I don’t think that this would work for you

Beer, brisket and football will all come together for Elixir’s BBQ kick off on Sunday, August 21.

Watch the NFL pre-season game between the Dallas Cowboys and the San Diego Chargers, all while enjoying a $10 all-you-can-eat buffet…

My dad saw this and was instantly entranced. $10. All you can eat! Football.

But I balked.

Hipsters. Alcohol. The loud bar scene. The casualness of it all. Uncomfortable chairs. Badly lit rooms.

I couldn’t imagine my parents in their early sixties enjoying a scene reserved for hipsters half their age. In an effort to compromise, I provided three alternatives—quiet expensive restaurants perfect for impressing and delicate cuisine that catered to their tastes. I thought about the very American culture here in the city and the casualness that took years of adjusting.

But it was a stern no over their phone in accented English I think it’s a better option and it’s the price we want.

In retort, I said, “I can’t be liable if you don’t have a good time. My liability is released upon acceptance.”

The one chance at a portrait

PhotoboothSF just opened up today next door—with an emphasis on portraits and Polaroids.

I walked there alone today to the opening party, squeezing through the throngs of chatter…to study the still faces on the wall. I make assumptions about who they are—their facial expression in that moment, trying to guess at their thoughts captured in their eyes.

But I watched a portrait being taken of a guest. She was in her late twenties—quintessential hipster with thick eyeliner, squinting in the harsh light. The spotlight highlighted her deep eyebags—perhaps nights barhopping with PBR and Tecate. She grimaced through the clicks, glancing at her friends maybe for approval. Then the portrait was done, she retrieved her bag and receded back into the background.

Big change times two

I love change. I embrace it. I jumped from interaction design to user research on a calculated whim.

And yet, there’s this other part of me.

Career-wise, it’s so clear which way to go. It’s black and white.

But everything else? What if I leave something so sacred? What if I missed my chance? What if I am ignoring what should have been important to me, but I was so caught up in my emotions?

My biggest regrets have always been that I never did anything. And that’s my motivation right now.

And then World War II happened

Several weeks ago, I wanted to record my grandfather’s life story. So with my mom in tow, I recorded his life in Cantonese—his voice strong despite being in a body nearly a century old.

But the most interesting part?

Why did you marry your second wife? I asked without any judgement—everyone was old, sickly or already had passed away.

Without hesitation, he waved his wrinkled hands in the air, Because World War II happened. He laughed, I thought everyone was dead! I didn’t hear from anyone for three years.

Relationships, love…those things are complicated, I said telling my long lost cousins yesterday under the din of a popular San Francisco bar.

I ask questions. Big ones.

So what gets you up in the morning?

I tried to formulate an answer that matched what they wanted to hear. But my honesty won, it was impossible to come up with anything else.

And so it was like this: I want to understand.

And the words that were not written were: Because once I understand them, I can understand myself better.

The roles that we naturally embody

In conversations with groups, there are often the following:

The entertainer
She or he…is the one who has the most interesting stories. A storyteller or even a clown, naturally. The entertainer unleashes a lot of energy, making the group more fun and more engaging. Sometimes the entertainer is the most dominant, taking the spotlight. But in most conversations, it’s the entertainer that keeps a conversation in a group going.

The conversationalist
This is the person who can quickly detect when the conversation is going sour and get it back on track. If someone is not heard, everyone gets a fair chance. It’s generous and selfless.

Sitting back passively is more natural for the observer. But the precious moment is thinking about a general thoughtful question that gets the group thinking differently. Now what if the sky was actually green rather than blue? It may come off dreamlike, but there’s no purpose beyond just encouraging more insightful conversation.

I want to see you again

They say that there’s thing called the Seattle freeze. Whether it’s true or not, I had always wondered the same about San Francisco.

People often attribute to the difficulty in making new friends to the difficulty for meeting people outside work. That there’s no such social setting like school and the like. And yet.

When I first moved to San Francisco in 2006, I met people quite easily. Yet I have noticed that it’s incredibly hard to make friends with someone one-on-one. It’s a group setting and others must be invited. If they weren’t, it appeared pushy or “something weird was happening”. Everyone assumes that everyone else has something better to do. Especially with what Facebook, Twitter, G+…

I have always hated the “let’s have lunch sometime”. At first, I would agree happily and then it wouldn’t happen. In the end, I determined that I wasn’t interested either…that I should have read between the lines and that we were being nice.

Do you want to get lunch sometime?

The kind of joke that I absolutely hate

“Want to come onto the stage?” the emcee of the luau asked the front row of kids.

My sister was excited. Yes! That looked like fun! the eyes said. She and a few others scrambled to go up.

“Nah! I am just kidding!” the emcee said.

My sister burst into tears and that defined what Hawaii was to me. One single mean-spirited joke.

What is the definition of a friend?

A Facebook friend. Friend you, friend me. Work friends. School friends. Friends and family sales.

Every year, I struggle with the definition especially since technology and services have diluted the definition.

“But we are friends,” someone would say to me.

I balk immediately, because the feeling is not mutual. Perhaps it’s due that I never switched contexts from acquaintance to friend. Perhaps it’s because I lost trust. Perhaps it’s because…worst of all, I lost respect.

Then there are my favorite people. The people that I carefully label friends. They are the people who I do not feel judged with. They are the people that I would travel thousands of miles to see when I am halfway across the world. They are the people that I can and trust to ask to help me up when I fall.

What are friends when it’s not mutual as I once wrote.