Monday, May 28, 2007

May photos

Last night's carnival-themed party:

The front yard had a muscleman contraption where you try to ring the bell by hitting the target with a huge mallet. I could only get up to "Hi, Kid". Not even "Good Girl" level.

I don't know why I bother going to the gym.

The back yard was set up with games. Me with Yael.

There is a quarter balanced on the far yellow ball, and you're supposed to hit it so that the quarter falls outside the white felt circle. No one could do it all night, so they reduced the game to just hitting the yellow ball with the white cue ball.

Fortune teller room, inside the house. After the real fortune teller left, I read a couple coworkers' palms.


An "angels and demons" themed party two weeks ago at an SF lounge:

This woman made devil horns out of her hair. Awesome.

Two angels and a devil.

This woman was hired to pose wearing only body paint. The guy is painting a blue sky picture with clouds and birds onto her. I asked if I could paint her for a while. He said no, pulling his paintbrush away. They spent most of the party painting and being painted, with occasional breaks to pose for photos.

Another girl wearing only body paint. She spent the evening dancing and working the crowd.

Lesson: The demon-themed girl has to work a lot harder than the angel-themed girl.

Line of champagne glasses, to toast the birthday boy.

I invited Sha-mayn, but didn't give her enough advance notice to prepare for the theme. Fortunately she is so sweet that other party guests promptly put angel wings on her.


The parties are wonderful and tantalizing and all that. But I am in a domestic mood. I just want to sit at home with my nearest and dearest, assembling furniture and eating take-out.

Unfortunately, they are all conveniently unavailable. My brother is finishing four projects at school, Dan is in New York, Sha-mayn flew to Beijing, etc.

I will be grateful when everyone is back.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

with equality and hirsuteness for all

Yesterday, during a work meeting, a sales guy brought up to make a point about targeted advertising.

The web site is authored by women who are annoyed at their men for not shaving. The stubble abrades their sensitive faces when kissing or hugging. The women vowed not to shave their underarm or legs, to protest the injustice.

NoScruf stands for National Organization of Social Crusaders Repulsed by Unshaven Faces.

The sales guy projected the web site onto the conference wall room, where it remained for the next ten minutes. I kept cracking up in the middle of discussion, each time I caught sight of it.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

a more cost-effective solution

When I worked on Desktop Search, SY held a picnic at his house right before launch. After we each had a few drinks, our PM Nick went around the table and asked everyone, "How much money would it to take to get you to have sex with the most unattractive person you can imagine?"

This assumes you don't catch any diseases, and that the person is of the appropriate gender.

Some said $2 million, some $10 million, others $1 million, $67 million, and a few said not for any price. It finally came to SY, our gracious host, who said, "Ten thousand dollars."

We teased him a lot, but maybe he was the only truthful one.

Anyhow, last weekend, I was hanging out at a bar in San Francisco with a few Googlers. This story came up, and my companions began mentally computing their own thresholds.

Alipé : "My number is $100 million. Because everyone would make fun of me for doing it, and I need to be able to retort, 'Yeah, but now I have X dollars.' In order to shut them up, X has to be pretty high."

Mue: "Really, $100 million dollars?"

Alipé : "That's right."

Mue: "Or I could give you $100 worth of alcohol, and you would still do it afterwards."

Monday, May 21, 2007


My writing buddy JTR and I are doing ScriptFrenzy in June. The idea is to write a 20,000 word screenplay in a single month. That's right, I am a:

Script Frenzy is an international writing event in which participants attempt the creatively daring feat of writing an original, full-length screenplay—or stage play—in a single month. Spurred by a wild deadline and buoyed by a community of countless other writers, Script Frenzy participants can't be bothered with self-doubt—or editing. They're too busy writing by the seat of their pants, typing out beautiful, flawed stories that no one else could have dreamt up.

When JTR first sent me the link two weeks, I didn't even respond, because the idea was so foreign. I know nothing of screenplays. I've never even read one.

"Perhaps you should read one before rejecting the idea," JTR said.

We were sitting in a Mission district coffeeshop, for a regular meeting of our writing group (which is comprised of just the two of us). I found the The Sixth Sense screenplay via Google, and started reading it.

I couldn't stop. I ignored JTR for the next two hours, while I read through the script.

When I got to the section where Cole tells his secret to his mother in the car, I started crying. It's the first time I've ever cried from reading something. I leaned over to get a kleenex from my purse, and JTR looked up. "Oh, wow," he said.

"We have to do scriptfrenzy!" I blubbered back.

So now we've bought the Screenwriter's Bible, and we read another screenplay about a knight playing chess against Death.

We were discussing writing techniques. Professional authors do a great job of reinforcing the environment. If it's raining, the author will describe the tapping sound of the rain against the roof, then later the scent. On the next page the characters will debate whether the rain will flood the crops, as they put on their raincoats and galoshes.

In my writing, I'll mention once that it's raining. Four pages later, I write, "...then he went out into the rain," and the reader says in shock, "What? It's raining?"

"This is due to being a programmer," said JTR.

I chuckled.

"No, it is. You declare something once, and the computer doesn't forget. Humans forget. You go back and say, 'Look, I clearly defined this on page 176.' but that doesn't work for humans."

Friday, May 18, 2007

movie pics and muscle pics

Last month Elaine invited me to the movie "The Heavenly Kings". It was the opening movie of the San Francisco International Film Festival.

The movie was a mock-umentary about a boy band. The four primary actors pretended for 18 months to be in a boy band -- concerts, press interviews, fans, tabloid rumors, the works. They performed to 40,000 fans in Taiwan. Then they revealed it's all a big fake in order to shoot a movie, disbanded their band, and rolled the film into theatres.

Elaine with some Google recruiters we encountered in the lobby.

Afterwards we went to the cast after-party. I thought it would surely be filled with hot Hong Kong actors. Alas.

The Caltech / MIT Alumni mixer in San Francisco last week had a higher number of cute Asian guys.

But Christina and I did get to take a photo with Daniel Wu, Hong Kong actor / director. Trent tells me this would generate envy from many a 14-year-old Chinese girl.


Last weekend, I went to cheer on Megan (my personal trainer) for her bodybuilding contest. It was held in the auditorium of a small college.

First, the men competed. Each man came out and did poses to a one-minute soundtrack of their choosing.

"This is Why I'm Hot" by Mims was a popular choice.

Here are the winners of the teen category posing.

I know that the human arm has a bicep and a tricep. I did not know there are actually fifteen other muscles between and around them, all of which can be shown in sinewy detail under fake tanner.

This was the only guy whose body did not give me the "That ain't right" reaction. In fact, he was quite attractive. I think it was because he smiled the entire time he did poses. Also, he's Asian. Represent!

Mr. Olympia came out and posed, to wild audience applause. He gave a speech about how he spent 12 years training for the title, and how he dedicated his life to bodybuilding but he proved he can be best in the world. It sounded inspiring, but instead I felt a little horrified.

Finally, after three hours of waiting, Megan came out. I did my wild cheering.

By this time, the program was so delayed that the organizers made the women come out in a line and do their poses simultaneously.

The height category after Megan's.

Quarter turn for the judges.

Another quarter turn.

A close-up of Mr. Olympia. He seems happy. To each their own.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy Mother's Day

I sent my mother tulips for Mother's Day, along with chocolates and a little balloon.

The other half of the present is a promise to provide technical support by phone, twice a week for the next month. My mother is making a web site for her friend in China, and has a lot of questions.

My brother called yesterday. "What did you get Mom? I want to get her a new cleaver."

I told him.

"You know that'll be at least an hour each time. Wow, if you think about how much your time is worth, that's an expensive gift. Man, I was just going to get her a cleaver." He sounded pensive as he compared it to his own gift.

He called again today. "Mom says she already has two cleavers in the pantry. Can I get in on the technical support gift?"


I'd like to share my favorite story about my mother. I heard this from her best friend five years ago.

My mother was in her 20s during the Chinese Cultural Revolution. She lived in Beijing and worked at a crafts factory carving lacquered bowls:

One evening, everyone in her division was gathered into the auditorium for an all-hands meeting. The division leader had one of the factory workers, a young woman named "Jan", sit on a chair onstage, facing the audience who sat in rows of chairs below.

It turns out Jan got pregnant, without being married. The leader wanted to gather everyone together to discuss the immorality of this act, and show Jan the error of her ways.

At the time, the government assigned jobs. If Jan got fired, she would be unble to find another income source, possibly for the rest of her life. Her superiors had the power, and indeed the responsibility, to dock her pay for immoral actions that went against government teachings. Jan was stuck. Everyone else was under the same restrictions, so they had to go along with the leader.

For the next two hours, the employees took turns standing up and denouncing Jan. They said she displayed the worst of capitalism, that she was a traitor to the ethics of her country, etc.

After two hours, the division head looked around the room and noticed my mother. "咱们听听苏明发表意见." ("Let's hear what Ming has to say.")

My mother looked up, startled. She stood up. "她怎么了? 不就是怀孕了吗?" ("What's the big deal? She's just pregnant, right?")


When my mom's best friend finished the story, she added, "Many years later I saw Jan at a reunion. She brought up the incident, and said, '当年只有苏明帮我说了一句公道话.' ('The only one who put in a fair sentence for me was Ming.')"

I appreciate having a mother with a non-conformist spirit.

Also one who approves of out-of-wedlock pregnancies.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

pig dream could turn to reality

Today in our cubicle pen, we got to talking about my desire to own a pig.

Long-time blog readers will remember my love for pigs ("Piggy") and concern over how large they get ("Show Me the Pig").

As we were standing around, I rehashed the same sad story that potbellied pigs grow to be 60 to 175 pounds, and I want a pet that I can carry around.

A coworker then pointed me toward Royal Dandies, a new breed of miniature pot bellied pigs!

From their web page:

Royal Dandies are a product of a 21 year breeding program.

We have combined small, intelligent and affectionate miniature pigs to create a consistently small pet pig with good confirmation.

Dandies average from 20 lbs. to 65 lbs.

I got very excited, as I read through the web page. When I got to the section about how they just released a new litter May 11, 2007, I exclaimed, "Oh my God, they have a new litter as of today! I could put down a $400 deposit and buy a pig right now! Should I do it?"

"That is the weirdest impulse buy I've ever heard of," said my coworker.


Buying a pig from these breeders costs $1500. If I bought the pig, I would drive to Oregon to pick it up. They offer the option of flying my pig to me on Alaska Airlines for $400, but driving would be both cheaper and a symbolic journey of crossing the California plains to meet MY pig.

Imagine it. I could do it today! On Monday I could carry little Oinksy into work, a pink piglet wrapped in a baby blanket.

"Team," I'd say, "I'd like you to meet Oinksy."

Oinksy would sniffle and make soft honking noises.

I would make a nest for Oinksy out of newspapers and blankets, adjacent to my desk. Oinksy would nap, bathed in sunlight from the nearby window, while I typed away at my computer.

Unfortunately Dan says Google's pet policy clearly states Dogs Only. "A pig is better than a dog!" I protested. He claims Google is a dog company. No cats either, even though cats are quieter than dogs.

In the evening, I would take Oinksy to the dog park. Other people would be walking their German shepherds and Golden retrievers, and I'd be walking my pig. I'd have him on a leash.

A friend would call me, and I'd say, "Just a minute. I'm walking my pig." Then I'd get the joy of hearing their reaction. "Your -- I thought you said -- What did you say you're doing?"


Now that the idea of owning a pig could be reality, I am growing worried. What if the pig isn't smart? I imagined the pig as a brilliant little companion. It would greet me with joy as I came home from work, with an intelligent appreciation rather than the blind loyalty of dogs. The pig and I would sleep side by side, walk together side by side, over-eat side by side.

But what if the pig is poker-faced? What if it just stands there, only occasionally shifting its hooves (scratching my hardwood floors in the process)? What if its only movement consists of bending its head to eat the feed I give it? I would grow to resent the mute beast, while still feeling the obligation to feed it and house it.

Yes, I know I could just eat it if that happens. But I'm not going to turn my $1500 pig into ham sandwiches.

What if the pig is perfectly smart and adorable, but gets lonely at home while I'm working long hours? Poor Oinksy would move from room to room, sadly poking pillows with his little snout, missing me.

And what, oh, what happens if Oinksy dies?

I should look up the life span of potbellied pigs. Googling...



Pot-bellied pig info page:

Plus, other breeders may tell you that their pigs are a 'special' line or 'special' breed. Here is a tip for you: ALL pot belly pigs in North America and Hawaii come from the same line. Period!!

Perhaps the dream is too good to be true.

Or perhaps I should just get a regular-sized potbellied pig! They say a 100-pound pig is only the size of a 35-pound dog, because the pig is more compact.

A happy pig owner.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Edinburgh in Edinburgh

Two nights ago, kept awake by jetlag, I came upon the blog of my Microsoft friend named Bei-jing. She moved her family to Beijing in 2006, which allowed her to write a post entitled "Beijing in Beijing".

I think I shall name one of my children after a city, so that they can experience this pleasure. If it's a daughter, I'll name her Verona. "Verona in Verona" -- what cadence! Or I may name her Vienna, or Venice.

If it's a son, he gets to be called Frankfurt, or Stuttgart, or Edinburgh.

Anyway, in the blog, Bei-jing discusses cultural surprises from China. It gave me an unquenchable desire to draw up my own list!


1. Chinese people can be surprisingly out of shape while looking perfectly fit. Over New Year's, my dad and I visited Xi'an, where we climbed up a stone staircase to see Chang Kai-shek's old living quarters.

My dad and I climbed it easily while chatting. Behind us, I heard a female voice say between gasps of breath, "Oh my God! I'm not going to make it. I really need to start exercising. I'm so out of shape."

Conditioned by America, I turned around expecting to see a 250-pound woman walking behind me. Instead, the speaker was a willowy girl, no more than a size two.

I don't understand how it can be that hard to propel 100 pounds of body mass up a single flight of stairs. If I stood behind her and fanned my hand, the gust of wind would carry her up those steps.


2. I really like the pace of the Chinese courting ritual. It's much slower than American expectations. So sweet!

A Beijing Googler told me a story about being set up on a blind date. He figured out quickly that he wasn't interested in his date from a romantic standpoint. However, when he dropped her off at her apartment, she invited him up to sit for a while, and he accepted.

"Weren't you worried about giving her the wrong impression?" I asked.

"No," he said, "In China, everyone assumes nothing will happen on the first date, so it can be perfectly platonic if I go up to her apartment. I was just being polite."

America is a different story. I held a party earlier this year. One of my female guests, a very pretty girl who models on the side, met one of my male guests, a sometimes bashful engineer. Within fifteen minutes, she'd held hands with him, touched him in other ways, and told him she was going to take him home and [censored for young ears] him.

Granted, this is fast even for America. But I still like the Chinese pacing better.

Monday, May 07, 2007

malaysia: insects and desserts

I got back tonight to the Bay Area, where it is possible to walk outside without sweating. Oh California weather, how I love thee.

A few photos from my three days in Kuala Lumpur, which is the capital of Malaysia.

"I know where Kuala Lumpur is!" you say indignantly.

Don't be snarky, Gentle Reader.

Kuala Lumpur is cheap. For $97 US per night, we stayed in the hotel rated #1 by

TripAdvisor raved about the excellent service of this hotel. Indeed, upon arrival and check-in, rather than handing us the room keys, the receptionist got out from behind the desk and walked us to the elevator and up to our room. Thumbs up!

Very pretty.

Alas, what did I find scuttling over the marble bathroom floor? A cockroach, pictured here in the middle of the door ledge. I will have to demote my 5 star rating to 4.8 stars.

The Malaysian History Museum says these are the coins Malaysians used for currency, in the olden days. Imagine carrying around this huge beetle-stone as spare change!

Malaysia has a lot of people. This was the shopping mall next to our hotel.

It frightened me.

Malaysian desserts follow a format:

1. Get some oranges or mangoes or strawberries, or any type of fruit. If there is no fruit handy, find some red beans, or even just sweet dough.

2. Squeeze it into jelly!

3. Eat.


More photos later of Malaysia, and also of Singapore.

Thursday, May 03, 2007


I'm in Singapore, for a week of vacation. Armed with many pleasant memories of taking the train in China, I decided to go by sleeper train to Malaysia for three days.

On the train, you can sleep in a real bed, with sheets, instead of a narrow airplane seat. The sway of the train lulls you gently to sleep.

I booked the deluxe sleeper cabin. The web sites says this comes with its own private bathroom, towels, complimentary dinner and breakfast. What a delightful description!

Our train was scheduled to depart at 10:15pm. It was delayed for FIVE HOURS. I sat until 3am in the humid Singaporean train station, where the heat was abated only slightly by the small ceiling fans.

Finally, the train arrived. I got settled into the compartment. The bed was quite comfortable.

30 minutes later, loud knocking on the door. I tried to ignore it, which generated another bout of even louder knocking. I opened the door. It was the attendant, handing out towels.

Another 15 minutes later, he knocked to pass out fried noodles.

I finally drifted to sleep, then was suddenly awakened and forced to walk through an immigration line.

Afterwards, the passengers were finally permitted to get a few hours' sleep, before loud knocking to collect the towels.

Shortly before Singapore, there was a final call, to pass out dry coconut rolls for breakfast.

The service did meet the letter of the description. But something got lost in translation, I think.