November 2007

Improbable Research’s LFHCfS doesn’t usually get such extraordinary members.

One is Brian May, who got his PhD in astrophysics from Imperial College (where he also got BS) this year and is now the Chancellor of Liverpool John Moore University, from whose art college Lennon dropped out. No wonder May’s guitar has so much flair: it’s got interplanetary particles in it!

Then came Hedy Lamarr. I vaguely remember reading about her inventing frequency hopping before. The link from LFHCfS is a fun read with a NSFW image at the bottom. Sometimes mistakenly attributed to Lamarr, DSS was invented by the great Tesla in 1900, and Lamarr’s invention is just an ingenious apparatus (a piano roll, since her collaborator is a composer) to apply the principle. She deserves the recognition, though, if only to show that you don’t have to be stupid to be gorgeous.

Is Kindle the future of book reading?

As Shark Tale’s Don Lino puts it: Are you kidding me?! Are you out of your mind???!!!

The only nice thing I can find about it is the “free” EVDO connection with access to Wikipedia. I’d actually buy it just for that–for $39.99, if.

Here’s a list of things that I want in a e-book reader, without much concern about cost nor engineering issues:

  1. I’ve always believed that the future of e-book and cell phone and many portable devices is in flexible display. That’s the only way to combine portability and large-enough screen.
  2. Highlighter pen and easy access to highlighted text: this is what I wish for the most when I read paper book. There are pen-size OCR scanners but none is usable enough.
  3. Pen: mainly for navigation and lookup. Scribble recognition would be nice but not necessary. Thumb keyboard is still much faster.
  4. Multi-lingual dictionary (Babelfishy) in rollover overlay and Wikipedia (and other reference sites) accessible in context popup.
  5. Inter- and intra- book cross reference via hot link.
  6. Full color. 4-level gray scale in 2007? Are you kidding me?! Are you out of your mind???!!!
  7. Play audio book. Heck, it should play audio, period.
  8. All the necessary connectivity: USB, bluetooth, flash card, etc.
  9. Open API. At least for Java, since I can’t do anything else now.

I’d buy it for $200. I’d pay $2000 if I can read, write, surf, chat, listen, watch, play, shoot, and call on a single mobile device. It’d better have an alarm clock too. Before that, there’s no point in using a plethora of devices to replace another bunch of them.

I can never make it up to J for not having a proper wedding, but this is a good try.

The hours from about 3pm to 3am that day are thoroughly documented by J (I’m a complete idiot not knowing that she’s been blogging for well over a year), so here I’ll only talk about the planning and preparation.

I can’t remember when I first thought about this. It’s probably late last year, when her pregnancy was well underway. 10 years is a huge milestone, even without the baby. Plus the baby, it’s make it or die trying.

I forgot what my first idea was, but for quite some time I was just thinking about a nice dinner in a private room at a fancy restaurant with some flower and picture decorations, and maybe a live band. I searched for event planning companies but couldn’t find any useful info. About a few months before the date, I sent a few emails asking people for info.

There’s really just one person from whom I really wanted some help: Jim the marketing VP in my last company. I don’t think he’s in the top echelon of New York socialites, but he must be pretty close up there. We had lunch in a nice restaurant and talked about many things. He mentioned that he just had a birthday dinner at this great restaurant and I know I have to check it out.

The second I walked into the building I felt different. It’s not even the lobby yet, which is on the 35th floor. And I was feeling a difference in myself, not just the surroundings. The elegant and quiet interior, the soothing and distant music, the friendly and sincere smile from the staff, these things made me feel like I’m a better person.

Once on the 35th floor, I was almost out of breath, as expected. The restaurant looks too small, though, with maybe just a dozen small tables and no private room. I was told that no live music is allowed. Game over.

I thought it over and figured that it’d probably be difficult to find a restaurant that fits my needs. Where else could it be? What else could I do?

No matter how the idea came to me, a stamp should be issued to commemorate that moment. If a restaurant can’t be private, how about a hotel room with a view? And why not have dinner in the room as well?

I called back the hotel and setup an appointment. The director of guest relationship took me on a tour of several rooms and the spa, without me making any commitment. And I stole many of the ideas she mentioned as they had done before for people with special occasion.

And then it’s all execution. It has to be as close to perfect as possible. I kept a note in Yahoo Notepad so that I can update it at home and at work, and when it got close I made a spreadsheet with precise time and details. This is about the only time that it was helpful–no, absolutely necessary–to be the anal organize freak that I am.

I only planned for a couple of events: spa and in-room dining. Jim suggested theatre, but I don’t want to make the evening too full. The spa looked nice and J has never done it before so that’s an easy choice. Ordering dinner from the restaurant for in-room dining took a few calls, since they usually don’t do that as the food may get cooled off and the presentation can’t be as good as in the restaurant.

Other “smaller” things took a great deal more time and efforts:

  • Flower arrangement: Concierge recommended a few florists, and I picked one knowing that it won’t be cheap–if I’m going to be uncheap for just one day in my life, let this be it.
    Well actually I’m still too cheap to buy everything from that florist, as I thought their price for the main rose setup is too outrageous.
    On that morning I bought 10 roses from a florist close to the hotel and have them arranged in a nice vase I brought from home. It doesn’t have that professional look of the other arrangements, but I think it worked just fine. I also bought 3 dozen roses from a street-side grocery store for their petals. Getting petals from the florist would cost 10 times as much. That counts as prudence, not cheap, I hope.
  • Picture for room decor: the idea is simple, but it took me a couple of weeks to pick a great picture of us for each year of the 10, and print them out by stealth. I counted all the 8×10 frames at home, and bought a few more from Century 21. It’s really nice having the store 2 blocks from my office.
  • Picture for slide show: the hotel room TV has VGA input, so I collected onto my laptop every single picture that we’ve ever taken together–almost 300, including our class picture at junior high 1 and 3, scanning some old pictures. J saw me doing that (and digging out negatives for enlargement) but didn’t ask why. I’m sure she was suspicious but just too busy with the baby.
  • Music: I spent an evening getting all the songs in iTunes (about 100) that are appropriate for the situation. This is something I’m quite good at.
  • Hair: I thought about having a stylist do her hair at home, but timing isn’t good and the spa would probably mess it up. So I almost gave up on the idea until the Friday before, when I asked concierge to get a stylist to the room. It worked out perfectly. It’s a sweet Polish lady, she did my hair first, then J’s. She claims Sarah Ferguson is her client.
    I thought about makeup as well, but it didn’t seem as necessary as hair since I think J always does a very fine job by herself.
  • Dress: I really should’ve started looking a few days earlier, but who am I to know how to pick a dress. I thought about rental first, but there’s no evening gown rental, only wedding. There’s a very nice shopping center at the first floors of the hotel building and I saw some clothing stores in the directory, so I thought I could just buy one that day.
    That was definitely the most difficult thing for me in the entire process. I wandered in the stores for almost 2 hours, not knowing what to look for. There was a piece in small designer boutique that I like, and I called a female friend for advice and she was like “how could you not look for the dress a month ago?!” She did OK my pick, so I bought it, along with a backup.
    I also had to walk a few blocks to find a Victoria’s Secret store and get a special bra for the dress–thank goodness the gay cashier in the dress boutique told me exactly what to buy.
    I didn’t even try to look for shoes since I can’t ask J to try it before hand.

The Day is a Monday, which is perfect because I wouldn’t be able to pretend to go to work if it were weekend. On the Thursday before I got a call from the spa saying that they had to be closed for a week for renovation.

I almost swallowed my cell phone.

The spa lady was as nice as can be. She went out of her way to help me rearrange, and it turned out more perfect than it would’ve been if the spa weren’t closed. For one thing, I’ve never been to a Ritz Carlton before. And the hotel sent letters and gifts to apologize. Just what you’d expect for the money.

And at last, this was the game plan for the day:

  1. 8:00am bring laptop/power/cables, skirt, cash, shoes, Longines, quarters
  2. 8:00am call hotel for room and early checkin, in room dining to change time
  3. 9:00am office: frames, poster boards, vase, Blue Nile envelope
  4. 9:00am order rose
  5. 9:30am Baldwin Formals
  6. 10:30am gown
  7. 11:30pm Floralies
  8. 12:00pm lunch
  9. 12:30pm roses: 10 red, 1 dozen white, 1 dozen yellow
  10. 1:00pm checkin: setup laptop for slideshow and music
  11. 1:00pm Floralies delivers
  12. 1:30pm prepare petals
  13. 2:00pm drive home, bring:
    • breast pump, bottles, breast pad, ice pack
    • 5 frames
    • camera: all lenses, battery, lights, tripod, PowerShot
    • camcorder: all tapes, battery, Gorillapod
    • black scissors
    • pearl earring, necklace
    • hair accessories
    • candle, lighter
    • umbrella
  14. 3:15pm leave home
  15. 4:15pm setup tripods
  16. 4:45pm spa pickup
  17. 5:15pm setup frames
  18. 5:30pm hair, tuxedo delivers
  19. 6:30pm put red petals in bathroom
  20. 6:45pm put on tuxedo
  21. 7:15pm spa pickup
  22. 7:45pm dinner setup, setup ring
  23. 7:55pm setup rose petals
  24. 8:00pm dinner

Of course not everything went as planned. The drive to office was incredibly fast, but still paled in comparison to the speed of NYPD: I got a parking ticket in less than 3 minutes when I ran up to the office to retrieve stuff.

That doesn’t sound like a good start, but nothing could stop me now. The next mishap is that one rose broke off from the stem after the transit, so I asked the hotel to get a replacement.

It wouldn’t be as perfect if there were no more troubles. The mini frig didn’t work at all, and they had to send someone to replace it. I had a nice chat with the guy, who happens to be a new dad as well. Every single person that I dealt with in the hotel is among the nicest that I’ve ever met, genuinely nice, not “I’ll serve this snob with a fake smile to keep my job”.

The biggest mistake I made is forgetting the reflective umbrellas for the strobe lights and camcorder power supply. I even forgot the strobe light power cables, but I got a couple from the hotel. So we didn’t record as much as I planned to, but that left us more time for something more important.

About 2:30pm, I called J to get ready after I just got out of Lincoln Tunnel.

And the rest, my friends, is what they call history.

Go see it for yourself.


Oh, I guess I forgot to mention the most expensive item in the whole plan. How expensive? 75% more than everything else combined.





It’d better last as long as advertised.

Read it on Fortune online through Vagabond. Lots of interesting tidbits for me even though Vagabond dismissed it as “outdated self propaganda”.

There was a remote chance that I could’ve been there. Sometime in early 2000 I went to a summer job fair in UIUC, looking for an internship that’d help to pay J’s coming tuition in the accounting program. I remember stopping at PayPal’s booth, and indeed they described their product as money beamer between Palm Pilots, Max Levchin’s original idea. I thought that was pretty lame, and I wanted to find an audio-related job.

I got what I wanted for intern, and later for full time. And now I happily use YouTube, LinkedIn, and Slide as billions of people. All is well.