How I Rediscovered Facebook

comic051709Cryptic Answer: Nightwish – Nemo is playing in the background, I’m doing a Go problem in my head, and I am typing this blog post. My back is sore from runningĀ  intervals this morning.

Explanation: I recently had a good conversation with Christian, who was about to graduate from Harvard, about the role of people in life. One of my biggest regrets is that I neglected people a bit in senior year, especially when I worked furiously on my thesis. When I moved up to Stamford, I made it a personal goal to work on my relationships more seriously.

At college, the less socially talented people (like me) have a temptation to take friends for granted. It is easy to bump into everyone around campus – if you meet someone you do not need to make that connection right away; you’ll see them by the ABP, working in Lamont, or at some drunken Quad party. Both your classroom and your dorms create atmospheres where you can naturally meet people your age with similar interests and situations. At work, there are more artificial barriers – seniority status, age differences, professional nature of the workplace, etc. all make creating personal relationships a bit harder (even though coworkers are still the easiest new friends to make, and I have met/re-met some awesome people at Ellington with whom I will keeping in touch, such as G, J, I, or R). The dorm equivalent – the apartment – is hardly a social scene compared to college dorms, except the walls are still so thin for you to hear people having sex, domestic disputes, or both at the most curious hours. Ironic that in this age when saying a simple “hi” to a neighbor in urban areas is considered more “creepy” than friendly, we are much further apart even though the web creates an illusion that we should be further connected. Continue reading “How I Rediscovered Facebook”

Yan (Maybe) Can Cook

comic121808 The eggplant sacrificed more than any of its comrades. Some slices seemed to have escaped cooking entirely, with minimal damage, while others were zombified. The chicken was alright, just overcooked. At least the sauce was even. In Yan’s kitchen, anything is possible!

While I’m not getting into the Zagat anytime soon, I will learn to salt the eggplant next time and put in the chicken a bit later. And maybe get a real wok.

Like studying for a test, I’ve put off learning to cook for a very long time. Maybe it is because I know I’ll never make it taste, smell, or even look like my mother’s dishes; maybe it is because eating out gives some measure of peace that I am able to, through some process, make a fragrant, hearty serving of Thai crispy chicken goodness appear in front of my plate. I knew the first real dish I cook would be a disaster, so to stall the pain to the ego I had all sorts of excuses to push it back.

The way these things usually go, everyone in the universe conspires against me to make the fated day happen. It was probably the tenth time my roommate J. casually left his chicken stew simmer on the stove, so flavorful that I got hungry while opening the room door, while my conscience kindly poked the back of my brain (with a chef’s knife?) that the last thing I cooked for myself, like the 500 times before it, was either cereal, microwavable oatmeal, or fried eggs when I decide to get fancy. Of course at school, G. suggested in her energetic European way that I simply *must* go watch Ratatouille because it was “so good that it makes you hungry,” only the day before L. wanted to watch a happy film. Ratatouille it was. Continue reading “Yan (Maybe) Can Cook”

Teaching

comic012908.jpgI’ve always enjoyed teaching – I taught 4 out of my 6 semesters in college out of my kind heart (the pay was negligible, but enough to pay for textbooks and a couple of meals at the cafe). Grading was a pain in the ass and most people don’t come to sections (except during exam reviews the room magically fills up), but even the zen experience of showing up to teach the weekly section for 3 or 4 heads cleansed my soul. Occasionally, I form a really nice connection with a couple of students – and I see the click of knowledge. Knowledge is one of the few precious resources we have that does not follow a conservation law, so I wanted to exploit this as much as possible. I would trade grading 5 problem sets for each spark of insight I see someone gain, since I knew how clear the whole world looked when I would have one of those sparks.

Recently though, I’ve found an unlikely student in an unlikely situation. Continue reading “Teaching”

Happy New Year

No content here, just a quick update:

1) I’ve started to contribute to a secret blog, so some of my time has gone there. It may go public at some point or it may not.

2) I’ve removed the blogroll and added a “Link” page instead.

I’ve been a little busy. But I’ll write more soon.

-YZ

Turkey Day Reminesces – Friends

comic111907.jpg

A turkey is not necessarily just a bird, like in the above beautiful drawing. It can be an annoying person, an ineffectual investment, or a failed event. My Turkey Day was then actually a turkey, since I failed to sync my plans and transportation effectively this year and ended up staying home. If all plans worked out correctly, I would have happily gone back, invited myself (and everyone else, haha) to J’s, and have yet another 5-hour-session of vegging with the crew from high school. As an adult now, sometimes these outings are still all I wish to do on a weekend.

Continue reading “Turkey Day Reminesces – Friends”

Stamford, CT – The Piano

comic081907.jpgDowntown Stamford is an indecisive place, flipflopping between a suburb and a city, populated by a mix of people who I feel don’t belong to the same area. Something like Harvard Square, really.

The mall here is gigantic, and one place that struck me the most was a coliseum-esque “theater” with a piano resting on the bottom. People sit on the seats and watch others stride to and fro, and people above watch the watchers in turn from the 5th and 7th floors. I have never yet seen anyone walk down to play the piano, but the picture itself is hauntingly melodic – I can hear the notes even though nobody is playing. The scene itself is a respite amidst a busy display of conspicuous consumption, the flow of which is slowed as one shopping bag after another pass by the piano.

San Antonio

comic0726071.jpg A fiercely Southern state, San Antonio creates an isosceles triangle of unmistakable Texan-ness with its neighbors Houston and Austin. Two years ago I came here to Trinity University as a student doing research, now I return as an alum giving a talk. I chose to stay past my presentation to mingle with the students, which was a great choice.

1) The students are vibrant with character. J.J. has great taste in the visual media, including The Westing Game, Imogen Heap, and The Golden Compass; T. is the all-around cool guy you wish to show off to your friends since he is good at everything; C. is a Linux-toting hacker girl who isn’t afraid to mix it up with the guys in poker. Of course, there are also the assistants: Enrique, one of my poker mentors with a great appreciation for people and life, and Nathan, who sprinkles sparkles of humor in every event and lightens up every gloomy day (great, given the curious fact that it rained basically every day here). Continue reading “San Antonio”

Atlantic City

comic070407.jpg 21 is the magical age where we get to sin legally. My 18th birthday called for buying of cigarettes, porn, and a lottery ticket, even though I didn’t smoke or watch the porn or play the lottery ticket, just because I had the power. My 21st, of course, was for gambling.

MZ drove me and J, blasting loud badass Asian music, up the toll road to the city of Monopoly streets. The first quest was, of course, not getting to the casino, but finding those legendary White Castle sliders that stick to the roof of your mouth and melt, exuding succulent sweetness. Like in the movie, this was the most difficult part of the trip, as the dudes we met kept telling us that a local White Castle had shut down and we had to go out of the way each time we asked for a White Castle. 3 hours of search failed, so we gave up and just headed for AC. This will be a mission we set for another day – hopefully including the hot farmer’s wife part and not including the battleshit.

Continue reading “Atlantic City”