Archive for September, 2007

Where Joe Lives

Sunday, September 30th, 2007

Joe lives in Ukrainian Village in Chicago. He bikes or drives everywhere. Or walks.

My feet hurt a lot from the last two days. But oh was it so good!

Cats Meow Cats

Friday, September 28th, 2007

I have determined that I am probably not allergic to cats. Because I have spent more than 12 hours in a place inhabited by two cats. And with cat hair prominently displayed.

Despite what my doctor said more than 10 years ago when he stabbed my forearm with drops of allergens and it swelled in nearly all animal-related places.

Perhaps I am not allergic to dogs either.

All I know is that I am definitely allergic to juniper.

Things to do in Chicago

Tuesday, September 25th, 2007

I am heading to Chicago in a few days…to visit friends…and family! Like any big city, I am super-excited to see and do things that people do there…to live the urban life. Despite the many times I have had a layover at ORD and how my relatives live outside the city, I actually barely have ever spent time in Chicago.

And now, I shall!

Things to do (perhaps)

  • eat Frushi (fruit shaped in the shape of sushi) at Orange
  • eat at Moto! liquid nitrogen dipped food and menu printed on a tortilla
  • visit the Museum of Contemporary Art using the Museum Day pass
  • have a cupcake feast like I had an ice cream feast in Pittsburgh
  • ride the L
  • ride the Metra
  • visit the Threadless Retail Store
  • visit the Buckingham Fountain
  • explore Wicker Park especially along Division and places where the movie was filmed!!!
  • eat a Chicago dog!
  • eat a Chicago deep dish pizza—even though I do…dislike pizza…
  • anything else?!

    Widgets. In my bathroom.

    Monday, September 24th, 2007

    There are two widgets near my bathroom sink right now.

    From two glass Guinness bottles.

    About 3 years ago, I visited friends in Minnesota and was instantly fascinated with the widgets in their Guinness can. I don’t remember how I did it. Whether it was by bare hands or a knife. Or a fork. Considering I was inside a bar. Somehow by the end of the night, I got the widget out. Unfortunately, it was just a round white plastic thing.

    But yesterday at a bbq, I stashed two empty bottles of Guinness (which I did not drink, obviously). And there was something inside! Something that made noise. It’s like the Japanese Ramune Soda. Except I couldn’t see the inside. After the bbq (and a lengthy explanation of why I was carrying empty bottles in my bag), Chris helped me smash the bottles (safely). And with delicate, careful precision, we extracted the widgets and discarded the glass.

    It has this hole at the top for nitrogenation according to its entry on Wikipedia. At the bbq, we had argued over its purpose. I believed it was there to keep the beer cold. Another person thought it controlled the way the beer flowed out of the bottle so that a huge head doesn’t form. More people believed it was about how the widget released liquid nitrogen to keep Guinness like how it would flow from draft. And in the end, we found out we were all right in some way.

    And now it’s near my bathroom sink.

    A professor at CMU

    Thursday, September 20th, 2007

    “You won’t remember anything about this talk except the crayon,” he said during the closing plenary at CHI.

    It’s true. I don’t remember anything from the talk except that he gave a crayon to everyone in the audience. I do remember feeling exhilarated and hopeful after the talk, like I was inspired to do more.

    And that was Randy Pausch. He had intrigued me with the ETC program, leading me to take Game Design. I went to the Building Virtual Worlds talk at the end of the semester…and wished I had taken that. It was the ability to create a world of magic, creativity…the ability to achieve childhood dreams.

    In fact, that was the title of his last talk. Part of the last lecture series. An idea about what professors would do if it were their last talk. And indeed, it was his last talk after a doctor said that he had only a few weeks left to live after his cancer diagnosis.

    His summary: Almost all of us have childhood dreams: for example, being an
    astronaut, or making movies or video games for a living. Sadly, most
    people don’t achieve theirs, and I think that’s a shame. I had several
    specific childhood dreams, and I’ve actually achieved most of them.
    More importantly, I have found ways, in particular the creation (with
    Don Marinelli), of CMU’s Entertainment Technology Center
    (etc.cmu.edu), of helping many young people actually *achieve* their
    childhood dreams. This talk will discuss how I achieved my childhood
    dreams (being in zero gravity, designing theme park rides for Disney,
    and a few others), and will contain realistic advice on how *you* can
    live your life so that you can make your childhood dreams come true,
    too.

    On reviews

    Wednesday, September 19th, 2007

    I have a major gripe with user-generated reviews. Even though user-generated content is all fine and dandy, there are certain things that should be paid with more care.

    Like…restaurant reviews. On yelp.

    Every so often, I decide to find a business close to me. The closest laundromat. A good sushi restaurant. A place that sell fabric or picture mattes.

    And I come across reviews that give a place 4 stars out of 5 because the reviewer never went inside, but the review heard it’s cool and has walked by it so many times. What? Or worse yet, because the reviewer had a horrible journey to get to the place—a cab that drowned in water, a date that smelled like vomit…and give the business 3 stars but never actually mentioning the restaurant. WHY? And the reviews of Walgreens, McDonalds…some that are only written so that member can get the first review in. Or just one-liners about some yelp-only joke.

    No thanks. Zero stars.

    She cut her fingernails

    Monday, September 17th, 2007

    There was a woman in the BART station standing behind me in line. I was waiting for the BART train home, standing in front of the doors that would drop me in front of the escalator at my stop. She was clipping her fingernails with each clip loud and sharp. It was hard to ignore and I couldn’t stop thinking about how the ground would be littered with her clippings.

    I turned around and gave her a long stare, but she ignored me.

    Thoughts ran through my head.

    The scene in The Catcher in the Rye when Holden’s obnoxious neighbor asked to borrow the fingernail clippers and clipped them far away from the trashbasket. Holden yelled at the neighbor, “Cut your crumby fingernails over the trash!”

    And how when my dad as a young boy of 3 years old crossed the border with his family from China to Hong Kong during the Cultural Revolution. He stayed at a hotel during the journey where the beds had fingernail clippings.

    Life’s Little Instructions book recommended never letting people hear you clip your fingernails.

    And then how the monsters from Nickelodeon’s AAAH! Real Monsters survived on fingernail clippings. Maybe they would scour the floor of the BART station.

    When my train finally arrived, I boarded…she stood next to me in front of the doors since all the seats were taken. She had stopped clipping, but looked bored as she watched the doors open and close, open and close, open and close, open and close, open and close, open and close, open and close, open and close, open and close, open and close, open and close, open and close, open and close, open and close, open and close, open and close, open and close, open and close, open and close, open and close, open and close, open and close, open and close…

    Breaking the law

    Sunday, September 16th, 2007

    Walking up from the trail at Fort Mason, the woman pointed upward toward a “do not enter” sign. “Oh there used to be stairs here. But that’s the way back to the parking lot.”

    The stairs ended halfway down while the rest was filled with dirt. So we climbed up. I was frustrated that the woman didn’t lead us back up the parking lot. When we got to the top, a park ranger stopped Chris.

    “The do not enter and danger are here for a reason,” he scolded us as I peeked my head under the tape. “It’s dangerous and you shouldn’t have been there.”

    He continued admonishing us as I shrunk while Chris explained our situation—that we were lost and other things. The ranger finally gave us directions, reminding us that we should obey signs.

    I used to always stay within the lines. But bending the rules a bit, walking outside the line makes it so much richer. Not just this example, but…I haven’t bended the rules so much until this year. Making (illegal) u-turns, bringing food into places that it shouldn’t be allowed, taking the shortcut…

    The most common birthday

    Wednesday, September 12th, 2007

    Last Friday was Alan’s birthday. Then Naim’s birthday. Then today was Sam’s birthday. Happy birthday! Then another friend. Then another friend’s birthday. Then Chris’ birthday. Then another friend’s birthday. And another. It drives me a bit crazy that suddenly there are so many birthday this month.

    Why all in the month of September?

    Because 9 months ago is the winter. When people are most likely trying to stay warm. And perhaps some people are so joyous by the holiday cheer. From Christmas and New Year’s.

    According to yahoo, the most common birthday is October 1st where conception would have occurred exactly around New Year’s.

    But what is the least common birthday?

    Yahoo says according to their research:

    The survey also found May 22 to be the least common birthday. As yet, no guesses as to what it is that happens in late August (nine months prior to that date) that routinely turns so many people off. Perhaps it’s just too darn hot?

    Hey, that’s my birthday! My parents defied the norm! I was that ripe 9 months, no more and no less. I have met only one other person with the same birthday. I wonder where she is now…

    Regrets over high school

    Tuesday, September 11th, 2007

    “What regrets did you have in high school?” I asked thoughtfully.

    “I would have focused,” he responded. “Try not to do it all, but focus on one thing. Not do all the sports, but played in one sport…and got good at that.”

    I thought for a moment about myself. Could I. Would I. And I finally said, “I have no regrets. In fact, I don’t know if there’s anything I could have changed due to my personality, my own level of maturity, the context, the circumstances, the people. I would have rather skipped it entirely.”

    But then, I wouldn’t be who I am today if I didn’t go through the 4 years of unbearable high school.

    At least I can still always point out the Marriott across from the Metreon near work. “That’s where I went to prom,” I say as my coworkers talk about how they had prom at aquariums and museums.