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Summertime springs spottings June 8, 2016

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The thing I’m going to miss most about NoVA is all the different creatures you can find in nature. On just a weekend stroll, we were able to find many animals! 

A momma duck with at least 6-7 babies.

A green frog camouflaging against the leaves.

A small frog and many polliwogs! 
A giant moth that I think is a polyphemus moth.

I love finding cool new life all around me!! 

Thanks for dropping by! Now at maryqin.com May 3, 2009

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I am now blogging over at maryqin.com, so please go find my updates there! 🙂

My own domain: a gift to myself May 3, 2009

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I have, for a long time, wanted to claim my own domain name and have my blog hosted on there.  However, seeing as there aren’t really many people out there who would ever want to take my name from me, it didn’t feel justified to do so.  I became more and more interested lately, as I found that my dedication to my blog has not wavered and I got more involved in the online community.  Then I came across green hosting websites and that sealed the deal for me.  Cheap webhosting from energy efficient servers?  I’m in!  I chose Super Green Hosting for its great deal (it certainly helped that they were listed first on the list that I was reading and their website looks the nicest to me) and decided I’d wait until this month to sign up.

Why now?  I don’t really know.  And why do I need a website of my own?  Maybe I don’t.  In trying to justify this to anyone who doesn’t understand, I probably won’t come up with any answers.  All I know is that this is one of my deep heart desires.  One of those things that nags at you again and again, reminding you that you should do it.  There may not be a logical reason as to why I should get a website.  It’s not like I’m someone famous and well-followed or I’m trying to make money from the internet.  No, what I will say (and really the only thing I can say) is that it feels right, it makes me happy, and I’ll be darned if I don’t do that for myself at a mere $3.95 a month.  It’s a bit of peace of mind too, in knowing that this domain will belong to me and always be mine, whatever I may choose to do with it.  And hopefully one day I will be someone that people want to find and follow, so they will look for my domain.

Well, May 1st came along, the day I promised myself I would do this, and I spent the day out.  When I got back, I set out to order the service and begin building my new website.  Due to some snags, I wasn’t able to complete the order (and being out of the country only complicates things), so I had to wait.  After calling, “live chatting,” and e-mailing, I finally got too frustrated and needed a break from the process.  I spent all of today away from my e-mail and when I decided to check it, I found an e-mail confirming my order!  Apparently they’d been working as I put it aside, so everything was ready for me now.  I happily began the lengthy process to get used to their system, learn more about what having my own space means, and figuring out how to put a nice pretty blog there for people to find.

My CSS skills are sorely lacking, so much of my editing is done on a trial and error basis.  I was able to make all the edits I wanted except for one crucial one: allowing the header image to be bigger.  So, though I was able to lengthen the height and width of the area where the header is, the image just would not stretch to fit, no matter what I did.  Some of the tiling was quite visible on two of the sides, so I had to forfeit that idea and stick with a narrow look until I can find out how to fix that problem.  It certainly isn’t the image I’m using, since I cropped it to fit the dimensions I wanted.  There are also a couple of other issues that I am having with coding, so it has taken me a much longer time than usual to set this up.  I got spoiled with Weebly’s drag and drop method that required no technical skills of me.  Nonetheless, I am happy to have this now and I’m going to eventually look into having a professional help me out with a layout that I like.

So in the mean time, please excuse any and all errors that you find at maryqin.com.  It is still very much under construction.  Once that’s set up though, I anticipate only blogging through there, so do bookmark it and look for futher updates!  🙂

Swimmer’s high May 2, 2009

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I finally made it to the pool again after months on inactivity.  Though it felt awkward to try to work out in a bikini (pity I didn’t bring my competition gear with me), I managed to still get some decent exercise in.  I’m so used to the comfort of a one-piece suit, cap, and goggles that I didn’t exactly know what to do with myself without.  I figured I could just tread water and do some endurance exercises that way, so I started off just doing a casual freestyle kick, keeping my chin just above the water.  After awhile, that got boring, so I curled up my knees and tread with just my hands.  From there, I did variations of strokes, from a breaststroke with my head above the water to doing some freestyle kick drills on my sides.  Every time I get in the water I’m tempted to do the butterfly, which is my favorite stroke, but alas, in a suit like mine today, I was in great danger of losing my top half that way.  So instead, I satisfied myself with some simple exercises that may not raise my heart rate a great deal, but certainly required a certain amount of strength and endurance.

By the time I got out, I felt great.  My face was flushed and my heart rate had increased.  That’s one of my favorite parts of working out – getting to that flushed stage where you know you’ve pushed your body beyond its normal resting state.  I felt so at peace that I began to wonder if there’s such a thing as a swimmer’s high.  It seems pretty commonly recognized that there’s a runner’s high, but does the same go for swimming?  I have not been able to find anything online to back me up, but there’s a certain feeling that I get when I’m doing the fly and everything is in sync.  You get into a rhythm and inertia kicks in.  It’s almost harder to stop that flow of action than to continue on with it.  Unfortunately, the pool can only be so long and that stroke tends to be very taxing on the body, so at some point gravity’s influence becomes more apparent and it slows things down.  But for those couple of beautiful seconds, everything just feels so right.

If there was such a thing as a swimmer’s high, it could only really be achieved in freestyle (at least that’s how I feel).  Fly is too demanding, breast is too technical, and backstroke is too disruptive.  I’m not saying it’s not possible, but from what I understand, it should last quite a long time and for any of the other strokes, it’d be more difficult to accomplish.  To start off with, people tend to swim proper strokes in a pool, which of course requires flip-turns every couple of seconds.  That in itself, though integrated into the process, can be disruptive.  Runners can get themselves to move to a beat and maintain that for virtually as long as they want.  Swimmers must pause their rhythm to add in the occasional glide, flip, push-off, kick-off, and resurfacing.  In open water swimming, this phenomenon might be easier.  At least for freestyle, the stroke motion going into a flip-turn is similar to what you are already doing.  Maybe it’s just the way I swim, but I think it’d be easiest to get into a groove with freestyle.

I miss the lull of the water, the smell of the chlorine, and the whole atmosphere surrounding training and competition.  From wearing swim parkas and Uggs around the pool to helping be the counter for those swimming the 500 free, I really enjoyed being on swim teams.  I liked how it felt to have the water rushing by me and bubbles flowing around.  I loved playing with Sammies (those super absorbant towels) and the beauty of a perfectly executed backstroke start.  I enjoyed practicing my dives and finishes, especially when there was a touchpad present!  I liked how professional I felt when I wore a drag suit for added resistance in training.  I even had a blast at the swim camps at Mt. Holyoke, where we did dryland circuits until I could barely move, then hopped in the water for more working out.  It was a lifestyle that I will always miss, just like my track and field days and my military training days.

Back when I was a sophomore in high school, I got invited to go to Australia with other swimmers from around the country, to compete against some of the swimmers down under.  This was with the International Sports Specialists, Inc. who run Down Under Sports.  It was an awesome time, from the places that we went (Sydney, Gold Coast, and then Waikiki Beach in Hawaii) and the people we met (these guys who were there playing soccer took us around).  I don’t remember much of the meet, except that Aussies are freaking fast and we couldn’t beat them, but we had a great time and it was a great bonding experience.  I used to have a t-shirt with all the people from the New York team on it, but I lost it long ago.  I also managed to misplace the sweatshirt I bought from them, as well as the Bond University one that we girls decided to get when we went there for a visit.  It’s a pity – those were great memories of an unparalleled two weeks.

I have always had a pleasant experience with the water, from my childhood splashing around in pools to middle school when I first learned the four strokes to high school where I helped start the swim team at Brewster High School and finally when I competed on the varsity team at Valencia High School.  Though I got a late start, learning stroke techniques when I was thirteen, I wasn’t too far behind and always managed to be good enough for varsity level, even if I wasn’t a star in that realm.  Nowadays, without a team to practice with and keep me motivated, it’s hard to complete a workout like I used to.  Once I settle down somewhere, I’d like to make sure I visit the pool frequently, even if I don’t do a real workout.  Perhaps one day I can join a club or something, just to get back into it.  For now it will just be my therapeutic experience; something I can always count on to make me feel better.

Retreating to nature May 1, 2009

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I spent the day off exploring the Singapore Botanic Gardens, getting a chance to escape from the city for a few hours.  When I first entered, it looked like a public park of sorts, with fields dotted with trees and an asphalt path for people to walk, run, or rollerblade along.  Following the path deeper into the grounds took me to Swan Lake, where there were a couple of swans swimming around languidly.  A few were being fed various bread and cracker type substances, surrounded by hungry koi and curious turtles.  It was the cutest thing I’ve seen – three different species all swimming around each other peacefully.  I made my way around the entire pond before continuing along the path.  On the side with the grassy knoll and speckling of trees, dozens of families and friends were having picnics and otherwise enjoying the pleasant day.


Turtle in the top left area, fish in the bottom area, and the swan you can’t miss.


That fish was not shy.

I followed the signs to the Ginger Garden, where there was this cool waterfall with a little cave area behind that people could pass through.  I saw a family taking pictures of themselves behind the waterfall and wanted to do the same, but alas, I didn’t want to elicit outside help.  I also imaged taking a fun jumping shot in front of it, but that’s something I’d do if I was with a friend.  Not everyone can get the timing right and I don’t know how strangers would feel about trying to capture such a shot.  So, in my mind’s eye I took a note of how I would do things if only I had Panda with me and moseyed along.  I then reached the National Orchid Garden, where I got myself a ticket to enter.  I spent the next hour wandering up and down, in an out of their paths.  I don’t know how many species of orchids I saw, but some were curious-looking, some were gorgeous, some had strange patterns, some were plain, some were large, some were small, and all were cool to look at.

Some of the interesting things I saw…


Above is the Margaret Thatcher, I believe.


And so many more!  Look out for a photo album on Facebook.
 

I took countless photos and rediscovered some things that I want – Venus flytraps (though I couldn’t find any, there were plenty of pitcher plants that reminded me of my desire for a certain carnivorous plant!), tadpoles (I had one once, but dropped it and when I went to pick it up I squished it 😦 – oops), and a water fountain (there was this cool one that looked like a cluster of plants).  On my way out, I wandered around the gift shop, contemplating things I might want to buy and ended up deciding to just get these small little rings.  I can’t figure out what material they are made from, but a lot of Chinese bracelets resemble this.  These, of course, are merely cheap imitations.  I have a bracelet that’s legit though and it’s quite cool – it’s made of some sort of stone and metal.


If only I could find some Venus flytraps too!


I was sooo tempted to try to bring some with me.  😦


Plant?  Nope, water fountain!

And finally, the rings.

From there, is was then power walking for the next two hours, going through the patch of rainforest, Evolution Garden, Eco Garden, checking out Au Jardin (a French restaurant, as it turned out), and heading back to the waaay other end of gardens to exit again.  I got a bit disoriented a few times and made a few detours to some of the other attractions on my way back, including a gazebo, some desert plants, and lily ponds.  It was around 8 PM by then and I was ravenous, so all I could think about was getting to food.  I quickly made my escape and hopped on a bus to Orchard Road, but I tried to find this Din Tai Fung that I could see in my mind’s eye, but for the life of me couldn’t find in real life.  The front desk at Takashimaya shopping center was useless, so I wandered around, through a fashion show and a drummer circle.  Eventually I ended up at the bus stop that would take me back, so I got on and stopped along the way at Holland Village to have dinner at the Crystal Jade there.

What a day out!  I was drained from all the brisk walking, but it was so nice to see so much greenery, so many beautiful flowers, and so many creatures!  I really do love to retreat to nature whenever I can.  It clears my mind and calms me down.

Feline adoration April 30, 2009

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I have, as long as I can remember, always loved cats.  I like animals of all sorts, but felines are certainly my favorite out of the bunch.  Perhaps it’s because much of my behavior is like theirs, so I feel a connection.  Last night I ran into a plump kitty lounging around outside on my walk home.  Being the first time that I had come across a cat and I wasn’t headed anywhere or with anyone, I decided to stop to pet it.  I couldn’t tell if it was a boy or a girl, but it certainly enjoyed my stroking and scratching.  I was reaching out pretty far, so I tried to shift to move closer, but that scared it a few feet away.  I considered trying to approach it again, but it takes some time for cats to trust you, so I decided that was enough for the night and headed back.  As I made my way back to Marylin’s, I thought of my beloved cats and how sad I am to not have them anymore.

The first cat I ever had got some sort of disease and had up to 90% of her lungs filling up with fluid before we found out and put her down.  That was the first time my dad and I cried together.  Actually, that’s the only time I can remember.  The second one we got had the longest life of them all and got sick recently, dying just on or past Christmas day 2008.  He was in China and my parents and I were in Cancun for the break.  I wish he could have held out for my dad to get back to him.  Then the third one we had just disappeared one day almost six years ago.  My mom is convinced that the coyotes or owls in the neighborhood caught him.  He was always a rambunctious one, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he ventured too far.  We’ll never really know what happened to him, but I can always hope that someone took him in and he’s happily squeezing himself into their sinks for his naps now.


This is Jerriey, our second kitty, curled up on my favorite blanket.

Lately cats have been on my mind a lot because one of Panda and my friends got herself a little kitten that was found on site for a Habitat for Humanity project.  That reminded me of the three other times I have come across cats that I really wanted to adopt.  First was a little black kitten we found at a club in the Echo Park area.  It was my first day on site for the filming of Wristcutters: A Love Story and this little guy was found hanging out in the back area where the crew hung out as we waited through shots.  I named her Echo (I think the club was named that too) and gave her a lot of attention.  In fact, I even managed to convince the club owner to adopt her, since I couldn’t.  Next was a pair of kittens, brought to us on Wilshire Boulevard.  Katana and I were just walking along in Westwood when this kid comes running up to us and asks if we’d like to adopt kittens.  We looked at each other with those yearning eyes.  In our hearts, we really wanted to.  In our minds, we knew we couldn’t.  So, we only glimpsed the kittens he held in his hands, swaddled in his clothing before we sadly had to say no.  We watched as he ran down Westwood Boulevard and talked about how we could make it work.  Then, in the spur of a moment, we decided to go with our hearts and take them.  We went after the boy, but didn’t know where he had gone.  I looked to my left and noticed a pet store, so we went in.  The boy had just handed over the pair and when we tried to take them now, the store owner said she’d have to take them in for various shots and clean them up before we could come back to adopt them.  Sigh.  In the weeks after, we thought long and hard about how we could do this, even thinking we’d name them Boba and Udon (one was black and one was grey).  Unfortunately, practicality won out in the end and we never did go back for them.  Finally, the third came when I was volunteering at a cat home.  A tiny grey kitten was confined in a box with a plastic facing so we could see.  She was held there because she was still being treated after being rescued from Hurricane Katrina and, consequently she was named Katrina.  I loved that little cat from the seconds we got to spend with her before turning our attention to the cats we could interact with.  Just the way she cocked her head when she looked at us was adorable enough for me to want her.  Unfortunately, I was still in school at the time and my dad had left the country, so it was just my mom taking care of the one cat we still had.  But I wanted a kitten to raise myself.

This is a dream I’ve held for years and years, ever since I got to carry little Jerriey home from the shelter, so cute and loveable.  He spent the whole time purring, which is what won me over.  I have mentioned this desire many a time and though he started off first not comfortable with the idea, he is now more open to it.  Granted, we had to have a whole hullabaloo of a… discussion over it, but he’s willing to consider it at least.  To me, having a cat is almost more important than having kids.  Not only are they nice to cuddle up with, their purring is good for your health.  They are very independent and don’t require much attention or care, which is how I live my life.  They train very easily, from going to use the litter box when nature calls to coming to eat dinner with the banging out a plate.  I also like to crawl into small spaces and squeeze myself into strange positions to sleep.  And come on, there’s a reason we call it the "catwalk" – they’re beautiful and graceful creatures!  Cats are highly misunderstood animals.  People take their independence for aloofness, much as they do with me.  And I think that is why I defend and adore them so much.  I’m misunderstood too.

Well, my dream of owning a cat is still very far off, sadly.  I have to wait until I’m settled enough to keep one with me.  I have to make sure I have the funds to buy all the food, litter, and catsitting services I would need to take care of it.  Thankfully, they love very simple little toys, so just a little catnip and some string or crumpled newspaper can do the trick.  Once I feel like I have the resources and capabilities to finally care for a cat of my own, I hope Panda will be ready to have one too (or maybe more).  He doesn’t even need to do a thing.  I’ll buy everything, scoop the kitty litter, feed them, play with them, and arrange for their care when/if we are away.  All he has to do is let me have one.  For now, he has agreed to catsit our friend’s kitten if she ever needs us to and we will go visit her after I get back.  I hope he likes that experience so he’ll be willing to have one of our own.

Back in high school Katana and I would joke about how we’d grow old and have properties next to each other, each with certain natural formations that we want (like a waterfall for me), and we’d both have houses full of cats.  (This was back when we imagined ourselves as old maids, never having been able to truly settle down.  I guess it could still work with men in our lives, as long as they allowed all the cats.)  At night, we’d both go out and sit on our rocking chairs on our porches to enjoy the nightfall, either knitting or petting a cat.  We’d have our houses close enough that we could see each other, but our property large enough for ponds and creeks and forests and whatnot.  I think it’d be great if we do end up that way.  Yup, we have all the makings ofbecoming crazy cat ladies.

Sheer exhaustion April 29, 2009

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This is the first time that I did not post my entry prior to going to bed, since I began posting every day.  I like to get it out of the way earlier in the wee hours of the day so when I get busy/distracted later on, I won’t have to worry and I would still have the entire rest of the day to do it.  However, yesterday when I got back last night, a wave of exhaustion just took over me and I curled up on the bed with my body pillow.  It was so warm and cozy and Panda was taking a nap on his end, so I just drifted off.  The next thing I knew, I was waking up to find my computer turned off.  Disoriented, I deliriously turned my computer back on to find Panda again, but fell asleep again soon after.  I can’t recall if I ever did sign back on again or what happened from there, but I didn’t wake up again until the morning, as a storm was rolling in.

I’m not sure why I was so tired – perhaps it’s a combination of lack of sleep, long days, and not enough nutrition.  I don’t feel like I have been overworked or underfed though, so I really don’t know.  In fact, there are times where I am doing background reading and research that feels like my typical internet activity.  It has made me want to get more into social media or business psychology consulting, since I love to read article upon article about those topics.  So that’s all well and good, but I guess sometimes everything in your life just catches up with you and your body shuts down.  I think all the things that were bearing down on me just caught up with me.  I’ve been getting a lot of intense piercing pains and headaches this past month; I’ve never suffered through this kind of cranial pain before.  It’s not quite a migraine – the symptoms for that are far more intense – but it’s definitely not a pleasant experience.  I don’t know why I get them or what I can do about them (I’m not one to take painkillers unless I’m desperate, which happens like once every few months).

Emotionally I have been rather drained as of late.  I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to recover from being away from Panda.  I don’t miss him any less now than I did before.  I spend a lot of time wanting to go back just to see him, but at the same time I really value my time and experience here.  Still, it’s hard to get up and go out on the weekends when I can stay online and talk to him.  I don’t know why it’s so hard for me.  It also hasn’t been easy to find my own way here.  I’ve been trying to do more things on my own, which is good, but I’m doing it all alone.  There isn’t really anyone for me to hang out with or spend time with.  Not that I dislike anyone here, but I’m used to a lot of different social groups, all with different interests and preferences for activities.

And of course, there’s always the feeling that I don’t have a home to go to and crash at.  There is no space here that is exclusively mine, which is something I’m not used to.  It’s the exact opposite of how I grew up – with rooms to myself for most of the day and often the whole house to myself as my parents traveled around.  Even in college, when I shared my room with another girl, half of that room was mine.  I could do whatever I wanted and often had time alone in the room.  Plus, I could always go home home on the weekends.  So maybe it’s just caged bird syndrome that’s got me down.  It seems that I need to stop viewing myself so much as an outsider and guest here.  It’s hard to break away from that though, since most people I speak to outside of the office don’t seem to be able to understand me.  I feel so out of place when I’m not in the office or just alone and it’s a bit disheartening.

Marylin and I talked recently about how I don’t really interact with her parents, which is mostly why I still feel like a guest here.  I’m used to holing up in my room all day, doing my own things, so it doesn’t even occur to me to go out to the living room to talk to them, or something along those lines.  I’ve tried to greet them here and there, but I tend to be quiet when I do that and it gets lost in Marylin’s own greeting and consequent chatting with them.  So, I just keep walking and go to the room to give them time together.  After all, they hardly get to see each other, much less talk and hang out.  But it seems that my policy of "stay out of their way" is just alienating me and making them… not quite uncomfortable, but you get the idea.  It doesn’t help that I am hugely awkward with parents (or anyone I view in an authoritative position).  It took me a good 10-12 years to get myself to even be able to look them in the eye.

So, I need to work on putting myself out there more, even if it terrifies me.  I just don’t like to stand there awkwardly and not know what to do or say.  Before I left, my mom told me to offer to help with household chores, but that is taken care of the maid, so the most I do is clear the table after eating.  Starfish advised that I just ask them how their days were and I don’t know if I’m just not seeing opportunities to, but I feel like I haven’t really had a chance to say anything to them.  Either they’re watching TV or they’re not around.  Marylin’s mom will pop in on the weekends to offer me food, but by the time I go out to eat it, she’s retreated to her room or is out already.  There was one time she left it on the bed for me, so I just ate it in the room.  I usually don’t even see her dad around, but for when he’s watching a game or tournament.

And maybe it’s just me, but if I’m watching something, I don’t want to be disturbed.  On the weekends when Marylin’s going through her CSI Supreme Sunday fix, she tends to switch channels during commercials, which is something I never do.  If I’m watching something, I’m focused on it and I don’t want to miss out on any of it.  If it’s streaming live and I can’t pause it, I don’t do anything to disrupt that.  When it comes down to it, I just don’t know how to handle those situations.  When is it appropriate to say something?  What should I say?  How do I know if they’re talking just because they don’t want to be rude or if they actually don’t mind?  Sigh, I hate being awkward with older generations.  I’m not a "bring her home" type of friend.  I can’t even call them by their first names – the first time I called someone other than my peer by their first name was when I was 19.  Why am I so stiff?

Maybe this chronic exhaustion is due to too much processing for my brain.  From the work I’m doing and all that I’m learning to the struggles I’m undergoing, it’s a lot to handle.  I worry a lot because I think and analyze a lot.  I don’t like to share any of my stress though, so I’m hard-pressed to find an outlet.  I don’t like to complain and I don’t like to ask for help.  Meanwhile, Marylin will let out a sigh or talk about her frustrations with some of the work she’s trying to deal with.  Since I’m not used to expressions like that, it stresses me out to hear and see that too, especially when she taps her fingers impatiently.  For some reason, just hearing that speeds up my heart rate and makes me more anxious.  I tend to notice small details like that, which then makes things that aren’t a big deal out to be much bigger than usual.  I am a people-pleaser, but it seems that my approach in keeping to myself is not pleasing at all.  Then there are all the things I miss and want to do when I get back, but I’m trying to make myself focus on being here now and doing new exciting things.  It’s hard to be here and focused when my heart is not with me.  Whoever knew I could be such a homebody?

Gosh, I’ve got a lot to work on.

Viral/grassroots marketing: spreading like wildfire April 28, 2009

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Since there’s all this talk about the swine flu and worries if it possibly spreading to epidemic proportions, I thought it was appropriate to address this idea of viral spread.  After all, the concept of viral marketing is based in how things spread like diseases.  You can have widespread influence without having to be a hot shot nowadays, much like one little mutant germ multiplying can cause havoc.  The tools on the internet allow you to share with complete strangers, so now it’s all about how you work the system to get your ideas out.  Play your numbers right and you can go far.

I don’t know if it’s just my interest or if grassroots marketing really is as hot a topic as I think it is.  I personally believe it is a powerful way to get your message across, but it certainly does come with its downside.  So let’s explore the pros and cons of this type of marketing strategy.  Traditionally, marketing has been all about reach through huge audiences via mass media – newspapers, magazines, television ads.  With the advent of "social media" or what have you, individuals are empowered to connect with each other on a scale never possible before.  Along with this comes a lot of unforeseen opportunities.

First of all, social media has a much lower upfront cost as compared to established media.  However, the trade-off is a lot more time spent to maintain it – after all, it’s all about creating and sustaining conversations and relationships.  You can spend a lot of money on a marketing campaign or you can spend a lot of time building your brand and reputation via social media.

Secondly, social media has a far reach.  It basically operates on the word of mouth spread that can function much like compound interest, multiplying in power over time (or in this case, people).  Everyone’s got their own personal and professional networks that they can tap into.  Then each of those people in turn have others who they know outside of the original person’s network, people they can tell the news to and continue with this branching out.  Much like a tree, one original trunk can yield so many more branches!

Similarly, being able to get to so many people and gain this level of visibility is one of the main benefits.  And this can all be done with little planning in terms of marketing strategy.  In fact, it can’t really be controlled.  Instead, this acts as a sort of quality control, ensuring that the product, service, or information must be good and valid for it to get the kind of spread it wants.  Of course, there will always be those bad apples that get through, the spam of the social media world, but the value of viral spread far outweighs the drawbacks of those and smart consumers can easily spot and filter out the useless stuff.

Yet, because it is nearly impossible to control what people choose to say or do, especially with a certain level of anonymity in nearly all sites, it can be dangerous tool too.  When people hide behind a facade, they get bolder with their actions and do some harmful things.  It’s hard enough to track who did it, much less prosecute them for misbehavior.  The difficulty in regulation can breach upon a lot of rights yet also be defended by the freedom of speech.  This is definitely something that the lawmakers of each country should be looking at, to protect people from abuse of the system.

Finally, everything that goes up at any point, even if only for a few seconds, may leave a permanent mark.  Between tracking and the immediate spread of sensational news, even if you slip just once, it’s hard to ensure that that won’t be following you for a long time to come.  Even things sent in private or confidentially can be leaked, so tread carefully in everything you do.  Things in digital form can be permanent in ways that you never want.

Social media can be a robust medium for grassroots marketing, if used carefully and well.  There’s a lot to explore still and I’m sure people’s mindsets will change along with this new way of reaching out to them.  Now it’s a matter of keeping up with the new forms of media, but also not forgetting about some of the old methods.  A good mixture can be achieved and it will vary depending on the aim, industry, and target audience.  Nonetheless, social media is sure to be a key new part to a revamped recipe.  It offers the personalized attention that people have been lacking!

Needless inefficiencies and a sense of powerlessness April 27, 2009

Posted by laelene in Uncategorized.
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A week or two ago, my EZLink card (which is your ticket to public transportation in Singapore) stopped working, for no rhyme or reason.  Thankfully, I had another one that was given to me in my welcome package from the Work Holiday Programme pass I’m here on.  I’ve been using that ever since and a few days ago I decided it was time to take care of the malfunctioning one.  First I went to the service booth, telling the guy that my card wasn’t scanning.  He scanned it, looked at it curiously, scanned his own card, and handed it back to me telling me he couldn’t read it.  I should have known that this was going to set the tone for a frustrating experience.  Obviously he was not paying attention to me, far too used to working like a zombie, just topping cards up for people.

Well, now that I had finally caught his attention, he informed me that only the ticketing office took care of the cards themselves.  Ok, fine.  I headed over to that line and told the lady in the window the same thing.  Apparently this happens rather frequently, judging by the stack of cards they had accumulated already.  I was handed a form and told that I would have to wait three weeks to get a check in the mail.  Wait, what?!  I expected a quick and easy transfer to a new card (or the one that I am using now).  Why waste the time and effort of mailing a check to me?  I don’t even have a bank account to deposit it in!  When I complained of the inefficiencies of it, they just gave me a number to call.  Great.

Well, now I’m at this point where it’s not even worth the money to call them up to wait around to talk to someone who can’t even do anything.  This is my major problem with all organizations that have problems like this.  You can never reach someone who can actually do something about it!  I’ve tried this before and just got led on a wild goosechase of transfers that never actually brought me to anyone in charge enough to be able to set the gears in motion.  Meanwhile, I was difficult to these poor people who have to answer customer service calls, wasting my time and their time while probably putting them in a bad mood.  Part of my desire to be someone with power and influence is really just to be able to actually contact the right person in this scenario, because upsetting me would be very bad for business, so they’d take care of it.  I’d just like to be successful and respected enough to make a difference in these situations.

Apparently this new card (they’re switching systems or something) is too new and they don’t have a way to transfer the existing balance.  I find it irresponsible for them to change if they’re not ready to do such a basic service.  Either you do enough beta testing to be able to make transfers or ensure the cards won’t malfunction!  I did absolutely nothing to tamper with the card, yet I get punished with having to spend my time trying to get a new one (that they were going to make me pay for!) AND waiting for nearly a month before getting my money back.  If time is money, what kind of compensation am I getting for this inconvenience of waiting so long?  They should at least give me a new card with a fresh balance of say, $5 or something simple like that.  Now that would be great customer service.

Instead, I’m left here fuming at them, yet helpless to do anything.  I can’t exactly stop taking public transport around the city and I’m certainly not about to pay the higher fees for individual fares rather than use an EZLink card.  However, I’m not at all pleased with this level of service and I really wish I could call them up and actually have them listen to me.  But more than likely, I will just listen to elevator music for half an hour, get transferred around a few times, and then ultimately end up getting a voicemail from someone who won’t bother to reply.  A lot of our security in life is feeling like we have a certain level of control.  First over ourselves and our lives, but next over the things that happen to us.  In this case, there was absolutely nothing I could have done and nothing I can do to prevent this.  So why do I get the short end of the stick?

I’m sure that soon enough I’ll have forgotten all about this particular situation, but I will be left with a sense of a loss of power from large organizations.  I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur, but I never dreamed of growing my business into a huge corporation.  Perhaps that is because I dislike what large conglomerates are like.  I promise myself I will never let something in my hands get to that point.  I’ll find a way to fix all the problems and make the small voices heard.

Exercising consistently April 26, 2009

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I’ve been feeling a huge lack of fresh fruit and vegetables in my life recently, which exaggerates my continued languor.  I don’t know if it’s because of my diet that I feel so tired or if because I feel so listless that I’m not bothering to eat well.  I guess both things kind of perpetuate each other, leaving me drained and nutrient-deprived.  Ok, it’s not that bad, but I do feel like my energy level has not been up to par with my old self.  Fruits and salads were so much more accessible back in the dining halls!  I know people tend to eat terribly when it’s a buffet, but I really did enjoy having a salad bar and baskets of fruits laying around.

I’ve been trying to convince myself to get back into the good old days, when a workout was routine and expected, but it’s hard when I don’t even have sneakers.  I also have this "need" to only work out when I can shower afterward, but I tend to feel like working out when I’m showering.  I hate to take too many showers in a day (why waste the water?), so I need to time it just right.  Perhaps this is why I prefer to do static exercises that don’t produce as much sweat as cardio would.  I’ve been telling myself to set aside half an hour each afternoon/evening to do some simple strength exercises, but somehow the time always flies by and next thing I know, it’s time for dinner.

I found a series of short videos online through the UCLA Rec Center, which leads me through some quick and simple "at your desk" exercises that can counteract the effects of sitting too long (something I am very much guilty of).  I did them once and it felt good, but I wasn’t able to remember to keep doing it.  Am I going to need to set an alarm to remind myself?  After all, it’s only 15 minutes – plenty short to fit into my schedule!  I always fare so much better when I have a set regimen, coach, and team to work out with.  This whole self-motivation thing is hard to do when you keep convincing yourself that your personal well-being can be pushed aside for higher priority things.  But, as many of the contestants in The Biggest Loser said, much of the reason they got so overweight was because they neglected to take care of themselves.

I have spent time reading books and articles for personal enrichment.  I play games here and there to destress and work my critical thinking and motor skills.  Yet, I do nothing for my physical health, in terms of strength, endurance, overall fitness.  So I think it’s time to get back into that mindset that everyone starts the year with and revamp my life.  I need to tone my core, I want to work on my triceps, and I should slim down ever so slightly.  Starfish brought in a machine that measures your BMI and fat percentage, which we all tried one night.  My BMI has always been within the normal range, nothing exciting, but my fat percentage is a tad on the high end.  That doesn’t come as too much of a surprise – I have very thick thighs that have quite a layer of fat on them and my belly’s got its fair share as well.

I really wish I could swim to work out, but I didn’t bring my cap, googles, or competitve suits.  Can you imagine me doing the fly in a bikini?  Especially one that has this strange flap that hangs down halfway to my bellybutton.  Let’s not even talk about how silly that would look or how easily a "wardrobe malfunction" could occur.  I was thinking that if the pool is deep enough, I could try just doing some exercises treading water.  Now I’ve just got to convince myself it’s worth it to look like a fool in a family style pool and get to it.

I want to try to do that on the weekends (or any nights that I manage to get back around dinnertime).  Days that I don’t get to do that I should be doing some basic dryland exercises.  There’s so much you can do with just your body and gravity, as I was telling Lorrie the other day, when he was asking me about how to burn away belly flab.  I still remember a lot from my years of training, but it’s no use if I don’t do it.  Pretty soon, I’ll start to forget everything I once knew, except that I once knew it.  Sometimes I get really nostalgic for those days when I used to compete and train with a goal in mind.  Always a better run, a longer jump, a faster swim, or more endurance.

I must motivate myself to work out again.