Category Archives: personal


Do you ever stop and think about what made you smile or laugh today? The most random, fleeting things that brightened your day? I usually don’t think about it much, but sometimes some inexplicable things make me notice that I wasn’t smiling before, and now I am.

From today:

The convertible with the top down in barely 50 degree weather, blasting Bob Marley, stuck in stopped traffic while I biked past.

The thought of “broccoli rabe” being a dude named Rob with a Jew fro.

Five people laughing and whooping in the dark as they pushed their car down the street toward the repair shop.

Skyline-to-the-Sea (6/21-6/22)

A much-belated recap of Tiff & Tiff Go Backpacking, Take 1!

Skyline-to-the-Sea has been on my to do list since high school, and I finally convinced someone to hike it with me. TiffHu valiantly came with me and subjected herself to knee-and-ankle torture and unreliable maps for the 30-something miles of backpacking through the redwood groves of the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Read on for the recap and photos, plus alternate itineraries and planning tips if you’re interested in hiking it yourself. For a more colorful commentary replete with spelling mistakes, check out TiffHu’s recap.

Continue reading Skyline-to-the-Sea (6/21-6/22)

Last week, in clauses

Big, crazy week. No time for complete sentences.

Frantic code reviews. Climbing with a new belay partner. Long hours with engineers. Stealing built-in retina displays to take HD screenshots. Texts that made me smile. Unintentional stalking. An interrupted trivia night. Antsy dancing. Delirious video chat at 11pm. Delirious launch day. Obsessive refreshing. McDonalds hash browns. So many McDonalds hash browns. Stress-induced insomnia. Long meandering walk around downtown Mountain View. Easy conversations, irrepressible smiles. A single bottle of Canadian maple syrup. Exhaustion and happiness.

Garden Update

It’s tomato season! Despite never actually forgetting about my heirloom tomato plants, I have been extremely patchy with watering them. In defiance of my neglect, the plants have been producing tasty tomatoes.




The patchy watering did result in some blossom end rot at the beginning of the fruiting season. According to the internet, these black patches on the bottoms of the tomatoes come from a calcium deficiency, which is actually just a symptom of inconsistent watering. So this tomato plague was completely my fault. Go figure.

Luckily with some consistent watering and a daily reminder to water my poor tomato plants, the blossom end rot went away. Now I’m just on a mission to make my own mozzarella to go with my basil and tomatoes!


Yosemite, Mono Lake, and Devils Postpile (6/6-6/8)

Brace yourself for some belated trip recaps — too many trips, not enough time to write recap posts!

My dad and I took our annual Yosemite trip again this year, just the two of us. I took that Friday afternoon off work so we could fit in two days of hiking and photography. All in all, we had a little too much driving in this year’s trip, but we did see some new sights and trails!

Continue reading Yosemite, Mono Lake, and Devils Postpile (6/6-6/8)

Tomales Bay Boat-in Camping! (5/24-5/26)

Sometimes even three-day weekends aren’t long enough. Nevertheless, cramming in an outdoor adventure is always a good idea! I spent Memorial Day weekend near Point Reyes (north of San Francisco) at Tomales Bay. A group of six of us rented kayaks, boated in to campsites on the beach, and generally spent our weekend enjoying the beach and wilderness.

Read on for a recap (and cost breakdown, for anyone who wants to take the same trip). All photos are courtesy of Melissa and her GoPro!

Continue reading Tomales Bay Boat-in Camping! (5/24-5/26)

Dogsitting Jedi! (5/9-5/18)

My favorite office dog is definitely Jedi, the English Shepherd that belongs to one of the engineers in my office. For reasons unknown, his owner lets me dog sit and brainwash Jed into loving me. Now when Jedi hasn’t seen me for a few hours, he gets super excited and jumps on me to say hello.

I was dogsitting all of last week, so here’s the photo roundup from my stint with this ridiculously photogenic dog.

In Which I Pretend to Read a Lot

But actually just reread my favorite fantasy series as a kid, in the name of genre research?

Here’s the roundup since last time.

Insurgent and Allegiant by Veronica Roth (? Dec 2013)
I mentioned the first book in this series in my last reading report. I really liked Divergent, but the series deteriorated in books two and three. I’m not sure if this was one of those cases where the next two books were rushed through writing and editing because of book deals — in any case, they could have used some more story reworking for a stronger finish. Insurgent itself wasn’t too bad in the plot department (character development was shakier), but once the perspectives started switching between Tris and Four in Allegiant, I lost all interest in how it ended and just wanted it to be over. I haven’t watched the Divergent movie yet, but I’d bet that the next two movies will be better than reading these books.

Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned by Wells Tower (? Jan 2014)
I think I liked this short story collection. I think. It was a set of stories that made me uncomfortable in its way of bringing attention to people I’d otherwise avoid, but I couldn’t help but be fascinated by the journey.

The UnAmericans by Molly Antopol (8 Mar 2014)
I loved this short story collection. I may be biased by the fact that Molly is the best creative writing instructor I’ve had, but it stands to reason that her awesomeness as a teacher comes from her strengths as a writer. Incredibly rich and painfully human characters drive the stories in this collection, and not a single one disappoints. As I tweeted right after finishing, each and every story leaves me emotionally wrecked in the best of ways.

(Reread) The Golden CompassThe Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman (6 May 2014)
This was my first time rereading this series since I first read the series in early high school. It’s the fantasy series with a deeper message that I’ve held up as my standard for what YA fantasy can be — I figured I ought to reread these books and see how well they held up. It’s interesting how I relate to Lyra and Will differently now, and how different parts of the story stand out to me now… maybe because I’m looking for them, maybe simply because I’m a different person reading now than I was then. I still wholeheartedly recommend this full series to anyone who hasn’t read it; I’ve also got some food for thought as I consider writing a fantasy story of my own.

Next up: Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug (pushed upon me by a coworker, but proving endlessly useful for PM-ing)

Exercise and my hatred of running in circles

More on things going on lately.

A little over a year ago, I decided it was time to get in shape. The extent of exercise then was maybe modern dance class every once in a while, maybe pilates on Thursdays in the office, maybe rock climbing once or twice a month. Running felt awkward. Walking places was hard. So, with my coworker Caroline’s constant badgering (and calendar invites), and the new “Elements” Crossfit basics class starting at the office, I resigned myself to working out.

When it comes to exercising, my main issues are I’m lazy (so I don’t start) and I get bored really fast (so I stop). I hate running with a burning passion — one that I’ll illustrate in a bit. I grew up dancing and playing soccer, which are forms of activity that constantly change from moment to moment, whereas running and lap swimming give me nothing but the overwhelming awareness of how tired I am.

The remedy then has been to find convenient, distracting forms of exercise. Here’s what’s been working for me:

  • Crossfit is full of fast, short intervals that look deceptively easy written on the board. After mastering the basic exercises, we got thrown into MetCons (Metabolic Conditioning) that only lasted 8-15 minutes but completely destroyed my ability to stand. The benchmark workouts (usually named after women, like “Fran” or “Nancy”) make it easy for me to compete with myself and see my own improvement. A year ago I didn’t think I’d know what an impressive 1 rep max front squat was, much less what a snatch balance or clean & jerk even is — now I do, plus my own accomplishments for each. There’s undoubtedly some peer pressure and masochism that goes into Crossfit, but I stand by the wide variety of exercises that keep me on my toes. That, and beating Cordell’s times, even when he’s using women’s prescribed weights.
  • Bouldering is something I’d been doing sporadically in college and got more diligent about in the past year or so. I mostly boulder, which means climbing to about 12-14 feet above the ground without ropes. Climbing is very much a strength exercise (though occasionally power-driven on dynamic moves), and I don’t think I ever would have been able to do a strict pull-up in Crossfit if it weren’t for climbing. I usually stick with bouldering because (1) I am too lazy to bring my harness and get belay-certified, (2) I’m usually alone and like my own mental space when I’m climbing, and (3) I like working out bouldering problems, which tend to be trickier puzzles, more than top-rope routes.
  • Biking to work is more of a “stay active” thing than exercise, though it occasionally turns into a workout. My commute to work takes about the same amount of time on train+bike as it does by car. Add in that biking is environmentally friendly, and I really don’t have much of an excuse for NOT biking to work. The distance from the train station to work is just enough to wake me up in the morning. When I bike the full way (7.4 miles total), it’s a good workout that has an end goal (no running in circles!) and shitty drivers to avoid.
  • Company soccer team (aka the “Unzipped Genes” — get it???) started our first ever season in late January. We played a 10 game (8 games if you don’t count byes) season in a weeknight co-ed league in the South Bay. Comprised mostly of people like me who hadn’t played soccer since middle school, our team rallied from five straight losses to win our last three games — even beating 4-1 the Palantir team that destroyed us earlier in the season. Of course team sports are more fun, and despite losing a lot of games early on, we kept improving as we all remembered how to play. I re-learned how to run for about 90 minutes straight, and the whole chasing a ball thing meant I could keep it up for far longer than I’d ever just run. Many of our players got stolen for the company tennis team (I did not join — I am a danger to myself and others when playing tennis), so we probably won’t play the summer season. Hopefully we’ll be back for the fall!
Action shot: fighting for the ball!
Action shot: fighting for the ball!

The result of all this activity? I’m certainly more active than I used to be, and I don’t feel as gross and lethargic all the time. I get physically tired, and I get antsy when I don’t exercise for more than a day. Working out in the afternoon at the office helps me relieve stress and refocus. I don’t think I’ve lost weight (though my sister-in-law says my chin is pointier?), but I think I eat better after a workout. My fitness goals are less abstract and pit me against my past self. It’s pretty awesome.

Of course, this post that mentions Crossfit wouldn’t be complete without a demonstration of the cultish, pain-inflicting stuff I do. So here’s the workout we did to wish my coworker Mark farewell when he left the company.

The Make Mark Puke Workout
And yet Mark (despite his wishes) did not puke.

  • 25 cal AirDyne (aka the hyperventilation bike)
    *** 1 burpee penalty for every second past 30 sec men / 45 sec women (penalty repaid later)
  • 2 min. rest
  • 500m row
    *** 1 burpee penalty for every second past 1:30 men / 1:45 women (penalty repaid later)
  • 2 min. rest
  • 15 inverted burpees (not timed, but try to do them without rest)
  • 2 min. rest
  • Mini-Fran: rounds of 15/12/9 reps each of DB thrusters (50lb / 30lb) and pull-ups
    *** This penalty is only for Mark: 1 burpee penalty for every second past 3:15 (penalty repaid later)
  • 2 min. rest
  • Replay burpee penalty for time
  • If the penalty takes:
    • <60 seconds, then you’re done
    • 60-90 seconds, then immediately run 1/2 mile
    • 90-120 seconds, then immediately run 1 mile as fast as possible
    • >120 seconds, then immediately run 1 mile at 80-90% speed, rest 1 minute, then run another mile with a negative split. If not a negative split, run another mile.

Granted, I scaled down the mini-Fran because I did this after a soccer practice (BAD IDEA) and didn’t feel like puking. Despite that, I had an 18 burpee penalty and repaid them in under 60 seconds to avoid running at all costs (even half a mile). That’s how much I hate running in circles — I’d push myself to breaking doing burpees before I’d run.

So don’t mind me if I can’t move some days.