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what do i put in this blog

How to maybe be an Adult Human

The title of this post is preposterously overzealous—it should really be called something like,

“How I started to maybe be an adult human who has come from and continues to be in a position of substantial enough privilege that my adult-being experiences are all sort of about dumb things, really, if you think about it for a while, and also I am probably not a good source of advice in this area,”

but I didn’t want to mess up the delicate, hand-wrought formatting on this page with such a long title. Fortunately, I have other apt yet unwieldy alternate titles; for instance,

“Things I had to do in the last five months in order to feel like I knew how to be a Person living in the World, during which time my life was just sort of boring, and relatedly that is why I posted nothing on my blog.”

and this post on my blog is about some of these things.

Air quality and health in China

I have always been very intolerant of smoke. My 姥爷—my maternal grandfather—was a heavy smoker; when I was very young, he came to the US to visit my family and had to smoke in the garage because I got upset whenever I sensed the faintest fume indoors. Even in the final days of his life, I only ever stopped by his apartment in Beijing but briefly on our quasi-annual family vacations there. If I spent any real length of time inside, I’d cough and make a fuss, wrap my shirt collar around my nose, and then start pawing at the door.

The city of Beijing is now much like my grandfather’s apartment was: I have family living in it and breathing there is hard.

Beijing’s air has always had its share of smog in my memory—the last time I visited, seven years ago, a haze moved in one day and dissipated only after a rain shower washed the muck into the earth. Buildings, or at least their facades, always seem to decay faster there than in most major cities I’ve encountered on this side of the world; the apartment my maternal grandmother —我的姥姥—lived in looked, just a few years after it was built, remarkably like the apartment my 奶奶 had called home for some fifty years. Still, in my memory, Beijing has always been a place with warm sun and blue sky, frequently enough at least. But apparently seven years is a long time, and I was totally unprepared for what I saw when I touched down at PEK this past June.

Shall I hear more, or shall I speak at this?

―The long version of the story of my short time at Stripe

Two weeks ago, on July 15th, I started work at a company called Stripe. Two days ago, I quit.

Wherefore art thou Stripe?

For those who haven’t heard of it, Stripe is a small payments company geared at making it super easy for developers and online merchants to start accepting money. Stripe tries to take away all the pain points from the process—it deals with the nasty business of handling customers’ credit card data, it talks to all the banks and card companies, and it hides all the setup unpleasantries. It helps protect developers from fraud and makes managing payments as low-maintenance as possible.

This kind of product is my favorite kind—one that takes an existing service and reimagines it in an obviously better way. Stripe seems to be to online payments what Uber is to the cab industry; what Square is to in-person, credit-card-present payments; or what Nest is to, uh… thermostats. Startups that develop these sorts of revamps make up almost all of the very small small set of startups I think are worthwhile at all, and which I would be terribly proud to have conceived of myself.

So, to be honest, I’m not especially passionate about payments myself—but I am passionate about these sorts of the-right-way-to-do-things products. And I did love the prospect of working on Stripe’s tech stack based on what I’d heard from friends and from visits, and most importantly, I wanted the chance to work closely with Stripe’s very smart systems engineers whom I’d met on a number of occasions. I thought there was a ton I could learn from them by working with them in a close environment, and plus, having only been at Facebook before, I thought a startup was worth trying out.

Some practice with Javascript

Before heading into my second Facebook internship, which will be my first attempt at doing any sort of web programming, I decided to teach myself some Javascript. This is actually the third time I’ve decided to “learn Javascript”, but having nothing in mind to make with it after the first two attempts, all I achieved was a pleasant and nostalgic sense of familiarity whenever I looked over Mozilla’s JS references.

My friend Carl suggested that I duplicate a js1k submission, so here’s my simplified clone of this pong game from the first js1k—simplified in the sense that it is less flashy. It is, of course, many more bytes.

The purple paddles are controlled by the a and q keys; the turquoise paddles, by the p and l keys.

Your browser does not support the <canvas> tag! Sadface.