of any photograph.

I'm thinking of using this photo. I like it because it's a candid shot of my mother and brother talking in a Shanghai museum, during the trip where these conversations occurred. Looking at this photo makes me want to walk over immediately and start talking to them.

What do people think? Would that look good as a canvas print?

Tuesday, October 05, 2010


Last weekend, I went to Ithaca to see my friends get married. The bride is my longtime friend from Microsoft, and she's marrying an engineering professor at Cornell.

They are so truly happy together!

It was an intimate ceremony outside a bistro, which then hosted the reception. The couple used traditional vows. The trend nowadays is to write your own vows, but it was actually extremely meaningful to hear them repeat the time-honored words to each other.

While the couple was exchanging vows, the bistro staff was consumed with rapidly slicing up chicken, preparing salads, and dicing pumpkin.

A pretty field next to the restaurant. I started walking down the cleared path. It felt like being in an English moor!

I could not get phone reception, so I turned back before very long, to avoid getting lost.

The wedding favor was a bride and groom in white chocolate.

It was a small intimate gathering, and the bride went around the room and really chatted with each table. It was nice to be able to have a real conversation, and not just do a toast in between 300 other guests.

The next morning, we all had brunch at the lovely Hotel Statler, which is run by the hotel-management division at Cornell. It was some of the best customer service I've exerienced from a hotel, partly because it came off so sincerely.

The day after the wedding, I hung out with the couple all day at their house. They have been living together for a while, and chose to spend time with their friends and family who traveled from a distance, rather than wanting to be sequestered away alone.

After brunch, the groom rode his lawnmower on their front yard to keep it looking pristine, then raked all the leaves. The bride and I drove to a nearby farm to pick up her dogs from where they were boarded during the wedding preparations. The groom cooked a lovely chicken curry for dinner. I told the bride how good of a guy she picked, who can take care of things around the house and also being very successful in his career. She said he's also the cutest, most attractive guy in her eyes, and they share the same sense of humor, and she feels like she's with the most suitable guy in the world for her. It was really sweet. They are both very kind-hearted people.

I am so fortunate to have these great friends!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

too small > too large

I realized a moment ago that living in a house that's too big bothers me much more than living in a place that's slightly too small.

I got another crash pad in San Francisco, this time near Coit Tower for a couple of months. It is very small, roughly the size of a hotel room. It's on a hill and has a great view of the city. I really like it!

My parents live in Vegas, where real estate used to be inexpensive, and two of their friends bought 8000 sq ft houses. Then their son went to college, so it was just the two of them in this house. That is a large home! Seems like it would feel so un-cozy as your footsteps echo around the uninhabited rooms.

Monday, September 20, 2010

advice to past self

A couple years ago, Bez (Google engineering director) made a comment that really stuck with me. He was deciding whether to take on a particular project at work, and he said, "I don't do anything half-assed. Either I don't do it at all, or I use my whole ass."

I think if I were able to give a single piece of advice to my 18-year-old self, it would be that.

If I were to follow my natural instincts, the amount of effort I put into a situation depends on how happy I am with it. There is a formula for that:
happiness = results - expectations

I've been most happy in situations when I came from worse environments. I loved Caltech wholeheartedly, partly because I felt like a fish out of water in high school in Las Vegas, and Caltech was such a welcome change. If I'd gone from an amazing high school, I probably would not love it as much.

Thus, it doesn't make sense to base your effort on happiness then, because you'd only end up putting in a lot of effort if you had a bad experience leading up to it which forced you to lower your expectations.

Once you decide to do something, even if you have a lot of doubts, you should just give it your all.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

new gym?

This morning, three unpleasant incidents happened in a row, on my way to 24 Hour Fitness.

First I parked my car and went next door to buy a locker padlock at Wal-Mart. The woman in front of me was a well-dressed lady with coiffed brown hair. She asked the cashier about the return policy. When she couldn't understand the cashier's response, she started being rude and repeating the question in a condescending tone.

Then it was my turn at the register. As I stepped up, she suddenly thrust out her purchases at arm's length, almost hitting me. She said to me, "You're in my personal space."

I said, "What?"

She said, "You've been pushing me in line, and coughing on my back." (I've had a cough for two weeks.)

We exchanged some more useless words, and then she took all her shopping bags and left.

I paid for my lock, and went next door to 24-hour Fitness. I entered the locker room and started to change. The locker room was nearly empty except for me, an older woman in green stretch pants next to me, and another woman blow-drying her hair in the adjoining room. After a minute, I noticed the woman next to me gyrating her hips in a strange manner. I looked over, and she was bent at the waist with her back arched, rotating her hips in a circle. It resembled a lap dance.

I finished changing into gym clothes, and went into the cardio area to use the stationary bike. A few minutes later, a man in his 50s walked over and mumbled something to me. I asked him to repeat it, and he said, "I bet you look real good on a bike outdoors!"

It is disturbing when people start unwelcome conversations during exercise, because you cannot easily walk away. So I said, "Thanks" and opened my book. He said, "No, thank YOU!"

He went to the drinking fountain. When he walked back toward me, I kept my eyes on the book. Then he said loudly to the air around me, "Boy, some people! They just think they're too good for everyone else!"

He walked away. I thought to myself that if instead of Wal-Mart and 24-hour Fitness, I had gone to Whole Foods and Equinox gym, these things wouldn't have happened.

Then I felt that perhaps that is a snooty thought.

But it is unpleasant to have so many distasteful interactions within 15 minutes.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

omst leaving

I'm sad because Omst is leaving the country. He's moving back to Toronto, where his parents and sister (and her family) live. Tuesday is his last day in San Francisco. He's been going around snapping photos of his last Tartine croissant and his last time lounging on his Mission roof deck.

Omst sat at the desk next to me when we worked on Google Desktop. I met him during my first day at Google. Omst was 22 at the time, with curly hair and long limbs. He liked to wear dark earthy pants and bright colored shirts (often green). I told him that he looked like a tree.

He drove me to TGIF one Friday. A song came on the radio (Dido's "White Flag") and I said I liked the song. Omst did not mock my taste. Instead he agreed with me that it's a good song.

A couple weeks later, someone broke into my car while it was parked outside my apartment. They stole all my CDs from the glove compartment, and the contents of my gym bag. I told Omst over IM that it happened. When I came into work the next morning, Omst handed me a CD. He said, "I know all your CDs got stolen, so I got you a new one to restart your collection."

It was a Dido CD. I was so touched!

Omst loves his cat. He also loves drinking wine. One day I got him a gift that combines his love of cats and his love of wine. When I told him this, he said, "What is it? It sounds disgusting."

It was a cat-paw bottle stopper. Kind of like this one, but different:

Omst has really grown into a gentleman over the years. When I first knew him, he would say, "Why should I give a woman my jacket if she's cold? Why didn't she bring her own jacket? She should give me her jacket!" But now he is the picture of chivalry, always offering to carry my bag and asking if I'm cold.

I will miss Omst when he goes to the Great White North!

Friday, September 10, 2010

pho challenge

Tonight, six of us from Sunfire went to eat pho along downtown Mountain View.

Pho Gardens offers a $22 bowl of pho, with two pounds of noodles and two pounds of meat. If you can eat it within one hour, you get a free meal, plus you can take the bowl home.

Sharam decided to do it. We made a side bet as well (see the cash on the table).

They brought out a large bowl that we thought was the challenge, but which turned out just to be the extra-large version of the regular meal.

This was the challenge:

Sharam ate for 15 minutes, and then gave up. The noodles actually absorbed the soup and expanded, so there was a larger mass of pho remaining when he gave up than when he started.

The restaurant said that Joey Chestnut (national hot dog eating champion) came by, and set the record for beating the pho challenge (14 minutes).

Sharam took the pho home in five take-out containers. We discovered that the bottom of the bowl is decorated with a cute piggy that says, "You did it!"

Saturday, September 04, 2010

my name is khan

Yesterday Omst showed me a Bollywood movie "My Name is Khan". It is about a Muslim guy with Aspberger's, who marries a Hindu hairdresser. After 9/11, they experience racial violence, and his lack of empathy is hard for her to handle. He sets off on an epic journey to regain her love.

The romance is very sweet! When they first encounter each other, she is so gregarious and he's the opposite. They don't seem like a good fit. But then the movie reveals that she had a previous arranged-marriage, where her husband harassed her and eventually ran off with another woman to Australia.

It's interesting how logical appreciation is different from emotional appreciation. I'm sure that before her experience, she logically appreciated kindness too, but it's different to value it intuitively.


My favorite scene in the movie was after a young computer hacker with a frizzy afro discovers that his previous hacking involving Khan has helped him on his quest. He calls up his mother and says solemnly, "Mom, today I am proud to call myself a hacker."

There is a long pause, and then he says, "Yes, I've eaten already. At least listen to what I'm saying to you first!"

Friday, August 27, 2010

moffett field, we have a problem

Yesterday Peter Norvig came by the office for lunch. Before Google, Peter was at NASA for three years. Yishan and I told him how Ed Lu (former Google manager and also former NASA astronaut) comes to the office from time to time.

Me: "I feel safer when Ed is around. If there were some catastrophe, he could MacGyver a solution to get us out."

Peter: "If the office started losing oxygen rapidly, he would know what to do."

Me and Yishan: "Yes, exactly! You understand."

Thursday, August 26, 2010

hardcore risk

I had brunch with a few longtime friends on Sunday. Later in the day, over IM with one of them:

xevirt: btw I don't think you went over the line this morning when you teased Octo about his dog
niniane: that's because you don't know that his other dog passed on a few months ago
xevirt: oh wow niniane, that's a hardcore risk you took there
niniane: I know.
xevirt: i'm surprised he didn't start climbing over the table to attack you
niniane: haha yeah. You would've not understood why. You'd just be sitting there, "Whoa. I don't know what's going on."
xevirt: well there's little needed to understand once people start climbing tables

Saturday, August 21, 2010

canadian technology

Omst has decided to move back to Canada, where his parents and sister reside.

Omst: "lol i remember a googler saying to me 'you're moving back to canada? are there even computers there?'"

I relayed this to my brother.

Tom: haha are there computers in canada??

me: omst can tell us when he gets there
me: if he tells us via phone call, we'll know the answer is no

Tom: what's a phone again
Tom: is that what they used before skype

me: it's iphone-skype
me: that reminds me of this: book google.
book google

When you need to figure out something, so you look it up in a book, like in the olden times, when dinosaurs ruled the earth.

Guy 1: Quick! What's the definiton of "callow?"

Guy 2: I don't know! My iPhone 4 doesn't get signal here!

Guy 3: Book google that shit!

Friday, August 20, 2010

another blog of mine

Yishan and I have been doing a Brute Force lunch tour, eating at every adjacent restaurant along Castro Street. We're keeping a blog of our experiences at

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

delayed rewards

I've noticed a pattern of some young engineers getting discouraged because they're not receiving much recognition for their work.

This happens disproportionately amongst people who don't fit the standard stereotype, namely female engineers and some minorities. The young engineer does a bunch of work, and hardly anyone notices. They start to experience self-doubt.

What exacerbates the situation is that they look around and see a senior engineer receiving accolades continually. They see Bob winning another award, or getting another five patents, or overhear people praise how amazing Bob is. The young engineer decides that he's not in the same league as Bob. Sometimes they wonder if they should switch to a different type of job.

A good manager can ameliorate this by giving instant feedback, but not everyone has that luxury.

The thing they don't know is: there's a lag between when you do the work and when you receive the recognition for it. The lag is typically a year or more. When you're doing the work, and even right after you finish, the reception is usually silence. You have to take a leap of faith that one day, your work will be warmly received. Experienced engineers get into a rolling-recognition situation where at any moment, they're reaping appreciation for work they did a year or two ago.

The journey always looks grim in the moment. When Frodo and Sam took the Ring to be destroyed in Mordor, it was tedious drudgery, they were hungry and cold, and they kept fighting with each other. Afterwards, they were praised as gods, and epic songs were written in their honor to be passed down throughout the ages. But at the time, it didn't look so rosy!

Same for working in software. I will leave it to the reader to make analogies for what Mordor symbolizes for you.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Mike: "PR teams are shameless. CEO resigns in disgrace? Quick, prove P ≠ NP!"


Monday, August 09, 2010

don't say 'if N = 1' (everyone else already made that joke)

The big news today is a circulated proof that P != NP. Researchers are analyzing the proof, and so far no one has found a flaw in it.

Me: "Did you see the 88-page paper? It is so understated. It starts off so cavalier: 'The P = NP question is generally considered one of the most important questions in computer science'..." [sending along the paper]

Stuttgart: "The title of the paper should be 'OMGWTF P != NP', and then the rest of the paper should be a dry technical proof."

Monday, August 02, 2010

but you can't juggle while driving a car

I visited my brother over the weekend. On the way home from dim sum, he was talking about where he could go to meet smart girls in the LA area.

Tom: "Maybe I should swing by Caltech."

Me: "You'll be competing for a few girls with a ton of guys."

Tom: "I can take on Caltech guys. I'll just say, 'Ladies! I take showers!'"

Me: "Caltech guys shower too."

Tom: "'Ladies! I wear shoes!'"

Me: "Oh, that's a good one."

Tom: "'Ladies! I get around in a car instead of a unicycle!'"

Me: [laughing]

Tom: "'My choice of transportation has four wheels!'"

Monday, July 26, 2010


I went to a glasswork class with my friend Ione, in San Jose.

Ione making a glass paperweight. It is extremely hot in the glass studio, and we all regretted wearing black.

Me using tongs to pull on the edges of my glass flower.

The glass is fluid, so we had to roll it back and forth to avoid it dripping into a puddle on the ground. Here you can see the flower in progress, from the side.

The finished glass flower. I gave it to Elaine as a Sunfire flower ornament.

The finished paperweight. I gave it to Yishan as a Sunfire paperweight.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

I eventually passed 4 songs on Hard!

Playing "Rock Band" with a few friends, including a work colleague.  I am doing the vocals.

Me: "I am going to switch from Medium to Hard!"

Friend: "Time for hubris, I see."

Me: "It's hubris if we fail.  If we succeed, it's called ambition."

Colleague: "I think we'll be saying that one a lot."

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Flood of tweets (fleets?)

Eating burritos with LG (now working at Twitter), Jon, and EDX.

Me: "LG, have you been watching the World Cup?"

LG: "Yes, in fact I watch the games very intensely, because the instant a goal is scored, we switch the Twitter GSLBs to point to a colo with better write performance.  Usually traffic is optimized for reads instead of writes."

Me: "Awesome."

Friday, July 09, 2010

starcraft, chess

Conversation with a Korean games company executive, "Jun".

Greg: "Why didn't anyone in Korea make an RTS to compete with Starcraft? You guys had ten years!"

Jun: "That's like saying, 'Do you play Go? Why didn't you make another version of Go? That game is 5000 years old.' We didn't make another version because we were already playing Starcraft!"

Me: [lol]

Jun: "It's like if you said to someone, 'Would you like to play chess, or a chess-like game whose rules I made up?' They'd say, 'No, I'll play chess!'"

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Spoiler alert for Sixth Sense, Star Wars, 300

Today LG and Jon drove down from SF to work out of Sunfire for the day.  During lunch at a kosher restaurant:

LG: "I have a T-shirt that spoils a whole bunch of movies.  Like, it says 'Darth is Luke's father.'"

Me: "That shirt is horrible.  I read several lines on it before realizing they were spoilers."

LG: "Haha yeah!  Or 'Bruce Willis is a ghost'."

Me: "That's so bad.  Sixth Sense is such an amazing movie when you get the twist."

LG: "Or '299 die.'"

Me: "Wait, what's that?  I don't know that one.  [horrified realization] Oh my God!!  LG!  Why did you do that?  Argh!"

LG: [laughing sheepishly] "You haven't watched it yet?  I'm sorry!  I didn't know!"

Me: "I can't believe that shirt ruined another movie when you're not even wearing it."

Wednesday, July 07, 2010


At Sunfire yesterday, we had a couple of visitors from Google.

Me: "I got several recommendations to read this book called 'Good Calories, Bad Calories'."

Reena: "Don't all those nutrition books say the same thing?"

Me: "No.  For example, they differ over whether meat is good for you or bad.

Reena: "It's bad for you."

Me: "This book says it's fine."

Augustus: [joining in] "Oh, I want that book.  I'm looking for a book that will recommend the way I'm already eating."

Me: [lol]

Saturday, July 03, 2010

iceland gay marriage

This is great!

Iceland Legalizes Gay Marriage, Prime Minister Marries Partner

Iceland has not only legalized gay marriage this past weekend, but its Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir married her long-term partner on the day it took effect, making her the world's only national leader with a same-sex spouse

Original article.

amusing iphone video

Thanks Sharam for showing me this.

Friday, July 02, 2010

yield a step, give an inch

My aunt has a best friend "Bea" in China.  I've met Bea a few times.  She is always cheerful, with a big smile.  She talks often about how she appreciates her husband of 30+ years for his kind heart and loyalty. Three years ago, I told her during a trip to Beijing how much I wanted to eat candied gourds, because I read about them in books but never ate them.  She took me around street vendors until we found a good place that sold them.

Once, Bea told us about how much she loves the fruit market near her house.  She said that the vendors all know her and greet her by name (or call her "sister" as is the local custom).  They save her favorite fruits for her, off to the side.

My aunt was curious, so she went the next day with Bea.  Afterwards she told me, "Those vendors gave her fruit that was over-ripe!  Those fruits are going to rot in a couple days. They were basically cheating her, yet she's still so happy."

I felt sympathy that Bea was being scammed and didn't even know it.  I thought my aunt is so much more sensible for catching on to the fruit vendors' tricks. But now I think Bea is the wisest one of us all.  She is happy-go-lucky and carefree, eating her overripe fruits, surrounded by a legion of friends because she is so fun to be around. She has one of the best marriages I've seen. Her daughter and son-in-law get along perfectly with her, and visit her frequently.  She is over 60 but looks at least 10 years younger. 

Bea gave me a hand fan once, which said in calligraphy, "Cherish being oblivious". 

As she gave it to me, she said that if you calculate every penny and argue every grievance, life is exhausting.  Instead, let yourself be oblivious sometimes.  "Yield a step," she said, "Give an inch.  And you will see that life is as limitless as the ocean and the sky."

Thursday, July 01, 2010

technically your friend was correct

(All names have been changed.)

Rob: "I went on a date with this woman Melissa. It was a setup by my friend. She said that Melissa is smart, has an interesting job, and is stunning." [showing me a photo of Melissa, who is not attractive]

Me: "Did you know what she looked like when you went on the date?"

Rob: "Melissa sent me a different photo beforehand which looked a lot better than she does in real life. I was tricked because my friend said she's 'stunning'."

Me: "Well, you were stunned, right?"

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

R-rated octopus joke

At Azer's birthday dinner tonight, at Garçon in the Mission district.

Flora: "I heard a joke yesterday from my nephew.  What did the male octopus say to the female octopus?"

Me: "I want to see your Octopussy."

Flora: "No.  He said, 'I want to hold your hand, hand, hand, hand, hand, hand, hand, hand.'"

Me: "Mine's better.  Or alternatively, he said, 'I eight her out last night.'"

Flora: "My nephew is 5.  I'm not telling him these."

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

life stages

At CM's birthday brunch on Sunday, five of us were talking on his patio. Henry gave an update on his ex-girlfriend who emotionally cheated on him, and is now in a long-distance relationship with another guy but still talks intensely to him. Rostam told us about his amazing first date with a woman last week, but the sparks are fading because she's too busy to hang out.

Me: "What's going to happen when we're all married and there's nothing juicy to talk about any more?"

Rostam: "There's always things to talk about at any stage: buying a house, having a kid, the kid going to school, parents' health problems, financial investments."

Me: "Those all sound incredibly boring to talk about."

Michael: "I'm with Niniane. Everything you just said sounds boring."

Lillers: [reassuringly] "Don't worry. I'm sure we won't all go into that stage at the same time."

Henry: "So you're saying that some of us will never find anyone to be with."

Lillers: "No, no."

Henry: "Then you're saying that by the time some of us are getting married, others of us will be getting divorced."

Me: [laughing really hard]

Henry: "I'm just making the implications explicit."

Friday, June 25, 2010

Sunfire office warming photos

The Sunfire office warming was last night.

People listening to introductions.

View from one of the windows.

Something funny happened to the side of the camera, which everyone is looking and laughing at.

Me with Sangeeta.

Action shot, with Elaine in foreground, and Yishan in the space to her right.

My favorite quote was at the entrance, when an attendee said cheerfully to me: "Sorry I'm late! I had to delay 30 minutes to sell my company to Playdom."