iCloud, you’re dead to me

laelene Posted in lifestyle glimpses, stories,Tags: , , , ,
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May I rant a bit? It’s been weeks since my iCloud backup worked and Apple support didn’t solve my problem. I’ve given up on using it and I’m so frustrated with Apple.

It began a couple of weeks ago. With one of the iOS 9 updates, everything went awry. My backups used to take up about 3.3-3.5 GB worth of space and then suddenly I was getting an error message pretty much daily, telling me I didn’t have enough space in iCloud. So I try deleting the current backup to free up the 5 GB of space and trying again with no success. I thought the issue was that the photo backup got turned back on, so I tried turning it off. Sometimes it would straight up give me an error message that it couldn’t be turned off at that time and sometimes it would look like I had turned it off, but then got undone the next time I went back.

After much troubleshooting and trying tons of things, I finally booked an appointment at the Apple Store. Coming out of that appointment, I’ve decided to write off iCloud entirely. As it turns out, it is completely useless to me (unless I want to pay). I was passed from one person to the next and ultimately dealt with four different people, two in the store and two on the phone. They ended up telling me that my options were to either pay for more storage or do manual backups to the computer. Let me tell you, I was not a happy camper when that’s all they could come up with.

screenshot of icloud backup screen with options

What’s the point of turning off Photo Library if supposedly you can’t turn off photos in iCloud? I still don’t believe those folks knew what they were talking about.

My greatest problem with what happened was that my backups were well within the limit for years. Suddenly, the space needed for the backup jumps up to nearly triple the amount of space for no reason? It’s not like I suddenly started sending a lot of text messages, taking a lot of pictures, or downloading a lot of new apps. I had no spike in activity, so therefore I expect no spike in the storage space. Not a single one of them could explain that to me. Furthermore, they said that my photos were always backed up and I couldn’t turn that off. Then what in the world is the Backup Options list with Photo Library as an option for?! And how could I have EVER successfully backed up when I know I’ve had way more than 5 GB in photos alone all these years? Yet somehow, I’m expected to believe that it magically worked all along and a good 10-15 GB of photos were able to squeeze themselves into a 3.5 GB backup.

I guess what bothered me the most was the complete lack of logic in how things could have worked before and how they could have changed so drastically without explanation. Telling me that, “Well if you just buy the extra storage then this wouldn’t be an issue,” is not going to help. Of course I know I can PAY you to get more storage. And I don’t care how small the cost is, it’s the principal of the matter that it worked before and now it doesn’t. What sort of technology gets worse as it updates?

So many other problems came up too, all with no sensible explanation. Why did an attempted backup fail yet still take up 3 GB of space? “It tried to back up some of the data.” Why wouldn’t that try to take up the whole 5 GB? Why does it stop at 3 GB each time? (No idea.) Why does Next Backup Size say 0 bytes and all apps say No Data? Does that mean nothing gets backed up? Then how could I not have enough space for nothing?! And on and on and on…

So because of that, iCloud is dead to me. Yet ironically, as I write this and look at my phone settings, iCloud backup is magically working again. Photos off, backup at 3.1 GB. I can’t trust those Apple people to know anything about their products.

A freezing office was killing our productivity

laelene Posted in general blog, lifestyle glimpses,Tags: , , ,
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For months, the temperature of the office was almost a daily topic of discussion. It was always freezing for at least half of us, and a comfortable cool for the others. It got to the point where I had to wear at least two jackets in the office (which was pretty ridiculous considering it was blazing hot outside). Why waste all that energy to overcompensate for the external heat? Why does it always get SO cold in offices in the summer? It’s really counterproductive.

I would spend my days chugging hot water. The moment I stopped, I’d feel the numbing cold and have trouble focusing on anything else. It was dreadful to spend so much of my work hours uncomfortable and even in pain at times. Those of us who were cold were constantly thinking about how to stay warm, which couldn’t have been good for our productivity. I mean, I actually brought in a blanket that I put on my chair and wrapped around my legs when I worked. Many of us had little heaters at our desks as well, but after one blew a fuse, they weren’t allowed anymore.

Every couple of days, our office manager would call in the maintenance guys who would tell us everything was fine and the temperature was not abnormally low. Tell that to our icy cold hands. Finally, one day one of the sales folks joked about it being like a meat locker in the office – were we trying to keep raw meat from going bad? That sparked a discussion about how insanely cold it was and I shared an article about productivity in warmer temperatures. Some quotes from that article:

When our body’s temperature drops, we expend energy keeping ourselves warm, making less energy available for concentration, inspiration, and insight.

A forthcoming paper from researchers at UCLA even shows that brief exposure to warmer temperatures leads people to report higher job satisfaction.

When we experience warmth, we experience trust. And vice versa.

We know that cold temperatures worsen productivity. What new research is showing is that it can also corrode the quality of our relationships.

Great workplaces aren’t simply the product of good organizational policies. They emerge when employees connect with one another and form meaningful relationships that engender trust. What’s often overlooked is that connections don’t operate in a vacuum.

It seems obvious that the temperature of a restaurant or theater can alter our experience. So why do we continue to neglect it in the workplace?

It makes sense after all, since if you look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the very basis of survival includes physiological needs. How could be possibly expect to be able to operate well in relationships and higher level thinking and work if we couldn’t even satisfy the innate need for body function? Obviously our resources would be redirected towards trying to alleviate that unmet need, not leaving much room for the work we were supposed to be doing.

After this rather lengthy discussion, complete with pictures of how people were piling on the layers to combat the cold, we finally got the thermostat changed. Suddenly, I could wear only one jacket, and a light one at that! Sometimes after drinking my mug of hot water I could even take off the jacket momentarily. It was amazing and immediately lifted the mood of all those who had been freezing before. Now temperature is hardly a consideration at work. Sometimes the office still feels cold, but not nearly as bad. Hopefully it will continue to stay at a steady 74 degrees or higher. Those who didn’t mind the cold before certainly don’t seem to be too hot in this new temperature.

I’m much happier and can actually focus on work without having to consider how to stay warm throughout the day. It’s pretty incredible that something pretty simple took so long to fix (and that it feels oh so rewarding). I no longer yearn to work from home just so I could feel my fingers when I type. Isn’t that glorious?

A soufflé dining adventure

laelene Posted in lifestyle glimpses, photo blog,Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
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While in Paris, Panda and I were looking for a popular and special place to have dinner. With much searching, he came across Le Soufflé – offering a completely soufflé experience. They had a three-course meal that was all soufflés!

We eagerly walked there after a long day of exploring and stepped inside to a cozy little entry. A gentleman approached and asked if we had a reservation. We did not, so we wondered what the wait would be.

“I’m sorry, we are booked for the rest of the evening,” he told us.

“When’s the next time you have an opening?” we inquired.

“All reservations for the night are taken,” he explained. “You can make a reservation for tomorrow lunch.”

Disappointed, we stepped out and considered our options for our meal. It was past 9 and many restaurants were closing within the hour. We returned to the hotel to get online and search for somewhere else with soufflés.

With little success, we went to ask the concierge. He immediately recommended the restaurant we had been turned away from. We started telling him how they were booked, but he was already dialing their number. At first it seemed like they might give us a reservation, but then he started shaking his head. Fully booked. :-/

So he began calling a variety of other options asking if they at least served dessert soufflé. Finally, one place said yes – but it was not walking distance and we did not want to take a taxi. So as things looked more and more dismal, I was about ready to just eat at the hotel. Then, out of the blue, the concierge tells us we can go to Le Soufflé!

What?! We were confused. Apparently he had called them two more times and they had a cancellation, so we got in! We quickly rushed over the half mile or so to the restaurant and arrived aright round 10.

At first we planned on getting a set each, but upon seeing the size of the soufflés, we decided to share a single three-course meal. It was 37€ so we were happy to save on the cost too.

le souffle contact card with map of location

le souffle free bread, butter, and water to start the meal

We began with bread, butter, and water included in the meal.

le souffle artichoke & haddock appetizer souffle

The appetizer soufflé was the artichoke haddock, with pieces of both. It was very savory with that fish taste and a slight hint of tartness from the artichoke.

le souffle side salad

The side salad came with the first course.

le souffle chicken & mushroom main course souffle

Our main course was the chicken and mushroom. The chicken gravy came separately and we poured it bit by bit as we ate the soufflé. It reminded me of a chicken pot pie (which I had been craving) with a soft, fluffy top rather than a flaky crust.

le souffle chocolate dessert souffle

And to wrap it up was a classic chocolate soufflé, which came with a chocolate sauce to pour in. There was a graininess to it that I quite enjoyed. It was very sweet!

This was a fun dining experience and the meal felt very satisfying, even with such light food. I think ait’s  great thing to try for anyone new to the city. 🙂

The Italian way of life

laelene Posted in general blog, lifestyle glimpses,Tags: , , , , , ,
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After Panda and I got to spend some time in Rome and the surrounding area, we learned a lot about Italian culture. I don’t seem to remember much of it from my first time in the country, either because I didn’t experience things the same, didn’t notice that time around, or forgot after all these years. I mean, it’s been 8 years! So here are some observations about how Italians seem to live their lives – while I still remember them all.

-They say “prego” a lot. Apparently this is a word that can mean many things in many contexts, so it is both highly useful for those who know it and highly confusing for those who don’t. Half the time I was wondering what the prego was supposed to imply in each given situation. The only one I got a hang of was when service folks used it to see if you needed anything. I’m pretty sure Panda used it a few times at times when it made no sense. 😛

-There are a lot of smokers, everywhere. At least they are on the streets and not inside! I’d forgotten how many more smokers you encounter on the streets of Europe and it’s really rather unpleasant. I’m always holding my breath, ducking clouds of smoke, and hoping I don’t stink of it myself by the end of the day.

roma trastavere train station in rome-Public transportation (and life) seems pretty lax. We got on many a train where our tickets weren’t checked at all. Not sure if the underground metro worked the same since we never ended up using that. The schedule generally works well, but the last night, we had a train that was 85 minutes late! At one point I found myself wondering why I wasn’t upset and why nobody else seemed upset either. That also seems to go with the generally lax approach. For us, it was because we were on vacation and just heading back to the hotel. No need to fret. For locals, perhaps they never even considered it a problem.

-Personal space is either nonexistent or like a one-inch radius from your body. I had multiple instances where people got too close for comfort, but they didn’t seem to notice a thing. At first it was just a couple who sat at the same bar stool area that Panda and I were eating at in McDonald’s (yes, we tried a local one). Out of all of the empty areas in the restaurant, they chose to be two seats away from us at the same table. I would have gotten a table to ourselves. Then there was a guy on the bus who swayed with the turns of the vehicle. Sometimes that meant bumping into me, despite the fact that he had a good two feet in front of him and even more to the sides. It was especially cringe-worthy because he reeked of cigarette smells. He also managed to brush hands with Panda when they were holding the same pole. At our stop, we both got off relieved to have some breathing room. Finally, there were the people who sat directly behind us on a long bench even though the entire rest of it was empty. And it was a loooong bench! I mean, you could easily seat at least 20 people on each side. Why did they have to come back to back with us, leaving just inches between our bodies? I don’t get it. Maybe I’m too Americanized. Funny enough though, this is something I expect in Asia, so I might not even notice it there.

-Street performers and hawkers are abound. Tons of musicians will perform all over the place and random people walk up to you casually selling battery packs for your devices, selfie sticks, flowers, or toys. For these type of people, the best policy for me has been no eye contact. Once you give them attention, they won’t leave you alone!

-In Rome for sure, but maybe more of Italy, they have little water spigots all over the place, which act as water fountains. The water never stops running out of them and you can go grab a few sips or fill up your water bottle at any of them. In fact, I remember my tour guide from my previous visit mentioning that all water fountains in Rome have drinking water – except Trevi Fountain. So hey, you really can’t go thirsty, can you?

And when it comes to food, oh my! What a difference…

italian outdoor seating on roads-First of all, they have some interesting outdoor seating. Oftentimes it’s a few tables and chairs that are actually on the road, off the curb. In more busy areas, they have a little barrier to create a sort of “room” for people to sit in. This would be life-threatening in the states, but in Italy it’s the norm!

-Just about every restaurant has morning and evening hours, with a break in the middle. Between 3-7, your meal options are very limited, so if you like to have dinner at 5 or 6, you better do your research. Dinners start late and go late in this part of the world. Personally, I’d rather eat earlier and get home.

-As you get each course, they tend to take away the food of the previous course. It seems irrelevant if you’ve still got a hunk of food on your plate. At first we were startled by this, but now I make sure to explain that I haven’t finished. I’m partial to eating a little bit of each course and switching between more than one at a time. This is why I love tapas, izakaya, dim sum, etc.

-This is the land of “beware what you ask for.” They tend to charge for all things, including bread, water, and sometimes even olive oil. If you really don’t care for it, don’t ask for it! Just say no (or no thanks).

ristochicco fettucine and roasted potatoes

I wanted fettucine with a tomato-based sauce, but they only offered a cream-based one that night.

-Menus are quite set (little to no flexibility to request modifications to a dish) and very seasonal – to the point that it’s a day to day, hour to hour kind of thing. That means that you can look forward to much fresher options, but it also means that the awesome picture you saw on Yelp may not be applicable to your visit. (Yes, that happened to me. Sad times.) I’ve seen some restaurants with very strict rules on ordering with no straying from exactly how the dishes are offered. The chefs are in control and rather finicky too. I’m not used to such particular ways and it doesn’t bode well for a picky eater like myself.

-Service is always slow. I’m not sure if it’s because of the relaxed pace of life or the fact that these establishments appear perpetually understaffed. Or if they’re “understaffed” by American standards because everyone takes it slow and they don’t need to go any faster. Either way, we’ve had to plan extra time for meals because we know it will take forever to get our order in, get leftovers boxed, and finally receive and pay our bill.

So there you go! Some of the lessons learned from our observations of how Italians do things. Have you experienced this too? What did I miss in my list?

I prefer to air dry

laelene Posted in lifestyle glimpses,Tags: , , , , , ,
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I’ve used a blow dryer once on my hair. I couldn’t figure out this whole brushing hair and blow drying routine. It just didn’t make sense to me and I ended up blowing a lot of hot air at nothing. Afterwards, my hair felt like straw, it looked like a mess, my ears were burning, and I decided this wasn’t for me. That and I just don’t find it very useful to spend time in the bathroom getting ready. So all my life, I’ve air dried my hair.

Sometimes I comb it a certain way, braid it or tie it up. Sometimes I shake it all around and sort of let it fall. At night, I sleep on it any which way. When I get up for the day and it looks dreadful, I comb some water through or tie my hair back. I like showering in the evenings but my hair tends to fall better if I shower in the morning. I try to drag myself up when I can (not often successfully). Alas, I’d rather air dry my hair than spend time brushing and blowing it out.

For rather different reasons, I’ve also started to air dry my hands after washing them. At work, I go to the restroom many times a day since I tend to go through many mugs of drinks. Each time, a twinge of guilt hit me when I wiped my hands on paper towels. I tried bringing in one of my People Towel hand towels, but I kept forgetting to bring it with me. So eventually, I started to walk back to my desk without wiping my hands. By the time I got there, they were pretty much dry and I’d apply some lotion and be done.

You know, despite my reason for air drying hair to be due to laziness and my reason for air drying my hands to be due to environmental consciousness, they sort of have the same result. I save a bit of time and effort while conserving resources. I’m perfectly fine with that! Now you may notice that I did not mention air drying coming out of the shower, but since I’m reusing towels I feel like it’s far less wasteful. Plus it’d take a much longer time to air dry than just soaking up the water with a towel.

What do you think? Am I odd for being like that or do you air dry as well? If you don’t, would you consider it?

My new compost tumbler

laelene Posted in lifestyle glimpses, photo blog,Tags: , ,
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This weekend, I received the compost tumbler that I ordered online! I wanted something compact that I could keep on my porch and put my food scraps in. The tumbling kind is perfect because you can rotate the mix around and distribute it more evenly for better “cooking” in there.

tumbling composter box with cat sniffing corner tumbling composter parts in box tumbling composter parts assembled tumbling composter stand partially assembled tumbling composter in progress brand new assembled tumbling composter inside compartment of tumbling composter

It was pretty easy to figure out once I tried out the components. There were a ton of screws to put in! There are some ventilation holes that can’t be sealed so I can’t pour straight liquid. I hope it decomposes well and doesn’t leak!

DANI Naturals: a hard case to crack

laelene Posted in lifestyle glimpses, photo blog,Tags: , , , ,
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For secret santa last year, my pledge bros and I did a long distance exchange. Most of us are distributed around the world now, so it was a fun way to reconnect and send each other gifts. I got a lovely bottle of DANI’s lemongrass lavender reed diffuser. When my most recent reed diffuser ran out, I eagerly opened up the box for this one. Little did I know how challenging opening it would be! Since Panda and I don’t drink, we don’t have one of those wine bottle openers that might have helped with the whole process. Instead, this is what happened…

First we tried using pliers and other tools to grip the stopper and wiggle it out. It was the soft rubbery kind though, so it would just bend out of shape and wouldn’t budge. Eventually it started to break apart so I knew we needed to try other methods.

dani naturals reed diffuser bottle with paperclip trying to move stopper

So then I got a paperclip and started shoving it down the side of stopper. It was so tight I couldn’t get any sort of hook shape going.

dani naturals reed diffuser bottle with paperclip inserted at two points to leverage popping out stopper

I tried putting in the other end to leverage them against each other.

dani naturals reed diffuser bottle with nail trying to release stopper

After bending the paperclip until it was near the breaking point, we decided to get a nail and screw it in the top.

dani naturals reed diffuser bottle with nail to slowly move stopper

After MUCH wiggling, we saw progress! The dirty part is where we’d tried pliers and such. The bit of clean below that is how much slowly came out.

dani naturals reed diffuser bottle with stopper finally pulled out

I had to keep screwing the screw back down since it would start ripping out, but eventually we got that satisfying ‘pop’ of freedom!

tools used attempting to open dani naturals reed diffuser bottle

Can you believe it took all these tools and a good half hour or more to get this silly thing open? They really need to redesign the stopper.

At least now I get to enjoy the lemony smell of my reed diffuser!

Traveling as a tourist

laelene Posted in lifestyle glimpses, photo blog
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 You see lots of cool things you like. Luckily I already have the large panda!

You see lots of cool things you like. Luckily I already have the large panda!

You get to relax and enjoy.

You get to relax and enjoy.

You have time to observe your surroundings.

You have time to observe your surroundings.

You love local touches, like this cute moose!

You love local touches, like this cute moose!

You go shopping and seek free stuff!

You go shopping and seek free stuff!

You take lots of photos. And selfies, of course.

You take lots of photos. And selfies, of course.

 You learn some new skills! Check out my towel monkey!!

You learn some new skills! Check out my towel monkey!!

Scenic sights

laelene Posted in lifestyle glimpses, photo blog,Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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Been away for awhile on a cruise to Alaska! Check out some of the sights so far. There’s all sorts of awesomeness, with more pics to come. 🙂

carnival legend leaving seattle port with space needle in background

Cruise ship view of Seattle.

sunshine reflected on deep black ocean water

Glittering black waters.

glacial ice floating in tracy arm fjord with glacier in background

Ice chunks floating in the fjord!! And that’s a glacier back there.

forest area on trails of skagway with spider in foreground

A little bit of land exploration too. Tried to get the spider in the foreground.

Wedding celebration!

laelene Posted in lifestyle glimpses
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A year ago today, Panda and I got married in a small civil ceremony at the LAX courthouse. Our parents and his brother were there for the quick and simple event. For the past year, we thought about putting together a “real” wedding but it just didn’t appeal to us. Ultimately, we had an open invitation to any relatives who could come and spend the day with us this year. My aunt and cousins, plus his uncle, aunt, and cousin were able to make the trip.

We totaled 13 people and spent the day taking pictures, driving, and eating. The restaurant we chose wasn’t my first choice (Nobu Malibu was) but it turned out to work pretty well. Japanese food might not have been to the taste of much of the party, but more general seafood certainly was. All I wanted was an oceanside view and we were right on the water, which is a lot better than I expected. I figured we’d have a giant table in the middle or back of the restaurant, away from windows, but we were right on the edge!

All in all it was a great time and just the simple sort of thing we wanted. 🙂splashing wave sandy feet

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