25 Random Things About Me

All of you on Facebook must have already seen dozens of these "random things" lists go by; after being tagged a few times, I figured I should finally write mine. This is a lot like the "Five Weird Habits" thing that went around a few years ago. I'll try to not to repeat anything from that post or write other stuff that's already on the blog.

Some obligatory instructions for the Facebook crowd:

Rules: Once you've been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it's because I want to know more about you.

To do this, go to “notes” under tabs on your profile page (look under the plus sign), paste these instructions in the body of the note, type your 25 random things, tag 25 people (in the right hand corner of the app) then click publish.


  1. My dad came alone to the US from Hong Kong when he was sixteen to go to college in the middle of Iowa with virtually nothing but a Lutheran Brotherhood scholarship. I can't imagine how scary that must have been. He's my hero for this and many other things.
  2. I was born in Bozeman, Montana; grew up in Woodbury, Minnesota; went to college at Stanford; interned in Austin, Texas; married and started a family in Seattle, Washington; and now live and work in Beijing, China. Not a typical path I suppose, but it probably explains my fondness for hot dish, Mexican food, oysters, and jiaozi.
  3. I didn't speak English until I was two and started going to nursery school. That was probably the high water mark of my Chinese fluency. I'm still working to get back there.
  4. In third grade I was in a photo sequence on the front page of the Minneapolis Star Tribune sports section for a ping pong tournament I was in. (The headline was "Tension, concentration, and then oh boy!") It's probably the only time I'll ever be in a sports section unless it's in a "weird story" or "weekend warrior dies exercising" article.
  5. During junior high and high school, my family owned two Chinese restaurants as side businesses, Jack Yee's and Loon Phung. They weren't very authentic, but boy people sure loved the gloppy chicken chow mein and chop suey.
  6. I love the 3M Company. My parents both worked there, I worked there in high school and interned there, and they helped pay for my college education. Almost everyone I knew growing up had parents who worked there. It was and is a great company. I still buy their products whenever I can.
  7. My first job was as a cashier at Target back in high school. This was before scanners so we had to learn to be "Touch Key Professionals". Within the first month, we had to pass a test to "ring and bag" fifteen items in a minute with no errors. 3M offered me a job to write Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheets before I took the test, but I know in my heart I was fast enough to pass.
  8. I competed in speech in high school in a category called "creative expression". Senior year I took second place at the state competition with a piece I wrote called "The Ting Dynasty". I don't think you could do a talk like that anymore for political correctness reasons, but this was Minnesota in the mid-80's.
  9. I didn't drink at all or date much until after high school. I had a lot more fun in college.
  10. I almost became a marine biologist after spending the summer after freshman year at Hopkins Marine Station in Monterey diving every day and counting the weeds on the bottom of the bay. In fact the only class I TA'd in college was SCUBA. I sometimes wonder how my life would have been different if I'd gone that route.
  11. My pledge name from my fraternity (Kappa Alpha Order) is "Disco Flow". I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader to work out how I got that name.
  12. I was president of my fraternity. Being president is probably the least fun you can have in a fraternity -- taking care of drunken people instead of partying, having the fire chief lecture you about the dangers of filling your house with hay for the "Longnecks and Longhorns" party, or having to explain (with a straight face) the merits of pledges carrying bricks to the Dean of Fraternal Affairs "We want the pledges to understand the weight of responsibility they are about to take on..." Still, I was honored to be chosen by my brothers to do this, learned a lot, and wouldn't have traded the experience for anything.
  13. I ran for Council of Presidents (like student body president but with a group of four running as a team) at Stanford, forming a new student government party, Students First. We lost after a run-off election. It was super draining emotionally; I don't think I'll ever run for office again (my abortive 2004 presidential campaign not withstanding.)
  14. I scored the only hole-in-one during the testing of Microsoft Golf 1.0 for Windows, the first product I ever shipped.
  15. I love explaining stuff to my two sons (unless it's for the umpteenth time.) It's so cool when they get excited by learning things.
  16. The first time I presented to Bill Gates, he noted dryly that something I said was "totally irrelevant". It took a while for my heart to start beating again. Fortunately, the next time, he cut off our senior VP to back me up. (And then there was the nearly disastrous demo...)
  17. I especially adore food pairings. Whisky and oysters. Truffles and port. Sauternes and foie gras. Ice cold milk and hot brownies. Bacon and more bacon.
  18. My brother and I had very similar resumes for the first twenty some odd years of our lives - same schools, same activities, same jobs, etc. but we're very different. He's really great (world class even) at a few things where I'm decent at a lot of things, we have super different political views, and we have pretty dissimilar interests now. It's interesting that we're so different after coming from such similar experiences. That said, I think he's cool and respect him a ton.
  19. I have something like ten or eleven patents pending in stuff ranging from user interface design to computer security to automatic photo processing, but I couldn't tell you what they were just looking at the names of the inventions. The legalese squeezes every bit of human-readable information out of them.
  20. My hobby is collecting hobbies. As an adult, I'm a current or former certified rescue diver, golf ball liberator, boat owning sailor, trigger happy photographer, green belt in Shaolin kung-fu, weekend brewer, nightly whisky connoisseur, chord-pounding pianist, longish distance road biker, half marathoner, non-fiction reader, Harry Potter addict, tennis ball whacker, directionless geocacher, paper poking shooter, Rock Band rocker, skier in remission, foodie, and blogger. I like knowing stuff about a lot of things.
  21. My wife is even more beautiful now than when we first started dating seventeen years ago. More important, we're better friends now.
  22. Snakes wig me out in a huge way.
  23. My favorite place in the world is on a sailboat early in the morning with a cup of hot coffee in my hand.
  24. I learned to flip my pen around my thumb just after high school and haven't stopped flipping it since. I really can't stop.
  25. I never seem to know the words to songs. I mis-hear them all the time (I thought Secret Agent Man was Secret Asian Man for a long time. Probably just wishful thinking.) Rock Band, Lips, and karaoke have been very educational.

OK, so there you go.

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Quornflour Reply

You forgot to mention that sometimes you like to tape your thumbs to see what it is like to be a dinosaur.

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