Friday, November 30, 2007

the taste of victory is sweet indeed

Well, it nearly killed me, but...

I reached victory!!!!

I am much more relaxed now.


The "prize" given by the official web site for reaching the 50,000 word mark is an icon.

It's a JPG file which you are free to copy to your own web site.

Last year, Trescott told me that after finishing nanowrimo, he embedded the JPG into his home page. I burst out laughing. "It's just an icon!" I said.

Turns out it's different when you yourself do the contest. After you sacrifice a month of evenings to your novel, forsaking the warmth of in-person human interaction as you sit in front of your laptop night after night, despairing as you hit the wall at 30,000 words and then slogging on from peer pressure and sheer force of will, finally approaching the finish line and realizing you created a novel you're not entirely ashamed of (just mostly ashamed), turns out you feel differently about that icon.

I spent many tense minutes tonight scouring the nanowrimo site for the method on officially validating word count, so that I could download the icon. I pored through the FAQs. I looked through every option on their pages. I scanned the header and footer of each page. Finally I found a reference on one page that made me realize the button was not appearing because I set the time zone incorrectly. Then I immediately corrected that nonsense.

What I'm saying is ... lo and behold ...

And here's a bigger one!


Some people have written me to ask for an excerpt. I was initially hesitant, because the novel is unedited and in its raw (hence crappy) form. But people said I should show an excerpt anyway.

Here is an actual real-life excerpt from my novel:

"... the ... "

Have a good night. I love all you guys.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

12550 words to go

I've been writing my Nanowrimo novel at night, while staying up too late from jetlag.

It is arduous.

My first attempt at Nanowrimo four years ago was a piece of cake. Unaware of plot arcs and character development and concise prose, I pumped out 1666 words of sheer crap, day after day.

Now, four Stanford writing courses and two dozen writing books later, I am aware of these things. Now, extracting the words is painful.

Googlers started emailing the internal creative-writing mailing list with their Nanowrimo results. Today one person wrote:

I wrote all day Friday and Saturday, and somewhere in there, I passed the 50,000 word mark.

WTF? He didn't notice passing the mark? I notice when I pass every hundred words!

That's like saying, "I ran a marathon yesterday, and somewhere in the fourth or fifth hour, I passed the 26-mile mark."

Another Googler, "Richard Lederman", kept saying how trivial it was for him to sit down and dash out thousands of words. He sent an email seven days ago (i.e. ten days before the deadline):

My novel is finished. It can be found at [link to novel]

Over IM with my Googler friend "trescott":

trescott: I'm at 33000 words. You?
niniane: 30k.
trescott: You know who sucks? Richard Lederman.
niniane: LOL.
trescott: He finished in 15 days or something.
niniane: He did basically paint a huge bull's-eye on his own ass.

You might be thinking that trescott and I are only saying this because we are jealous. You would be absolutely correct!

(Richard Lederman, if you are reading this, we don't actually think you suck. Come November 30, when we too are winners, all will be forgiven.)

The Nanowrimo organization sends out pep talks once or twice per week. Most of them are corny and useless. But last week they had one from Neil Gaiman, which I and all of my friends agree was truly uplifting:

The last novel I wrote (it was ANANSI BOYS, in case you were wondering) when I got three-quarters of the way through I called my agent. I told her how stupid I felt writing something no-one would ever want to read, how thin the characters were, how pointless the plot. I strongly suggested that I was ready to abandon this book and write something else instead, or perhaps I could abandon the book and take up a new life as a landscape gardener, bank-robber, short-order cook or marine biologist. And instead of sympathising or agreeing with me, or blasting me forward with a wave of enthusiasm---or even arguing with me---she simply said, suspiciously cheerfully, "Oh, you're at that part of the book, are you?"

I was shocked. "You mean I've done this before?"

"You don't remember?"

"Not really."

"Oh yes," she said. "You do this every time you write a novel. But so do all my other clients."


After posting this entry:

niniane: are you okay with my latest blog post?
niniane: sorry, i should've asked before i posted it
trescott: I am not OK with this part:
trescott: (Richard Lederman, if you are reading this, we don't actually think you suck. Come November 30, when we too are winners, all will be forgiven.)
niniane: LOL
trescott: I will still think he sucks.
niniane: Okay, I'll note that.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

some good writing

I'm always a fan of fine writing.

Monitor Zombies.

My cell phone actually has a GPS remote locator. I guess, in theory, if you were to lose your phone, you could activate the GPS remote locator with your computer and find out where your phone is. Again, this is an absolutely wonderful idea. In theory.

Her: Where were you last night?
Me: Last night? Oh, uh, I was at the library doing some research of course.
Her: Uh-huh. Your cell phone GPS locator however puts you at the strip club downtown.
Me: What? WTF?! Well, I guess I lost my phone or something, because I wasn’t there…
Her: Your cell phone is right there in your pocket.
Me: Oh yeah, some guy returned it to me like 5 minutes ago.
Her: ……….
Me: Ok, fine, I was at the strip club. But I got dragged by the guys, and I didn’t enjoy it at all!
Her: Oh really? Your phone’s vital stats monitor says you had 14 different erections.
Me: ….What the fuck kind of phone is this?! Goddamnit I hate technology.

I’m starting to find that with each passing day, I grow closer to running away from it all and adopting an Amish lifestyle. Hey, if there are any Amish people reading this, why don’t you drop me an email or add me on Facebook so we can chat about this?

some photos from the wedding

Yay, happy groom.

This tradition symbolizes that both people will wear the pants equally in the relationship. That's why it's over both chairs.

When I get married, the pants are only going to be over my chair.


This is half of the banquet hall where the wedding was held. In total there were 500 guests.

Cake cutting.

I ended up catching the bouquet. As a result, I was dragged onstage, where the MC asked me a bunch of probing questions in front of 500 strangers.

The bride's second gown for the night. Every appearance was preceded by lots of dramatic build-up. The couple has already been legally married in the US for two months, so they were very relaxed during the ceremony.

Friday, November 23, 2007

what to do, what to do??? about sharks.

Recently I watched a riveting movie about sharks.

An IMDB user comment said, "I had to retreat to the hall of the theatre to regain my composure."

The start of the film showed the filmmaker underwater, hugging a shark and caressing it. I kept cracking up because it was so funny to see this man embracing a shark into his bosom.

Anyhow, later it revealed how sharks are endangered but are being hunted for their fins! Because shark fin soup is a delicacy for Chinese people.

So I'm going to Wei-chao's wedding in an hour, and there will definitely be shark fin soup served. This is the one guaranteed dish at a Chinese wedding, similar to turkey at Thanksgiving.

Should I drink the soup? I am very touched by the film and do not condone shark killing! But the fin has already been cut off the shark and cooked into a soup, and if I don't drink it, my bowl of soup will just be thrown out, and then the shark would've died for nothing!

What to do, what to do?

Thursday, November 22, 2007

best thing I've seen in Taiwan

Walking along the street in Taichung tonight, we passed this shop:

The window sports a faded poster which looks like it's been hanging there for at least ten years.

The chinese line down the left-hand side reads: "BEAUTY begins at your fingertips."

I nearly died.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

amusing convo between my relatives

Riding in a cab with my aunt and uncle. Before retirement, my uncle was a ship captain in the Taiwan Navy.

Aunt: "Your uncle's voice is so loud! He says it's not that he's loud, but rather that I'm too quiet. He says I sound like an ant."

Uncle: [very loudly from front seat] "Not like an ant! Ants are mute! I said like a mosquito!"

Aunt: "He said when he spoke at the head of the boat, it had to be audible even at the boat stern."

Uncle: "I never said that! But there is a lot of wind on the boat! If you speak quietly, it's useless!"

Me: [laughing in backseat]

Cab driver: "I get a lot of passengers from China. The ones from Zhejiang province are really loud."

Uncle: "Not as loud as me!"

dashed happiness

Yesterday I ordered milk tea at a cafe in Taipei University.

Me: "One large milk tea, with tapioca."

Cashier: "Do you have a student ID? You get a discount."

Me: [thinking] "Yay! I look young enough to be a college student!"

Cashier: "Or a faculty ID will work too."

Sunday, November 18, 2007

priceless photos

Yesterday I visited my uncle who lives in Taipei. During the end of the 1940s, he was a boy in China, and visiting his uncle in the army. When the losing army withdrew to Taiwan, they took him with them in the chaos.

He exchanged a few letters with my grandparents, but later communications were severed between China and Taiwan. There was no more contact between them for the next 40 years. My grandfather passed away without seeing his son again.

My mother met my uncle for the first time at age 41.

But that's a story for another day.

I visited his house yesterday, and he brought out a photo album of old photos. Some were from his own life, and some were sent by my parents throughout the years.

This was sent by my grandfather before communications were severed. It's my grandparents and four of their children. That's my mother in the upper right.

I stared at this photo for at least ten minutes. The facial features of each of my uncles are clearly visible in the faces of these children.

On the back of the photo is a caption written by my grandfather, labeling each of the people. It is the only time in my life that I've seen my grandfather's handwriting. I couldn't stop staring at it.

A picture from my toddler days in China. That's my grandmother, then me (looking super-fat), and my mother (looking super-gorgeous).

This is a photo of my parents and me. My parents sent my uncle this photo years ago as a keepsake.

I really like the pants I'm wearing in the picture. I think I'm going to buy a pair just like that, and wear them around Google.

so Taiwan is like this too?

Dinner last night, with our family friends who live in Taiwan. The last time I saw them was when I was seven years old.

Mrs. FF: "Do your parents insist that you only date within your race? Only Chinese?"

Mr. FF: "Only from Anhui?" (Anhui is the Chinese province of my ancestry. My grandparents moved from there to Beijing before my mother was born.)

Me: [laughing] "Heavens, no."

Mrs. FF: "They're okay with you dating non-Chinese?"

Me: "Yeah."

Mrs. FF: "As long as it's not a black person, right?"

As soon as the words left her mouth, I thought, "God damn it, not this again." Modern-day Chinese people will say such things without batting an eyelash. The anti-racism social pressure is not as high as in America.

Me: "My parents have no racial restrictions on who I date."

Mrs. FF: "My friend emigrated her family to America, and her big fear was that her daughter would marry a black man. Because then you know, they'd have mixed children."

Me: [in horror, grasping for the fastest way to shut her up] "My mother says it's fine even if I'm gay."

Mr. and Mrs. FF: "What???"

Friday, November 16, 2007

pet peeve + away

It really gets on my nerves that so many web sites have their own messaging system. Why would I want a inbox?? Just send yelp messages to my email address!

Ditto Facebook.

Ditto YouTube.

Ditto LinkedIn.

When questioned, one founder said, "What, I should send my traffic to Gmail instead of back to my own site?"

YES. It's a much better user experience!!!

In unrelated news, I'll be in Taiwan over the next week, for Wei-chao's wedding.

More than one person said, "Have a good time! Don't eat too many puppies."

Monday, November 12, 2007

my car is apparently a traveling museum

Three little exchanges from my life this past month.

1. At dinner with Nina and Dan:

Me: "I had a really rough week earlier this summer, when everything went wrong in a single week. I was really upset one night during the thick of it, and Dan stayed up until 2:00am talking to me on the phone. I will never forget that, for as long as I live. I mean, he usually goes to sleep at 1:45am, but he stayed up that extra fifteen minutes to console me."

Dan: "Which phone conversation was this again?"


2. Exiting my car with my brother, outside his apartment.

Me: [picking up package of instant noodles from my backseat] "Do you want this yakisoba?

Tom: "It's been in your car for five months, but sure. It's time to give the yakisoba a home."

Me: "By home, do you mean your apartment, or your stomach?"

Tom: "First one, and then the other."

Me: [laughing very hard] "And then the one again."


3. Driving in my car with my brother. I hit the brakes in my car, and an object rolled from the backseat under the driver's seat. I picked it up. It was an extremely withered apple, deep wrinkles lining the surface.

I handed it to Tom. "Want an apple?"

He cupped it in his palm. "This is Apple before Steve Jobs."

Sunday, November 11, 2007

when giants walked the earth

Today, in my Stanford writing class, the professor said Hemingway claimed he could write a story in six words.

Here is the story:

"For Sale: baby shoes. Never worn."

Hemingway was bad-ass.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

and then I was obliged to leave the room

At dinner, discussing a past decision that I now think was misguided.

Me: "You know how some people appear to be completely assured, and never experience regret or doubt? That would be nice."

Dan2: "Those people are disliked by most other people."

Me: "Naw, that's not true."

Dan2: "I think it is. However, they probably don't care about others disliking them, because they're just above it all. But then they don't self-correct, and can go down disastrous paths."

Me: "I guess if you never experience doubt, eventually you become Hitler."

Dan2: "Godwin's Law has been invoked. This conversation is over."


Final Halloween photos for 2007.

People standing in the lunch line next to me.

Off the bottom right of the photo, you can see part of the stuffed sheep that Brad threw at people.

Across the ass of the pants, he taped a banner that read "Super Poke". There was some temptation to poke it with my costume parasol.

One of the few times when I've found a dog cute.

He's wearing a pirate hat, and a YouTube T-shirt.

That's right, his costume is "pirated YouTube videos".

The Eye of Sauron was my favorite costume from Googleween. Because the original character from the movie -- the Eye -- was just so cool. And so hot!

Anyway, here I am defending against the Eye using my parasol.


She taped sentences across her back, including "What an adorable baby", "I like your haircut", and others.

Her costume is White Lies. She said I was the only one to get it, all day. A common guess was "Things that Men Say". :(

Some Googlers will understand why this costume is so hilarious.

Unabomber, complete with badge photo of the Unabomber.

Monday, November 05, 2007

these are some of the nation's best and brightest

A week ago, I attended a party in Oakland with Caltech friends. The conversation turned to our college classmates. (all names changed)

Mark: "William might be coming back to do a startup, if the funding goes through."

Me: "Wow, he'd move back here from China? That would be a big change. Did you know he's currently living in a house without running water or heat?"

Mark: "Why is he living without running water or heat???"

Me: "Yes, this is the question I posed to him also. He gave some long answer about pipes bursting, and how they have a water well. I understood every sentence he said, but afterwards I still didn't know why he's living without running water or heat."

... [later] ...

Stefan: "Tim performed the ceremony when Lina and I got married."

Mark: [to me] "You see, Tim is a man of the cloth."

Me: "Is he the one who's on the run?"

Mark: "No, I said he's a man of the cloth. He applied on the internet to become a priest -- "

Me: "I know, but is he a man of the cloth on the run? Didn't he escape the country?"

Stefan: "Tony is the one on the run from the law, not Tim. Tony is wanted for arson."

Me: "Oh, right. But wasn't Tim busted for dealing acid?"

Mark: "Yes, but he just got suspension for a year. He got fingered by another student, but he wouldn't rat anyone else out, so he ended up with the suspension."

Me: "That's really noble of him, to not tattle on anyone else even though it was done to him."

Stefan: "Yeah, he's a stand-up guy."


The next day, talking to my brother.

Me: [after recounting the conversation] "Do you have these conversations with your Stanford alum friends? Like, who's on the run, who was dealing acid, who is a man of the cloth?"

My brother: "No."

Me: [pause] "I'm glad I went to Caltech."


I like non-conformists.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Halloween photos II

Pirate holding a little chicken! The chicken is sucking its thumb. Awwww. AOL! (That means "'awww' out loud".)


Convenient that she can balance her drink on her costume.

I like these cookies. Form and function!

Cute OMG pumpkin.

Cute fractal pumpkin.

Cute witch pumpkin.

Cute spider web pumpkin, and jack-o-lantern pumpkin.

Okay, now are you ready for the shocker? The pumpkins in those last two photos ... are not real pumpkins. They're actually CAKES. I ate a piece. They look like this inside:

How awesome would it be if during your everyday life, you regularly discovered that objects around you are actually cakes.

"That keyboard had a strange reflective glint to it... [huge bite] Oh, butter cream filling!" etc.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

T + 2 hours


National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30.

Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved.


In 2006, we had over 79,000 participants. Nearly 13,000 of them crossed the 50k finish line by the midnight deadline, entering into the annals of NaNoWriMo superstardom forever. They started the month as auto mechanics, out-of-work actors, and middle school English teachers. They walked away novelists.

This year 90,000+ people have signed up.

My word count so far: 384.

If I get stuck, I can do what my friend Rory suggested.

rory: how's your thing going ?
rory: are you simply dumping huge chunks of code into your novel ?
rory: "and then.. the programmer wrote this: ...."
niniane: lol
niniane: yeah!