Sunday, September 26, 2010

too small > too large

I realized a moment ago that living in a house that's too big bothers me much more than living in a place that's slightly too small.

I got another crash pad in San Francisco, this time near Coit Tower for a couple of months. It is very small, roughly the size of a hotel room. It's on a hill and has a great view of the city. I really like it!

My parents live in Vegas, where real estate used to be inexpensive, and two of their friends bought 8000 sq ft houses. Then their son went to college, so it was just the two of them in this house. That is a large home! Seems like it would feel so un-cozy as your footsteps echo around the uninhabited rooms.

Monday, September 20, 2010

advice to past self

A couple years ago, Bez (Google engineering director) made a comment that really stuck with me. He was deciding whether to take on a particular project at work, and he said, "I don't do anything half-assed. Either I don't do it at all, or I use my whole ass."

I think if I were able to give a single piece of advice to my 18-year-old self, it would be that.

If I were to follow my natural instincts, the amount of effort I put into a situation depends on how happy I am with it. There is a formula for that:
happiness = results - expectations

I've been most happy in situations when I came from worse environments. I loved Caltech wholeheartedly, partly because I felt like a fish out of water in high school in Las Vegas, and Caltech was such a welcome change. If I'd gone from an amazing high school, I probably would not love it as much.

Thus, it doesn't make sense to base your effort on happiness then, because you'd only end up putting in a lot of effort if you had a bad experience leading up to it which forced you to lower your expectations.

Once you decide to do something, even if you have a lot of doubts, you should just give it your all.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

new gym?

This morning, three unpleasant incidents happened in a row, on my way to 24 Hour Fitness.

First I parked my car and went next door to buy a locker padlock at Wal-Mart. The woman in front of me was a well-dressed lady with coiffed brown hair. She asked the cashier about the return policy. When she couldn't understand the cashier's response, she started being rude and repeating the question in a condescending tone.

Then it was my turn at the register. As I stepped up, she suddenly thrust out her purchases at arm's length, almost hitting me. She said to me, "You're in my personal space."

I said, "What?"

She said, "You've been pushing me in line, and coughing on my back." (I've had a cough for two weeks.)

We exchanged some more useless words, and then she took all her shopping bags and left.

I paid for my lock, and went next door to 24-hour Fitness. I entered the locker room and started to change. The locker room was nearly empty except for me, an older woman in green stretch pants next to me, and another woman blow-drying her hair in the adjoining room. After a minute, I noticed the woman next to me gyrating her hips in a strange manner. I looked over, and she was bent at the waist with her back arched, rotating her hips in a circle. It resembled a lap dance.

I finished changing into gym clothes, and went into the cardio area to use the stationary bike. A few minutes later, a man in his 50s walked over and mumbled something to me. I asked him to repeat it, and he said, "I bet you look real good on a bike outdoors!"

It is disturbing when people start unwelcome conversations during exercise, because you cannot easily walk away. So I said, "Thanks" and opened my book. He said, "No, thank YOU!"

He went to the drinking fountain. When he walked back toward me, I kept my eyes on the book. Then he said loudly to the air around me, "Boy, some people! They just think they're too good for everyone else!"

He walked away. I thought to myself that if instead of Wal-Mart and 24-hour Fitness, I had gone to Whole Foods and Equinox gym, these things wouldn't have happened.

Then I felt that perhaps that is a snooty thought.

But it is unpleasant to have so many distasteful interactions within 15 minutes.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

omst leaving

I'm sad because Omst is leaving the country. He's moving back to Toronto, where his parents and sister (and her family) live. Tuesday is his last day in San Francisco. He's been going around snapping photos of his last Tartine croissant and his last time lounging on his Mission roof deck.

Omst sat at the desk next to me when we worked on Google Desktop. I met him during my first day at Google. Omst was 22 at the time, with curly hair and long limbs. He liked to wear dark earthy pants and bright colored shirts (often green). I told him that he looked like a tree.

He drove me to TGIF one Friday. A song came on the radio (Dido's "White Flag") and I said I liked the song. Omst did not mock my taste. Instead he agreed with me that it's a good song.

A couple weeks later, someone broke into my car while it was parked outside my apartment. They stole all my CDs from the glove compartment, and the contents of my gym bag. I told Omst over IM that it happened. When I came into work the next morning, Omst handed me a CD. He said, "I know all your CDs got stolen, so I got you a new one to restart your collection."

It was a Dido CD. I was so touched!

Omst loves his cat. He also loves drinking wine. One day I got him a gift that combines his love of cats and his love of wine. When I told him this, he said, "What is it? It sounds disgusting."

It was a cat-paw bottle stopper. Kind of like this one, but different:

Omst has really grown into a gentleman over the years. When I first knew him, he would say, "Why should I give a woman my jacket if she's cold? Why didn't she bring her own jacket? She should give me her jacket!" But now he is the picture of chivalry, always offering to carry my bag and asking if I'm cold.

I will miss Omst when he goes to the Great White North!

Friday, September 10, 2010

pho challenge

Tonight, six of us from Sunfire went to eat pho along downtown Mountain View.

Pho Gardens offers a $22 bowl of pho, with two pounds of noodles and two pounds of meat. If you can eat it within one hour, you get a free meal, plus you can take the bowl home.

Sharam decided to do it. We made a side bet as well (see the cash on the table).

They brought out a large bowl that we thought was the challenge, but which turned out just to be the extra-large version of the regular meal.

This was the challenge:

Sharam ate for 15 minutes, and then gave up. The noodles actually absorbed the soup and expanded, so there was a larger mass of pho remaining when he gave up than when he started.

The restaurant said that Joey Chestnut (national hot dog eating champion) came by, and set the record for beating the pho challenge (14 minutes).

Sharam took the pho home in five take-out containers. We discovered that the bottom of the bowl is decorated with a cute piggy that says, "You did it!"

Saturday, September 04, 2010

my name is khan

Yesterday Omst showed me a Bollywood movie "My Name is Khan". It is about a Muslim guy with Aspberger's, who marries a Hindu hairdresser. After 9/11, they experience racial violence, and his lack of empathy is hard for her to handle. He sets off on an epic journey to regain her love.

The romance is very sweet! When they first encounter each other, she is so gregarious and he's the opposite. They don't seem like a good fit. But then the movie reveals that she had a previous arranged-marriage, where her husband harassed her and eventually ran off with another woman to Australia.

It's interesting how logical appreciation is different from emotional appreciation. I'm sure that before her experience, she logically appreciated kindness too, but it's different to value it intuitively.


My favorite scene in the movie was after a young computer hacker with a frizzy afro discovers that his previous hacking involving Khan has helped him on his quest. He calls up his mother and says solemnly, "Mom, today I am proud to call myself a hacker."

There is a long pause, and then he says, "Yes, I've eaten already. At least listen to what I'm saying to you first!"