Saturday, August 30, 2008


When did everyone start using the article "the" in place of a possessive in writing? I think it is meant to be cute or endearing, but I just don't like this new trend in blogs and reviews.

The worst offenders I have seen lately (and I would know, having spent a large amount of time today researching a good, non-pretentious, preferably Top-40 playing dance club to celebrate my birthday at and a good Korean restaurant for dinner tonight on Yelp) are Yelp reviewers. Now I know most of the reviews on Yelp are for restaurants, and as it turns out, going out to eat is a common activity shared by significant others.

Everyone knows that and if you ever see your high school crush after having been with his high school sweetheart for much too long, you will know it too. It might happen when by chance you find yourself out with a new group you don't usually hang out with and who also happen to be friends with said ex-high school crush. At first you may not recognize him because for all those years you had always admired his athletic build and quick, bright eyes from afar. And the person who is rubbing his hands together in an unappealing manner and asking if he can buy you a drink is not the person you had placed on near celebrity-status years ago. Instead what you see is an unrecognizable man who gave into his late night munchies one night too many and chose ordering in a romantic dinner over going for a romantic walk too often. And because in high school when you are not popular and have crushes on popular people, you do not know any course of interaction deeper than watching for them as they enter into the classroom or perhaps asking what the homework assignment was. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, per se, but it does leave you with a very limited view of your crush, so years later when you would have thought you would be overjoyed in his taking an interest and asking if you'd like a drink, it is actually quite disappointing.

Alas, the point is, why can't reviewers just own up to the fact that it is their boyfriend or girlfriend that ordered the fettucine alfredo? Why must it be the boyfriend or the SO? For some reason, it just rubs me the wrong way. The same way people who pronounce advertisement ad-VER-diz-ment do.

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Recurring Living Alone Daydream

Although I have already put down a deposit on a small one bedroom on the “quiet side” of Santa Clara (and so am aware of the actual size of my new abode), when I daydream about what it will be like living there, space limitations are not an issue.

Because it is my daydream, the living room is extensive, colorful (but not in a chaotic way) and tastefully decorated with simple artifacts. The kitchen is the same size as the living room, if not bigger, and permeates with a magnificent golden glow which is at once inviting and secure. It will have the feeling that places that hang “Safe Place” signs in the windows will wish they had and twice over. There will be a lovely, but small, garden in the back with just enough foliage that it should never look unruly and a small table with rustic chairs on which one may sip a cool beverage in the evening twilight.

I allow myself to dream about how it will soon be living alone and the daydreaming has become much more frequent and vivid. Any emtpy time where I am not required to think about one thing or the other somehow becomes occupied with thoughts of the greatness of living alone in one's own place. Now it has become so detailed that I catch myself thinking about what I will wear when living alone.

The daydreams consist of envisioning one of the following activities or situations (and sometimes, two or more of the following, but always in different combinations):

-Hanging out in short shorts (specifically, a light blue pair that are not indecently short but too short to be worn comfortably in the presence of roommates and which quite possibly exceed the comfort level of all other bottom-half garments I own).
-Hanging out in short shorts on my couch in front of the TV with my laptop on my lap, with perhaps a pashmina or other soft material around my shoulders. And while I'm there, I'll be able to do whatever I want to do, even watch TV with my mouth hanging open. And all the while, I can do it without worrying that someone else wants to watch something else and I won't have to listen to boys talking about their relations with girls or about the disbelief of how much coke was done at such and such party or worry that if I say I don't want to go to a bar at 11 o'clock on a Wednesday night I will be looked upon unfavorably.
-Making rice krispy treats that will not be shared with potheads with a bad case of the munchies.
-Opening the fridge in the morning and realizing that everything in it that was there the night before was not eaten in a drunken haze while I was alseep and the bruschetta covered in plastic wrap I made for the company potluck the next day will not have been rummaged through and devoured prematurely.
-Working on touching my toes and overall flexibility on the living room floor, which will be beer-stain free, while watching re-runs of bad reality TV.
-Having a Brita water filter in the fridge, always filled with water.

There is more, but I'm afraid I might jinx it all. After all, Irene could be right, it would be just my luck to move into a place inhabited by a ghost – a pot smoking, alcoholic, coke-head hipster-meathead-anti-social ghost.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

From advertising to IT consulting services

Each week began with deadlines and dead time looming ahead. Dead time classified as time which should be billable. Which required creative thinking of things to do with one's time that would make it billable. The anxiety of not having a big enough list of these things to do. The apprehension of doing timesheets and entering in for weeks in a row 5 hours of admin time every day because work is dreadfully slow and you really don't think tidying items on your desk counts as billable time.

Then there is the call into the office with a slightly uncomfortable, oddly serious tone. And then the door is closed and you are told to have a seat and you already know what's coming because your gut is screaming things at you and knotting its fists.

And then you are let go. But not before words are said which make your face hot and your stomach all the more angry and upset. And the words smack a little and you wonder if the smacks are leaving little red marks on your face.

And it is not until after, much, much later, that you have time to articulate it to yourself what just happened and then you feel your face heat up and you wonder why you did not say the things that should have been said. And you will think about it from time to time, especially on long drives on long stretches of freeways when no one else is in the car with you. You will replay the conversation. You will replay whole weeks and months. You will replay certain instances and meetings and you will not miss the dead time.

After a while, and from a comfortable distance away, you will be able to let it go after it has let you go and things will be better. You will still live your life through post it notes and dynamic To-Do lists that last an entire week. And whereas before you tracked ads and PR stories and referred to items due as "the biggest sale ad" or "the CC Times PR," now you track people. The people you track will now have skills sets and unique experiences and you learn all about them as if they are an interactive product that everyone speaks of, and you will get to know so much about them, but really not know them at all, that it comes as a great surprise when you meet them in person and you learn they have children or that they misspell words.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

A Motherly Mother

Growing up, I watched a lot of TV (just as any all-American child should). In the summers, my schedule revolved around re-runs of Laverne and Shirley and Happy Days. If I woke up early enough, say around 10:30 am, I would be lucky enough to catch episodes of I Dream of Jeannie or Bewitched. With my bowl of Lucky Charms, I opened each and every new summer day with these characters and waited to see what predicaments they would need to get themselves out of.

Later in life, while waiting for a show I really wanted to watch to come on, I learned to fill gaps in TV time with more modern sitcoms. Both funny in a light-hearted way to the audience and overbearing and widely annoying to the whole cast of characters, sitcom mothers were always of a strange interest to me.

I wanted my mom to be a sitcom mom. One who stays home and tells me to put on a coat when it's cold outside and bakes cakes and brownies for me and my friends so as to butter us up and be granted the privilege of listening to us gossip about who the cute boys at school are and which ones we hoped would ask us to the next school dance. But instead my mom worked a varying range of shifts -- from swing shift to graveyard shift -- and in her absence she left plates of cut up, peeled fruit on the kitchen table for us to eat after school. Covered bowls and plates would also be left on the table for us to heat up for dinner. And always the bowls were covered with plates, never with aluminum foil or saran wrap.

Anything that would lend even the most insignificant amount to increasing my cool-factor was forbidden. Wearing make-up was not allowed, dating boys was out of the picture and when I was caught eyeing wide-leg jeans (back when that was cool) during back-to-school shopping, I was told those were for gang-bangers which I was not and which she would not want anyone to confuse me for, so I was not allowed to wear or even eye such garments. As an alternative, my mom graciously allowed me to wear "loose-fit" jeans which I got in one size bigger to try to re-create the wide-leg, baggy look. They instead made me look like I was wearing hand me downs which I still needed to grow into, but I thought they made me look with it.

Somewhere, somehow, over the years my mom has changed. She hasn't become the sitcom mom who lives next door like in Everybody Loves Raymond, coming over to meddle at inopportune times, but I appreciate my mom because she has become so mellow and so unmeddlesome. She worries about just the right things and voices concerns on such a manageable scale -- all things that I can handle.

The other night she called to chat and asked what I had eaten for dinner. I told her I had packaged ramen and she let out a small gasp and asked how I had the strength to go to work in the mornings if I'm eating ramen for dinner. I've tried telling her what I've done in the past. Market research and copywriting are somewhat hard concepts for me to explain in Khmer, so with my new job, one which I struggle to explain with a concise answer when people ask at parties, I have not yet tried to explain. I do explain that I am well-fed at work and that I eat all 3 meals there. She says ok and seems relieved that I am not wont to starve to death, weak and without energy to type in my cube. I sometimes wonder if my mom secretly thinks I am a field worker.

[It should be noted that within this conversation, the topic of Alan and I moving in together came up and still more time and concern was spent discussing the fact that I was eating ramen for dinner.]

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Happy Hump Day

If you still have a mountain of work to do and little time left in the week to do it all in, don't fret. Just remind yourself of the saying "When life gives you lemons...." As long as you can remember that, you'll be fine.

The trouble only starts when you take it to the extreme, like Pagoda here. When life gives him lemons, he runs to the toilet to make lemonade.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Wanted: One Studio Apartment

Back in college, when squeezing two people, two desks, two bookshelves, two dressers and an occasional boyfriend-sleeping-over in a room was the norm, I thought I never wanted to live alone. On those weekends when roommates would leave to go back "home" to their parents' house, time alone would become unbearable -- the extra room with no one to occupy it but me, the expansive space everywhere, the serious quiet, the feeling that I should be not at home by myself, but somewhere else entirely.

I wanted company, bustling movement, someone else to be in the room when I was. When I would ask, "So who are you living with next year?" and people would respond, "No one. I'm just ready to live alone, you know? No more roommates, no more having to share things..." I would widen my eyes just so and nod, as if to say that I understood the feeling of wanting to live alone. But in truth, I had no idea what that must have felt like.

The idea of living alone was frightening. Who would be there in the evenings when I'd come home looking for a friendly face to ask me how my day was? Who would I talk to when I wanted to kill some time before starting on a paper? What would happen if there was no one to hang out or talk to me the entire day??? I imagined becoming unsociable, like those who retreat to the woods to build their dwellings and make bombs of organic, combustible materials... This was the path I was sure those who chose -- who liked -- living alone were sure to take.

For the fifth time in the last 14 months, I'm on the hunt again for a new place to live. Except this time, I am not looking at the wanted ads for a new roommate. I skip pass all of them that read "Great 4 bedroom house with awesome roommates. You will have your own room but will have to share a bathroom with one other..." and have skipped ahead to the available studios and one bedrooms. After living with militant meatheads, giant controlling ex-Olympians, shitting dogs, dirty hipsters and off-kilter hippies, it comes as no big surprise to me that I'm ready to take this next step, but it is interesting in how far I've come from wanting to be with people all day every day.

To say that I am excited would be an understatement. Thrilled comes closer to identifying it, and sheer bliss is how I expect to feel after my solo living comes to fruition.

My idea of a good night is poring over the new IKEA catalog and picturing color schemes for my living room, or more accurately, the living room area that I will partition out in my studio.

When I tell Irene that I think I have found the couch, we stop to muse the significance of this purchase. She says this is a big step in life, and I wholeheartedly agree. No more late night partying, no more bringing strangers over. I'll have real responsibilities soon, a couch to look after and come home too. And I won't just be able to up and move. Now I'll have to think of how that will affect the couch -- where will it sit if I moved into a new place? Would it be comfortable with the new color of the walls or would it stick out like a sore thumb?

These are grown-up times we face.

Wharf to Wharf July 2008

The professional photography company at the race wanted me to shell out $35 to download a digital copy of this picture so I could post it here. Because I'm still working on getting money to grow on the trees in the front yard, here is the proof instead.

Post-race group picture #1.

Post-race group picture #2 (with smiles).

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Working Availability

Have you noticed that when you're single, no one wants to date you? And it doesn't matter how many good jokes you've practiced, how your shoes match the purple flecks in your shirt or how talented you may be at playing the piano. It just doesn't matter because you're available and the fact that you spent time planning a coordinated outfit, or that you try to crack jokes for the amusement of others, makes it even more obvious that you are available.

I've noticed lately that the same goes for jobs.

For nearly a month, the routine went like this:
Wake up at a reasonably early hour (considering I had no where to be really, except at my computer).
Make coffee. Drink coffee.
Watch the cats nap and stare out the sliding glass door and feels pangs of envy wishing I could experience such pleasure from such simple things.
Search for jobs of interest.
Search for jobs of "dream job" status.
Research "dream jobs" and spend many hours scouring the internet for any information or tips on how to secure said "dream job."
Experience feelings of dismay at the seeming impossibleness of attaining "dream-job."
Reassess situation.
Consider open door-to-door sales positions. Or perhaps telemarketing.
Stop feeling sorry for self and complaining to friends of working status on gchat.
Search for more jobs.
Write more cover letters.
Tweak and compose and create brilliant objective lines for resumes.

At the end of nearly a month of this, I still hadn't heard anything from anyone. I re-read the cover letters I had spent the most time on. The ones that were witty, that did not start off with "To whom this may concern," the ones that said pick me, I'm the one you need to do the job.

Then one Monday I interviewed. On Tuesday I got a call to offer me the position. On Wednesday I started. On Wednesday night, Friday afternoon and the following Monday evening, I received phone calls and emails from the same people that had all received the cover letters I had just recently re-read.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Psychology Today: The Bystander Effect at Raging Waters

Sometimes we would have ourselves believe that we would act a certain way in a given situation, when in reality, in the same exact scenario, we may act completely different. Once this topic came up in discussion with Irene. The question was, if you saw a girl walk by, and her bosom was inadvertently flashing every Tom, Dick, Jane and Harry (and you were pretty sure it wasn't on purpose because you had all your clothes on and so did everyone else around you), what would you do? Would you tell her? Are you thinking to yourself that of course you would because if you were that girl you'd want someone to tell you?

If so, Irene agrees with you. Which is noble. She is a very noble lass and one of my favorite people because of it. But I think she may be wrong.

When it comes to going up to complete strangers and pointing out to them some super embarrassing thing they have going on, it takes more gutsy-oomph than people would think. Or maybe it has nothing to do with guts at all and stems more from compassion. The kind of compassion where you want to help the troubled person save face by acting like nothing at all is wrong when their skirt's tucked into their underwear or they have a large piece of leafy green stuck in their teeth. Or it could even come from confusion. The situation could be rather ambiguous. Say it's not a piece of spinach leftover from lunch in the person's teeth. Let's say it's from some traumatic impact they suffered that left them with a stained tooth. If you mistakenly pointed it out as something to be embarrassed about, who would look like the idiot then?

In psychology, the phenomenon of not helping someone when they need a hand in a populated area is known as the bystander effect. And I experienced its effect first hand the other day while at Raging Waters, a raging good time of a water park. Until you're made to go on the water slide with the 6 foot drop that throws you in the water with such force that you can barely remember which way to swim once you come up for air. The kind of force that contorts your swim attire and twists wires and fabric shaped to fit your body, to cover the parts necessary for water park admittance, all out of shape.

You see, after the slide deposited me back into the pool, I didn't emerge looking like Naomi Campbell in Wild Things. Water went up my noise and chlorine under my contacts and I couldn't even see beyond my own hair. If I could have seen myself from someone else's point of view, I'm sure I looked like a drowned rat. Which is why at first, when the staring grandfather not only stared but turned to follow me walking by and jr. high children followed his gaze, I thought nothing of it. Only when I felt the warm air on a piece of skin that usually does not get to feel the romance of a summer's breeze, did I look down to see my ... exposed décolletage, if you will.

Now, when the Spice Girls were at the top of the charts, I didn't really fully embrace the whole Girl Power movement (if you can even call something supported by a group with members with names like Scary Spice a movement). But seriously, the lady lifeguard who saw me get out of the pool -- the one who watched me climb the whole 5 step ladder out of the pool, who saw me sputter and spout, cough and hack out pool water -- couldn't say a peep to me about my exposé? Maybe she was busy focusing on making sure no one drowned. I'll give her the benefit of the doubt.

I think we could all benefit from putting all the pleasantries and courtesies aside and just telling someone when something you THINK shouldn't be happening/showing/sticking out/stained/unzipped is happening/showing/sticking out/stained/unzipped. Next time you see that green piece of spinach and think maybe it's a dental birthmark, you should know, it's not. (Well, at the very least, it's safe to say that that is highly improbable and it's much more likely that the spinach lasagna special at lunch looked too good to pass up).


Things To Do This Summer:
1) Visit Hearst Castle
2) Have a cave adventure
3) Go to a water park
4) Denise's wedding
5) Go to the beach

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