Monday, December 28, 2009

the coolest astronomer

Over instant messenger.

omst: i just saw avatar. visually amazing. the story was less so. sooo long. but i couldn't leave to go to the bathroom, and now i think i may have damaged my bladder

niniane: didn't you learn from that astronomer? The one who lost his nose in a duel. Tycho Brahe.

omst: "After he had returned home he was no longer able to urinate, except, eventually, in very small quantities and with excruciating pain."
omst: lets hope it doesn't come to that

niniane: Tycho's life is interesting.
niniane: "In 1572, in Knudstrup, Tycho fell in love with Kirsten, daughter of Jørgen Hansen, the Lutheran minister in Knudstrup. She was a commoner, and Tycho never formally married her. However, under Danish law, when a nobleman and a common woman lived together openly as husband and wife, and she wore the keys to the household at her belt like any true wife, their alliance became a binding morganatic marriage after three years."

omst: i read nothing but the bladder section

niniane: "He kept a dwarf named Jepp (whom Tycho believed to be clairvoyant) as a court jester who sat under the table during dinner. Pierre Gassendi wrote[9] that Tycho also had a tame moose"

niniane: "his mentor the Landgrave Wilhelm of Hesse-Kassel (Hesse-Cassel) asked whether there was an animal faster than a deer. Tycho replied, writing that there was none, but he could send his tame moose. When Wilhelm replied he would accept one in exchange for a horse, Tycho replied with the sad news that the moose had just died on a visit to entertain a nobleman at Landskrona. Apparently during dinner[11] the moose had drunk a lot of beer, fallen down the stairs, and died."

omst: drunken moose

niniane: "according to Kepler's first hand account, Tycho had refused to leave the banquet to relieve himself because it would have been a breach of etiquette."

omst: that's how i felt
omst: now i just need a dwarf
omst: a moose
omst: a jester
omst: a common law wife
omst: and a telescope
omst: and me and brahe are one and the same

niniane: hahahaha

Friday, December 25, 2009

"Sherlock Holmes" question (spoiler)

***** Tiny spoiler below! *****

In the movie, there is a scene at the end where Irene Adler says to Sherlock Holmes, "Everyone has a weakness. Moriarty found mine."

Sherlock asked, "What is it?"

She didn't reply. Instead she just smiled sadly at him.

Is she indicating that she doesn't want to reveal her weakness to him? Or is she implying that her weakness is her feelings for Sherlock Holmes?

Curious minds need to know.

===== UPDATE =======
Here are the reasons why I was originally un-convinced that her weakness is Holmes.

There was a scene in the train where Moriarty threatened to kill Holmes if Irene didn't finish the job. She looked shocked to hear the threat, which implies that he had not delivered the threat previously. She had already been working for him for some time, and Holmes described her at the start of the movie as intimidated and afraid of Moriarty.

This implies that Moriarty had already grabbed hold of her weakness (thus leaving her afraid), before he upped the ante with a threat on Holmes' life which surprised her even more.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

B- or D-

On Sunday, I cooked noodles for a few friends from college and Google. Yesterday, on the phone with my parents:

Me: "I did a noodle bar last night for friends. I let people pick their own toppings: bbq pork, enoki mushrooms, tofu, spinach, bok choy."

Dad: "That sounds good."

Me: "The toppings turned out well. But I messed up the noodles. 5% were undercooked, and 5% got burnt."

Dad: "The 5% that's undercooked can just be thrown away. But the 5% that's burnt will end up making 20% of the noodles taste burnt."

Me: "I know. I think the meal was only a B-. It's bad because whenever my friends cooked for me, it's always been A+."

Dad: "What was that: B- or D-?"

Me: "B-."

Dad: "Can't hear you. B- or D-?"

Me: "Actually, you and Mom would probably think it's a D-."

On IM, talking to my friend "Potato" in China:

niniane: i think my food was only a B-
potato: do you feel bad because your friends hold parties with catered food?
niniane: oh God, I forgot about the catered food.
niniane: No, it's because when they cook for me, it's always A+.
potato: maybe they have a different grading scale than you
potato: like, maybe they thought your food was a C
niniane: Is this supposed to make me feel better??
potato: but they think other people's food is just a B, so the difference is not as great
niniane: Oh ok. Hope so.

Despite this, I immensely enjoyed cooking for my friends. I'm going to do it more often! It is pleasantly domestic.

One day, I want to grow vegetables in the back yard, such as basil, cucumbers, tomatoes, and corn. One step at a time.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


I've been a reader of the popular Singaporean blog Xiaxue for four years, ever since I saw it on the Technorati Top 100 list.

Her latest entry is the love story of her and her new fiance. It is very sweet. When I got to the end and read Mike's letter, I cried. Tears literally came into my eyes.

I can't believe two people actually met the way they did, and it worked out. That's so against the odds! I like stories of love succeeding in impossible scenarios like this story, or Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

it was fate and Throop Pond

Eating dinner at Cafe Moma in building 45 with Dan, discussing the antics of our college friend Po.

Me: "If I met Po nowadays, for example if I met him last week at a party, I wonder if we would still become friends."

Dan: "No, you wouldn't. That's one of the qualities of college friendships. Neither would you and I."

Me: "Dan, don't say that! I feel like you and I were meant to become good friends."

Dan: "Of course we were. That's why we met when we did."

Friday, December 18, 2009

the eternal question of whether I should move to San Francisco

Over instant messenger:

omst: are you in SF
niniane: no, I'm in my house in MV [MV = Mountain View, a suburb of San Francisco]
omst: Boring
niniane: I know, I am bored out of my skull right now
niniane: I am writing xmas cards and working a bit
omst: God. Ur sixty
niniane: lol


Years ago, someone dear to me became very ill. The situation deteriorated over months. One morning, standing in the ER after staying awake all night, I grew desperate. I vowed to myself and God and the Chinese heavens that if my relative recovered, I would be grateful for the rest of my days.

It was a time of clarity. All the skills I spent my life developing were suddenly useless, except communication abilities for interacting with doctors. Kindness from friends and strangers became priceless; money seemed nearly worthless by comparison. There were moments of great despair.

My relative recovered. For a while, I overflowed daily with gratitude.

The months and years went by. Just now, I saw an article that reminded me of my relative's illness, and I realized with shock that I haven't thought of my vow of gratitude in quite some time.

I've been feeling quite grateful in the past month, but not to the extent that I felt at that time. Back then, I felt overwhelmingly lucky just to be healthy, and to have the people I care about be alive and healthy.

I just sent myself FutureMe reminders for one and three years from now, to remember to stay grateful. Hopefully this blog post will remind me too.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

awesome Tiger Woods parody voicemail

Hahahaha. I've listened to it three times in a row.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

i think that was set in Montana

Dan and I ate scrambled eggs today at St. Michael's Alley. When the bill came, we flipped a coin to decide who would pay, as is our tradition. Afterwards, I was examining the quarter he used.

Me: "Wyoming is the Equality State?"

Dan: "I guess so."

Me: "Do they allow gay marriage? I doubt it. Is this supposed to be a gay cowboy on the quarter?"

Dan: "There was a movie about this."

Me: "What was it called: 'The Gay Cowboy'?"

Dan: "No. 'Brokeback Mountain'."

Thursday, December 10, 2009

he'd be an excellent recruiter for the devil

At the gym, doing crunches. I had just told Megan about seeing James Franco.

Megan: "He was soooo hot in Spiderman."

Me: "You know, I don't understand why Mary Jane didn't like him back. He's so attractive. They cooked together and had a great time. He made her laugh. He kept his house clean and nicely decorated. But then he tried to kiss her, and she didn't let him."

Megan: "Yeah, who would pick Tobey Maguire over James Franco?"

Me: "Exactly. Peter Parker was a flake. He kept disappointing her by not showing up to events. He acted secretive and weird."

Megan: "These movie directors don't get it. No woman would pick Tobey Maguire. It's James Franco! I don't care if he's the prince of darkness."

Me: [lol]

Megan: "I'd switch to the dark side for him."

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

hot dogs, bikes, and hotness

I'm back home in Mountain View. A few more memories from Chile:

Completo, which is the Chilean version of a hot dog.

Embarking on a bicycle tour of Santiago.

View from the top of San Cristobal hill, in the middle of the city.

My tour guide took me to a local establishment called "cafe con pierna", which means "coffee with legs". You go there to drink coffee, while pretty waitresses in bikinis flirt with you.

There is no dancing. You go to drink coffee and confide your troubles to an attractive woman who will listen intently to you.

Inside of the cafe. (I asked permission to take photos.)

On the way back, I stopped in Miami. My friend Lily came out to join me. On Saturday night, we ran into James Franco! He was standing outside the entrance for a party.

This is now a good opportunity to show some photos of James Franco.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009


Today is my last day in Chile, before returning to the US. As described in an earlier post, I came to Chile as a last-minute substitute after my Antarctica tour suffered a boat engine failure. Chile has turned out to be great!

I'm staying with a friend's cousin. He runs a shop in Santiago selling Taiwanese gift items. It's a refreshing novelty talking to an entrepeneur who owns a physical shop with tangible goods.

Speaking Mandarin for many days has also been nice.

Daily special in the Santiago fruit market. This only cost two US dollars.

One thing I've found disappointing is the restaurant service in South America. The waitstaff don't bring the bill until you ask. Even after you flag them down, it takes half an hour to complete the process of getting the bill, collecting your money, and bringing change. The average restaurant service here is on par with the worst service I've ever received in the US.

Impressive sand castle on the beach, at Viña del Mar.

This Chilean drink is called terremoto, which means "earthquake". It's a slightly sour alcohol, mixed with pineapple ice cream.

The inside of the main cathedral.

I went on three tours with the Santiago tour company La Bicicleta Verde (more photos later). My tour guide Glenn is one of the co-founders of the company. They started the company with eight bikes at the start of 2008, and have grown to 40 bikes within two years.

I was fascinated with his business tale. I spent a good part of the tour asking him questions about how he handled marketing and bootstrapping.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

imagine a 24-year secret relationship

Recently my Taiwanese friend told me that Andy Lau has gotten married.

Andy Lau is the biggest movie star / pop singer in Asia. He is 48. He is the equivalent of Brad Pitt combined with Justin Timberlake. Millions of women have crushes on him. I had a crush on him.

Teen girls vowed to commit suicide if he ever married. So, he promised his fans that he would never marry. He lived up to this by never appearing with a woman. Throughout all the decades of singing love ballads, he was never spotted with a woman by all the paparazzi dogging him, until last year.

In 2008, he was finally photographed with a Malaysian woman Carol Chu. She turns out to have been his girlfriend for 24 years.

They registered to get married in Las Vegas last year. The reason was to go for artificial insemination, which is only legal for married couples in Hong Kong. She is 43, and is now pregnant.

I wonder what it is like for them, having a secret relationship for 24 years. He's followed constantly by fans and paparazzi, so they must have practiced extreme secrecy to dodge publicity. Interviewers would ask whether he had a girlfriend, whether he was gay, whether he has secretly gotten married. He would always say that he is unattached. I wonder if she minded watching that.

Recently he took her to a movie in public for the first time. He rented out the theatre. There were a bunch of tabloid articles about it. This must mean that in these 24 years, they have not gone to a restaurant together. They don't go to parties. They don't go to the grocery store together. They don't go outside in the yard or balcony of their house.

This may be the only relationship she's had, since they started dating when she was 19. Imagine living your entire adult life in this way.