Birthday Wishlist 2015

May 22nd, 2015

Well, I nearly forgot about it! But this year, it’s more about the things that are more abstract. Services. Things to go away or things to arrive.

Previous years: 2014, 2013, 2012, forgotten year in 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, a forgotten year of 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002

1. Presence > Present
2. CANDY! Although because I have been working at a startup on diabetes management…I am becoming a hypochondriac!
3. Donation to my ride for diabetes!
4. Be published, finally!
5. Gain more skills as a writer and not to wallow in my lack of a MFA
6. Endless snacks of fresh fruit and other tasty snacks
7. The wisdom to know better
8. The ability to decrease the things that I don’t really need

“How are you?”

May 21st, 2015

“How was your day?” you say.

“Good,” I say. “Good.”


I say “How was your day?”

“Good,” you say.

“Good,” I say.

“Good,” you say.

She stops, confused.

May 20th, 2015

“Hold on,” the bike girl says. “Your rear tire needs air. Better do it now or else it will pop either today or tomorrow.”

Everyone in line looks at you. You redden a bit, embarrassed at your inability to fill the air. But you take your bike. Your mind is swirling. The event is starting soon, and you took the early train so that you could arrive at 5:26 pm. Time is ticking. You paralyzed by indecision so you just pull to the side and mindlessly put the bag on the rack. You rode home before with not much air anyway.

“Don’t do that!” she calls. “Just do it without the bag.”

You redden again and grit your teeth. Silent, you drag your bike over and pull your bag across the floor. You untwist the cap and use the stand pump. You remember the time that you tore your tube because you couldn’t pump correctly. You remember the last few times when you pumped and it took 30 minutes. But right now, you can feel the girl’s judgement criss cross your body and chain your hands to the pump. One two three. Is the air even going in? Is your tire going to deflate? You know that you should be doing this. You’re pissed, but you don’t know why. Is it because now you have to do the work and the girl won’t do it for you. And you’re annoyed, because you’re late. You’re irritated, because everyone stared at you and think that you should know better. And the girl already lectured you a few weeks ago about the helmet being in the wrong place and not having enough air. How much will you have to pump? And will you need to come back anyway?

“Do you work at UPS?” a guy suddenly asks you.

You turn around, and you know that the answer is supposed to be a resounding no. But all your generosity is gone from you, lost through the fingertips, squashed by the negativity that you just created. “Am I supposed to be?” you say. “I like UPS…”

“No I mean,” he says. “Do you work at UPS?”

“I don’t understand the question,” you say, suddenly wanting to start a fight. “I would like to work at UPS.”

The girl looks at you and says, “She doesn’t work at UPS.”

You want to say, “How would you know?”

But instead, you’re quiet and you pump. Because nothing good would come out the conversation. The guy is complaining about UPS and he finally begins to leave. So you say as he walks out, “I won’t tell the UPS what you said.”

He laughs. You finished pumping. It’s at a lovely 120 psi. And it’s not broken. You walk out without a word.

Things I have observed relevant for Silicon Valley

May 19th, 2015

“You three are nothing like what I see in Silicon Valley,” a visiting employee quips.

I opened my mouth to go into a tirade of how this creative class, the inability for anybody normal to describe what we do, is forgotten in anything. Except for the lone designer who selects the colors.

HBO’s Silicon Valley rarely highlights designers.

They won’t quite understand what I do and what I have observed.

But there’s something interesting about this. But I don’t necessarily feel that it is like the lack of Asian Americans on TV. It’s a misportrayal of a profession. People don’t understand what MBAs do so they get portrayals of characters like Jared, a guy who yells German in his sleep and sacrifices his well-being for the company. And weirder uncomfortable eccentricities.

As a UX professional, I am the one who is investigating the truth about users and organizing communication in a way so that decisions are made from a user-centered perspective. Or better yet, human-centered perspective.

There are designers with big egos. Some who don’t even realize that they have egos. Or people who think that they are designers, but have been surrounded by companies that don’t know any better about great design. Then there are the designers who love what is on the screen, that they are in love with the UI controls, that they are unfettered by what people really need. There is a certain kind of UX professional I am. I would like to think that it’s rare, but there are treasures in our midst.

And when Silicon Valley finally portrays us on the screen, we are probably the ones saying, “So why didn’t you listen to us in the beginning?” *End throwing a deck of wireframes and visual specs in the air*

The line was long

May 14th, 2015

I scanned the fifteen people in line and wandered into the Starbucks. It was just before 9 AM and fingered the long green card in my bag. I sighed and sat down in the couch in the lobby. “You look like you don’t want wait?” an old man next to me said.

He held a Starbucks coffee cup and sipped from it slowly. “No,” I smiled. “It doesn’t seem worth it and I have to meet my colleague here in a few minutes.”

“You know that there’s another Starbucks around the corner,” he said. “This one is nicer.”

“I have a coupon for a free drink valid only at this Starbucks. It came with my hotel stay.”

I winced a little at my reveal, hoping that I didn’t come off as a snobby traveler. “How is the hotel?” he said with interest. “Are you staying in the old section or the new section? I live next door for more than 19 years.”

“It’s nice,” I said and paused, wanting to get the subject off of me. “So you’re a long-term Chicago resident.”

“it’s easier to live here. So much around here. Restaurants and everything.”

“What restaurants do you like?”

He hesitated. “Oh I don’t know!” he said.

I filled in the silence and said, “Everything seems to be good. People from Chicago seem to love their food.”

“They do,” he said.

My colleague tumbled out of the elevator and rushed toward the door. I nodded to my sitting companion and said, “Have a good day.”

“Have a good day,” he repeated and I strolled into the Chicago early spring air.

My nighttime routine

May 7th, 2015

I have brushed my teeth and taken off my contacts. I am clean now, at least in my perspective, freshly showered in my large (startup schwag) American Apparel t-shirts. Voices outside may travel into my room. They are wandering passerbys who converse from the popular foodie heaven next door. They are the people who are trying to get into a uber or lyft. But it calms down and the roar of the car rolls by. Occasionally, I hear a distant horn of the Caltrain, pulling into its penultimate stop at 22nd Street, just 2 miles away over the hill.

But I rest on the left side of my bed, sinking further and further. Rarely does insomnia ravage my sleep, except for those nights away from these nights, my mind surrounded by the same routine, but my body hears different noises, perhaps silence or the step outside my hotel door or the unfamiliarity of the bed and pillow. But in my room with the barest of light tinkling off the ceiling’s chandelier, I fall into my favorite drug of all—sleep.

To and From Point Reyes

April 27th, 2015

I love riding. Not because I can go faster than walking. But because I can keep moving once I put power into earlier revolutions. I am moving without any energy at all.

When I went to Point Reyes with people awhile ago, I decided to capture it all on GoPro, to finally do the things that GoPro offers all adventure seekers to do. But it sat heavily on my head and it hurt, especially when I was suffering through a long climb and I could feel my helmet settle into my sweating skull. And the ridiculousness of the video files which often meant that I would take forever to edit. And the horrible user interface design of GoPro Studio. Never use that, because it never considers how a video editor, particularly an amateur one, can take advantage of its power. And the performance, there’s nothing that I can say about that.

But with effort, I produced the video above which minimally captures the small victories that I had. Going up inclines and descents. But it didn’t capture all the beauty of Point Reyes, the raw oysters, the cooking that chris did at our airbnb, the grand ranch in Marshall where cows (to be made into beef) roamed freely, the barn used for weddings all festive with a vintage chandelier and soft hay, and the moments when we had a car drive our bikes around (ssshhh!).

But this is the best part of the trip: To glide along the water on a well-paved road like I was skimming the surface of the bay.

Have you ever…?

April 24th, 2015

The other day, Chris’ childhood friend shared a post on Facebook:

$80.00 what about you? Now tell the truth!

Posted by Laurie Hall on Saturday, April 18, 2015

He wrote, “$240….yea, I was pretty bad before I met my wife… :/”

Like the clickbait article reader I am, I thought about how it worked for me. As expected, I came up with less than $20. And these are questions that probably appeared in the “Never have I ever” games (which I have never ever played).

But what if the goal is to come up with excruciating awkward statements?

What if it was:

  • Digging for treasure in public and eating it
  • Laughing so hard that you peed a little (thanks CoH!)
  • Left bloody marks on a seat in a public place during a period
  • Write a long, angry personal email while on company time
  • Leaving the scene after (gently) backing up into someone’s car
  • Taken extra snacks from the office so that you have snacks during the weekend
  • Been the giver or recipient of an “accidental brush”
  • This are my questions when driving

    April 23rd, 2015

    Why is there traffic?
    Where is everyone going?
    At this hour?
    Did that BMW SUV take a shortcut?
    Should I follow to save time too?
    Why is this Honda Accord following me so closely?
    Should I be annoying and press my brakes?
    Maybe I’ll change lanes?
    Does she always follow everyone so closely?
    If she has some parking sticker, does that mean that she’s going to San Francisco?
    Why is she in a rush?
    Who would drop trash in the middle of the freeway?
    Was that an accident?
    Why is the big company shuttle taking 280?
    Do shuttle drivers get to choose the most efficient route?
    Are the shuttle drivers contracted to take the same route even if it’s slow?
    Is that the Honda Accord ahead?
    Will I make it on time today?
    Will the onigiri that I bought be enough food?
    Where is the Honda Accord?
    Did I just pass the Honda Accord and showed off how the deliberate tortoise wins?
    Why is everyone driving?
    Why are there four police motorcycles passing through
    Where are they going?
    Will they pull anyone for being an obnoxious driver?
    How many people noticed the police motorcycle?
    Where is the Honda Accord?

    Dance like nobody is watching

    April 21st, 2015

    In my dreams, I am flying. From foot to foot. Hands swinging. I am moving across the floor. Flowing with the music. I glide, I step, I kneel. It’s all synchronized, it’s all perfect.

    But then you see, I wake up. My childhood dream of being a dancer (and singer) completely left me the moment that I started classes. Ballet was horrifying as I couldn’t understand what it meant to move with the rhythm and bend my knees. Turn left didn’t make sense. Separate the feet while moving my arms was an impossible mountain to climb. Likewise, in chorus, my voice came out as a whisper. As I soon learned in my piano lessons, I don’t have sense of rhythm. In my head, I heard the music but my body didn’t feel the beat. It just wanted to move whatever way it wanted.

    Some may say that it was the lack of training or the fear of embarrassment that I never improved.

    But then when I fall into my dreamworld, I can dance. When I watch youtube videos, I am mesmerized by the elaborate choreography. I see myself in them, gliding across the floor. I am the smiling chick, the douchey guy, the big party rapper.

    I am on the dance floor at weddings. I regularly attended 80s night (until I started being annoyed by obnoxious people).

    More than ten years ago, a friend and I passed by a student group blaring pop music across a field. “How disruptive,” she said.

    Her words didn’t register with me. Instead, I lightly swayed my hips and said, “It makes me want to dance.”