On my birthday I had delicious food and wine. I received everything I wanted, and was awash with contentment.

On Valentine’s Day, C and I pitched Hotseat at the Women 2.0 conference in Mountain View.

It is considered a “best practice” in pitching to have one person do all the talking. But personally, I think having your teammates on the stage standing around doing nothing looks awkward. C and I took turns speaking, playing off each other, even making some jokes. And it worked. There were some one thousand people at the conference, mostly female entrepreneurs, and we fed off the audience’s energy and support.

Afterwards, we received lots of affirmation and encouragement, and connected with a lot of people who wanted to give us advice or partner with us. So now C and I are building out the website with content from professional job coaches.

San Francisco is so enticing, its year-round warm weather in stark contrast to the frigid Chicago winter. And the city has a certain attitude, at once languid and relaxed yet full of restless energy and new ideas. The following day, C and I climbed over a couple hills to reach the Golden Gate Bridge. The Bay sparkled, and over to the right we could see Alcatraz island. It was green with foliage and didn’t look much like a prison from where we stood, more like a billionaire’s private vacation home.

We stayed with C’s relatives in Palo Alto. They were so easy to talk to and pleasant to be around. Her uncle had those wrinkles at the sides of the eyes that people get from smiling so much. I had the strangest feeling, like they could be my family. I never felt that way before whenever I met my friends’ families.

Before the flight back, I stopped by the airport bookstore and bought a Haruki Murakami novel, Sputnik Sweetheart. I finished reading it the next day. Afterwards, I read Norwegian Wood. A friend recommended those books. Some of the passages were very moving, and Murakami perfectly captured feelings of longing. I didn’t particularly like the books, probably because it is so difficult to empathize with the characters. The main characters live self-described hollow, aimless lives, usually going by routine, reading books and generally not interacting with their peers. Then they’re attracted to manic dissociative girls, the kind of quirky girl that could be played by Zooey Deschanel, the kind of girl that cannot properly function in society. And I’m really sick of this trope, that glorifies dysfunction as some exciting gem amidst the one-dimensional, the conformists, the sophists. Because in reality it is very painful to live with a crazy person. And “normal” people are really not so stupid and unthinking like lemmings, and everyone is facing some kind of battle and has hopes and dreams and multidimensionality so I get annoyed by characters that make these sweeping generalizations of the human race and are generally apathetic and unloving. And what also annoyed me is the characters are overly detached, and never have a sense of urgency. When something comes up, like say… the girl you like has mysteriously disappeared, well then, let’s just eat food! Keep the reader in suspense. Eat food, listen to records that showcase my cosmopolitan tastes in classical music and jazz, namedrop some famous books and authors, talk about wells and cats, drink whiskey. Then after having pages of description about preparing food and domestic stuff, the kind of simple visceral actions that everyone can relate to that give warm feelings of home and self-actualization, throw in some jarring imagery and erotic sex scenes. And that is the formula for a Murakami novel derived from a sample size of two. There is such hopelessness in the books, characters living lives of quiet desperation. Do readers buy into this? Yes, people struggle and have to do stuff they don’t like doing to get by, but it has always been like this; it is not as though this is some recent development of modern living, if anything we now spend less time acquiring the necessities and more time pursuing our interests. And in the real world, there is more resiliency, more love, and even dull activities do not seem so pointless when motivated by love.

Right now I’m reading short stories by Anton Checkhov. It would be fun to go to Russia. Maybe for the Olympics in Sochi.

My dad told me a little about his childhood. He rarely does so, so whenever he does I listen closely. My little brother was reading and could not put his book down, and this reminded my dad of himself. He said that during the Cultural Revolution, people collected books like the classics, and burned them. My dad came from a peasant family (honorable during the Cultural Revolution), so his uncle was a prime candidate to collect and burn books. He collected the books, but instead of burning them, he hid them on his bed canopy. My dad did not have money to buy books, but now he was able to read lots of books, books that he would never have been able to afford, and so he read voraciously. Later on when colleges were re-opened, he got the highest score on the placement test and started college at age 16. “God works in mysterious ways,” he said with finality.