My 2016 in Review

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Well, I sucked at writing blog posts in 2016. I'm actually cheating now and back-dating this post by a day so there's an entry in 2016. I did think about writing a lot of posts since it was an interesting year. Here's a quick recap, as much for my future reference as anything else.

We started powerboating in earnest this year. Michelle and I were sailors before we had kids, but last year we tried cruising powerboats and really enjoyed it. We chartered again in February and decided we could even enjoy winter cruising, so in June we bit the bullet and bought a 47 foot Selene trawler. After some refitting and renaming her Tonic (her former name was Eric K), we cruised her up into Canada as far as Princess Louisa Inlet (really stunning). We spent most weekends aboard through the summer and fall and look forward to more cruising. Since we're only a few years from being empty nesters, we're also using this boat to see if we could realistically downsize and live aboard. Stay tuned on that front.

Tonic in Princess Louisa Inlet
Tonic in Princess Louisa Inlet

Andrew (19) scouting ahead as we cruise in Canada.
Andrew (19) scouting ahead as we cruise in Canada.


I also continued to race sailboats with my buddies this year aboard the J-24 Rajun' Cajun. We moved from racing in the Lake Washington J-24 fleet to the much less competitive (and more fun) Duck Dodge races in Lake Union. We've been racing together for so many years that we've lost count, but this was the first year I drove the boat for a few races (since our skipper Rico was out cruising on his new boat). We didn't do as well as usual, but it was fun and a good learning experience (except the part where I hit another boat, causing a bunch of damage to their outboard...)
Rajun Cajun sailing with sails backlit by the sun


Aside from boating, we had a quick trip in June to Chicago for my cousin Eric's wedding. It was a fun occasion and great to see family from all over the country in one place.

Me photobombing Eric and Melodie while Andrew (19) looks on. Michael (16) is on his phone, as usual.
Tony photobombing Eric and Melodie


Three generations of Chor boys and Michelle
Me, my dad, Andrew (19), my brother Ives, Michelle, and Michael (16)


Michael turned 16 this summer and got his drivers license. I'm not sure who is more nervous, Michelle and I or Michael (although he is a good driver). Oddly (at least to me), Andrew (19) never got his license. He's gotten back into rock climbing in a big way when he's not playing PC video games with his friends online or telling me everything is my fault.
Michael (16) focused on his driving


Andrew (19) finished his first year at Evergreen State College. He decided to take some time off, so he's working at a nearby ramen restaurant now. We also had our first drink together in Canada, where the drinking age is 19. It was fun to hang out in a pub near the marina we were in and shoot pool together.
Andrew (19) shooting pool


I started going to JabX Kickboxing, a nearby gym, in November of last year. I was a mess when I started; I couldn't even get through the ten minute warm-up. Here's me lying the on the ground after my first warm-up.
Me lying on the ground at JabX

Despite the inauspicious start, I kept it up all year, going most weekday mornings at 6:00am for the hour-long workout. I'm much stronger now. I also lost about twenty pounds and two inches off my pant size.

I got called to jury duty again, just a little over a year from my last time. This time I had a civil trial involving a slip-and-fall outside a local grocery store. Although the plaintiff was severely injured and was really sadly impacted by his injuries, we found in favor of the defendant. Despite the inconvenience of being on jury duty again, I thought it was interesting to see a civil case and contrast that with the criminal case from the year before.


On the work front, I completed my third year at Amazon. I continued to lead the Detail Page team (we make the shopping pages that have the information about each product like the picture, title, price, reviews, etc.) and added the Shopping Experience Platform team (we build the user interface framework and key API platform for Amazon's shopping experience as well as ensuring the site is great for customers with disabilities.) Despite whatever reputation Amazon has for being a bad place to work, I still really love it there. A big part of my team is in Bangalore, so I went there three times this year. On one trip, I ran into a bandh (protests), trapping us at the hotel for two days and forcing us to leave the office early one day. Fortunately, we had fun on other trips. I got to catch a performance at the Hard Rock Cafe by a local band, Agam, that two of my teammates were in. The Hard Rock staff apologized about the high cover price saying there was a "famous Indian band" playing; we told them we knew the band. They were skeptical until our friends came down to welcome us. It was cool to see the crowd all singing their songs. They're really good and worth checking out.



I also finally left the airport in Dubai and spent a little time exploring there with some of my colleagues. We checked out the Burj Khalifa, hung out with some friends from Beijing, shopped around the old areas of Dubai, and went dune bashing in the desert (where our 4x4 got stuck and had to be rescued). Here I am in the desert, waiting for help. The Facebook caption contest returned themes Dune, Star Wars, Lawrence of Arabia, lost golf balls, new Amazon offices, and how generally dumb I was to wear black into the desert.
Me standing in the desert with a black shirt on my head

Of course, I was most happy to find the "pork room" in the Burj Khalifa, a big deal in a Muslim country.
Pork room sign with Arabic writing

In the new year I'll be starting a new job in the same division, leading the new Shopping OS team. I'll keep the platform parts of my current team and add more platformy parts. We'll be building the next generation of Amazon's shopping application platform. It should be interesting, but I'll miss the detail page part of my team.


Personally, I learned to enjoy my life more. I stopped commenting on politics on Facebook. It was no fun and frankly kind of stressful to get into those kinds of discussions with friends, especially in such a contentious year. I was also reminded that our time on earth is precious. Two of my former teammates lost their spouses unexpectedly and a teammate on a partner team suddenly passed away. They were all younger than I am and were apparently healthy. We need to really enjoy every day.

Here's to enjoying every day of 2017!

A slow start -- but a start

As I committed to publicly on January 25, I ran the Magnuson Spring Series 5K last weekend. It was a cold and windy day (25+ knot winds -- lots of wind surfers out). Waiting around before the race was pretty uncomfortable, but fortunately the race wasn't super crowded so I was able to park close to the start (and wait in the car).

Once the race started, things felt better. The sun came out, and hills blocked the wind for part of the course. As usual, I started out too fast (even though I was trying not to). I was hurting by the end, but I managed to push out a 30:56 overall time. This was slower than my goal of 30 minutes, and slower than all of my previous 5K runs nine years ago, but I was happy to average just under 10 minute miles (9:59/mile). My splits were 9:29 (too fast!), 10:10, 10:12 and (on track for) 9:10 for the last .1 mile.

Being older definitely makes things harder, and to be frank, I didn't run nearly enough over the last two months to expect anything else. The friend who signed up with me bailed, so I wound up doing this alone. In the end that was probably better, so no one I knew saw the agony on my face.

According to the official results, I finished 56th overall out of 142 runners. Unfortunately, they didn't report results by age group.

All that aside, it was fun to test myself and motivational to have the goal of running the race. I need to figure out my next goal race now.

Magnuson Series sign with starting line and Lake Washington in the background


GPS track of Magnuson Park 5K

My brush with the law: jury duty

Somehow, I've managed to go this long without having done jury duty. I haven't even been summoned in the almost 25 years I've lived in Washington. I did get a summons during college in the Bay Area, but my group didn't need to show up. Finally, last year I received a summons for King County Superior Court. I was actually pretty excited about the opportunity to participate in a jury.

Jury Selection

After deferring the duty once (I was supposed to be there Christmas Eve, the day before our New York City trip), I showed up at the jurors' room in the King County Courthouse in downtown Seattle. There was a huge room full of potential jurors -- easily a few hundred including two friends of mine from Amazon (neither of whom wound up on a jury). We watched a video and then listened to a judge explain how jury duty was the most important way for a citizen to contribute to our system other than military service. We then sat around waiting to see if we'd get called to be a potential juror for a specific judge/court. Fortunately, there was wi-fi and a desk area so I was able to get some work done while waiting.

Then, my name came up along with 49 other people. I received a card with a number on it: 14. More waiting. Finally all fifty of us went to the courtroom of Judge Catherine Shaffer. We learned how to line up by number and file into the courtroom in the right order; we'd eventually get quite good at this. I was surprised that everyone in the courtroom was asked to rise when the jurors came in; I later learned this was because the jurors are officers of the court. Inside the courtroom were Judge Shaffer, her bailiff, court reporter, and courtroom clerk, as well as the prosecutor, the defense attorney, and what I later learned was the defendant.

Judge Schaffer did a great job throughout the process explaining the system; I found it quite interesting and educational. We then spent the next two days in jury selection. This involved a one page written survey (and going back down to the jurors' room). Once back in the courtroom, we were asked a series of questions about our answers on the survey and whether anyone had a reason they couldn't serve. These seemed to fall in a few camps -- upcoming travel, financial difficulty from not working for a few days, and physical issues. She was pretty firm with the travel issues (since those people could have deferred around the travel). She was also pretty binary about the financial difficulty; if serving in the jury meant you couldn't pay your essential bills like rent and utilities, she'd excuse you. Throughout the process, she kept reiterating how important it was to not talk to anyone about the case, not research anything or anyone associated with the case, and to only get information about the case through what was presented in the courtroom. This made total sense, but it was hard not to want to talk about it or look up information on the case and people involved.

We didn't finish the interviews on Monday, and they didn't need to talk to me on Tuesday. On Wednesday, the judge, prosecutor, and defense attorney lead us through a discussion and asked some questions directly -- had you or someone close to you been sexually assaulted, could you imagine finding someone guilty even if there were no physical evidence, could you see past racial stereotypes (the defendant was black) to rule impartially, etc. We started to get a picture of what kind of case this would be. Finally, by mid-afternoon, we knew who was selected. Since I was number 14 and they select 13 jurors (12 plus an alternate -- although who the alternate would be wouldn't be decided until the end of the trial via random selection), I figured it was highly likely I'd get picked. Sure enough, they dismissed a few people ahead of me, so I wound up on the jury.

Photo of the courtroom

The Trial

The trial started the next Monday. The charge was Attempted Indecent Liberties (an attempt to sexually gratify one's self with someone who is not capable of consenting). The defendant showed up drunk at his ex-sister-in-law's house in Renton at 3:00a. After talking and drinking together, she went to sleep. He allegedly went into the 16 year old daughter's bedroom where she was asleep and pulled down her pajama bottoms. She awoke to feeling pressure and then saw the defendant fumbling with his pants. She went out and woke up her mom. The mom went to her bedroom, got out a rifle (a scoped .303 -- a pretty big hunting rifle) and chased the defendant out of the house. The daughter was the one who called 911, afraid that her mom was going to shoot her uncle. The police showed up pretty quickly then took the mom and daughter to Harborview Hospital. The daughter was checked out, but since there was no penetration, they didn't test for things that might have left DNA. The daughter talked to a social worker there too.

The prosecutor and then the defense attorney made their opening remarks. I thought the prosecutor laid out a pretty clear story. The defense attorney was a little more dramatic (overly so IMHO) and was clearly trying to inject doubt into our minds. Then the prosecutor started calling his witnesses. He called two King County deputies first. They didn't remember much from the case since it happened 2.5 years ago, but once they saw the reports they filed, they remembered more. The defense cross examined a little, but this whole part was mostly non-eventful to me (although I was amazed they had both been working in the King County Sheriffs for over 30 years). He then called the mother. She seemed pretty tough -- not afraid and very straightforward about her opinions. During cross examination by the defense, she started getting visibly mad, which I think may have been the attorney's intent.

We then heard from the daughter. She was understandably nervous and shy about talking about what happened, especially around the details of the contact. At a few points, I could see a tear rolling down her cheek. The defense tried to inject some doubt about the story by showing inconsistencies in the different reports from the police and  social worker about what side of her body she was sleeping on. However, the daughter kept having to hold her fingers up in the "L" shapes to figure out which side was left and right; she admitted she confused the sides a lot, but she was very clear she was facing the wall. (We had a photo of her bedroom for reference.) After seeing this, I wasn't surprised by the inconsistencies in the report.

The next day (Tuesday) we heard from the detective who handled the case and the social worker (one of them might have testified on Monday, I don't recall now). The detective didn't impress me much, but the social worker's testimony was consistent with what we had heard earlier. The defense didn't call any witnesses; in particular, the defendant did not testify. Judge Schaffer reminded us that the defense has no burden to prove anything, that the defendant doesn't have to testify, and that the fact the defendant didn't testify was not evidence of anything. We broke early for lunch then came back for closing arguments and instructions from the judge. Again, I thought the prosecutor did a good job tying the story together while the defense mostly just tried to create reasonable doubt, reminding us that even if the evidence was clear and convincing, meeting the bar of beyond a reasonable doubt needed in a criminal trial like this one was a higher standard. The bailiff drew a number out of a box to pick which of us was the alternate juror. He was then excused. (I would have been a little bummed to get picked as the alternate at that point; I'd have wanted to get the whole experience.)


The Deliberation

The jurors filed into the adjoining jury room around 3:00pm or 3:30 and sat around the table. We quickly selected a jury foreman, a young guy who had been through law school but wasn't a practicing attorney. I'm not sure who suggested him, but since no one else really seemed to want to be the foreman, he accepted the role, which was mostly to run the discussion and keep things moving.

I went in thinking the verdict was pretty clear but was willing to listen to the others. I figured this would go quickly and that we might even finish before the courtroom closed up at 4:30. However, everyone wanted to be deliberate and hear each person's view; I thought this was fair and tried not to let my desire to wrap up quickly affect things. It seemed most people were leaning toward guilty, but then one guy started proposing a pretty wild theory, that the mom didn't like the defendant and made up the whole thing to frame him, that maybe the defendant was never even in the bedroom. He wasn't sure at all that the defendant was guilty. We had to leave for the day with this theory still out there.

We came back Wednesday morning. The guy with the wild theory had thought about it a lot overnight and realized it was a little far fetched vs. the testimony. We discussed the case for about another 45 minutes. At this point I tried to move us to consider the three things that had to be proven for a guilty verdict: that the defendant had taken substantial steps toward committing an act of indecent liberty, that he had an intent to commit this act, and that the act took place in Washington State. We voted on each pretty quickly (with only one speech about how a guilty verdict would probably ruin the defendant's life), unanimously agreeing on a guilty verdict. We had to wait about 40 minutes for the attorneys and defendant to come back to hear the verdict. We filed in, the judge read our verdict, and then we each had to answer to the judge whether this was our vote individually and that this was the decision of the entire jury. The defendant had been pretty stoic through whole trial, but he was shaking his head a little after the judge read the verdict. I'm very confident we made the right decision, but I couldn't help but feel a little bad for the guy. His life will never be the same again.

Somewhat surprisingly, we each received a certificate recognizing our service. (Sentencing happens later and doesn't need us.) Then, as we left the courtroom, the prosecutor and defense attorney were waiting outside. The judge had told us they might want feedback, but since they didn't stop me to ask, I left. My duty was done.

Photo of my certificate of recognition

Some thoughts

Overall, I was impressed with the process and especially Judge Schaffer. As I mentioned, she explained things well to the jurors. She was also clearly concerned about everyone's comfort, even bringing in pastry and bagels for us each morning.

Before coming, I was concerned about crazy, illogical people in the jury. There were certainly more non-sequitors and logical mistakes during the discussion than I'm used to in my meetings at Amazon or Microsoft, but the deliberations were mostly on topic and rational, modulo the one crazy theory. My fellow jurors seemed able to separate their personal experiences out and only consider what was presented as evidence.

The biggest hassle about the process was the lack of predictability around time. Each potential juror is called for either two days or the length of one trial. I blocked out time on my calendar at work, but I wound up going into the office on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday the first week but then back in court on Monday through Wednesday the next week. There was also a lot of waiting around at the courthouse, first in the main jurors' room and then in our jury room. The days were shorter and slower paced than my normal work day.

While I don't think it played a role in this case, I would have liked the jury to be more diverse. There was only one woman out of the thirteen of us. There was one black man (maybe two -- I wasn't clear about one guy) and three Asians. The rest were white men. Other than gender, this might actually map pretty well to Seattle's demographics, but it still looked pretty unbalanced.

I was surprised that the bailiff was a law clerk, not a sheriff. The bailiff's role is to keep the court running smoothly and serve as a liaison with the jurors. I guess I watch too much TV. The whole trial was not like TV, in fact. I knew this going in, but it was still a little surprising how matter-of-fact and almost mundane most of it seemed.

One nice perq was having 90 minutes for lunch in a different area of town. I got a chance to visit some of my favorite places that I don't normally get to visit -- in particular Salumi (opened by Mario Batalli's dad, they make sandwiches from their house-made salamis -- awesome) and Mike's Noodle House (good Hong Kong-style noodle and congee joint).

I'm glad I got a chance to do this (and that it was a short case). It's definitely worth doing.

Getting off my fat ass. Again.

Long time readers (hi, Mom) know that I've done some long distance running and biking events over the past few years like the Mercer Island Half Marathon and the "Ride from Seattle to Vancouver and Party" bike ride. However, I fell off the wagon once we moved to China and never really picked it back up. More than ever, I need work out, so I've decided to use the same formula I did nine years ago - signing up for an event with friends and committing publicly to it. I seem to need a clear goal and some accountability to motivate me.

This time, I've signed up for the Magnuson Spring Series 5K on March 21. It should be a flat 5K (I ran there before); I mostly just need to get out and start running to get this one done.

Anyone else want to join me?

My Best Photos of 2014

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I think it's been a while since I've done this, but here are some of my best photos of 2014. I think these all have something generally interesting about these. There were many other photos I didn't include that I liked because they have meaning to me personally (e.g. travel/family stuff) or looked good only because the subject was so good looking (e.g. photos of the amazing Crater Lake).

I didn't apply any special effects filters to the images, although they're all pretty heavily edited for color, contrast, and composition.

Anyway, I'd love to hear what you think!

Gallery of my best photos of 2014

Portraits of Andrew

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Andrew (17) kindly agreed to pose for photos during our recent trip to New York City. I'm biased, of course, but I think he's turning into a pretty handsome dude. Not sure when he grew up though.






Starting Again

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Happy 2015! I can't believe I didn't write a single blog post in 2014. I didn't intentionally abandon my blog. Most of the stuff I used to write in short posts are now on Facebook; this leaves only longer posts for the blog. Of course, these are more effort, so I didn't write. Not really a good excuse, so I will start again. Here we go!

Leaving Microsoft

Today will be my last day at Microsoft. I've been at the company for 23 years, coming straight out of college. I'm incredibly grateful to this company that I still love, but it was time to try something new, to get a different perspective. Starting Monday, I'll be at Amazon, where I'll be the director of their product details page. It will be a big change (and a much longer commute), but I'm really excited.

Still, I'm finding that I'm pretty emotional about leaving. Being at Microsoft is a huge part of my identity and my life. I've worked at Microsoft longer than anything I've ever done. It'll take a while to get accustomed to a new way of thinking.

Here's the mail I sent announcing the change.

Subject: Farewell

It's become painfully clear that my bid to become the new CEO of Microsoft will not be successful, so today is my last day at Microsoft.

A few highlights from the past 23 years:
1990 Shocked to learn Microsoft shipped software with known bugs. More shocked to discover a big part of my job would be to pick which ones.
1991 Made the only known hole-in-one during Golf 1.0 testing (my first product). It didn't help my review score.
1993 Surfed the Internet for the first time in the Microsoft Library. Didn't get what the fuss was about.
1997 Learned to do The Hustle at a ship party. Grateful that cellphone cameras hadn't been invented yet.
1999 Spent six months addressing Y2K bugs in Works Suite. Saved the world from calamity.
2000 Hit my lifetime net worth high point. Oh well.
2003 Got my hands covered in blue ink minutes before a demo to BillG. Managed to not get him inky too.
2004 Pilloried in blog comments after jokingly claiming we invented pop-up blocking in IE6 on Windows XP SP2. Learned that including smiley face in a blog post is no protection against trolls.
2006 Was called "cute" by a prominent blogger. Faith in the Internet restored.
2007 Testified before the DOJ and EU on the same day. Lowlight was the French official jumping out of his chair yelling, "Aha! I caught you!" during my talk.
2008 Moved to Beijing. Delighted to find I was expected to sing and drink (sometimes at the same time) as part of my job.
2010 Had a 1:1 lunch with BillG. His hands got covered in Big Mac special sauce, and he couldn't figure out why. Felt secret sense of schadenfreude.
2011 Moved back from Beijing. Missed the office tea lady with my daily fresh fruit and pot of tea, but clean air was a big plus.
2012 Started surfing online porn professionally for Bing SafeSearch. Surprised to find this is not as cool as it sounds.
2013 Learning how hard it is to say farewell to an amazing company, brilliant colleagues, and good friends.

Thanks to all my teammates, past and present, for making me look good (or less bad, at least!) Thanks to my managers and mentors for your patience and guidance. Thanks to you all for a lifetime of great memories.

Q: What will you do next?
A: I will be the director (like a PUM) for Amazon's product details page.

Q: Will you still be in Seattle?
A: Yes.

Q: Why are you leaving?
A: I've never worked anywhere else as a fulltime employee. I realized I would regret not ever having a different perspective.

Q: How can we keep in touch?
A: Facebook, LinkedIn, my blog (kind of), email, WeChat/微信 (ID: F218828), Pinterest, Foursquare

Q: What is the best way to cook bacon?
A: In the oven.


A few weeks ago, I took my team to iFly Seattle for a little fun. iFly is billed as indoor skydiving. Rather than falling, you're in a powerful updraft. It was super fun (and got great reviews from my team members). When I told Andrew (16) about it, he wanted to go, so I took him for his birthday today along with our friend Maddi, who was also very gung ho to try it. Michael (12) wasn't interested but came along.

After some classroom instruction, an instructor goes into the chamber with you and helps you control your position and body. You're in the chamber for either a minute or two minutes, depending on which package you select, and you typically do two flights (I strongly recommend the two minute option since it takes a bit to get settled). On the second flight you have the option to do a "high flight" with the instructor, where s/he grabs onto you and flies you up into the 2-3 story chamber. It's actually not scary (at least I wasn't scared) since you don't have the falling sensation.

They have cameras in the chamber and will move you into position for a good photo (which you can buy afterwards). They'll also give you a DVD of your flight.

Andrew and Maddi had a great time. I'm sure we'll be going back.

Here's me flying at our team event.
Me flying at our team event

Andrew and Maddi ready for action.
Andrew and Maddi in purple jumpsuits

Andrew flying!
Andrew flying

Video of Andrew's "high flight"