Vincent Cheung

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Saturday, September 30, 2006

Sarah and I have switched places

Sarah's gone, but funny thing is, is that nothing's really gonna change. While we met in person in Toronto, I feel that we didn't really become good friends until we were in the reverse positions that we currently find ourselves in. I was in Seattle working at Microsoft, and she was at school in Toronto. In the approximately one year that we have been good friends, we have been in the same city for only half of that (MSR, Google, Winnipeg), and even then, it was chopped up into small chunks.

We're basically Internet friends, regardless of where we are. We talk pretty much every day, but by "talk", I mean instant message, or occasionally e-mail. Plus, we communicate in several other alternative forms such as msn or gtalk status messages, blog posts, blog comments, del link sharing, etc. Of course, we do speak in person as well :p. But, of all my relationships, this one is the most robust to long distance as our forms of communication are well adapted to such situations.

I was checking my instant message chat history the other day, and I have something like over 10 MB for just Sarah! By far the most out of all my friends. Do you know how much text that is??? That is 10 million characters!!! Of course, a lot of that text is our obscenely long MSN names, but still, that's like close to a million words exchanged, almost all of which has happened in the past year.

Yesterday (Thursday) was her going away party. She was concerned about "worlds colliding" in that it was a huge mixed bag of friends - high school friends, egyptian family friends, eng sci friends, grad school friends, and probably others. Quite a number of people showed up (like 40+). I think things went pretty well and people were inter-mingling. The highlight of the night had to be the semi-nude photo of Gaj, Ana, and myself with Sarah (no pics as Sarah hasn't posted them). The security guard got dispatched surprisingly fast...

Here is my analysis of why we are friends: In short, the Princess Principle. The extended version follows.

We're in the lab room together working on a course project late at night (circa Fall 2004). Just the two of us (*imagining Dr. Evil and Mini Me and singing the song*). I had like no intentions on making friends, though I think it was partially because I thought that she was in the clique with Spikes and Brownie, whom I had decided from the start to be (and ended up being) biatches.

So, we're just silently working away in the lab. The project was a competition, so she was in fact, the enemy. She finally cracks and talks to me. She actually seems normal! Then I teach her Matlab (like how to make code that takes an hour to run, run in 10 seconds) and LaTeX (omg, if you're thinking latex, google it), and we're friends.

Fast forward like 8 months. I'm in Seattle. I don't know how we got talking to each other again. After the course ended, we didn't see each other much and only occasionally chatted on MSN or e-mailed, but communication was quite sparse (heavy course load, papers, conferences, workshops, vacations to Egypt, ex, Seattle). Somehow I started reading her blog and we talked about Internet things. She taught me blogs, delicious (though really, we independently discovered this), domain names (though I got her her CIRA USB key), and how to run Matlab on alpha. I taught her google reader, cvs, grad school, and how to love Google (previously she distrusted Google).

Then, I started my blog, well, I already had this blog, just that I didn't use it, and this was basically a complete revamping of the blog to make it about my life. She read my blog, I read hers, we shared del links, and the rest is history.

Oh, when I came back, she had moved into my office, under the guise of Guangji and literally on the other side of my cubicle wall. With her close proximity, we saw each other quite a bit, though not that much b/c I don't go into the office much, or at least, I didn't use to.

As I said earlier though, it's odd that we're friends considering that we have spent relatively little of our communication in person and being in the same city for a very little amount of time.

So why are we friends? I guess I didn't answer that question. It's the Princess Principle. (OMG WTF IS THIS PRINCESS PRINCIPLE????)

Fine, I'll tell you. It's this theory that I have about Sarah's relationships. I had witnessed, and she had complained to me about, the excessive number of random people that approach her. Guys, girls, everyone. Randoms love her. "I love your voice". "You are Egyptian". "Can I buy more of your clothes?". "Do you speak Hebrew?"

I heard many stories of random guys approaching her and they all get kicked into the abyss (ladder theory reference if you didn't get it). I conjectured that we were friends b/c she talked to me first. This is the basis of the Princess Principle (named b/c her online nick is Princess Sarah). The Princess is so elitest that she cannot be bothered with peasants pestering her. The only people she will associate with are those who she hand picks and initiates first contact. Those that force themselves upon her will be executed at a public hanging. Those that ignore her intrigue her (as if they have the nerve to ignore a Princess and not shower her with praise and worship the ground she walks on!)

My theory has been surprisingly accurate and has described an inordinate number of her relationships, both old and new. It's accurate to the point where Sarah has cursed the PP for being so right all the time.

So I still haven't answered the question of why we are friends. We obviously share a similar educational background and have shared academic experiences. I like to consider us as "abnormal" grad students, which means that we're "normal" people. Neither of us allow ourselves to be defined by our studies, as it is only one of our dimensions. When you first meet Sarah, the last thing that you think of is Master's in Electrical Engineering. Other things that I think make us stand out in a grad school setting are that we can both have a normal conversation about non-school subjects, don't have incomprehensible accents, don't smell, dress decently, have a sense of humour, and have common sense. A lot of trust has also been built up and I feel that I can tell her anything and rant to her (online) at any time.

The other part is the flip-side. Our inner geek. Our shared passion for the Internet, particularly in things that have centred around its social aspects: blogs, chat, e-mail, social networking, collaborative things, webcomics, spying, web 2.0, website design. We find ourselves reflecting on the impact of many of these aspects of the Internet on real life. We both have a foot firmly grounded in reality despite being online so much.

Sarah Ali, you will be missed. See you online!


Princess Sarah said...

I am touched by having a full feature post! Just the thing to find when you wake up after your first night alone in a random new city (where the hell is bothell, WA??!).

I found a wireless connection! Yay! So if it lasts, I am online :) I am gonna go post to my site before I lose it :(

You are dead though for a couple things: Carried me through undergrad? As if you knew which courses I even took lol. And, for the record we talked like 1 week before the project deadline!!! I taught you how to find the start of the incoming signal - you definitely taught me that loops in matlab are DUMB. Besides that, you didn't even know my superior method :)

jme said...

vince... sorry to break it to you but you sort of do smell... :)

Vince said...

Sarah: Yay, you have Internet! Good to see that you made it there in one piece. Why the hell are you in corp housing on Bothell??? That's far...

Jamie: I smell good, right? right?... umm... hello?...

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