One billion of your closest friends

(Yes, this post takes inspiration from an Abba song:

It’s hard to put into words how insanely awesome and crazy the past couple of weeks have been. That confluence of rehearsals plus performances with the busiest of workweeks sure makes life interesting. Throw in conference calls and holiday parties — sheer insanity. I’m physically and mentally exhausted and might be getting sick, but it’s been a lot of fun with ups and downs.

The Nutcracker this year was more special because I felt much less of an outsider. Maybe it’s that the kids were much friendlier and the adults also a more cohesive group, or maybe it’s that doing an actual variation (Russian) — even if poorly — made me feel slightly more legitimate this time around. I know for sure that it’s not the closing of the technique gap: everyone else still dances circles around me (pun intended). In any case, the crazy tech week rehearsal schedule was tolerable even though they punctuated the 10 to 11 hour workdays during the earlier part of the week.

The performance weekend was simply magical. I don’t know how we get through five performances over three days, but that mix of adrenaline and mutual support somehow got everyone through the rather brutal schedule. It’s a rather nice break to drop everything else in life and just focus so deeply on something in which you have not aptitude that it feels really real for a few days. When I get to perform with people who truly believe in what they are doing, it seems so incredibly beautiful that I feel this glimmer of pride and emotion(?).

Some shoutouts: my Clara this year is quite good and is a very promising dancer. I look forward to watching her grow and mature as a dancer — one day, I’m sure she’ll do SPF. Mad props to “Rubies” for nailing SPF on such short notice; she has improved so much over the past couple years, it’s amazing and inspirational. And to KD and YP for dancing beautifully in their roles; they make me believe that this is not a completely foolish errand. And of course “Beauty” is always mesmerizing on stage regardless of her role. And to DC for being a great Mouse King foil and making rehearsals a lot of fun.

I still think those mirliton costumes are kind of cute.

And despite my attempts at dissuading everyone from attending, I really am very grateful for all those friends who showed up and watched the performances. It really means a lot to have you in the audience. One of these years, I will be confident enough to actually invite people to attend.

Also, I really need to learn how to smile onstage. Worst fake smile ever. I guess I can’t jettison all that inner irony/sarcasm in just a few years, but I’m really trying very hard.

Also also, my party scene wife gave me a nutcracker, so now I have one of those.

Finally was able to procure tickets to see Yo Yo Ma! A decade of waiting is about to end early next year. I am uncomfortably excited.

The title of this post is regarding to what I was trying to explain to my friends on our monthly(ish) conference call regarding question #4: life philosophy, and a similar line of thought I had at the theater. Which is that, in the theater, we performed for only a few hundred people at a time. The show itself is probably not life-changing to anyone in any way, yet it feels real and worthwhile. Live performances, though, are always under economic pressure because they just don’t scale well.

On the other hand, the products that I work on at work literally affect a billion people, albeit in generally minuscule ways. Maybe it’s true that by surfacing relevant information to people, we do save lives and improve the wellbeing of humanity as a whole. The reach is surely there. But, saving ten seconds for a billion people isn’t the same as saving one individual’s life. More and more, I wonder if I should be taking a more personal approach towards work, and life in general. The hordes of data do mask the underlying people — entire lives and beings — to some extent, and maybe I have become numb to some aspects of that. When a 1% change means millions of people… it’s hard to even comprehend that sense of perspective. There are all sorts of people out there, both good and bad, that use search.

But it’s also a personal issue, too. How to live my life and imbue it with some semblance of meaning. Isn’t it the personal connections, which are necessarily few, the ones that truly matter? And if so, am I being untrue to myself by not spending time working on establishing and nurturing those? That is, finding a job that cares for individuals as such. But another part of me says that I’m doing a job that I’m relatively good at doing, and that I am probably contributing to society as best as I can, so who cares if it feels a little off. And I still love my job, despite these philosophical tensions, so who knows.

Went to the company holiday party last night. The De Young Museum is actually surprisingly large and quite a swanky venue for the holiday party. It was quite nice that the exhibits and galleries were open; wandering around the museum was fun, and I hope to visit again in a non-holiday-party setting. It’s always fun to see a bunch of engineer coworkers get all dressed up. And omg, “IJ” was even more stunningly beautiful than usual. I do wish that I were a little hungrier, because all the food looked delicious but I hadn’t the appetite. Chocolate-dipped bacon was the highlight of the desserts. Pretty damn good.

And then went to a white elephant party this afternoon with some friends I haven’t seen in far too long (recurring theme of my life). I really should be much less lazy about visiting people in sf, although I feel like maybe they should come down here sometimes, too. It was actually a nice gift exchange, and I’m glad that someone seemed to enjoy the Boyz II Men Christmas album, which I’d hoped would be hilarious. All the gifts were actually pretty good.

This late-night blog post writing caps quite the interesting two weeks. I’m really tired, but in a good way. I suppose we all taste the bittersweet and either learn to love it or hate it.

This is why I love my friends

We’re having a conference call tomorrow whose agenda is:

1. career. what do you want to be doing next year?
2. relationship. what is your current relationship status? what is your outlook?
3. family. general status and thoughts on where we stand with our family.
4. life philosophy. what’s the driving theme behind how you want to live your life? for example, my coworker said he has to pay off his massive amount of debt.
5. anything you wanted to accomplish before you were 30 but may not.

The weekend update

It’s been a wonderful if somewhat hectic weekend so far.

Got to go to San Diego for a couple days and see my dad. The interval between San Diego trips seems to be getting longer and longer. I feel like the bond is getting weaker over time as I stay in the bay area, so maybe I should start visiting more. It’s still the place I call home, even if my connection there does fade over time. Good to see my dad is alive and kicking.

It’s always nice to see friends down in San Diego. I know these guys visit the bay area a lot more than I go down to sd, so it feels good to go back to the local haunts. The down side is that one of them bought an Audi A5, and it’s a pretty sweet car. Now I kind of want to buy a car.

There was also a sd winter fog sighting! The fog is like the breath of the ocean that envelops my city. It’s such a comforting sort of fog that happens in the morning and after dark, and reliably burns off during the day. Actually, I think I really enjoy the winter fog because people start driving around the speed that I drive. And it’s not really scary driving in fog even when visibility is like 10 feet with headlights because there are still so many cars out on the freeway. Never thought I would ever miss fog, but there it is.

Also, it’s probably the harbinger to the apocalypse, but I bought a pair of jeans over the weekend. Still need to get it hemmed, but if it catches, it will be the first time I’ve worn jeans since I tried them for a week and hated them probably when I was around 10 years old.

Then had to fly back Saturday morning to catch rehearsal in the afternoon. Not being able to take morning class makes things bad enough, but also the fact that it was a big college football day made things even more anxious. It’s so sad that I’ve basically not been able attend or watch any of the Stanford football games because rehearsals last all afternoon every Saturday. The things we do for love…

On the other hand, it was nice to catch the second half of the Stanford-UCLA game. Just need to beat them again next week to make it to the Rose Bowl. (Although I wouldn’t be able to make it to the Rose Bowl because I’ll be out of the country during bowl season again… maybe I should stop scheduling these winter vacations? London and Wales will be pretty cold.)

Okay, as much as I think last year’s blue tutu costumes are much better for mirliton, the new pink ones are so freakin’ adorable. I know some of the adults don’t like them as much because they makes them look like 10 year olds, but they’re so cute. Seriously, like basket-full-of-kittens cute.

Oh, also just saw The Fantastic Mr. Fox on dvd. That was a good movie.

Time to read some more Updike. Only 60 more pages to go!