Uber, but for X

A couple of days ago, I attended a #devden talk at Atlassian featuring Chris Chambers, head of Engineering at Uber. He walked us through many of the challenges that Uber faced in its early days and the subsequent improvements they’ve made to their stack and UI.

While most people tweeted about the Google + Uber partnership as the beginnings of a fleet of self-driving cars, Chris focused more on the maps and infrastructure aspect of the business. The ETA’s calculated by Uber’s platform were more precise than those calculated by Google Maps. In fact, Uber’s back-end totally blew me away. It was incredibly interesting how they were trying to forecast demand, in real-time, as well as supply matching & positioning.

I couldn’t help but think how this commercial technology can also serve the public / non-profit sectors. People often complain about policy / ambulance / fire dept. response times – imagine if Uber can help reduce that by better positioning patrol cars. Maybe even effectively reduce crimes and accidents by having patrol cars positioned pre-emptively. Effectively dispatching help would also be crucial during states of emergency, such as national disasters.

How do you see Uber’s technology deployed in other areas?

Ideal Bookshelf


Larry Lessig’s ideal bookshelf

Books that may be on my “ideal bookshelf”:

  • Blindness, by Jose Saramago. Incredible read – I not only love his style, but also the way he goes about revealing human nature in a post-apocalyptic setting.
  • The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Since reading it in high school English class, this is always a book I talk about as if the characters were real, and somewhat perfect in their own ways.
  • I Am Charlotte Simmons, by Tom Wolfe. I think I read this book a little too late in life – I had already gone through most of college. Or maybe the timing was just right so to not colour my own experience? Maybe not the most eloquently written work, but it paints a very vivid picture of the All-American college experience.
  • The Kidney-Shaped Stone That Moves Every Day, by Haruki Murakami. Sobering, visceral, and bittersweet.
  • Welcome to the Monkey House, by Kurt Vonnegut. Probably the collection that started my love affair with short stories. These are funny, striking, and thoughtful.
  • Animal Farm, by George Orwell. Between this and Watership Down, it’s a close call which one is the best animal fiction. The scale tips in Animal Farm’s favor because of its amazing one-liners. (“Four legs good, two legs bad”, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”, etc.)
  • Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures, by Vincent Lam. Canadian Asian doctor turned writer pens a collection of short stories about over-achieving med students. The similarities are astounding.
  • Interpreter of Maladies, by Jhumpa Lahiri. A Barnard grad who writes painfully honest stories about first- and second-generation immigrants.

What are some books on your “ideal bookshelf”?


In case you were looking to buy some Buckyballs, you missed your chance. However, Buckybars and Buckybigs — conveniently shaped in ways that aren’t easy for young children to swallow — are still on the market. Wired has a post-mortem with Maxfield & Oberton’s CEO, Craig Zucker, on the decision. “They looked at this as an easy target and didn’t expect a fight back,” Zucker explained of its relationship with the Consumer Product Safety Commission. “It really came out of nowhere and seemed like selective enforcement.”

Really glad I bought a whole bunch of these to give as stocking stuffers to my cousins before they were retired. 

I live in Midtown Manhattan, which means I escaped the wrath of Hurricane Sandy pretty much unscathed. Though I did stock up on water and food, I never lost power or water and practically slept through the worst of the hurricane with my windows open. 

For me, the Hurricane was never real, but I was definitely shocked to see some of the Twitter photos that my friends posted of massive flooding and damages to lower Manhattan. I wish I had the means and the time to head downtown on Tuesday night to see the “I am Legend shit” people have been talking about . It’s strange to be so close to it all, but still feel so disconnected. I can’t even imagine how it would have felt to be flooded in my apartment, much less having to evacuate my home and deal with the aftermath. 

In some ways, this reflects what I’ve always felt about Manhattan. The variance between neighborhoods is remarkable, even though the island covers only about 23 square miles. When I try to think of an iconic NYC scene, I vacillate between the grandiosity of Fifth Ave, the vivacity of Broadway, or the intimacy of the West Village.

But the darker side of my theory is this – you are never alone New York City, yet it’s all too easy to feel more lonely than you ever would in any other city. 

How to love a woman.

“You may not be her first, her last, or her only. She loved before she may love again. But if she loves you now, what else matters? She’s not perfect – you aren’t either, and the two of you may never be perfect together but if she can make you laugh, cause you to think twice, and admit to being human and making mistakes, hold onto her and give her the most you can. She may not be thinking about you every second of the day, but she will give you a part of her that she knows you can break – her heart. So don’t hurt her, don’t change her, don’t analyze and don’t expect more than she can give. Smile when she makes you happy, let her know when she makes you mad, and miss her when she’s not there.” – Bob Marley