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Feline adoration April 30, 2009

Posted by laelene in Uncategorized.
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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.

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Sheer exhaustion April 29, 2009

Posted by laelene in Uncategorized.
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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.

The comforts of home April 25, 2009

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I miss the amenities of home – being able to go and buy my own food, make my own food, come and go as I please, and just feel in charge of my life.  I had a dream the other night that my grandma was living here; I was elated to discover this because it meant I could move in with her and take care of myself again.  Staying at Marylin’s is something I wouldn’t say that I’m struggling with per se, but I certainly am having some trouble with it.  There’s a sense of freedom in being responsible for taking care of myself.  I’m used to doing most household chores myself and now and it’s weird to have food cooked for me, my clothes washed for me, and my things cleaned for me.  It makes me feel too much like a guest.

Today was refreshing because I took it upon myself to wash some items, but I still feel strange whenever I’m in the kitchen, so I’m certainly not about to pull out a pan to cook myself something.  Instead, I bought myself some salad and fruit to eat, but since I spend most of my time at the office, I’m keeping them there.  My eating habits don’t match up with any traditional method or what people tend to do (however many meals a day) – I like to snack throughout the day and have one or two larger meals, but mostly just be munching every hour.  That’s a lot harder to do when the food is offered up and then it’s expected to be cleared away after a certain period.

I also like to wander around outside or drive around, which is not exactly an option for me here.  I suppose I could always go downstairs for a stroll or a swim (I wonder if I need a special key for entry?), but I feel bad making someone open the door for me whenever I get back.  It’s difficult to find a good balance between doing what I want to and also not getting in the way or being an inconvenience.  I tend to think everything I do is disruptive except for staying in the room, out of everyone’s way.  And so that is what I do for pretty much 90% of the time that I am here.

It’s an unfortunate combination of factors working here.  For one, it’s not worth it to move to my own place – I’d end up paying to be here and I don’t want to dig into my savings (or my parents’ generosity).  Yet, staying with her poses a myriad of conundrums.  I’m very grateful that Marylin and her family have so generously taken me in, but I feel like I have to tiptoe around everything.  I don’t want to use too much of their resources.  I feel guilty every time her mom so kindly buys me lunch that is ready for me when I wake up on the weekends.  I feel awkward asking their maid to do anything, so I try to do it myself, but then I feel like I’m breaching her territory.  I try to stay away from the living room in case that makes them feel like they can’t use that space.  I don’t talk to her parents very much because I don’t want to disturb them.

All these things are nobody’s fault, but just unfortunate byproducts of the situation.  I’d much rather be on the other end, offering my home and resources to others.  In fact, I often imagine how things could be when I get back and after we’ve found a way to get Marylin over there too (and possibly others!).  Of course, everything else I miss about home doesn’t help things either.  I’ve been getting a lot of invites to events occurring on campus and I wish I could be there to attend, as an alumna now.  This weekend is the Festival of Books and it will be the second year that Livescribe has a booth there.  Last year I was there, working the booth as a campus rep, so I wish them another successful weekend!

I’m going to compile a list of all the things I want/should do in Singapore (and maybe nearby countries, if I can make it) and start figuring out when I’ll have time to get around to doing them all.  That’ll help get me out of the house, see more of Singapore, andkeep me entertained.  I shouldn’t spend my weekends lying around all day, drinking water incessantly and doing who knows what online.  Sometimes I amaze myself with how I distract myself.  I hope that before I know it, I’ll be headed home (though a bit nostalgic and sad to be leaving here).

PC vs. Mac: the neverending debate April 24, 2009

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Disclaimer:  I have a strong bias towards PCs, so Mac-lovers may not like what I say.

Before I started to work here, Marylin warned me that I was entering Mac territory and would likely have to convert.  Dismayed, I tried to keep an open mind about it, but ultimately did not want to make the switch.  Thankfully, I have been able to use my HP Pavilion with few problems.  The only thing that stands out is my inability to connect to the company network to access shared files.  Other than that, I find that my PC is perfectly fine and usually outperforms those little Macs.  Unfortunately, my colleagues are far too enamored with Macs to appreciate it.  Recently, it seems like a lot more of the differences have become apparent to me.

First, let me go through the three experiences I had lately regarding the two different operating systems.  It started when I was retrieving some information off a website to store in our database for reference.  I thought I should use a Mac because it’s linked to the shared drive, so I could download directly to that.  However, I quickly lost patience using the clumsy mouse pad and decided to get it all done on my PC and then transfer it over via a thumb drive.  I found some articles that were embedded in the site, so they needed to be copy-pasted and then converted to a PDF.  When I did that on the Mac, all formatting was lost and I had to go through to change everything.  After switching over to my PC, I discovered that a quick copy-paste would yield basically ascreenshot of what was on the site, all formatting preserved nearly perfectly.  It was a breeze making the PDFs that way.

The next time I came across an issue was at a meeting, where Macs don’t have the right plug to connect to a projector, so we had to use my computer to present a PowerPoint to the clients.  Macs need this converter thing, which is such a hassle to remember to bring along.  Finally, later that same day I was compiling a list that I wanted to store in a database, where I could tag each item with keywords to cross-reference them according to the various categories they fit under.  I was looking into using Access to accomplish this, which would have been fine and dandy, except Macs can’t read those files.  So now we’ve got to look for a paid program or I’m going to have to painstakingly figure out how to make it work out decently on Excel.

Now my main reasons for preferring PCs have always been:
1. The right click!  So much functionality has been lost from not having that.  I really can’t live without it.  Granted, it seems that Apple has finally caught on are adding that in now.
2. The toolbar is at the top of my open box, no matter where that box is.  Why does it have to be the very top, no matter what program is open and where it is on the screen?  What if my window is open at the bottom right?  Then I have to travel all the way to the opposite corner to get to the "Finder" thing just to use the menu options.
3. Double-clicking that expands to full screen.  I am used to it expanding to full screen, not shrinking!  How do you even expand on a Mac, is it that teeny little green button?d
4. The buttons along the bottom of the screen to show all the programs I have open and one button to press to go to the desktop.  I often forget what is even still open on a Mac, and can someone please tell me if there’s any order to how the little screens appear when you sweep to one of those corners that shows all the open windows?  I don’t like accidentally moving my mouse to a corner and BAM everything disappears, or everything appears when I don’t want it to!
5. The backspace AND delete options.  Backspace removes characters to the left and delete removes characters to the right of the cursor.  Delete on a Mac does what backspace does on a PC.  So what on a Mac does what the delete does on a PC, pray tell?

And for HPs, I love the little remote that I get to allow me to control PowerPoints, movies, my music, or any other form of media from up to 10 feet away.  Then I am no longer tied down to where my laptop is sitting (like when it’s tied to the cable connecting it to the projector), so I am free to walk around as I present something, sit further away to watch a show, or dance around to my music, changing it as I want to hear a new song.

Another thing is that I like my mouse sensitivity set at very high.  I don’t know if it’s just because none of the Mac users I know like to make their mouse move faster, but I don’t have the patience to wait for the mouse to casually make its way across the screen.  In this new age of efficiency, that is just too slow.  I like a very sensitive touchpad.  And can someone explain to me why there’s an "apple" button and a control button?  Everything done with the apple button can pretty much be done with a control on a PC, so what in the world is the control for?  Is it trying to make up for the previously lacking right-click?  Maybe this is just something I’d get with time using it, but it seems superfluous to me.

A friend once told me that Macs are designed to be very childish and simple.  That’s very true.  Sometimes they are so simple it doesn’t make sense.  (Like the Finder example above – it’s very easy to always expect the toolbar in the same spot, no matter what, but it is also inefficient in many cases.)  Everything in their design is about simplicity and plainness.  Just one simple color, no designs.  Just one touch pad, nothing else.  Just a few small slits for USBs and CDs.  Oh, speaking of which, there are hardly enough USB ports!  With a wireless mouse and a thumb drive plugged in, they’re already maxed out!  What if I want to plug in just one more thing?  Now maybe it’s just my computer and not all PCs have three slots, but I’m comparing what I have to what I’ve seen of Macs (the new silver ones with the glass screen).

Even their logo is childish and simple.  For 22 years it was the apple shape we all know, but shaded in rainbow colors.  A very simple design and all those colors is rather reminiscent of crayons.  After it was revamped to be the new version that could be blown up without looking tacky, it’s now no more than a silhouette.  Yes, it looks sleeker, but it is still very basic.  And that is great for them – it costs much less to print just one color, the logo is easily recognizable, and it can readily be duplicated.

What I do like about Macs are the scrolling option if you use two fingers, as well as the expand or shrink option if you move your two fingers further away from or closer to each other.  They also tend to be the quietest, though if I keep my laptop parallel to the ground and off of soft surfaces, it doesn’t complain either.  The new glass screens are quite nice as well, leaving less room for dust to get in cracks and giving a nicely smooth texture.  And I do agree that Macs tend to be better for creative work though, in terms of design and whatnot.

My one gripe about my laptops are that they are dead heavy.  I have that one coming though, since I prefer to get the ones with wide screens and this one also has a reserve battery power that gives me extra oomph.  My shoulders pay the price of that decision, but ultimately I don’t mind.

The sleek designs of Macs are much of what makes them appealing, but a lot of functionality is lost through that.  I guess that’s why they sell/don’t sell.  Some of the population is out for aesthetics over usability.  Most of the population is looking for functionality.  And I am one of those individuals who would not pay exorbitant amounts for looks.  But hey, to each his own, I guess.

TV’s lack of appeal April 19, 2009

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I can’t recall where our household TVs were in most of the places I grew up.  In fact, my first memory of really consistently watching TV was back in middle school, around 7th grade.  That was when we had moved to New York and I remember coming back from school to watch trash shows like Ricki Lake and then classics like Fresh Prince of Bel Air as I ate my way through a few bags of instant chicken ramen.  I never really cared for cartoons and other animated shows, so I pretty much just stuck towhatever was on when I got home from school.  Prior to that, I had always read books for fun.  I think the change began when I started to come out of my shell and be more sociable at school.  Coming out of my own world and integrating into the larger one introduced me to this phenomenon that seems inescapable in the American culture.

Well, by the time I left New York three and a half years later, I had given up TV other than whatever was on that my dad was watching during dinner, which was usually 60 Minutes or 20/20.  The internet was booming and I could entertain myself far more with that than any TV show could ever provide.  Plus, I had much more control over what I would be exposed to, versus being at the mercy of some channel’s scheduling choices.  I can’t even remember what I used to watch, other than Gilmore Girls and Charmed.  I never really got into the whole TV or movie thing.  I’m not sure why, but I guess it was something about how unenlightening they seem and how they tend to encourage vanity.

Unfortunately, it’s gotten worse, from what I know, what with shows like Damages that I’ve seen commercials for and Gossip Girls that I’ve heard about.  Why would you spend hours of your life watching people be terrible to each other?  I hope this doesn’t produce a pathological society intent on revenge, greed, and other traits that will pick at our morals.  Entertainment is widely influential and the messages being sent these days are often questionable.  I’m not sure I want to know how this is affecting the younger generation as they grow up with their role models watching that kind of junk.

At the same time, there are some shows cropping up that I don’t mind, such as House and Lie to Me.  Initially my obsession with House started when I was moving in my second year of college and my friend was watching the season one DVDs.  The abrasive humor, fast-paced discourse, and insightful tidbits into the human body and mind attracted me.  Enough for me to decide to buy the first four seasons on DVD when I joined Columbia House.  As I spent the tail end of last year watching episode after episode, I started to notice the trends and patterns and slowly my interest waned.  I am still fond of the show, despite all its peculiarities (or maybe because of them) and I find it interesting because Dr. House is just so odd.

As for Lie to Me, I saw bus stop ads for it all over Westwood in the early parts of this year, as I was enjoying life with no schedule.  I decided to go check it out online once the show started airing and found it to be quite intriguing.  The entire thing is based on research done on microexpressions and body language, and how they can tell us when people are lying.  I have heard of this type of thing before, and having studied psychology as one of my majors, I find this fascinating.  There were a lot of facts in the show about how it all works, plus audiences get to see how what our behavior tells you is just the what, but not the why.  A lot of unexpected motives for lying are unveiled throughout the episodes, which makes you think before you assume.

I am also glad that the newer reality shows I’ve seen are getting more positive, rather than taking the dramatic approach by throwing a bunch of strangers to live together just to watch them fight.  I mentioned beforewatching some of the episodes of The Biggest Loser, which encourages people to take charge of their lives and finally get around to losing the unhealthy weight they’ve been bearing for years.  It’s not that I don’t have gripes about certain details of the show, but overall they are trying to send a good message.  I also like this one show I saw five minutes of, which pairs up children with their dads in a competition.  Done right, it encourages the parent-child relationship to be stronger and allows them to outperform by doing teamwork activities.  Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader? can be positive too, by making being smart look cooler.  What kid doesn’t want bragging rights to knowing the answer that the adult didn’t and "saving" them in the show?  Though the show makes some adults look like fools, it also encourages kids to do well in their academics.

Even the good shows out there have their flaws, but I guess that is expected, since they can’t be perfect or they’d be uninteresting.  The main problem with TV shows for me, however, is that I bore of them easily.  For both House and Gilmore Girls, which are the only two shows I own on DVD and the only two shows I have ever watched every episode for, there came a point when I started to tire of the plot or the characters.  When you see a pattern or things become predictable, it’s just not fun anymore.  I like to be challenged to never expect things at face value, to have to think about things that are going on in the plot.  Perhaps that is why I also quite enjoy watching CSI with Marylin on the weekends, whenever she has it on.  There’s always mysteries and twists to look out for.  Yet, whatever draws most of the population to their television sets each day baffles me, for I could live perfectly well without it.  Actually, I can’t even remember the last time I turned on a TV; in the past few years I’ve only ever turned them off after people around me have finished watching and I am still left sitting there.  To me, TV is just unappealing.

Productive day April 17, 2009

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I feel quite good about today overall, since it has been a long and busy day.  Though it started off a bit slow, with Marylin and I running half an hour behind schedule, it was still an efficient day.  A lot of things happened, starting with the mysteriously loud bangs we were hearing – turns out it was the water jug delivery guys.  We got our new stash of water to guzzle (which we do at a very high pace), then received two samples of pillows and blankets from a company in China (for Napper’s other business), and the model ship we have been waiting for!  The ship was made by prison inmates and donated to the Yellow Ribbon Project as a way to promote giving prisoners a second chance.  When Zen saw it, he was very keen to buy it and was actually able to!  I always love mail (and packages especially), so it was rather exciting to keep getting deliveries to the door.

On an individual level, I sent out some follow-up e-mails to people I met at the SHRI Congress.  Some of them took me awhile to craft, since I wanted to make just the right impression and give just the right message.  I feel quite good about what I ended up sending, so we will see how the replies are.  I also spent a lot of time doing some random market research and got a chance to chat with Lorry and share my opinion on something he was working on.  It was a nice bonding bit, getting to spend some time brainstorming and discussing ideas.  I got a chance to step out for lunch, which has been more occurring more rarely these days, so that was nice.  Soon after, I got a call from an old friend  back from Perth for the week and made dinner plans.  I then continued working, taking some small breaks here and there and had another fruitful sharing session with Lorry, which made me late heading out of the office to go to dinner.  Though Orchard Road is not far from our office, it still took me a good 20-25 minutes to get there!  At least the trains weren’t packed.  I guess people go home way earlier than 7:30 on a Friday.  Thank goodness!  Those 6 o’clock crowds are killer.

I spent many hours over dinner catching up with my friend and then we met up with a good friend of hers.  A lot of interesting topics were discussed and it was very nice to spend some time out for myself, chilling and talking over dinner and drinks.  There was a lot of ground to cover, after three years of not seeing each other, then mixing in a new person.  It was quite nice to see her because 1. we didn’t expect to see each other again for years, if at all; 2. Singapore was the last place we thought we’d meet up (it was supposed to be LA); and 3. I had no idea she was coming back so soon until just a few days ago.  This was rather unexpected and a great refresher of my second year of uni.  Ah, the good old days…  Life has changed so much since then!  The college lifestyle is so special.  Pity it can’t be retained as we move on into the workforce.

As I was leaving, I checked with Marylin to make sure she was still awake to let me in.  Turns out she and Zen were still out, hanging out with some of his friends from the Navy.  Thus, I was dropped off at Clarke Quay and made my way to a rooftop bar.  I met four other guys there and we sat around having a grand old time.  It was a nicely breezy night up there, so it was quite comfortable.  I munched on some ice to help clear my throat from the smoke I had been close to at the bar I came from and eventually we headed off to get some "supper."  What do you actually call a meal that you have at 3 in the morning?  Over dinner, we continued to crack jokes offhandedly and have a grand old time eating porridge.  I avoided the frog meat and got myself a bowl with some chicken shreds in it.

We were out until nearly 4 in the morning!  If tomorrow wasn’t a Saturday, I don’t think I could make it.

Inspirational reality shows April 5, 2009

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I spent the day watching America’s Best Dance Crew and The Biggest Loser.  I love these two shows because of how they show you people’s accomplishments and the powerful journeys they take.  From amazing physical skills to amazing physical transformations, it really is inspiring.  I’m not much of a TV watcher (in fact, I only watch things if someone else is watching it already), but there are certain shows I really like.  Reality shows can be good or bad, depending on if it’s all about people being dramatic with each other or if it’s about learning, growing, and improving yourself.  And these two, in my eyes, are really nice shows to watch to feel good about things.

ABDC is just so cool to watch.  The stunts these people pull, the unbelievable talent they possess, and the creativity and versatility they exhibit… really, it’s astonishing to me.  I have always respected people with such mastery of an art, sport, or academic discipline.  I especially admire those who can dance, sing, or create art, because that is something I have never quite had a knack for.  I can write, I can run, I can swim, and I can excel academically, but the fine arts baffle me.  So, I love to see a show like this, where it’s not just intense skill, but also so much more.  Dance forms are so expressive, so beautiful, so entertaining!  I really can’t describe what it is – perhaps it is because I wish I could do it myself.  Whatever the reason, I absolutely love watching dance performances!

A few things I’ve noticed from the show:  First, I’m just a little concerned that so far the all-female groups haven’t won ABDC yet.  In fact, not a single girl has been in the groups that have made it to the top so far.  Some have gotten close, but not quite there.  So I’m still sitting tight, waiting to hear of the first female team to launch themselves to the top.  Second, most of the guys who won (or even all of them?) are an ethnic minority.  Finally, they all hail from the Western states (namely, California and Nevada).  I don’t know if this is all a coincidence, a byproduct of the circumstances, or if there’s something to be seen in this, but it certainly intrigues me for how upcoming seasons will pan out.

Now Biggest Loser is great to see because the change is so drastic and so inspiring to watch.  It makes you reevaluate your own life and if things are satisfactory for you and how you treat yourself.  Although much of the show is centered around weight, it is important to remember that there’s more to it than that.  Overall health is extremely important, from other measures such as BMI and percentage body fat to things that cannot be measured, like increased self-confidence and a more positive mentality.  Plus, there are so many other health factors that aren’t always related to weight, including cholesterol and cancer.  The show often talks about how it’s not just about losing weight, but it’s the whole life-changing experience and new outlook, which is good.  However, physical health is far more complicated than weight lost, so I wish the show had a more sophisticated measuring system that takes other factors into account in judging the contestants.

In watching this show, I noticed that as the people got smaller, they also got tanner (which makes sense, what with all the time they spent working out outdoors) and, for the men, grew more hair!  At first I thought it was a curious thing, but then Marylin reminded me that hair does not grow as well through thick layers of fat.  So, as they slimmed down, the men also started to regain some of their chest hair.  Very interesting.  It also seems that women win this significantly less than men, though a lot of that has to do with how much you have to lose to begin with.  Granted, they measure percentage loss, but still, it gets harder and harder to lose weight as you get smaller (until you get to a point where you just shouldn’t be losing any more).

Earth Hour – a reflection personal passions March 28, 2009

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It was 8:05 PM when I opened up my planner to pen an event into it.  Suddenly, a reminder of Earth Hour was staring up at me.

"25 minutes!" I gasped.

"What are you talking about?" asked Marylin as Zen peered at me quizzically.

"Earth Hour!  We’ve got to turn off our lights for Earth Hour!"  I looked over at Zen: "You signed us up!"

And so, we all changed our plans to meet this commitment we had made by pledging our support for Earth Hour.  Rather than continue to work in the office as we had thought we were going to do, we headed out to eat some dinner.  Ok, so we cheated a little and didn’t confine ourselves to the dark.  But hey, we did turn off our lights!  We just went to take advantage of lights that were already on, that is all.

Being that recycling and conservation are the very things I want to build a company around someday, it was important for me that people are aware and care for causes like these.  Lately I’ve been going to a lot of informative sessions about various organizations in Singapore that are meant for the betterment of people.  There are the various divisions of the People’s Association, like Family Life, which is meant to promote the quality and importance of family life.  There is the Urban Redevelopment Authority, with plans to add infrastructure throughout town and expand and improve nature areas.  There are the efforts of the Yellow Ribbon Project to bring awareness and acceptance to ex-offenders, offering them a second chance at their lives.

And then, there’s Marylin’s passion for people with disabilities, which I’ve heard a good bit of lately.  Let’s not forget Zen’s love for the people in his life, which is pervasive in all that he does.  All this makes me wonder: for all the love I feel I have for people, why am I more interested in volunteering with animals and the environment?  Perhaps it is because I see it as my time to connect with the world and, in a sense, meditate.  It’s much easier to do that when your interactions don’t require conversations.  I’ve also always felt a huge connection with nature, finding the most peace in getting away from people and society.  I want to preserve that aspect of this world.  The things that live by their own rules and not ours.

So, sometime down the line, I want to create an environmental consultancy.  I don’t have the background to really go into air and water pollution stuff or how infrastructure can be built to be most efficient, but I can definitely become an expert in the types of materials and processes that are environmentally friendly for building with.  Mostly though, I want to advise organizations on how to create an effective recycling program, ways they can conserve on energy, alternative sources of power that can be employed, and also provide training for their members to promote awareness of these issues and show them why they should care.  I can also have seminars explaining how everyone can reduce their carbon footprints and offer easy solutions to greener lives.

As for the interest in animals, I absolutely adore cats (though I do like all creatures), so I think that will just be a personal pursuit for now.  I’m still trying to convince Panda to let me raise at least one cat.  Katana and I always used to joke that we’d grow old and be "crazy cat ladies" living next door to each other.  Though I don’t want to be stepping over them at home, I wouldn’t mind two or even three.  For now, I’ll have to wait it out and then find a shelter nearby with cats to volunteer at.  I’d really like to start a cat shelter myself, but I’m afraid I wouldn’t be able to give any of them away.  Ever.  Maybe I’ll look into championing spaying and neutering and adopting from shelters.

The business of cards March 25, 2009

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Namecards, or business cards, are one of those things that are really helpful in the business world.  Though you can come up with various creative designs to try to stand out, what ultimately matters is a clean look with key (mostly contact) information.  It’s pretty much a standard to hand someone a business card when you make a contact or find someone interested in learning more about what you or your company can do for them.  While you want to get your name out there and encourage follow-ups, you also don’t want to throw cards at anyone you come across, especially if you haven’t even spent a few minutes to talk to them.

Currently, Marylin and I are anxiously awaiting our business cards that will be printed with the updated address and phone numbers for our new office.  It’s a lot more difficult to network when you need to create makeshift "cards" to hand out to people.  If they can’t read our handwriting or mistake the slip of paper for junk later, we could very easily lose a valuable contact.  Plus, having that sturdy little piece of cardstock makes us look legit and oh so official.  I mean, not that we don’t look like seasoned pros already, what with our lovely attire and attitudes.  😉

We’ve been to two networking events this week and I have noticed that card-trading etiquette is quite different here!  All cards are presented and accepted with two hands and are usually accompanied by a bow or otherwise lowering of the head.  When I received my first two and took them with one hand, I noticed that it wasn’t quite right.  I wonder if other people noticed it and felt offended.  I certainly hope not!  However, it is a ritual that I have duly noted and will be careful to observe from now on.  These are the little cultural nuances that I am going to need to continue to pick up as I learn my way around here and this business world.

So you see, something as basic as trading business cards can be rather different depending on the people you are dealing with.  Nothing’s ever quite so simple, is it?

When cheese starts to stink March 17, 2009

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No, this is not about food.  Rather, it is about a couple that Marylin and I encountered on the bus ride home.  There we were, innocently sitting there on our trek home when a girl plopped down on the seat across from me.  Her boyfriend stood beside her and got dangerously close.  In fact, he was nearly on top of her.  Since I was facing that way, I couldn’t help but notice them from time to time.  That is when my mind started to register the yellow shirts they were wearing.

Now, at first that didn’t seem like a huge deal.  Maybe they just both were in the mood for yellow t-shirts that day.  But then I saw the design on them: matching cartoons.  You know the "Little Miss" characters?  Yeah.  That is what opened my eyes to their black pants.  They were thus deemed the "bumblebee couple" for their color choice.  Well, now that I had noticed a pattern, their matching chain bracelets popped out at me too.  I saw a tattoo on the girl’s hand and even started to scan the guy’s hands for a similar marking.  Thank goodness I didn’t find one, or else I may have been consumed with nausea (partly contributed to by the bus movement).

I don’t mean to judge, but why would you EVER want to match your partner like that?  Unless it’s a costume party or a uniform you two must both wear to school or work, it’s just not cool.  The time and effort spent on that is a sad waste of time that could be much better spent.  If it’s accidental, it can be forgiven once or twice, but a consistent pattern probably points to a serious excess of time.  Is it just us or is that behavior that should never catch on?  I admit, I can be really cheesy sometimes, but even this is too much for me.  You can be cutesy with each other in private all you want, but too much PDA is just disconcerting.