travel company

I was bicycling up the road on my way to class when a bright, yellow butterfly fluttered next to me. I’ve had a few travel companions in my twenty-one years of life, but never a butterfly.

Where we met.

I matched the butterfly’s pace. When the butterfly stopped, I stopped. And where the butterfly went, I went. I generally don’t chase animals and prefer to let them be, but something compelled me to change my mind. (Maybe I just enjoy chasing beautiful things).

We went all the way to the International Center before the butterfly crossed the street and flew over oncoming traffic. Gone just as soon as it came — and not even a goodbye.

a brief thought on the recent El Niño storm

It’s been about a week since the El Niño storms first hit San Diego county. Flood and tornado warnings make for an interesting start to the year, but the rain is welcome and so is the fresh air that comes afterward.

One unexpected realization: how cozy it is to huddle under an umbrella with someone. Twice last week I was saved by friends who were more prepared than me. Significant height differences determine who holds the umbrella and who is the one crouching.

There is also a certain point when the wind and rain become so strong that instead of fighting the storm you just accept all of it (including the soaked underpants) and close the umbrella.



Lars in the lab: “At least you don’t have to take a shower tonight.”


Dad says he has a clock on his computer that counts the amount of time he has left on earth. The clock takes your current age and a rough measure of your healthy habits (e.g. exercise sessions per week) and vices (e.g. smoke, drink), and then spits out your expected death.

“I’ve got about thirty years left,” he says. (He seems rather content about the whole thing).

I don’t have a death countdown on my computer, but I did download a similar app on my web browser: “Motivation“. It measures your current age and updates it real-time, down to the 9th decimal point. Each time you open a new browser tab, you must confront the reality that you are getting closer to death with every second that passes. How about that?

Screenshot 2015-10-19 at 2.28.34 PM
My age as of writing this post.

It’s hypnotizing to see all the decimal points ticking away. When I first downloaded it, the clock was at “20.1”. Where did all the months go? I can’t stop the clock, much as I would like to at times. No choice but to accept it.

Most days I don’t notice it. But when I do, it provides a good opportunity to ask this important question: what will I do with the time I have left?

Or on a smaller scale: what will I do before the end of the year?

(That question came with an underlying assumption — that I would be alive and well when the calendar reaches December 31st. Given that I have a special visitor coming in soon and that I’d like to see my family over the holidays, let’s hope that’s true!)

Special thanks to Thomas. I saw this on his computer, and then I downloaded it, too.

the community piano at Muir Woods Coffee House

Jake playing piano

Jake’s at the electric piano again, but I have no idea what he’s playing. I can’t hear any of the musical notes — only the tapping of the plastic keys.

That’s because the community piano itself is muted to the public; you’d have to plug in your own headphones to hear anything. This way the piano player can play without disturbing or imposing their music on anyone else nearby (related: “guy who brings their acoustic guitar to every gathering”).

But since I know the piano player personally, I also want to know what he’s hearing — maybe it’s really good and I want to experience it, too.

A similar situation: you want to know what’s going on in your friend’s mind. But even if you ask them and they tell you, there will always be a gap in understanding between you two. They may not even know what they’re thinking themselves.

Anyways, good to see him jamming away.

“I’ll go into the ocean if you go into the ocean”

The view from Blacks Beach at midnight -- a gorgeous walk down from UCSD.
The view from Blacks Beach at midnight, by the cliffs. The lights in the distance are from downtown La Jolla.

Hannah ran in first. She would have done it regardless, but there’s something about the full moon or the beginning of the new school year that makes the students here feel more adventurous — because if not now, then when? I don’t think I would have jumped into the ocean at midnight on a regular day.

If you’re going to jump into the salt water with your clothes on though, do be ready for all the chafing on your legs as you go back up the hill. As you bear that soggy underwear and start to shiver from the cold, you may ask yourself: “Was it all worth it?”

I think it was.

(And it was definitely worth the cough I got soon afterward).

the moment before meeting the new students, as a T.A.

The “First Year Experience” class is something fun and optional that incoming students have to apply for, so there’s already a certain level of interest suggested on their part (always a good sign).

In less thirty minutes I’ll be meeting twenty fresh faces. I am so, so excited — and nervous at the same time. What are the new students like? And how can I be a good T.A. for them?

at some techie “networking” event:

Auden asked me what the blueberries were like in California.

“What color are they inside?”

I had never given it much thought — the giant experimental ones I ate in Oregon were slightly green, and the ones back home on the kitchen table are also kind of green. Their flesh is pale and almost see-through. Not at all blue.

He tells me about the blueberries in his Oma’s farm, how their flesh is more red than green or white, and how they’re so red that no amount of wiping with your shirt would hide the evidence. Those are the best, he says.

I believe him. He told me a few other things that he missed from his homeland of Norway, but it’s his love for blueberries that I remember the most.

not yet

We were watching television when my younger cousin asks me: “do you have a girlfriend yet?” Questions like that are standard if you haven’t seen relatives in a while. I tell her no.

Then she leans closer and whispers (as though it were the most sacred question in the world), “Are you in love with anyone?”

Funny how the two can be different questions. I pulled the classic cop-out move and asked her the question back.

Neither of us had a solid answer.