Gifting Yuzen boxes

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I’m lucky enough to get Yuzen boxes sent to me and I had some extra this year, so I decided to gift some to my friends at work. I was trying to decide between bringing in all the same box (the winter one) or three completely different ones. I was talking to Panda about this and he voted for equality across the board. He figured that way one person wouldn’t be less pleased because she wanted something that came in another box. I thought it could be fun to have them trade with each other if they wanted. What do you think?

three people's hands each on a different yuzen box lined up

Each gal claimed her mystery box!

I ultimately decided to ask the ladies and they all said it’d be more fun to have different things, so that’s exactly what I did. I brought in a winter box, summer box, and one of the gift boxes with a mix of items from previous boxes. With each packaged in the same outer box, I shuffled them up and as I pulled them out, they each lay claim to one. It was fun to watch them open them and see what they thought of what was in their box. It’s amusing how perfectly it turned out too – one person was super excited about the shower bombs and sleep essential oil in the winter box and another loved the lash serum from the summer box. Meanwhile, the third was drawn to the hand cream and foot cream in the gift box (I think the nail polish was rather fitting for her and her daughter too).

I found it interesting that we all thought variety would spice things up and make it more entertaining, whereas Panda would have gone the conservative route and offered the same thing to all. Is it a difference in personalities? Do I just tend to get along with people who like a little sprinkle of uniqueness? Who knows. All I know is that it couldn’t have worked out better. I’m happy, they’re happy, we’re all happy. :) And so goes the season of giving!

I think I got food poisoning

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It’s probably the old sushi I ate earlier. My intestines were killing me and I had to chug hot water. I could taste bile rising as I curled in agony. Now I’m a little hungry but afraid to eat. I guess the best solution is to sleep.

When the weather is dreary…

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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