For a reminder of how independent, how sociable I am…at this age during this time…a list of things I learned during my Thanksgiving trip to the Bay Area:

  • If the girl sitting next to you is making trivial conversation that you don\’t want to listen to, perform a user test or a concept validation session with her. It will shut her up afterwards.
  • Always choose the window seat. Not only can you sleep easier (against the window), you will be safer from falling overhead items. Of course, a trade-off is that you won\’t be able to exit the plane as easily.
  • My mom trusts Yahoo Maps better than signs on the road. (We took a one mile detour to the freeway even though the onramp was right next to the SJC airport.
  • Like my last trip to the Bay Area in August, I absolutely hate driving between the South Bay and the East Bay.
  • My mom loves Cantonese movies.
  • Always check if all belongings have been accounted for when leaving a friend\’s car. Especially the digital camera.
  • If there\’s a debate about living on the East Coast and the West Coast, just shut up. You\’re never going to win.
  • I\’ll never get enough of Berkeley especially when I walk past any place that I used to roam such as Milano, Strada Cafe and Sufficient Grounds.
  • The Old Teahouse will never get my vote.
  • If I plug in the AC adapter to my laptop, the audio will be louder than without.
  • I know some people who apparently like me enough to drive all the way to the East Bay from Palo Alto, San Mateo and Sunnyvale to see me. Thank you Arthur! Thank you Guy! Thank you Will! Thank you Braden! And thank you Alex (even though you were seeing your family nearby)!
  • My sister always provides advice not criticisms. Just the way I like it.
  • My mom actually knows how to prepare a Thanksgiving meal. A prepared turkey from Safeway, mashed potatoes from a box, and corn from a can should do it.
  • Intruding families on Thanksgiving is ok. Just remember to call at least 30 minutes ahead of time. Be prepared to be offered their leftovers. Always accept. And apologize for your presence. Always thank the cook.
  • Lulu shall always want to see me!
  • Even if you get to Circuit City 15 minutes after the door has opened (at 5 am), the $9.99 512 mb compactflash card will be sold out.
  • Always go to Black Friday in pairs. One person will find the item. The other person will get in line. Efficiency in its greatest form.
  • The English Rose Tea House in Pleasanton is highly recommended by Lulu, my sister and me. Ask for Darjeeling. Fruit teas taste like the fruit, don\’t get them without sampling first. Be sure to try the scones. Expect a service unsurpassed anything you have experienced before. All for under $20. Expect a lot of pink.
  • Grandmothers are cute.
  • People in their twenties aren\’t supposed to mix well with people in their fifties in a college bar. But I still thought it was rather cute how the uncle was rejected from coming when suddenly my friend said, \”Jenn and I have a lot to catch up on. Grad student stuff, you know.\”
  • Albatross Pub. Highly recommended.
  • I lose easily in all games. Darts. Big 2. Speed. I am a sore loser.
  • I get tired of CDs after listening to them after 3 times. Minibosses is a little weird to listen to in a car.
  • My dad will always get a haircut in San Francisco chinatown because it is $5/haircut.
  • Marching bands in chinatown mean a funeral procession.
  • You will always find an illegal baton in a store in Chinatown.
  • A Malaysian restaurant around the corner of Chinatown (forgot the name unfortunately) has great mango chicken, seafood soup and haisen chicken. Ask for low spiceness if you\’re spice-sensitive like me.
  • Wool jackets were only $29.99 at Target last weekend. Usually you find similar coats for around $115 at most stores.
  • If you accidentally take the wrong road and end up at the SF Bay Bridge toll, you can ask the operator if you can make a turnaround and you won\’t need to pay the toll.
  • Treasure Island exit is on the left side of the freeway.
  • If a friend who is an artist at heart agrees to meeting around 7:30 pm, don\’t expect arrival until 10 pm.
  • ETCers are a bunch of gossips.
  • Apparently, their life is very Real World like. On the first day of their program, their director cautioned, \”Don\’t have sex.\” Guess what happened.
  • They also are somewhat immature. Social events encompass such activities as drawing penises on their Nintendo DSes and talking about fecal matter in underwear. *cough*
  • Au Couquelt Cafe is open until 1:30 am.
  • Did I mention that I love Darjeeling tea?
  • Powerbook batteries will only last one hour after almost 1.75 years of daily use.
  • Don\’t drive over curbs. It is embarrassing.
  • If I am in the car with my parents on any random weekend day, I will suddenly find myself in Costco without explanation.
  • My mom will nag me to death (aka call my cellphone) about coming home regardless of whether I am 18, 23, or even 31.
  • I think I will be working in the Bay Area. But somewhere besides the East Bay.
  • While on a search for CSS and displaying tabular data, I found an obnoxious defender of tables. Granted, I switched over from tables to complete css more than 2 years ago and still have difficulty remembering all the commands for the css layout. Still, I find it much easier to deal with a css layout than a table layout where it meant a lot of estimations and guesses. In css, absolute and relative positions have saved my life (and my blog\’s life).

    It is people like this that have no idea what HCI and usability is really about. Or perhaps, just the obnoxious software developers who believe that it is the user\’s fault for not learning an interface well enough. After studying HCI for more than a year, I can\’t stand to hear an argument without a tradeoff. With any benefit in the world, there is at least one tradeoff. Nothing is ever perfect. Neither is CSS or tables.

    But moreover, it is people like this…that grate on my nerves. I do have a few friends who can get caught up in debates becoming more extreme over time in their singular opinion. Over the years working in teams, it is important to always consider both sides of the argument. No cognitive tunneling please! No absolute statements. Nothing is black and white, right?

    American culture dictates that females should be hairless, which is rather interesting because shaving off hair only seems to be a fashion statement. Nowadays, not only do I need to be relatively hairless, but I also need to maintain an eyebrow shape (instant facelift, you see) and all these other trivial things.

    I remember several years ago when it hit the tabloids that Julia Roberts did not shave her underarms. There was a picture of her exiting the airplane as she was waving and the photograph captured something so unsightly that someone had to report it to the entire world. I didn\’t know why it was such a big deal, but it\’s a cultural phenomenon. Or a societal norm?

    That\’s why it was so intriguing when I came across a picture of a female posed with hairy underarms. Why? Who? Where?! WHAT!

    I suppose this is the same as the social norm in America (unlike Asia) where if we bump into someone, we are obligated to apologize (even though we don\’t feel regretful at all).

    I made it back to Pittsburgh alive after a dreadful exhaustive flight. Why do I have the worst luck and get stuck next to unkind passengers on the plane? On the leg from Minneapolis to Pittsburgh, I got sat next to two teenagers (or maybe they were college students, but they acted immature). At first, I thought it would be nice to have a conversation but killed any idea of initiation when I saw them \”fighting\” each other. One would knock the tray table down for the other. They would shine the overhead lights on the other\’s faces to wake him up and turn up the air to annoy the other one. One listened to his portable music player as the plane ascended (against FDA regulations?) Then they played with their cellphones in the air. *cough* What was interesting was that they had packed bags of candy (similar to what my sister and I would do on long trips). But still annoying.

    Although I can\’t say this compared to the trip where I was next to a pleasantly plump woman (nothing against them, but…) who had a spasm every minute while sleeping and shook the entire row. No arm rests there.

    Looking back…

    10 years ago… I was entering my last year in middle school as an eigth grader. I wore oversized glasses and was still socially awkward. I had exactly one friend, who wasn\’t really a friend but more of a competitor in school. School was too easy for me.

    (Exactly) 5 years ago… my first boyfriend-to-be (and now ex) visited me. I was in my freshman year at Berkeley and was still struggling with my sudden ability to make friends easily. I still was socially awkward and sheltered. I thought I was going to be a computer science major. I was in the UC Berkeley Extension because they only had room to accept me in the spring (a not very well-known fact of me). I didn\’t miss home. Since it was less than 12 miles away.

    One year ago… I was in San Diego visiting my sister in her last year. I was still smarting from the mess I created in August. I started hated flying since I flew coast-to-coast. Most of all, I had come to love the mhci program I had started, but still felt distanced from other people in the program. I didn\’t feel like I had any close friends in Pittsburgh but at the same time I realized that some people who I thought were my friends weren\’t really.

    Yesterday… I finally understand my incredibly quality of having such a large number of (good) friends, which surprises even myself. I went to Berkeley for the third time in the last 4 days to see a friend who drove all the way from San Mateo. At first, I was slightly bitter that I had arrived in Berkeley at 8 pm (after accidentally taking the wrong way to the Bay Bridge toll, I bargained with the toll operator) but it turned out he hadn\’t even left home yet. But when I saw him again 2 hours later (the third time spending time with him in person), all my resentment slowly disappeared.

    Thanks to my sister, I present a poem of Thanksgiving. A thing to be thankful for.

    A scar is but a scar.
    But I still have my car.

    The only memories that matter
    are the ones that make me fatter.

    You can always buy a new pair of scissors.

    Or a new paint job for that matter.

    White Flight? I can\’t believe there is such a term used for Caucasian parents pulling their kids out of school because the school is becoming too Asian dominant.

    The article points at the two high schools in Cupertino, in particular, Monta Vista where Caucasian students make up less one third of the student population. The predominant ethnicity? Asian. Because of the Silicon Valley boom, Cupertino has become a hub of technology and thus an increasing number of Asians. Monta Vista is one of the top schools in the nation. And if I was to meet any Asian from Berkeley that was from the South Bay, most likely he or she went to Monta Vista.

    Perhaps, the white flight shouldn\’t be too surprisingly. Asian families don\’t emphasize the traditional aspects of high school–the social part, the sports, the community. It\’s about the true logic, the reason. A stereotype, partially true, are that asian american students have more motivation if it\’s only pressure from the parents.

    My high school was predominantly Caucasian, but I have noticed in the years that I have graduated that there seems to be an influx of rice rockets in the parking lot. My motivation to succeed came from a family where there was an expectation to succeed. It wasn\’t as direct as my parents telling me that my grades were not good enough. It was my dad saying that he succeeded in immigrating and assimilating in the United States because of his studious habits in undergraduate and graduate school–his fellowships and the like. And the culture among Asian families for members to compare their children with each other. My parents, unlike most Asian parents, are more humble, but I have always felt like I needed to give them a reason to brag if they ever came to that kind of opportunity.

    But the article states that schools like Monta Vista hinder emotional development because of the dominance of Asians. I believe it\’s more than that. Sure, all my advanced placement and honors classes were predominantly Asian. But it\’s to be part of a community that helps someone overcome the struggle of high school.

    Almost 6 years later, I still look back in (optimistic) bitterness. I resent being an outcast, a reject. I did become someone almost completely opposite. So I wonder what would have happened if I did go to a predominantly Asian school. Or if I had never moved from Hercules and went to Pinole Valley High (one of the lowest rated schools in the county). Would I still be who I am today?

    If there\’s one thing I dislike, I dislike giving presentations. As much as I would like to tell people about ideas and my projects, the idea of standing up in front of an audience is just never appealing. Personally, I would rather tell people my ideas and projects in a smaller group setting. But there are times when presentations are the only way.

    Last week, during my human factors class, I must have made some of groan when the professor called on me to present my chair design to the class. Note the fact that I must have had a sign above of my head that said this student doesn\’t want to be called upon, so call on her!

    But really, what makes a great presentation? I often imagine myself giving great talks, enjoying the communication that I would have with my audience. The article contrasting Steve Jobs\’ and Bill Gates\’ presentation style caught my eye. There are many talks that I have attended where I have been bored to tears because the speaker gets too caught up in wordiness and doesn\’t have slides to back up his point appropriately. But that\’s not to say that I haven\’t done the same. I have always made horrible blunders such as reading the bullets directly from the slide or worse yet, using the Microsoft template (I learned the hard way when people admonished me for using the Microsoft Word resume template). Simplicity is always the key. People get bogged down by words and focus on those words on the screen much more than what is said. People always remember how they felt at the presentation than what they heard. So why not focus on the feeling?

    All reminders to myself when next semester, I truly start job interviewing.