Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Something's coming

Yesterday afternoon, I was asked to provide some data for a project. Since the bigwig was out, I headed up to the VP of finance's office to leave the information.

As I approached his office door, I observed the window above the closed door was dark. I debated where to leave the memo as I approached presuming he was not there. The executive admin was busy talking on the phone. I started to turn around when I heard some muffled talk. I walked back toward the office door to determine whether it was coming from his office or the one next door.

Sure enough, I could hear a high-pitched, male voice from behind the VP door. It was garbled, but I did manage to clearly hear, "but this severance package is not good."

Describing what went through my head is like trying to catch a cloud:
- someone's speaking up for themselves
- some manager is defending his group
- there really is something coming
- we're about to get cheated
- they might actually tell us what's going on, finally

I wish I could have stood there longer, but that would have been way too obvious. I walked back over to the admin's cube and left her with the memo.

Thursday tends to be the notification day. Every Wednesday I wonder if some mysterious and vagur e-mail or voicemail will slip into my inbox during the night to greet me in the morning. It's not a matter of "if" just "when."

Sunday, November 25, 2007

You can't invite him for dinner?

Thanksgiving week was great. Work was absolutely quiet which made for no guilt playing hooky on Wednesday. I don't think anyone in my department bothered to come to work.

On Monday night, I had a brief chat with my mother. I had been thinking this would be my opportunity to warm her up to the idea that I'm dating someone.

Mom: "What is GradCousin doing for Thanksgiving?"

Me: "I don't know. He mentioned that his friend invited him over last year for a family dinner and is hoping that he'll be invited again."

Mom: "So what are your plans for Thanksgiving?"

Me: "Well, do you remember my friend, Tim, who gave you the keys to my place when you came up to visit that time?"

Mom: [one second pause] "Yeah."

Me: "Well, we're dating. We decided since none of our friends will be around that we're going to drive up to [xxx] for a couple of days to go hiking and explore a museum."

Mom:[two second pause] "So does that mean you can't invite GradCousin and his friend over for Thanksgiving?"

Me: "Sorry, I thought about that but it didn't make sense to have a whole turkey for three of us. I figure I'll just catch up with him later during the weekend."

Mom: "Are you sure you can't plan Thanksgiving dinner and invite him over?"

Obviously, Mom was more concerned about taking care of family. As much as I like getting to know my cousin, I hate that my mother now expects me to keep an eye on him. She's even tried getting me to help her set him up with some friend's daughter. I've refused, and she just gets mad at me. Ugh.

The big question here is, did she hear me say "dating?" I'm pretty sure the pause was more to remember coming up to visit me. It's really unclear whether she caught the dating part since she was so preoccupied with making she GradCousin is not spending his holiday alone.

Tim and I had a great weekend. We left on Wednesday morning and enjoyed a tour that showed us some nature and wildlife in the countryside. It was beautiful to see the last of the fall leaves changing colors.

For dinner, we had reservations at a better known establishment. I sat on the booth side looking towards the center of the restaurant. Tim sat in a chair facing me. He could see the decor on the wall behind me which included the daily specials. He also happened to notice an attractive young woman sitting two tables away from us. She had bobbed brown hair and was well-groomed, probably in her late 20s at most. Normally, Tim doesn't really comment on women, so I was a bit surprised. But clearly, she stood out from most of the people in the restaurant.

It seemed odd that she was sitting alone. I could not tell whether she was just arriving or finishing up her meal. As we waited for our server to take our order, I watched as a server came to her corner booth with a cheese plate. Suddenly, a man appeared and slid himself into the seat adjacent to her. He was an older man, 50s or early 60s. Immediately, I suspected that I recognized him. I turned to Tim and said, "I think that's Billy Joel."

Tim shook his head and said, "no, that's not Billy Joel."

It made sense and explained why no one was seated at the table between us and the alleged celebrity couple. After a few of exchanges of "yes, it is" and "no, that's not," I asked Tim when was the last time he'd seen a picture of Billy Joel. Tim shrugged his shoulders and guessed that it had been ten years. I asserted my opinion and noted, "I've seen pictures of him in the past year and I'm pretty sure that's him."

As we waited for our main courses, a couple was seated at the table next to us. They talked for a few minutes, browsed the menu, and then the gentleman glanced to his right. I could not help but watch because I wanted to see if he would notice the possible celebrity. Sure enough, his eyes popped a bit and then he turned to his companion and remarked, "I think that's Billy Joel over there."

I immediately turned back to Tim and said with a laugh, "see, even that guy think it's Billy Joel."

I can only wonder whether my whispers were overheard by Mr. Joel and his companion. I certainly wasn't going to approach them as I believe it's disrespectful to intrude upon a stranger's dinner for such a silly reason. It was have been nice to meet him and tell him how much a enjoy his music, but this wasn't the time or place. Instead, I had to settle for the satisfaction of sitting 10 feet away.

Later, after they had left, I asked our server, "was that Billy Joel sitting in the corner?"

"Yes, that was, and right behind you on the other side of the room is Mario Andretti," she whispered.

I'm not a big star gazer, but we made sure to walk the long way around the exit when it was time to leave. We weren't quite sure what Mario looks like, but it was fun to take a peak. Two celebrities in one night, what a kick!

Thanksgiving day was simple and quiet. We slept in, watched the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, and went on a 5-mile hike to enjoy some great views of the surrounding hills. It was my first hike since my vacation and my muscles were having a memory lapse. Dinner was mellow. We went to a local place where we shared a heaping plate of Thanksgiving turkey with all the trimmings and a plate of sea bass for contrast. Nothing special but peaceful and relaxing just being together.

Our couple of days away from home were great. We were still in a normal town yet we felt worlds away. On a whim, I called friends to see if they might be around as we passed through their neighborhood. It was serendipitous they were about to have dinner with more friends. We all caught up on our holiday adventures over a tapas dinner.

On Saturday, I met up with GradCousin for dinner and showed him how to make bittersweet chocolate ice cream. Man, was he a happy man as he headed home. It's nice to know that it'll last him through semester finals.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Black and white

There was one moment from my vacation that was pretty striking to me as an Asian-American. I can't help share it when I'm with people because it demonstrates how differently cultures interpret how to distinguish people.

The first day my friend and I went on a tour of a village. It involved us walking around to view the various farms in the neighborhood. Naturally, we walked past various homes where kids were playing. When they saw us, many would wave their hands and say "hi" and follow behind saying things in Swahili. I could only wonder what they knew about visitors to their village. Did they think us strange, amusing, intruders? Our guide had told us that the children in the village had been told that allowing visitors helps build things such as their classrooms. While I believe this of the children who happily said "hello," I am less sure of the small boy who quietly spied on us for 15 minutes with an air of caution on his face.

Towards the end, a little boy and girl were running down the road saying a couple words over and over as they watched us walk up the road. I asked the local guide what they were saying. He said they were yelling "white people, white people." While I understand how that's true compared to the people they are used to seeing, I felt a bit odd and uncomfortable hearing it.

Here in the U.S., "white people" defines a specific group of people, those typically of European descent. Asians, Hispanics, and other ethnicities are separate categories. America is funny that way. We boast about our wonderful melting pot, and yet we fiercly protect and promote our differences. For better or worse, we identify anything and everyone into millions of categories. There, however, considering the dominant population, anything not black is probably considered white (though I'm not sure what they'd say if they met an Asian Indian). (Of course, parts of Africa continue to discriminate each other by tribal associations.)

There was this general sense of guilt to be associated with "white" because these were the people who colonized them. I didn't want to be associated with that history. Sure, the Africans benefited from some of what was implemented, including education and good farming practices, but on the whole, the colonization was disruptive and devastating for some areas of Africa.

It feels strange to be called "white" because that's not what we learn here in the states. In some ways, being called "white" has a negative connotation as an Asian-American. Some could interpret that as a person who prefers "American" habits over their family's practices or lacks any connection to the customs and beliefs of their ancestors.

Being called white also reminds me of stories that I've heard other Asian tell about visiting the South during segregation. Where do you sit on a bus? Which water fountain do you drink from? One Japanese man recounted how he thought he was supposed to sit with the other "colored" people when a white man directed him towards the white seating. I would have been just as confused as him about which seat to take. Heck, I probably would have just stayed standing the whole ride.

When I've told white friends, they seem to comprehend but simply give me nods of understanding, "oh, that's interesting." When I tell me Asian friends, however, the mood is more of a big laugh followed by discussion and attempts to interpret the situation. I wish there was a way all people could appreciate multiple perspectives.

I'm not an expert on racial studies, it's just my insight into one moment of my life... .

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Looking for an axe

When you brace for impact, your muscle tense up, you clench your teeth, and sometimes you wince at the thought of what is about to hit. The problem is, if you don't know when it's coming, your muscles get tired and your jaw gets sore. That's about how I'm feeling these days when it comes to work.

Even before I left for vacation, people were rolling in a bit later than before. I typically arrive at my desk between 8:10am and 8:30am. Usually there are a few people already in the office and the rest appear soon after. It started becoming a daily fact that no one would appear before 8:30am (except one commuter trying to avoid traffic).

Now, well now, the office area is a ghost town until 9am. By 4pm in the afternoon there's no one here either. It's spooky, it's depressing, it's just sad. I'd love to sleep in and not work, but it's just not my style. Granted, I don't do much while I'm sitting at my desk these days, but at least I'm physically here and trying to be busy (in between checking my personal e-mail, shopping for presents, and writing in my blog).

Our department admin is going crazy. Sometimes it's hard to know how much she is speculating based on what she has seen happen in past jobs versus what she knows to be true from handling our VPs e-mails.

She is states definitively that we'll have layoffs on Dec. 28th. She guesses that we'll get our notices around the 17th. Ouch, now that would be pretty mean to give us notice the week before Xmas.

In frank conversations she's had with the boss, he's advised her to not give notice until January. There are several reasons for that including qualification for any bonuses, but her interpretation is that it's because we will indeed be given notice by then. If we are still employees at that time, we will get severance.

It's all pretty crazy and frustrating. Even worse, our boss is leaving sometime this month according to the e-mails that the admin has read. The man has several kids and a mortgage to pay, so I can't fault him for finding a new job as soon as possible. The problem for the rest of us is that we will no longer have anyone to represent us and ensure that we're treated fairly if and when the final layoff comes. Who will stand up for us now?

The VP knows more than he can say, that's obvious and he readily admits he wishes he could say more. I just want this hell over with. I'm a rip the bandaid off fast type of person. I pray that he is doing his best before he goes to provide guidance to the higher ups on what he wants for us.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Technology relativity

I've been exchanging a couple e-mails with my cousin to get hints at what types of gifts I might buy for her kids this year. It's getting more challenging as they grow older. Long, long ago I figured that when they reached the age of twelve that I'd have to change strategies. Well, that time has arrived for one of them. Even last year, I didn't really send him toys.

My cousin was asking about seeing photos from my trip. I told her I had created an album in Facebook. I had also mentioned talking to another cousin while connecting with each other through LinkedIn. Here was her response the next day:

"I'm so out of it - I have no idea how to text message, I've never logged into Facebook, and I just heard about LinkedIn last month. Yet here I am, a firmware developer working in a [tech-related] company."

I couldn't help laugh at this comment. She's in her mid-forties, but I would have naturally expected her to be familiar with at least some of the stuff for two reasons: 1) she's in technology and you'd think that such information would filter through her company, and 2) having kids that are nearing middle school would keep them abreast of coming fads and interests.

It's still difficult for me to understand how younger generations rely on these formats more than live voice or face-to-face communications. The more I use them, however, I find that I appreciate the conveniences a little more. I would never label myself as cutting edge, but I at least am aware of these modern technologies and have used all three mentioned. Certainly, I'm ahead of my non-technology industry friends. Part of me wonders how much my familiarity is partially due to living in a techie area that is known for cutting edge innovations. Another part of me wonders how much of a dinosaur I will become in ten years as I fall behind in technology.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Why Geeks and Nerds...

I was browsing my Facebook page and noticed this link.

It's cute though I can't agree it's totally true. You still need to find a geek that has normal social skills. They still should have friends and groom themselves to a decent extent.

Why Geeks and Nerds Are Worth It...

Date: 2005-04-03, 9:30PM PDT

In the wide world of dating, there are many options. Do you go for the flashy guy with the smooth smile, or the dude in the corner typing away on his laptop? The following are reasons why I think my fellow females should pay more attention to the quiet geeks and nerds, and less attention to the flashy boys.

1.) While geeks and nerds may be awkward, they’re well-meaning 9 out of 10 times. That smooth dude with the sly grin and the spider hands? Wonder what HIS intentions are... plus, I’ve never had a geek guy not call me when he said he would. Score major points THERE.

2.) They’re useful. In this tech-savvy world, it’s great to have a b/f who can make your laptop, desktop, and just about anything else that plugs into a wall behave itself.

3.) They’re more romantic than they’re given credit for. Ok true, their idea of romance might be to make up a spiffy web-page with all the reasons why they love you, with links to pics of you and sonnets and such... but hey. It lasts longer than flowers, plus you can show your friends.

4.) Due to their neglected status, there are plenty to choose from. You like ‘em tall and slender? There are plenty of geeks/nerds who are. You like ‘em smaller with more meat on their bones? Got that too.

5.) They’ve got brains. Come on now, how can intelligence be a bad thing?

6.) Most are quite good at remembering dates. Like birthdates and such, especially if they know it’ll make you happy. Due again to their neglected status, they’re more attentive than guys who “have more options”. Plus, with all that down time without a steady girlfriend, they’ll likely have mental lists of all the things they’d love to do once they GOT a girlfriend.

7.) Sex. Yep. Sex. I’m not really familiar with this myself, but I’ve friends who’ve been intimate with geek guys and it’s raves all around. They say a virgin wrote the Kama Sutra... all that time thinking about sex, imagining sex, dreaming about sex, (they are male after all) coupled with a desire to make you happy? Use your imagination.

8.) They’re relatively low-maintenance. Most can be fueled on pizza, Twinkies and Mt Dew. No complicated dinners needed here, so if you’re not the best cook, eh. Can you order a pizza?

9.) Most frequent bars as often as slugs frequent salt mines. You won’t have to worry much about your geek guy getting his “groove” on with club hotties because, frankly, he’ll be too busy rooting around under his computer wondering where that spare cable went. You won’t have to worry about him flirting with other women because, 9 out of 10 times, he’ll zip right by them in a perfect b-line towards the nearest electronics store. I’ve seen this happen.
Me: “Eww. Victoria Secret’s Models... They’re so skinny. How is that feminine? You can see her ribs!”
Geek Guy: “ooooooo...”
Me: “Hey!” *notices he is staring lustfully towards the computer store*
Geek Guy: “What?”
Me: “Never mind...”

10.) Although he may not want to go to every outing with you, you can arrange swaps, as in, you’ll go to his Gamer Con dressed as an elf princess if he’ll take you to the ballet. Plus, if he doesn’t want to go someplace with you, you won’t have to worry much about what he’s up to. You’ll probably come home to find him asleep on his keyboard in a sea of Mt. Dew cans with code blinking from the screen. It’s ok. He’s used to this. Just toss a blanket over him and turn out the light.

11.) His friends aren’t jerks. I can’t stress this enough. You’ll more likely get “Omg! A GIRL!! Can I see?!” than “Hey hot stuff back that ass up here and let me get some grub on...” They’re awkward geeks too and will, 9 times out of 10, treat you with the utmost respect and, more than likely, a note of awe. A cute girl picked one of their clan to date? It could happen to them! Hope! Drag some of your single girlfriends over, open up a pack of Mt. Dew, crack open the DnD set and get working. Nothing impresses geek guys more than a girl who can hack-n-slash (well ok maybe if she can code... a geek can dream).

12.) They’re rarely if ever possessive. They trust you, so you can be yourself around them. You like to walk around the house in a ratty t-shirt for comfort? He won’t care. He does too! They won’t get pissy if you don’t wear make-up or don’t want to bother primping your hair. If you gain a few pounds, they won’t try their best to make you feel like crap.

13.) They’re usually very well educated. Physics majors and the like. See #5. You won’t have to listen to him blathering on about his car (ok maybe a little), he’ll have loads of other interesting things to talk about. Politics, world events, how much the chicken burgers down at the local place rock, so long as you douse them in hot sauce...

14.) You’ll almost never have to hear, “Yaw dawg whazzap!!” plop out of their mouths. Unless it’s in jest. They spell properly, use correct punctuation, and are able to tell the difference between the toilet and the floor. They almost never get “wasted”, so you won’t have to worry about coming home to find him and his friends passed out on the floor amidst a pile of beer bottles. Mt. Dew cans, perhaps...

15.) And the final reason why geeks and nerds make great boyfriends: They actually give a damn about you. Not how you look (though that’s a plus), not how skinny you are, not how much make-up you primp yourself up with, but they like you for you. That kind of thing lasts longer than “DaMN baby you got a fine ass!!!” Believe me.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007


Maybe it's just me, but I can't figure out what's up with Chi. Granted we spent A LOT of time together during the trip. We slept in the same room, tent, or hallway for two weeks. Naturally, I can understand that things could get a little awkward.

Still, in general, I found her silence unusual at times. In the month or two before the trip she was somewhat MIA. I met her for lunch two weeks before our trip and learned that she's pretty frustrated with her job. Chi's interviewed for a couple positions within her company, horizontal career moves, but gotten nowhere. In phone conversations with Juan, she's cried in frustration and disappointment. Her self-esteem is a bit in question.

On the trip, she seemed okay. I figured her quiet demeanor was part having nothing left to say to me and part exhaustion from our daily hikes at high elevation. She seemed cheerful and social with everyone else. The journey home probably didn't help matters. First, our transportation during our first segment was 40 minutes late in picking us up from the airport. The host made up a lame excuse about traffic on a Friday night. Well, he should have known that and left earlier.

The next morning, our flight was delayed by one hour and 15 minutes which caused us to miss our connecting flight back to the U.S. The airline in question would not give us a voucher for a hotel room because they claimed it was air traffic control's fault and therefore they were not responsible. I would agree that the last 15 minutes prior to landing was due to air traffic, but not the one hour sitting on the ground before we departed. That was clearly due to their lack of organization. Chi was furious but the arguing went nowhere. I was a bit nonchalant about it only because I knew there was no point in getting mad and yelling at the service people. I tried to convince her to stop fighting with the service people. Yes, they deserved some of the complaints, but at some point, it's not constructive.

It's now been a week since we've been home. I waited almost a week to talk to her figuring we both needed normal time with work and boyfriends. Everyone's been clamoring for a photo party and we had agreed during the trip to have a shared party. In her e-mails, however, she's been very unexcited about the idea. She keeps saying that she's too tired to do anything and doesn't have the energy to think about helping to organize. All I've asked of her is to host. Yes, she may have to clean a bit and wash dishes, but otherwise I've said that we'd simply buy some prepared food from Costco and ask people to bring appetizers. Her e-mail just seem so depressing with her lack of enthusiasm. She doesn't even plan to invite anyone beyond a couple of friends and family whereas I need to invite almost 20 people.

So I worry. Is she totally annoyed with me or is she back to some unhappy state as she was before the vacation? Sometimes I wonder if I said something in the past or on the trip that really bothered her. Part of me wants to reach out and ask, another part of me thinks I should leave it alone until after Thanksgiving and see if she is simply slow to recover from the toll of the trip.

In the meantime, I'm asking another friend if she would host the party. (My living room becomes a death trap with more than 12 people.) I'll take care of all the food to make thing smoother. Hopefully, things work out.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Just find me a clean floor

I went to the library over the weekend to return a travel book I had borrowed from the library. Rather than simply drop it in the book return slot, I stood in line. I could tell the older women just ahead of me was glancing at the book. She then asked me, "Are you planning to go there?"

"Yes, actually I just got back." I replied cheerily.

Then she started to ask me a little bit about the trip - how long I went, what I saw. Then a clerk came free at the counter. I gestured towards the counter so that the older lady could step forward. Just as she reached the counter, another clerk waived me to approach.

As I walked by the older lady, I could hear her recounting to the clerk how she'd talked to me and commented that she didn't understand why people look at travel books after a trip. "I always want to read up about the place I will be visiting," she remarked.

Funny interpretation I thought. She assumed that I was waiting in line to check out the book. I almost never go to the counter to check out books these days; I always use the self-checkout computers. Little did she know that the reason I chose to stand in line was because my book was four days overdue and I was here to pay the fines.

So yes, I'm finally back. It's taken me many days to readjust, especially considering the nasty cough that I acquired during the trip. It was nice to spend a little time at home to recuperate. Of course, there are still dozens of little items, paper stubs, laundry, and mail strewn about the place.

The trip was fantastic though I must admit there were times during our grueling hikes when I asked myself why I signed up for this adventure rather than get a nice hotel on a beach somewhere. After you've hiked 10+ hours, part of the brain really questions the logic of using vacation time for such a demanding activity.

The scenery was very interesting. I knew I was visiting a third world nation and yet it didn't seem that bad. Some people find it shocking, and yet it didn't surprise me. Sure it's easy to say that when I get to stay at a "modern" hotel. I'd like to think I spend enough time outdoors to appreciate what it could be like to live without technological conveniences. I certainly have enough friends who would freak at the thought of having to live in lesser conditions, even for half a day.

The view from our hotel says it all. You have this vast, flat land. Even so often, the earth sent up a large volcano and left behind earth that rises up thousands of feet. From a far they literally seem to appear from nowhere. I didn't climb this mountain but our guide told us that people hike this in three to four days. We all loved seeing the jacaranda trees in bloom with their purple flowers.

No matter where you go in the world, children are precious souls. At one of the parks we visited, a headmaster had his group of preschoolers out to meet tourists. He was basically trying to solicit people to send donations, be it money or supplies, to fund a new classroom for the kids. I wanted to help, but at the same time it bugged me a little that he would spend their time standing in a parking lot. It felt a little wrong and I couldn't help wonder how much of the cash donations were ending up in his pocket versus the kids' classroom. Still, the kids seemed well taken care of, so I had to believe he had the best of intentions. You have to wonder how seeing these tourists affects their impression of foreigners and their own situation. I thought of all those silly pens we pick up at hotels, stores, and work. We treat them like junk and don't think of them for a second when they get lost. Yet, here, they would be so helpful to have for writing. This is why I hate wasting anything and don't take things I don't need.

We were on safari for several days during the trip. I could post dozens and dozens of cool pictures, but most of them you could easy find on the web. Instead, I share with you one of my favorites. There's a little animal called a dik dik. It looks like a gazelle or deer except for the fact that these guys stand about two feet tall. Their small size and big eyes make for an absolutely adorable creature. I am very curious to see how tiny the babies must be. They are very shy creatures. They hide the moment they hear the car noise.

All in all I had a great time. I can now say that I can survive one week sleeping in a tent, not taking a shower, and having to pee in all sorts of inconvenient places. I can even survive a night of sleeping on the floor at Heathrow Airport (thankgoodness it had just been cleaned and waxed). It was a cultural experience, a peek into nature, and a true test of endurance and determination.