I've been reading Emergenetics: Tap Into the New Science of Success lately and I've rediscovered the nerd inside.  Ever since I was a kid, I loved to read.  From when I first learned how to read until I was nearly 13, nothing else took up more of my time.  I'd wake up and read on the walk to the bus stop, read on the bus ride to school, read while walking to and from classes, read while eating my meals, and even attempted reading in the shower a few times (they always ended up as baths).  Every week my mom would drive me to the library and I'd tote home about 30 books to read for that week.  In fifth grade, my teacher had us keep a log and the first time I turned it in, she stared at it in disbelief before calling my parents to have them verify that yes, I did nothing else with my life but read.  I remember I did very well for reading clubs back then - what was that Pizza Hut reward program again?  And of course, my favorite event of the year was when the Scholastic Book Fair would come rolling around.  It was the most exciting and anticipated thing for me - to be able to browse shelves of books, peruse tons of offers for monthly subscriptions (did anyone else order the Goosebumps series?), and check out all the random other items that came along (like those science kits, bookmarks, and journals!).  Ah, it was a dream come true for me.

Ah, that's what it was! Book it!

Good old R.L. Stine and his crazy creations!

It was at a book fair in 4th grade that I came across a light purple diary with an adorable grey kitten on it.  I begged my dad to get it for me (seeing as I had no money back then and my allowance was just whatever I needed).  He agreed, on the condition that I promise to write in it every day.  And thus began my long journey with keeping a journal.  As promised, I wrote in my journal every day, whether or not it was anything interesting.  I tried a variety of styles over the years, from using Chinese to titling each day in French to bullet-point lists.  Time and time again, my parents would find me holed away in my room, scribbling away at my journal and each time they'd ask me, "Oh you're actually still doing that?"  Well, I made a promise!  As time wore on, I got busier and didn't always have time to write every day, so I started to write notes for my journal and then catch up in it periodically.  This ranged from a few days to a few weeks.  Then, a couple of months ago (wow, nearly a year now), I got SO distracted with being an Orientation Counselor at UCLA that I haven't been able to catch up since.  I am now months behind on writing and even a few weeks behind on my notes, but I have every intention of writing an entry for each of those days.  Thankfully, I am great at stalking myself (I like to think of it as being resourceful), so I can piece together most of the pieces through the IM conversations I had, the e-mails I sent, the text messages I used, and of course, the blog entries I wrote.

My love for all things "booky" didn't stop there.  I love all sorts of office supplies, if you will, ranging from pens and notebooks to staples and superglue.  Of course, I love books and bookmarks, but really I can spend my life in a Staples and never get bored.  Highlighters, erasers, rulers, protractors, you name it, I love it.  I'm an absolute junkie when it comes to that stuff.  I don't know if it's related to my insane bookworm tendencies from my childhood, but it seems correlated at the least.  So, throughout the years (and volumes upon volumes of journals now), I experimented with an assortment of pens, pencils, markers, and even Sharpies in filling up my journal pages.  I've settled for a certain format as of late, which I think started a few years ago.  I guess I've come to a point in my life where I'm comfortable with how I do it.  I still make small changes and tweak a little here and there, but overall it's just about the same and exactly how I like it.

I loved collecting these.

I've gotten to get back in touch with that old side of me that always had her nose buried in a book and it feels good.  I love to read, whether it's books, magazines, blogs, e-mails, or online articles.  I have always done a lot of reading and writing, whether for pleasure or for school, and I'm sure my love of researching has to do with this obsession.  When I was in first or second grade, my neighbors gave me their set of encyclopedias and stacks of National Geographic Magazines, which totally made my day.  Although the medium has mostly changed from hard copies to soft copies, I'm still doing the same thing.  However, nothing can beat the beauty of a book.  The feel, the smell, the look - it's all so attractive to me.  Plus, I can bring it around with me anywhere and read while sipping tea in a cafe or after I've climbed a tree perched on a mountain.  That's also what I love about my journals.  I really enjoy going out alone, finding somewhere peaceful (which may or may not be a public spot), plopping myself down in a nice spot, and reading or writing the day away.  Oh the luxury of free time!

I'm glad I'm getting back into pleasure reading.  I barely did so in my years of high school and college, which totaled nearly a decade!  That is far too long to be away from my precious books.  My preference for content has changed from whimsical fiction stories to more popular science and things I can use in my life, so not only am I getting in touch with my past and particpating in a great hobby, I'm also learning and growing so much!  Not to say you don't learn and grow from fiction, but sometimes the lessons and uses are less apparent and not immediately applicable the way that they are in the non-fiction genre.  So, onward with my current book!  Synopsis to come.

 
 

I've never been one to ask for help.  Even though the people around me have been more than willing to do so, I grew up so used to doing things on my own that it doesn't even occur to me to ask much of the time.  I have learned to be an extremely resourceful person and therefore, I love to share all the things I discover.  Yet rarely do I turn to my family and friends to ask them for their opinion or input on something.  Instead, I take the "I can do it" attitude a bit too far and miss out on the opportunity to bond with them and make them feel useful to me.

This is something I'm working on changing so I can allow myself to rely on others every now and then.  But it's a hard thing to do, placing trust in someone else when you'd much rather just do it yourself.  It's hard to resist the urge to hop online and find the answers I need on my own.  I realize I've missed out on a lot because of this, from time spent getting help on my homework so I wouldn't waste so much time not getting it to relationships that didn't deepen because I didn't open up very much.  It's a slow process to break this instinct to plow through piles of information to get my desired answer, rather than to interrupt a conversation or approach someone to ask them for their wealth of knowledge.

One great thing about my fraternity's mailing list is that we can share with each other all sorts of information and ask for help if needed.  That is one of the few places I've ever reached out to ask for others' opinions, thoughts, or knowledge.  Even then, I much prefer to help out whenever I can and share my experiences and expertise.  I think it's wonderful to have a network like that that I can tap into whenever I want, it's like having friends who never leave you, even if you hardly keep in touch.  I'm more used to maintaining relationships that are far less maintenance than traditional ones, where the closest people to me only talk to me periodically, typically monthly or less.

So, now with a boyfriend who I can't go a day without talking to in one way or another, I'm starting to learn more about maintaining relationships.  Though it's difficult to remain close to people when everyone is moving about all around the world, there are still plenty of ways to stay in touch and remain updated on each others' lives.  I'm also trying to keep track of who is doing what, who is good at what, who likes what, etc. so I can tap into that in future, whether by asking for help or offering an opportunity.  I don't know how quickly I can change an age-old habit of self-sufficiency, but to feel more in touch with people, I'll try to make the effort.  Perhaps getting around to replying to all my facebook wall posts will be the start!

 
 

I can't recall where our household TVs were in most of the places I grew up.  In fact, my first memory of really consistently watching TV was back in middle school, around 7th grade.  That was when we had moved to New York and I remember coming back from school to watch trash shows like Ricki Lake and then classics like Fresh Prince of Bel Air as I ate my way through a few bags of instant chicken ramen.  I never really cared for cartoons and other animated shows, so I pretty much just stuck to whatever was on when I got home from school.  Prior to that, I had always read books for fun.  I think the change began when I started to come out of my shell and be more sociable at school.  Coming out of my own world and integrating into the larger one introduced me to this phenomenon that seems inescapable in the American culture.

Well, by the time I left New York three and a half years later, I had given up TV other than whatever was on that my dad was watching during dinner, which was usually 60 Minutes or 20/20.  The internet was booming and I could entertain myself far more with that than any TV show could ever provide.  Plus, I had much more control over what I would be exposed to, versus being at the mercy of some channel's scheduling choices.  I can't even remember what I used to watch, other than Gilmore Girls and Charmed.  I never really got into the whole TV or movie thing.  I'm not sure why, but I guess it was something about how unenlightening they seem and how they tend to encourage vanity.

Unfortunately, it's gotten worse, from what I know, what with shows like Damages that I've seen commercials for and Gossip Girls that I've heard about.  Why would you spend hours of your life watching people be terrible to each other?  I hope this doesn't produce a pathological society intent on revenge, greed, and other traits that will pick at our morals.  Entertainment is widely influential and the messages being sent these days are often questionable.  I'm not sure I want to know how this is affecting the younger generation as they grow up with their role models watching that kind of junk.

At the same time, there are some shows cropping up that I don't mind, such as House and Lie to Me.  Initially my obsession with House started when I was moving in my second year of college and my friend was watching the season one DVDs.  The abrasive humor, fast-paced discourse, and insightful tidbits into the human body and mind attracted me.  Enough for me to decide to buy the first four seasons on DVD when I joined Columbia House.  As I spent the tail end of last year watching episode after episode, I started to notice the trends and patterns and slowly my interest waned.  I am still fond of the show, despite all its peculiarities (or maybe because of them) and I find it interesting because Dr. House is just so odd.

As for Lie to Me, I saw bus stop ads for it all over Westwood in the early parts of this year, as I was enjoying life with no schedule.  I decided to go check it out online once the show started airing and found it to be quite intriguing.  The entire thing is based on research done on microexpressions and body language, and how they can tell us when people are lying.  I have heard of this type of thing before, and having studied psychology as one of my majors, I find this fascinating.  There were a lot of facts in the show about how it all works, plus audiences get to see how what our behavior tells you is just the what, but not the why.  A lot of unexpected motives for lying are unveiled throughout the episodes, which makes you think before you assume.

I am also glad that the newer reality shows I've seen are getting more positive, rather than taking the dramatic approach by throwing a bunch of strangers to live together just to watch them fight.  I mentioned before watching some of the episodes of The Biggest Loser, which encourages people to take charge of their lives and finally get around to losing the unhealthy weight they've been bearing for years.  It's not that I don't have gripes about certain details of the show, but overall they are trying to send a good message.  I also like this one show I saw five minutes of, which pairs up children with their dads in a competition.  Done right, it encourages the parent-child relationship to be stronger and allows them to outperform by doing teamwork activities.  Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader? can be positive too, by making being smart look cooler.  What kid doesn't want bragging rights to knowing the answer that the adult didn't and "saving" them in the show?  Though the show makes some adults look like fools, it also encourages kids to do well in their academics.

Even the good shows out there have their flaws, but I guess that is expected, since they can't be perfect or they'd be uninteresting.  The main problem with TV shows for me, however, is that I bore of them easily.  For both House and Gilmore Girls, which are the only two shows I own on DVD and the only two shows I have ever watched every episode for, there came a point when I started to tire of the plot or the characters.  When you see a pattern or things become predictable, it's just not fun anymore.  I like to be challenged to never expect things at face value, to have to think about things that are going on in the plot.  Perhaps that is why I also quite enjoy watching CSI with Marylin on the weekends, whenever she has it on.  There's always mysteries and twists to look out for.  Yet, whatever draws most of the population to their television sets each day baffles me, for I could live perfectly well without it.  Actually, I can't even remember the last time I turned on a TV; in the past few years I've only ever turned them off after people around me have finished watching and I am still left sitting there.  To me, TV is just unappealing.

 
 

I decided to go back to Mint.com today to check out how my finances are doing.  It's really an amazing tool, putting all of my money in the same place for me to easily see.  It was always a chore for me to sign in to my bank accounts, then my various credit card accounts, all so I could see how much money I had, how much I owed, and how things were doing for me overall.  Now I just need Mint.com to keep track of it for me!  As I was filling out the information for my new retirement accounts (gosh, that is a strange thing to think about), I also completed the rest of my profile.  One of the questions they had for me was what my credit score is.  Well, I certainly don't have a clue.  In fact, I've never known my credit score!  So, I decided it was time to find out.

It's an interesting thing, these credit reports.  I spent ages filling out information at various sites, trying to find one that gives me my three credit scores (for free), period.  For some reason, whenever they ask me verification questions, I get a little nervous that I will answer incorrectly.  I should know my own activity and history with no problem, right?  And I do, but nonetheless, I have that little tinge of worry when I have to give a correct answer for authentication.  I guess it stems from my childhood fear of authority, where anyone with the power to affect my life can make me uncomfortable.  So in this case, it is their control over whether or not they believe I am me, which in turn determines whether or not they will allow me to access information I want, that scares me.

Well, it turns out my credit ratings aren't half bad (all in the excellent range, yay), but I still have room for improvement.  Luckily, I've never been rejected credit and I tend to get way more than I need, but I still have a ways to go, once I start having a mortgage.  I don't plan on having any loans, but who knows, maybe I will get a good financial adviser who can manage all that for me and actually make me better off by using loans.  I do believe my mom is a guru at that sort of thing.  I am also really pleased with Mint.com because they provide me the information I always was afraid I wouldn't have once my mom can't help me with finances anymore.  As of now, she's always the one I go running to when I have a money issue (like not knowing what type of IRA to open up).  I feel more secure in being able to take care of my own money responsibly now.

I have been very lucky in my life, with parents who have always had the foresight to save money for things we needed/really wanted.  I never had to pay a cent for college, or take out a student loan.  It's an amazing gift to start off my career with no debt hanging over my head.  I don't think I can fully appreciate it since I don't know what it's like to be in debt, but nonetheless, I am grateful.  At the same time, I tried not to exploit this privilege and got a scholarship that helped pay some of my way.  Also, we've never not had the money to purchase things when we really needed them.  Granted, that has a lot to do with our concept of what we actually need.  We're not a very materialistic family, so all the nice things we get we get only when we more than have the means to get it.  I have learned some very good spending habits from my parents and I hope that I can retain that, and not live beyond my means.

My mom has always told me that too many Americans get trapped into spending more than they're earning and borrowing a lot, which leaves little room for error.  On the contrary, our family only takes out loans we know we can pay back, only buy cars that are within our means, and only get houses that have mortgages we can handle.  I admire how well my mom handles money and I wish I had a knack for that myself, but if it were up to me, we'd all just live with cash and never worry about credit cards throwing you into debt or losing money on investments.  Ironic, I guess, since I studied finances quite intently during my undergrad career, but it's not a topic I really care for.  It certainly is very useful though and it's a pity I don't know more.  But, with the booming internet, I can always look up what I need to so it won't be too bad.

So, though I may not know the best ways to handle my money, at least I'll make good choices with what I do know so far and just keep educating myself on what else there is.  Ultimately I'm hoping I can make enough to hire a financial adviser to do all that for me.  I'm not much of a risk-taker though, so I don't know how I'd feel about my money being put into the volatile markets.  It seems lame to keep it all in a savings account though.  Which, by the way, has been disappointing me with the economic downturn.  Supposedly my interest rates are still higher than market rates and rather competitive, but it has been sliced to at least less than half of what it used to be!  It's so unfulfilling to see your money growing so slowly.  With the magic of compound interest though, I just need to wait it out and see better results later down the line.

 
 

I spent the last two days manning a table at the SHRI HR Congress to promote Right Impact Training, the training and education part of Caelan & Sage.  At first, Marylin handled the people who came to our booth as I listened to what she said, how she said it, what she was asked, and how she responded.  Soon enough, I was at it on my own, engaging people who came by to check us out or stood looking at us curiously.  This was reminiscent of my training day for Natural Selection Promotions, where I met with one of the demo-ers and she showed me the ropes.  As I observed how she did it, I began to lure more customers over to try the product and after a bit, I was quite well-versed in why it was a great thing to eat.  So, as I do, I sat back and watched until I was ready to try it out on my own.  For the most part it went decently, with just a few people who were less than receptive and left without leaving any contact info.  Occasionally, I'd get a question that I didn't really know, so Marylin would jump in and provide more details.

I have found that I can be quite comfortable working off a table, where anyone who comes by and looks at us long enough should know that they are just asking to be talked to.  They are the ones who make themselves available and open to some pitching, so they tend to be interested in hearing more.  However, one thing I wanted to work on was going out into the crowd of delegates and striking up a conversation that would lead to another networking opportunity.  Unfortunately, this is definitely one of my weaknesses, unless I am in a high-energy environment like a camp or organized icebreaker activity.  Since this was very much professional and all about business, I didn't know how to approach the people as they were munching on food or sipping on drinks.  My innate shyness always finds a way to kick my butt at these gatherings.  When I was a child, I was so quiet and reserved with strangers that I couldn't even look them in the eye and I would flush a bright red in the stress.  Since then, I've improved a lot, but in situations that I am uncomfortable in, I tend to revert back to some of those old ways.

Now it's not so much a problem of approaching strangers, but it's more of what context I am doing it in.  I went around to all the exhibitors located in the other room and was perfectly happy with going up to each of them, chatting them up on who they are and what they do, then in turn sharing who I am and what C&S is all about.  Based on that information, many a business card were exchanged, with promises of e-mail correspondence to come.  There were some possible collaborations and a few potential clients, which was very promising.  That was much easier for me because everyone knew that the people at those tables were there to spread the word on their company, so we had a pretense to start with.  Then, upon telling me their story, they were curious about mine (I think especially with my American accent), which opened up a chance for me to share with them without imposing on them.  Everything seemed unpretentious and we built up a good rapport that way.

My difficulty with approaching the delegates at the congress was due to the fact that every time they were in our area, they were getting a meal to eat or having a tea break.  So to start off with, they are more in the relaxing type of mentality.  Granted, they realize that these types of professional conferences are a breeding ground for making new connections, but I feel intrusive walking up to them with an agenda.  I could try one of our teammates, Napper's, tactic and just chat them up on how they found the congress so far and whatnot, but that is not quite my selling style.  Marylin has a very aggressive approach and Napper has a very laid-back approach; I am somewhere in between, but closer to Marylin's style.  Perhaps I need to change my frame of mind and not take this type of event as a sales event, but more as a networking event.  In part my impatience is because I want them to see the intrinsic value of our services right away and look into hiring us or working with us.

The next time I get a chance to go to something like this, or when I go to the next forum or sharing session, I will remind myself that I am just there to meet new people, whether or not they will be useful business contacts.  I have been pressuring myself too much lately, always thinking very critically about how each interaction could turn into an opportunity for us.  I remember I used to love to chat people up for no good reason but to talk to them.  We'll see if that mentality will improve my fear of approaching strangers...

 
 

I was watching a video with clips of an interview conducted overlooking the San Fernando Valley today and it brought up so many memories, particularly of Valentine's Day, when Panda and I had a similar view.  Seeing that, with the California sun and telltale smog, made me miss LA so much.  Not just the memories and experiences from there, but the greater Los Angeles area in general.  From the landscape to the opportunities to the people, there is so much to love.  Between two cities in LA County, I have spent the greater part of the last six years living in Southern California.  I have certainly grown to the love place, despite the hours I spent travelling up and down the 5 and 405, stuck in traffic.  Of course, there is also a slew of terrific memories of all the wonderful things I got to experience there.  Most recently, there was the drive up and down Mulholland Drive that brought about some great new views of familiar territory.  Then earliest on, I had been introduced to many of the main attractions in the area, from Santa Monica Pier to the Hollywood Bowl.

I remember when I first moved out to California, I hated the place.  I was heartbroken from being torn from my high school friends, teachers, classes, and organizations with such little notice (everything happened within a period of two weeks).  I never got a chance to tell people I was leaving, but for a handful of close friends who I saw briefly days before flying away.  Everyone else just started school that year to find me on the other side of the country.  Between having to adjust to a new social life and academic challenges, it was frustrating to also be annoyed on a daily basis by small nusances like the dry weather.  I had to start showering in the mornings and pin my hair up to prevent it from getting too staticy and itching my skin.  It was also irritating to have to slathe on lotion day in and day out, just so my skin wouldn't crack painfully, retricting my activity.  It took my body two full years to finally adjust to the arid SoCal weather.

Once I started college at UCLA, things began to look up as I started to discover myself more and more.  No longer worried about brittle hair or dry skin, I could go out and enjoy myself so much more.  It's amazing how basic physical comfort can contribute so much to quality of life.  College life also brought about so many opportunities, explorations, and new experiences.  Although I had always grown up independent, this offered a different level of freedom, where I could sleep in on days I didn't have class in the mornings or stay up all night hanging out with friends just because.  I also began to learn how to take care of myself, from doing laundry to making sure I ate and slept a decent amount.  Let's not forget that students are offered so many great deals, from the countless groups to get involved in to the plentiful discounts exclusively for them.  Through that, I got a taste of the wide variety of attractions that LA has to offer, from the beaches and mountains to the entertainment centers and museums.  Food from all over the world is more or less offered there as well, though to differing degrees of Americanization.  Overall, it was truly unparalleled exposure.

Even though I'm used to never staying put in one city for too long, I can see myself staying in this one for years to come.  I have always strongly believed that I can make a living in any city, as I have always done.  But, at the same time, there's something nice about claiming a city as my own.  As the one that I know in and out.  As the one I came of age in.  As the one where I found myself.  There's a certain romantic notion about devoting so much to a city and absorbing yourself in that culture.  And of all the cities I've been to, I can't think of another one better suited for my wants and needs.  The only thing I wish was different would be the quality of air.  Every time I see that layer of smog, I can't help but think of how many years of my life I could be taking off just by breathing that in.  In the long run, I can see this being a city I would want to settle in.  However, at the same time, I am still interested in living in other places while I can still move around.  I don't know how Panda feels about that one though.  Perhaps I will just have to take business trips and vacations to the other places I've wanted stay in.

I miss my home.  Not just the house we have, but the friends who are still there and the familiarity of the place.  I feel safe there, surrounded by everything I know and understand.  It has become my element, where I can effortlessly navigate life there.  Plus, I left my heart there.  I can't wait to go back, if only to be able to hug Panda again and return to a place that is mine.

 
 

At times I wish I had more family living near me, or a greater extended family sprawled around the world.  I have always dreamt of having an older brother to rely on (or a gay best friend).  Since I tend to connect a lot better with guys, I have always wanted to have one who was very, very close to me in a platonic way.  Unfortunately, though such figures have come and gone, I can't really claim one guy who I can run to when I am hurt or scared or just have a great secret to share.  More than that though, I wish that my cousins and I were closer.  When I was young, I would always follow them around so closely that they nicknamed me their shadow.  It was true enough, since I only got to see them once a year for a few weeks and that was my only tie to my background.

I have lived my life very much alone, or in a tiny family unit consisting of me and my parents.  I always love to have people over to my house simply because nobody ever visits!  It's always just me, my mom, my dad, and for some years, my cats.  There are no random second cousins or great aunts, twice removed who can swing by to say hi.  In fact, there isn't a single other person in our family in the country, from either side of the family.  So, other than the summers that I got to go back to China in my childhood, I've hardly ever seen my relatives.  Lately, I have also spent a lot of my time on my own, first as I went off to college, then as my dad moved back to China, then as I studied abroad in England, then as my mom moved back to China as well, and finally as I moved out to Singapore to work.

Granted, I am not alone alone.  Yet, I have had nobody I can call family in the same country as me for the past two and a half years, but for the few months my mom came to visit, the couple of weeks my dad has spent back, and the lucky few days that some of my aunts and uncles got to come watch me graduate from UCLA.  Family, after all, are the only people who are linked to you from day 1.  And in my life, they are the only ones who have always been there, even if it was largely in the background and rather out of reach.  But year after year, they are there, growing in their own ways, and eventually we will catch up again.  For me, friendship has not worked out quite that way, since each move brought another group of people to leave behind.  I can never claim a best friend from my childhood who watched me grow up.  The only people who truly watched me grow up were my parents.

I have certainly been blessed with a lot of wonderful people in my life, but once again I find that they come and go.  I'm so used to people leaving my life and becoming a great memory that I didn't even notice I do that, until a close friend pointed it out.  Perhaps I got too conditioned to having to leave people behind with every move we made over the years.  I don't have the mindset that makes me think of someone, pick up the phone and call them, or drop them an e-mail to catch up.  Instead, I just wonder whatever happened to them and how they are doing.  I am always grateful when I do hear from a long-lost friend and get to see how they are doing in their lives.  I love that we are becoming a more globally connected world now and facebook was the first social media tool that allowed me to get in touch with friends from lives past.  I also love that you don't need to be maintaining a conversation with each other to keep tabs on and be able to find each other years down the line.

I like to dream about a handful of aunts and uncles and dozens of cousins bustling around during Chinese New Year, as the whole family makes time to be together.  Sadly, I've only been in China once during that time of year since I left (which was when I was too young to remember anything anyway) and I don't recall a thing about it.  My dad has told me that to truly experience Chinese festivities, I need to spend Chinese New Year back in his hometown, the little place that he grew up in.  Now that truly has small town flair in its celebrations, with all the stops pulled!  Maybe if I have time next year, I can make it come true, in the second Year of the Ox that I will experience since the one I was born in.  2010 will be an important year for me because I will have gone through two full Chinese zodiac cycles.  I'm sure that has some sort of significance.

Someday, I'd like to be able to gather with all my relatives (or at least one representative from each family unit).  But over the years, even our not-so-big family has had trouble reuniting as my cousins married off and started to create their own little families.  Between work, children, spouses, and friends, it's hard to find time to get together like we used to when everyone lived in the same town and the only ones missing were me and my parents.  Now I'm embarking on my own life as well, sacrificing time with loved ones in hopes of building a strong foundation for a successful future.  Work is hardly as flexible as tertiary education was, with more hours and less ease of changing schedules.  Plus, there's a lot less time off per annum.  On the other hand, I am very fortunate to be working for a company that would, like no other, work with me to try to make it happen, if I so chose.  One of the things I will miss most about education is the lovely summer months filled with enrichment learning, extracurricular fun, and personal fulfillment.

Despite all this daydreaming about a huge family, I still don't want more than two or three kids, if only because I don't know if I can handle any more.  Growing up so independent and with all the attention focused on me makes it difficult for me to conceive how it would be with a handful of children running amok.  The grass is always greener on the other side, isn't it?  And that is why I wish I had a companion to grow up with, whether sibling, cousin living nearby, or best friend from childhood.  But, because I know there is this tendency to think that the other way is so much better, I do recognize the benefits of only childhood.  Thus, I don't want to overcompensate by having so many kids I don't know what to do with myself.  Instead, to create that feel, I'd like to live in a neighborhood where everyone knows each other and the kids can play together.  This would also be a great way to expose them to how others live their lives, especially if it's a multicultural community!

 
 

This summer when I was spending time with my parents in Beijing, I got a chance to drop by their office and see where they work (and who they work with).  While I was there, it was the strangest feeling to see my dad's fancy pants office, with mahogany furnishings and all kinds of cool decorations.  It reminded me of one time when I went to see him at his last US office (in LA county), where he had a secretary to liaise with.  People had to go through her to get to him and that, to me, was so odd.  After all, I've always had full access to him!  What was all the more strange this time though, was hearing him being called and referred to as "Dr. Qin" - umm, what?

I don't often see my dad operating in his element, working hard at what he does best, so I've been rather sheltered from the professional side of his life.  He gets a lot of respect in the office and seeing that really reminded me that my dad is a valuable resource at my fingertips.  He has a lot of work experience, especially in mangerial and executive level work, plus he's always willing to advise me for anything I need, me being his only child and all.  I often lose sight of that, which I shouldn't, since there is so much wisdom he has to share.

I think it's funny that my parents named me Qin Bo (秦博), where the 博 (bo) part, which is my given name, represents the 博 in professor.  The complete term is actually 博士 (bo shi) and 秦博士 (Qin bo shi) translates to Doctor or Professor Qin (aka someone who has earned a doctorate degree).  In actuality, 博 by itself means "rich, abundant, plentiful, win, or gain" so that works out to be a good meaning too.  My parents had decided to name me this because professors are one of the most highly regarded and respected positions in China.  Thus, in naming me this, they wanted me to become a successful, smart, and respected figure later in life.

So, when people call my dad Qin bo shi, it's a bit awkward for me not only because it's odd for me to see people so formal with my dad, but also because my name is nestled in there and at first you can't tell who they're going to call.  All my life I've grown up wanting a docorate degree if only to be able to call myself Qin bo shi as well.  I'm already halfway there with the "bo" part, so now all I need is years of hard work to get myself a "shi" part as well!  :-P  Unfortunately, the path that I'm taking and the subjects I'm interested in don't lend themselves to needing a doctorate, so it doesn't look like I will be going in that direction.

In fact, I may go get my MBA more as a rite of passage than for any real purposes.  I'm sure there's still plenty to be learned, but in terms of the extra mileage I could get from business school versus what I learn every day at the office, it may not be worth it.  Instead, I'm still aiming for business school because I want to prove to myself that I can do it.  I can also use it as another way of networking and truly finding like-minded people who are every bit as amibitious as me.  And who knows, maybe a few years down the line I will want to try a different line of business and it will be useful for my transition.

 
 

Why do people have this aversion to bugs (and amphibians and reptiles)?  Generally they are not going to hurt you and if you just let them be, they will not bother you too.  Yet, it seems that a dislike for these creatures is widespread, from girls who squeal and hide to guys who rush off in a different direction.  Reactions and distaste can range from just avoiding them as much as possible to chasing after them in an attempt to kill them.  But for me, it's a completely different story.

I know that my own fascination for them stems from my upbringing in the plains of Kansas and interactions with a lot of boys.  When you grow up without being taught to fear or even dislike those critters, but rather play with them and use them as your personal scientific discoveries, it's hard to want to run from them or kill them.  I remember days on the playground spent thinking of the best ways to catch the grasshoppers that would jump so far, the butterflies that flitted around so high, the praying mantises that would blend into the grass, the spiders that would scuttle so quickly, or the worms that would squirm away into the ground.  I was always so interesting to see all that they could do, from jumping long distances to flying great heights to doing crazy disappearing acts.

Sometimes in my explorations I would accidentally kill the creatures, but eventually I learned how to take care of them and keep them alive.  I even developed a theory that praying mantises will go blind in captivity after one that I was playing with at home developed black eyes that were blind.  I learned how to test he it was blind by slowly moving my finger or a blade of grass towards him.  When he didn't react as he had done previously, I was quite certain he could not see.  Saddened by this, I took him outside and let him back into the grass, following him around as he moved slowly along the ground.  I don't know how long this lasted, but at some point, his eyes became clear again!  Then when I tried to get too close, he then scrambled off, probably cursing me in his head, if he's capable of that.  Look at how educational it can be!

However, there are some bugs that I don't like either, mostly mosquitoes.  I find them interesting nonetheless, but ultimately annoying with their buzzing and affinity for my blood.  I get a morbid sense of pleasure when I hear them zap in those blue light things that you turn on at night to kill them off.  Yet even with that, I can't help but be curious about why they make that sound, why they are attracted to the light so much, if it hurts, etc.  Learning about other forms of life make you question all kinds of things about life!  It can be an educational experience if you question all the whys and hows.

These experiences and preferences can work for me in a good or bad sense.  Good in that I am not afraid of them, so I can come in quite useful in getting them out of a room or away from an area, but bad in that I usually don't want to and can't kill them, much to my friends' dismay.  Don't you find it fascinating that this thing can fly?  Or make silk strands so strong they are virtually indestructible?  Or climb walls or hang around upside down?  Personally, this intrigues me beyond normal curiosity and it gives me a great deal of respect for them.  I think they're rather cool.

Why look for aliens when you've got so many strange life forms in your backyard?

 
 

You know when your mother loves you when she is willing to fly to a country she has never been to to live with you to help you with your language skills.  o.O  And you know she really sacrifices for you when she's willing to make time outside of a full-time job to help you translate things.  Sometimes, it still amazes me how much my mom has and would give up for me.

It all started pretty much from birth.  My dad had to leave for the US 6 months before I was born, so she bore the pregnancy herself.  Then, 6 months after that, she had to leave to join my father in Pennsylvania.  She and my father had to work as Research Assistants (and my dad was also a Teaching Assistant) to save up the money to bring me over three years later and support us from there.

From then on, she supported my dad in every move we made, from PA to Kansas to Missouri to New York to California to China again.  Sometime in Kansas she decided that to provide the sort of flexibility in mobility that we would need, she would stop working and be a stay at home mom.  That meant that growing up, I was rather spoiled with the ease of having my forgotten homework delivered to me during the day, being driven to all kinds of activities (mostly sports meets), and having my mother on call for all of my wants and needs.

Starting the day she started staying home, other than the years she went back to China working on a business she started with my dad, I never had to go home to an empty house.  She'd wake up at 4 in the morning to drive me to swim practice, she'd sit around waiting in the car for me every day after school that I had to stay late (back before we had cell phones), she'd trek out to school in the middle of the day to drop off something I needed, and she even came back from China to live with me after I graduated UCLA to keep me company until I started working.

Throughout those years, she has also spent her time managing our finances, making sure we were saving up and investing wisely, laboring over the pains of day trading (thank goodness she gave that up), anticipating my dad and my own needs, finding a balance between giving me what I wanted and what I needed, always supporting my dad with what he needed, cooking, cleaning, and tirelessly devoting herself to being a great mother and an amazing woman.  She did so much behind the scenes that I may never know about, but one of the things I learned a few years ago was that she always carefully planned trips to either be the whole family traveling together, or she and my dad splitting up.  That way, it decreased the odds of both of them getting killed in an accident, leaving me an orphan.

Beyond that, she had great potential to be a highly successful engineer (and potentially, manager) in her own right, but she gave that up to be the cornerstone to her husband and daughter's success.  Even now she is extraordinarily gifted in that area and could be a great engineer for an aerospace company (which is her dream), but being out of the work force for so long has hindered her aspirations.  She has never complained about what she has given up for us and happily shifted her life to fit our needs.

Now we are all in different countries, though she is based in Beijing with my dad, and she is willing to come to Singapore to stay with me!  I was explaining to her how it seems that people here seem to assume that I know so much of the background for Chinese language and culture just because I have a very standard accent and sound quite like a native, but I essentially grew up American, so much of that knowledge is lost on me.  I am concerned about my reading and writing skills in Mandarin that I may need to use for an upcoming project, so she suggested she come so she can be here with me and help me.  Of course, she's still got her own work to do, so that would be a lot of time out of her day to help me improve my Chinese.

To her it may seem like a small gesture, but to me it really speaks volumes for her deep commitment to me, my future, and my success.  It really meant a lot to me.  I'm learning to appreciate her more and more.  A few years ago, I probably would have thought it was normal and nothing special.  That's just how much she has conditioned me to her support.  So I hope she doesn't feel under appreciated, because she isn't.