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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.

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).

Obama, from a non-political perspective April 22, 2009

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I’m not one to really delve into politics, but what I’ve been hearing/reading about President Obama over the past few months has been all about his forward-thinking and modernness in terms of his campaign.  He’s definitely breaking boundaries with his approach and I’d like to delve into how social media is impacting his presidency.  To start off with, he is the first Generation X president, bringing an entirely new philosophy as compared to the Baby Boomers.  As such, he has embraced a lot of social media outlets and is really quite on top of things – no longer do we have the outdated leader of the past.  It’s really refreshing to finally see the leader of our country making himself available to the masses in the way that he does, from having a Twitter account to keep people abreast of things (although that has definitely dwindled) to posting videos so the masses can listen to his speeches.  Now that’s what transparency is all about.

I like that the image and expectations of what a president is can be changed with him.  After all, he is all about change!  And it certainly is past due for the states to revamp our national leader’s role in interacting with his contituents.  We should no longer expect frumpy old white men hiding behind their desk in the Oval Office, but men (hopefully women, soon) of all backgrounds with doors thrown open and information shared.  Granted, there will be plenty we will not know due to the sensitivity of the information, but at least this allows us as a nation to have a better idea of what is going on.  People never really have a very good idea of what the presidency entails, so if President Obama and his staff can update his blog, Twitter, facebook, and other such accounts, we can feel like this man is actually doing something for this nation.  There is great potential here to reach out to the United States as a person and not a figure or a title.

I would like to see him reminding people of why we celebrate certain holidays as they come along, to encourage the community to understand what all those days off are for.  I would like to see updates on his social media accounts, telling us when he’s traveling to another country to meet their leader for talks, or an ambassador is visiting him to talk.  I would like to see him bringing attention to the importance of also voting in your local elections.  I would like to see him talking about all the issues he’s looking at, from the ongoing war to environmental issues to educational problems, and the like.  Most of all, I want to see him involving the people, engaging the people, and continuing to reach out to each of us, as individuals.  That’s what I think a great leader would do.

I’ve got high hopes for this man and what he can do not only for the country, but also the presidency.

The ones who blast their music April 21, 2009

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On the way to work this morning, I had the unfortunate experience of standing next to a guy with his music blasting into his ears.  I don’t know what it is about people out there, but they all seem to need their music played at exorbitant volumes.  It’s completely unnecessary and rather harmful too, yet they either don’t know or don’t care and go on with their deafening habits.  It has long been proven that prolonged exposure to loud noises is damaging to our ears.  Is it just that people have not gotten the memo?  Besides the point that is it deafening, literally, it’s also disruptive and inconsiderate to the people around, most who just want a peaceful start to their day.  For those who are trying to drown out ambient noise, get those noise-canceling headphones or learn how to focus on the sound right by your ears, rather than the ones slipping through!

Perhaps it is because of my background studying psychology, which in turn includes biology and physiology, that creates a bias in my knowledge about this subject.  But surely any lay man who goes from an extremely loud environment to a quiet one can tell that the ringing in their ears is not a good thing.  Note to the wise: ringing ears means auditory damage!  You are killing off nerves in those ears!  Now a bit of exposure here and there is hardly noticeable, but when you’re subjecting yourself to that for hours each week, it will result in permanent damage that cannot be reversed.  So are these people just looking to incapacitate themselves this way?  This will always be a mystery to me.  Do people think they’re somehow "cool" by doing this?  Maybe it’s just me, but I find it an annoying and rude behavior.

Listening to music loudly is often used as a means to ignore the rest of the world.  After all, if your eyes are averted and your ears are plugged, how do we get your attention?  This is a phenomenon you’ll find common on college campuses are students bustle around campus, rushing to get places.  The main thoroughfare through UCLA, Bruinwalk, is abound with students ignoring each other and the people frantically trying to give them fliers as they pass by.  It’s notorious amongst all students that earphones in means everyone out.  Sure, sometimes you need to focus on yourself and where you’re headed or what you need to do, but really, do you need to act like you’re the only one left on the planet?  Playing music at a reasonable level allows you to filter through things that you don’t want to hear, but also catch important ones like someone chasing after you, calling your name.  Since when did we become so antisocial?

I have always listened to my music at a level that is just enough to hear, but not enough to drown out what is going on around me.  I like to be aware of my surroundings and if I can’t hear the sirens approaching that I should give way to or the people behind me who are excusing themselves while trying to dodge me to get off the train, I’m far more likely to be a nuisance and get in the way.  So what do you say?  How about turning down the volume a little and not shutting yourself off in your own world, oblivious to your surroundings.  We as humans are not meant to function that way.  That is why we are social and why we form societies.  So, next time you have the urge to blast your music at the max volume, turn it down halfway and allow yourself time to enjoy the world you’re in.

Appearances April 16, 2009

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I’m making my way through Blink, which talks about how powerful our unconscious minds are.  One of the things it mentions is how height, gender, and other physical traits can really influence us, even if on a subconscious level.  It’s going to take us a long time to ever overcome (or even come close to that) initial impressions based on a person’s appearance.  Those who are taller exude more power; those who are well-shaped exemplify better health; and those who are good-looking are expected to be better people at everything they do.  It takes a lot of training and exposure to lessen the effects of the unconscious feelings we get from our split-second judgment of a person.  It’s a sad truth of evolution that we tend to have these immediate reactions.  It’s how we size people up at a glance.

Our views of others continues to be molded by the way they look, among other factors, even after we get to spend some time getting to know them.  A lot of societal constraints force us to still dress in business attire when we’re doing things related to work, or wear certain clothes to fit a certain "type" of image, such as punk or preppy.  It’s because of this that there are dress codes and categories of people based on what they choose to wear.  Perhaps this is why I feel very sharp when I dress up in formal clothing and more casual when I’m in my sweats.  What you choose to wear really does send a message.  You’d certainly never find me tottering around in high fashion clothes, not only because I don’t care to pay the money for those things, but also because I find that look to be silly.  It’s just something I don’t get.  What I do wear either tells people that I am a business woman and I take my work seriously, or that I am a low-maintenance girl who just wants to enjoy herself and not worry about looking stellar.  (Wow, even my language reflects the impression I am presenting, with woman being a more serious noun and girl being a more relaxed one.)

It’s funny how every choice you make can be so reflective of your nature.  But, that is always to be taken with a grain of salt, as there are certainly people who don’t "look the part."  On a very broad scale though, how a person looks in just a fraction of second of seeing them is actually quite a decent measure of their personalities and preferences.  That’s what Blink is telling us.  This is generally not easily accepted, since we value getting more information.  More is not always good and in certain cases, less can be more accurate!  Mind-boggling, isn’t it?  I am constantly amazed at all the previously counter-intuitive things that have been proven true in research.  Even our intuitions are being molded differently now!

So in the end, I will still conform a bit to society’s expectations of me, much as I may disagree with it sometimes.  After all, it will help get me further in my goals.  A bit of resistance and change is good.  I want to run an unconventional office one day, but until then, there are certain things I must still do for others to accept me as capable, reliable, and trustworthy.  Not that I mind wearing business clothes!  It’s just other things that I don’t care for.

Treat your customers well April 14, 2009

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Right before I left LA, I had two very different experiences with customer service that brought to the forefront the idea that how you provide your service is very important for your image.  Then, as I mentioned yesterday, I just recently had another experience that emphasizes how great customer service can make up somebody’s mind about the quality of your work!  Even if the quality of your product or service is not related to the quality of your customer service, people will tend to go for people and companies they like and trust rather than ones that have no personal connection, but are mavens at what they do.  And that is the influence of word of mouth, which powers viral marketing.  Nothing is more reliable than the opinions of your closest friends, family, and colleagues.  So, a word to the wise, outstanding customer service can trump many marketing schemes.  And in this day and age, it probably costs a lot less to train employees to interact with your clients considerately than to put out a campaign.  Now let me describe my experiences.

So first of all, I had an excellent time getting my nails done at this little salon in Westwood across from the B of A.  When I went in, I kept asking how much time it would be and they could tell I was in a bit of a rush, so they sat me down and keep reassuring me they would get to me soon.  As soon as they could, they started to work on my nails and even brought a little fan over to speed up the drying of each layer as they painted.  Every now and then, they would say a few words to me to check on how I was doing and start some chitchat.  It was nice that they didn’t ignore me and just work away, but also didn’t pursue talking if I wasn’t being as responsive.  As I was sitting there, grateful that they sensed my urgency and did something about it, I decided to get more services done.  Thus, I asked about their eyebrow waxing and got that done as well.  When it was all done, they gave me these cute little foam slippers to wear since I had closed-toed shoes and put my shoes in a bag for me to carry.  The manner in which they presented themselves was very personable and inviting.  Plus, they offered their services at the best rates I’ve seen nearby!  I definitely plan on going back to that place for all future needs once I’m back in the area!

Now for the bad experience.  Panda and I went to get dinner at Yamato’s as one of the last things we did before I left.  It was also an unofficial belated birthday celebration for him.  The pricing at that place is great and the inside is very elegant-looking.  We were escorted upstairs to a couple’s table and ordered.  One of my items was a seaweed salad – classic for me at a Japanese restaurant.  So our huge bento box came and then our hand rolls arrived and there was still no word on the salad.  One of the waitresses came by to ask about the salad and went to check on it – three times.  You would think that after the first time they could throw it together in a few minutes’ time.  It’s just seaweed after all.  Meanwhile, our actual waiter acted like this was a perfectly normal wait time for a salad.  Huh???  I’m nearly done with my meal!  So, after I had pretty much had everything else, a manager-looking lady came along with it and I munched at it, slightly disgruntled.  It didn’t even taste that great, if I remember correctly.  Panda didn’t want me getting all upset and being difficult, but I was firm about not being walked over.  I wasn’t mean or unreasonable, but I was less than amicable and rather stern.  That’s what they get for poor service!  Later, I told my friend Koala about it and he agreed that they don’t have very good service there.  I guess that’s the price you pay for getting cheap food in a pretty, fancy place!

Finally, I opened up an IRA account with Fidelity yesterday, a bit apprehensive about them, but choosing them in part because I think I heard Panda said he used them and in part because they were the first ones listed.  I hadn’t really heard anything about them, how reliable they are, how their quality of service is, etc.  Upon setting up the account, I had some questions about certain procedures.  I e-mailed them and got a timely response soon after the start of their work day.  The reply not only addressed the issue I was contacting them for, but also followed up with questions about what I knew about the transaction and its implications.  I felt pleased that they actually cared that I knew what my decision meant for my finances.  After giving them the information they needed, I got another lengthy reply, fully outlining all the questions I had about what I was doing.  And to top it off, they turned crazy complicated financial jargon into easy to understand plain English terms.  Amazing!  You know what’s best?  This is all FREE!  Yaaay!  But because I feel so good about them now, I wouldn’t mind paying for their other services when I do need it.  Now that’s how you should do business.

Now it’s time to take this and evaluate how I approach clients and prospective clients.  In Blink, they mention how people won’t sue a doctor because they are bad as much as they will because they don’t like them.  Those doctors who spend the time and care to explain to their patients what’s going on and involve them don’t make less mistakes than other doctors who just go and do their exams.  Yet, they don’t get nearly as many lawsuits as the cold, heartless doctors who ignore their patients as they work.  So it’s time to work on my repertoire with the people I meet.  Sales is often about the relationship you build with people, rather than your ability to sell the product to people.  A certain level of trust is key to getting your foot in the door to close the deal.

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).

Detailing experiences March 29, 2009

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I feel (and have often felt) like I should write more like I am storytelling, relaying the details of my life.  From the feelings to the specifics of names of places, these are all things that I tend to leave out.  I usually write what I did, plain and simple, in my daily journal.  I’ve been making an effort to include more of what I think and feel for a couple years now.  It’s getting a lot better, but there’s still a lot more to be done.  Then on the blogging side, I tend to only write about what I think, but not really related to a certain event.  Granted, an event may have triggered my idea, but it’s usually something that I’ve been thinking about for awhile or have at least considered before.

Part of the problem is the trade-off between the time spent in using so much detail and the time I could be spending out, living a life to write about!  This is a very familiar tug-of-war for me, after thirteen years of keeping a personal journal.  I’m afraid that I am slowly drifting away from maintaining it, just because the quality that I want to have takes far too much time to fit into my life.  Yet, I still can’t quite put it down.  After all, I’ve been faithful for a good twelve years and some with little faltering!

This struck me as I was replying to an e-mail from one of my pledge brothers, asking for advice from anyone who had traveled to Europe before.  I can still recall all the places I went and most of things I saw, but what was that website I used to book my hostels?  What airline were those cheap flights taken on?  These are all details that have started to escape me.  Thankfully, a quick search and refresher took me back to the information I wanted, but can things always work out so well?  I’d much rather have solid entries I can refer to from that time, with all those details in there for me.

I don’t have a very good memory and those are one of the most precious things to me, so it’s sad to realize what I have forgotten.  It’s the very reason why I stubbornly continue to document my life, despite the time that it takes.  Between all the things that I have recorded, I think I have a good database of my life.  I want to be able to look back on my life and actually know what happened.  I don’t just have trouble throwing away physical things – memories and knowledge are the same for me!  I hate that my French and Chinese language skills have deteriorated so much over the years and that I probably can’t remember the way to get from my house to the local library back in Topeka.

So, I love to have all this information.  Plus, it will all be very useful for writing my autobiography!  😛  I’m going to have to get the nearly 50 volumes of handwritten journals to be transcribed.  The benefit of electronic copies is the searchability and accessibility they offer.  Though most of my entries aren’t very exciting, there are definitely some jewels hidden in there that could be really great material.  I’d also need my thousands of pictures and videos to be consolidated and put into some sort of a timeline corresponding to my written entries and life events and experiences.  How cool would that be?  Then I could virtually relive my life (to some extent)!

For now though, I will take to my friend Ninja’s philosophy: live a life worth writing about!  (Or, in his case, worth making a movie about.)

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?

Pervasive American culture March 18, 2009

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Talk about a powerhouse.  I am constantly surprised at all the speeches that I hear overseas that include references to America this, America that.  I mean, I know that American culture is infecting other countries, but in every area, from social to political to scientific, I am reminded again and again just how effectively this seems to be occurring.  Ok, so they watch American TV dramas and movies, fair enough.  Hollywood is the mecca for the entertainment industry after all.  But must it also be mentioned when referencing research, political philosophies, or economic analyses?  (I’m not talking about the current economy "crisis" here – I can understand how talk of that can stem from the states.)

This happened yesterday at the 30th Annual Speak Mandarin Campaign that I was given the chance to attend.  The Minister Mentor (aka big shot of Singapore) was there as the guest of honor to deliver a speech encouraging Sinagporeans to continue to embrace the Mandarin language and master it as they have English.  In his speech, he referenced some research done in the states and that got me thinking about how I’ve never gone to an event that didn’t mention something from America.  Likewise, even my lectures in England contained US material!  What a strange phenomenon.  Here I thought I was getting away from all that and had to learn to adjust and relearn.

From my perspective, it’s interesting to hear about these issues and listen to what other nations have to say about my "home" country.  Sometimes (actually, a lot of the times), Americans are contained within their little bubble that it’s shocking and eye-opening to see things from another angle, hear another voice.  Though I generally associate myself with the US and think of myself as American (well, Chinese-American), there are times when I feel rather detached from it all.  In the end though, the country has given me a lot of great opportunities and provided a life for my parents and I that would not have been possible anywhere else (as far as I know, anyway).

Whether good or bad, I like to hear news about the states.  I feel more connected to it when it is talked about by non-residents, possibly because I cannot always identify with how they feel.  Everyone seems to have their opinion on the US, from dumbfounded admiration to unbridled disgust.  For me, it’s a matter of this journey of learning more about how the country I grew up in and the culture I grew up with fits into the world.  I tend to be more on the self-righteous side just because I have a certain level of patriotism for the country that may not have been perfect, but certainly has been good to me.

I think a lot of the viewpoints we hold are due to the way we choose to interpret things.  Some people may be offended by things that others find hilarious or just not a big deal.  Meanwhile, others may be greatly affected by things that others don’t pay attention to.  And though I have faced my own challenges and hardships, I am still so much more lucky than most of this world.  Now I do think it’s kind of cool that so many American references are made, but I hope that that is not corrupting the beauty of other cultures.  After all, how boring would the world be with everyone doing things the same way, believing the same ideas, and liking the same things?