Tell Me About Yourself

It was my third week on the job, a Wednesday. Up until this point, I had spent a week in training and two doing simple tasks like swapping keyboards and mice, learning the culture, and meeting various people. But on this day, which also happened to be an anniversary with my wife, I got my first major test, a desk swap.

On the surface, a desk swap sounds simple: unplug a bunch of cables, move the hardware, and connect them again. But these workstations were neither simple nor single; each desk had two machines connected with KVM switches; one had four heavy and thick (for LCDs) 21-inch monitors, the other had six. All the monitors were attached with heavy metal arms to rails on the desk. The traders had his or her preferences for which machine displayed on which monitor. These were also SBFI trading desks, which means that the cables are built into the desk, and that if they’re not properly labeled, it’s a trial-and-error process to figure out which cable is which. At the time I didn’t even know what a trading desk was, and I tried to pull out individual cables, which complicated things.

I was given fifteen minutes to do the job, starting at 18:45, with my scheduled off time at 19:00. Of course, knowing what I know now, fifteen minutes is not a realistic time in which to get the job done. Even at my peak, after I had mastered this job after a year, it would have taken at least thirty minutes, barring any unforeseen issues. This was a test from my manager. How would I handle it?

Of course, my manager did not know that it was my anniversary, and that I was planning to have dinner with my wife. We weren’t supposed to do overtime without pre-approval, either. With these looming over my head, I had extra desire to finish quickly, but it was my first time doing this and I couldn’t rush it. And it was the only window in which to get this done: the voice guys had already come and swapped the dealer boards, so there was no going back.

In my innocence, I thought it would be easiest to physically swap all the monitors. Considering the users’ preferences and that even identical model monitors can have variations in color and viewing angles, it seemed like the right thing to do. After all, in the small office environment where I had last worked, I’d do stuff like this all the time. I quickly learned that things were different in this environment.

First, as mentioned before, these motherfuckers were heavy. The monitors were 21-inch professional-grade NEC LCDs, three inches thick. The metal arms, then, had to be just as heavy duty in order to hold up these monitors to the rails. Second, the rails are situated at the back of the desk, furthest away from you. You have to lean forward and extend your arms while holding something that weighs like a couple of bowling balls, and you have to precisely guide the metal arms into the rails, then hold up the weight while you lock them down. And sometimes the locking levers were stripped so you had to manually position them a certain way or the whole thing would come crashing down, or you’d fuck up your fingers getting them caught in the rail. Seriously, I don’t think it was even physically possible for some of my skinnier coworkers to do this.

Third, on some monitors, the cable screws would be frozen in the holes, and no amount of twisting or even using a screwdriver could unfreeze them. This was a blessing in disguise for me though because this is how I learned that moving all the monitors didn’t make sense. In the end, I just moved the two over to the other desk and arranged both to match their originals.

Must have been the Hong Kong humidity
Must have been the Hong Kong humidity

All this time, I’m sweating profusely in my wool slacks, cotton undershirt, and button-down dress shirt, the standard uniform for this company’s IT staff, regardless of the physical demands of the job. On the third day of this job, three weeks prior, my 15-year-old pair of dress shoes gave out right in the middle of training, and I had to run down to the mall to get a new pair. Unfortunately for me, this was a luxury mall, and even the cheapest pair of shoes ran several hundred US dollars. If I was going to spend hundreds of dollars on shoes, I figured I’d at least get a pair that I thought looked good. Somehow, in the end, the shoes I bought cost nine hundred dollars, and I walked out of the store in a daze.

So here I am in my nine-hundred-dollar shoes, crawling and squatting underneath desks, pulling out wheeled trays with sharp metal edges on which 50-pound metal computer towers sat. These shoes were meant for going to a wedding, or a ball, or perhaps wearing to work by those whom I was moving these workstations for, not for physical activity. But I needed to bend my feet to get under the desk, and the leather was hard. Well, I had to do it, and when I finally sold the shoes on eBay last year the crease was still there.

Crease
See the crease? Sold for $170.

Now, it was 20:30, and with the workstations physically configured, it was time to test and make sure everything was where they were supposed to be. Fire up each workstation, confirm they are displaying on the correct monitors, confirm the KVM number matches, and confirm they can ping the Exchange server. Yes! Time to go, time to have a nice dinner with my wife, and time to worry about the true test tomorrow morning when the traders come in to work. Welcome to life in frontline IT support, investment-bank style.

Still Smiling
Still smiling after a hard day. Bon appetit!

First Date

I originally posted this here on February 11, 2018 @ 02:56 but later un-posted it because I thought that maybe I was airing too much of my “dirty laundry”. But then I remembered how I wrote about fearing making a caricature of myself, being afraid to post my real thoughts and feelings, so now the post is back. Hopefully, it stays that way.

There doesn’t seem to be anything great about aging at all. My eyes are going. My memory is going. The main purpose of this post is to preserve a memory from adolescence, the first date that I ever went on. Sprinkled in is some parental resentment that has bubbled up during these past couple of years. As you can see, there was a flurry of activity on this site in the first half of 2017, with a dramatic slowdown and a few inconsequential posts in the latter half, followed by no activity at all these past few months. We finally moved back to Hong Kong, because we couldn’t take living with our parents anymore. I’ve been mourning the end of the first half of my life. Perhaps I’ll explain further at a later date, but for now here is the first post in a long while, my first ever date.

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To a person from a normal, loving family, it would never occur to them that another family could be so broken that it would produce a person who did not know how to express his own feelings. I was taught to never approach a love interest because that would make me “less valuable. Let them come to you, that’s how you know you’re a catch.” Sadly, as a result of this type of thinking, my sister, who is only a couple of years younger than I am has never regularly dated a person and has probably never known love. My mother continues to infantilize her today, advocating a policy of “there’s no rush, whatever will be will be”, which means she probably never will.

My first date was with a girl named Julia from my class. It was probably around ’92 or ’93, because I remember my dad taking care of us at that time. Those were the years when my mother had to return to Hong Kong to sort out her legal status. Anyhow, I remember at the time that it was just two classmates hanging out, but maybe I was just dense.

So Julia came to meet me at my old house, that little tiny apartment that I’ve mentioned before. My dad was super (and unusually) happy to meet her, maybe because his son was going on a date, or maybe because Julia was white. My dad and his side of the family have always had white-worship, something not uncommon amongst wannabe upper-class Chinese people. I remember the gray metal gate at that place when I recall this memory. Also, introducing Julia to my dad inside the kitchen which was also the entryway and first room when entering the apartment.

Julia may have been coming from a play rehearsal. She was into the arts and in later years when I looked her up I was glad to see that she continued on the thespian path. I remember her giving me a flyer to go see her performance.

First place I remember going to is Mission Dolores. Despite having lived in the Mission for years, I’d never actually been to the place it was named after. In the years since, I haven’t gone either. I was amazed to see a graveyard and to learn that cemeteries aren’t allowed in San Francisco, with the church being one of the few exceptions.

Next, I think we went to the Randall Museum. For all these years, I would drive by and see the green sign, and have a feeling that this was where I went with Julia, but I never confirmed it until today, when I looked up some photos after reading of its remodeling. There’s no doubt now that we went there.

It’s foggy but I think there were animal displays. That’s all I remember of the interior. But it would seem I remembered the exterior all these years and just never knew it was Randall. When I googled it tonight, I saw the little hilltop where Julia and I sat on some rocks to appreciate the view of the city from up there. It was cold, and she put her arms around me. Thinking about it now at this moment, I remember that she was wearing a gray sweater. The sky was gray as well.

When she put her arms around me, I remember being confused. Did she like me? I tried looking at her face for a clue, but she had this cool look, like she was just taking in the moment, a look of contentment. She inhaled the crisp air through her nose.

Looking back at it now, I think she did like me, but I was completely clueless. I didn’t know how to enjoy that moment at that time, filling my head instead with inconsequential thoughts. Typing this out now, I remember my heart beating fast. I wish someone had told me about love back then, even the puppy variety, and that there was nothing wrong with it. My family treated it as a mutually-exclusive enemy of education.

After this, I remember being in Chinatown, specifically next to the Pagoda Theater in a Chinese restaurant. I’d eaten there with my family before and after watching HK movies next door. I recall introducing and explaining wonton noodles to Julia, and she seemed to like the dish. I don’t remember how we got there, but it seems logical that we might have taken the N or the J downtown before transferring to a 30 Stockton or a 45.

The next thing I remember is dinner. I think I was supposed to go home, but we were having such a good time that we wanted to keep going. I called my dad from a payphone outside the restaurant, and I think I also called my college-age cousin to ask for a ride later on. The restaurant was at a corner, an Italian place in North Beach where we had pizza. One of the streets might have been Grant, with the other being the one that goes up to Coit Tower.

I think it was my first time having pizza in an actual restaurant. Since then, I’ve tried to find a pizza restaurant like that, without success. The closest with a similar vibe would be the pizza place Admiral Kirk went to with the whale biologist in Star Trek IV, but apparently that’s not really in SF. Maybe I was just trying to chase a feeling that can never be duplicated.

The last place we went to before my cousin picked us up was Pier 39. I don’t remember how we got there or even what we did there. It was definitely wet and cold. We sat on a bench near the vehicle waiting area, on the left side (vs. the right where the arcade used to be). This time, Julia took my hand. It was an incredible feeling. We held hands until my cousin arrived.

When Julia got out of my cousin’s two-door car, she hit her head. It was on Army Street, and my cousin’s car was a silver Acura Integra. I can still see that image inside my head. Later, my cousin and his girlfriend took me to McDonald’s in Serramonte and I shared the day’s activities with them over a sundae. They were excited for me just from talking to Julia in the car, asking me if I liked her and all that. I think on my end I still wasn’t sure if it was a date.

The next school day I remember sitting in reg and our mutual friend Emily telling me she’d heard about the date, and asking whether I’d go out with Julia again. I recall being a bit wishy-washy about it, giving off an impression that I wasn’t interested. In the coming weeks, I didn’t really talk to Julia much, and although I didn’t realize it at the time, there was one interaction where the disappointment was clearly visible on her face. When I finally saw it, it was years later, in hindsight.

In my mind, I thought that if she liked me, she would ask me out again. I had no way of knowing that what my mother taught me was so fucking ridiculous.

Over the years, I’d see Julia around the neighborhood every so often. Things were always cool between us and we’d ask each other how things were and all, but we would never go further. I mean, not in a continuing-from-Pier-39 type of further, but more like an extended conversation. We would say bye and then not see each other for years again. At one point, I said that the next time I ran into her, I’d tell her how I really felt back then. But sadly, the last time I thought I saw her last year, I chickened out and didn’t even go up to her.

In conversations with JC about the crazy that I come from, I’d tell her that I regretted my inaction because I probably hurt Julia unintentionally. Perhaps it’s just a projection on my part: my first date, the impression it made on me that 25 years later I still remember it, perhaps it was only a big deal to me, and not so much for Julia. I mean, I’m married now. What does it matter to tell all this to a person I haven’t kept in touch with whom I’m not even certain liked me 25 years ago? I don’t know the answer, but I do know that if I don’t it will be another regret. When I look back on that day with a proper lens, I’d like to think that there was something there. And I would want Julia to know that she was totally awesome and I would’ve totally asked her out if I hadn’t been fucked in the head as a kid. We’re not getting any younger, and some of us have even departed. Who knows who will be next?

Super Punch Out!!

Super Punch Out!! SNES Box
Photo of box copied from ocreload.com

I don’t want to forget Super Punch Out, so I am writing this down. I remember getting this game my senior year of high school, from Toys”R”Us in San Francisco. It was the one in that little mall thing on Brannan Street. In my mind there is a glimpse of the box, and a sunny day. That’s all I remember.

Senior year of high school seemed to be a good time for SNES games. I also remember getting Star Trek Starfleet Academy from the game store in Stonestown, I think after school, near the end of the school year. It was so cool putting the game in the SNES and flying starships. I probably haven’t played the game once since then.

Back to Super Punch Out though. Later, after I played it for a while, I copied it with my game copier and then either traded it in at Electronics Boutique or Software ETC or some other store, or I sold it on the internet via Usenet. If I dig through the old files from the 486, I might be able to find a post or list. It’s crazy how we used to just exchange personal contact information so easily on the internet, even sending checks or cash in the mail. Those were innocent times.

Well, I dug around my files but couldn’t find anything that might definitively explain what happened to the game. This is the first time in over 3 months that I’ve posted something here, and the first time in who knows how long that I’ve actually written something. I may or may not explain the hiatus, but for now it’s good to be back. See you later.

Kaneko Video Glove (1991)

This final post for tonight is a museum post of the Kaneko Video Glove, a promotional item for the game Air Buster for the Sega Genesis, circa 1991.

I still somewhat remember the circumstances behind how I chose this game. Through some sort of special occasion like acing a test or some other achievement, I earned myself a game purchase. All I had to do was pick one. There was a conversation with a classmate (the prank call guy) where he strongly advocated for this game, and I listened to him. It turned out to be a pretty good buy, as Air Buster is a very enjoyable game (minus the load times, which was probably the first time I ever had to wait for a console game to load).

The game came with a coupon redeemable for this glove, which may seem like a gimmick in retrospect, but at the time it definitely increased enjoyment not only in Air Buster but other games as well. I felt like a professional gamer getting ready to go to work or a pilot preparing to save the world. For a 10-year-old kid, it was real.

Now, it’s another item from childhood to say goodbye to. From what I’ve seen on the internet, this item is a rare and collectible piece of gaming history so I’ll be putting it on eBay for someone else to treasure. Of course, since I’ve already worn the glove (and actually, it still fits), it probably won’t fetch much. Still, it’s probably better than chucking it in the trash.

A last bit of interest: the ads of the time showed the glove as being right-handed, with a Kaneko logo on the back. The actual glove is left-handed, and the Kaneko logo is on the tightening strap.

As always, I hope you’ve enjoyed this trip down memory lane.

Kaneko Video Glove

Kaneko Video Glove

Kaneko Video Glove

Kaneko Video Glove - Shipping Envelope

Kaneko Video Glove - Letter

Emporium Capwell Locator Tag (1991)

Here’s an interesting relic from the past, a locator tag from Emporium Capwell, a San Francisco department store that closed in 1995. The tag was for our 27-inch Toshiba CF2767 TV, which I sold via craigslist in the early 2000s. I don’t know if the date on the tag is the date that we got the TV, but prior to the 27-inch we had a Sharp 19-incher with a faux wood veneer, our first TV. I played a lot of Master System and Genesis games on that TV, which later became our kitchen TV. I don’t know if it’s interesting or sad, but in our tiny 1-bedroom apartment, we ultimately had 3 TVs: the 27-incher in the bedroom, the Sharp in the kitchen, and a 32-inch XBR in the living room. We must have really loved watching TV.

Emporium Capwell Locator Tag

Emporium Capwell Locator Tag

Take Hold of the Sega Adventure (1987)

Here’s another poster straight off the wall of my childhood room, a Sega 1987 poster and game lineup, “Take Hold Of The Sega Adventure” and “Get In Touch With Sega Software”.

I really like this one. Looking at it now, I am reminded of many nights before bed looking at all the games that I already had for my Sega Master System, and all the games that I wanted to get. Since this poster came out in 1987, a lot of the games were from around the time when I first got the system as a kid in Hong Kong. Some of the games would remind me of my time in Hong Kong, playing them at my friends’ houses. Now that I think about it, it seemed like all the kids in my little circle of international-school friends had Sega, and I wonder why we never got into Nintendo.

There was one game that I remember playing, Great Football, that I had no idea how to play. I had not yet moved to America and learned the game. Great Soccer was another game that I played at a friend’s place, but of course we knew how to play that, being in British Hong Kong. It was always interesting going to your friends’ homes as a kid. It seemed like each place had its own smell, and different parents had different levels of hospitality. Actually (and speaking of hospitality), I do remember one Japanese kid who had a Famicom at his house. I think he had the floppy drive, too.

Looking at the poster now, I also wonder why it took me twenty years to take it out of the blue bag, unfold it, and actually look at it like I used to (it really is a cool poster). Did I just not have time? Or did I think I had all the time in the world? I think it must have been the latter. At the time we moved out of my childhood home, I was starting my second year of college. Studying happened, girls happened, then graduation, then vacation. Next was first job out of college, unrealistic expectations, get fired, then 3 years of not working. Then, it was start over, find a new job, do well, move out, get a car, get married, get promoted, get burned out, and go on Adventure 2012, and then the last 4 years: move to Hong Kong, live free for one year, work for one year, come back to the USA, live with parents, work 3 months out of the next 24. In a nutshell, the past 20 years of my life. It was a long time, and in between all those things happening, adding up year after year, I never took the time to look in my closet, look inside the blue bag, and take a look at this poster. I must have figured it would always be there.

What’s next? I don’t know. In these past months, I’ve been taking all these pieces from my life up to this point, scanning or photographing them, and then bidding them goodbye. What am I getting ready for? In the past I’ve mentioned getting light, so that when the time comes, we’ll be able to move. But where? Maybe a new life where I enjoy everything in front of me, where nothing is in the closet. Kind of like when we were kids, when things were simple, and all we had was our Sega, when it was so much easier to focus on one thing because that was all we had. It’s a frequently and incorrectly used word, but I do believe it is ironic that I’m trying to get back to the past by letting go of it. It’s very difficult, and sometimes I want to just keep hanging on, like saving this poster after 20 years of not looking at it. But I think maybe, if I’m not careful, my life will become like this poster, stuck in a closet, stuck in time, and another 20 years will have passed.

As always, I hope you’ve enjoyed this museum post, with extra and nostalgic commentary.

Poster - Take Hold of the Sega Adventure - 1987

Game Lineup - Get in Touch with Sega Software - 1987

Life-Like Train Set Registration Card

Like many kids growing up, I was fascinated with trains, and owned a train set. My first and only train set, bought some time between 1989 and 1990, was manufactured by Life-Like. Later, I would buy extra tracks, cars, and a Bachmann locomotive, but I never got another train set. Still, while I had it I enjoyed it to the max, creating a little town with a railroad crossing and even an airport (with those old foam WWII warplanes from Chinatown).

As I recall, I read about true hobbyists nailing their tracks down on a piece of plywood and wanted to try the same thing, except I didn’t have any plywood, nor did I have the space. I was just a little kid in a little tiny apartment with my train set taking up a quarter of the kitchen. So, I nailed my tracks down on the deck outside the bedroom, which worked fine until it started raining. My train phase ended after that.

In these past months of throwing out old things I’ve actually scanned a couple of other train-related items, so perhaps I’ll post them here at a later date. For now, here’s the registration card from my first and only train set.

Life-Like Train Set Registration Card

Life-Like Train Set Registration Card

Page from Bay Area Computer Currents May 19 – June 1, 1992

Here’s a nice artifact from the pre-internet days of computing, from almost exactly 25 years ago: a page from Computer Currents magazine, a free publication that was available from those metal boxes at various street corners.

I don’t remember why I kept this particular page. In May of ’92, I was just finishing my first year of high school, and I certainly did not have the funds for a new computer, but it looks like I saved this page for the Stellar USA ad. Maybe I was already pining for an upgrade to my 386. Maybe there was a game that I wanted to max out settings on. But why a vendor from Berkeley? I’d probably never even been there at that point. I guess it will have to remain a mystery.

It’s fun to see prices from that time period and to see how far we’ve come. The upgrade technology on the second page is interesting as well (more here). Looks like at the end of the day, it always has been and always will be about the balance between cost and performance. Very fascinating indeed.

Bay Area Computer Currents - May 19 to June 1, 1992 - Page 73

Bay Area Computer Currents - May 19 to June 1, 1992 - Page 74

Now You’re Playing with Super Power!!

As I mentioned in the last post, I’m going to switch it up for a bit, scanning posters and catalogs in addition to magazines. Here’s the first scan from a blue shoulder bag belonging to my father that I used to store video game memorabilia: a Super Nintendo poster.

This is an earlier poster (as illustrated by the poster code, GP-SNS-USA-1) featuring a number of launch titles for the SNES. On the back of the poster is a giant ad for Nintendo Power magazine. Before this post I had always thought that I received a free copy of the magazine from buying my SNES after Street Fighter II came out, but checking the magazine now it is the May 1994 issue, which means I got it way later. Perhaps it was a free sample from a game purchase?

(Exciting update: while proofreading this post, I remembered that it was a free copy from buying my Game Boymy memory did not fail me after all!)

The blue shoulder bag contains a number of goodies, including the original envelopes (that I thought I’d lost) that the Sega Helpful Hints sheets were sent in. There are also a number of posters that I removed from my wall right before we moved out of the little San Francisco apartment that I grew up in. As you can see from this SNES poster, the holes from the staples used to hang the poster are still in it.

As always, I hope you’ve enjoyed this trip down memory lane!

Super Nintendo Poster GP-SNS-USA-1 (Now you're playing with Super Power!!)

Super Nintendo Poster GP-SNS-USA-1 (Get the Power!)

DOS Resource Guide, Number 4 (1992)

DOS Resource Guide, Number 4 (1992)

This last museum post of the day is a copy of DOS Resource Guide, Number 4, from 1992.

In the late 80s and early 90s, Apple had a strong hold on the educational sector here in the San Francisco Bay Area. Our schools ran Apple IIs, so when the time came for our family to purchase our first computer, I wanted an Apple IIe badly. Of course, my family decided to go with an IBM PC with MS-DOS installed, and I ended up having to learn a whole new system. In retrospect, it was one of the better things to happen to me in my life, as it set me on a path to becoming an IT guy. DOS Resource Guide was an indispensable tool in that endeavor.

This was my first issue, and I probably read it cover to cover, multiple times. It’s where I cut my command-line chops, with many of the skills learned then still in use today. I loved this magazine so much I even signed my name on the first page.

Sadly, it probably has been over two decades since I last looked at it. Like all my other magazines, it was sitting in my closet, and later on my bookshelf. Now that I’ve discovered digitized versions of my old magazines, I’ve noticed that I actually read them a lot more. I look forward to revisiting DOS Resource Guide in the coming days.

As always, hope you’ve enjoyed this museum post.

DOS Resource Guide, Number 4 (PDF, 92.4 MB)