When the weather is dreary…

laelene Posted in general blog,Tags: , , , ,
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We are so listless

We are so down

Lethargy is tangible in the air and conversations consist of how icky it is outside, how tired we are, how awful it all is…

All I want to do is drink cozy hot drinks like apple cider, hot chocolate, and tea. I want a fireplace to sit near, a soft comfy couch. I don’t want to have to think too hard. I don’t want to go outside.

My coworkers feel it too. We commiserate over the lack of light, lack of energy, and short days. Was it this bad last year? I suppose it was, but at least we had a room where we could close the door and turn up the music. This time around we barely see each other. I’m often off in a room or a corner, conducting a demo or webinar. When I’m at my desk, our faces are all buried in our computer screens. The day drags, yet the time still flies. The longest week manages to be the shortest and the weekends never last. Soon enough, we’re at it again. It gets darker earlier and earlier. Oftentimes it’s raining, cold. There’s no hope of getting home when it’s still light out. Oh how I miss the fairer seasons.

Yet, I get home and after dinner the night zooms past. Too soon, I need to rest but my body and mind aren’t ready to. If only there were more hours in the day, right? So then I succumb, finally. Rest is a wonderful thing. While it may be gloomy outside and totally zapping my motivation to move, at least it’s warm in here. If only I could sleep in a little more and just enjoy it.

The death of email

laelene Posted in general blog,Tags: , , , ,
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I hate email. I think it’s one of the most inefficient things out there. I mean, just look at how hard it is to maintain your inbox and keep everything organized. Sure, you can leave messages for all sorts of people, from those you actually know to those you want to. But the way that technology has evolved, there should be a better way. If we could only throw off the shackles of our habits and start anew, our interactions on the internet would be nothing like email as we know it.

Here’s how I envision it: we have what you can still consider an inbox. People can send messages to it and you can reply, but there is no need for including their original message. Everything is threaded in a flow like instant messaging. You can scroll through the entire conversation and collapse it for easy navigation. When you want to create a different string of conversation, you just click new and choose who to message and what to say. When you want to attach a file, it’s loaded for easy previewing and downloading right in a sidebar. No need to search through which email actually contained the attachment. If you want to loop someone in, you just add them to the conversation. They can scroll back to see what had already happened in the conversation. If you don’t want them to see that part, start a new conversation by copying the current one and choosing what to exclude.

For organization purposes, as you view these, you can choose to file them into folders of your choosing, give them tags for keywords that weren’t explicitly mentioned in the conversation, or archive them (like in Gmail). Of course you can also create filters to put certain messages into the baskets you like. You can search for anything within a conversation, file name, or person’s name. If you’re on a group email (such as “support@yoursite.com”) and multiple recipients get the message but only one needs to reply, you can easily choose ownership of one to indicate to others that you’ve got it. No need to reply all just to let them know NOT to reply as well. Ownership can be changed at any time and your copy gets archived away. Replies can also be public, if someone else may need to reply to the thread to help out the person next time (much like those support tickets work).

I think if you combine the best of email, messaging, and support ticket management services, you could have an awesome tool. Each on its own is rather lacking in a variety of departments and it makes me not want to use any of them. Where’s the consolidated place I can manage all the digital correspondence in my life? Why do I need to mash together texts and emails and what have you to try to have a conversation? I was really hopeful back when Google Wave was launched. I thought it could be a much better replacement for email, but it just didn’t take off. I’m still searching for that awesome new thing that will upturn our interactions on the web. Until then, I’ll keep on racking up thousands of unread emails in my personal inbox, just because it’s so cumbersome to use emails. The world may be willing to work in such an inefficient manner, but I’m not going to waste my time with that.

Working remotely in Hawaii

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I spent a week out in Hawaii while doing everything to make it seem like I wasn’t even gone work-wise. It was a last-minute thing: when I realized Veteran’s Day was the following week, I had asked Panda what our plans were (anticipating taking Monday off to enjoy a 4-day weekend). Instead of the type of answer I was expecting, I discovered that would be the week he was slated to go to Hawaii for work. I was so disappointed because I was really wanted to enjoy the weekend with him, but work travel meant he’d be leaving me Sunday morning. In other words, what I thought would be a long weekend would actually only consist of Saturday. For the first time, I was actually serious about joining him on a work trip. I really didn’t want to lose out on making it a holiday weekend worth my time.

So, once it was confirmed that he was going, I decided to make a decision and book tickets too. I’ve never planned a trip like this on such short notice, but it was one of those things I knew I’d regret for ages if I didn’t go for it. I figured I could still get all my work done at the normal EST hours I work and then I’d have the afternoon to enjoy the surroundings in Hawaii. Just like that, we found tickets for times I felt were reasonable and least interfered with work. By Sunday, we were off on our journey to spend a week out at the North Shore.

turtle bay resort at north shore hotel room with king bed

My office for the week.

I woke up daily (except Veteran’s Day and the weekend) at 4:30 HST to start work. I joined meetings remotely, answered emails, and worked on projects. Before I knew it, the sun would be rising and people were going off to lunch. I’d usually have a late “lunch” break and go enjoy the breakfast buffet downstairs. I savored the meals and watched the waves coming in as the heat began to build outside. Then it was back to the room for more work, which flew by pretty quickly. I found myself to be more productive (or at least it felt so) working from the hotel. This was probably because I had very few distractions. I hardly even got up for a drink or restroom break whereas usually at work I’m up at least once or twice an hour.

view of sunrise from turtle bay resort hotel room

Being awake for the sunrise was pretty cool.

view of turtle bay beach and ocean from turtle bay resort hotel room

The daytime view was pretty awesome too.

breakfast spread from breakfast buffet at turtle bay resort

A typical breakfast halfway through the work day!

I tried to finish my day around 1, but it usually went past that, though for the most part I was able to stop working by 2. At that point I had the choice of beaches to play at. One day I went the less traveled route and happily caught dozens of hermit crabs, snails, and even fish. Another day I found other crabs lurking by the rocks and swam around in the bay following a variety of fish around coral reefs. Yet another day I caught more critters and had a staring contest with some ghost crabs. I kept meaning to go to the banyan tree everyone checks out, but there were so many distractions along the way that I never quite made it there. I did have fun filming storks taking off in slo-mo, getting super close-ups of the creatures I caught, and generally basking in the sun.

clear plastic cup with a fish, hermit crab, and sea snail

Just the beginning of my catchings.

As the sun went down, we’d search for dinner and my night would wind down. I’d shower off the sand from the day and spend some time online before calling it a night. I tried to sleep around 8, but oftentimes it was closer to 10 when I got to bed. And then the day would start anew just past 4 as my alarms began to ring. It was much easier to wake up at that time than I thought it might be. I was quickly alert and ready to go! On our days off, we’d sleep in until 9 or so and then grab breakfast before embarking out on some adventure. Panda didn’t get the weekend, but luckily was free on Veteran’s Day and had some opportunities to leave work for a few hours. We went to Waikiki twice, hiked Diamond Head, visited Pearl Harbor, and even swung by the Dole Plantation. Not bad for a working vacation!

Billionaire lessons

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Today I watched a show about billionaires that was quite interesting. I particularly liked the guy who told his children not to chase after making big bucks, but aim for impacting more people’s lives instead. Now there’s a good goal to go after, and a far better approach than just trying to make a ton of money. Funny enough, when these billionaires went after what they liked to do (and worked hard at it), they made their fortunes. If only we all were more motivated to pursue our passions and interests more than riches, power, or fame. Alas, we live in a world where passion feeds the soul but not the belly and greed is laser-focused on money and possessions.

What I thought was cool about these billionaires is that they don’t just sit back on their heels, which isn’t surprising given the work ethic it took to make it to their position. With the personality types to achieve that sort of financial status, I don’t think they could “retire and live a good life” – their inner drive would go insane without being pushed a million miles an hour. A lot of people talk about how great it would be to not have to work another day, but what they don’t seem to consider is the fact that they need something to occupy their time and attention. Generally, the relaxed life of leisure gets boring after awhile. I know I can get listless with too much free time.

So what I took away from the show was that we may think billionaires have it easy, but really they work harder than most of us. They’re just the type of people to dream big and shoot for even greater goals when they have all that extra loot. Whether it’s space travel, advances in science, or improvements to health, there’s still plenty to be worked on in this world. The pursuit of money for the sake of having more of it isn’t a worthy cause and that approach won’t get you nearly as far as working on something that makes you light up when you talk about it. Find that and you know you’re on the right track. Whether you make millions or just make a living, you’ll certainly be richer either way. I’m still searching for which of my many passions are ones I can sustain. With so many directions I want to go, it’s hard finding the path forward. I’m sure there will be plenty of trial and error!

What I love about the iPhone 6 & iOS 8

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It’s been well over a month since I’ve had my new iPhone 6 and I’m very happy with it. Since this came with iOS 8, some of the new features might actually be from the operating system, so older iPhone users can update to iOS 8 to also get some updates functionality. Not only is it physically more comfortable to hold and use, there’s a lot of other things that make this iPhone better than ever. Here are some of my favs:

-touch ID – easily the thing I most looked forward to ever since it was introduced for the iPhone 5S

-easier on the eyes (larger screen really helps!)

-double tapping the home button brings down the screen for easier one-handed use

double tapping iphone 6 home button brings screen down for easier reach with one handed-use

-new calendar (probably an iOS 8 thing) includes option to use current location for calendar entry location, add travel time, and great view of month and upcoming events of the day on single screen

-camera video options now include slo-mo, time lapse, and timer

-native keyboard options allow you to change the default keyboard to a third party one! I installed Fleksy and Swiftkey – so much better, though I wish the shortcuts I set worked with them (learn how to set your own shortcuts)

iphone 6 with swiftkey keyboard third party keyboard installed natively

-battery usage shows me which apps suck the most energy on my phone!!

iphone 6 battery usage summary in settings

And other ones to note:

-location-based lock screen app suggestion

-email notifications (get notified when there’s a reply to an email thread)

-hiding email drafts (pull the draft down and keep working, then tap New Message below to resume drafting)

-AirDrop (not even new, but so useful for sharing files across devices quickly)

-scan a credit card to enter the info rather than typing it all yourself

-Siri taps into Shazam so you don’t have to pull up the Shazam app to figure out a song

-messaging details now include options to mute, share location, and quickly browse media you’ve sent to a person

-all kinds of photo editing options and even the ability to hide photos

The curse of jet lag

laelene Posted in general blog
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I’ve learned a lesson to not plan international trips so tight. Ever since returning from Hong Kong Sunday morning, I have been tired, sleepless, and borderline unwell. I either fall asleep right after dinner or I can’t get to sleep all night. I’ve been waking up around 4-5 in the morning, then struggling to sleep again. I went back to work Monday, with no other recovery time or buffer to help adjust back to Eastern time.

It’s been tough. My appetite has been limited and anything too heavy or creamy doesn’t sound appealing at all. I wake up in the middle of the night starving and I nearly went crazy from the intense burning of indigestion Thursday morning. It was the first time in my life I took Tums. All I want now is light, soothing broths and noodles.

My poor body has been beat up by my inability to readjust and I get migraines constantly. I really should have allowed an extra day or two where I could sleep in and try to return to a more normal sleep pattern. Thank goodness it’s the weekend now! All I want to do is sleep and eat.

iPhone 6 saga

laelene Posted in general blog
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iphone 6 and boxes being opened at vapiano's

My opening trail.

Every time, no matter how much I seem to be prepared to order my new iPhone, it’s always a complicated process. Things seemed to go smoothly with AT&T about half an hour after pre-orders were supposed to open up at 3:01 EDT on Friday, 9/12. I had set an alarm for 2:40 and decided I could wait around. I ended up falling asleep until past 3:30. I thought I might have missed my window when the Apple Store app wouldn’t let me purchase. I soon discovered the Apple site was down so I went ahead on the carrier side. I placed my order, but was paranoid about whether I got it in and everything worked out. Thank goodness for that, because I went to the Apple site and pretended to go through the ordering process from them when their site finally came up two hours later than expected. When it got to the stage where it needed information from AT&T, they couldn’t get a response, so they actually reserved a phone for me. All I had to do was complete the order by a certain time.

By the time I woke up for work a few hours later, I finally saw a confirmation email in my inbox. That set my mind at ease, in addition to my backup plan with the reserved phone through Apple. Just as I was feeling good about things by Saturday, I got an email from AT&T with further details on my order. Instead of the anticipated 9/19 ship date I expected, they were now projecting 9/23-10/2! I was not pleased with this news, so I immediately set about activating my Plan B. I called AT&T, cancelled my order, made sure my line showed up as eligible for an upgrade again, and went to place my reserved order (with guaranteed shipment on 9/19) via Apple.

activating iphone message on brand new iphone 6

Activating phone…

Alas, once I got to the billing part, I ran across an issue that led to three live chats and a bunch of service calls to both Apple and AT&T. You see, Apple forces you to ship to your billing address. This would have been fine had it been set to use the billing address I had updated with Apple. What I did not expect is that it latched on to the AT&T billing information and would not allow me to change it! That information was still under my old information in LA, since part of the account is for our Uverse service at home there. Even after making the update in my account, my reservation didn’t update. I didn’t want to lose the delivery date I had locked in and I certainly didn’t want my phone shipped clear across the country, so I spent the rest of Saturday and much of Sunday figuring this all out!

Ultimately, it was as simple as completing my order through the reservation and then calling in to Apple support to have the shipping information fixed. If only they had come to that solution before I jumped through all sorts of hoops to order. Even after that, I was anxious about my shipment. I kept checking to make sure the shipping information remained updated and that the shipment date still said 9/19. Over the course of the next week, all went well with that and by last Friday I was tracking my shipment. Luckily, Panda wasn’t working that day, so he was home to sign for the package when it arrived around 10:30 that morning.

I was so excited and eager that I had him meet me for lunch and bring the phone so I could get started with it right away. I even did my unboxing at Vapiano’s while waiting for our food! I love how it feels and I actually find it less likely to drop than my iPhone 5 (and 4 and 3G). In fact, I’m happy that I’ve yet to drop it so far. Setting it up was super easy once I was on wifi. I’ll show some comparisons of it with my old phone sometime.

 

Serviced out

laelene Posted in general blog
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This weekend was pretty brutal for my mind and voice. I spent pretty much all of Saturday and then half of Sunday dealing with customer service folks and I am pooped. I sure hope I don’t have to do these kinds of marathons again.

It started off Saturday morning with a trip to the DMV. You see, I got a ticket on my car at the parking lot at work on 9/11. Apparently my plates had expired, which I had no clue about since I hadn’t received the notice in the mail and this would be the first time I needed to do this since moving to Virginia and getting this car. So I drove to work on Friday with the ticket so I could place it back on my windshield to avoid possibly getting ticketed again for the same infraction. Saturday, I had Panda drive us to the DMV to take care of the registration. I think it took us 2 hours, which actually isn’t so bad for the DMV. It was freezing though, so it was rather uncomfortable. I didn’t get this cold weather memo and apparently neither did the DMV’s cooling unit.

After we got home from that, I saw an email from AT&T. I had ordered the iPhone 6 from them Friday morning so I could be one of the first to receive it this upcoming Friday 9/19. But then this email says my expected delivery date is 9/23-10/2. I was not happy about that, especially since my confirmation had originally said on or about 9/19. I would not consider as week or two later to be “on or about” if it really did end up being that late. Luckily, I still had my backup plan in place, so I was able to cancel my order and get the locked in delivery date through Apple. More on that in another post.

There were complications on the way that nearly forced me to have the device delivered to my parents’ place in CA. Ultimately it took a good 3 live chats with Apple, 2-3 phone calls to AT&T, and two phone calls to Apple (the last of which had me on hold for an hour, yeesh) over the course of two days to resolve this. Happily, I did manage to get the best outcome and my phone is guaranteed to come in just three more days!

After dealing with that for part of Sunday morning and afternoon, I then had a set of requests to speak to Chase about regarding a new credit card I’d received. By the end of it all, I did not want to speak to another customer service person again. Not that the experiences were bad, but gosh it’s such a hassle to try to explain the situation and figure out a resolution time and time again. My throat hurts and I don’t want to think anymore.

In the mean time, Panda and I are both addicted to those numbers games like Threes and 2048, so that’s been taking up all our time now.

Where are you from?

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It starts off as an innocent (and usually simple) question. “Where are you from?” asks the person meeting you for the first time. For most people, a city or country name will suffice to bring about a certain level of understanding regarding their background.

But for me, this is a truly complicated question. Do you mean where am I from ethnically? Do you mean where I am from as in where I’m living right now? Do you mean where I am from as in where I grew up? Do you mean where I am from as in where I identify with most and consider home? I mean, really, this is a loaded question dressed up in innocence. The poor people asking me that question never know what’s coming until they’re knee deep in my explanation. So let’s break this down bit by bit.

To start, the easiest answer I have is when I am traveling abroad. Then I can say either the US or China, based on if the asker wants to know where my family heritage is or where I grew up. Since I’m in another country, I don’t have to explain in as much detail and general answers like that work. But when I’m in the US and people ask me, it’s too broad to just say “United States” – they’ll want to know what state, what city even.

Where am I from? If you mean my ethnic background, my familial “roots” then the answer is China. More specifically Northern China and even more specifically, Shenyang in Liaoning Province. This drills down enough that those familiar with Chinese geography and culture will know right away some basic things: I am from a Mandarin-speaking area, I probably have some Mongol in me, and there are certain slang terms specific to my region that I may use. This also explains why I often get mistaken for Korean – we are very close to (both) Korea(s) and people living in the same region tend to look alike. However, this doesn’t mean I’m truly Chinese. I’m certainly nothing like those who grew up there.

Where am I from? If you mean where I’m living now, then I would have said California, Southern California, Los Angeles, or Valencia. Do I feel like I am Californian or an Angeleno? Yeah, by now I do, since I’d been in the area on and off for a decade. I didn’t grow up here though, so I don’t consider it anything more than my most recent home that felt like it. For now, I’m still not connected enough with Virginia to think of this as my real home, even if my beloved condo, husband, and cat are here.

Where am I from? If you mean where I grew up, oh boy. I didn’t grow up in one place – which do I choose? I really can’t pick, since I spent an average of 3 years in each throughout my childhood before moving on to the next. First, 3.5 years in China, then about 2 years in Pennsylvania, then 3 years in Kansas, 1 year in China, 1 year back in Kansas, 2.5 years in Missouri, 3.5 years in New York, 4 years in California (2 in Valencia, 2 in Westwood/UCLA), 1 year in England, 2 years in California, 0.5 years in Singapore, 2 years in California again (El Segundo), and then back and forth between CA and Virginia for 1.5 years until my most recent 1 year in Virginia. Do I feel Mid-Western, as my 7 years there would suggest? No. Do I feel like an East Coaster? Certainly not. Do I feel like a West Coaster? Only in more recent years.

Where am I from? If you mean where I identify with the most, where my childhood memories are, where I consider home… I really don’t know. I can’t pick a single place, whether a city, a state, or even a region. For my adult life, it has mostly been the greater Los Angeles area, within about 50 miles. But my childhood? There is just too much of a story there to give a simple answer. And then of course I am now officially moved to Virginia, giving me yet another piece to the identity puzzle.

Who knew such a seemingly straightforward question would create so much havoc in my attempt to answer.

iPhone 6 countdown

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It’s almost time to order the newest iPhone and I can hardly wait!! I’ve been waiting eagerly for a year, ever since hearing about the 5S and knowing that the 6 would only be better. Now we’re getting close to that 12:01 PDT deadline. I’m going to bed and hope l wake up to my alarm. Should have slept two hours ago, oh well! I just need to get through one more intense day and I can crash.

[update] Well, I set an alarm for 2:40 EDT and then foolish lay there thinking I had time. I ended up falling asleep until about 3:27 and then scrambling to go order. First I tried the Apple Store app, but it said my product was unavailable. I suppressed panic as I tried the AT&T app (stuck on a landing page about how they’ll be ready soon) and then pulled up the website. Things kept freezing, error messages cropped up a few times, and I started over half a dozen times. Ultimately the best path seemed to be logging in to my AT&T account and then clicking the prompt there to check my upgrade eligibility. The pages there looked a bit different, but I chose my space gray 64 GB iPhone 6 and was able to check out with no further glitches!

screenshot of ordering process for iphone 6 at at&t wireless

I have an order confirmation page, but I don’t see an email confirmation yet and when I go back to my account, the line upgrade doesn’t seem to register (so in theory I could accidentally double-order if I tried the process again). I’m paranoid that this isn’t totally official and/or I won’t get my shipment next Friday when they first go out. The confirmation page has a spot for the date and it’s blank, though when ordering it specified the Sept 19th date. I guess we’ll just have to see if I am fortunate enough to get it on schedule. I sure hope my order is early enough in the queue! Still, I’m not feeling confident enough to sleep just yet.

part of confirmation message from at&t for iphone 6 order

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