Friday, February 23, 2007

a poignant thing I just read

I was surfing the chinese web and came across a page of "38 sentences to my sweetheart". It was from a girl to her ex, saying that she still loves him and wishes him well with his new girlfriend, then confessing that she thinks about him all the time, how could he break his promise to always love her and never love another, blah blah typical heartbreak stuff.

I thought it was a little melodramatic.

But one of the guest comments on the page really struck me. It was the most poignant thing I read this week.



I also deeply loved someone, but he didn't love me, so we split up. Yes, I was the one who ended it. The breakup letter was written by me.

But, I was crying while writing, and he was grinning while reading.

I imagine this girl crying yet still possessing the strength to end things, rather than letting it drag on, and hanging on to scraps of affection. Very commanding of respect.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Vegas baby! (photos)

Walking into the Wynn suites, where our 22-person group stayed over the weekend. I love the theme of Alice-in-Wonderland meets Andy Warhol.

A water show.

We walked to Tryst nightclub on Friday night:

This girl danced on the platform near our table in Tryst. At first I thought she was a paid dancer, because look at her. But she stopped after a few songs, and Vegas is the land of hotties, so she could've just been a patron.

Our bartender stayed at our table and mixed us drinks all night long. It made us a bit spoiled:

Me with the exquisite Elizabeth. This is still at Tryst:


Room at the Wynn, in the Saturday morning light:

At dinner, they brought tiny chairs for our purses. My purse received its own personal chair for the evening. This is a purse we're talking about. It's like the time Paris Hilton fed $25 diamond-emblazoned bottled water to her chihuahua.

Cake redux.

Awww. Love turns Vegas from city of sinful debauchery to land of romantic twinkling lights.

Clubbing on Saturday night. This was a more touristy club. The patrons seemed more uptight.

Cheers is the place where everyone knows your name. In the case of some extremists, Vegas is that place.

It was cold on Saturday night. L was very kind to share her pashmina.

Writing styles: pretty vs plain

I read a half dozen writing books this past year. Most claim that colorful verbs are superior to plain ones. This:

“Coveting anything for Christmas?” Vickie said, kneading her computer mouse with her right hand.

would be preferable to this:

"Anything you really want for Christmas?” Vickie said, tapping her computer mouse with her right hand.

The one dissenting voice is Stephen King. "Use as plain language as you can," he says. "Never say 'I ambled down the corridor' if you can say 'I walked down the hall'."

Who's right? I suppose it depends whether your style is closer to Stephen King, or to literary New Yorker magazine columnists who pen books on how to write.

While I'm on this topic, Peng said tonight that he learned in Chinese secondary school the elements of fiction: focusing on conflict, eliminating non-essential plot development, exposing characters' personalities by creating scenes around their reactions, putting their passions at odds with each other.

I cannot say how indignant this made me.

Why, oh why, did my American high school english courses spend 90% of their time on symbolism? By graduation I could analyze a leaf falling from a tree six ways from Sunday, but I knew nothing of the basic fiction elements.

The falling leaf represents a fall from grace. The leaf's passage through the air is a rebirth through the birth canal. The leaf falling is an indication of fall turning to winter, hence the story moving to a new season. The separation from the mother tree is man's rejection of his origins. Or it is man's isolation from nature, going away from the forests and onto the cement sidewalks of modern society. The leaf will turn into mulch, indicating the cycle of death and life and continual struggle.

Why was I converted into an expert symbolism detector by age 14, but I didn't know fiction should resolve around conflict until I was 26 and self-studying off books?

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Xu's roommate

During a train ride in China last December, I scanned a local newspaper. One story concerned a man Zhou who was convicted of murder.

The story goes that Zhou and his wife went to a restaurant with friends. During an interlude, Zhou noticed his wife was absent. He walked upstairs to find her hugging one of his friends.

Upon interrogation, his wife claimed that there was nothing between her and the friend. In fact, they were talking because she wanted to set up the friend with Xu, a former female classmate of hers.

Zhou has never met Xu, but since his wife was hugging strange men, he demanded the right to do the equivalent. He announced he would sleep with Xu, and elicited her phone number and address from his wife.

Zhou called Xu's phone and announced that he was going to sleep with her. Xu, having never met him, was shocked and then irritated. She cursed him out.

Zhou gathered a few buddies to commiserate. Over drinks, he lamented his plight. First, his wife is hugging strange men. Then, he got rejected by Xu. This was not acceptable! After a couple hours of beers and anger, Zhou and his buddies picked up knives and lead pipes, and descended upon Xu's home.

They burst into Xu's apartment at 2am, and commenced beating and slashing everyone in sight. Xu and her boyfriend received heavy wounds and were hospitalized at the time the newspaper went to print. Xu's roommate died of her wounds.

This was a sad story, and made me melancholy. Later I told it to Bo, who started giggling at the end.

"What?" I said.

"Xu's roommate has absolutely no connection to this! Zhou's wife hugged a man, so he went to find Xu -- who he never met -- and ended up killing her roommate!"

For some reason, I started laughing too. It's gotten to the point now, where one of us will say out of the blue "Xu's roommate" and then we both dissolve into giggles.

Then we sober up and say a few remorseful words about how we shouldn't take joy at other people's suffering.

I am curious whether anyone else finds this comical.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

evening work convos

Alipé: Last year, there was an internal contest to see which engineers could perform the most optimizations on [specifics deleted]. The top two participants won a trip for two to Hawaii.

Odin: Together? Imagine if those two engineers don't like each other.

[Alipé stands by my desk while I update a configuration file. Not remembering the exact steps, I navigate my browser to my internal blog to check my notes from the last time I did it.]

Alipé: You have an internal blog?

Me: It's just my notes on how to run various processes. There's only three posts, and no one ever reads it except me.

Alipé: It's only a matter of time before someone comments on there, "Will you marry me, Niniane?"

Odin: There was a outage during [date range deleted].

Me: Oh really? I don't recall this. Was it reported by blogs?

Alipé: I remember it. Other services besides search were down too. Blogger...

Me: That's one way to keep it out of the blogs.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Valentine's Day massacres

Me: "I asked my friends whether they expect the man to do all the planning for Valentine's Day, or whether they share. Turns out they think the man should do it all."

Tom: "Yeah, but that's dangerous. This week several of my female friends said, "I'm not planning anything. I'm waiting for him to organize the evening." Later I run into their boyfriends, and I ask, "What are you planning for Valentine's Day?" The boyfriends say, "Nothin'."

Me: Do you warn them that their girlfriends are expecting it?

Tom: No, I sit back and think, "This is gonna get good."

jealous diapered astronauts

I recently read a news article about a female astronaut, who was dating a male coworker and learned that he was cheating. She drove for 12 hours to attack the other woman involved:

Nowak — who was a mission specialist on a Discovery launch last summer — was wearing a trench coat and wig and had a knife, BB pistol, and latex gloves in her car, reports show. They also found diapers, which Nowak said she used so she wouldn’t have to stop on the 1,000-mile drive.


What perturbs me is that she is organized enough to strategize about diapers, demonstrating more foresight than 90% of the population. Yet she lacks the self-control to do what the rest of us would, which is to storm to the garage angrily, then burst into tears and go back indoors to eat Haagen Dazs and watch "Lost".

Sunday, February 11, 2007

teri hatcher

I'm in Vegas for my friends O & D's birthday bash. Walking into the tower suite lobby of Wynn Hotel, I passed a woman in a floor-length evening gown. The dress, a blend of browns and yellows, showed off her slender long body reminiscent of a Bond girl.

"I guess there actually are real-life people who look like that," I thought. "Vegas is truly the land of beauties."

My immediate next impulse was to stare at the man holding her arm. What kind of man can land a woman with that caliber of looks? He was tall, with pleasant features and a shaved head.

I walked fifteen seconds into the elevator bay, where I ran into D, one of the birthday boys.

"Did you see Teri Hatcher?" he said. "She just walked by."

You know how some people chase celebrities and ogle them without any attempt at discretion? They give no thought to the celebrity's privacy, and they forego their own self-dignity in gawking and pointing.

Yeah, I'm totally like that.

"WHAT?" I said to D, and dragged him back out to the reception lobby. He good-humoredly moved in a pointless circle with me, to get a good look to verify whether it's her. She had her back to us, so we didn't reach a conclusion.

Three hours later, as I ambled through the lobby to meet my group for clubbing, I again passed the woman on her way back to her suite. It is definitely Teri Hatcher.

Some people like to talk about how media distorts beauty, and how models are photoshopped to look skinnier, and no one actually looks as good in real life as they do on TV. Therefore real-life women should feel better about their blemishes and love handles, because media perfection is unachievable.

Teri Hatcher last night proved this to be bullshit. Because she really does look exactly like this, if not better:

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


This morning I shopped for glasses. I wear contacts, so this pair is only for backup. But once I started trying them on, vanity kicked in, inducing me to spend an hour in the eyewear shop.

Here were the finalists. A:



I decided on C. From another view:

It takes a week to arrive. Eagerly anticipating.

Monday, February 05, 2007

stages of chinese mating ritual

Over instant messenger with Omst.

Me: With chinese flirtation, the man progresses in stages. In the first stage, he sits next to the girl he likes. No touching. He just sits next to her. After some time (perhaps across multiple encounters at parties), he advances to touching his shoulder to the girl's shoulder while they sit next to each other.

Omst: clothed?

Me: Yes, both shoulders are clothed. Oftentimes, the girl will walk away, to play hard to get. She'll do this even if she likes the guy. He has to repeat the stage to figure out if she's playing coy, or if she actually isn't interested in him.

Omst: wow this is quite the ritual! he has to repeat? how does he know if it isn't going anywhere?

Me: If he does it ten times and she keeps walking away, he gives up. [pause] All right, the next part, if she seems okay with it, is that he can accidentally brush her arm with his arm.

Omst: this is stage 2?

Me: No, stage 3. Unless your counting is zero-based.

Omst: ok I'm 1-based.

Me: Stage 1 is sitting next to, with no touching. Stage 2 is sitting next to, and shoulders touching.

Omst: I integrated those two.

Me: Oh NO, you can't integrate those two steps! Remember that each step involves a number of repetitions before you can advance.

Omst: Ah. So is this what XXX did to you?

Me: Well, he liked me, and he was preparing to initiate stage 1. I was sitting on the arm of a couch, and he came and sat down next to me. Then, to his shock, I reached over and ruffled his hair, thereby skipping about 15 steps.

Omst: So what does he think of Americans now?

displays of rage, lost in translation

"That's not what I do when I get angry."

"What do you do then?"

"I kick over bicycles. Like, let's say I was feeling sick, and my girlfriend left me alone to party with some other guy. I would confront her on the steps outside her apartment, and shout, 'I'm ill, and instead of taking care of me, you went out for a good time with some other man!' I'd turn to the rack of bicycles locked outside the building, and kick them over. Then I'd walk off coolly. Nearby girls would look at me with attraction in their eyes."

"What if there aren't bicycles around?"

"Fortunately, the few times I was in this situation, there were always stands of bicycles that I was able to kick over."

"You can only pull that off in China. There aren't that many bicycles in the US."

"Yeah, I'd have to kick a trash can or something."

"Most outdoor trash cans are made of heavy stone. You'd injure your foot."


"Yeah, you'd hop a few steps on one foot and then plop down onto the sidewalk and shout, 'I hurt my foot, and instead of taking care of me, you're just standing there laughing!'"

Friday, February 02, 2007

missing genetic material

Last week was my first return to the Sunnyvale karaoke studio after last year's jubilant discovery of how to sing.

Standing in the karaoke room with Sha-mayn (middle), who sings like a pop star, and one of the engineers on her team:

I ordered a classic chinese song 明明白白我的心 ("Obvious is my heart"). I stood up from the bulky couch and walked over to the corner. Tom taught me that standing up allows deeper breathing, which is essential for singing.

Instrumentals swelled through the room. The karaoke screen displayed the first lyric, preceded by four vertical bars. Each bar became awash in purple, then the first word. I opened my mouth.

After the song finished, as I sat down glumly, I said into the microphone, "I'll say the things you're thinking, so that you don't have to say them. [in higher-pitched voice] It wasn't that bad, at least you tried! You have courage just for giving it a shot. We're here to have a good time anyway -- no one minds. None of us are professional singers anyway..."

My friends hunched over laughing, stealing a quick glance at me and then turning back to the karaoke screen.

Once again, I have returned to the land of people who cannot sing.


Lamenting to my brother a couple days later:

Me: I did the steps you taught me, even the standing up. It didn't work! I wish I'd taken a singing class like you did. By the way, what grade did you end up getting?

Tom: It wasn't graded. It was pass/fail only. The syllabus said, "If you can breathe, you can learn to sing, and you'll pass this class."

Me: Oh. ... Tom, my singing was so bad! I even tried a second song --

Tom: I failed the course.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

trying to egg me into a midlife crisis at 27

Grabbing a late dinner at University Cafe in Palo Alto, with my brother.

Tom: I went to have lunch today with my future bosses at EA. They're these two really cool, middle-aged guys.

Me: [grinning] How can they be really cool AND be middle-aged?

Tom: Aren't you?

Me: [speechless]