Wednesday, September 28, 2011

who wore it best?

Tonight I went to see a play at the ACT Theatre in San Francisco.  I went with my friends CM and Adit.  The play is "Once in a Lifetime", which we bought via a groupon.

There was a scene that took place on board a train.  I liked how the actors swayed in a realistic manner to simulate train movement for the entire scene.

Then I realized that I am wearing the same cardigan.  Here's a photo from this morning, which I took to show my friend Elaine (she had suggested that I buy the cardigan when we went shopping).

The play was interesting.  It was a portrayal of Hollywood in the 30s when talking movies first came out.  Movie moguls threw fistfuls of cash at new actors, voice coaches, scripts, trying to capture the gold rush.  It was very reminiscent of Valley gold rushes, like mobile or social or video or ads optimization.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

America, popularity, good grades

Last week Azer and I were talking about how we should invest our money.  Cash?  Gold?  Stocks?

One crux of this decision is how the American economy will fare.  Azer's view was that America is no longer the land of innovation that it once was, except in high tech.

I am more optimistic about America.  But the only thing that makes me more bearish is the way that America denigrates intelligence and studying.  It's taken for granted that in America, there is mutual exclusion between being well-liked growing up and having very academic hobbies.  The captain of the chess team is assumed to have trouble getting dates.  If you are in high school and win lots of math competitions, people assume you're below average in admiration by peers.

In China, getting good grades makes you MORE popular.  The valedictorian is usually very popular.  And respected.  It automatically gets you points.  In America, it automatically drags you down in the eyes of your peers.

I think this is the single biggest factor that could lead to America's decline.  Everyone wants to be loved and respected by their peers.  Making that at odds with pursuing intellectual activities is very damaging to maintaining the status as the land of innovation.

a quote I like

From my colleague Matt H:

Every day we slaughter our finest impulses.

That is why we get a heart-ache when we read those lines written by the hand of a master and recognize them as our own, as the tender shoots which we stifled because we lacked the faith to believe in our own powers, our own criterion of truth and beauty. Every human, when they get quiet, when they become desperately honest with themselves, is capable of uttering profound truths. We all derive from the same source.

There is no mystery about the origin of things.

We are all part of creation, all kings, all poets, all musicians; we have only to open up, to discover what is already there.

~Henry Miller, Sexus

A mature person is one who does not think only in absolutes, who is able to be objective even when deeply stirred emotionally, who has learned that there is both good and bad in all people and all things, and who walks humbly and deals charitably with the circumstances of life, knowing that in this world no one is all-knowing and therefore all of us need both love and charity.
-Eleanor Roosevelt

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


I took a painting class recently, where we all learned to paint the same thing.

I've taken painting at Caltech previously, and it always felt like I was stumbling along slowly. This time, being taught stroke by stroke how to reconstruct a painting was much more rapidly productive.

I made this painting:

I'm looking forward to going back and learning a few more styles.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

as seen from the programmer filter

At Minted, just now.

Me: "Can someone give my brother an invite to pinterest?"

Intern: "What is pinterest?"

Me: "You pin things that you're interested in." [showing the homepage]

Intern: "So it's like Reddit."

Me: "Yes, but beautiful, for designers."

Intern: "/r/designers."

Saturday, September 10, 2011

new solution when women complain about tech industry

Every once in a while, someone wants to commiserate with me about the challenges of being a woman in the tech industry. But I don't want to commiserate about it, unless we're going to brainstorm actionable solutions, and then take those actions. If we're just bemoaning the ways in which we're disadvantaged as a gender, that's very depressing for me. So it's awkward when people bring it up.

But now I have a solution! From now on, I'm going to tell them to read this book:

This is my new favorite book. It's an autobiography about Erik Weihenmayer, who goes blind at age 12. At first he rails against it. But then he learns that he can still excel at wrestling and mountaineering. Everything is harder for him. After graduating college, he gets rejected for every job, even dishwasher jobs.

When climbing, he gets big cowbells for his climbing buddies so that he can follow the sound and not fall off the mountain. When placing hooks during ice climbs, he can't see the color of the ice, so he devised a system of knocking on the ice and listening to it.

Imagine if he had just sat around saying, "Damn it, why am I blind?! This blows. Everyone else has it so easy compared to how much effort I have to put in." But instead he summited Everest. I am so inspired. I bow down to his action-oriented attitude.

Everyone has some "disadvantage". You're too young and people don't take you seriously. Or you're too old and people think you're obsolete. Or you are a minority. Or you are overweight and feel judged. Or your parents are super successful and you feel emasculated walking in their gigantic shadow. Or you changed careers and are starting out again in mid-life. Or you are newly divorced and feeling depressed about it. Everyone has something. So instead of complaining about it, find ways to overcome it! A blind guy summited Everest!

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Retrospective on survival school

It has been 2.5 weeks since returning from survival school.  I called Nikhil last week and we had a nice chat about how the course removed mental limitations that we erected around themselves.  In life, we often constrain ourselves with "I can't fast for 36 hours while hiking 10 miles uphill." Or "I couldn't walk 25 miles in a single day." Or "I would go crazy being alone in the wilderness for 24 hours."  These are simply not true.   Every one of us could do it.

Nikhil revealed that he lent me the hat, poncho, and cup to make me more committed to going.  It worked!

I have taken some actions as a result of survival school.  I am addicted now to local organic produce, and get it delivered weekly.  I drink more water.  I stopped spending any attention on status within my work industry.  I am flying to Chicago tomorrow to visit Nina, a classmate from the course.  I messaged two volunteers who are leading Habitat for Humanity courses in 2012.  I am still exercising 3 times per week.

I highly recommend survival school.  I want to go back one day and take another course, maybe the 14-day or survival rescue.

Stay hungry.  Stay foolish!  ;)