Holiday Party onboard USS Hornet

When i joined my current company, i went to its holiday party (with Gui) then just to check out the scene. ZM refuses to go to any social gatherings that has a dress code. I wasn’t into holiday parties. So i’ve never been to a holiday party after that first year.

The venue of this year’s party is so unique that I was intrigued. When i told ZM, he expressed interest too. It became an even easier decision when i found out there is not really a dress code. Anything from Black-tie to jeans and t-shirt are welcome.

We spent most of the time below the party–engine room, sick bay, Torpedo berthing–or above the party — flight deck, the Admirals Bridge, the Pilot House, and the Combat Information Center. Fascinating! The scene at the party was equally good looking. The 40’s theme goes very well with the interior of the hangars of the aircraft carrier. Many guys showed up as sailor or pilot. Some were in dashing Navy Officer suits. Most women showed up in full 40’s style wear to the t. The music was chosen from the 40’s as well. So were the dancing.

What really caught me by surprise was how good the food was. The open bar certainly helped. I also loved the desert table, which has the name of “Port of call – France”. yumm.

Holiday Party onboard USS Hornet

Holiday Party onboard USS Hornet

I looked up “40’s fashion” before hand, and they really aren’t my cup of tea (thank heaven’s I didn’t have to live in the 40’s). Since ZM was just going wearing his everyday clothing, I don’t need to be too formal either. So i just threw something together from my wardrobe. I stayed warm and comfy, and i get to wear this skirt that i bought for a song many many years ago and never had a chance to wear it! (I had on a very comfy pair of boots under that skirt).

Amazed and Surprised

If you are like me, having spent better half of your working life being told to tame your “tactless communication style,” “try not to upset anyone this time” “why do you always have to get into a fight?” Imagine how surprised i am when i’m sitting at my annual review meeting with my new boss and being told specifically, “I’d much rather you stay animated than not.  Sometimes it is no avoiding upsetting people, and that is okay.”

It is like sitting an alcoholic at an open bar. My jaw dropped to the floor.

I couldn’t think of anything to say until much later.

I wonder whether it is because my previous bosses have curbed my “tactless communication style” so much that my new boss had no idea which kind of liberty he just give me. Has he any idea what kind of spectacular “shock” i am capable of unleashing?!

but it is a refreshing point of view. Having been working for so long and having been through the same old annual review for so long, i’m surprised to learn that “it is okay to be yourself.” I have to admit i like the sound of it.  I had the urge to just get out and pick a fight.

Just kidding. 🙂



There is a memorable line from “A River Runs Through It“: “we can love completely without complete understanding.”  That’s how i feel about this movie, “Melancholia“.

I don’t understand it completely, but i find it deeply moving. Now thinking back, i realize it is also beautifully made: the cinematography and the music, which i just found out were from Wagner’s Opera “Tristan Und Isolde.”

First part of the movie is about a luxuriously arranged wedding goes horribly wrong, mostly because of the erratically behaving bride. Normally i might have started disliking the bride being such an irresponsible brat. But since i just finished reading Water Isaacson’s “Steve Jobs”, Justine’s struggle with depression seemed largely innocent and heartbreaking comparing to Jobs cold manipulation and abuse of others.

I absolutely fell in love with the 2nd part.  Charlotte Gainsbourg’s acting is phenomenon, the story telling, the music, the landscape, everything is perfectly done.

Some of the reviews mentioned how in the face of disaster, Claire (by Charlotte Gainsbourg) freaked out but Justine (by Kirsten Dunst) was completely calm. In an interview with the director Lars von Trier, he mentioned that in the face of sudden disaster, usually victims of severe depression tend to be calm compare to normal population because they go through the kind of devastation all the time.

In the Fresh Air interview, Dunst said her understanding is that Justine is the one calling Melancholia to earth because that was her planet, she could be calm because she was returning home.

But what moved me the most was why Claire was panic. It was not because she was afraid for her life, or her bourgeois existence (granted, i love the castle she and her family live in!). She was panic because if it was true, if Melancholia really was going to hit the earth, then Leo, her young son, won’t have a chance to grow up.

That line made me cry all the way home. I think probably all parents of young children could relate.

Think about it more, given how chaotic the universe really is, isn’t it miraculous that nothing significant has hit our planet all these time?!

For that i need to watch Melancholia one more time.

What a Week!

It is Noah’s first week at day care.
Winter storm started on Monday ended our shortlived(barely 2 weeks?) Indian Summer.
Apple announced IPhone 4S which was largely criticized as underwhelming.
Then the real big news hit everyone by surprise: Steve Jobs, the star of our century, Passed Away.

Shortly after i started on my first job, one evening as i was leaving, i found a graphic artist friend was also working late, we started chatting. He was telling me about the new documentary on “BLUES”. We started talking about how great the beginning of 20th century was, with all those stars born, all those exciting social changes and the World Wars were brewing. I remember myself sighed, “We live in such boring times, comparing to that.”

Soon after that conversation, dot com boom was in full swing, then the bust, then the election drama that got Bush in the office, then 911, the wars, Obama, Steve Jobs announcing ipod, iphone, ipad, macbook air, the financial crisis, the rise of China, etc. etc.

I couldn’t dream of a more exciting time to live.

“Be careful what you wish for…”

Comfort Zone

Had to do some UI mockup at work, after trying out a few UI mock tools, i finally pulled out emacs and started code them up myself. I did a few years of web UI coding in my last job. Many many times i had the urge to throw my monitor out of the office window. Learning javascript does that to you. But now, for some strange reason, i felt immense comfort to be back in the UI land, tweaking the elements on a page, learning new css, jquery tricks. Even the frustration generated by javascript felt somehow familiar, and comforting.

In my spare time i started re-read Peter Hessler’s China trilogy. Good writing always put me in a good mood.

So here i am, good reading plus css make me feel a gentle kind of happiness that i haven’t felt for a long while.

Shows how much i dislike working with hardware. ha.

Shuttle Roulette

We’ve been planning Friday evening dinner with friends on a very adhoc fashion. When deciding the actual meeting time, I always start from the point i get home, then determine the travel time from home to the restaurant. Since i take company shuttle, we had to plan our dinner based on the shuttle schedule.

Not until a few weeks ago did i realize i don’t have to plan everything based on the limited shuttle time that reaches my neighborhood. Instead i could take advantage of all these shuttles that reache different neighborhood of the city and just meet friends in the said restaurant. duh!

But one drawback is i often underestimate the effort required to walk one block of San Franciscan street, especially when steep hill is involved. Last time we met in Zarzuela. I got off the shuttle at Van Ness and Union, and had to pick up my jaw from the floor. The “only 3 blocks to Hyde on Union” happens to include two consecutive steep hills. I really earned my dinner that day.

Today in a minor panic i realized i just missed the Noe Valley shuttle i meant to take. ZM was going to pick me up from the shuttle stop and go north to Chinatown for dinner. Quickly i glanced the upcoming shuttles in SF. and realized there are 3-5 shuttles coming a few minutes apart that will drop me along the way from Noe to North Beach.

I could just play shuttle roulette. Whichever one i happened to catch, there is a way for me to get to dinner on time.

I wonder if an European style public transportation will damp my admiration for our shuttle system someday… I pray that day to come sooner…

City Living

1. Crossroad Cafe
A serendipitous morning like this makes me appreciate the beauty of city living.

For the first time, we made it to Crossroad Cafe on Delancey street for breakfast. Because I heard they have bagels shipped from New York City. The bagel was so-so. But their patio was spacious and beautiful, with nicely landscaped trees, plants, and bird-bath. It reminded me of those cute little courtyards of “bed and breakfast” during our travels. In the back of the courtyard, a large wrought iron gate framed the languide view of Embarcadero Blvd. with the expansive bay as its backdrop. San Francisco Marathon was in full swing on the boulevard. The morning was overcast but temperature was perfect. Warm coffee in hand, sitting under the shade, surrounded by lush garden, watching the runners passing, what more could one ask?

2. Two Picasso Exhibits
There are currently two Picasso exhibits on display in San Francisco. After seeing both, I much prefer the less expansive and less crowded The Steins Collect MATISSE, PICASSO, AND THE PARISIAN AVANT-GARDE at SFMOMA. Maybe because i’ve been to the PIcasso museum in Paris a few times, so the paintings in de young seemed less impressive to me. Meanwhile, those in SFMOMA seemed more interesting partly because many are new to me, partly because having both Picasso and Matisse on view made the exhibit richer and more interesting.

3. Foggy July
In my limited experience of living in SF, July has always been the most foggy and cold. Last July was especially so. I remember having to wear thick sweaters at night after coming home with Noah. This July, heavy morning fog materialized as usual, but temperature has remained warm. We can wear short sleeves at home most days. Bliss. Cereus has been blooming nonstop in the last couple of weeks.

The Dragon Wakes


I’m at 70% of Book 5 of “A Song of Ice and Fire”. Full of respect for GRRM’s discipline. Seemingly minor characters in previous books end up playing important roles in the following books. One example is Theon. I flipped through a lot of Theon passages in book 4, now I realized I need to go back and re-read those since Theon is a linchpin in Book 5. Similarly of those iron borns story. Both Gui and I had complained about them in book 4. Now I sensed the iron born fleet will be coming to main stage. The seemingly boring parts were just stage setting, in the grand scheme of things, they all matter!

A very satisfying reading experience. So grateful for a world with writer such as GRRM.

The Wall

For those who is reading “A Song of Fire and Ice” series, “The Wall” has a special meaning. But today I just want to talk about a normal climbing wall.

Shortly after i joined my current company, i’ve heard a group of people were trying to get an indoor climbing wall put up on campus. I was ecstatic when i first heard. Imagine that! A wall right at our door step. i don’t even need to leave campus! I could pop in whenever i have half an hour to spare, try a route, sweat and feel all the stress melting away; then walk back to my desk and continue working. No gym membership fee, no driving. Ah, how grand that would be!

As the years went by, it kept on falling through. Each time there was a gym renovation, the mirage of “the wall” would appear. We the bright-eyed wall lovers would dream of “the wall” for a while. Then the gym would finish renovating, reopen, and no wall. 🙁

After a couple of incidents like this, i stopped dreaming.

But the small group of people who started it didn’t give up. Last May the dream came true! We got a wall installed in a lobby of a building that just finished renovation! What’s more, i found out one of the guys B, who led that small group of people, turned out to be a new director who came to our department not too long ago! B told me the group started pushing for a wall since 4-5 years ago. Persistence paid off!

But by then i was 2 months away from delivering Noah. And my department was scheduled to move to the opposite end of the campus from where the wall is located. Then i hurt my left wrist nursing during my maternity leave and it took months and months for it to heal.

Fast forward to this year. My wrists are good to go. I’ve left my department during a re-org. Now i work directly across the street from the wall. Yet i’ve been dragging my feet.

W is new to the company and joined our team a few months ago. He is a big outdoor person, and has been taking full advantage of the wall and loving it. He kept on inviting team member to go with him during one of his climbing sessions. Yesterday i finally said okay i would go and i would bring my shoes. He said there are harness and self-belay ropes, which means even for top-roping you don’t need a partner! There are also lots of bouldering routes.

So i made sure to have a few minutes this morning dashing to the basement to grab my climbing shoes and chalk bag, before leaving for work. In the afternoon, managed to drag myself away from all the meetings and walked across the street in the warm South Bay sunlight.

It, Was, Awesome.

The bouldering area is approximately only 1/3 of the size (length) of the bouldering “cave” in Santa Clara Planet Granite. But there are quite a few good routes. (Oh, climbers in the company set up the route themselves) I spent about half an hour trying out two routes, and worked out quite a sweat. I forgot how happy i get when i’m on a bouldering route. Pure Joy.

The best part was how convenient it all was. It takes less than 5 minutes for me to walk downstairs, cross the street and be on the wall. There is also a gym in my building, so i could use the locker room on my way back for a shower.

Remembering the days when i was working in Sunnyvale, I thought it was already very nice that i could drive over to PG during lunch time and have a bouldering session for an hour, then drove to a deli for food, and back to my desk 2 hours later.

I’m now in heaven. My arms are sore but my heart is dancing, hands sweaty.

Gonna try bouldering at least twice a week from now on. W was very eager to show me how the self-belay rope worked. It looked neat. But i found myself happiest on a bouldering route.

Oh, and B, the new director who started all these, who keeps his climbing shoes in his car, still hasn’t made it out to the wall, not even once. W said he will for sure drag him there one of these days…

Does Power Corrupt Absolutely?

The New Yorker, May 23, 2011
The Secret Sharer
Is Thomas Drake an enemy of the state?
by Jane Mayer

When President Barack Obama took office, in 2009, he championed the cause of government transparency, and spoke admiringly of whistle-blowers, whom he described as “often the best source of information about waste, fraud, and abuse in government.” But the Obama Administration has pursued leak prosecutions with a surprising relentlessness. Including the Drake case, it has been using the Espionage Act to press criminal charges in five alleged instances of national-security leaks—more such prosecutions than have occurred in all previous Administrations combined. The Drake case is one of two that Obama’s Justice Department has carried over from the Bush years.

The Trial and Tribulation of a KDFC Listener

San Francisco Bay Area had an excellent classical radio station, called KDFC. It occupied its own preset dial in our car and our stereo system. Same was true for our friend Gui & Matthew. We also bookmarked its website on our phone and laptop so we can pinpoint what was playing at any given time, too.

The frequency was not terribly strong, and especially bad around where we live now. So after we left Cole street, we haven’t been able to listen to it at home. We still had it in our car.

One day out of the blue we found out that it was bought by public radio. What does it mean? I vaguely remembered hearing about people protest such a move, but it didn’t really register in my mind until i get in my car one day and found out 102.1 FM no longer broadcasts classical music! Only then did i realize this has been the one and only classical radio station in the entire bay area.

It became unbearable when i drove to work a couple of times last week. I found myself turning off the radio all together. There must be a way!

Last weekend, i sat off to find a way.

Starting from kdfc’s website, where i learned the radio station has changed its frequency to 89.9FM and 90.3FM. Didn’t sound so bad! Happily, i started tuning my stereo at home trying to see if we can get any signal. Nothing but white noise. 🙁 Same for the car radio when we were driving around for errands.

What else? indicated that web streaming is another way, that means i need a speaker set for my laptop at home and probably a dedicated laptop if we want to listen that way semi-regularly. Not practical for the car.

Then i saw it has an iphone app that turns the phone into a little radio. This could work! Our car has an Aux cable that can connect to a MP3 player. At home i will only need a speaker set for an iphone.

I quickly tried the app on my iphone. it worked great! And we also have ZM’s old iphone 2G that had been laying around doing nothing. We could use the iphone 2G at home and use my iphone when we get in the car.

Except ZM had unlocked the iphone 2G when he just got it so he could use a non-ATT SIM when he was traveling. It means the phone’s OS was frozen in time. The time it was frozen in happened to be pre-app store. I decided to upgrade the phone even if it means it would be locked again. Since we weren’t planning on using it for a phone anyways.

But what i didn’t expect was that once upgraded to its proper OS minus the hacking, I can no longer activate the phone without a proper AT&T sim! Now i have a little brick that only allows me to dial 911. urgh.

So back to jail break land. Being the original iphone is like being the only dinosaur survived the ice age. I went through three different processes, which all claimed to work for iphone 2G. but none did succeed. Just when i thought all hopes were lost. Last night, i found yet another jailbreak site for the original iphone. Lo ‘n’ behold, it worked!

Finally, we welcomed KDFC back to our lives. Oh, the Joy!

New Yorker Digest

Whatever reading time that I had has been allocated mainly for my new favorite – Kindle. Miraculously, i did manage to squeeze in a few New Yorker articles along the way, constantly trying to rescue the fragile magazine from Noah’s grasp.

1. (May 2, 2011) The Consequentialist – How the Arab Spring remade Obama’s foreign policy. by Ryan Lizza

I heard Ryan Lizza talking to Terry Gross while i was driving home. Upon arriving home, i found this new issue has just arrived! I dug into the article right away.  Typical of anything Obama related in the New Yorker, this is a fascinating read. I want to quote the entire article!  Instead, i will just leave this little teaser here:

During the peak of the protests in Iran, Jared Cohen, a young staffer at the State Department who worked for Slaughter, contacted officials at Twitter and asked the company not to perform a planned upgrade that would have shut down the service temporarily in Iran, where protesters were using it to get information to the international media. The move violated Obama’s rule of non-interference.

White House officials “were so mad that somebody had actually ‘interfered’ in Iranian politics, because they were doing their damnedest to not interfere,” the former Administration official said. “Now, to be fair to them, it was also the understanding that if we interfered it could look like the Green movement was Western-backed, but that really wasn’t the core of it. The core of it was we were still trying to engage the Iranian government and we did not want to do anything that made us side with the protesters. To the Secretary’s credit, she realized, I think, before other people, that this is ridiculous, that we had to change our line.” The official said that Cohen “almost lost his job over it. If it had been up to the White House, they would have fired him.”

2. (April 25, 2011) Brand-New Bag – The man from Coach goes upscale. (Reed Krakoff), by Ariel Levy

I was more mesmerized by the description of his townhouse in Upper East Side, NYC; than by his fashion line. Impatiently finished reading the article (afraid of missing any bits of description of his house), i went on-line and found this article from Vogue:

Reed and Delphine Krakoff: Design for Living

Krakoff Living Room

Krakoff Living Room

Cool Sheep Chairs

Cool Sheep Chairs

3. (April 18, 2011) The Grand Tour – Chinese vacations in Europe, by Evan Osnos. Other than “Chinese” are the new “Japanese” in the tourism, it is interesting to see the places Chinese grand tour includes, e.g. Karl Marx’s birthplace: Trier, Germany

Kindle Screen Saver

丰子恺 - Kindle Screen Saver

丰子恺 - Kindle Screen Saver

Over the weekend, i just jail-broke my kindle to install a Chinese themed screen saver. During the process, i learned that previous Kindle edition allowed user to customize the screen saver with images of their choice. With Kindle 3 (even Kindle 2.x?), however, the screen saver is locked down. One has to jail break it before installing her own screen saver.

It seemed a silly product decision.

Until this morning when i read this: Amazon to Sell the Kindle Reader at a Lower Price, but With Advertising Added.


“We want red food!”

Meal menu at our company cafes are color coded. Green means healthy. Red means unhealthy, Yellow means somewhere in the middle. The cafe in our building happens to be one of the healthiest among them all. It means when you walk in there, most days you see only green and yellow colored items on the menu.

We had some engineers from an Asian partner company coming and working with us for a week recently. By the third day, they had the color code figured out. When their host, to save time, took them go the cafe downstairs, they solemnly demanded, “We want red food! Red means delicious!”

Contacts Sync for iPhone

One major pain of changing mobile phone used to be the difficulty of contact syncing, until Android came along. We are all started building up our contact info in the Gmail Contacts. and switching phones requires zero effort to get the same group of contacts show up instantly.

Well, until you have to switch to an non-android phone. Noah has been chewing on my android so much that it finally gave in. Today i had to switch my sim back into the Iphone 3G i have been using around the house as a clock. I was so shocked to find out i had zero contact when i tried to call Gui this afternoon. Then i remembered iTune updated my iphone recently.

After being spoiled by Android for so long, i had no plan of entering my contact by hands back into a phone. So i found out about this: Macs inside Google: OS x.10.5.3: Sync Google Contacts.

Worked like a charm.