Monday, September 19, 2005

the Met

I spent 4 hours at the Met on Sunday. First, the medieval wing, with stained-glass and ceramic figures (yes, those are women with the bodies of beasts!):

Then, a variety of very lovely settings of what living rooms would've looked like, in the Victoria era. I love the different colors of walls.

I purchased the audio guide (because Dan did). Some of the paintings didn't impress me overly at first, but became more intruiging when I learned their story. The one below was commissioned by a woman who had the romantic favor of the king. She wished to keep herself in favor by sending him these enticing portraits, but keeping her mystery via the little corner of cloth that drapes over her nether regions. Apparently this was only sufficient for 6 years, and then he lost interest.

I liked this painting of Washington crossing the Delaware. It was wrong in all sorts of ways, such as:
1. They are crossing in the wrong direction.
2. The water is filled with icebergs which would've made it impossible to cross.
3. It would not have been possible to have horses and cannons in the small boats.
4. The boats are floating too lightly for that number of men.

but the spirits shows through! I recently read a biography of Washington in Newsweek which made me marvel that history was not more fascinating when I learned it in high school! Because this account of George Washington was riveting! On Christmas Day, they crossed the Delaware, becoming so tired and soaked that their guns didn't even work and they just stabbed the British with their bayonets. They were 4 hours behind schedule. But that's not what history remembers! The flaws are forgotten in the glory.

It reminds me of how things look so grand and magical from the outside, but they are so fraught with mistakes and peril from the inside. In Lord of the Rings, Frodo was wracked with weariness, fear, grumpiness, but later his deeds become an epic song. This is the way with actual life as well. Google looks so impenetrable to some outsiders, so miraculously able to deliver innovative products on a very rapid schedule. But on the inside, it is actually quite imperfect.

I also enjoyed how the Met has a mezzanine in the American Wing which is just crammed with objects. An entire row of silverware. Another entire row of portraits. This is the secondary collection, the less-important works which would probably be prominently displayed at any other museum but which are crammed along with hundreds of other similar objects at the Met.

Lastly, I like this picture. I can imagine being an early pioneer (glorious from the outside, but probably filled with fear and flies at the time!) and coming upon this scene.

I would have liked to live here:

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Prison-cell room is still okay

Peter has gone to the hotel gym to get an apple and do 5 sets of weights. I am blogging and doing a tiny bit of work.

We spent the day with the lovely Dan & Tessa. I saw a very cute blue stuffed fish on top of Dan's bookshelf, and started to play with it. It is plush and high-quality.

Dan: Google apparently used these as an physical reward for a job well done, years ago.

me: Oh, what did you get this one for?

Dan: Winning the programming contest.

me: Oh, right, cool.

Dan: Apparently when they were deciding what to name the company, they did a search for Google (editor's note: which search engine did they use??) and the only company that came up was one that sold stuffed-animal fish. [waves the fish] Presumably because its eyes stick out and are googly. [points fish toward me, eyes first] So they decided it probably didn't conflict and would be okay.

me: Well, good luck finding that company now. What would you search for, "google fish"?


I held the stuffed fish, while Dan & I played the 2-player card version of Settlers of Catan (I won, haha!). Peter took a nap. Later, as we were heading out to our first play during this NY trip:

Peter: Hey, let's take the fish to the play.

Dan: [very concerned] No!!!

me: Okay. Here, catch the fish! [throws fish to Dan]

Dan: [catches fish, then cradles it, with eyebrows raised, making protective noises]


We saw the play, Naked Boys Singing. There were quite a few bachelorette parties in the audience. It was 90 minutes of nude men singing and dancing.

By the end, I began to think I was too critical, because here were a bunch of Broadway actors who surely must be in the best shape, and yet I didn't think their abs were the best! Luckily Dan also said they didn't have perfect abs.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Gender bender.

This morning in hiring committee, we ran across a bunch of candidates with gender-ambiguous names. Think along the lines of "Jo", "Pat", "Shen".

One of the referrals was written by a Googler whom I will call Joshua. It was written in this manner: "I am referring Pat. They're a very strong software engineer. My experience with their code has been positive."

"Is Joshua not sure whether Pat is a man or woman?" I asked.

"No, that's just the way he writes," said Ann Mei.

I told the story of how in high school, I had a friend for months whose gender I was not certain about. Every time I tell this story, people are incredulous. "How can you not tell?" they would say.

But it was true. In my last 2 years of high school, I ate lunch every day with the same crowd of chinese students, mostly from Hong Kong. One of them (let's call this person Z) was slightly chubby, and the weight distribution made it impossible to determine whether there were breasts or not.

In chinese, the word for "he" and "she" sound the same, which was bad because other people's references to Z did not provide hints, but also good in that I could mask my own lack of knowledge.

When this happens, at first you think that you'll observe for a couple days and you'll figure it out, so you don't say anything. Then after 5 months, you really can't say, "Hey Z, you know how we've been eating lunch every day together, and we've hung out and gone to each other's houses? Well, funny question for you. Are you a guy or a girl?"

Eventually I finally broached the subject with my other friends. Another student, who was clearly a girl, said, "He's a guy. He told me this long story of liking a girl in junior high, and how she had great hair, etc." Later at lunch, one of the guys said, "I can tell my secrets to Z but not to you, because we're both guys!"

But then I found out that Z's English name was Kara. And Z told me a long story about having a big crush on a guy, and showed me pictures of the guy.

This was very confusing.

I think Z is a girl, but to this day I am only 99% sure.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

free porn

We just discovered that we have free porn through HBO!

Friday, September 02, 2005

New Orleans

My heart goes out to New Orleans.

I wish it was easier to donate money and get Google matching.

Marine scientist Ivor van Heerden of Louisiana State University, who has developed
flooding models for New Orleans, was among those issuing dire predictions as
Katrina approached, warnings that turned out to be grimly accurate.

"We're talking about an incredible environmental disaster," said van Heerden before
the storm arrived. He predicted that floodwaters would overcome the levee system,
fill the low-lying areas of the city and then remain trapped there well after the
storm passed — creating a giant, stagnant pool contaminated with debris, sewage and
other hazardous materials.

I find this very easy to identify with. Perhaps it's easier for me to imagine reaching an alarming finding as a scientist, than to imagine scrambling to higher ground in my house while it fills with water up to my neck.

I imagine this scientist issuing his predictions and giving warnings, and seeing them get ignored by others with less scientific background. I imagine him watching as the nightmare unfolds, proving him correct in a terrible way.