Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Gratitude day 26: parents

Today I had a 2-hour conversation with parents about their struggles when I was growing up. They talked about the decision process behind various choices (immigrating on self-paid student visa to US, moving to New Mexico, my mom working all the tough jobs that she did).

We have talked about it previously but today covered different aspects.

Afterwards I felt like a more complete person, with better understanding of where I come from. It was such a vivid sense of well-being that I forced myself to be more alert crossing the street to avoid being run over in my distracted state.

Grateful for this conversation, a highlight of 2011.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Halfway support

I was talking to my brother yesterday about two friends, Portia and Josephine (names changed), who have both been housewives / stay-at-home moms for many years. Portia is very confident and talks about being the star of their family, whereas Josephine voices identity loss from giving up her career and mourns buried dreams. Both women have similar backgrounds. I was wondering how a similar situation has produced two widely differing levels of satisfaction and confidence.

Tom said that it is probably in large part due to the husband's behavior. Some people really value their home, so they would perceive a spouse who handles chores and home remodeling as adding a lot of value. Others don't value it as much, so they would perceive their spouse as not adding value to their lives.

He also said that Portia's husband probably encourages her more.

I said, "But Josephine's husband is always talking about how much he respects her and wants her to pursue her dream."

"It's different to support someone by saying 'i found a community college class you can take' versus 'I will work fewer hours and move to the city where you have more connections in your field, so you can follow your dream'."

I thought that was a good point. When I thought about the cases, I could see it. I can imagine Portia's husband moving to a new city to help her pick up her career, whereas it is harder to imagine it for Josephine's husband, despite how loudly he praises her abilities. He talks the talk but won't walk the walk.

Then I was thinking about the effects if someone claims they support you but won't put full action behind the words: "halfway support".

I have experienced this long ago, when two male friends / former romantic interests were very enthusiastic to help me when they perceived me as being in a less successful position than themselves. They would drive over to my house and spend hours helping me analyze career options and prepare for interviews. (This was many years apart, not both people at the same time!) In both cases, as the months went on, they learned new facts that revealed my job was more impactful than they thought, and potentially more successful than their own job. Suddenly they were making skeptical comments and sulking. It is a different variant of halfway support: "I support you unless you surpass me."

In both cases, I never actually entered into a relationship with the people, partly because I sensed the lack of full support. Actually having a relationship with them would have been a disaster. But I stayed friends and continued talking to them for years. I wonder now if even being friends with someone who does not fully support you is a waste of time. There is so little time and so many wonderful people in the world. Why not focus on the ones who fully support you?

I wonder how much of the "halfway support" is due to a person's natural disposition toward being competitive. My theory is that if a person is born noncompetitive, then they can easily be fully supportive. If a person is born very competitive, then their level of support depends on how happy they are with their own life, and how much they consciously train their mind to quell the competitive urges. If you are a competitive person, leave a blog comment with what contributes to your jealousy level versus ability to truly be supportive.

In the meantime, I think I will stop spending time with the partly-supportive friends in my life.

The next question is whether making harshly negative comments about most other people is a sign of insecurity and a red flag that the person is competitive and cannot be fully supportive. I have friends who voice negative thoughts on the vast majority (like 98%) of products, startups, and company founders. Toward me, they are thoughtful and encouraging. But I wonder if it is still a sign that if I ventured outside their narrow expectations, they would reduce their support of me down to halfway support too?

Gratitude day 25: food and lack of rumination

Tom booked us on a food tour yesterday. It was $80 per person but surprisingly my parents loved it and did not find it too pricey.

We ate at four different restaurants. The tour guide forgot our names and referred to us all night as Tom, Tom's sister, Tom's mom, Tom's dad. My brother was delighted. "That's how I think of our family," he said.

I have been able to avoid ruminating when my brother voices disagreements with some of my life choices. It is liberating to really be happy.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Gratitude day 24: rare shirt!

Tom gave me this very rare shirt! Previously this only went to members of the diablo team.

Also today Tom told me that I am in the top 10% of being helpful with serious situations (illnesses or job-related needs) but in the bottom 25% of being understanding over little everyday things like when to eat or buying gifts. I see his point. I am chagrined and want to be better about that!

Gratitude day 23: Hanok house

Staying the first 4 nights in a Seoul traditional hanok house, then we will switch to a regular hotel later.

I like the architecture. The only drawback is that rooms further from the main rooms are cold.

Having a common living room to hang out with parents and brother feels a lot more like a home, as compared to getting two hotel rooms.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

gratitude day 22: Tom humor

13-hour plane ride was much more fun with my brother.

Me: "My hair isn't as poufy as before." 

Tom: "你老不pouf ,头发就说:“哪好,我也不 pouf 了.” ("You keep not poufing it, so the hair said, I see how it is, I'm not going to pouf either then.")


Talking about Tom's friend KS, who I met this year and started hanging out with at events.

Tom: "KS says to me, 'Tom, you're so awesome! Awesome like your sister!' [smiling, shaking head] I remember the days when it was 'Niniane is so awesome! Awesome like you, Tom!'"


Discussing going to Mexico in 2012.

Tom: "Why is it cheaper to rent a house in May? Is it too hot?"

Me: "Yes."

Tom: "They have air conditioning. Joke's on them! We're going to use a lot of their air conditioning."

Friday, December 23, 2011

gratitude day 21: circle time

Today was such a celebratory day! 

Our sysadmin brought in Tartine pastries and put them on JH's desk. JH is on a flight to the East Coast.

JH (in chatroom): Whaaaat! My desk was never so delicious while I was there.

W: Maybe the desk can only hold a single one of the items from this list at a time:
1. JH
2. Pastries
In the early afternoon, we held Circle Time at Minted. We sat in a huge circle and shared our retrospective. The people who have been with the company during previous Christmas seasons shared their stories, and then we took turns describing our most memorable moments of the season.

At 5:30pm, the management team went to Barrique (wine bar) to bond and talk about 2012.

Grateful for colleagues who make me smile so many times per day.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Gratitude day 20

I have liked computer graphics since college. Today I visited a Pixar researcher who I met at SIGGRAPH years ago. I asked whether he perceives creating animated videos as an activity that will become more widespread amongst novices.

He talked about the importance and difficulty of production quality and story. Live action video can be bad lighting and no acting but capture an interesting segment of life. Scripted video must require skill of moviemaking.

I found his insights really insightful, and was genuinely impressed. I feel like many people just echo the same trends they hear others say, like "pinning is the new activity" or "geo is the next big area". It was so good to hear original perceptions that are insightful.

I am grateful for surprisingly positive conversations.

Gratitude day 19 part two

Today I am super happy!!! Maybe from exercise. Maybe because the engineering team were such goofballs today.

Our syadmin wore a Santa hat that automatically flops from one side to the other as he wears it. It is hilarious when he gives an update on a serious topic like migrating a server, and halfway through, the hat re-flops itself.

T learned about the video "Shit Girls Say" and has been gleefully shouting "Twinsies!" at all manner of appropriate and inappropriate times. He sent J an email with subject line "Twinsies!" and no content in the body. We were getting a photo at a "welcome new engineer / goodbye interns" circle-of-life lunch today, and he shouted "Twinsies" right before the photo was taken. I was laughing so much.

Soon I will get to see my brother. We are taking the same flight to and from Seoul. I am excited.


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

gratitude day 19: macabre

Today I am grateful that the people I care most about are all alive and healthy and well. It is very frightening to think about how this may not always be the case forever. I don't know how I would go on. I know this happens and people go on, so it's possible. But it feels like it would be unbearable.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Gratitude day 18

So many things to be grateful for today!

1. My brother's friend KW is a really upbeat person, and we have "happy chat" every few months. We write things like "KW, you are the best!!!!" "Tom has the best sister!!!" in long repetitive threads that I find deeply fulfilling.

2. Minted's executive coach is amazing. She has helped me become a more mature person, less judgmental, more relying on my inner compass and ignoring distractions. She has worked with leaders from Sequoia and GAP, and is so great! (If you want her contact info, email me.)

3. Azer visited yesterday and made a big fuss over my cooking. It was glass half empty, as in loud lamenting of "why didn't you start this cooking obsession when we were housemates??". But it was still sweet.

He asked how many kids I plan to have. I said maybe just one.

Azer: But you love having a brother!

Me: Azer, my brother and I are in the top 1% of sibling relationships! Our bond is like XXX (ex-googler), where everyone who sees him thinks he is good-looking, regardless of race or taste preferences! Anyone who sees me and Tom has to acknowledge we are the creme de la creme of sibling relationships. I can't bank on my kids being as lucky as my brother and me.

So I am grateful for Tom too.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Gratitude day 17: colleagues

Recently partner companies have been mailing us Christmas gifts. The engineering team has amused ourselves by finding out the cost of each gift.

Yesterday we received a big snack basket.

J: "Is everything on this table available for everyone to eat?"

Me: "Yes. But K is going to sit there on Thursday. So we have to eat all of it by then."

J: "Oh! (grinning confidently) No problem."

Grateful that Minted has recruited so many people who are both amazing and fun/funny.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

gratitude day 16: secretariat

Today I'm grateful for two things:

  1. I was so exhausted that I skipped all optional activities this weekend. I always wanted to have a long stretch at home where I read books and watched movies, but was afraid it would be boring. It wasn't! It was amazing and deeply fulfilling.
  2. I watched "Secretariat" on netflix streaming. I was inspired that Secretariat's owner Penny Chenery is so steely and determined after 18 years of being a housewife. Her self-resolve was not beaten down by the doubts of her husband and brother teaming up to talk her down.

    I wish that my mother had the arena to set a world record the way that Penny Chenery did. I'm sure that my mom could've. She is a lot like the movie characterization of Penny. My mother just didn't have an amazing horse. Maybe my brother or I could try to be the horse, ha.

    Afterwards I read the real story of Secretariat on wikipedia and it was just as good as the movie!

    Sometimes reading the true story is a big disappointment after watching the movie, like when I learned that "Coco Chanel" fabricated the part where Coco's big love of her life proposed to her. Or how Erin Brokovich's boyfriend was a deadbeat who tried to profit off her fame, rather than the sweet stepdad from the movie. Or how the elves of Rivendell totally did not go to Rohan to help them guard against the Orcs. Historical accuracy, people!

    This totally did not happen. The elf-human alliance came much later!

    But the real story of Secretariat is just as good. Winning by 31 lengths to secure the Triple Crown! From housewife to first lady of horseracing!

tact, honesty, regrets of the dying

My dad often tells me that I need to be more tactful.  He gets very angry when I voice unwelcome opinions to other people, and says that this is going to engender resentment which will one day bite me without me even knowing it.

My colleague Melissa also advises me that there's a time and place for things.  It's not my place to tell casual friends about negative opinions.  Her example is: "You can't tell someone that they have an ugly baby, unless it's your spouse."

She said that if I want to be radically honest, that's my choice.  But then I have to accept that it's not the norm in our society, and I must be prepared to deal with the consequences.

I'm not sure if I'm prepared to deal with the consequences!

Today I'm reading the list of Top 5 Regrets of the Dying:

3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.
Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.
We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.

How to reconcile this?  I don't want to experience this regret as I'm dying.  But I also don't want to offend people and then regret it as I'm living.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Gratitude day 15: total responsibility

Today I learned to make candles.

On the ride back, my friend and I started talking about how if anything happens to you, it is completely your responsibility. I was raised this way. If I got mugged, my dad would say it was my responsibility for choosing to walk in that location, and have body language of an easy target. If I were betrayed by a friend, my dad would say I should have noticed the errant behavior leading up to it, and chosen friends more wisely.

At first it feels unsupportive, to undergo a bad situation and then be told how you could have prevented it. But then it is reassuringly powerful, to think of everything as under your control. It makes you focus on how to prevent future problems.

Gratitude day 14: holiday cheer

Minted held a holiday mocktail hour for the seasonal graphic designers. I like office parties at a startup -- so cozy like a family!

The engineering team also toured the nearby chocolate factory TCHO. TCHO puts new chocolate products in beta. Also they can monitor their factory remotely via iPhone.

Their first sentence said they are obsessed with chocolate and obsessed with detail. I am grateful that this year I learned about attention to detail on every aspect of a business.

Survival school worries

Things to solve before I go:

1. Blister prevention. Last time I had no blisters for 6 days and then several big ones on day 7. But it was the last day, so I just powered through it. This time it is 14 days. How to prevent blisters?

2. Sunscreen. Despite using copious sunscreen, I worry about the skin on my face developing sun spots and blemishes from being in the sun. Cannot let that happen! My face needs to look the same until I am 50!

3. Remember to take chapstick this time!

4. Learn to make a fire before I go.

Last time there were 4 women and 2 men, which created such a bonding nurturing environment. This time they warned me it is likely just one woman (me) or at most one other. I hope there is one other woman! A warm friendly person, not cold.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

gratitude day 13: survival school 2012!

I signed up for the 14-day survival school field course in June 2012!

I am super excited about the base camp segment, and learning to "process" (i.e. kill and eat) a sheep.

The killing of an animal can be an overwhelming experience for people who have never lived on a farm. Therefore, the instructors begin by explaining much of what we've said here to the students: how, traditionally, vegetarianism was not a reality and that ultimately the human body needs proteins and fats to survive. (At this point in the course, the students are feeling this reality for themselves, as their bodies have been practically fat- and protein-deprived for several days or weeks before the animal arrives.)
The animal is then brought into the group and the students are given time to do whatever process they feel is appropriate to say "good bye" or "thank you." Some talk to it, some silently pat its head, some offer personal prayers or thanks — it's up to each person to do whatever he or she feels is appropriate.If the group feels they want to release the animal and allow it to live, they can. Most groups decide colectively to continue the lesson, but if you personally want to completely disappear and come back later, that's fine. No one is forced to participate in the upcoming act, although many vegetarians and vegans specifically choose to be involved in this phase since it gives them a chance to be completely connected to the animal's death.
Once the students are ready and the animal has been properly respected, several students hold the animal against the ground while one student cuts its throat quickly with a very sharp knife. Death is instantaneous.
I am nervous and excited about the longer (up to 3 day) solo.  I really enjoyed my 24-hour solo, especially lying under a tree with a breeze, writing in my journal.  I hope I will also enjoy this longer solo. 

I need to start preparing now to get into sufficient shape.  Last time I barely had enough stamina for the 7-day course.  I was lucky that it never rained.  Even with the fortunate weather, I was one of the slowest members of the team.  This year I'm going two months earlier (to schedule for a less busy time of year for work), so it will be colder and will rain more.  

My goal is to be able to run 6 miles in one hour, by the time I go.  Last time I could run 2 miles in 20.5 minutes, 3 miles in 33 minutes.

Gratitude day 12: pies

Grateful that my college classmate works at Quid next door to Minted, so we can bake pies and have genuine conversations.

Of course I used organic fruit and whole wheat pie crust!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

gratitude day 11

Today I am eyeing the 14-day survival school next July.  It has a 3-day solo instead of 1-day, and has an extra 3-day segment of setting up base camp and slaughtering a sheep.

Grateful for survival school.  I felt calm all day thinking about it.  It prevents me from having "keeping up with Joneses" temptations.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

gratitude day 10: 我出来买酱油的

I'm grateful for the chinese meme "我出来买酱油的" ("I'm just here to buy soy sauce").  

It came from an interview where a local man was asked, "What do you think about the allegation that the internet is very pornographic and very violent?"  He said, "It's none of my business.  I'm just here to buy soy sauce."

When I get tempted to "keep up with the Joneses" or I get annoyed at injustice that I can't help rectify, I remember to focus on buying my soy sauce.

Gratitude day 9: lov (local organic veggies)

I am grateful to have discovered local organic vegetables. It is amazing that healthy food can taste really good. It makes sense (of course fresh food tastes better!) but I was so indoctrinated to think that healthy = bland, and decadent = tasty.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Day 8: picture hanging

Grateful that my friend helped me hang this scroll art! He knew just how to hang it using nails.

Gratitude day 7: Santa

Today I walked out of my apartment into the apartment lobby, and heard jingling bells. A dog ran into the lobby wearing a string of bells. Then a neighbor emerged in full Santa regalia. He put reindeer ears on the dog.

Within 30 seconds, the dog managed to break the string, and bells tumbled everywhere.  Santa looked glumly resigned.  The dog sat down wearing the broken remnant of string and wagged its tail, looking at its owner.

It is SantaCon in San Francisco.

I am grateful to live in a city with a sense of fun, where so many people will dress in costume and be jolly at the drop of a hat.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Gratitude day 6

Grateful that Minted / Mariam is on the cover of San Francisco magazine this month!

Thursday, December 08, 2011

gratitude day 5

Today I started eating fennel out of my Farm Fresh to You delivered box of vegetables.  It tastes amazing.

Melissa at work asked me, "I thought you were so enthralled with"

I said, "Oh I am."

Melissa: "But you got a delivery from their competitor?"

Me: "There was a groupon for FarmFreshForYou."

Melissa: "Yes.  [revealing deep understanding of me]  Yes, of course there was."

So I am grateful for amazing fresh fennel, and for a friend at work whom I love dearly.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

gratitude day 4

Today I put on furry boots.  I remembered wearing these boots two years ago with a strapless dress, for Omst's rooftop BBQ.  There were about 15 people there.

An acquaintance Linda walked up to me and said, "Niniane!  Your outfit!"

I thought it was a compliment, so I said "Thanks!" and started to preen.

She said, "Your outfit is crazy!  You're wearing winter boots with a summer dress!"

I began to wilt and said, "It's a rooftop BBQ.  I thought it could be cold.  I also had a coat, but I took that off downstairs."

She said, "But it's so sunny!  Didn't you check the weather?"

Just then, our mutual friend Prasan immediately said, "Looks like a cold front coming in." and peered into the distance where there was the faint stirring of a storm cloud.

I was so appreciative for Prasan's loyalty!

Later he said to me, "I felt like punching Linda in the face and saying, 'Have you looked in the mirror lately at how you yourself dress??'"

I like so much when friends are loyal, especially when they abandon the moral high ground and get right in the mud in order to have my back.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

gratitude day 3

Today in the afternoon, many people at Minted helped out with customer service for an hour.  It really exceeded my expectations of being very enjoyable!  We were excited when customers came onto live chat, and were jealous of each other when someone got a live-chat customer.

Annie (director of design) said one customer opened with "I love all your designs, and I love your company."

Doing customer service is an activity that is really fun when you are doing it with people you like.  It's similar to going to the grocery store in that way.  I am grateful to work with people I like so much!

Also today I received in the mail the Minted notebook I ordered for my mom.  It's so gorgeous!  She's going to love me more when I give it to her, ha!

Lastly I asked my very fashion-savvy colleagues if they prefer my hair as it is in the notebook vs now.  They said now is better.  Whew!  I don't have to grow it out and highlight it.  I'm grateful that my hairdresser knows best what to do!

Monday, December 05, 2011

gratitude day 2

Today I bought this pitcher and am really happy about it.

I also signed up for the 2012 Survival Rescue class from Boulder Outdoor Survival School.  It's a 72-hour class in the Utah desert that simulates a "survival situation".  I'm grateful to Nikhil and Jessica for persuading me to go to survival school!

Sunday, December 04, 2011

gratitude day 1

I'm grateful that friends brought ornaments!




lillers cake

I signed up for a cake-decorating class.  The class is 2.5 hours long.  The cake itself and frosting are pre-made, and the class just focuses on decorating it.  I figured it's a long time just to decorate a small cake, so the resulting cake must be full of sprinkles and little frosting curliques.  I told my friend Lillers that I'm going to write her name on the cake.

Studio where cake class is held.

Cake in-progress.

I'm really glad that in an earlier blog post, people suggested that instead of my original idea of proving that I made the cake by putting a pistachio or metal bolt into the middle, I could also just take a photo of myself with the cake in-progress.

It ended up that we made a very pristine elegant cake.  I blurted out to the teacher that I already promised a friend to put her name on it, and he kindly melted chocolate so that I could fulfill my word.

Lillers opening the cake box.

Lillers' cake and Lillers.

Eating the cake, woot!

Now I know how to decorate a cake, and I feel very empowered with this knowledge!  I have a dream that I'll make awesome cakes to bring to people's parties.  I can make taro-flavored cakes, and almond cakes, and coffee cake!

One problem is that cake is quite unhealthy and I'd like to make a healthier version.  Maybe I can substitute whole wheat flour, and use dates instead of sugar.

Gratitude day 0

Matt Cutts did a 30 day challenge where he posts one thing each day that made him grateful. I decided just now that I will do this too, for 30 days. If it works well, I will do it for even longer.

I called my dad today. He and my mom are going to Hawaii next month, and I told him to visit Pearl Harbor. He said that China intercepted info about the Pearl Harbor attack and told the US. But the US didn't believe. China kept warning, "hey it's scheduled for xxx date." "it's happening day after tomorrow" "it's happening tomorrow!" but the US ignored it.

He said it in a funny way and I was grateful that my dad is very funny.

Also he described how Steve Jobs was probably depressed getting ousted from the company he started in his dad's garage. My dad clearly has a warm feeling about kids doing things in their parents' home, because he kept saying "his dad's garage".

My dad said he is pretty happy with things because our family goes on overseas trips annually, and my mom cooks for him every day, and the two of them go on little nearby trips.

It's nice to have a good peaceful conversation. I spent 1.5 hours on the phone with my parents today and it was harmonious. They were cheerful and funny.

I might take them to Euro Cup next summer, if I can figure out logistics.

I hope we can be harmonious when we all go to Seoul over New Years.

Friday, December 02, 2011

xmas tree

I completed item #4 from my bucket list by getting a live Christmas tree:

One curious development is that the tree has no scent.  It doesn't smell like a tree.  If I go up to it and vigorously rub a branch between my palms for ten seconds, then put my hands to my face, there will be a slight tree scent.  Otherwise there is no scent.  

I've been trying to figure out why this is.  LG had a tree last year, and he said it smelled like a forest in his apartment the entire time.  The only discrepancy we thought of is that his tree was 8 feet tall, and mine is 4 feet tall, so the cubic volume of his was 8 times greater.

 LG: it should smell like a forest!
 me: it doesn't
 Larry: get another tree!

me: no

LG: replace it
  omg so i'll pay you if you let me throw the current tree out the window
  itll be so great
 me: what!!!!
  open window or breaking the window
 Larry: open window
  you have a great apartment for a good throw
 we'll record it and everything
 me: :(no

Thursday, December 01, 2011

an inspirational guy

Today I learned about 励志哥 on google+. He is well-known on the chinese internet for being a very unattractive guy who has a gorgeous girlfriend.  He has a tagline: 只要肯去勾就有妞 ("as long as you are willing to entice, you will get a girl").


His words of wisdom are awesome: ("bro" is referring to himself)

"Hello everyone, I am 励志哥. If you are complaining that you're unlucky and can't find a good girl, please take a look at bro."

 "If you are still complaining that the heavens were unfair to you, please trouble yourself to look at bro."

      “不要太崇拜哥···· ”
 "Do not worship bro too much..."

"Stunned? Envious? Then please look toward bro. Remember bro. Bro is not an urban legend. Bro is called 励志哥."

I really like his attitude.  His sound bytes are entertaining.  I can see how he got a beautiful girlfriend.