Sunday, June 24, 2012

Survival school round 2

Driving in the van to start my 14-day field course at survival school!

In my course is a VC, a 19-year-old college student studying industrial design, an AMD chip engineer, an actor, and a few others we haven't yet met.

Weather forecast is sunny with daytime temps around 90. Here we go!


Recently I was asked how I started programming. Telling the story made me reflect on how sometimes what appears unfortunate on the surface turns out to be a stroke of luck.

When I was 5, my parents decided to buy me a video game console. They were both very busy (my dad getting his PhD, my mom working multiple jobs), so I had a lot of spare time. Nintendos were all the rage, but my dad bought a Radio Shack system, either because it was cheaper or due to his unfamiliarity with popular trends.

We only owned four games, so after I had played each of them hundreds of times, I got tired of them. It turned out that the console had a BASIC interpreter if you turn it on without a game cartridge. It came with a book with short programs at the back. I started typing them in and it would draw cascading lines and circles on the screen.

We did not own a memory cartridge, so I had to re-type the whole program every time. I also did not know how to touch type, so it would take an hour to type a 5-line program. But I had hours of time every day, so I would do this often.

When I was 8 or 9, the local school offered an introductory programming course, and my dad signed me up. The first day resembled the scene from Karate Kid where the kid discovers to his shock that he has internalized karate without realizing. The teacher handed out a syllabus with an overview of conditionals, loops, gotos (remember this was BASIC), and I knew it all already. I remember being confused. Programming is a challenging school subject, so how could it be the same thing I had been doing for years on my video game console?

I went home and announced to my dad that we can drop the class and get our money back, because I magically knew all the material already. He must've thought I was joking. He insisted that I keep going, even though I learned nothing new from that class.

A couple years later, our family friend (a CS grad student) saw that I knew the fundamentals and taught me LISP for fun. I wrote little adventure games for my brother; "You see a book that says TOM. Read / take / north / south?". Then Pascal and C in high school, the unforgettable euphoria of my first program which drew a circle using trigonometry, and eventually realizing at 16 that computer science was my life calling. There has never been a moment of doubt since.

Last year, my dad mentioned wistfully that he wished he could have given me more material possessions as a child. "You never wore designer clothes growing up," he said, "Kids love McDonald's, and I couldn't take you very often. And you only had that cheap Radio Shack game system with so few games."

Friday, June 22, 2012

Work gong

One of the lead graphic designers at Minted brought in a gong. This has given me a lot of joy in the past week.

Here is our engineering intern ringing the gong to celebrate the launch of an improved data deployment system. He is using a plastic bowling pin, as we do not yet have a proper gong mallet.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Starcraft tournament

I had incredible fun playing in an entrepreneur Starcraft tournament last night, hosted by an ex-Googler friend.

Our former Minted intern Maverick was kind enough to be my 2v2 teammate, even though he is platinum league and I am an unranked noob.

I caused us to lose the first game by Zerg rushing the enemy Terran instead of the enemy Zerg. I did the six pool correctly but chose the wrong opponent.

Our second opponent ended up placing second overall, so we were outmatched from the start.

It was fantastic! My only regret is that as the only female player, I felt a need to represent, and then I promptly caused two losses. Ah well, next time I will get a new laptop and practice my APM!

The winning team was Maverick's classmates from University of Waterloo.  At one point, they played against their classmates who became the third-place team.  They wrote "uw represent" at the start of the match.

At one point early in the night, I was talking to "Hat-guy", Maverick's friend from the winning team.

Me: "What league do you play in?"

Hat-guy: "1v1 or 2v2?"

Me: "2v2."

Hat-guy: "Master's!"

Me: "That's great.  1v1?"

Hat-guy: "Master's!"

Me: "Why did you ask me which one I meant then?  Did you just want to say Master's twice?"

Hat-guy: [beaming] "Master's!  Third time."


During the match, when they were doing the initial build order, the two opposing teams typed out messages to goad each other, such as "Tell me how your day was." and "it was allright."  And then "What's euler's formula again?" in the middle of the match!

I texted my brother many updates throughout the evening.  At one point:

Me: "I am such a noob!  I didn't even know what a baneling is."

Brother: "That explains a lot, lol"

Monday, June 11, 2012


This is my third year at Ephemerisle.

On Friday evening, we had a time-critical issue on the server, so I spent a few hours on my laptop from inside the white dome.

It was so peaceful sleeping on a floating platform, surrounded by twenty friendly fellow festival-goers.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Mom's visit

My mother stayed with me for 25 days. I just dropped her off at SFO on Sunday. As she walked into the airport terminal, I felt a wave of sadness, and wished she could stay.

We have evolved to an equilibrium where we get along very well. She cooked me breakfast and dinner every day. We both got addicted to "The Office" and watched the first seven seasons together. I felt motivated to tidy up the apartment and buy flowers and furniture to make it a more pleasant environment.

Friday, June 01, 2012


Wow, Katy Perry looks really different with vs without makeup. Also, this highlights how we pretty much have never seen her without makeup in public. Kudos to her for being in a movie without makeup! That's great confidence.