Friday, August 27, 2010

moffett field, we have a problem

Yesterday Peter Norvig came by the office for lunch. Before Google, Peter was at NASA for three years. Yishan and I told him how Ed Lu (former Google manager and also former NASA astronaut) comes to the office from time to time.

Me: "I feel safer when Ed is around. If there were some catastrophe, he could MacGyver a solution to get us out."

Peter: "If the office started losing oxygen rapidly, he would know what to do."

Me and Yishan: "Yes, exactly! You understand."

Thursday, August 26, 2010

hardcore risk

I had brunch with a few longtime friends on Sunday. Later in the day, over IM with one of them:

xevirt: btw I don't think you went over the line this morning when you teased Octo about his dog
niniane: that's because you don't know that his other dog passed on a few months ago
xevirt: oh wow niniane, that's a hardcore risk you took there
niniane: I know.
xevirt: i'm surprised he didn't start climbing over the table to attack you
niniane: haha yeah. You would've not understood why. You'd just be sitting there, "Whoa. I don't know what's going on."
xevirt: well there's little needed to understand once people start climbing tables

Saturday, August 21, 2010

canadian technology

Omst has decided to move back to Canada, where his parents and sister reside.

Omst: "lol i remember a googler saying to me 'you're moving back to canada? are there even computers there?'"

I relayed this to my brother.

Tom: haha are there computers in canada??

me: omst can tell us when he gets there
me: if he tells us via phone call, we'll know the answer is no

Tom: what's a phone again
Tom: is that what they used before skype

me: it's iphone-skype
me: that reminds me of this: book google.
book google

When you need to figure out something, so you look it up in a book, like in the olden times, when dinosaurs ruled the earth.

Guy 1: Quick! What's the definiton of "callow?"

Guy 2: I don't know! My iPhone 4 doesn't get signal here!

Guy 3: Book google that shit!

Friday, August 20, 2010

another blog of mine

Yishan and I have been doing a Brute Force lunch tour, eating at every adjacent restaurant along Castro Street. We're keeping a blog of our experiences at

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

delayed rewards

I've noticed a pattern of some young engineers getting discouraged because they're not receiving much recognition for their work.

This happens disproportionately amongst people who don't fit the standard stereotype, namely female engineers and some minorities. The young engineer does a bunch of work, and hardly anyone notices. They start to experience self-doubt.

What exacerbates the situation is that they look around and see a senior engineer receiving accolades continually. They see Bob winning another award, or getting another five patents, or overhear people praise how amazing Bob is. The young engineer decides that he's not in the same league as Bob. Sometimes they wonder if they should switch to a different type of job.

A good manager can ameliorate this by giving instant feedback, but not everyone has that luxury.

The thing they don't know is: there's a lag between when you do the work and when you receive the recognition for it. The lag is typically a year or more. When you're doing the work, and even right after you finish, the reception is usually silence. You have to take a leap of faith that one day, your work will be warmly received. Experienced engineers get into a rolling-recognition situation where at any moment, they're reaping appreciation for work they did a year or two ago.

The journey always looks grim in the moment. When Frodo and Sam took the Ring to be destroyed in Mordor, it was tedious drudgery, they were hungry and cold, and they kept fighting with each other. Afterwards, they were praised as gods, and epic songs were written in their honor to be passed down throughout the ages. But at the time, it didn't look so rosy!

Same for working in software. I will leave it to the reader to make analogies for what Mordor symbolizes for you.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Mike: "PR teams are shameless. CEO resigns in disgrace? Quick, prove P ≠ NP!"


Monday, August 09, 2010

don't say 'if N = 1' (everyone else already made that joke)

The big news today is a circulated proof that P != NP. Researchers are analyzing the proof, and so far no one has found a flaw in it.

Me: "Did you see the 88-page paper? It is so understated. It starts off so cavalier: 'The P = NP question is generally considered one of the most important questions in computer science'..." [sending along the paper]

Stuttgart: "The title of the paper should be 'OMGWTF P != NP', and then the rest of the paper should be a dry technical proof."

Monday, August 02, 2010

but you can't juggle while driving a car

I visited my brother over the weekend. On the way home from dim sum, he was talking about where he could go to meet smart girls in the LA area.

Tom: "Maybe I should swing by Caltech."

Me: "You'll be competing for a few girls with a ton of guys."

Tom: "I can take on Caltech guys. I'll just say, 'Ladies! I take showers!'"

Me: "Caltech guys shower too."

Tom: "'Ladies! I wear shoes!'"

Me: "Oh, that's a good one."

Tom: "'Ladies! I get around in a car instead of a unicycle!'"

Me: [laughing]

Tom: "'My choice of transportation has four wheels!'"