PETERZHANG

Hello there.

I'm a front-end developer passionate about cutting-edge technologies and impacting everyday lives. It's nice to meet you!

Engineer fun.


“Here’s my algorithm. I check the page three times in an interval, and if I still giggle after the third time, then I’ll buy that shirt.” Laura, one of the engineers on the AdWords Front End team, was describing how she makes decisions on whether to buy a shirt on shirt.woot.com at the dinner table. My first reaction: wow, how much nerdier can everyday actions get?

“Did you have that algorithm tested?” Laughter follows.

Each day just seems to be filled with surprises like this, reminding me that I’m not the only one nerding out. It’s hilarious and somehow, weird, in a really enjoyable kind of way.

And not just that, we all have the weirdest obsessions. Laura and Luisa, my host, are insanely addicted to Triple Town. They’d send me a gift every a couple hours or so, inevitably dragging me into the game. (I swear it’s not my fault.)

Jeremy, another engineer here, is obsessed with a board game called Set. Laura brought it up during a picnic off-site just last week. The objective of the game was to  find a set of 3 cards matching or completely dismatching a set of attributes – pattern, color, number of shapes and texture. Laura and Jeremy went crazy on it. While us interns were still trying to learn the game, slowly trying to pick up the pace of the others, they’d be able to call out sets only moments after new cards are drawn. Heck, Jeremy even wrote his own web app allowing players to play this game online – he was telling us about it while bragging out how he knows random facts like “there are on average 2.7 sets in any 12 cards.”

All this happened with a conversation about how we can use Cobalt-60 to clean off sausages so that we can grill them in space for hotdogs. And how we are going to answer the Homeland Security’s questions when they find out what we’re trying to do: “But… but… but… all I wanted to do is to clean my sausage!”

And all of them, of course, love Star Wars. When they found out that I, along with 3 other interns, have never seen any of the Star Wars movie, they almost fainted. I think they’re now planning a Star Wars night, fully utilizing Google’s giant screens everywhere. Oh that’s going to be fun.

One week in Google: “our lives are good!”


My roommates and I came back home today to find our apartment completely clean. The bi-weekly maids had our beds made, dirty dishes washed, tables and desks completely organized, with fresh towels on bathroom rack. After half an hour of Super Smash Bros on GameCube and two scoops of cookies and cream ice-cream, Dhruv exclaims, “Man, our lives are so good!”

Last Sunday. 2 in the morning. After a 20 hour journey, I’ve returned to Norcal, a place where I seem to be more familiar than any other in the States. This time, however, for a purpose not even close to any other visits before. To put it in cliche (cause there just doesn’t seem to be any other way), I’m stepping in an unfamiliar chapter of life. Some might even say, I’m finally an adult! (Though, others would argue, Peter can never be one.)

Hello, Google!

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A blink later…


Some day not too long ago, I just arrived in LA and was enjoying my very first meal in LA from Carls Jr. It was a box of 10 chicken strips, and for the me that had just came out of the 3-hour U.S. Customs line at LAX, it was delicious. I was still like a little boy arriving at a new city, awed by almost everything I saw.

Four months later, I am back at the same hotel room. Funny how things worked out, actually. I came with such enthusiasm, and such hope for the new live I’m going to have. But all of them seemed to have died off already.

“The Golden Age Fallacy”: the idea of how we often think about “those good ol’ times…”, when in reality they were not that good as we remembered. Aren’t our minds interesting, that we only remember things that are “good”? But even so, I’d like to refuse to think that they’re all just an illusion. I miss home a little too much, perhaps.

It’s warm in here.


Just seconds after take off, the infamous Seattle fog covered my entire window. The streets with all the beautiful Christmast lights disappeared, and my mind was still refusing to accept the fact that I’m heading back already.

It was a weekend filled with Starbucks, mixed emotions of nervousness and excitement, amazing food, beautiful buildings and inspiring places. But more importantly, it was about the warmth that I found even in midst of the freezing weather.

It was there as I asked everywhere for the way around buses, as I wander through the streets in U District. It was there when we had a hard time deciding if we should get froyo after lunch, or when we challenged ourselves to get the “four-star spiciness”. It was definitely there as we shared just about everything in our lives, and as I listened to her encouragements with the words I needed to hear at that moment. And let’s not forget the challenging questions that came from such supportive interviewers, the cozy environment, or the sharing of experiences in between interviews with other candidates.

It was something I had been searching for for quite a while, and I’m glad Seattle was the place where I found it. Everything was such a blessing to me – thank you.

Important things


It’s uncannily funny that it’s always these tech products release that I find most inspiring.

Facebook just launched its new “Timeline” profile interface, which was advertised to let you “tell your life story”. Under that giant shiny tagline was a promotional video, made exactly like, well, a timeline, of somebody. The video started at a “story” of how a kid was born, then goes up (mimicking “scrolling up” on a web browser), witnessing the glorious moments of life: making his first steps, going to his first singing contest, graduating from high school, meeting his girlfriend, getting married, having a kid of his own born; and finally ended in a “cover picture” of him and his daughter.

I was excited to activate such feature to my profile, only to realize things were more difficult, way more, than it looked like to have an organized profile like that. When it comes to memories, every single bit becomes important. If I could, I wanted to make every single darn story “featured” on my timeline, and make every single photo I could possibly find up on my cover photo. So that I could always look back in reminiscence and remember every single moment, and to live through them again.

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I thought it would be easier.


No, seriously, I thought it did.

And there we have it. As we gave each other that last hug – now that I think of it, it’s probably the first real hug ever – Everything suddenly went back in time and turned me back to a little boy again, wanting more for his father’s presence. I could not help but to think of those things undone, words unsaid, and responsibilities as a son unfilled.

It’s funny how I’ve kind of been waiting for this moment to be free for 18 years. And now, at the verge of it, I don’t feel like it anymore.

Just some crazy thoughts


Which of the Hong Kong tourists in the shooting tragedy would have even remotely thought of being involved in it when they first left for Manila?

What if I was on that bus? What if I was the one that Mendoza was pointing the gun at?

Would I be able to bravely call back to Hong Kong and ask for help under Mendoza’s watch? Would I be selfless enough to take a bullet for my family members? Or would I just cowardly run away like the bus driver?

These things, they used to seem so far away. As I read the news reporting from court these days as they examine the event, I can’t help but to think that, who knows, one day that might happen to me. What would I do then?

The world is messed up. I am scared.

A note to self: Lessons from the WWW App


A week ago, I created an web app designed to aid ICS students in choosing their WWW trips where their friends are going. Like the app I created a while ago with courses, this idea came up from the millions of “where are you guys going?” wall posts on Facebook – why not just create a central hub for people to see where people are (or in some cases, aren’t) going?

Development took a little bit over a full day and made me sleep at 5am – something that I would have definitely not done normally. Could have took much less time had I not played with the various Facebook APIs, jQuery effects and aesthetic elements, but you know, it was worth it. I mean, in the end I took this mini project as an experiment in itself, testing what works and what doesn’t, and improve on the later products.

And here is my report.

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My Birthday Wishlist! :D [Updated]


I realized writing this post might generate an opposite effect than what I was hoping for, but I mean, since this is my blog and all, I might just let myself out. I mean, come on, this is the only time in the year where I can be selfish. 😛

My birthday is coming up in exactly 10 days of postage (Aug 15). I’m excited. Looking back at my birthday last year (which was my sweet sixteen) and how I didn’t get anything at all, I plan to get at least myself (or… hint hint) to buy myself a birthday present. So here it goes.

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