As my departure date approaches, I am frantically taking advantage of the time I have left to visit my friends at and around UCLA.  The other night, I met up with a friend for tea and two and a half hours later, I left campus with a nostalgic feeling in my heart.  I miss the days of staying up late with my friends, discussing all sorts of ideas and lamenting the work we had to do.  One of the things I will miss most about college life is those late night chats in the hallway or lounge.

That is the reason that I stayed in on-campus housing for as long as I could; I loved the atmosphere there that cannot be replicated.  When else can you go knock on a random stranger's door and make a friend without seeming too forward?  Where else will you find so many doors kept open and people weaving in and out of the hallway?  College residential life is the best buffer for meeting new people who may have nothing in common with you.  In every other social situation, you are brought together by some shared interest, but in this one, your choice of living situation hardly dictates the type of people you will be living around.

It was the nicest thing to be back in that environment I adored so much, doing what I do best - livening up the quarters!  In fact, as we stood in the hallway chatting, the duty RA came by and told us how he had just been thinking how he hadn't heard the place so chatty since I was last around when he rounded the corner to find it was actually me there!  We caught up briefly and then he left to continue his round, jokingly warning us to keep it down or else he'd have to come write us up (he's a friend of mine, so it was only half serious).  I thought about it and you know what?  I'd much rather be the type of person up way too late interacting with my peers and possibly getting written up for it than the type of person always holed up in the my room, hardly ever socializing with fellow students.

College is a time of great growth, academically and socially, and everyone should take advantage of it in all aspects.  I will always fondly remember the feeling of sitting around with my friends, exchanging our thoughts throughout the night.  And I will miss that, as well as having such a huge concentration of friends in a small area.  Life is changing quickly.

 
 

I've found that the best source of creative ideas is personal experience.  It is in my day-to-day life that I think to myself randomly, "Oh now there's something good to explore and write about!"  Immediately I jot it down on my "little fat notebook" amidst the growing list of topics to discuss.  Just living life (and being curious) can be the greatest muse!

So many times there are great lessons that can be learned best only by experiencing them.  Oftentimes the message doesn't "hit you" until you're there, doing it, feeling it, seeing it, living it.  Plus, you can't really speak full with authority on an issue unless you've been in the midst of it.  Otherwise, you're just reporting and relaying the message.

Stories from the heart also hold the deepest meaning and reach out to the audience like nothing else can.  What is more poignant than someone talking passionately about the greatest love of their life or the lessons they have learned through personal strife?  What do you believe more than a first-person account of how certain experiences feel?  It really touches my heart to hear personal stories, from the good to the bad.

I was reminded of this when I was listening to Taylor Swift's songs - many were written about specific people and experiences in her life.  The same thing goes for a lot of artists out there and it made me wonder what they would write about if they didn't have some drama or other eventful occurrences in their lives.  Although it's easier to think about what to write when you've been through so much, it's also much harder because of the personal involvement.  A little bit of abstraction could blur the lines between fact and fiction for the artist to make it easier to express, or they may choose to just bare their souls.

So the next time you're in a creative rut, just go live your life!  Have fun with your family and friends, go for a stroll around your town, or even meet a stranger and strike up a conversation.  You never know what you may come across that will trigger that 'ding, ding ding!' in your head.  It certainly helps me always have a dozen things to write about.

 
 

I just overheard my mom on the phone, booking her plane ticket to Mongolia, due to leave just about 12 hours after mine to Singapore leaves LAX.  The past couple of days she has been lamenting what to do about our mail, since many statements cannot be sent to P.O. boxes and there is no one in our family here to take care of it for us.  We used to get it forwarded to a family friend's place, but that's such a hassle to do for just a month or two.

Now that I'm leaving the country, my mom is left to figure out what to do with the house (and her life) again.  When I was studying abroad in England, she rented it out and moved back to China with my dad.  Should she do that again or stick around to try to pursue a career in aerospace, as she's dreamed of doing?  Strangely enough, my life is what gives her some stability - whenever I'm around, she can stay at home and do various types of work happily.  Yet, once I leave, she needs to figure what her life is about, sans moi.

All of this made me think of the fragmented time I spent with my parents growing up and how multiple moves affected my sense of independence.  It's no wonder I did become so independent, what with one parent or the other often away and our family hardly ever staying in one place long enough to make lasting friends.  As I grew older, it became my time to be away from home and friends on my own - to swim camps, to boot camps, to a swim competition in Australia, and the frequent visits to my relatives in China.  Another factor contributing to my independence was early on: I didn't even meet my parents until I was three and a half (my dad left six months before I was born and my mom left six months after I was born, so I hardly remembered her).

In the early days, my parents were busy finishing up their graduate degrees at Penn State - a Master's for my mother and a Doctorate for my father.  To support us, they had to be research assistants and my dad worked as a teaching assistant as well.  From there, it was off to Kansas, where my dad worked for the government and my mom found a random job with Payless Shoes.  I would come home to an empty house and do homework or play by myself.  I think that's when my desire for a sibling or pet began to grow, as I spent many quiet afternoons alone in the house, waiting for my mom to get home from work.  I had one or two good friends, but mostly kept to myself.  I enjoyed playing around during recess, but I rarely mixed home life with school life.

Three years later I was sent back to China for a year to reacquaint myself with the culture and language.  It was a blissful time of no homework, no worries, since I was so far behind in all the subjects - except for English, where I was so far ahead - that I was kind of just a dead weight in class.  Nevertheless, the kids loved me because this little 3rd grader was stronger than the 6th graders, and faster than anyone in school.  I didn't really contact my parents much during that year and when I returned to the US, I had no viable way of staying in touch with my friends from that school.

When we moved to Missouri, my dad had been working there for awhile.  He had secured a position with a company that kept him traveling as he and my mom started their own company, so my mom went back to China for two or three years to work on that.  The internet had just gone public and I was immersed in the world of HTML, making a variety of websites that I have since forgotten about.  I was also an extreme bookworm, preferring to spend time poring over novels to that of physical company.  At school, I was a social butterfly, known by everyone but not close to many.

By the time we made the move to New York, I was in the smack middle of my middle school years.  Afraid that I would get gaps in my knowledge if I took the honors track for math and science, my counselor advised me to follow the normal track and then test out of it after 8th grade.  The classes, unfortunately, were far too easy and filled with immature peers who I did not connect with.  My close set of friends didn't have many classes with me, since they were all on the honors track.  After finishing middle school, I found that this test that my counselor talked about did not exist.  I was stuck.  Meanwhile, my mom busied herself with the stock market as my dad worked hard at his new Vice President position, often going on business trips.

During my freshman year of high school, I took a math class that was nearly a joke for me - algebra.  I aced nearly all of the tests and quizzes and got a disappointing 99 on my final.  Frustrated with the lack of challenge, my mom had me talk to my teacher to find out what I would need to know for the next level of math.  I spent that next summer learning geometry with my mother, meticulously practicing, learning, and writing out homework.  At the beginning of my sophomore year, we took all the paperwork to the principal and my new counselor to show them that I had mastered the material.  It was agreed that I should be allowed to learn trig at that point, however, I still had to attend geometry class.  (Apparently a New York State law that I needed to spend a certain number of hours in the classroom - utterly useless.)  So, I took two math classes simultaneously that year (along with either other classes, ensuring I never had a lunch period).  Though I finally caught up academically, socially it was a bit too late - the honors track students had already formed their cliques.  And I was not a part of them.

My dad had moved to Texas when his company moved headquarters and waited there for us to move there to join him sometime in the future.  Instead, a headhunter found him and convinced him to take a new position as VP over in a Californian company.  So, with just two weeks notice in the summer following my sophomore year, we packed up and moved across the nation.  Being that it was summer, not many people knew what had happened to me and why I left.  Once again I had been the social butterfly, knowing everyone in my grade, but hardly close to any of them.  Only my closest group of friends saw me off and the rest of the school I didn't know well enough to call up to inform.

I started life anew in California as a junior.  With just two years of high school left and a lot of focus on college prep work, I made friends only with people in my classes, on my swim team, and in my JROTC unit.  This was the most present my parents had ever been, but I was far too busy with schoolwork, SAT prep, ROTC training, swim practice, and meets to really spend time with them.  For the last blissful weeks of high school, I lived it up driving around with my friends and enjoying life after APs and before college.

Then came UCLA, where I was so busy with being a college student that I only went home when I needed to do laundry.  When I was about to start my second year, my dad moved back to China to work and has been there ever since.  My third year of college I went abroad and by the time I returned, my mom had joined my dad in China.  I spent my fourth year and extra quarter on my own in this country before my mom came back to join me until I found a job.  Now I'll be off to Singapore and by the time I get back, who knows how things will be.

So you see, much of my life was spent with my parents traveling around or busy at work.  I had a lot of time to myself in the afternoons when I came back from school and spent many years away from them.  Even when we are together, we all are busy with our own obligations, so I don't just hang out with them much.  In fact, the only true bonding we get is the periodic family outings we go on - road trips my dad concocts to all kinds of places.  It's been an interesting lifestyle and it just amuses me that in a week, our family will once again be split amongst three different countries.  I do love being independent and traveling a lot, but eventually I'd like to settle somewhere long-term to have as a home base.

 
 

You know when you think it's just another meet-up with your friend and then BAM you arrive and it's a surprise party for you?  Well if you haven't experienced this, it's just about the coolest thing ever.  If you have, then you know the utter shock and amazement that washes over you when it dawns on you what is happening.  And yes, I am writing about this because it happened to me today (well, I guess technically yesterday now).

February 24th was cut out to be a special day.  I thought it was because it was my boyfriend's birthday.  I thought it was because it's Mardi Gras.  But more than that, it turned out to be a special day for me!  After spending as much time as I could with Panda this afternoon, I had a few hours to kill before I was scheduled to meet up with my friend "Shadow" for dinner.  I decided to head over to the student store after parking my car, which turned out to be a fortunate decision - I ended up running into an old friend and an alum from my co-ed business fraternity, AKPsi.  It was great to catch up and I was happy that I didn't end up bored out of my mind for three hours.

Eventually I headed back to the residential halls to get ready to meet up with Shadow, but since I was early, I decided to drop by and say hi to some old friends.  They weren't in, but luckily, I happened to see them in the window of one of the eateries on campus.  As if that wasn't enough excitement for a day, I also ran into another friend there!  We all made some plans to meet up later this week before I fly out on Sunday.  Eventually, it came time to head down to the restaurant that Shadow and I were going to eat at.

As she and I walked to the car, I babbled about how I didn't want to walk down so I'd drive the car and try to get a metered spot in front.  Then we could get our food and park somewhere else to eat in the car.  She calmly agreed to this silly plan and we drove down, coming across a 30-minute spot that had 30 more minutes until they stopped checking meters.  Perfect.  I even babbled out loud about how I could keep the spot now, even though we shouldn't need it since our food shouldn't take that long.  Well, I didn't realize just how fortunate that was!  It freed me up to stay happily put at the restaurant once we did arrive and she hurriedly pushed open the door to reveal three other friends, waiting there for us!

I was completely oblivious this whole time, haha, which worked out just as it needed to.  It was so amazing to see those lovely faces that I haven't gotten to see in months!  Gosh, I am still thrilled about it now, hours later and even as exhaustion kicks in.  Additionally, Shadow got me this amazing gift baggie with UCLA gear to remind me of my alma mater, some candy for my sweet tooth, and even some gum, since it's banned in Singapore.  I'm not sure I'm allowed to bring it in, but it's cute.

A few years back, Katana also did something similar for me, arranging a surprise birthday party.  Sometimes I can't believe I actually thought I was going to her house for lunch with her parents!  Haha, I can be so gullible when it comes to social gatherings.  Instead of a warm family gathering, I walked into their hosue and found a dining room overflowing with gifts and food, and most importantly, good company!  What a special day that was.

The point of all this is just to express how grateful I am to have friends like this.  Those who take the time and care to arrange these get-togethers and lure me to them.  I feel so blessed that they would go to that trouble and I really wish I was better at these things.  I am a hugely sentimental person and I appreciate thoughtful gifts so much more than anything of great value.  That is why these things speak so much to me - it takes careful thought to plan and execute them!  That sort of effort means so much more to me than anything that can be bought.

I want to explore what I am good at and find a creative way to turn that into something that I can do for my friends, in turn.  I remember when I used to be the picture-taker, Katana used to be the writer, and Elle used to be the CD-maker in our little trio.  We each had our own niche and that is how we shared with each other.  I want to do something special akin to the whole party-throwing thing, like make an artful collage or mini photo album or scrapbook.  Something that will be signature "me."  At the same time, these little meaningful gatherings are a classic and I'd really like to do them.

 
 

I am not sure how it happened, but 8Asians started to follow me on Twitter!  When I was notified of this, it got me to go back to their site to read some of their entries.  I eventually came across an article about teaching your kid Chinese, as a response to an article that the author had read about the decision to not teach your kid Chinese.  It was interesting to see the perspectives on this issue, being one who went through years of Chinese school.  Though I hated getting up on Sunday mornings to go learn, the extra homework that inevitably came with extra schooling, and the difficulty of learning the characters, it is something that I am tremendously grateful for.

So I, for one, lie on the side preferring bilingualism.  I grew up speaking Mandarin at home and English at school.  Any notion that children will get "confused" learning two languages simultaneously is absolutely absurd.  I've never had a problem with that, not even accidentally saying a single word in the wrong language.  Some people seem to have it in their minds that integrating two languages into learning is conflicting, but it certainly is not.  That's the beauty of a young mind.  It can pick up on so much so effortlessly (or at least so it seems).

As I read through comments to those posts, I started to think: it's not just about the communication aspect.  Being bilingual (or multilingual) opens the doors to be bicultural.  And to be multicultural is to understand.  That is not something that can be learned very easily either.  Though plenty of people in their adult lives can move elsewhere and adopt their new culture, a lot of the old culture still remains at odds with the new one.  It's not easy to balance the differing views.  Growing up learning to mesh them, however, could give you a worldly view on things.

Plus, from a practical point of view, if you want to stay in touch with your family abroad and allow everyone in your family to understand each other, it's an important skill to have.  Otherwise, you will end up having to translate (or be translated for) at family gatherings.  I have always prided myself in my Mandarin fluency - it allows me to get around as I need to when I am visiting the country and it allows me to interact with my relatives without needing my parents to translate.  Just by knowing the language, I feel so much more connected to the culture too, since so much of it has historical and cultural roots.

I think the older generations also respect you more if you know the language(s) of your heritage.  So many of them shake their heads and mutter to themselves when they hear of other children who don't know the language or can barely get by with it.  For me, however, they are either proud that I can speak to them or holding back from their mutterings because they know I'd understand what they're saying.  It gives you so much more freedom.

Now I can understand parents who may want to wait for their child to start learning another language (like the lady in the article mentioned above, about not teaching your kid Chinese).  For the first few years, it will be relatively easy for them to pick up on the language, so there's no need to throw them into lessons when they're still learning to walk.  This is especially true for people who may not be native speakers themselves, since there isn't much they could teach the child.  However, I do think that anyone of a heritage growing up in a culture other than the one they were born to should start learning the language sometime in elementary school.

I certainly want any of my future offspring to be bilingual, if not multilingual.

 
 

This is a thought that comes up periodically in my life.  It's not that I'm a nomad, but I have no true hometown to speak of.  I am not really "native" to anywhere.  Though I was born in China, I grew up in the United States.  Does that make me "native American" (as opposed to Native American)?  I don't feel so.  Then do I feel Chinese?  Not enough, especially when I go back to visit and the very way I look and hold myself gives me away immediately.  Plus, my way of thought is greatly influenced by the American culture.

Being Chinese-American has always posed a slight problem for my identity.  I am equally both?  More one or the other?  I didn't grow up questioning this, but it's always tricky to answer that inevitable question: "So, where are you from?"  Where am I from originally?  Where am I from now?  Where is my parents' home?  It's complicated, so I usually try to answer with whatever it seems they were looking for.  But really, what am I?

I lived in China for three and a half years (split between Shenyang and Jieshou), Pennsylvania for two years, Kansas for three, back to China for one, Kansas for another one, Missouri for two and a half, New York for three and a half, California for four (split between Valencia for two years and Westwood for the other two), England for one, California for another year and a half, and now Singapore for six months.  So you tell me, which is my hometown?

Even if I were to claim American roots, where do I belong?  The East Coast?  The West Coast?  The Midwest?  I even almost moved to Texas (and would still like to for awhile).

All I know is that England and Singapore are out the running, since they were rather brief stints that didn't occur until adulthood (not that I feel like an adult).  One was for studying abroad and now the other is for working abroad.  Since they are not permanent relocations, it's easy to rule them out.  However, that still leaves the eight major areas I have lived in.

I don't look American because I am Asian.  I don't look Chinese because I have been out of the country for too long.  I don't really fit in to either place like a native would.  I've stayed in places long enough to get to know the area, but not enough to leave a lasting imprint.  Most of my childhood friends would have been lost to me were it not for Facebook.  Yet, even after finding people I knew early on, things have changed so much that we don't even know each other anymore.  Sure, they look similar to what I remember them to be, but watching them mature and go on their own paths... well, that is not something you can really predict from elementary school!

I am quite comfortable with all of this though.  I don't mind being seen as an outsider sometimes.  I still feel at ease where I am and with who I am.  It's just hard to explain to anyone.  I am a melting pot of East meets West, East Coast meets West Coast.  There are so many different factors that shaped my opinions, from my cultural background and upbringing to assimilating into a new culture and traveling the world to experience more.  So if you really want to know where I'm from and how I think, grab a seat, get some tea, and we'll chat...

 
 

What a day!  I left for Kollab around 4:30 in the afternoon yesterday and just got back 11 hours later.  It was intense.  From the obscene amount of traffic to get there to getting in early enough for awesome seats (and pit access!), it was quite the adventure.  I even ran into three accidents on the drive down from home (somehow always ending up in the lane where the debris was from the collisions).  Not the best start to the day, but it ended on a very high note.

First, let me explain:  Kollaboration is a sort of concert and talent show all rolled into one, with an after party to boot!  This is their ninth year putting it on in various cities around the country with the mission: Empowerment Through Entertainment.  It's about bringing the Asian community together and promoting the presence of Asian/Pacific Islanders in the media.  Of course, it's not exclusive to only APIs, but it is about awareness and support for the issues surrounding them.  Anyone who believes that APIs deserve to play a larger part in the entertainment field (and really all fields) is more than welcome to come celebrate what has been acheived.

Kollaboration 9 was at the Shrine Auditorium and the after party was held adjacent to it at the Shrine Expo Center.  The night was comprised of seven competitors, six guest performances, five celebrity judges, two freestyle competitions, tons of free giveaways, and a slew of sponsors.  All in the course of three hours.  There were even NINE letters from government officials printed in the program, talking about their support for the show.  (Yes, even Arnie.)

So who all was there?  Well... Kenichi Ebina, Jazmin, Paul Dateh, Kina Grannis, Lilybeth Evardome, Jane Lui, and David Choi competed; BoA, Jo Koy, Kaba Modern, Fanny Pak, Norman Ng, and Team Millennia performed; Printz Board, James Kyson Lee, James Ryu, Welly Yang, and Teddy Zee judged; random volunteers from the audience freestyled; and of course, my lovely AKP brothers and I attended, along with the rest of the sold-out crowd (including Philip Wang, Wesley Chan, MySpace Tom...).

Aren't you jealous?

Well, maybe you aren't.  Maybe you don't really know who these people are.  In fact, the only ones I had known were the Wong Fu guys and Kaba Modern.  David Choi, Kina Grannis, Jane Lui, Jazmin, BoA were very new discoveries that I had just learned about.  Everyone else was new to me.  See, that's the unfortunate situation we are facing (and hopefully eliminating).  How many API performers do you know of?  How many of them are mainstream?  Very, very few.

Jane Lui on the piano, earning her second place.

Kina Grannis at the after party.

Yet, interestingly enough, a lot of popular YouTubers are of some sort of Asian descent.  What happened there?  It seems that having a platform that empowers the individual to make it on their own enables these Asians who are not making it on the big scene to create a following of their own.  Kollaboration is a means of getting those types of artists to the forefront through exposure beyond social media.  Social media is more grassroots whereas Kollaboration is more mainstream.  It can help slowly bridge the gap between online phenomenon and nation-wide star.

As for the rest of the night, there were a lot of entertaining moments throughout, and the performers were great.  David Choi and BoA are really good live and it was wonderful to watch them perform from the pit.  Though it was about six feet deep, I'm really glad I moved there during the intermission so I could see the facial expressions better.  I also had a clear view of the fancy fingerwork that Kaba incorporates into their routine.  My arms did get rather sore and there were times when I started to shake a bit, but it was all worth it in the end.  We were also treated to a sneak preview of another song on BoA's first American album, set to come out next month.

Aww, David Choi was really enjoying himself.

BoA wants to Eat You Up.

When that part of the evening ended, my fraternity brothers and I took a break to get something to eat before heading over to the after party.  I was fortunate enough to come across Philip Wang, Wesley Chan, David Choi, Kina Grannis, and the guy who won the freestyle vocal competition (gosh, what was his name?)*.  And I took pictures with them.  Of course.  ;)  It was sooo exhilarating!  I never run into people that I know from some sort of media outlet.  It's cool to see them in person.

I was catching up with an alum of the fraternity when I came across these people and he took the pictures for me, bemused at my giddiness.  I don't know why I was SO excited (mostly for Phil and David), but it felt awesome.  I have so much respect for them and it's really great to get to meet them in person, even if we just take a picture and I am forgotten.  Phil did ask for my name though when I told him how much I enjoyed his speech at my graduation this summer.  I wouldn't be surprised if he forgot it as soon as he repeated it, but it was a very sweet gesture.

AAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!  I heart Wong Fu (too bad Ted's in NYC).  They're so sweet.  :)

Smiles all around.

Maybe this is why I like low-key "stars" - they don't have some sort of upkeep to make them happy and they really appreciate their fans so much more.  I'm not into the big Hollywood stars and I probably would want pictures, but wouldn't care to really interact with them beyond that.  Part of that is because they probably wouldn't give me the light of day anyway, but part of that is because they've got so many fans they're probably used to that whole lifestyle already.  I'd much rather appreciate those who are more real, living like I am, working in less than ideal situations, but nevertheless pursuing their passions.  Not that there aren't A-list stars who do that, but they just don't interest me.

* turns out that guy is Gabe Bondoc, who is also a bit of a YouTube legend himself.  No wonder he won.  :-P

 
 

If you're familiar with blogging,  you have probably heard of (and seen) vlogging, the video version of it.  For many, it is too intimidating to try.  Concerns of how you look, how you speak, what you sound like, your body language, and other self-conscious issues arise.  When you're on film, there's a lot you can't hide.

Blogging is like the safe version of sharing yourself - nobody needs to know exactly what you look like, how you dress, if you have an accent or speech impediment, or other such physical details.  In fact, bloggers can get away with a very mysterious identity.  But once you sit yourself in front of that camera and record, so much information is divulged.  This even includes things that may be seen or heard in the background of your video, like the setup and items in your room or office, any pets or family members who may wander around, etc.

Even with editing, people give off "microexpressions" that cannot be hidden in filming.  Certain subconscious gestures can unveil your hidden emotions, giving your audience a much better idea about you as a person.  This uncontrollable body language even extends to speech patterns, whether it's the slang you use, the volume at which you speak, or the speed of your speech.  I've been watching Lie to Me online and it's really interesting the little things that can give your real emotions away (even though it is a dramatization, the show makes some good points).  Perhaps this is why many people are uncomfortable with showing themselves on tape.

Additionally, most people don't usually see themselves from an outsider's point of view, so it feels weird to watch themselves.  You may start to notice things about yourself that you never really paid attention to and wonder if this is what others see in you too.  Then there's also the concern that this is a permanent record of you as a person and you can never pretend that someone else was expressing your opinions for you or you were misrepresented.  Some people just prefer their privacy, rather than having their life documented and shared.  It's easier for them to remain faceless behind typed words.

However, there are those who run blogs with a followership that is interested in them as a person.  What they look like, how they sound, etc.  The very things that people tend to be self-conscious about!  It's a brave thing to do, putting yourself out like that, even if your readership is encouraging you the whole way.  Doubts about how they will judge you based on how they imagined you and how they will now see you can surface.  When it comes down to it though, if you are proud of who you are, there is no reason to hide that from people who care.  I like the thought because if feels so much more real and honest.  Unless you're an extremely good actor, you're showing people the real you.  And that is something courageous to do.

The other day, Katana put up a rather well-done vlog.  I've also been following HappySlip and KevJumba, all of which has made me consider doing some video magic myself.  However, I currently don't have much to say and I'd like my vlogs to be interesting and captivating.  Also, it would take some time to edit it the way I'd like and I certainly do not have the creative genius to add music.  There was only one time I edited a video (which I was quite proud of), but that was with the help of my group members.

Ah well, maybe I will chronicle my journey to Singapore and that will inspire me... though I will be terribly busy once I start working, so it might have to wait.  We'll see, but it's definitely something I want to try eventually!

 
 

I've spent a lot of time in the past week fiddling around with sites of mine that allow personalization (including this one).  It's a tedious thing to do for a self-taught beginner like me, since I have almost no foundation knowledge in CSS and only know basic HTML.  Yet, I still pounded away at it obsessively, working on getting just the right colors, font, layout, etc.  It's rewarding when things finally look a little more the way you would prefer!

I've finally settled on something that I am satisfied enough with.  My main gripe with the layouts offered for this site was that they are all so narrow!  It seems a lot of blogs are that way, taking up just barely over half the width of my screen.  Perhaps this is because I have a wide screen, but I just didn't like it.  What's the point in having all that extraneous space?  Certainly no computer screen is that skinny!  I was also thrilled to be able to upload my own image for the background in the banner up top.  Most themes have a very generic image uploaded or just a solid color background, so it's nice to personalize with one of my own photos.  However, finding a decent image and cropping it to fit took me ages to get right.

So I am pleased enough with what I have now, which may not exactly reflect the title or content of my blog, but it is an extension of my Bruin pride.  I'm hoping to eventually get my own domain name and get a professional to help me with a design.  I just don't have the artistic knack for creating something that fits a theme or color scheme.  Look at how cool my best friend's blog looks (and how well it fits the theme).  She got a free makeover for her blog recently and it really does add to the feel of the site.  You immediately get a sense for what she talks about in her entries (nobody would expect posts on makeup or shoe shopping, for instance).  Additionally, it sets a tone - this is no boring site lacking any sort of flavor, but it's also not a Valley Girl's personal diary, complete with pink bubblegum images.

When you have a blog title like mine, which doesn't exactly explain what kind of topics I'll be writing about, a visual clue from the theme may help.  A clean-cut look to the page, bright and easy on the eyes, with soothing colors and perhaps a photograph of college students or businesspeople.  Now that would set things off on the right footing.  Or, if you can create enough intrigue to draw readers in, perhaps they will read just to find out why you chose the title you did.  I have this image of a black and white photo of someone (maybe even me) sitting at a little cafe, with a cup of tea and said "little fat notebook," with pen poised over paper and pursed lips.  A pensive shot.  After all, most of the ideas I come up with for entries are recorded in that notebook and crossed off as I get to them.

For now, this is what I've got and it shall suffice.  Learning these "web languages" is like learning any other language; you can only be proficient if you learn the general grammar or syntax, basic vocabulary terms, and keep practicing.  Have you ever tried to teach yourself a foreign language?  I did in middle school and that was a disaster.  I think I came out knowing a few colors and numbers.  So, if you truly want to learn how to use markup languages, pick up a manual and build a strong foundation.  Currently I am only proficient enough to fiddle around with what other people have already created.  I envy those who are so fluent in these languages that they can whip up a website in no time!  They will be the ones earning my money in the years to come... unless I find the time to reteach myself, starting from the top.

To check out my other customization, go to laelene.tumblr.com!

 
Cute journals 02/19/2009
 

I was browsing Brushdance journals and came across these two that made me smile.  Just thought I'd share.  (Click images to go check them out at the site.)