Tag Archives: interview

How to Solve Google’s Crazy Open-Ended Interview Questions | Business | WIRED

How to Solve Google’s Crazy Open-Ended Interview Questions | Business | WIRED.


One of the most important tools in critical thinking about numbers is to grant yourself permission to generate wrong answers to mathematical problems you encounter. Deliberately wrong answers!

Engineers and scientists do it all the time, so there’s no reason we shouldn’t all be let in on their little secret: the art of approximating, or the “back of the napkin” calculation. As the British writer Saki wrote, “a little bit of inaccuracy saves a great deal of explanation.”

For over a decade, when Google conducted job interviews, they’d ask their applicants questions that have no answers. Google is a company whose very existence depends on innovation—on inventing things that are new and didn’t exist before, and on refining existing ideas and technologies to allow consumers to do things they couldn’t do before.

Contrast this with how most companies conduct job interviews: In the skills portion of the interview, the company wants to know if you can actually do the things that they need doing.

But Google doesn’t even know what skills they need new employees to have. What they need to know is whether an employee can think his way through a problem.

Of Piano Tuners and Skyscrapers

Consider the following question that has been asked at actual Google job interviews: How much does the Empire State Building weigh?

Now, there is no correct answer to this question in any practical sense because no one knows the answer. Google isn’t interested in the answer, though; they’re interested in the process. They want to see a reasoned, rational way of approaching the problem to give them insight into how an applicant’s mind works, how organized a thinker she is.

There are four common responses to the problem. People throw up their hands and say “that’s impossible” or they try to look up the answer somewhere.

The third response? Asking for more information. By “weight of the Empire State Building,” do you mean with or without furniture? Do I count the people in it? But questions like this are a distraction. They don’t bring you any closer to solving the problem; they only postpone being able to start it.

The fourth response is the correct one, using approximating, or what some people call guesstimating. These types of problems are also called estimation problems or Fermi problems, after the physicist Enrico Fermi, who was famous for being able to make estimates with little or no actual data, for questions that seemed impossible to answer. Approximating involves making a series of educated guesses systematically by partitioning the problem into manageable chunks, identifying assumptions, and then using your general knowledge of the world to fill in the blanks.

How would you solve the Fermi problem of “How many piano tuners are there in Chicago?”


Where to begin? As with many Fermi problems, it’s often helpful to estimate some intermediate quantity, not the one you’re being asked to estimate, but something that will help you get where you want to go. In this case, it might be easier to start with the number of pianos that you think are in Chicago and then figure out how many tuners it would take to keep them in tune.


In any Fermi problem, we first lay out what it is we need to know, then list some assumptions:

  1. How often pianos are tuned

  2. How long it takes to tune a piano

  3. How many hours a year the average piano tuner works

  4. The number of pianos in Chicago

Knowing these will help you arrive at an answer. If you know how often pianos are tuned and how long it takes to tune a piano, you know how many hours are spent tuning one piano. Then you multiply that by the number of pianos in Chicago to find out how many hours are spent every year tuning Chicago’s pianos. Divide this by the number of hours each tuner works, and you have the number of tuners.

Assumption 1: The average piano owner tunes his piano once a year.

Where did this number come from? I made it up! But that’s what you do when you’re approximating. It’s certainly within an order of magnitude: The average piano owner isn’t tuning only one time every ten years, nor ten times a year. One time a year seems like a reasonable guesstimate.

Assumption 2: It takes 2 hours to tune a piano. A guess. Maybe it’s only 1 hour, but 2 is within an order of magnitude, so it’s good enough.

Assumption 3: How many hours a year does the average piano tuner work? Let’s assume 40 hours a week, and that the tuner takes 2 weeks’ vacation every year: 40 hours a week x 50 weeks is a 2,000-hour work year. Piano tuners travel to their jobs—people don’t bring their pianos in—so the piano tuner may spend 10 percent–20 percent of his or her time getting from house to house. Keep this in mind and take it off the estimate at the end.

Assumption 4: To estimate the number of pianos in Chicago, you might guess that 1 out of 100 people have a piano—again, a wild guess, but probably within an order of magnitude. In addition, there are schools and other institutions with pianos, many of them with multiple pianos. This estimate is trickier to base on facts, but assume that when these are factored in, they roughly equal the number of private pianos, for a total of 2 pianos for every 100 people.

Now to estimate the number of people in Chicago. If you don’t know the answer to this, you might know that it is the third-largest city in the United States after New York (8 million) and Los Angeles (4 million). You might guess 2.5 million, meaning that 25,000 people have pianos. We decided to double this number to account for institutional pianos, so the result is 50,000 pianos.

So, here are the various estimates:

  1. There are 2.5 million people in Chicago.

  2. There are 2 pianos for every 100 people.

  3. There are 50,000 pianos in Chicago.

  4. Pianos are tuned once a year.

  5. It takes 2 hours to tune a piano.

  6. Piano tuners work 2,000 hours a year.

  7. In one year, a piano tuner can tune 1,000 pianos (2,000 hours per year ÷ 2 hours per piano).

  8. It would take 50 tuners to tune 50,000 pianos (50,000 pianos ÷ 1,000 pianos tuned by each piano tuner).

  9. Add 15 percent to that number to account for travel time, meaning that there are approximately 58 piano tuners in Chicago.

What is the real answer? The Yellow Pages for Chicago lists 83. This includes some duplicates (businesses with more than one phone number are listed twice), and the category includes piano and organ technicians who are not tuners. Deduct 25 for these anomalies, and an estimate of 58 appears to be very close.

But Wait, What About the Empire State Building?

Back to the Google interview and the Empire State Building question. If you were sitting in that interview chair, your interviewer would ask you to think out loud and walk her through your reasoning. There is an infinity of ways one might solve the problem, but to give you a flavor of how a bright, creative, and systematic thinker might do it, here is one possible “answer.” And remember, the final number is not the point—the thought process, the set of assumptions and deliberations, is the answer.

Let’s see. One way to start would be to estimate its size, and then estimate the weight based on that. I’ll begin with some assumptions. I’m going to calculate the weight of the building empty—with no human occupants, no furnishings, appliances, or fixtures. I’m going to assume that the building has a square base and straight sides with no taper at the top, just to simplify the calculations.

For size I need to know height, length, and width. I don’t know how tall the Empire State Building is, but I know that it is definitely more than 20 stories tall and probably less than 200 stories.

I don’t know how tall one story is, but I know from other office buildings I’ve been in that the ceiling is at least 8 feet inside each floor and that there are typically false ceilings to hide electrical wires, conduits, heating ducts, and so on. I’ll guess that these are probably 2 feet. So I’ll approximate 10–15 feet per story.

I’m going to refine my height estimate to say that the building is probably more than 50 stories high. I’ve been in lots of buildings that are 30–35 stories high. My boundary conditions are that it is between 50 and 100 stories; 50 stories work out to being 500–750 feet tall (10–15 feet per story), and 100 stories work out to be 1,000–1,500 feet tall. So my height estimate is between 500 and 1,500 feet. To make the calculations easier, I’ll take the average, 1,000 feet.

Now for its footprint. I don’t know how large its base is, but it isn’t larger than a city block, and I remember learning once that there are typically 10 city blocks to a mile.


A mile is 5,280 feet, so a city block is 1/10 of that, or 528 feet. I’ll call it 500 to make calculating easier. I’m going to guess that the Empire State Building is about half of a city block, or about 265 feet on each side. If the building is square, it is 265 x 265 feet in its length x width. I can’t do that in my head, but I know how to calculate 250 x 250 (that is, 25 x 25 = 625, and I add two zeros to get 62,500). I’ll round this total to 60,000, an easier number to work with moving forward.

Now we’ve got the size. There are several ways to go from here. All rely on the fact that most of the building is empty—that is, it is hollow. The weight of the building is mostly in the walls and floors and ceilings. I imagine that the building is made of steel (for the walls) and some combination of steel and concrete for the floors.


The volume of the building is its footprint times its height. My footprint estimate above was 60,000 square feet. My height estimate was 1,000 feet. So 60,000 x 1,000 = 60,000,000 cubic feet. I’m not accounting for the fact that it tapers as it goes up.

I could estimate the thickness of the walls and floors and estimate how much a cubic foot of the materials weighs and come up then with an estimate of the weight per story. Alternatively, I could set boundary conditions for the volume of the building. That is, I can say that it weighs more than an equivalent volume of solid air and less than an equivalent volume of solid steel (because it is mostly empty). The former seems like a lot of work. The latter isn’t satisfying because it generates numbers that are likely to be very far apart. Here’s a hybrid option: I’ll assume that on any given floor, 95 percent of the volume is air, and 5 percent is steel.

I’m just pulling this estimate out of the air, really, but it seems reasonable. If the width of a floor is about 265 feet, 5 percent of 265 ≈ 13 feet. That means that the walls on each side, and any interior supporting walls, total 13 feet. As an order of magnitude estimate, that checks out—the total walls can’t be a mere 1.3 feet (one order of magnitude smaller) and they’re not 130 feet (one order of magnitude larger).

I happen to remember from school that a cubic foot of air weights 0.08 pounds. I’ll round that up to 0.1. Obviously, the building is not all air, but a lot of it is—virtually the entire interior space—and so this sets minimum boundary for the weight. The volume times the weight of air gives an estimate of 60,000,000 cubic feet x 0.1 pounds = 6,000,000 pounds.

I don’t know what a cubic foot of steel weighs. But I can estimate that, based on some comparisons. It seems to me that 1 cubic foot of steel must certainly weigh more than a cubic foot of wood. I don’t know what a cubic foot of wood weighs either, but when I stack firewood, I know that an armful weighs about as much as a 50-pound bag of dog food. So I’m going to guess that a cubic foot of wood is about 50 pounds and that steel is about 10 times heavier than that. If the entire Empire State Building were steel, it would weigh 60,000,000 cubic feet x 500 pounds = 30,000,000,000 pounds.

This gives me two boundary conditions: 6 million pounds if the building were all air, and 30 billion pounds if it were solid steel. But as I said, I’m going to assume a mix of 5 percent steel and 95 percent air.

5% x 30 billion = 1,500,000,000

  • 95% x 6 million = 5,700,000

1,505,700,000 pounds

or roughly 1.5 billion pounds. Converting to tons, 1 ton = 2,000 pounds, so 1.5 billion pounds/2,000 = 750,000 tons.

This hypothetical interviewee stated her assumptions at each stage, established boundary conditions, and then concluded with a point estimate at the end, of 750,000 tons. Nicely done!

Now Do It With Cars

Another job interviewee might approach the problem much more parsimoniously. Using the same assumptions about the size of the building, and assumptions about its being empty, a concise protocol might come down to this.

Skyscrapers are constructed from steel. Imagine that the Empire State Building is filled up with cars. Cars also have a lot of air in them, they’re also made of steel, so they could be a good proxy. I know that a car weighs about 2 tons and it is about 15 feet long, 5 feet wide, and 5 feet high. The floors, as estimated above, are about 265 x 265 feet each. If I stacked the cars side by side on the floor, I could get 265/15 = 18 cars in one row, which I’ll round to 20 (one of the beauties of guesstimating).

How many rows will fit? Cars are about 5 feet wide, and the building is 265 feet wide, so 265/5 = 53, which I’ll round to 50. That’s 20 cars x 50 rows = 1,000 cars on each floor. Each floor is 10 feet high and the cars are 5 feet high, so I can fit 2 cars up to the ceiling. 2 x 1,000 = 2,000 cars per floor. And 2,000 cars per floor x 100 floors = 200,000 cars. Add in their weight, 200,000 cars x 4,000 pounds = 800,000,000 pounds, or in tons, 400,000 tons.

These two methods produced estimates that are relatively close—one is a bit less than twice the other—so they help us to perform an important sanity check. Because this has become a somewhat famous problem (and a frequent Google search), the New York State Department of Transportation has taken to giving their estimate of the weight, and it comes in at 365,000 tons. So we find that both guesstimates brought us within an order of magnitude of the official estimate, which is just what was required.

These so-called back-of-the-envelope problems are just one window into assessing creativity. Another test that gets at both creativity and flexible thinking without relying on quantitative skills is the “name as many uses” test.

For example, how many uses can you come up with for a broomstick? A lemon? These are skills that can be nurtured beginning at a young age. Most jobs require some degree of creativity and flexible thinking.

As an admissions test for flight school for commercial airline pilots, the name-as-many-uses test was used because pilots need to be able to react quickly in an emergency, to be able to think of alternative approaches when systems fail. How would you put out a fire in the cabin if the fire extinguisher doesn’t work? How do you control the elevators if the hydraulic system fails?

Exercising this part of your brain involves harnessing the power of free association—the brain’s daydreaming mode—in the service of problem solving, and you want pilots who can do this in a pinch. This type of thinking can be taught and practiced, and can be nurtured in children as young as five years old. It is an increasingly important skill in a technology-driven world with untold unknowns.

There are no right answers, just opportunities to exercise ingenuity, find new connections, and to allow whimsy and experimentation to become a normal and habitual part of our thinking, which will lead to better problem solving.


An interview with J.G. Ballard and Hans Ulbrich Obrist

A Daily Dose of Architecture: Literary Dose #37.

Hans Ulbrich Obrist: You wrote in the Observer in 1997 a piece on airports and London where you said that, “By comparison with London Airport, London itself seems hopelessly antiquated. London may well be the only world capital—with the possible exception of Moscow—that has gone from the nineteenth century to the twenty-first without experiencing all the possibilities and excitements of the twentieth in any meaningful way.” And you carry on mentioning your admiration for the Hilton Hotel in Heathrow. Can you tell me why that building, and what relationship or dialogue you have in general with architecture or architects?

J.G. Ballard: The Heathrow Hilton designed by Michael Manser is my favourite building in London. It’s part space-age hangar and part high-tech medical centre. It’s clearly a machine, and the spirit of Le Corbusier lives on in its minimal functionalism. It’s a white cathedral, almost a place of worship, the closest to a religious building that you can find in an airport. Inside, it’s a highly theatrical space, dominated by its immense atrium. The building, in effect, is an atrium with a few rooms attached. Most hotels are residential structures, but rightly, the Heathrow Hilton plays down this role, accepting the total transience that is its essence, and instead turns itself into a huge departure lounge, as befits an airport annex. Sitting in its atrium one becomes, briefly, a more advanced kind of human being. Within this remarkable building, one feels no emotions and could never fall in love, or need to. The National Gallery or the Louvre are the complete opposite, and people there are always falling in love.

Hans Ulbrich Obrist: And what is your favourite museum and why? What do you think of the evolutions undertaken by museums in the last few decades? In your view, what role do museums play today? And ideally what do you think their role should be?

J.G. Ballard: I like traditional museums, the less frequented the better. All the changes in the past fifty years have been for the worst. I remember the Louvre in 1949 when it was completely deserted, whereas today it is a theme park where you can enjoy “the Mona Lisa experience.” This isn’t only a matter of funding. Museum directors enjoy being impresarios, guru-figures manipulating the imaginations of the public. Museums shouldn’t be too popular. The experience within the Louvre or the National Gallery should be challenging and unsettling, and take years to absorb. The Italians had the right idea. Most of their paintings were in dimly lit churches, un-clean and difficult to see. As a result, the renaissance endured for centuries.

Trying to Keep Up with Rem Koolhaas – WSJ

Trying to Keep Up with Rem Koolhaas – WSJ.

He explains that architects used to be much more adventurous than they are now. Recent decades, he says, have seen an emphasis on comfort, security and sustainability, and “those three together form a new mantra that is beginning to dictate the norms of our society, which is replacing another mantra, which is liberté, egalité, fraternité.” All that, he says, leaves little room for “any creative process of transgression.”


Is he optimistic or pessimistic about the future of architecture? “I think it’s totally obvious that you can only be an architect if you’re profoundly and foolishly optimistic,” he says, “but you can also only be an architect if you’re profoundly critical, so you have to combine a relentless sense of criticism with a stupid optimism.” He adds, “It would actually be obscene if I was not optimistic.”

Still, Mr. Koolhaas’s views don’t sound that uplifting. He looks out across the water at the low Venetian skyline in the distance. “If you look here in this city, architecture was one of…the key ambitions that the entire city collectively had, but you only have to look at a contemporary city and see that it is less and less the case.” These days, “in terms of the hierarchy of qualities that any culture pursues, aesthetic perfection is very low,” he says with a laugh.


“Do you consider yourself a visionary?” He replies, “No, but I consider myself somebody with an unlimited amount of curiosity in an almost unlimited amount of directions.”

 ‘I hate being an architect’ — Medium

 ‘I hate being an architect’  — Medium.

‘Just about everyone responds the same when I mention your name: He’s a very unpleasant man, right?
Halfway this remark Koolhaas leans back and moves away from the desktop.
He rocks back and forth.
And he nods.
Stuttering he says something like: ‘Yeah, that happens, yes. With people, yes.’
He seems embarrassed, even a little ashamed.
Outside assistants, clients, projects, calls about million dollar projects on different continents are waiting, but here, his head is so nude… those little ears that stick out to the sides… Can you describe a man of six feet tall as resembling a little injured bird?
Not much more comes out of him. The conversation is over.

I ask his associate Stephan Petermann about it.
‘Rem has a strong character,’ he says, ‘I will not deny that.’

And when does he get angry?
‘Only with work-related things. When people are not well prepared.’

Are there people who do not prepare well when they work with Rem Koolhaas?!
‘He needs the right information at the right moment. If someone says that something has not worked out yet, then that person has not been exerting enough pressure.’

Petermann also told me that he sometimes helps ‘when Rem and a team do not understand each other well enough.’
It sounds like a euphemism.


A conversation with him, Rem, goes like this: you ask a question and the answer can go two ways. The first is quite adequate, very to the point, but makes you feel a little insecure, the notion starts to rise that you could have come up with that answer yourself, or you could have found it out yourself, if you hadn’t been lazy and had not, like you are doing now, occupied the precious time Koolhaas could have spent thinking important thoughts!
Or, it gets exciting, when he does not give you a straight answer, but instead starts to associate.


Words he often uses are: assumptions, intuitions, implications, articulate, concentration, situations. He succeeds in making you feel silly in no time, constantly interrupting his narrative with more questions that test your knowledge: ‘Do you know him?’, ‘Have you read that?’, ‘You know how it started?’ Or: ‘Do you speak Italian?’.


An American student has four words for me:
‘Fifth floor. Now. Rem.’
He grabs his Moleskine and chases after two fellow students.
Petermann and I hastily follow and storm through stairwells and elevators.
Rem is approaching.

We are in a concrete colossus in Rotterdam, home to the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) It’s equipped efficiently. Loads of empty spaces, where teams can set up in a second when new assignments come in. Barren floors striped of everything but the windowsills. Sometimes a few islands of desks in oceans of space. Other floors are filled to the brim with producers, designers, models and computers.


He crosses his arms tightly against his body, bows his head. I see multiple gazes turning away. Everybody is busy not looking at him, at Rem. The possibility of failure suddenly takes hold. A student explains her research in the typical American of girls her age.
‘This is, like, sort of, the why of the toilet.’
Her fellow students are dead serious
She turns to Rem: ‘We’ve discussed the use of excrements in the book…’
He interrupts her: ‘You’re taking a lot of time explaining what this isn’t’
Now she stammers. She points to the PDF.
‘I’m not totally sure why this is here, but obviously, it…., it’s because….., it is architecture’

The silences are the worst. You sense Rem is unsatisfied, but he hasn’t expressed it yet. He browses through folders with PDF’s, but also listens.
Then he starts:
‘I get no notion about how people shit in regions like China and Africa’
And: ‘Can you show me a piece of text that you actually wrote yourself?’
Also about the work of others: ‘This is so unclear. Someone somewhere has to take responsibility.’
Red blotches appear in necks
An obliging boy with a trimmed beard shows something
Reaction: ‘Is this a sketch or your best try?’
Both answers seem wrong
‘I find this extremely horrible. And it makes absolutely no sense.’
And: ‘What I expect of you is not this manner of answering politely’
Suddenly: ‘Can you stop taking notes now. It’s making me so nervous!’
In fright I snap up my notebook, but perhaps he was only addressing the students.


If he truly is the bogeyman, than I should note that his critiques were just: the texts were superficial and simplistic.
And then he does something sweet. He steps toward the girl that took most of the hits and stresses: ‘You understand this is totally not personal, right?’
She appears not to be bothered at all.
Another confusing thing, I didn’t tell that Petermann was carrying his adorable toddler during this severe session.


How can you stay focused so long?, I sigh when I am in the car again with Petermann, toddler in the backseat. A focus like that is sometimes associated with compulsive behaviour, even autism.
Peterman loosely replies.
‘Well there is the swimming of course’, he says, ‘every day. And Rem likes to be in exactly the same hotel, preferably with the same driver taking him to and from the airport.’


How did you feel about the article in the Guardian?
Well, if you look at the reality of the moment, then almost every approach is at one moment diametrically wrong compared to other moments. That’s one of the weird things about architecture; it takes a long time. So yes, you could say, in times of crisis it’s not very appropriate to build something grand. But in the long term I think that this building finally realises the ambition to involve this part of the island with the city.
Moreover, this kind of criticism is also welcome. Every well-written piece, no matter how derisive, is an asset.’

Are you Buddhist? Don’t you get annoyed?
No, seldom. I am not someone who says: I never read them. I read them carefully. I can imagine a lot of things.’

Of course he evokes these criticisms. His texts are often put in the language of the manifests we know since the historical avant-garde movements: a language brimming with visions, sweeping statements, metaphors and concise recapitulations on the zeitgeist, with compulsory paradoxes.
Junkspace is authorless, yet surprisingly authoritarian,’ he writes.
And: ‘There is no progress; like a crab on LSD, culture staggers endlessly sideways. Or: ‘Shopping: arguably the last remaining form of human activity.
And in these writings he likes to state his ‘final lack of interest’ in architecture.
‘I have made so many assertions’, he tells me as we glide along the motorway, ‘there is always something you can throw at me later.’


Later they moved to London, but the English, she says, never understood Rem.
We Dutchmen don’t use words liker ‘rather’ or ‘quite’
The English told Rem: ‘You don’t say something is white or black, you say: ‘it’s rather a bit like’.


Another good view is given by Gerrit Oorthuys. He used to teach at a Dutch technical university in Delft and made numerous architecture trips with Koolhaas. To Prague and Russia to research the utopian plans of the constructivists and later to New York.
Oorthuys: ‘Rem would go to the countryside to buy old stuff in old shops. He was always on the lookout for the curious. He was enthralled by the fact that the homosexual salesman in an expensive fashion shop would daintily hold up the underwear before his crotch if you asked him about the size. Or that there was a little porn cinema in a well-known shopping street. Everything outside of the ordinary.’


Is every serious countermovement immediately encapsulated and stamped with a brand-logo?
‘People can distinguish between that’

But it feels symbolic of your work. Can I interpret your career also as a big tragedy? You were so interested in the collective, the community, but your fame was based on neoliberalism.
‘I wouldn’t view that as tragedy. I’ve been given the opportunity to struggle with new issues in a new way. One of the things that has surprised me the most is that my curiosity has been explained as complicity.: Koolhaas does a book on shopping, so he’s all for shopping, He does a book on the YES-regime (YES stands for yen, euro, dollar) so he’s into YES.
In a way it has enabled me to develop a critical structure and at the same time develop things that are based upon that old structure, like the library in Seattle, the concertbuilding in Porto. And on the other side there was the intelligence of some of the new stuff, like G-Star and Prada.’

No tragedy?
‘Absolutely not. Rather, it’s doing the splits on a large scale. And nothing is more interesting than working in that position. You could say that my whole story is about the splits. From the beginning up to this point: first between Europe and America, then between Europe and China. And a split position always has these elements: you feed from both sides, you make a bridge, or a schizophrenia. Those are the three models of the splits that all happen sometime, but with which you can develop a dynamic position.
I really hope you have written this down correctly, because I have never formulated this so precisely, you’re the first one to hear it.’

So the red line in your work is not in your buildings, but in the attitude that gave birth to them? A split between two worlds?
Between worlds. Sometimes it’s a split with three legs. It’s about a kind of engagement to deal with the contradictions of these times. To use an old-fashioned word: engagement.
But being critical is the basis of it all, I think that in the last 25 years the critical from outside is no longer existent. Just like Žižek, Latour and all those other ones are declaring. You can’t look at it from the outside.’
Petermann: I think the challenge of our generation lies in how to be able to organise criticism.


‘Behind screens, on their smartphones, I often don’t know if people are working or enjoying themselves. I think they don’t know it either.’


Rem Koolhaas masks with mystifications. During lectures he sometimes stands just outside of the spotlights, it looks deliberate. His sense of metaphors and symbols makes his buildings legendary. (just slightly tilted, different proportions, oblique, round skyscrapers, etc.) He loves stuff that causes friction, that evokes criticism ánd arises from criticism. And along with that he is constantly looking for the curious, often I hear the story of when he was living in Indonesia and a boy peed in the same water in which women were doing their laundry. It’s never boring around him. He chooses humor, or at least his work originates in the same area where humor originates: there, where the normal flow of affairs does not coincide with how things could also feel, or could be promised. Like when two cultures collide.