Wing Ning and Cameron’s Wedding

Posted in family, personal, photos, wedding at 12:46 pm by wingerz


My sister and I are separated by six years. Growing up I played the older-brother-as-caretaker role. Since our parents both worked, the two of us spent a lot of time together after school. I nudged her towards sharing some of my interests, like playing video games and basketball and taking care of rabbits. From an early age it was clear that she was a lot more talented artistically (musically and visually) than me; fortunately I was able to maintain my size advantage. We got along well throughout the years, only fighting occasionally.

It’s been hard for me to stop thinking of my little sister as little. A few milestones, like high school and college graduation, have helped me to shift my perspective. When I started at Endeca in 2007, I realized that some of my co-workers, fresh out of college, were exactly my sister’s age. That felt like a big deal.

* * *

Big brothers are supposed to look out for their little sisters, especially when it comes to boyfriends. I think it was less important for me to get involved since my sister is 3-4″ taller than Cameron and can almost certainly keep him in line. Too bad he doesn’t have an older brother to help him out. My dad vouches for the fact that Cameron is a math genius, which is a nice bonus. It’s been great getting to know him and his family over the past few years. The Taketas are a sweet, loving, and generous family.

* * *

Unfortunately, a huge storm swept through Honolulu on Friday night and lingered through Saturday morning. The wedding ceremony was moved indoors.

The Yungs, while not really known for their fashion sense (except for maybe Mom), clean up well. Wing Ning looked amazing in her dress and make-up (and without her glasses). It was amusing to tag along with the photographers, who posed the happy couple in all sorts of cheesy ways. The reception was full of personal touches – mini Rubik’s cubes as gifts, modular origami centerpieces, a wedding pie with a Lego wedding scene on top, and pi-decorated programs (all consistent with their wedding website). I was really impressed by the creativity and amount of work that they put into it – I’ve made a few of the origami balls and they take a hell of a long time (especially the one that consists of five intersecting tetrahedrons). Cameron’s hilarious Aunt Gwen mc’ed and repeatedly brought attention to the fact that most of the bridal party was single (and geeky).

My mom painted a picture, my dad picked out a Chinese poem to go along with it (and gave the commentary as part of his toast), and I put together a slideshow (they approved my selection of Weird Al’s White ‘n’ Nerdy for part of it). Each member of the bridal party made a toast with common themes around eating and playing board games.

* * *

After the wedding, we went to the beach and had dinner. Wing Ning was back in her t-shirt and jeans, but wore a green orchid in her hair for the rest of the day. Every time I looked at it I thought to myself, “Oh right, she’s married now.”



It’s Not So Bad Here

Posted in family, personal at 11:38 pm by wingerz


I just passed over the 5-month anniversary of my move to California. Here’s what I’ve liked so far:

Closer to home. I’ve been down to Los Angeles four times since we moved here. That’s like 4 years worth of family visits! It’s also been great to see Jen’s family on a more regular basis.
Our friends. We’re lucky to have people from all over (high school, college, work, grad school) converge in the Bay Area. Of course we really miss everyone in Boston, especially our friends’ children.
Weather. I kind of miss the snow and I may be sad this fall, but it’s also been great to enjoy outdoor activities during the winter. I’ve received 5 Somerville snow emergency emails in the past few months.
No second car. Between walking and the Caltrain, things have worked out well. It’s nice to have some reading/nap time and physical activity built into my daily schedule.
Within walking distance of groceries. This made me way happier than I thought it would. The Sunday market and Trader Joe’s are an 8-minute walk away, which means that I don’t really have to plan meals for the week. When I was working from home half-time, I’d walk over there at least 2-3x a week.
Year-round farmer’s market. Fresh produce all year round! Our market has fish and meat as well.
New job. This was one of the last pieces to fall into place. I love Endeca (everything – the company, product, and team), but working remote over the past few months has been quite lonely. Started at Yelp last week.


Weekend in Sonoma

Posted in food, personal, photos, sloan piggybacking at 2:54 am by wingerz


We spent the past weekend in Sonoma to celebrate our friend’s completion of the California bar exam. Ten of us (Sloanies, significant others, and Meatball the dog) shared a fantastic house (back of the house, backyard view) in Guerneville.

Spent most of Saturday wine tasting, highlights included the beautiful gardens at Ferrari-Carano (I didn’t sample the wine there) and a few hours lounging around on the back patio of the Harvest Moon Winery. Harvest Moon, a tiny winery, was our favorite of the bunch – we all had a really pleasant time, got along well with our hosts, and bought several bottles of wine. We had brought along our own bread, prosciutto, and cheese, and also sampled their chocolate and olive oils.

On Sunday it was rainy but that didn’t stop a few of us from heading to the beach. We strolled along Goat Rock Beach, catching a break in the rain. We spent a lot of the day lazing around from the comfort of our house.

Of course, the eating was fantastic. We cooked one breakfast, one brunch, and three dinners together. Meal after meal, we all ate far beyond the point of being full. The nine of us fit comfortably around the dining room table. It was warm, cozy, and homey.

Congratulations, Amy!



The Rainforest Sphere

Posted in personal, photos at 10:50 pm by wingerz


On Saturday Jen and I visited the California Academy of Sciences. It was our second visit since becoming members; the first time it was so crowded that we didn’t get to see the rainforest exhibit, one of the centerpieces of the museum. It’s a glass-surfaced dome 90 feet in diameter. Small, colorful birds dart back and forth, and butterflies flutter about. There are lots of exhibits containing live reptiles, amphibians, and insects. In other words, an awesome place to spend a few hours.

A few photos.


Half Moon Bay

Posted in personal, photos at 2:17 am by wingerz


Jen and I took advantage of the warm (50 deg F) California weather this weekend. Had a tasty lunch at the Flying Fish Grill and enjoyed a three-hour walk along the beach, catching the sunset before leaving.

More photos


Africa 2008: The complete journal

Posted in africa 2008, personal, travel at 1:20 pm by wingerz


Nearly 8 months later, I’ve finally finished my travel blog. Good thing I kept that notebook – it’s probably one of the smartest things I’ve done this year. Really wanted to share this experience with loved ones since they may not get the opportunity to go themselves. Had a good time scribbling into it at airports and before bed every night, sometimes by the light from my headlamp. Going to post a few more entries on how my camera enjoyed the trip before I’m completely done with Africa. Eventually I’ll get around to posting some thoughts on our trip to Europe over the summer, but that may wait until next year.

Day 0 & 1: Prelude
Day 2: We have arrived
Day 3: We’re on safari!
Day 4: View from above
Day 4: Lion tracking
Day 4: Eulogy for a goat
Day 4: Fun with Maasai
Day 5: Detour to Lake Manyara
Day 5: Luxury camping
Day 6: Descent into the crater
Day 7: Waiting for school
Day 7: End of safari
Day 7: Off to Rwanda
Day 8: Remembering the genocide
Day 9: Gorillas in the mist
Day 10: Shopping in Rwanda
Day 10: Leaving Rwanda
Day 10: Travel arrangements, Africa-style
Day 11: Dar, home away from home
Day 12: Paradise
Day 13: Snorkeling Mnemba
Day 13: Sunset dhow cruise
Day 14: Zanzibar for tourists
Day 15: Seeing sealife (and eating it)
Day 16: Going home
Back from Africa

Africa Day 16: Going home

Posted in africa 2008, personal, travel at 12:49 pm by wingerz

Day 16: 3/30/2008, Dar airport, waiting for security


Our trip has come to its end. Everyone is ready to go home – we miss the comforts and faces though not so much the routine. The students will have lots of fellow Spring break travelers to share their adventures, but I’ll be going back to the office. Have really enjoyed the trip, as every place was incredibly different – the plains and steppe of northern Tanzania; green hills of Rwanda; bustling, hot, humid streets of Dar; and the tropical paradise of Zanzibar. Overall the people have been friendly and welcoming, but not always not helpful.

Traveling with the group has been great. Unfavorable situations are a lot less stressful and downtime is spent chatting rather than getting frustrated. Particularly happy to have company while wandering through crowded markets and being assaulted by aggressive vendors. Driving through Dar yesterday evening seemed a lot less intimidating than on the first morning. The unfamiliarity has faded away, but we still wouldn’t venture out on our own. I will miss my travel companions greatly. And I feel extreme gratitude towards Bob and Abhinav, who strategically selected our destinations, deftly maneuvered through the bureaucracy of the African travel industry, kept 20 travelers happy with activity and meal selections, and always maintained an air of calmness (even after Abhinav realized that he was staying in Rwanda while his bag was heading off to Dar es Salaam).

I’ve been surprised at the pleasantness of the trip. I admit that I assumed the worst when it came to our living conditions and overall comfort level. We didn’t get sick at all, which probably has a lot to do with this. Another part of this was starting out with limited accommodations (no running water, no structures) to a final night in the trendy Millennium Towers. It’s amazing how much you appreciate a simple campsite with electric lighting and running water when you haven’t had them for a few days.

We sent in our deposit check on January 6th after several weeks of discussions. At the time I figured that it would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, as Jen and I would probably never come on our own. The trip has exceeded my high expectations, and I’ve got several thousand pictures and several thousand words to help me remember it all. Our hope is to return to Africa some day because we only scratched the surface of the beautiful, exotic continent during our two week trek. Maybe we can get Bobhinav to plan a reunion trip for us.

In a bitterly ironic turn of events, I left my camera bag on the taxi after we got dropped off at home. Thankfully the Meeses (who shared the cab) picked it up for me.


Home sweet home

Posted in family, food, home cooking, personal at 3:21 am by wingerz

goofing off at the dinner table

In my life I’ve seen several different kinds of Thanksgivings. Growing up my mom would cook a ridiculous amount of food to feed 20-30 Chinese graduate students from Caltech. In college I’d head down to NYC where my aunts and cousins would host all-day eating affairs. Most recently we’ve been going to NYC to meet up with Jen’s family for the holiday (though in 2005 they came to Boston). This year we stopped by Jen’s for dinner and mah-jongg last night and got on the road at 6am this morning to come home to Los Angeles, my first time here for the holiday since 1996. Ellen, Will, and Wilson joined us for the feast, so I pretty much had all of my favorite Southern Californians at the dinner table.

The cooking was pretty low-stress since I did the baking yesterday. The menu:

Bread with roasted garlic
Spinach salad with orange dressing
Roasted turkey with gravy
Mashed sweet potatoes (made by Jen (!!!))
Mashed potatoes with turkey and corn (brought by Wilson)
Sticky rice with mushrooms and sweet Chinese sausage (made by Mom)
Pecan Pie & Apple Pie, with vanilla ice cream

The food turned out pretty well. Very happy to be home again. Missed you, Nimes – we’ll cook up a storm at Christmas this year.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Africa Day 2: We have arrived!

Posted in africa 2008, personal, photos, travel at 1:45 am by wingerz


Day 2: 3/16, Dar es Salaam

We arrive early this morning off our second consecutive red-eye. We apply the first of many coats of DEET and sunblock. Abhinav arranges for three vans to take us through Dar es Salaam to the Skipway, a boatyard converted into a touristy area. On the drive over, I am surprised by the number of people on the sidewalks – walking, waiting for buses, riding bikes. The vans and buses are a popular mode of transportation, and they are packed completely full of people. I don’t spot any conspicuous foreigners for almost the entire ride into the city.

Our van driver warns us against holding our bags in our laps for fear of having them yanked away through the windows. This definitely scares me, not sure how likely this actually is. At one large intersection there are amputees begging for money at every island leading into the intersection. At another, a man pulls his pant leg up to reveal a bloodied bandage wrapped around his thigh.

The weather is hot and humid – about 85 deg F when we landed at 730am. I immediately regret not packing another pair of shorts. The sweat has made our griminess from not bathing a bit less noticeable. We see some beautiful views of the water on the way to breakfast. There is lots of vegetation including some beautiful flowers (orange trumpet-shaped blossoms). Breakfast (eggs and toast) is simple but satisfying. We head back to the airport to catch an hour-long flight to Arusha on a small dual-propeller plane, four seats across. They serve mini-sandwiches, hopefully I won’t regret eating them.

The Arusha Airport is tiny. The baggage claim is a luggage cart, hauled over by an airport worker. Mt Meru looms above, its summit obscured by thick clouds. The drive into Arusha takes us through neighborhoods of decrepit buildings – many of them adorned by Tigo logos (Tigo is a popular mobile service provider). Assorted scenes – vegetables for sale laid out on blankets, a guy urinating by the side of the road, lots of people out and about, riding bikes. The downtown area looks like it’s in better shape.

Travel time so far:

5 hours to London
14 hour layover
9 hours to Dar
5 hours layover
1 hour to Arusha

We look forward to a shower, decent meal, and a good night’s rest.


Africa Day 0 & 1: Prelude

Posted in africa 2008, personal, photos, travel at 1:30 pm by wingerz

Need to catch up on a handful of journal entries since I jumped straight into day 3 when I first started writing. Almost done!

Day 0: 3/14 Boston, MA, Logan

It still hasn’t sunk in that we’ll be in Africa in two days. In the first few hours I’ve already realized that traveling in a group will make things a lot easier. Tomorrow (a 15-hour layover in London) will probably be stress-free but after that I don’t know what to expect. Should be the experience of a lifetime, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will be pleasant. Biggest worries – geting sick / getting robbed / losing camera stuff. The rest has been mitigated by traveling in a big group. Mostly looking forward to going on safari.

Day 1: 3/15, London

London is a bit underwhelming, but I think it is partially my fault. I would love to come back some day. We take a walking tour with an eccentric guide who tries to shepherd a huge group of us along the Thames, and I just stop paying attention. I also haven’t done much research ahead of time, and someone else is holding the guidebooks so I don’t really feel all that invested in learning about things we see. Too damn tired to have the patience to enjoy the Tate Modern, though I think it is a great museum (and Jen really likes it).

We have lunch at the bustling Borough Market. It’s a huge, huge farmer’s market and food court. I am mesmerized by all of the options and delicious smells. I eat a lamb burger, baguette, and chocolate croissant.

London seems quite mundane in comparison to what’s in store. Glad that tomorrow is another travel day because it will ease us slowly into being in a completely foreign land. Safari should be a low-stress way to kick things off.

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