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.

“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).

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.

who would you eat breakfast with?

Dinner may be romantic, but it’s not the most intimate meal of the day. Breakfast is.
From "Adventure Time".
From “Adventure Time” — here with Jake the Dog, Finn the Human, and BMO.

Your morning breath stinks, there’s crust in your eyes, and you’re sitting at the table wondering why you’re still not in bed. Add a morning erection to the mix and you’re at your most human — pulling your pants up to waist height and holding your cereal bowl to strategic positions can’t change that, and it doesn’t fool the more perceptive folks.

The breakfast question is similar to the airport question: “you’re stuck at the airport for 12 hours. Who would you want to be stuck with?” And don’t forget: who would want to be stuck with you?

Both questions expose who you’re comfortable seeing at their most vulnerable (tired, stressed, etc), and who is comfortable seeing you at yours. But unlike the airport question, the breakfast question asks that you consider this during everyday moments — not just once during grand events, like when you have the good fortune to travel.

Dinner is too late; you already have your guard up after the baggage from the day, and dinner can often come with unsaid expectations. But with breakfast, there is already the sense of familiarity and comfort implied. The expectation to perform is less.

Fancy four egg omelets can be nice, but so can plain old oatmeal. It’s not so much the food that matters, but the time spent together.



Maja would be the one gathering the neighbors for breakfast time during our exchange year. She’d make her bread rolls, while the rest of the folks would bring coffee, pancakes, or fruit to make smoothies. Maja would also be the one giving friendly knocks on the door when we were slow to get up (usually Brian and I).

I’m no longer on exchange, but I’d like to follow her footsteps and continue that tradition when the next school year starts. I can’t think of a better way to start the day than to eat with good company.

pre-employment drug testing

I was looking forward to peeing in a cup, but now they’ve got this much-less-than-exciting cotton swab method to make sure that everybody’s squeaky clean on the job. You leave the swab in your mouth by the gum line for ten minutes, and it starts absorbing whatever saliva you have. (Pray that it doesn’t catch your habit of eating magic mold from the ground). Mine came out stained from the coffee I was drinking earlier in the morning.

“Whatever you do, don’t touch the cotton part with your hands!”

The guy sitting across from me did, and won a new cotton swab for the effort.

tying memories to old junk

An empty bottle of wine lies in the bottom left corner of the closet. I stashed it there two years ago and had forgotten all about it until now, when I was cleaning out the room.

I still recognize it. It’s the same bottle my friend and I shared on the second-to-last day of freshman year. I finished my exams and she didn’t, but we drank it anyway. Moscato, because we both had a sweet tooth and didn’t know any better.

What’s curious is that I lugged the empty bottle from San Diego the entire ten hours back home to San José, when I could have just put it in the recycling bin and leave with the memory only. Is it the fear that if I throw the bottle away, I’d throw away my memory of the night, too?



The bottle is still there. I’ll peel the label off, keep that as a souvenir, and then recycle the rest — a compromise.