Profile Response: Piaw Na, Sunnyvale, CA

HWWLT Logo on yellowPiaw Na invited me to his home for Sunday breakfast. Piaw, his wife and two sons live in a basic ranch on a quiet street, which in Sunnyvale puts it in the million-dollar range. Maybe more since the property has a grandfathered in-law apartment where his Mandarin speaking in-laws live. Piaw came to the United States from Singapore in 1988, “If you’re going to do computer science, you’re going to do it in the US.” Since graduating from UC Berkeley, Piaw’s been a software engineer with a variety of Silicon Valley start-ups. His cool and rationale temperament translates to every part of his life. When his physician discovered allergies in 2009, Piaw bought his house, stripped it of carpet and curtains, and created a hard-surfaced, minimum dust environment. When the drought became a concern, he pulled out his landscaping and installed artificial turf. Piaw’s lawn is surreally green.

IMG_4758When Piaw develops an interest or expertise, he researches it, applies it to his own life, and then writes a book about it. So far, he’s written four books: managing start-ups; finding Silicon Valley jobs; hiring a financial advisor, and bicycle touring; how-to’s on topics Piaw has mastered.

Like all of us, Piaw’s perspective on the world is filtered through his particular experience. For over twenty years his focus was on start-ups and bicycle touring, the subjects of his first two books. He guided cycle tours for small groups. “Lonely Planet is useless for cyclists. It’s all about the destinations, not the places in between. Cycling is about the places in between.” His start-up work focused around San Jose, last generation’s epicenter of tech action. “Now, all the start-ups are in San Francisco. The younger generation is willing to take public transit and wants to live more densely.”

front_cover front_cover_thumbnail Screen Shot 2015-12-05 at 2.01.02 PM Screen Shot 2015-12-05 at 2.01.21 PM

When I asked Piaw about the real estate inequality in San Francisco he offered a fresh perspective. “There re 80,000 empty units in San Francisco, many bought by foreigners as vacation homes or to keep money out of totalitarian states. The US is the only major country that lets non-citizens buy and own property with all the same rights and guarantees as citizens.”

IMG_4757Now that Piaw is a parent and consultant, his focus is changing. He used to plan cycle trips every two to three years. “Parents become boring people. You can’t subject little people to what adults choose to do.” Although Piaw doesn’t know when his next trip might be, he showed off the four-seat tandem bike that the whole family rides.

Last year, Piaw was diagnosed as pre-diabetic. Since his doctor could hardly tell a man who cycles 10,000 miles a year to exercise more, Piaw lost twenty pounds. “Asians get adult onset diabetes at twice the rate of our Caucasian counterparts. The theory is that we had later exposure to industrialized sugar. But there are few studies. That’s a pet peeve of mine, why medical research focuses on the white male.”

Sounds to me like a good topic for another book.

How will we live tomorrow?

IMG_4755“It’s very clear that the future of transportation will be the electric car, not the bicycle. Density here will have to increase – we are too constrained. The only choice is more density. Eventually, demand will form for real public transportation.

“We will not solve the climate problem until it is too late. If you look at models in the past, they have been too conservative. We’re going to see an ice-free Arctic within a few years. Skiing will be obsolete in thirty years. The waters will rise in San Francisco Bay. I don’t believe for a minute humanity will do anything about it. There is too much pressure on developing countries to provide their citizens a middle class life.

“There are good things. By the time my son is sixteen the streets will be safer. There will be no geriatric drivers; driving will be automated. Taxis and truckers will lead in automated driving, insurers will see how safe they are, and charge much more for traditional driving cars.”



About paulefallon

Greetings reader. I am a writer, architect, cyclist and father from Cambridge, MA. My primary blog, is an archive of all my published writing. The title refers to a sequence of three yoga positions that increase focus and build strength by shifting the body’s center of gravity. The objective is balance without stability. My writing addresses opposing tension in our world, and my attempt to find balance through understanding that opposition. During 2015-2106 I am cycling through all 48 mainland United States and asking the question "How will we live tomorrow?" That journey is chronicled in a dedicated blog,, that includes personal writing related to my adventure as well as others' responses to my question. Thank you for visiting.
This entry was posted in Responses and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Profile Response: Piaw Na, Sunnyvale, CA

  1. Gorman, Cleo says:

    Wow! A very thoughtful, and also practical, response.
    My takeaway was the profound thought that, and I’m paraphrasing, life is really about all the things that happen and are experienced ‘in between.’


  2. paulefallon says:

    I agree. What is fascinating about Piaw is how he deeply he goes into different experiences.He’s become ‘expert’ on a wide range of topics.


  3. Gorman, Cleo says:

    On one of these evenings when you’re resting alone, you need to see the animated movie “Cars,” if you haven’t already. Surely, one of the luxury hotels where you stay (☺) can provide it for you. It’s about the aging out of Route 66, and its effect on the Cars, personified! Cute and profound.
    Your post today reminded me of it, for some reason.
    Be safe! Stay warm.
    Cleo Kathryn


  4. paulefallon says:

    I have seen Cars. It is terrific. I’m intrigued that you connected it to Piaw…


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s