Business casual redefined

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I decided to take advantage of President’s Day sales today by going to Kohl’s to buy myself a young working woman’s wardrobe.  I have only ever held two jobs that required professional attire – one was an internship that I went to twice a week and one was a summer job that had business casual days two or three times a week.  This job in Singapore will be the first time that I need enough fancy clothes to wear five or six days a week for many long hours!

I have a bunch ofnice shirts that are borderline “going out” and some that look nice, but just don’t look… grown up enough.  I am also sorely lacking in slacks – I have four and the ones for two business suits.  So, today I marched myself out of the house and spent THREE HOURS rifling through the racks, trying on various sizes and colors of various styles.  All in all, it was a productive time and I came out with eight shirts (though two are casual for day-to-day wear), three pants, one suit jacket to match one of the pants, three dresses (one for work and two for formal parties), and some small personal items.

I tried to arrange everything in a way that would show their features best, but alas, I had too many things squeezing into too little space.  As you can see I went a little crazy with the gray pinstripes…

I have feared this shopping trip for far too long and it’s nice to finally get it out of the way.  I always knew it was coming, but I never really needed to stock up, so I never had the patience to spend so much time sorting through what I wanted and what I didn’t.  Why did I fear it?  Because “business casual” is a very hard term to define nowadays.  Traditionally it was business formal attire minus the outer jacket, but with trends influencing what we wear, there are my nice button-up shirts that are also inappropriate for the office.  Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish between what adds a nice stylish flair to your outfit and what gives off the entirely wrong impression.  It’s a fine line to walk.

Whatever happened to the good old days when things were simple and straightforward?  Now it’s just a complicated mess that you can’t generalize and things like these can vary by personal preference.  I hope my choices were classy enough without being too straightedge.  And if they were expecting longer sleeves… I’m screwed.  But hey, it’s Singapore!  Their temperature is currently in the high 80s!

Bubble Spinner

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I have spent a couple hours playing this game on Addicting Games after Panda introduced me to it.  I don’t know why it is so addicting… guess it really does belong on this site.  Try to beat my high score – 629!

Singapore: it’s all coming together

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I mentioned before that I was going to take the opportunity to go work in Singapore.  Well, I am on my final two weeks here and we just booked the ticket!  I’ll be flying out March 1st on Singapore Air, which I’m excited for – I hear it’s a posh airline.  It’s not really sinking in that I’m leaving yet, but by the time I get back in six months, things will be drastically different.

The house will most likely be rented out again.  My mom will either return to China to continue working or find a small house or apartment a little closer to downtown LA and try to get into the aerospace industry.  My boyfriend will be entering his senior year of college.  My other friends at UCLA will mostly be moving out into the apartments (woe for no more swipes!).  Meanwhile, I will be homeless, trying to figure out how to make things work over here.

Though the prospects don’t seem that great, I am excited to see what will come of this experience.  It’s part of the beauty, not knowing how things will be.  It leaves the door to opportunity wide open.  There are a lot of things that could happen and I am excited to get started on this new leg of my journey.  At the same time, it’s rather daunting, so I’m taking it one step at a time… first, pack, then, go.  After that… well, time will tell as I integrate into the company (Caelan & Sage) and learn, learn, learn!

I am extremely lucky to have this chance to work abroad, experience a new country, and shadow the CEO and managing director.  Most importantly, I will be given plenty of room to develop and even freedom to decide my path from there!  Do I want to start a branch of the company here?  Do I want to create a new division to go under their umbrella of services?  Whatever way I end up going, the company will be behind me, supporting me in so many different ways.  From finances to connections, manpower to ideas, I will have them to lean on.

Caelan & Sage’s slogan is “Infinite Possibilities” and they certainly do live up to their name!  There is a plethora of choices I face and countless paths that I can eventually take.  What lies ahead of me is a wide expanse of land, waiting for me to forge my way.  How many people can say they have that opportunity?  And how many can say they have it with one of their closest friends?  I am truly blessed.

Love in midair… the ups and downs of Valentine’s Day

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In the spirit of sharing, I thought I’d include a cute thing Panda and I came across today as we were wandering the windy roads of Bel Air and driving up and down Mulholland Drive trying to find the best scenic overlooks.  The plane continued on to spell something like Mio, but we lost sight of it, so I never did figure it out.

As for my post-Valentine’s Day report, all in all it was a most splendid day, starting at the painfully early hour of 8 and lasting until midnight.  We got a delicious dim sum brunch before wandering the roads and discovering some random places.  We hung out for a bit before heading out to Santa Monica, where we were going to have dinner.  At first we tried Benihana’s, but the wait was two hours!  -___-  So, we went over to Buddha’s Belly instead, where they told us it was a 45-minute wait, but we got seating in no more than 20.

I love that place because of its chocolate fondue dessert platter.  The food is always interesting and has a fresh taste I’m not used to, since it’s an Asian fusion type of place.  They have the coolest plates and bowls too (and I, ever so easy to entertain, am immensely amused by this fact).  Following that, it was getting late, so we headed back towards campus to hang out some more.

In the morning, Panda had given me a card that I wanted to read when we had peace and quiet alone to enjoy.  So, sitting together at night, I opened the card and he read it to me.  It was seriously the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard.  He had managed to find a card with a really long quote that described his feelings for me wonderfully.  Then, his message was so eloquent and heartfelt it made me cry (with joy, of course).  It was the best end to a spectacular day.

Now that I look at this picture, I realize I should have taken a panoramic picture to share the immensity of this valley.  This is the view from the Bel Air Presbyterian Church, looking out on the San Fernando Valley.

When I got home, I found an e-mail from Katana, outlining her contrasting experience: after painstakingly preparing gifts for her boyfriend to present today, she got the ultimate letdown when he didn’t even remember the occasion.  It’s a sad thing when one person cares so much and the other puts in no effort.  For such a memorable day, my Valentine’s was nearly just as dismal.

You see, last weekend when I was visiting Panda, I tried casually asking him what he was doing this Saturday – he was headed home for the long weekend.  Crushed, we then spent the next hour or so talking about why I was upset with him.  It’s not so much that I need to celebrate the holiday, but I did want to see him and it hurt when it seemed like he didn’t even bother to think about it.  Had I not asked, I may very well have been alone today, moping at home.

So, though I had a fabulous time, it didn’t come without a fight.  I often need to give Panda a little push (or big shove) in the right direction for him to get a clue as to what he’s supposed to do.  No, I don’t ask for gifts from him and yes, I pay for my own meals.  I’m not into material things; I much prefer his time and attention.  Then there are things like these where the consideration should at least be discussed, but he just doesn’t seem to understand that it’s important to me.  I mean, it is an internationally recognized holiday after all, whether you like to celebrate it or not.  Doesn’t that at least deserve a mention?  Sometimes it amazes me how thick-headed guys can be.

I suppose this is something I should get used to, always throwing out clues and hinting about what he should be doing and resorting to outright telling him when he doesn’t pick up on the signals.  Successful relationships need good communication and it seems that extra effort is needed when it comes to this particular area.  It just would be nice if he could figure it out on his own and surprise me (like he did with that card) a little more often.  Perhaps he’ll learn with time…  When it comes down to it though, it’s like he said – we will work together and work to understand each other.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Love it or hate it, Valentine’s Day has arrived!  I’m stoked because this is my first time spending it with someone special.  Not that my friends aren’t special and I didn’t have fun going out with them, but… you know.  And though I’m not into the whole gift-giving thing (nor do I expect Panda to pay for my meals), I do like this holiday in the sense that it is supposed to be a celebration of love and loved ones.  Granted, this holiday has undergone a fair share of commercialization, but when it boils down to it, I hope people realize that it’s really another time to appreciate the people you care about.  Would it hurt to do it in a cheesy, gaudy way occasionally?

Remember those cheap little cardboard Valentine’s cards from elementary school?  As I a child I always made sure my mom got me more than enough, just in case…  I even spent time to decide which card design would best fit which friend as I gingerly traced out their names on the cards, hoping I didn’t mess up.  There’d also be the lollipops or Sweetheart candies to distribute along with the little note.  Then came the day to bring your baggie to class and exchange them with your classmates (and just to be safe, you could give one to everyone in your class, whether you wanted to or not).  It was always fun to see what themes people chose and any special messages they may have written for you.  I secretly hoped that my crush would give me a unique card and use it to reveal his feelings for me, but alas, it never worked out.  So at the end of the day, you’d return home, baggie now filled with cards from your frinds and classmates.  At what age do you stop doing this?  I can’t seem to remember, but I think it was 2nd or 4th grade for me.

More recently, I had celebrated by gathering with my single girlfriends to enjoy an evening together.  Here and there there’d be a guy on my mind who I was loosely interested in and reminded of as I watched lovers throughout the day.  It generally wasn’t a big deal to me and I even spent the day taking three midterms last year!  To reward myself for that rough day, I went online and bought a longboard from Loaded.  Other times I was wrapped up in helping with fundraising events centered around the day with Valentine-grams and roses to deliver to students around campus.

This year, though, I am spending Valentine’s Day with my sweetheart.  We don’t have any fancy plans and I think we might even wander around Costco, just because he has not gone in years and it’s one of those things we’ve been meaning to do.  Whatever we do end up doing, all I care about is that I get to spend the whole day with him.  And that is what counts.  🙂

So no matter what plans you may or may not have for the day, just remember the loved ones who surround your life.  And why not play, “Single Ladies” and get your groove on too?  😉

Friday the 13th

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Well, well, well, if it isn’t Friday the 13th again.  I usually don’t realize that it’s coming until the day before, or usually the day of.  I never did understand why people seemed to be so afraid of the day, or even of the number 13.  They even have a term for fear of this day: paraskavedekatriaphobia.  Try saying that fast!  Perhaps I don’t get it because I’m not a superstitious person – I’d gladly stay on the 13th floor of a hotel or work on the 13th level of an office building.  I love it when black cats (or any cats, really) cross my path and I don’t mind if a mirror cracks.  I’ll even air out my umbrellas inside – *gasp*!

It’s interesting to me how pervasive some of these superstitions can get – there are countless cases of numbering where the 13th floor, room, or even stable is skipped over entirely.  It’s borderline paranoia.  Come on, it’s not like there isn’t a thirteenth; you just haven’t named it such (this then begs the metaphysical debate about what numbers are and if they even exist – but I digress).  Apparently, all you need to avoid this “unlucky” number is to not see it.  A similar superstition surrounds the number 4 in Asian culture, which stems from the similarity in sound that it has with “death.”  The aversion for four is so great that you can even get cheaper cell phone numbers and license plates if there is a 4 contained in it.

Now I’m not one for superstition, but I do enjoy little charms and trinkets that purportedly bring about good fortune!  I see no need to buy into the fearful beliefs that the negative superstitions promote.  It’s all too easily a self-fulfilling prophecy: you’re so afraid of something bad happening because of that black cat crossing your path that you get distracted while obsessing over it and get into an accident!  Though I may not believe in these mythical beliefs, seeing a four-leaf clover or finding a penny heads up on the ground still brings a smile to my face and optimism to my heart.  Is that so bad?

Today is three of the Friday the 13ths we are going to have in 2009 (and that’s the most you can ever have in a year).  Ironically, the 13th of a month has a slightly higher of occurrence as a Friday than any other day of the week!  Check out the Wikipedia article on it (look at the last chart on the occurrence section).  So if you’re the superstitious type, hold on to your hats, it’s going to be quite a year.

Comedians are pros at making observations

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I like to be funny.  One of the greatest joys in life is bringing a smile to someone’s face and laughter to their life.  I admire the comedians out there who can do so on a regular basis through various forms of media.  However, my type of comedy works on a more personal level, which doesn’t translate well to stand-up acts or videoed skits.

Consider it situational comedy, if you will.  As opposed to sitcoms – situation comedies – this kind of humor can only work with interaction in day to day life.  Now let me clarify: sitcoms can have situational comedy embedded in them as the storyline develops.  But what I’m talking about is the kind of humor that only comes up when you’re sitting with your friends, talking about all kinds of random topics, throwing in jokes wherever they may come up.

Somehow I can’t quite translate that into a solo act, so lately I have gotten into watching clips from HappySlip and KevJumba on YouTube.  They take everyday observations, put in their own brand of humor, and put it all on video to share with the masses.  I wish I could do that (or draw and narrate a comic like Lev, or even just write with a humorous tone).  They have done something that I envy.  It’s ok though, I don’t plan on making a living or being known as a comedian, so I’ll just keep the humor in my day-to-day life.

One thing that I have realized in watching their videos is that they take very commonplace occurrences in their lives and make it funny through their commentary and presentation.  It’s almost like they see life through a lens that distorts things like a fun house mirror that turns every image into a silly one.  Likewise, they take everything and put this funny twist to it.  You really can’t be a good comedian without viewing the world in another – brighter – light.

Another skill that you’d need to be a truly effective comedian is a broad knowledge of things.  From pop culture references to specific jargon, you can put the best twist on things if you can reference a variety of areas.  Not everyone is going to get everything, but it’s nice when the audience is treated intelligently.  That’s why I enjoy shows like Gilmore Girls – there are a lot of quips I may not understand, but even more that I do get and will get a laugh from.

Additionally, they’re not afraid to make fools of themselves and look silly.  Not everything in life is fancy, graceful, and elegant, after all.  So to have “real” appeal (aka seem true to their audience), it’s important to not be afraid of being goofy.  Too often people are scared of being judged, but that’s the beauty of comedy – sure you may be laughed at, but it’s not because people think poorly of you.  Rather, it’s their appreciation of what you’re saying and doing that makes them burst out in a fit of giggles.  It’s exceptionally rewarding.

Philosophers observe the world around them and question everything.  Writers jot it all down.  Photographers capture it on film.  Comedians?  They make everything laughable and enjoyable.  So why do I keep coming back to them?  Because they keep things fresh and interesting!  Why don’t you put a smile on your face and let them tickle your fancy too?

(Now I realize there are darker forms of humor, but that’s beyond the scope of this post.)

Social media paving the way to transparency – good or bad?

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In developing this blog, I have spent a lot of time researching online and reading up on other people’s blogs.  One thing I found was that what I was most interested in was reading their bios and trying to find a picture of them.  For some reason I was fascinated by learning about these people.

Now most people go to blogs to read the posts and discuss the ideas held therein.  I love to do that too, but I am also immensely interested in these writers as a face and a personality.  Personal anecdotes make what they’re writing about so much more real to me.

When I first started blogging, I held nothing back – it was my personal journal for all to see.  Then I decided to privatize my posts so that only friends could read it.  With that veil, I could continue to write about the people in my life without concealing their identities, since they mostly knew each other anyway.

However, as I was getting back into the blogging scene in the early days of 2009, I wanted a public blog that anyone could stumble upon.  I thought long and hard and decided I should create aliases for the people I would be talking about (and even kept myself behind a pen name) for privacy purposes.

With social networking, blogs, photo and video sharing sites becoming evermore popular, transparency has emerged as concern for us all to consider.  It is much easier to find the true identities of people via these sites now, so it makes me wonder how transparent I should be on my blog.  Should I use people’s real first names?  Should I post pictures or videos of them up?

To some extent I am worried about the safety of this – am I endangering those around me by overexposing them on the internet?  Or, should I just go with the flow of it (which, apparently, is towards complete transparency)?  Though I believe in being honest and open, should I be so open?  It doesn’t change the quality of my writing if I refer to someone by their real name or their pet name.

A blog I was reading recently dealt with the decision to be more transparent and it made me think about my own choice to use pseudonyms.  Only recently did I even decide to reveal my own name in the “About” section.  It’s a first step towards my personal transparency.  However, for now, I still don’t feel right about revealing more about the people in my lives.

It’s a hard balance between sharing enough and sharing too much!

Marriage: a broken institution?

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I’ve gotten the feeling that Millenials are jaded by the idea of marriage.  Or, at least, have such high standards and low expectations that they’re rather pessimistic about the whole idea.  Call it realism if you want.  Or it may just be cynicism.

This issue seems to stem from our generation growing up hearing the sad statistics of high divorce rates.  Of course, many also grew up in such households, having to live a life in single-parent homes, bouncing between parents, and dealing with step-parents and siblings.  Perhaps that is why this generation seems so much more against marrying (especially at a young age).

Too many of our parents rushed into marriage and it either failed or they are unhappy together.  Now, I used to be deathly afraid of commitment despite no family history of bad relationships (only one relative has gotten divorced and it didn’t seem nasty), but when I found Panda, it worked.  This whole relationship thing wasn’t as terrible as I imagined it to be.  Likewise, for marriage, I think that it comes down to the right feeling.

If it feels right, why avoid it? Sometimes you’re just ready to make that leap of faith.  And that is what any relationship is – faith in yourself, faith in your partner, and faith in your union.  You need to trust yourself and your significant other to make it work.  Sure, you may be too young and inexperienced for that judgment call, but if you’ve thought long and hard, if you’ve both talked about it, and you both feel comfortable, it can be a beautiful thing.

You can never be fully prepared for marriage and all the complications that it entails.  I don’t judge people based on what age they choose to get married.  For some, it works.  Statistically, younger couples are more likely to separate, but that tends to be an issue of maturity.  If you don’t know yourself well enough and you don’t understand your partner, it’s not going to work no matter what other factors there are.

Sadly, there are a lot of practical reasons that drive couples to the altar: finances, convenience, right of kin, etc.  Some marriages are carried out due to necessity or pressure, but you shouldn’t get hitched for such mundane reasons.  After all, marriage should be a celebration of love and devotion.

So why does it seem that getting married actually tears many couples apart?  Stability.  Though it’s great to have in our lives, if that’s all you have in a relationship, it stagnates.  So many couples feel their relationship diminish over the years, if only because they know they have each other to depend on, through thick and thin.  So they stop trying.

It shouldn’t be so easy though.  Relationships should constantly be evolving and changing as the individuals do.  The moment you stop working on it, you have doomed it.  Think of it as a process rather than a goal to be reached.

Marriage as an institution needs a major makeover if it is to survive.  Though, perhaps it doesn’t need to be saved and Gen Z can come to age in a society where couples get legal civil unions.  I wouldn’t mind a secular institution that allows gay unions as well.

A reflection on college: what is it for?

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Those of you active on facebook have probably been tagged in the “25 random things about me” note by this point.  In case you haven’t it’s this note that someone started by writing 25 tidbits about him/herself (I’m just going to pretend this was a girl and use the appropriate pronouns) and tagging 25 people who she wanted to learn more about.  You are supposed to include whoever tagged you as well, so they can read what you wrote.  I think it’s the most passed-on note of all facebook history.  After I’d been tagged a few times, I decided it was my turn to continue the trend and I found myself reflecting on college:

“After I graduated, I thought I’d miss college a lot. Surprisingly, I’m ok. Possibly because I am still there all the time (at least once a week), but I think also because this is the only time I can get away with weeks of not having something/somewhere I had to go, certain times I have to get up, and no deadlines to meet. I spent a lot of time watching TV shows, which I haven’t done since middle school – Gilmore Girls, House, Pushing Daisies, and now Lie to Me. Now that I’m all but caught up on the last episodes of House and Lie to Me, I’ve been filling my time with a lot of reading. To some extent I’m learning a lot more than I ever did in school. From career advice to relationship advice, Asian American perspectives to Gen Y opinions, I’m covering a lot of ground. The great thing is everything I’m learning is useful!

Looking back and reading others’ thoughts on college is making me think of it more as a place to blossom and learn about yourself than to really learn anything concrete for your future. To some extent, yes, there are facts and figures to be remembered. But for the most part, it’s about figuring out what you want to do, how you interact with people, where you fit in the world, the type of people you should surround yourself with, etc. Except for highly specified fields, the degree you walk away almost never tells anything about your future. (I just realized this is starting to sound like something that should be a blog post. Sorry. I’ll go write up an entry on this instead.)”

Here I am, making good on that promise.

I’ve read articles on why this guy regretted getting straight A’s in college, tips on what college students should do to prepare themselves for their professional future, and a personal account of lessons learned outside the college classroom.  It all made me realize that there’s a bigger picture here, beyond the quest for perfect grades.

We enter college thinking that this is our ticket to that job we wanted.  And in many ways, it is.  Just not the way you’d expect.  People spend so much time agonizing over what major to study, what classes to take, and what school to go to in the first place.  Yet what matters more are the people you’ll meet, the skills (and not so much the facts) you’ll learn, and the experience you can look back on.

What should you be capitalizing on?  Networking, self-discovery, and lessons in life.  The spectrum of people you meet in college will trounce any high school experience you’ve had (unless you’re going to some small private university meant for a very specific demographic).  It is important to notice the types of people you get along with, the types who rub you the wrong way, and your interactions with them.  Life is largely composed of relationships and looking at your interactions with people can tell you a lot about your personality and preferences.

When I look back on my time at UCLA and studying abroad at the University of York, I hardly cherish the facts drilled into me as much as how my friends, organizations, and even living situations have shaped me.  From them, I have learned that I enjoy company and never want to live alone.  They have shown me how much I love to travel and meet new people in foreign cultures.  They have shown me how loyal I can be and what motivates me to get things done.  They have even taught me a bit about relaxation and what soothes me in stressful times.

I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to know yourself.  What are your passions?  What are your fears?  It is only when you begin to understand the “why” behind the “what” that you can apply that knowledge towards personal fulfillment.  Find what drives you and use that to motivate you towards your goals.  And while it’s important to be aiming for something, it’s also important to know how you can get there while enjoying yourself.

The idea is to not take things at face value, but look for the deeper lessons to be learned.  Lessons about you as a person and how you fit into the world.  College is a great place for you to meet the best and brightest to learn with.

Side note:
One of the great things about blogging (or keeping a private journal/diary) is your ability to look back and see how much you’ve changed.  I kept a blog for about two years in the early stages of my college career and when I went back to read what I had written so long ago, I was surprised to notice how things have progressed.  Even if you don’t have access to that type of insight, I don’t know anyone who looks back on college and thinks, “Oh yeah, just another four years of my life.”  No, college is life-altering.  Take advantage of it.

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