Wednesday, November 29, 2006

New York's Hot Model

My friend Ming is one of ten semi-finalists for the CW11 "New York's Hot Model" contest:

Ming is awesome because she defies cattiness. She and I and a big group of women spent time together a couple years ago. Drama soon ensued. One woman started complaining that she was snubbed by another. Three women got annoyed at a fourth for taking candid camera shots (guess who that was?). Through it all, Ming emitted a force shield of being so down-to-earth that drama melted before it could reach her.

Her goal is to become a fashion designer, and she spends her evenings either designing jewelry or creating flash web sites to sell the jewelry on eBay.

Anyway, the contest voting is tabulated online, so you should go vote for her!


Me, Danielle, Ming in a SUV on our way to a dinner event.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

thanksgiving family pics

Thanksgiving dinner, chinese style. Instead of a turkey, we ate two chickens. Probably only one of the chickens was stupid enough to get caught, but the other one had to 嫁鸡随鸡 (marry a chicken, follow a chicken).

With my mom at sushi, after instituting the workaround. I love the workaround. It made the second half of my trip home actually enjoyable.

At the French restaurant where I took my dad, they brought us a basket of vegetables. Not of bread, but of cauliflower and lettuce. Later they brought a handheld basket with hard-boiled eggs. I like kooky restaurants.

best thing I read this month

If you read nothing else this month, read this story about a guy and his tapeworm. You will never think about tapeworms the same way again ... or beef tartare ... or going to the bathroom.

Here's a little hook to MAKE SURE you scramble over to read it:

I visualized the tapeworm securely hooked at the bottom of my throat using the spiny little stabbing things they had, its mouth ajar, and every time I ate, it ate; I drank, it swallowed; when I got caught in the rain, it stayed dry.

About an hour later, I felt something move, squirm, within me. I sat very still, as though listening to echoes in a canyon. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. There it was again!

It only gets better from there.

If you love it -- and I know you will, gentle reader -- leave a comment below about your favorite part.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

she makes marriage sound so appealing

[First part of this conversation pieced together from two overlapping conversations.]

Mom: "All married couples fight like this. Ask our chinese friends."

Me: "Is that supposed to make me feel better?"

Mom: "A lot of them have it much worse. Remember Ree who runs the clothing boutique in Beijing? Her husband had an affair with a woman twenty years younger. The mistress came to the shop to stir up trouble. Ree had to take her own money and pay off the mistress."

Me: "Why doesn't she divorce that jackass?"

Mom: "Naturally as Chinese people, they want to avoid divorce. Or at least my generation feels that way."

Me: "嫁鸡随鸡, 嫁狗随狗。 (Marry a chicken, follow a chicken. Marry a dog, follow a dog.)"

Mom: "Yeah."

Me: "What a crappy way to live."

... a couple hours later ...

Mom: So! When are you going to get a boyfriend? You should think about marriage soon!

LoTR == egypt

Walking around in Egypt, several times I felt as though I'd stumbled into a scene from "Lord of the Rings". Behold:

Two statues framing the river into Gondor, from "Fellowship of the Ring":

Two statues framing the entrance into Karnak Temple:

Eowyn's castle in Rohan, from "The Two Towers":

Queen Hatshepsut's mortuary temple, in Luxor:

Hall of pillars in the Mines of Moria, when goblins (and later the balrog) chased Gandalf:

Hall of pillars in Edfu, in southern Egypt:

If only Aragorn had appeared in Egypt, the picture would be complete. Imagine it:

Aragorn looking hot in the movie:

Aragorn cooling off in my hotel room:

Saturday, November 25, 2006

can't take my parents any more

It is 1:25 in the morning. I am with my family in Vegas for Thanksgiving. My parents have been arguing on and off for the past twelve hours. Or really for the past twenty-eight years.

Three months ago, after the huge weekend meltdown, I told my parents to stop arguing in front of me. If they feel the urge coming on, they can alert me and I will sprint out the door. Then they can bicker as much as they'd like.

Today over lunch, my parents discussed paying respects to my grandparents' resting places. They disagreed over who said what. My mother turned to my dad and said, "If you insist on doing this, I will never forgive you!" I raced out the door.

I came back half an hour later, when my dad was preparing to take my brother to the airport. My mom was still shouting. I packed up my suitcase and plopped it down on the kitchen linoleum. "I'm going to the airport too," I said. "I'm changing my flight and flying back with Tom."

"No!" my dad said, and rushed over to block me with his arm. "You have to stay. Stay the rest of the weekend!"

Such a display of emotion from my dad made me freeze with discomfort. I retreated to the living room, where I talked with my mother for an hour. I told her how painful it is to watch them argue.

"I didn't realize this counts as arguing! I thought it was just loud talking!" she said.

She promised there would be no more arguing, now that she understood what I meant. We re-installed Windows XP on my parents' laptop. They analyzed who caused the system to get clogged with viruses. It was my mother for downloading chinese toolbars. No, it was my dad for clicking on pop-up ads. No, it was my mother for typing on it fourteen hours a day. No, it was my dad for traversing unsafe web pages.

Two hours later, my dad asked me to install the printer on their desktop computer. I went to use the internet and it was dog slow. The desktop is five years old. Why don't they get a new one, I ask? Great idea, says my dad. No, no, my mother insisted, the internet slowness is just a fluke. She just used it again and it's fast. Go try it now! My dad sighed. "She's at it again! You just watch, she's going to use all her tricks to prevent from spending money on a new computer!"

and on,

and on,

and on and on and on.

At midnight my dad said, "This time, you're not leaving. I am." He stalked out of the room, and I heard the creaking of the garage door as it opened.

"What can I do?" my mom said, tears leaking out of her eyes. She gathered a napkin and wadded it in her hand. "Your dad keeps all the money. I don't want us to spend this much money on a computer."

I picked up the nearest book, Design Patterns, and clobbered myself on the head with it four times. I thought it would hurt but it didn't. It imparted a numbness that spread from the crown of my head down to the base of my neck.

My mom told me that it grieves her that I never call home. The only thing that gives her joy now is her church. But my dad won't let her donate to the church, and she feels guilty. She wasn't trying to start an argument, and she doesn't see why I am so upset. Her whole heart is focused on being good to her children.

"Then why are you causing me so much pain?" I said, yanking the roots of my hair in each fist. The crown of my head started to ache from where I hit it with the book, and the numbness spread to my shoulders. I began to fear that I did permanent damage to my brain by issuing blows to it.

"Fine, then maybe I will leave. Maybe I will devote the rest of my life to the church."

"You go and do that," I said, hating myself for the cruelty, hating her for the manipulation.

I escaped to my bedroom. My mother followed, knocking until I let her in. Another hour of hashing out why she was just trying to explain her viewpoint, how my dad won't let her access the money, how I should change myself so that this won't hurt me any more, how everyone's parents fight and this is normal.

Finally she sulked out of my room. I sit on the bed, googling to see if a head injury might create delayed effects that show up months later.

I am sapped. Why does everything in this house have to be so much fucking drama?

Friday, November 24, 2006


A couple weeks ago, Wei-chao and I made plans to eat at the Taiwanese restaurant Shinbala, known for its sausage.

He offered to give me a ride from Google, even though it's out of his way. The reason became clear when he pulled up in a brand-new convertible, which I learned is called the Lotus Elise.

"This is a pretty car!" I said, as we set off along Shoreline. "How many horsepower does it have?"

"Not that much, just a hundred-some," he said.

I couldn't help but laugh. "That's the same as my Honda Civic!"

Wei-chao just sat, smiling and driving, until I stopped laughing. Then he said, "The body frame weighs very little though, so it can do this." He floored the accelerator.

As the lane markers flew at and past me, my right hand clutched for the passenger door frame. We closed in on the car in front of us, fifty feet turning to twenty as I flinched my face to the right.

Wei-chao switched the car into the left lane without signaling, and our trajectory reminded me of an airplane on the runway. I expected at any moment the bump that comes from the wheels lifting off the ground.

After some minutes, we arrived at the restaurant.

Wei-chao, beaming, with noodles:

Me, in my favorite T-shirt (go!), about to eat the restaurant's trademark "sausage with honey".

Thursday, November 23, 2006

backlog of photos, part 1

I lost my camera USB cable in Aswan three weeks ago. Since my Fuji F30 uses a proprietary cable, my photos were trapped until I got a replacement.

Liberation arrived on Monday! Here are photos from the backlog, starting with dinner in downtown SF two weeks ago:

We bought a round of $10 cocktails as soon as we sat down, but the waitress kept pushing more alcohol. "Bottle of champagne for the table?" "I recommend the martini." "Port to go with your dessert?"

I endured in silence, wishing she would stop. Mike's reaction was different. He invited her to come out to party with us after dinner.

She said no.


House-made ice cream:

The bill came in a lacquer box which also contained flowers. Christina spurred us to wear them for some reason.


Me and Rob:

House party afterwards. An Asian man standing in the kitchen looked over at me a few times, and then crossed the room to start up a conversation.

He talked for a while about being a banker, and dealing with mergers and acquisitions. Then he asked where I live and what I do for a living. We got on the subject of the projects I've worked on at Google.

"What's Desktop Search?" he said.

I told him.

"Does anyone use that?"

"Millions of people."

"Really?" he said. "It doesn't sound very useful."

"Don't use it then."

"I think Google should just cancel it."

"Great, why don't you call up Google and say that," I said flatly.

"Fine, I think I will."

"Fine," I said. Then I added, "I'm so glad you walked across the room in order to tell me this."

We stared off in different directions for a moment, and then I went to go find Christina.

(He's the Asian man in the white sweater to the very left of this photo.)

Christina and I met a girl who is the Asian Brittany Murphy.

For comparison, here is Brittany Murphy. See what I mean?

The host of the party had a shelf of cookbooks. Look at these titles! Are they books for food or for sex?

never say never about eyebrows

I had worked with Nikhil for six months when I asked him if I could pluck between his eyebrows. This was in 2004. He was the PM on Desktop Search, and by the time an intense half-year passed, we developed a jovial friendship.

Let no one say that I went into the question unprepared. The night before, I put a pair of tweezers into my purse so that if he said yes, I could do it right there on the spot.

"Never!" he said. "I wouldn't even let Becca do it." [Becca is his longtime girlfriend.]

Over the past two years, I asked him on and off about the eyebrows. Sometimes we pass each other outside building 43, and we say hello. Then I ask, "Can I pluck your eyebrows?" He says with a smile, "Never!", and we keep going our merry ways.

Last Saturday, Nikhil held a party in the SoMa district of San Fran. He and Becca brought their dog, clothed in a cotton "I Heart Dad" doggie shirt. I'm not a big fan of dogs, but their dog is unobtrusive. It makes a low growling noise instead of barking, and its fur is tidy.

Around 1 am, as Nikhil sprawled on the living room couch, I asked the time-old question.

Venus must have been rising from the proper house of Jupiter, because he said yes. Becca supplied tweezers from her makeup bag. Although it was hard to contain my joy from fulfilling the two-year wish, my hand stayed steady as I pulled out his T-zone hairs, first three and four hairs at a time and then precise trimming along the edges.

The other partygoers laughed and took pictures, which excited Nikhil's little dog so much that he ran over to sniff out the action.

After my handiwork on Nikhil's eyebrows:

The original eyebrows, from 2004:

Sunday, November 19, 2006

America, these are your celebrities

I don't know what's worse, OJ Simpson's new book:

Simpson describes how he would have committed the 1994 slayings of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman, "if he were the one responsible."

An image of the cover featured Simpson's face and the title "If I Did It," with "If" highlighted in white and the other letters in red.

or the note Kevin Federline scrawled on his dressing room door. Just two weeks ago, he told a studio talk-show audience about his devotion to Britney, to which all the young women in the audience emitted a collective "Awwww". And now he's written this:

Today I'm a free man
Ladies look out
Fuck a wife
Give me my kids, Bitch!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

we ended up getting a Cranium set

Me: [on phone to my brother] Tom, I need your help. I need one of your skills. You're the best in the world at this.

Tom: [instantly] Eating.

Me: I can do that myself. I'm even better at that than you are.

Tom: That's true. Is it my ability to stay non-stressed?

Me: No.

Tom: Hm... [suddenly, very excitedly] You need me to play an MMORPG for you?

Me: [laughing] No! I'm going to a birthday party for someone on my team tonight, and --

Tom: Ah, you want me to help you pick out a present.

Me: That's right. I've been walking around stores in downtown Mountain View, and all they sell is candles and chandeliers.

Tom: It's not a present for you, Niniane.


Me: I've been asking him to work a lot in the past few days to meet a deadline, and I figure if I meet his wife and kids, then they won't hate me.

Tom: Or it could let them put a face to the enemy.

Fit or Fat

A decade ago, during a summer internship at Microsoft, I went to the intern picnic at Bill Gates's house. During a moment in his living room, I scanned his bookshelf. The right side of the bottom shelf was devoted to health and exercise. One title which caught my eye was called "Fit or Fat".

I found this title amusing, as I pictured a proper Jeeves-like man coming up and asking, "What would you like, sir? Fit or fat?" and then the reader carefully deliberating the pros and cons.


I gained ten pounds over the past two months. This is very foolish to write on the blog, because men who might want to date me will read it and decide to go ask out a skinnier woman instead. But the truth shall set you free!

I don't know the cause. I've tried to understand my body before -- why I sometimes need 10 hours of sleep and other times 5, why I fluctuate so much in weight. The analysis culminated in a three-month experiment this summer when I tracked a dozen variables daily in an Excel spreadsheet (Google spreadsheets hadn't launched yet). At the end, I excitedly graphed all the variables against each other, and ... nothing. It looked like a scatterplot.

The timing of my weight gain coincides with me starting to work out with my personal trainer Megan, though I'm sure it's not related. I must be Megan's worst example. She's often telling me about her other clients: the one who lost four dress sizes and bought her a facial as a present, the one who recently lost twelve pounds, the one who was able to go off diabetic medication.

On Tuesday, I was warming up on the treadmill, jogging with Megan standing by my side.

Me: "By the way, I weighed myself for the first time in a month. I'm now fat."

Megan: "Stop being ridiculous."

Me: "The scale doesn't lie, Megan."

Megan: "We don't know that it's fat. It could be muscle."

Me: "I did NOT gain that much muscle. Anyway, I've been following all the stuff you told me. I started eating breakfast. I run on the weekends, and I'm getting enough sleep at night. And what do I have to show for it? Fat."

Megan: "Give it another month."

Me: "Fine. One more month, because it's nice having more energy during the day."

Megan: "Good, we can see where you are then."

Me: "I'm telling you though, in a month, if I'm even fatter, I'm going back to my old habits. Because apparently, eating ice cream and never exercising works better for me."

Thursday, November 16, 2006

inside the pyramid, and other photos

Inside the Great Pyramid. This is the Grand Gallery, an inner chamber almost as tall as the pyramid.

I like vaulted ceilings.

The wall behind me has the Book of the Dead carved in hieroglyphics.

Ana is the director for a Giza archaeological site, and friends with Brian (our trip host and my dear friend). She explained the history of the sphinx to us, and showed us how archaeologists dig through layers of soil to analyze the history.

Ana explaining to Cheryl and Dan. Ana is unbelievably beautiful. She digs through sand under the hot sun for hours, wears no makeup, and still looks breathtaking. The rest of us try to look good with our eyeliner and mascara and lip gloss. Ana is the real deal.

Julie descending into the Red Pyramid, while the guard raises an eyebrow at the camera.

Brent and Julie at Philae. They live together in Seattle, and have been dating for three years. (Too bad for the anonymous commenter who thinks Brent is cute. Hopefully that wasn't just Alipé trolling again.)

Me: "How did you two meet?"

Brent: "Through Dave. [Dave worked with Brent and me on Flight Simulator.] I thought Julie and Dave were dating."

Julie: "Brent, stop telling people that!"

Brent: "Dave took her to the Microsoft Holiday Party in '03. I was like, 'Dave has a date like that, and I'm here with Steve?'" [Steve is a software tester on Flight Simulator.]

Me: "Steve is a really nice guy."

Brent: [raising one eyebrow] "Anyway, Dave asked me the following Monday, 'Hey, do you want that girl Julie's phone number?' I said, 'Weren't you on a date with her? What's wrong with her?'"

Me: [shocked laughter while glancing at Julie]

Brent: "Then I called her, and I found out what was wrong with her."

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

wherein I learn about my twisted back

Today I worked for 12 hours and then ended the day with a massage.

By comparison, the Egyptian masseur from two weeks ago was crap. His massage technique was the same as how I would do it, only more forceful. My Google masseur tonight had fancy professional methods, pressing out the stress in a way that said "non-amateur".

When he got to my right shoulder, it became much more painful. "This must be your mouse hand," he said. "Years of stretching forward to use the mouse has caused this muscle to deform. Your rib is sticking out in the back, and your shoulder is contorted forward." He pressed his thumb just below my collarbone, and I yelped. "Feel this knot here?"

"Are you sure you're not just picking a spot and poking me in it?" I asked hopefully, between gasps of breath.

He laughed and continued kneading my shoulder with his knuckle. "You should learn to use the mouse with your left hand, so that you can switch between the two."

"Won't that make me deformed on both sides instead of just one?" I said.

"No, the damage is exponential based on use."

Alas, gentle readers and mouse-users, you probably have the deformity too.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

photos from egypt week 1

Driving on the street in Cairo, you can see the pyramids in the distance. The rich Cairo citizens want to buy flats with a "pyramid view".

Brian (my friend and ex-coworker from Microsoft) is friends with an archaeological team. Here he is with one of the archaeologists, when we went to their dig site.

The team carefully sifts through every basket of sand they excavate.

They disagree with the common theory that the pyramid workers were slaves. They found a number of cow bones, suggesting the workers were fed beef.

The archaeologist tent looks just like in the movies.

In the tent.

Lobby of the fanciest hotel in Cairo. We didn't stay here; just came in to withdraw money from the ATM (which turned out to be broken).

Felucca (small sailboat) ride on the Nile.

The rest of our group arrived in Cairo.

The inside of a 800-year-old mosque.

Brent and Julie posing in front of a sarcophagus.

Another mosque.

Dan looking out of a carved window, at the Cairo street below.

Mingjing at lunch in the Hilton.

Me with strawberry juice, mango juice, and Turkish coffee.

Then I improved on this by getting a single fruit drink with all the juices layered together.

An early step pyramid. They didn't figure out how to build the gigantic smooth pyramids all at once. They took it ... one step at a time. Pun intended.


This reminds me of the last day in Cairo, driving during dusk. We passed a cylindrical tower, and several people commented on how phallic the building was.

"I've seen more phallic things," I said.

"But mostly on people, right?" Dan said.

Hypostyle grid of columns. It was similar to the Lord of the Rings underground hall where Gandalf runs away from the balrog.

Luxor temple at night.

Andrew looking very much like my imagination of a Caucasian traveler to Egypt from 1850.

Avenue of the Sphinxes. The Luxor mayor decided to increase tourism, so he dug up a field where he suspected sphinxes were buried. In so doing, he overturned the soil. By the time archaeologists rushed to the scene, the soil layering was lost. It is impossible to tell the time period for pottery shards and tool fragments found in the jumble, or to re-create the context of which piece laid next to which other piece.

To top it off, they didn't even find sphinxes in the field.