link: 12 Books That Every Leader Should Read


01+01(Photo from my restaurant I Privé)

I listened to Bob Sutton’s podcast on Scaling Excellence Successfully podcast fro the Center for Social Innovation podcast at Stanford

I checked out his blog and found a list of books he recommends.  I’ve put To Sell is Human, By Dan Pink. in my SF library queue.  (I removed the referral code from the link)

Check out his blog

Find that one true sport you love

Tony at Yahoo Google badminton tournament

Tony at Badminton Tournament

In high school I played badminton for 4 years. I liked the sport, but did not love it.

When I went to UC Berkeley, I join the badminton club and we trained and competed against other colleges. We would travel both days on weekends, come back as a team, have dinner together and laugh about the tournaments. I played singles, doubles and mixed doubles. My feet would often have blisters and when my parents were shocked to see how much pain I was in, I told them I barely feel them during the games.

I truely loved the game. I setup practice nets in the garage and practiced serving hundreds of birdies a night.

The sport was the one ‘class’ that I truly look forward to.

After college, I dreamed about badminton, but because of work, having my child, Cate and being depressed, I was not able to play for 10 years.

When the wave of badminton gyms open up in 2006, I signed up with 3 coaches and they taught me and trained me for 4 hours each week. I biked to my sessions in Menlo Park, I would take public transportation for 3 hours to get to my sessions. I played tournaments. I was truly happy.

Today, I am able to spare time to play badminton at least once a week. When I am playing, I feel like the luckiest person. I have a sport I truely love, I am very good at it. Mostly importantly, I can walk to any gym in any country and talk badminton and build small relationships with my fellow badminton players. When I visited Bangalore, Malaysia, Seattle, China and Taiwan, I often walk up to people and just play pick up games.

I hope my daughter also is so lucky to have a sport she truly loves, and is good at. No matter how hard other parts of life get, she will know she has something she loves to fallback on.

Face to face meetings: when they are useful

burlingame tree

I’ve struggled with having too many meetings where I didn’t find them useful, but I felt that there is 10 minutes of useful information so I go to get that info.

This particular week, I’ve had several useful meetings. The 3 attributes of these meetings that made them particularly productive are

1) They are 30 minutes so it forces us to get to the point
2) It’s not one way sharing of information, rather it was setting context and then a lot of discussion and answering questions. In the end, both sides ended up getting what they wanted.
3) The right people was in the room, there is no “I’ll ask this other person later”

Before paying for recurring service, know how they make money

Grill oysters from I Privé

I am in a position to evaluate different point of sale systems for a restaurant I’m invested in (I Privé).  There are 3 different business models I have seen.

  1. Take a percentage of every credit card transaction, give away the hardware
  2. Hosted software, charge a recurring monthly fee per hardware device
  3. Sell one time hardware, one time license fee per device and optional support control monthly.

Let’s assume the restaurant makes $1 million in revenue, needed 3 POS systems, 5 mobile devices.

For option #1, that comes to $20,000 in costs.

For option #2, it comes to about $300 / month, $3,600 / month

For option #3, it comes down to $7,000 in one time equipment and $600 / year.

Over 10 years, $200,000 vs $43,200 vs $7,200

A quick back of the envelope calculation, tells me to go for #3, assuming all things being equal. Of course #1, #2 do look like they have more functionality and more extensibility.  And #1 and #2 also look like they are heavily staff, with ambitions to go public.  I don’t blame them since the revenue growth would be very high, but at the cost of the restaurant business.

Having the hunger to standout

tony yahoo anniversary

Out of a team of 10 people, how do you standout without making others look bad?

Figure out what is the BHAG. Out of the 10 features, bugs, on the list of todo, what are the most important pieces that move the needle?

Write down all your ideas about improving, developing those 2 things.

Ask to take ownership and responsibilty.

Look at them, rank them, carry them with you and work on them everyday.

Anything great worth doing is worth doing (almost) every day

2014-11-28 13.29.05

If you want to start doing something and improve and do it really well, I suggest you do it everyday. Even if it is only 10 minutes a day, find some time to do it. 10 minutes a day, 365 a year is 3650 minutes a year, almost 60 hours.

You will find that once you build up this habbit, it’s hard to even stop doing it.. You will get better at whatever it is you do.

Savor the moment

I’ve noticed that when I received really good news such as a pay raise, a promotion, really great results from a test (in college). The happiness level rises up for a very short time (less than 1 hour), then my emotion tappers off back to what it was before.

This could be the way my brain is wired. I tend to dwell on the negative, or what I could be doing better.

To try to reverse not savoring the moment, I try to remind myself to ride the high of the good news for at least a week. This works very well and helps me to be grateful for the good news and builds up my resilience for the bad news when and if it ever comes.

Spending time on things that matter

Christmas ornaments

When you decide on what to spend your time on at work, try to spend your time that you can actually make a big impact. Otherwise in today’s corporate world, you don’t get credit or acknowledgement on it.

Either decide not to work on it, or if you decide to spend X% of time on it, do an awesome job at it.

We all multitask and work on multiple things, try to trim those that you cannot give full attention to.

Back of the envelope calculation

Embrace the fact that you won’t get the exact number right.

But make sure to get the order of magnitude correct. Should you be getting 50, 500, 5000, 50,000 customers?

If you get 30,000 page views, 6,000 clicks and 50 customers what that’s a good marketing return on investment?

Once you have mastered being able to do quick < 5 mins back of the envelope calculations, the you can make decisions faster and more accurately

On passion

When you are working on something time passes by without you knowing it.

When you start creating a list of things that you want to continue improving and you’re actually getting them done.

Whenever you have a free moment when you’re thinking about it or doing something for it.

You wish you have more time to continue working on it.

You are very lucky to be passionate about something.

Reading :, James Patterson, Lisa Tse and Brendan Gregg


My reading list this week:

James Patterson, Cross my heart

  • I couldn’t put this kindle book down.  One of his best best books and story line.  The ending was interesting and left me really want to read the next book in Nov.

Getting back to Objective C a bit on

  • I love the simple and get to the point writing

Shanghai Girls from Lisa Tse

  • Recommended by my wife to understand life before the cultural revolution.  I was born a little after the start of the revolution.  Reading it at 5:30am this morning for about 10 minutes. So far, I would say a 5/10 interest level.  Hopefully it’ll get better

Systems Performance book by Brendan Gregg

  • This is part of our reading list at work, so far it’s very useful information to brush up on fundamentals of computer science


Math Get To 24 iOS App

Math Get To 24 iOS App

My daughter Cate designed the logo, intro video and the entire app screen for this fun math game. Try it out and let me know what you think.

download on

The 24 Game is an arithmetical card game in which the object is to find a way to manipulate four numbers so that the end result is 24. Addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division are used.

The game has been played in Shanghai since the 1960s, using ordinary playing cards, but now it comes to your iPhone.

You can play by yourself or head to head with another player for a unique 2 player challenge.

If you get 3, 5, 5, 6 then a correct answer would be 3 * (5 + 5) – 6.

Other easier 3*8, 4*6 combinations are (2+1) * (4+4) or (2+2) * (1+5)

Difficult ones are the ones where division comes in 6*8/(7-5)

3 Levels for all age groups

Easy for 6-8 : 1 point
Medium 9-12 : 2 points
Hard 12-99+ : 3 pionts

Father Daughter team
– Designed by Cate
– Music by Will – featured on
– Engineered by Tony


iOS Simulator Screen shot May 30, 2014, 1.37.54 PM iOS Simulator Screen shot May 30, 2014, 1.38.06 PM

Saturday reading on senior iOS Developers

icon for Math Get To 24

Let me tell you how it actually is, because I write iOS apps.  A fully-dedicated senior iOS developer is way more expensive than you think.  I’m not talking about “some guy whose LinkedIn profile says he is a senior iOS developer, let’s send his profile to HR.”  I mean, a person who can read your ARM assembler, lecture on the finer points of Core Data, coordinate with graphic designers, draw mockups, tell you what is going to pass Apple review, solve customer problems, be a primary on the sales call with the client, negotiate the cost, write the proposal, know what’s in the HIG, come up with a class diagram that doesn’t suck, give presentations to management, train any developer in your organization, and actually get the coding done.  Specifically, a guy who you can lock in a room with a Macbook for three months and he emerges without any oversight or management from anyone, with  That guy can go from interview to interview and never even hear a starting offer under $125k, or $175k in the valley.  Never even hear.  That guy has Apple HR calling him saying “we know we can’t poach you, but maybe you can recommend someone?”  Apple HR.

What is the best advice you have ever received? (from Quora)

This is from Quora

Find something that fully engages your mind. And your heart. For that is the way to happiness.

Push harder. Do better. Never give into complacency. Be wide-ranging in your interests, and decisive in your judgments. Give every opportunity the benefit of the doubt. Always go the distance. And don’t buy uncomfortable shoes.

Think for yourself. Be realistic, but not pessimistic. Listen.

Do not let shyness rob you of pleasure. But be careful when you are the center of attention, the light there is blinding.

Do not lie, cheat, or steal, even when everyone else in the country is.

There are no known, predetermined, absolute values. We create our own morality. A good person judges his actions by the effects they will have on others, and by estimating the result if everyone behaved the same way.

Don’t look for the meaning of life. Supply it.

Return your calls, and answer your mail. This alone will set you apart, as many people are either too rude or too disorganized to practice this simple courtesy.

To be born into this country of freedom and opportunity, but with a disability that renders both outside your grasp, may be the cruelest trick that fate can play on an infant. You have no disabilities. Always remember that.

A heart never heals, but it does get stronger.

Trello to track life goals

I use Trello to keep track of my long term life goals.  I setup ‘organizations’ for ‘health goals’, ‘work goals’, ‘money goals’, ‘family goals’.

Then setup boards for each goal.

I still use Remember The Milk for single task todo.   Using Trello allows for multiple taks for each goal.  I also look over all the goals to remind myself what my long term goals are to keeo me focused.

One change I am making is to copy what Marissa M. does with writing down a list of todo for the current day on paper.

Trello for life

Yahoo Open House on Node.js, Olympics, Personalization

’Tis the season to talk tech, have some drinks, and hang out at Yahoo! 
This Thursday we’re hosting our Pre-Holiday Engineering Open House and Good Time.  If you made it to our first open house, then you know not to miss this one!
We will be talking tech, serving cocktails + mulled wine + snacks, and having an appearance by our very own Sanjay Claus and Elves.  Seriously?  Yes, Seriously.
We will have lightning talks on:
* Node.js  — How Yahoo is rebuilding our biggest sites on Node.js
* The Olympics — how we serve the crazy load and keep medal counts, video, blogs, and articles flowing and up to date
* Personalization — a bit about how we rank and serve a personalized list of stories to you
Come on down this Thursday evening and chat informally with the engineers that make it all happen.  Have a snack and a drink.  It will be a fun and enlightening time…  Then take Friday off ;)

Yahoo Homepage and Verticals Open House

Ever wonder how often we release the Yahoo Homepage? Or how big a speed boost Yahoo Sports gets by doing Edge-side Assembly?  Curious to hear the tricks we use to keep CSS bloat free and forward-compatible with things we haven’t even dreamed up yet?

You’re in luck! Our engineering teams are hosting a casual evening mixer with food, drinks, tech talks, and in-depth breakout sessions.

Topics for this Open House are:

  • Shipping code super-fast at massive scale – How we build, test, and release the Yahoo Homepage.
  • Edge-side Assembly, Caching, and Resiliency – How Yahoo Sports cut their TTFB and improved site-up.
  • Stencil UI/UX – How we are using the principles of Atomic CSS and standard design patterns to keep page weight down and stay “forward-compatible”.

Come hang out, talk some tech, and have a good time with us.

Yahoo has plenty of on-campus free parking and is conveniently located near two VTA stations.

See you soon!

Contact me if interested

November 21, Thursday 5:30pm

1-liner setup for your development environment


ydev setup <anything>

I did an informal poll at Yahoo, and also with candidates who interview with Yahoo.

When they join a new team, how long did it take to setup their dev environment.  It ranges from 30 minutes to a day, and even several days.

I asked them what if I pour water on their dev box, how much effort would it take to setup their environment again.

Usually people looked at me like I was crazy, and then they say 1/2 day, and they have to look up a twiki page, or some notes.

The effort I am pushing for at Yahoo is for any dev env to have a single line of setup, to install, verify it works, and takes less than 1 hour.

This tool would track

  • how many developers install it
  • how many failures, successes
  • how long it took

My team and I built the ydev tool that does exactly that.  We love it and so do many others.

Picking Samsung Galaxy S3 over iPhone 5

In trying to pick iPhone 5 or Samsung Galaxy S3 to replace my Blackberry.

I was torn and have switched back and forth for the last 4 days. I finally found an old document written on November 1, 2011 7:52 AM in Evernote.  I wrote this document when I had the Blackberry and why I actually enjoyed having it.  It’s nice to have an objective document written before any of these phones were released.

The winner is Gallaxy S3 for me personally

Must Haves

– replaceable battery S3 wins
– easy to type up emails S3 wins
– allow for internet tethering S3 wins
– easy to read screen to read nytimes, software documentation without eye strain tied
– easy to type up tasks and capture meeting notes tied

Nice to have

–  easy to deal with large volume of emails tied

Inspired By Alice Water’s Fireplace Fried Egg

inspired by alice waters fireplace fried egg

All I Wanted Was for Alice Waters to Feed Me

Then she picked up a large copper spoon with a two-foot handle. She rubbed olive oil into the spoon’s cup and cracked in one of the eggs. I saw the golden-orange yolk. Holding the end of the spoon’s handle, Waters extended the egg into the fire. She held it there until the white turned opaque and puffed like a soufflé.

link: “Happiness Without a Good Work Ethic Is Pretty Impossible.”
via Byline

Happiness interview: Hugh MacLeod.

Hugh is a cartoonist with a wildly popular blog, gapingvoid. He is the master of capturing a large idea in a single drawing, and a great deal of his work focuses on happiness: how to find happiness in work; how to have the courage to be yourself, do what you love, and take risks; how to build a life around your own values, interests, and temperament.

He has a new book, Freedom Is Blogging in Your Underwear, where he explores how blogging, and the intellectual and creative freedom it gives him, changed his life.

Having a blog isn’t the right route to happiness for everyone, of course. But zoikes, it’s a thrilling tool. And his book is really about how to think big for yourself and the possibilities that the internet offers.

Gretchen: What’s a simple activity that consistently makes you happier?
Hugh: Besides being with my loved ones, the most important and happiest part of my daily routine is finding that quiet, solitary one- or two-hour window in the day that belongs to nobody else but myself. That is where the magic happens. It’s almost like prayer, only more fun and proactive.

What’s something you know now about happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?
That happiness without a good work ethic is pretty impossible. I guess I always knew that intuitively, but back then I still equated happiness with “Leisure” and “Party” way too much. That being said, being young and stupid was an awful lot of fun, for a time.

Is there anything you find yourself doing repeatedly that gets in the way of your happiness?
Trying to do too much at one time. It took me years to learn to lighten up and delegate, even half properly. Luckily, I now have a great team, including Jason Korman, my fantastic business partner and business manager.

When I lived in New York, I was surrounded by people (and I was just as guilty of this) who were running around like crazy–jobs, parties, lovers, art galleries, gym, shopping, museums, restaurants, bars, personal drama, the whole nine yards. Not only was it exhausting, very few of us actually managed to get that much interesting done in the end. We were too busy trying to keep up with our peers; it was definitely quantity over quality. Again, a good but expensive lesson.

Is there a happiness mantra or motto that you’ve found very helpful? (e.g., I remind myself that “Outer order contributes to inner calm.”)
“Unhappiness is overrated.” Even from a young age, it always surprised me how far people will go in order to justify their own unhappiness. “I’m totally screwing up my life and the life of others around me for no good reason, and it’s all for THE BEST!!!” Yeah. Right.

If you’re feeling blue, how do you give yourself a happiness boost? Or, like a “comfort food,” do you have a comfort activity? (mine is reading children’s books).
I’m rarely blue these days, however… when it does happen, I remind myself that I’ve actually put the hours in, that my work is good and that what blessings I have are already MORE than enough for any lifetime. Constantly wanting more and more ALL THE TIME is just vanity, is just the devil paying tricks on you.

Is there anything that you see people around you doing or saying that adds a lot to their happiness, or detracts a lot from their happiness?
I think people easily forget that that genuine happiness begins with genuine kindness and compassion for others, begins with genuine grace and graciousness. It’s a surprisingly difficult and painful lesson for us all.

Have you always felt about the same level of happiness, or have you been through a period when you felt exceptionally happy or unhappy – if so, why? If you were unhappy, how did you become happier?

I was miserable for a long time career-wise, till I figured out exactly what I was good at and how to effectively put it into practice. In retrospect I’m not sure how smart that was, but mea culpa, live and learn. Luckily, I always saw my unhappier phases as temporary, I always thought I’d win in the end.

Is there some aspect of your home that makes you particularly happy?
Ana, my girlfriend’s cooking, Yum! Living in a genuinely loving home, however dorky and low-key, is SO preferable to the alternative, I have no words.

Have you ever been surprised that something you expected would make you very happy, didn’t – or vice versa.

I once thought that a flashy, big-city, alpaha-male job in an advertising agency would make me happy. Not only was I wrong, it didn’t even pay THAT well, considering how much blood, sweat, toil and tears it exacted. It was a VERY expensive and painful education.

Though I heartily recommend a quiet, low-key, productive daily routine (at least if you want to lead a creative, artistic life, that is), I’m still glad I had a few fun, wild’n’crazy years beforehand. The trick is to not let the latter carry on too long after its sell-by date.


Goodbye Facebook, it’s been 3 months and I don’t miss you

Reasons I’m disconnecting from Facebook

  1. I don’t visit it often anymore, maybe 2-3 times a week
  2. It’s hard even for a technologist like me to keep track of new privacy settings that I have to actively manage
  3. It’s not something I’m proud to tell my child
  4. I’ve been on the fence about leaving anyways
  5. The final straw is reading the NY Times articles about other people also leaving and reminding me to do it
  6. It encourages short messages much like twitter, so why not just use twitter?
  7. Since I do blog on WordPress, why not just blog?

Facebook made it difficult to remove myself

  1. First try deactivate, but it emailed me that I can reactivate anytime in the future. Which meant my info is still there
  2. Then I search for ‘delete Facebook’ and found a permanent delete option.

It’s been 3 months and I don’t miss you.