Thursday, March 29, 2007

just sleep this time

I've been reading a book about sleep:

I used to think that sleepiness increased linearly with number of hours awake. If you feel sleepy at 9pm, you must surely be even more sleepy at 1am! Not so, says the book. Our bodies release biological alertness hormones twice a day. If I miss the 10pm sleepiness train, I will not be tired again until 2:30am.

I also learned that exposing your body to light will make you stay awake longer. Even shining a bright light on the back of your knee will confuse your body's clock and make you less sleepy.

This book has answered many of the ignorance-induced frustrations from my sleep-postponement habit. Thank you, book.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

good ideas

Every so often, I see something brilliant, which makes me glad to live in this world. Last week, I was lucky enough to encounter three such things.

1. Aquavit in midtown Manhattan serves a smorgasboard as one of their entrees. Why eat one variety of food when you can eat a dozen? Also, the word "smorgasboard" is beautiful.

2. The gas station on Middlefield installed a display in the pump station, playing a continuous stream of commercials. At home I would Tivo-skip over all these ads, but last night I stood and watched every Coke and movie commercial during my fuel-up. So did all the other driver there, proving that timing is more important than content.

3. You know how you want to add toppings to your burger -- tomato, lettuce, relish, fried egg -- but then the size strains your mouth?


The solution is: burger in a bowl! Mine had avocado, grilled pineapple, hard-boiled egg, and dried cranberries.

Friday, March 23, 2007

don't worry, neither one was for you

Me: I bought a shirt online! Would you like to see the design?

Trent: Sure.


Trent: It's ugly.

Me: WTF! Why?

Trent: The picture is horrifying.

Me: Oh, don't identify with the woman! Pretend you are the dinosaur.

Trent: Okay. ... How come I look so ugly, and in addition, I'm preparing to step on someone?

Me: :(

Trent: Yeah.

Me: I bought two of the shirts.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

spring in New York City

Last week I worked from Google's Manhattan office. Strolling through Central Park upon arriving in NYC, I saw a crowd gathered in a circle, with boombox music emanating from the middle.

It turned out to be a dance fest, on wheels. Roller skate guy was topped by the couple on the Segway.

During the middle of the week, I overheard one New Yorker tell another that the weather forecast predicted snow. I looked up skeptically at the brilliant sun overhead.

Friday morning came. Vindication was had, alas not by me.

It snowed all day. That evening, I clambered over piles of slush in Times Square to attend a musical, slipping on ice with a multitude of shivering tourists.

Ah, New York, the manic depressive of cities.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

breakup philosophy

Chatting during dinner.

Coworker #2: My ex keeps talking to me! I need to move on, and she's making it harder.

Coworker #1: Just do what I do.

Rest of us: [turning attentively toward him]

Coworker #1: Delete her number from your mobile, block her from your IM, and tell your common friends, "Pick a side -- me or her."


I told this to Trent, who said, "Don't forget to set up an email filter so that her emails are automatically routed to the Trash."

Dan and I previously discussed the best way to handle a breakup. You can either continue to talk to each other, or stop contact cold turkey until you're both over it.

We both think it's better to take a break from your ex, until the relationship ashes are cold.

Now, the difficult situation is if your ex wants to talk, and you've moved on but you know they haven't. Further contact is going to prolong their recovery. Do you figure that they know what's best for themselves, so you go along? Or do you decide they're not behaving in their own best interests, and you ignore their calls in order to protect them from themselves?

Monday, March 12, 2007

green bean

Two Sundays ago, I took Bo to fulfill his childhood dream of going to Disneyland.

In the early morning, before heading over to the Happiest Place on Earth, I told him how the restaurants around Disneyland are overpriced with nasty food. I had a bad experience previously with a $14 plate of spaghetti that resembled a tomato noodle pudding.

We drove to Albertson's and bought a shopping cart of food for our knapsack: sandwich fixings, an entire roasted chicken, apples, bottled water. In the salad aisle, I picked up a bag of green beans.

"Can you eat green beans raw?" Bo said.

"Sure!" I said. "I eat them in the cafe at work all the time."

After we paid at the checkout line, the cashier told us Disneyland checks bags and does not allow external food to enter the theme park.

We took the food to our car, and ate the roasted chicken with our fingers in the Albertson's parking lot.

After driving to Disneyland, we decided to sneak in the green beans. Bo walked for fifteen minutes, from parking lot to park entrance, with the green beans tucked under his left arm, inside his outer shirt.

Once safely inside, we transferred the green beans and carried them by hand. We lovingly brought those green beans across AdventureLand and FrontierLand, through the Haunted Mansion and the Indiana Jones ride.

Four hours later, in line for "It's a Small World", I said that I wanted to eat the green beans.

"The bag will be harder to carry once it's open," said Bo. "We should wait until after the ride."

We stood in line for another five minutes, upon which I decided that NO, I cannot wait, I crave the green beans now. We opened the bag, and with great anticipation, each bit into a green bean.

We learned that green beans are not edible when raw.

With eyebrows wrinkled, Bo ran over to the trash can to spit out the raw remnants of green bean.

Upon return, he said, "We've already carried this thing for four hours. I'm not throwing it out now. I'm going to keep it the rest of the day, and then take it home and stir-fry it."

On our next ride, after being tossed about by the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, we opened the cloth purse-holder bag in front of the seat to find that our green beans escaped their bag. Cute green bean pieces were clumped in a heap.

A Disneyland employee dressed like a pageboy rushed us out of the ride, so we had to abandon them, our dear green beans.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

straight-up karaoke

Six days after the failed attempt at finding a karaoke bar, I organized a pre-meditated karaoke outing with coworkers.

Google Local said the only place that offers karaoke in Mountain View is the "King of Clubs", a gay bar. I selected it as the evening's destination.

"Why are we going to a gay bar?" said one coworker.

"I've been there," Galileo said. "The focus is on karaoke. Don't worry, no one will hit on you."

"The next closest place is 15 minutes away by car," I said. "Come on, we won't know anyone there. We'll just go and sing. It'll be fun!"

That evening, after arriving at the squat one-story club, we approached the door just behind a group of three. They turned around, and I recognized one of them as a Googler.

"Niniane!" she said happily. "I didn't know you were coming tonight! I've never seen you at these events before."

"What events?" I said.

"Aren't you here for the Gayglers get-together?"

Gayglers is the gay, lesbian, and transgender group at Google.

My coworkers and I spent the evening sitting in a red leather booth. Periodically Googlers came in and greeted us with surprise. "I didn't see you respond to the RSVP on the Gayglers list today!" "We're so glad you came out to join us tonight!" etc.

At first, we would say, "No, it's a coincidence, we just came out with our team to sing karaoke." But after a while, we gave up and just mumbled, "Yes, great to see you too."


We petitioned Galileo all evening to sing for us. In college, he double-majored in computer science and opera. After an hour of prompting, he treated us to this delight.

That soundtrack you hear -- the music which resembles a professional record -- is actually him singing.

Monday, March 05, 2007

the blood is required elsewhere

One of my coworkers, "XXX", likes a certain type of girl: Asian, thin, pretty. I suppose this preference isn't very rare, especially in Silicon Valley. In any case, months of pattern matching have trained the rest of our team in his tastes.

Walking down the street two weeks ago, we ran into my friend "Yvonne", a sweet-faced ex-Googler and former Miss Chinatown contestant. I introduced her to each of my teammates. After we bid goodbye and she walked away...

Me: (to XXX) I think she might be single, you know.

XXX: What? Hey, I don't know why you're looking at me.

Alipé: XXX, What's going through your brain right now?

The rest of us: [giggling]

Alipé: Not much blood, I bet.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

book covers

During the second session of the "Writing Comic Fiction and Memoir" course I'm taking at Stanford this term, the teacher said the word "sex" and half the class tittered in embarrassment.

I sighed inwardly. Every week we workshop each other's stories, and I projected forward to a semester of bland stories on baking brownies for grandchildren, and doing yoga on the balcony.

I was wrong.

I began to realize my error in week 3, when the student most resembling a grandmother -- a bespectacled white-haired lady -- read a memoir chapter of teaching in prison to tattooed criminals. The next week, we workshopped a memoir about rescuing the narrator's sister from decades of servitude in the high ranks of Scientology.

This Wednesday, we'll workshop a story about guiding an adult emotionally-retarded son to move out of his parents' house, and one of a young girl uncovering a lie about who her real father is.

In Mandarin, there's a phrase, "家家有本难念的经". ("Each house has a tome of difficult-to-read scripture.") This means that every family has their own tragedy to fight, and even the most ideal-looking exterior houses demons within.

I repent my first-impression judgements. Happy Year of the Pig to all, and good luck with your family's scripture.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

left hand cymbal, right hand drum

Two weeks ago, a few teammates and I ate dinner in downtown Mountain View. Afterwards, Alipé suggested karaoke. None of us knew a nearby karaoke bar, and we huddled around Galileo's laptop to query Google Local.

There were no nearby results. As a substitute, we walked to a pearl milk tea shop, where Galileo serenaded us with "Flower Drum Song".

Last month CNN interviewed me about Google. The reporter asked me my favorite thing about my job. I said, "My coworkers are brilliant yet goofy."

Now you can see it for yourself, in full YouTube glory. Watch for Joby hiding from the camera, wearing deadpan expression.

Joby: "My ears are bleeding. My dad used to sing this when I was a kid."

Alipé: "Why is it so painful for you? [smirking] What did your dad used to do while he was singing this song?"

Joby: "It's not -- "

Odin: [picking up a bubble tea cup] "Show me on this doll."