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!