Sunday, December 31, 2006

China's recent jug obsession

Last week, my brother flipped on the TV in our Beijing hotel room. The TV turned on to a Chinese talk show, with a short-haired woman and three men in armchairs.

The woman was in the middle of a speech, " ... women with watermelon shapes tend to be standoffish. They find it harder to make friends, because they're perceived as cold. Women with pear shapes are much warmer toward others, and have an easier time getting boyfriends --"

It's a little silly to generalize personality just from body shape, I thought. Though it's not a big surprise that watermelon-shaped women have a harder time getting asked out.

The woman continued, "There are also traits associated with orange-shaped breasts, pomelo-shaped breasts...."

She was talking about breast shapes, not body shapes! And what the hell is the difference between orange shape and pomelo shape?

The talk show went on for another twenty minutes, and the sole theme was: breasts.

The next day, I went to see "Curse of the Golden Flower", the currently playing hot movie in theatres:

The emperor's concubines and maids wore corsets that pushed their bosoms up, causing them to jiggle as the ladies walked. There were a few scenes of the maids doing collective dancing or running. The camera panned over a sea of jiggling jugs.

Yesterday I flipped through a chinese tabloids. Half the advertisements are for breast augmentation surgery. One said, "Improve your career! Get the wealth and lifestyle you want, ten years earlier! We've helped hundreds of women, now let us help you!"

Why this sudden obsession with jugs?

half plus seven, or ten years?

Walking down the street with my brother Tom and my uncle. My uncle is a retired physics professor who now lives in Shanghai.

Uncle: I told my son that in an ideal marriage, the man should be five to ten years older than the woman.

Tom: Ten years... So I should date someone who is nine years old.

Me: Hee hee!

Uncle: [seriously] That's right. You are too young now, of course. But when you are 29, she will be 19.


A few minutes later, a little girl crossed the street in front of us, hand-in-hand with her mommy. She wore a red coat, her hair pulled into two pigtails with pink ribbons.

I patted Tom on the arm. "How about that girl as your girlfriend?" I said.

He leaned over to get a look at her face. "In ten years, she'll still be too ugly."


Later that afternoon, in a shopping mall with my family.

Me: Christina's friend from New York saw pictures of you from the Google Holiday Party and said you're cute.

Tom: Oooh! Can I get a picture of Christina's friend?

Me: Tom, she's in her early 30s.

Tom: That's okay.

My mom: [overhearing] What? Early 30s? That's not okay!

Tom: [pulling me a couple paces away from our mother] I'm just curious.

Me: Fine. I think she's a stockbroker, so she can be your sugar mommy.

Tom: Seems like my range is really varied. Nine to thirty years old.

Me: [laughing]

Tom: Can you imagine if I broke up with Christina's friend? I'd say, 'I'm sorry, I can't talk to you any more. I need to go pick up my new girlfriend from elementary school.'"

Saturday, December 30, 2006

finally managed to connect from china!

I'm perched in a basement internet cafe in Xi'an, city of the terracotta warriors. At last, I managed to connect to! Four internet cafes over the past week failed me, but perhaps it was due to the trans-pacific cable breakage from the Taiwan earthquake.

Out of the hundred youngsters in this room, surprisingly few are playing World of Warcraft (none that I could see). Most are watching videos, playing a multiplayer breakdancing game, or webcam chatting, or combinations of the three.

Finally can write down blog posts instead of caching them in my memory!

Monday, December 25, 2006

Tom, job, funny

My brother Tom decided to take a job with EA after graduation. It's a gameplay engineer position on "The Sims".

Tom said, "I like working on games, because I can make them addictive. The next generation will spend their time playing games, instead of becoming kickass at programming. Then they won't be able to come steal my job. I'll have job security."


Today we took a taxi in Shanghai. Along the road stood tall signs of iPod nano on a fiery background. Tom pointed them out to me, since he interned twice at Apple.

Tom: "I liked working at Apple. They're good at marketing."

Me: "Yeah, they are."

Tom: "I'm going from the company of cool ... to the company of cruel."

who protects against the protectors

I ate dinner with my cousin (and 27 other relatives) on Saturday. When she learned that I work at Google, she said, "Didn't an unfortunate thing just happen in the Google Beijing office last month?"

"What's that?"

"One of the female employees was raped and murdered by a security guard."

"What?" My eyebrows nearly flew off my head.

After additional rounds of conversation that pulled in three more cousins, we determined that it actually happened at Baidu, the Chinese search engine company that is a strong competitor for Google.

As soon as I got back to the hotel, I searched for it. I couldn't find it on Google News, and had to do three searches on Baidu before I found an article.


In the evening of February 17 of this year, Han Wang was on duty when he learned that company employee Pingping (name changed) was sleeping in the conference room due to working overtime. After 1am on the 18th, Han stripped off his clothes outside the conference room, swiped his cardkey, and went inside.

When he removed Pingping's clothes with malicious intentions, he startled Pingping awake. Pingping ran outside loudly screaming for help. Han followed her and stabbed her numerous times, causing her death.

This sent shivers along my scalp. How many of us have slept in our company conference room (or in Google's case, massage room)? Many a time have I lauded the haven of the massage room: firm table to sleep on, blankets, aromatherapy candles. I consider it safer to sleep at work than in my own house, due to the cardkey-locked doors, security cameras, and of course the guards.

The security guard was only seventeen years old when he committed the crime.






Newspaper: Allegedly when the event happened, you hesitated outside the conference room door for a long time. Why?

Han: Making up my mind whether to go in or not.

Newspaper: In the end, how did you decide to do it?

Han: Not clear. At the time, I completely lost control over myself.

Newspaper: The court verdict says you attempted to take advantage, and after meeting resistance, killed the victim. Do you feel this is accurate?

Han: It's accurate.

Newspaper: Have you ever had a girlfriend?

Han: I've had one.

Newspaper: You split up after the event happened? Or you're still together?

Han: (a period of silence) I don't want to answer.

Full article in Mandarin.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

tormenting Tom with hot dog

Ever since my brother Tom watched me eat a spotted puppy in 2004, he warns me sometimes, "Don't eat any dogs at dinner tonight!"

His worry became exacerbated tenfold this week. We're in Beijing, the land of plentiful dog meat. I'm working from the Google Beijing office, and my family is here doing their own thing. Next week we'll travel together around China.

Thursday, I went to a goodbye dinner for Sha-mayn, who's flying to Singapore for Christmas. I invited Tom but he was unreachable, wandering through bakeries and DVD shops.

Walking into the restaurant, this banner greeted us:

"Dog meat boils three times, even goddesses can't sit still." The second line: "Country-style dog meat, with skin still on. Will give you infinite remembrance of the taste."

And here it is! A bubbling pot of dog meat.

I took a three-photo sequence in order to show Tom when I got back to the hotel. Pre-eating:

During eating:

Post-eating. Note the plate of bones from dear Fluffy. Or was it Rover?

With my dining companions. Six Google engineers, a recruiter, and a wife.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

as long as the punches are symmetrical

At sushi lunch to bid farewell to our intern.

Ryan: "Are there any major celebrities these days? Seems like they're dwindling."

Me: "Paris Hilton. According to Google Zeitgeist, she's the most newsworthy celebrity."

Ryan: "As a man, I don't even find Paris Hilton attractive. She looks like someone punched her in the face."

Ike: "I don't think that's what guys mean when they say, 'I'd hit that.'"

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

hot korean starcraft players, and unadulterated madness

Yesterday my brother showed me footage from a Street Fighter championship game with a passionate audience response. I watched it seven times in a row.

It's the third round of the championship, tied 1:1, best two out of three. Hundreds crammed into the room to watch the young player Daigo face off against an unnamed opponent.

In "Street Fighter", when your opponent attacks, you have one frame (1 / 30th of a second) to block him. During that split second, if you swivel your joystick a half-circle, your character defends the attack. The game writes "Tech bonus" onto the screen.

Daigo plays the boxer in a white robe. In the first 25 seconds of this video, he is beaten down to zero health, where a single blow would end him. Then watch for his consecutive "tech bonus" streak, and ensuing revenge.

"It's madness! It's unadulterated madness!"


Next Tom pulled up a Korean video from a Starcraft battle. In South Korea, Starcraft competitions are shown on national TV.

What a wonderful country.

Tom showed me the popular Stacraft player YellOw. "Lots of girls like YellOw because he's rich, plays Starcraft really well, and he's hot."

He must have gone through a geek-to-hot transformation, because in the video, he looks like two different men. The teenager peering through glasses at his computer screen does not resemble the cocky youth strutting through a cheering stadium.

In the battle shown below, the handsome YellOw is head to head against the top-ranked player Boxer. They duke it out on a stage, observed by hundreds of audience members. Amongst the screaming teen girls sit many middle-aged people waving streamers.

Boxer issues a rush against Yellow in the first five minutes. The two male announcers' voices rise in fevered pitch, as Boxer's minions rage through YellOw's town. Before the sixth minute is up, YellOw writes "gg" (slang for "good game") and resigns. Both announcers scream in voices so high they hit falsetto, "GG!!! GG!!!!!"

Smoke explosions fire upward from the edge of the stage. The camera pulls back to reveal the audience cheering at top volume.

You should queue this video and then skip to minute 4:45, unless you love watching starcraft moves.

Watching people go nuts is so fun. That's why I watch basketball and soccer. Not for the sport, but for the audience.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

how to resist free food??

I have a problem. It is a problem with free food. If I see a buffet table laden with free food, I will eat that food. This is guaranteed.

It is a problem because free food often encompasses tables of donuts, cakes, brownies. It surely causes untold damage to my body to eat 4 slices of cheesecake just because they're free. But my Chinese-immigrant self cannot stand the thought that this food is going into the dumpster in two hours if no one eats it.

Once, last year, I ducked into Google's main cafeteria ten minutes after closing time. The servers upended metal food trays into trash buckets, sloshing fettucini and asparagus into the black garbage bags. Next to the grill, the three-foot-tall trashcan held a heap of discarded food, topped with slabs of grilled Alaskan salmon. I hovered there for twenty seconds fighting the urge to reach in and grab the salmon. It was damn fine salmon going to waste!

There is also an element of "getting a good deal". We all know some women who cannot walk past a sign reading "50% Off, Sale Ends Today" without being gravitationally yanked to the display. If it's a sale for brown boots, she will try on the boots even though she finds both the color and the texture repulsive. Free food is the same Achilles heel for me. If the food costs even a dollar, the spell is broken.

Regularly at work, while walking to the cafeteria to eat the free food, I pass by platters of finger sandwiches left over from a catered meeting. I will stop and eat those sandwiches, because they are higher on the "free food" scale than the free food I was already on my way to eat.

If only there was an organization that drove around Silicon Valley collecting leftover food and giving it to the homeless. My incentive would then be to avoid eating the food, because I would be taking it out of the mouths of the needy. Why isn't there such a charity? Why are the gourmet cheese platters and lemon bars dumped in a landfill instead of driven to a battered women's shelter?

In 1997, a bunch of Caltech friends and I walked through a Microsoft building on our way to a Mexican restaurant. We passed a conference room with trays of leftover chinese food. I immediately diverted into the room.

"No!" said Dan. "Who knows how long that food has been there?"

I did not answer as my zombie self picked up a paper plate.

"You should not eat this food. You should come to dinner with us. It's for the social experience, not just the food."

I started loading fried rice and limp broccoli onto my plate.

"Does the food even taste good?"

I took a bite. It was cold and oily. "It's pretty bad," I said, as I continued the transportation of fork to mouth, fork to mouth.

"Fine, suit yourself," said Dan. He and the others walked away, leaving me alone in the conference room with my egg rolls and congealed sweet-and-sour sauce.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

best-looking software company in North Cal

Last night I attended a party filled with the most beautiful people. It was held at the Asian Art Museum. I walked in and my head started spinning. Tall men wearing suits and tuxedos, standing next to beauties in slim cocktail dresses. And everywhere, everywhere the glint of cleavage.

It was the company holiday party.

The food was phenomenal, much better than at the Google holiday party. Cups of chocolate mousse, vanilla mochi, brownies.

"Do people show this much cleavage at work?" I asked.

"Not quite this much, but -- " Clara nodded.

"How do you get any work done?" I looked at Clara's 22-year-old QA engineer coworker.

"That's a good question," he said. "It's hard sometimes."

Yao Ming

On Thursday I watched my first live basketball game, Yao Ming and the Rockets against the Oakland Warriors.

I was shocked to learn: Basketball is not fair.

When introducing the Rockets, the announcer read only the names of Yao Ming and one other player. To introduce the Warriors, uniformed men ran onto the floor waving ten-foot-tall team banners, and the announcer read a multi-sentence introduction for every player.

During play, whenever the Rockets took the offensive and got into position to shoot, the announcer played tense music to throw them off-balance. Pounding horror-film music. The theme from Jaws. Beethoven's Fifth.

When the Warriors prepared to shoot, the announcer played victory music laden with trumpets.

I leaned over to voice my shock at the Googlers next to me. One of them said, "In Texas, the audience members wave shiny strips of paper, to distract the visiting team while they're trying to shoot."

WTF! How can it be reasonable sportsmanship to invite another team to play in your home court, and then do these ridiculous distractions? How about if I challenge Sha-mayn and Dan to play scrabble with me at my townhouse, and then blast heavy metal during their turns?

One man in the section to my left shouted, "You suck!" every time Yao Ming went up for a penalty free throw. (Yao landed all the free throws anyway.)

The two teams went neck-and-neck through the game. In the fourth quarter, with less than half a minute to go, the Rockets led by two points.

Then the Warriors scored a three-point toss and a foul, pulling into the lead with only 1.2 seconds left in the game. The stadium went crazy: cheerleaders sprinting onto the court, audience hopping up and down, the mascot dancing a jig.

You could say the Rockets managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Who can blame them, with the crappy home-court-advantage syndrome!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

chinese sexism

I get emails every few days in Mandarin from Chinese engineers, asking for career advice. Sometimes the things they say reveal such a culture of sexism...


Before reading your bio, I had prejudices against women in the field of computer science. After learning of your experiences, my views have changed a lot. From now on, I will no longer look down on female friends entering computer science.

Yay! One down, how many more to go!

看了你的介绍 你真的是个厉害的女人!了不起! 原来女人也可以这么强!

Read your bio. You are truly a capable woman! Impressive! It turns out women can also be this strong too!

Not to turn this into a gender-war battle issue, but this reminds me of a Bobby Fischer quote. He usually played the Black pieces during chess. "The turning point in my career came with the realization that Black could play to win instead of just steering for equality."

上帝真是不公平 :(

so ashamed
I'm a big tough man but can't compare to this frail little female
God is so unfair :(

Yes, God is so unfair to you big tough men.

"i dream of cake"

House party last week, with such beautiful food.

Caramel peanut bar.

Made by a shop named "I Dream of Cake".

These pictures made me feel guilty, for eating curlicued chocolate tarts while other people starve. What's the name of a good charity for fighting hunger? One that will actually feed people, as opposed to paying office workers and inefficient operating costs.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

internet is bad judge of hotness

Today I checked the CW11 Hot Model competition and what the hell! The top three finishers do not include my friend Ming. Come on, gentle readers, did you forget to vote for her?

The winner is indeed beautiful:

but how can you say that the runners-up:

are hotter than Ming? That ain't right.

While I'm on the topic of beauty, I was reading this week. As usual, speculations abounded on whether Britney had a breast lift, or Nicole Richie got implants. Celebrity experts pore over before-after pics to analyze.

Don't paparazzi follow these celebrities 24-7??

I see photos of Paris Hilton hounded by five cameramen as she walks from the doctor's office to the parking lot. You'd think if Nicole Richie drove with her entourage to a plastic surgeon's office, and emerged two hours later groggy-faced with a big bandaid around her chest, the paparazzi would have noticed.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

final photos from Egypt

I know most of you already forgot that I went to Egypt, because you have fish memories. But here are the final photos from my October trip.

Eggplant, covered by ground meat, with an egg on top. Best thing I ate in Egypt.

Egyptian pharaohs had great abs.

Chamber inside Abu Simbel. This reminded me of the Fire Temple in "Zelda: Ocarina of Time".

Doorway into Karnak.

The Nile at dusk.

The Aswan airport showcased this list of objects forbidden on the flight. Amongst the list, "Spiral Taking Away Instrument For Cork Plug".

Little bear at Edfu.

Ah, how peaceful the Nile looks. Of course, the water is so polluted by chemical waste that a drop on your tongue will grow a second head out of your spine. But so serene.

Pyramid panorama.

Brian ordered this dish. I thought it was food for birds, not humans. It's a combo of chick peas, pasta, rice. Mingjing and Julie tasted it and started ordering it every meal.

The Pharaoh (I believe Hapshetsut) ordered engineers to build the largest obelisk in history. The engineers calculated load-bearing properties of the stone. They determined the day the Nile would flood enough to transport the obelisk on a boat. This became their "ship date", as it were.

This was before invention of iron tools. The workers chipped the obelisk out of its rock bed, by raising melon-sized stones above their head and bringing it down against the side of the obelisk, breaking away a few flakes on impact.

After eight months of working in what rose to be 130 F weather, their obelisk cracked down the middle. You can see the crack on the far end of this photo.

I feel for you, Egpytian engineers from 4000 years ago.

Recreation of an Egyptian house occupied by pyramid laborers. That red pit in the bottom right sure looks like a latrine. Brian's archaeologist friend told us it was a storage container.

Tunnel hewn into the innards of the Great Pyramid. An explorer centuries ago wanted to find the King's Chamber, so he dynamited into the pyramid side and dug his way in. This is his legacy.

how can I explain

During dinner with my guy friend, over sushi.

Friend: [talking about a girl] She's really special.

Me: Just don't take her virginity and then dump her two days later.

Friend: Why not?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

people are unpredictable

I was propped against the upstairs railing at Mezzanine on Saturday night, when Omar told me that Peter is moving to Korea. [Peter = my ex, for you new readers.]

Peter doesn't speak Korean. He's never talked about friends in Korea. His work project has nothing to do with Asia. But he decided to move there for four months, and work from the Google Korea office.

That was surprising.

Tonight I got an email from a certain girl, gushing about how she just got engaged. That's great, but ... WTF? Just two months ago she wanted me to date her, and within this brief time she met someone else and got engaged?

Next thing you know, my brother is going to announce that he's gay, and then Google will acquire Microsoft and we'll port our servers to run on Vista. Because apparently I can't predict worth crap about what will happen in the future.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

the holiday party

I deplore my attempts at writing about the Holiday Party. Instead here are two collages:

and one of the after-party:

Saturday, December 02, 2006

low expectations = easy to exceed

Philipp at Google Blogoscoped ran a comic strip speculating on my work project.

How did you know, Philipp? I call it Google Fly Simulator (GFS).

Friday, December 01, 2006

party time

My team slaved our asses off this week (16-hour workdays), and it's time to relax.

Friday is the Google Holiday Party. I'm taking my brother. There's a pre-party in the Mission, and an after-party at a nightclub. Also, E invited Sha-mayn and me to a bar where Googlers will meet up during official party hours, as an alternative. He promised to buy us rock lobsters. We got excited until he clarified that it's just a drink called the Rock Lobster.

Me: So we're going to pre-party, party, during-the-party party, and after-party?

Sha-mayn: I can only do the last three.

Me: Weak!


I don't have a dress to wear yet. I bought this one off Victoria's Secret online:

It arrived and fits great, but the texture is wrong. It's a cotton fabric, a regular-night-out dress. This year I want to go over-the-top for the Holiday Party, since I missed Halloween by going to Egypt.

I want my dress to be so princessy that people look at it and say, "Are you fucking kidding me?"

Like this: