Wednesday, February 28, 2007

What you're really here for

I haven't written much about the "consultant" lately. It's been progressing. As I have said, I didn't want to make it into a big deal where I would stress out and flake. I take my time and just see what happens. The approach has worked well. I'm still exchanging with maybe 6 men. Several have dropped off as they have decided to pursue other women they're in contact with (or so implies the message), and I gained a couple new fellows.

At this point, it's probably worth highlighting a few because I'm going to meet them this weekend:

    Designer - I've mentioned him before. We've exchanged some friendly e-mails and he's called twice. During the last one, I felt like I was hogging much of the air time because he kept asking me questions. I did manage to even out the conversation, but then something he said threw me. He casually used the f*g word. My ears tingled. I'm not against swearing. I will express myself in a fit of frustration or anger (usually when I'm by myself)... and maybe in the heat of passion. After the call, I thought about it. Among my circle of friends, we rarely incorporate foul language into conversation. I mean, I can't recall any conversations with Tim where that word has come up. As long as Designer doesn't regularly use foul language it'll be okay.

    V500 - He's someone who I briefly met at an event last year. I didn't really interact with him much, but one comment was memorable and came up again in our exchanges. Basically he asked about meeting up for coffee on our first e-mail, so I don't know much about him beyond his profile.

    G - I'm not sure what to call him yet. If things go well, maybe I'll find something that fits him. He's just over 6 ft. tall. G's the one guy I contacted after he didn't contact me for three weeks. It was my experiment in making first contact. We seem to enjoy the same, simple activities with friends - nothing exciting or unique but somehow appealing to have common interests. On the second e-mail he suggested meeting for dinner.

To be honest, I'm not sure how I feel about any of it. I haven't been on a date since KT last spring. A small part of me is hopeful, another part is skeptical and wary, and another part of me is just going through the motions and going for the food. ;) The important thing is that I'm meeting new people.

I constantly worry whether I can make the right decisions about another person when I am unsure of what I hope to find (and sometimes, why I'm doing this). I think about what Lorelai (Gilmore Girls) said to Christopher when they broke up... about "the man I want to want" versus trusting my heart. I'm not sure I have clarity between the two for myself. I have to trust that I will find my way.

On top of all this, I'm meeting up with someone to do some career homework, see a friend I haven't caught up with in many months, get some much needed exercise, and watch some tv episodes and movies. Wow, and I have homework tonight! This must be some cosmic convergence.

Gosh, and I was hoping for a quiet weekend to catch up on chores. You should see my place... then again, no, no one should be exposed to my disaster area. Traveling too often makes for a messy home and lots of laundry (and a desperate search for clean socks and underwear). Maybe a monthly house cleaner would be worth it.

Vanity on the rise

I heard about this on the radio coming into work. Then I saw this article at CNN with more in-depth discussion of the study. I couldn't help be curious and think back to a posting where Anna May looked into this disorder.

I've always thought of narcissism as an extreme disorder. I'm sure everyone exhibits some elements of narcissism because it's natural to protect oneself over others. At the same time, I would agree that I think people are much more self-focused these days. We live alone longer which contributes to that. Being famous and having bling factor have (unfortunately) become an obsession for much of American society. Everyone seems to want their 15-minutes of fame be it through reality television or the Internet.

I was looking at some diagnosis guidelines for NPD. You are supposed to fit at least five of the descriptions to be diagnosed. Perhaps I act in some of these fashions once in awhile but never consistently.

Thinking about it, I wonder if my mix of Asian and American culture changes how I perceive things. I was probably subconsciously taught to be humble. My parents stressed good grades but never rewarded in a way that implied I was better than others. Maybe I'm suffering from low self-esteem and could have used a little "you're special" praise from time to time as a child.

Let's look at the three examples statements they gave from the inventory assessment were:

"If I ruled the world, it would be a better place."
I'd like to think I could offer more sensible and practical ways to live and treat each other, but I don't see myself as a ruler. However, my neighbor not blasting her surround sound after 12AM would be one public annoyance I'd like to enforce. x(

"I think I am a special person."
Yeah... no. I think I have unique talents, but that doesn't make me special in all cases. I hate people who think and act that way around others they don't know. Everyone deserves to feel special on occasion - that's why we pay money to go to the spa for a day or stay a night at a luxury hotel.

"I can live my life any way I want to."
This seems like a very dangerous attitude. To me, this reads I can do whatever I want regardless of how it may affect other people. You can't because you have to responsible and considerate of other people. If everyone had that attitude we'd have anarchy. Then again, maybe I'd live my life differently if I wasn't always considering what's expected of me.

I'd be curious to know how groups from other countries would score on this standardized inventory. How do they think in Europe and in Asia?

Study: Vanity on the rise among college students

NEW YORK (AP) -- Today's college students are more narcissistic and self-centered than their predecessors, according to a comprehensive new study by five psychologists who worry that the trend could be harmful to personal relationships and American society.

"We need to stop endlessly repeating 'You're special' and having children repeat that back," said the study's lead author, Professor Jean Twenge of San Diego State University. "Kids are self-centered enough already."

Twenge and her colleagues, in findings to be presented at a workshop Tuesday in San Diego on the generation gap, examined the responses of 16,475 college students nationwide who completed an evaluation called the Narcissistic Personality Inventory between 1982 and 2006.

The standardized inventory, known as the NPI, asks for responses to such statements as "If I ruled the world, it would be a better place," "I think I am a special person" and "I can live my life any way I want to."

The researchers describe their study as the largest ever of its type and say students' NPI scores have risen steadily since the current test was introduced in 1982. By 2006, they said, two-thirds of the students had above-average scores, 30 percent more than in 1982.

Narcissism can have benefits, said study co-author W. Keith Campbell of the University of Georgia, suggesting it could be useful in meeting new people "or auditioning on 'American Idol."'

"Unfortunately, narcissism can also have very negative consequences for society, including the breakdown of close relationships with others," he said.

The study asserts that narcissists "are more likely to have romantic relationships that are short-lived, at risk for infidelity, lack emotional warmth, and to exhibit game-playing, dishonesty, and over-controlling and violent behaviors."

Twenge, the author of "Generation Me: Why Today's Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled -- and More Miserable Than Ever Before," said narcissists tend to lack empathy, react aggressively to criticism and favor self-promotion over helping others.

The researchers traced the phenomenon back to what they called the "self-esteem movement" that emerged in the 1980s, asserting that the effort to build self-confidence had gone too far.

As an example, Twenge cited a song commonly sung to the tune of "Frere Jacques" in preschool: "I am special, I am special. Look at me."

"Current technology fuels the increase in narcissism," Twenge said. "By its very name, MySpace encourages attention-seeking, as does YouTube."

Some analysts have commended today's young people for increased commitment to volunteer work. But Twenge viewed even this phenomenon skeptically, noting that many high schools require community service and many youths feel pressure to list such endeavors on college applications.

Campbell said the narcissism upsurge seemed so pronounced that he was unsure if there were obvious remedies.

"Permissiveness seems to be a component," he said. "A potential antidote would be more authoritative parenting. Less indulgence might be called for."

The new report follows a study released by UCLA last month which found that nearly three-quarters of the freshmen it surveyed thought it was important to be "very well-off financially." That compared with 62.5 percent who said the same in 1980 and 42 percent in 1966.

Yet students, while acknowledging some legitimacy to such findings, don't necessarily accept negative generalizations about their generation.

Hanady Kader, a University of Washington senior, said she worked unpaid last summer helping resettle refugees and considers many of her peers to be civic-minded. But she is dismayed by the competitiveness of some students who seem prematurely focused on career status.

"We're encouraged a lot to be individuals and go out there and do what you want, and nobody should stand in your way," Kader said. "I can see goals and ambitions getting in the way of other things like relationships."

Kari Dalane, a University of Vermont sophomore, says most of her contemporaries are politically active and not overly self-centered.

"People are worried about themselves -- but in the sense of where are they're going to find a place in the world," she said. "People want to look their best, have a good time, but it doesn't mean they're not concerned about the rest of the world."

Besides, some of the responses on the narcissism test might not be worrisome, Dalane said. "It would be more depressing if people answered, 'No, I'm not special."'

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Fighting myself in the new year

To celebrate the Lunar New Year, my father's friend, Uncle invited me to join his family for dinner over the weekend. He lives nearby and has been trying to invite me over for several years. This is the first time I was available.

When I was a toddler, I used to play with his daughter, who is one year older. I remember watching old slide shows and wondering who the little girl was standing next to me at this park. We haven't met since those days when both families were in the Midwest.

I thought that it was just going to be eating with the family. It concerned me that dinner would feel intimidating and awkward. Still, I felt it somewhat of an obligation since it is a my father's good friend. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it was a larger group. There were other "kids" invited who's fathers went to school with Uncle or are neighbors. Our ages probably ranged from 26 to 37. We were strangers, linked by a parental six degrees of separation.

Feminist is the daughter. She and her now husband were together 11 years before they married. My mother thought Feminist was uncomfortable marrying Orange because he isn't Chinese. What I learned is that she simply didn't feel it necessary to conform to the expectations of society. It had nothing to do with her commitment to Orange. When someone asked why they finally did marry, she said the influence of her family changed her mind, though she didn't expand on the exact reasons. Hearing all this made me realize how skewed my mother's conclusions about people can be and that I should be careful in presenting and accepting opinions.

AussieMBA and SDTeach are high school classmates and neighbors of the son, LowInc. It was slow to make conversation at first. Thank goodness for food. When two brothers arrived, I naturally took notice of them. Part of me wondered if there was some setup involved though how could Uncle know whether I was single. The taller of the two wore glasses, Disorganized, appeared slightly more attractive and seemed more outgoing. The brother, Emerald, seemed average and turned out to be pretty quiet. His face seemed familiar, maybe I've seen his picture on a dating website in the past. Disorganized turned out to be the younger brother.

Naturally, the conversations began by asking each other about our professions and where we live. Feminist is very active in her academic pursuits and Asian-American ideals. She was dressed in a fashionable yet eccentric wearing an overlength, fitted tee that had bell sleeves over another t-shirt and fitted pants. Her black-rimmed glasses gave her that intellectual look.

The brothers are both physicians. Feminist grew up with them as her neighbor in NY. She hadn't seen them since secondary school and was curious to hear about them. Both are more recent transplants to California (past 2-3 years). Their older brother still lives in NY. As she inquired more about them, I got the sense that they haven't developed many friends or resources here. I would imagine their busy schedules don't allow for much time to socialize like I do.

Part of me was naturally curious about the younger brother given he was more sociable and attractive. Another part of me felt wary of lavishing too much attention towards the guys. Growing up, there has always been that image of the ideal boy to match up daughters with - a doctor being one of the biggest trophies among mothers. I think part of me shies away from these types because of my mother. Ah, rebellion. I've seen her swoon over other perceived "good catches." I can't stand the idea of my mother boasting to all her friends about me dating a doctor even though she knows nothing about him. It's a real struggle within myself because I want my mother to approve and yet I don't want to conform to her expectations. Do I end up sabotaging myself because of her?

I, myself, fear wanting to date a doctor more for what he makes than who he is. Financial security is a nice thing, but I worry about putting that before other things or allowing the fact to compensate for a personality flaw that I normally might not put up with. I'd love to be able to afford to be a stay-at-home mother for those early years. Judging someone on paper facts is natural, but I don't like that it can cloud my judgement.

Another reason I tend to be skeptical of dating doctors is because they are doctors. Besides the potential for cockiness and related personalty quirks, they're just plain busy people. This is probably more of an issue to me than anything else. They are controlled by their schedules and patients, not the other way around. Then again, maybe it'd all be alright because I like having some time to myself. It would take a lot of communication and patience to live with the unpredictability and inflexibility.

Basically, I did my best to treat them as I did other people. SDTeach was the one who showcased them a bit. She's really into "Grey's Anatomy" and was curious to hear about the real life of doctors. She asked the guys if anything from the show is like their work. The brother chuckled at the question. Both have heard of the show but never really watched it. From what they'd heard, they explained that their work is much more boring and routine than anything on tv. Still, she continued to ask questions about what types of illness they see and the interactions they have with their staff. She wanted to know if it's true that doctors have close relationships with their nurses, though nothing like all the sex we see on the show. It was amusing to see her so intrigued and curious.

Her job and stories were actually much more interesting. SDTeach works with high-risk teenagers. She's taught at juvenile hall. It's always impressive to hear about people who are willing to risk themselves and thrive on working with trouble youth. I can't imagine she looks that tough and authoritative and yet she manages to generate respect among the kids.

The evening went pretty well. People slowly broke off into different conversations as the night progressed. At one point, Disorganized sat on the same couch as me. When he found out where I live, he asked for recommendations on where he might look for a place to buy. I racked my brain and suggested this new development that would be a good location between where he works and where he likes to hang out.

All seemed to be going well until I made one out of place comment. After describing the housing development, I cautioned that the condos could be a bit pricey. I should have left it there. But then, as usual, my mouth accelerated past my common sense circuits and said, "but you're a doctor so you should be fine." That seemed to cool the conversation a bit. OOPS, oh well. (I really need to learn to NOT think aloud.)

It was getting late, so I said my thanks yous and goodbyes. Feminist said that she'd collect everyone's e-mails and keep us all in touch with each other. Alas, she's never shared everyone's e-mails. It's seems she's keeping them for herself. I don't know if I actually want anything from either of the brothers. Maybe I'm just disappointed that I don't seem to generate much attention from guys in general. It was nice to meet some new people. I hope that maybe Feminist and I can become better acquainted though I'm not sure how much we have in common.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Dressing up the business

Awhile back, I share an article that I read. In the article, a photo showed the founder of Linx Dating taking one of her male clients to a store to update his dating wardrobe.

Interestingly, I was at a gathering where I met a woman who had first-hand experience with the dating service highlighted in the article. It was a gathering of people I had never met, including Racy. As I learned, Racy is this attractive, intelligent, Harvard educated, outgoing woman who has been trying one of the online sites. She has a history or dating European transplants which people tease her about. My friend had struck up a conversation with some gals and inquired how Racy's dating adventures were coming along.

I shared some of my stories and joked about how one of the candidates I'd come across was quoted in the news article. Racy remembered the article and commented that she found the founder's quote about girls with "Junior League pedigrees and Pilates-sculpted bodies" quite insulting. The funny thing to me was that, based on my initial impressions, she was exactly the kind of woman the founder is looking to recruit. Moreoever, I think Racy didn't like the way women were being casted in the description because there more to them than just some sorority image. She said that she had been solicited to join that service. A friend of hers has joined and provided Racy's name as a possible referral.

Racy considered the service and did some research into it since she is interested in dating. Her assessment - at the $500 level, you don't get much. Basically, you pay $500, must provide 12 referrals, and have no guarantee that you'll be set up with any men. When I asked her what she meant by referrals, Racy explained that she would have to provide the service with the names of 12 female friends who would be candidates for joining. Can you believe that you have to pay $500 AND provide your friends' names with no promise of any return? Gee, that sound *real* appealing to me. As the article mentions, there are higher levels of the service, but that's not generally what the average person is willing to pay.

She was invited to attend a mixer sponsored by the service. What Racy saw at the mixer sealed her decision not to join. First, the ratio of men to women highly favored the men. Second, one of the men she chatted with turned out to be a friend of the founder. He was simply doing a favor by attending the event. On top of that, he was gay! It was a huge turnoff to think that the event had been stacked with fillers.

Naturally, since the business of just getting off the ground, the founder is trying to make the service look as appealing as possible to gain clients. I can see why she felt she needed to fill the room with warm bodies. However, tactics like this will turn off people who are smart enough to do their homework and see the flaws in the business. If the founder was smart, she'd offer a discount early on to encourage women to join rather than make empty promises and charge full price.

Friday, February 23, 2007

I miss my Blogger button

It used to be so easy to save interesting links... now I have to manually create them. :p

I was browsing random blogs and came across this recommendation for a fun read Secrets of a Fix-up Fanatic

I'm really thinking maybe I need to start asking friends and acquaintances to help me on this. The thing is most of my close friends can't help me. They admit they don't know of many eligible guys. The people who might be a good resource are more acquaintances. I don't feel that I can ask them nor do I know how.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Say when...

I feel that old adage "when it rains, it pours" coming on. As I wrote once before, I'm reaching crossroad with my career. My head is now spinning after getting my 2006 performance review.

It's nothing bad, in fact, it's quite decent. I managed and completed several critical projects last year. I learned some new skills and faced the challenges associated with working with multiple stakeholders. For the most part, the results that came from my work have been used to guide current activities.

This is when my manager went on to say that I have more potential. I could be doing a lot more in terms of my roles and responsibilities. I must agree. Part of me has known since last year that I'm sitting on my hands, just doing what I need to. At times, I don't know how to step up, and other times, I don't really want to.

To add to that push towards taking on a bigger role, my manager revealed something to me, that my counterpart is planning to move over to another group some time this summer. It's something that has not been announced because, at the moment, it could be misinterpreted as a bad sign. It has nothing to do with the department; it's something my counterpart negotiated during the past six months as part of a career development plan. I was simply caught off guard that it would happen this year.

Basically, my manager has framed this change as a huge opportunity for me. He wants me to take on more responsibilities and sit on product teams so that I can be more involved in decision-making. In addition, when my counterpart leaves, I have the choice of recommending whether the new hire is to be under my management or someone who is hired as my equal. I would basically be running my own little department. Kind of scary idea, huh? I have been asked to think about my options and come back with a decision by the end of March.

I know this is a great opportunity. I would put myself in a situation where I would increase my visibility at the company and learn some serious management skills. And yet, I can't tell whether my concerns that this is the wrong road for me are are valid or just an excuse for being coward.

My head is spinning because just before this all happened, I got a call from a recruiter. I get calls often, but this one was different because it was from a recruiter who contracts at a company I've often considered working for. It is tempting to explore the opportunity. The recruiter asked me to send him a copy of resume. Frankly, I don't have a current resume. I haven't put one together in years.

So between the recruiter and the potential work promotion, I'm quite confused. I wasn't planning to take on a new job, but this would be a good opportunity. For over a year now, I think about just quitting. While I enjoy what I do and get paid well, I'm not totally happy. The truth is, I thought I'd be married now and have kids to worry about. I never thought I'd actually have a career to plan.

I've been doing the same work for more than four years now. Knowing my counterpart is leaving soon creates a sense of guilt. Part of me feel like I have to stay now. As much as I appreciate the management opportunity, I'm bored working on this project. I want to learn something new. However, that means that I would have to change jobs and give up the chance at management. It means going sideways instead of up the ladder. I know there's nothing wrong with that. However, the practical side of me says that it's stupid to turn down the promotion offer. (My parents thought I was nuts leaving my good-paying job to go to grad school.) The part of me that wants a life thinks I should just let this one go.

It's hard to make a move when you feel like you don't care. Sure, I care about having money to afford a warm place to sleep, food, the basics. There are just days when nothing makes me happy because I have nothing to look forward to in my life. I know I'm luckier than many people in this world and that I shouldn't complain. I am grateful for all that. It's all fun and indulgence for myself. Still, I'm coming to a point in my life where need something more than just me. I grew up believing my purpose in life was to raise a family and I don't know how to cope with the reality that it may not happen.

Back to the situation at hand... I have no plan. What would I do if I didn't work? How long could I afford to spend unemployed? Would taking time off do anything to help me find a husband? A friend of mine pointed out something important. If I intend to also use this time off to think about my career, I need to have a solid plan. Otherwise, it would be too easy to get lazy and go nowhere. I really need to devote some time to think about what I want.

In a way, I can no longer put this off. I need to tell my manager something in a month. Perhaps this is a good thing. I'm just really scared about what I realizations I may have to face.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Question tones

So I guess my follow-up to the last post is - given that all you have is a few pictures and a profile, how do you balance between simple small talk and serious relationship question when exchanging e-mails online with someone you just met?

This is probably the main reason why I'm so shy about online dating. I don't want the casual chit chat to go on and on, but I also get bored by someone who just wants to exchange information like we're comparing resumes. I feel absolutely clueless about how to ask simple questions that help me learn about whether we're compatible without getting serious and scary. If this is supposed to come naturally, then I'm in biggggg trouble.

Any good tips on what to look for in a profile to help start an interesting and informative conversation?

Retaining independence or being inflexible

At a party over the weekend, a few gals were talking about online dating. Part of the conversation explored dating men over the age of 40. The opinion of two of the women was that dating these men was rather challenging. Sure, they are often successful and attractive men. The problem is that these men often times are difficult to have a relationship with.

They exchanged thoughts on the reasons for the lack of success these men might have with relationships. A couple of women cited specific examples from their recent dating experiences. What came out of the discussion was primarily the theme of men who want to date women who "fit into their lives."

Basically what was meant by this is that these men are busy, be it with their careers, activities, or both. Because they've been independent for so long, they seem like willing to change their lifestyles. The women found it difficult to schedule dates because the men were unwilling to compromise their schedules or drive a little further to meet. Another factor was just being independent so long and showing unrealistic expectations of retaining the status quo if the relationship progressed.

This conversation was still ringing in my ears when I check my inbox the next day. I've exchanged a couple e-mails with Pacer. He seems very honest in the way he's expressed his interest and appreciation for my more detailed responses.

Once given the chance to really lay out his approach to online dating, I had my hesitations.

"I'm a bit wary of about how and what to communicate. I ask that we first discover each through writing and develop a friendship first. My style will may be slower paced and less aggressive, but don't misinterpret that as a lack of eagerness or sincerity to make a new friend in you."

It's refreshing to have someone honestly express their thinking. However, I wrote back pointing out how e-mail has its limitations and the importance of eventually meeting in person to confirm chemistry between two people. In my introduction, I also added that I love where I live but am realistic about moving if necessary for family or financial reasons in the future.

His response talked about his shrinking circle of friends due to relocation and changing families. Maybe I had too much of that party conversation on my mind when I read the next part:

"I want to retain as much of my pre-family lifestyle as much as possible,
which means finding a partner who has the energy and maturity to adapt to such a transition, and not be consumed by it. Maybe I'm just being too naive, but those are the qualities I'm hoping to find in someone.

I'll leave it there for now. Maybe this can prompt some ideas for what we can ask about each other. I'm not sure how much personal information you are comfortable sharing, so just let me know how you wish to proceed.

Huh? I'm afraid I don't quiet understand his statement. Adapt to what transition? He's not being rigid or anything but I feel like he's just going over my head with his lifestyle ideal. My first impression from reading this was that he is looking for someone who will adapt HIS schedule as much as possible. Being a couple requires change and compromise from both people. I'm all for people having time to do their own thing, but responsibilities and needs *will* change. I'm concerned that his expectations are not in line with mine.

Pacer's all politeness and seems to be willing to an open exchange of questions. Slow can be good. My concern is that it's a bit impersonal. I feel like we're going through an interview where he simply answers my questions rather than make it sound conversation. I know e-mail is not a real conversation, however, his style at times is a bit methodical and formal.

Who knows? Maybe I misunderstand. I'll keep writing him and see. This is just what came to mind that I wanted to sort out in my head.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

FedEx and loners

I've been dealin with FedEx for the past few days. They've given me bad information and then subsequently messed up my delivery. To try and qwell my frustration about not being able to pick-up for the next several days, the service rep offered that I also have the option of "sending someone else to pick up the item who lives at the same address or shares the same last name."

Well, crap. I know it's a security issue, but man, it just feel like another reminder that your SOL when you are single and live alone.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

If you want something easier, practice on the nerds

I swear that's what I heard her say. I was getting ready to go to sleep and had ABC running on the television. The news reporter was sitting in a NYC bar with a matchmaker. She was giving advice on how to approach men. The matchmaker is this very aggressive woman who'd been married for almost 25 years. She finds marriage material for high-powered executives, generally men, who don't have time to find a wife. Her starting price is $25,000. Holy crap!

The first comment that caught my attention was something she said as she hit on women at upscale department stores. She had just given a shopper her business card. The shopper asked what the matchmaker does for her clients. She explained that she is paid to help busy men find wives. She proceeded to say, "they can find their own dates and one-night stands, I help them find women who are ready for a committed relationship."

My mind couldn't help wander to the thought of whether I'd want to meet a man who is SOOOO busy that he had to pay someone to find him a wife. What does that say about the kind of life I'd have with such a man? Can I squeeze in a little nookie between his 6am and 7am conference calls? :p Something about it just felt wrong (besides the fact that she said her clients typically want women who are young, beautiful and stylish - sounds like trophy wife to me). I want to know that he's putting some effort, not just money, into his search.

Later, the matchmaker went on to say that any woman who wants to get married needs to get serious about it - i.e. "stop working all the time." Her opinion is that if you're working too much, you're not focusing on your goal. The reporter then pointed out that she wasn't telling this to her MALE clients. The matchmaker even went as far to offer the example of a woman who took a year off from her Wall St. job to find a husband (and who recently got engaged as a result).

During the conversation, the reporter asked the matchmaker to provide an example of how to approach men. When the reporter was hesitant to practice on the men at the bar, the matchmaker suggested to at least practice with nerdier men because they are easy to complement. She reminded the reporter that's it's about volume and practice.

Watching these types of people make me feel like I'm a clueless teenager. How much of the population is like this? I'm probably around the age of some of her clients, and yet it feels like I'm observing people in a foreign land. My world runs at such a different pace and level of existence. :)

It was a crazy news clip but entertaining. She's got some very strong opinions and won't definitely not be the right matchmaker for everyone. Still, whether you're a man or a woman, she knows how to talk to people. She's definitely got a New York personality. Some of what she said was interesting, but I'm probably a little too shy and uncreative enough to come up with a good pick-up line and approach a total stranger.

Here are some tips from matchmaker J. Spindel for women in the market for a mate:

1. Smile. Smile as much as possible. It makes you approachable.

2. When you're out with your female friends, separate yourself from the pack. Men are too intimidated to approach a group of women but might approach you individually.

3. Always have a manicure. It says you treat yourself well.

4. Don't wear too much makeup or terribly revealing clothes. Be feminine, not X-rated.

5. Wear a pin or distinctive necklace or earrings. Memorable jewelry can be a conversation starter.

6. Talk to at least three strangers of the opposite sex each day. Finding love is a numbers game, so you have to get out there and get used to approaching men. Compliment something a man is wearing or make a joke about what he's drinking. If you start the conversation, the man will take it from there.

7. Never discuss politics or personal problems on a first encounter. Instead, discuss safe topics such as the weather, travel or entertainment.

8. Project confidence. No one wants to go out with a person who is negative and full of complaints.

9. Make a list of what you're looking for in a spouse. Don't date anyone who doesn't meet those standards. It's a waste of your time.

10. If you're not meeting mates and you want to — change your attitude! Anyone can get married at any age. Just be optimistic and make an effort to meet as many people as you can.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Getting up to date

Read this article posted today. What caught my attention was the following:

Andersen herself offers her best testimonial. She found happiness with a Silicon Valley geek of her own when she pulled herself out of a dating rut by moving from the Marina scene in San Francisco to Palo Alto. There, she hired a fitness trainer, went on a strict one-month detox diet, stopped drinking and cast a wider net.

Eight months ago, her first date with A.G., the 35-year-old CEO of Revolution Media in Palo Alto and a Stanford University economics instructor, lasted eight hours. They're not officially engaged yet. But two weeks ago, they started shopping for rings.

"He is the quintessential Silicon Valley geek I had been searching for -- brilliant in every way, determined, an entrepreneur, good friend, non-game-player and totally commitment-minded," Andersen said.

I suppose she can't reveal her trade secrets, but what does it mean when she "cast a wider net?" Did she go to bars, join sporting activities, wander the aisles at Whole Foods, attend professional gatherings that she had nothing to do with? I know these are supposed to be good ideas, but I always felt like a fraud if I went to some event that I know little about like the Association for Strategic Planning, VC TaskForce, or Asian Wireless Technology Association. Without paying thousands of dollars for a dating service or pretending to be something you're not, how do you find these guys that sound like such a good fit? It's true, men like these are busy, so how do you "bump" into them?

I think this would be good to know for any major suburban area filled with ambitious, single men. My girlfriend in San Diego is at a loss about how to meet some smart, eligible engineers in San Diego.

LOVE 2.0
GETTING UP TO DATE: As they hit middle age, Silicon Valley executives who had put romance on hold ask experts for help in finding a match
Jessica Guynn, Chronicle Staff Writer

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Silicon Valley, with its cerebral intensity and unrelenting sense of urgency, is an all-hours kind of joint, where napkin-jotters and bonanza-dreamers patter away at keyboards, determined to wring opportunity from every moment.

That kind of all-consuming careerism comes with a catch. As the work-obsessed get closer to middle age, opportunities to find romance dwindle. These Silicon Valley Bridget Joneses, who embedded themselves in cubicles during the 1990s high-tech boom, are waking up to what they missed while they were logged on and tuned out to love.

"When you are in your early 30s, you are really focused on your career. You leave dating to chance. You don't take it very seriously," said M. Su, a 44-year-old vice president of marketing at Vindicia Inc. in San Mateo. "All of a sudden, you wake up one day and think, 'Wait a second. Being focused on work all the time is not what it's cut out to be. I want to have a great relationship.' "

So Su and other Silicon Valley executives looking for love are straying from their desks and their BlackBerries to make time for dating.

Yet how to meet a mate? They are getting too old to cruise trendy Yelp parties or to ride the N-Judah in hopes of getting picked up on Craigslist's "Missed Connections." They haven't found a single drinking establishment between Palo Alto and San Jose that serves up a better ratio of men to women than Anchorage, Alaska. They frequently are too busy to devote enough time to online dating services. Meanwhile, the friends who used to set them up with eligible singles have peeled off in minivans lined with child safety seats and Slurpee-resistant upholstery.

"What I really came to understand is that I would have to be more methodical about dating and come up with a game plan," Su said.

So he turned to a cottage industry that has blossomed to help Silicon Valley solos meet their match: high-class, high-priced yentas.

His matchmaker is A. Andersen, the 30-year-old founder of Palo Alto-based Linx Dating LLC, a company with a unique Bay Area twist: Andersen's company pairs San Francisco women with Silicon Valley men.

The idea came to her back in 2001 when she herself was dating a man who had loads of buddies who were single bachelors sporting Ivy League degrees and high-powered careers but few romantic prospects. Some 30 miles away in San Francisco, Andersen's girlfriends, who had similar Junior League pedigrees and Pilates-sculpted bodies, complained they couldn't meet any mates with marriage potential.

"That is when it really dawned on me: What about bridging the gap between the Silicon Valley man and the San Francisco woman, about creating new possibilities that they might not have otherwise?" said Andersen, who launched Linx Dating in December 2003.

Linx "links" educated, physically fit, marriage-minded high achievers after a lengthy prescreening and interview process and sponsorship by a current member of the network. Andersen also puts on "Link & Drink" get-togethers. The idea, she says, is to combine old-world matchmaking, community networking and "concierge" services, such as coaching Silicon Valley engineers, known more for video-game-callused thumbs and bad haircuts than for smoothness with the opposite sex.

Andersen takes them from geek to chic by revamping wardrobes and grooming regimens ("clip nails, shave the beard, meet my hair guy for a new do") to boost their confidence and their chances of impressing their dates. Her fees range from entry-level, no-guarantees membership at $500 (which has a long waiting list) to the all-frills membership at $8,500 for 24 months.

Andersen herself offers her best testimonial. She found happiness with a Silicon Valley geek of her own when she pulled herself out of a dating rut by moving from the Marina scene in San Francisco to Palo Alto. There, she hired a fitness trainer, went on a strict one-month detox diet, stopped drinking and cast a wider net.

Eight months ago, her first date with A.G., the 35-year-old CEO of Revolution Media in Palo Alto and a Stanford University economics instructor, lasted eight hours. They're not officially engaged yet. But two weeks ago, they started shopping for rings.

"He is the quintessential Silicon Valley geek I had been searching for -- brilliant in every way, determined, an entrepreneur, good friend, non-game-player and totally commitment-minded," Andersen said.

Andersen hopes to work the same romantic mojo on Su, who has dated a couple dozen women through Linx in the past two years. The Palo Alto resident is looking for a woman who shares his love of museums, music and his black Labrador, Layla.

"If you had asked me 10 years ago, I never would have thought I would be doing this, but I have come to really look forward to receiving introductions from Amy," Su said. "I have always been about doing things to make sure the professional part of my life is in gear. Relationships are something that is becoming more and more important to me. I don't want to miss out."

S. Weich, an energetic and successful 37-year-old Los Gatos native who is one of three communications managers for Cisco CEO, finds herself in a similar predicament. She called on Marin County mother-and-daughter matchmakers J and A Kelleher, who have been credited with finding love for three Grammy Award-winning singers, four Academy Award-winning producers and directors, three former supermodels and one of the country's top NBA players in addition to countless high-tech executives.

With one broken engagement behind her, Weich, in the words of "Bachelorette" contestant and new author Jen Schefft, would much rather be "single than sorry." She has an exciting, globetrotting career accompanying Chambers to meetings with the leaders of other countries and corporate America, a hyperactive social life with a wide circle of family and friends, and even time for charity work. Weich says she is definitely not on a biological clock countdown and is prepared to take her time in finding the right person.

"I am really happy with my life and I enjoy being single," she said. "I would love to meet somebody who could add to my life."

Like any good Silicon Valley executive, Weich has her list of negotiables and nonnegotiables. Nonnegotiable qualities include family-oriented, ambitious, funny, genuine and adventurous. She also wants someone who knows what he wants out of life and a partner. It would be nice, but not necessary, if her future mate stood a few inches taller than her 5-foot-9 frame.

Weich is hopeful. She has been set up with nine men in the last 16 months. "I have met some wonderful men who are attractive, articulate, successful and funny," she said. "I've just not met the one with the right spark at the right time."

J Kelleher, who has been in the matchmaking business for two decades and specializes in the crème de la crème of Bay Area society, says many of her clients have all the right stuff but are still dateless in Silicon Valley.

"I have a guy with a couple of airplanes, a 100-foot boat. He has it all. He has dated incredible women, including royalty. Now he's in his mid-40s and he's going, 'Wait a minute,' " Kelleher said. "He doesn't want to compromise. He doesn't want to marry the wrong gal. So he solicited me to come in and hopefully find the Ivy League gal of his dreams."

Matchmakers help tilt the odds in a Silicon Valley singleton's favor, said Kelleher, who charges anywhere from $6,500 to six figures a year to help hardworking people on the go meet "the right one." "We have the caliber. Then it's just a matter of finding the right chemistry," she said.

Longtime Silicon Valley denizen S. McElyea, 51, is in search of the right chemistry. A fifth-generation native with an eclectic career that spanned everything from movie production to exotic animal handling before she started evangelizing new technologies, McElyea is a proven entrepreneur on the verge of launching a new startup. She's friends with every "it" Silicon Valley guru. She's a single-engine pilot, outdoorswoman and world traveler with an 11-acre ranch spread in Saratoga. A universal minister, she married the first Google couple, and performed the wedding ceremony for former Google chef C. Ayers. But she has to yet to hook up with her own soul mate.

A former boyfriend referred her to Andersen. McElyea's just getting started with Linx, but hopes a matchmaker may find what she's been looking for.

"I'm not looking for someone to take care of me. I would really just love to have a life partner with whom we share values, shared interests and have mutual respect for one another," she said. "And having wild, passionate sex with this life partner is a definite bonus."

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

V-ideo day

Tim and I like to watch "Lost" together on Wednesdays. (I hate how ABC has messed with it lately.) We used to record it and then watch the video later. But since I have HD, we try to watch it live so that we can enjoy the better picture. I jokingly asked him last night whether we should watch it together this week. At first, he blankly asked me, "why not?"

After a bit of a pause, he said, "oh, because it's Valentine's Day? Why, do you have a date?"

"No, just checking. I didn't know if you were busy," I joked.

"You gonna give me something?"

I thought, "Cookies?"

He continued with our playful banter by asking, "will they be heart-shaped?"

"No," I said. "And do I get something? A yellow rose with pink edges?"


Yeah, it's just another day to us. I told him that maybe I'd go out and eat by myself for dinner. Tim asked if it was a strategy to potentially meet a guy. No, it's my twisted way of taking myself out of my comfort zone and learning to be comfortable with doing things alone. We'll see if I actually go do it. I'm leaning towards ramen or sushi. Yum.

On another note, I spoke to Designer over the phone. He sounded like a decent guy and we had a friendly hour chat. There were a few pauses, but I made sure not to panic and try to fill the dead air with nonsense chit-chat. I've been trying to teach myself that a short pause is better than sticking your foot in your mouth. Besides, it was a great way to make him work at the conversation a little. ;)

He said he'd call me again later this week. I know I should just let things progress naturally, but the analytical part of my mind is starting to wonder how to extract those important bits of information that will help us decide whether there's potential.

Cuteness overload

Of all the pictures, this one is my favorite:

And here are the rest of the pictures if you like pandas. These are both from the same Wolong event, just a slightly different set of photos. (I guess it depends on which Getty and AP images they wanted to pay for.)

From CNN
From BBC

Normally, I'd only post this on my clippings blog, but I wanted to make sure everyone has a chance to see all this cuteness. :D

Friday, February 09, 2007

Drive-by man shopping

I'm traveling right now and saw a peculiar news segment on the tv. In the footage, I watched cars full of women driving down a street. When the camera panned to the sidewalk, there was a line of men holding up sequential numbers.

I looked up the website of the radio station promoting this event and found these instructions:
Starts at 7:00 am and goes until the LAST MAN is chosen!

We're looking for MEN!
Are you a single, hot, not so hot, nice guy? With kids, without kids, rich, not so rich, student, short, tall, chubby, lean and mean, guy looking for LOVE on Valentine's Day?

If you are, email Little Tommy and include a quick bio. Include your name, age, occupation, height, weight, hair, eyes, and some hobbies...along with your phone number and you just might be on J&J's Mile of Men!

Ladies! Are you new to Mile of Men? Here's how it works:
First, click here to check out the pictures and bios of the men that have joined the mile so far. Then, the morning of February 8th, grab your girlfriends, jump in your car and head to the west side of Cvy between Mesa and Dixie.

The men will be lined up along Cvy, each holding up a sign with their number on it. Now, find your guy and call in to J&J at 570-xxxx. You'll need to get through to J&J and tell them what number you would like (be sure to have a few back-up numbers just in case!). Once your date is set, you and your man will join J&J for a delicious dinner!

Apparently, this is the 4th year of the event. Cars filled with woman, and occasionally a male drive, cruise down the street hollering questions out to the men on the sidewalk. There are women who simply walk down the street for a closer look. They all have scraps of paper on which they jot down the numbers of men they like. Some of the men will try and call out their interests as the cars go by.

It appears to be a first-come, first-served type of match up. The news footage showed many women having troubling getting through to the radio station to confirm their picks. One woman said that all her picks were unavailable by the time she got through on the phone.

How did they come up with this idea? I suppose the risk is bigger for the guys in that they don't know who'll they'll be meeting. It's all in good fun in the end. Many of the woman sounded like the were open to the potential but also simply saw this as a chance to meet more people.

I would love to have taken a drive down the street for fun. However, I don't know whether I would have participated. I can't see the type of guys I typically date putting themselves on public display like that. Then again, it might be interesting to meet someone who would be comfortable taking that risk.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


It's been six weeks with my "consultant." I was looking over the numbers to get a sense of what kind of progress I've made thus far.

Total number matched with me: 101
Number of men I've deleted: 40
Number of men who have deleted me: 20

Total number who have contacted me or that I have contacted: 13
Total number I'm no longer communicating with: 4
(Reasons: I hadn't responded to him in five days [I logged in three hours after he deleted me] - lame; the overweight guy; I changed my mind; never responded to my e-mail)

Number I've spoken with by phone: 0 (but maybe next week)
Number I've met in person: 0

That's what been going on. I try to go through my roster twice a week. I feel it best not to look every day as I could see myself getting obsessive about it. I like a stress-free, healthy pace.

No one really stands out at this point. Most of the pictures look decent. Some are definitely in the lower height range, but I'm keeping an open mind. Being the practical person I am, I'm also a little concerned about some of their occupations. It could very well be that I make more than some of them and certainly couldn't afford to be a stay at home or part-time mom with those salaries. I hate being so financially conscious of things, but it's the reality of wanting a family.

I've been exchanging e-mails with Designer the longest. He recently suggested that we could chat by phone if I felt comfortable about it. As I walked away from the computer, I wondered about the safety of giving out my phone number. In most cases, it's a harmless thing. How much of a chance is there that I'll give me phone number to some guy that turns psycho on me and forces me to change my number?

These thoughts don't last too long. Keeping the dating thing at arms length has made the process more enjoyable. I have to say it's nice not feeling all crazy in the head with anxiety over what to do about guys. I like my mellow pace and will savor it as long as possible.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Blah, sleep, blah

There hasn't been much to write lately for a variety of reasons. Let's see, my company moved, so that's put me behind. The software that allows me to use my laptop wirelessly is not working at the moment, I've been traveling for work, and I got sick for several days. Now, the new ergo set up isn't working and I have a bad shoulder. Yeah, it's been slow.

I go worn a bit raw after some exchanges with friends last week. It's made me not want to share much. Neither would be considered "incidents" except by me. My therapist saw them as examples of where I need to voice my needs to people.

Hula and hung out one night. She was curious to hear how the online dating was going and had come up with some suggestions for me. One of the conversation was about preferences. I mentioned that I've been reluctant to communicate with guys under 5'5". She inquired my reasons why since she didn't think my choice was rational. I gave her my justifications, and she rebutted my examples. She posed the question to me, "Would you be willing to miss out on the love of your life because he is short?"

"I understand, and you could be right, but this is just how I feel." I said with sincerity. I knew she made a good point, but I also know that you can't always fight what you feel.

The problem was, she wouldn't move on. Even though I acknowledged her viewpoint, I didn't feel like she accepted mine. I quietly sat, listening to her continue about the perceived positives of finding the right man and how unimportant height should be relative to a good relationship. She tried to make it sound like a good thing because I'd get to meet all these guys that other people aren't willing to consider. Still, it hurt. To me, it felt like I was being told to give up my wants (or lower my standard) because... I can't be picky at this age. No, that's not what she said, but it's how she made me feel. And how would she know what I'm going through? She's never dated anyone short. She's been with the same man for seven years and never done online dating. It was frustrating that she wouldn't stop. It made me feel incredibly bad.

You have to understand that Hula is the nicest person and means well. She has this angelic voice no matter what she says. How can you be angry at someone who speaks so gently? I know I should have said something, instead I sat there and politely listened. I just couldn't understand why she could accept that our opinions were different and to move on.

The other conversation had to do with planning a group vacation. One month ago, three of us met to discuss our tour options. At the meeting, we agreed on a travel package and a backup plan. The following Monday, I scoped out the final pricing by talking with a travel agent. I then sent an e-mail to everyone interested providing the description, prices, and dates for our possible vacation. I gave everyone two weeks to think about it and asked for a response on their intent to go by a specific date. I chose that date because it would give everyone the weekend to turn in any applications, fees, or passport information. I also explained that I would be out of town the following week and wanted to make sure we made the early deadline for the package discount.

Over the two weeks, I sent out two additional e-mails. In each e-mail I sent out additional information that I had learned or to answer a couple questions. I encouraged everyone to write me with any questions or concerns about the trip. One person wrote me saying that he and his wife wouldn't be able to make the discount cutoff because they had to wait for some work projects to solidify.

The date I asked for responses came and went. I didn't hear a word from anyone else. Towards the end of the work day, I sent out an e-mail reminding everyone to please let me know either way whether they were planning on joining the trip.

The next day, I finally had to call the two people who were most interested in going on the trip, the two people who helped me plan in the first place. Of all people I had thought they would have confirmed with me. One person said she had changed her mind about the length of the trip and wanted to go for less than two weeks. When I asked her why she hadn't let me know, she said she felt that it wasn't really her trip and didn't want to impose. The other person said he was still up for it but hadn't had time to look at the details of the trip. Plus, now knowing the other person wanted to go on the shorter vacation, he wanted to explore other options. He laughed and said, "we're probably not going to make the deadline."

Well, I was absolutely frustrated and annoyed with the situation. Why? One, because neither of them bothered to tell me anything until I called them. Whatever happened to responding by the date specified? If they had told me these things earlier, we could have made other arrangements and still made the deadline. Second, I gave everyone TWO weeks to look over all the details of the trip. How does someone have the nerve to tell me that he wasn't sure he wanted to go because he hadn't done his research yet. You had two weeks (and, I might add, he's currently unemployed by choice so what excuse do you possibly have)!

It's fine if no one cared about the early discount, I just would have appreciated a little more courtesy about telling me. If I hadn't request a response by a certain date, I can understand no one feeling a need to respond. I certainly would be non-committal as well. Planning trips for a group of people can be so frustrating.

My natural reaction, though not the best reaction, would be to walk away from the whole thing. Why deal with people who won't respond to you? But... I know that's an avoidance response, and it's means we all lose out on the vacation. I can't be that way. So, instead, I'm just taking it easy. The discount has passed, so now it doesn't matter when we sign up. I'm just going to wait until there's more momentum and interest. There's no reason to invest more time on this. I don't need the stress of trying to herd cats. If it happens, great. Otherwise, there are plenty of other trips I can take with other people.

Monday, February 05, 2007

The "Friends" of China?

I just came across this. Since I'm hoping to go to China for vacation, this sounded kind of interesting. It intrigue me to see how young adults in China perceived modern life contrasted with traditional values. It'll be interesting to see if and when China will become a true player in the worl, not only economically but socially. I often wonder if it really will become necessary for future generations to learn to speak Chinese or regularly travel to China as part of their careers.

I'll have to see if I can watch a few episodes. Hopefully it's subtitled.

China's 'Friends' highlights Web freedoms

SONGJIANG NEW TOWN, China (Reuters) -- "Soul Partners", a new comedy series described as China's version of the U.S. TV hit "Friends", features six people in their 20s who live together after being separately tricked into buying the same apartment.

But rather than developing according to the plans of top screenwriters, episodes follow the whims of China's growing community of Internet users.

How the plot of "Soul Partners" -- shown on video-sharing Web site Mofile (, and not on traditional television -- evolves from week to week depends on viewers' feedback.

That makes the series an unusually frank reflection of popular opinion in a country where the authorities still tightly control media content.

"The traditional concepts are going out the window because now people see more of the world outside China. People have become more liberal," said Mofile Chief Executive Officer Andy Fan.

"Maybe five years ago, for males to share the same apartment with females would have been unacceptable," noted Fan, who is from the central province of Hunan, has worked in the United States and speaks with a light American accent.

"It's a lot like "Friends", though obviously the background is not the same, since we're in China," said actor Zhang Libing, 21.

One major departure from traditional Chinese series is that parents and relatives play no part.

"In the show I play a young character, but I'm also independent and don't need to rely on my parents," he said, wryly adding that his character was "cool on the outside but emotional on the inside -- not unlike me in real life".

The show -- now into the fourth of a planned 20 episodes -- has already garnered a total of over 1.5 million viewings, and is starting to win fans elsewhere in the Chinese-speaking world, particularly Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore.

The fresh-faced amateur actors -- average age around 22 -- who josh around and as they go over their lines in a borrowed apartment on the outskirts of Shanghai, China's commercial hub, were chosen from 1,000 applicants.

"We wanted to do this from the grassroots up," said producer Gao Bao, who works on the series part-time. Her day job is in sales and marketing.

She said the aim of the independent show was to portray the modern lives of young people with a bit of humor.

China is the world's second-largest Internet market by user numbers after the United States, and is seeing a blossoming of homegrown social networking Web sites such as Mofile, which allow users to generate their own content by posting video clips.

This is partly because user-generated content is far more responsive to online demand than China's relatively staid and heavily regulated mass media.

Pirated satellite dishes, used to watch foreign TV shows, are widespread in a country where local television dramas routinely rehash Mao Zedong's trouncing of Nationalist armies in 1949, or dramas set in imperial courts a thousand or more years ago.

Foreign investment has been flowing into Chinese Internet start-ups, while Google's $1.65 billion acquisition last year of video-sharing Web site YouTube helped spawn a host of Chinese YouTube clones which hope to attract venture capital.

Mofile is one of a bevy of homegrown video-sharing Web sites, including Tudou, and Yoqoo, which jostle for the attention of China's 137 million Internet users.

Meanwhile established Web companies Tom Online Inc., SINA Corp., Inc. and Inc., are believed to be considering expansion into video sharing., dubbed "China's Google", hopes to expand its online video services.

Mofile's Fan, whose company shares equipment costs with the acting crew, says the fact that the show is not out to make money and does not appear on TV means actors are free to provide whatever content they like.

Web broadcasting gives "Soul Partners" a national audience and skirts China's TV regulations. Foreign companies providing content through traditional TV channels, including Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. and Viacom Inc., have unsuccessfully lobbied for years to gain a nationwide footprint.

"This shows how potentially powerful new media can be -- we have as much exposure as, say, provincial level satellite television," said Fan.

Fan added that episodes, based on viewer feedback, now incorporate more current "real life" topics, including the effect of a recent earthquake on Internet service across Asia.

Audiences will also be able to craft their own episode plot soon, rather than merely make suggestions, he added.

The plots of "Soul Partners", which Chinese media and viewers have compared to "Friends", reflect social changes in a country where many young adults live with their parents into their 30s.

The first episode, for example, dealt with the phenomenon of greedy property developers -- somewhat ironic since the studio was provided by a large property development firm -- and focused on social rather than political issues, said Mofile's Fan.

Songjiang New Town, about 18 miles from Shanghai, is the result of a booming local property market. Outside the studio, migrant workers excavate mounds of fresh earth to build an eerie and empty satellite city rearing out of what used to be farmland.

Creative freedom lies in remaining Web-based, non-commercial and clear of cumbersome regulations, Fan said of "Soul Partners" which, rather like the environment outside the studio window, is a social experiment still under construction.

Copyright 2007 Reuters. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Detour and Do Not Not Enter signs

I encountered two stories this past week that were thought provoking. They make me think about how to interact with a significant other. It's true that you have to learn to pick your battles. I still struggle all the time with when to let things go, when to speak up to voice my feelings and wants, and to be more empathetic.

The first story is about when Hula and Drummer first moved in together. They shared one tube of toothpaste. Soon, Hula found one thing annoying about Drummer's habits, he did not squeeze the toothpaste from the bottom and would leave the cap off. Leaving the cap off was the biggest problem because the top layer of paste would be dry and gooey after being exposed to the air between brushings.

But Hula didn't want to nag or complain about this. Instead she devised an experiment. She started leaving the cap off as well to see how Drummer would react. With both people leaving the cap off, the toothpaste became crusty and unusable. Once he finally noticed the problem, it gave her the opportunity to come in and suggest a solution. They now only buy toothpaste that has a snap cap and sits upright so that the toothpaste always settles towards the cap.

Of course, this example left me with many questions:

- What was he doing before they moved in? Wouldn't it have been dry then?

- This is not such a big deal to me. Some might call it avoidance, but I simply would have bought my own toothpaste.

- One of my ex-boyfriends didn't squeeze from the bottom either. I pointed it out but never explicitly asked him to change his ways. When I stayed at his place, I'd simply squeeze all the toothpaste up and move on. He'd watch and laugh, probably thinking I was quirky. It was a little thing that I didn't see as a big deal.

The second story is about a co-worker, Savant. Her husband just came back from a business trip to China. She was showing me this strangely painted golden pig stature that was given to him after he bought a platinum and jade necklace for her at a jewelry store in China. She was curious to know what the story was about the pig.

Savant then told me that the reason she was trying to find meaning in the statue was to restore some satisfaction after not getting the necklace. You see, when he packed for the return flight, he put the little pig statue in his carry-on bag and the necklace in his checked baggage. He was all excited when I arrived home to give her the gift. But when he opened the suitcase, it was gone.

That's when I had a strange look on my face and started, "But doesn't he know..."

"Don't go there, we don't go there," Savant lightly said.

"Yeah, it's just that I thought most know..." I tried to continue.

"Nope, that's not something we bring up. Aren't you excited about my golden pig?" Savant said this as she happily waived it in front of me. That's her upbeat personality for you.

I left it alone. I did express my sadness that she'd never get to see the necklace. She joked about me helping her imagine what it looked like. Anyone would know she was disappointed that her gift was lost. Neither of needed to say how thoughtful and loving his gift was despite the outcome.

She's been married for some 15 years. Whenever she shares stories I always wonder how one figures out these relationship lessons. My immediate reaction to such a situation would have been advise my partner what wrong decision he made rather than show my appreciation at his thoughtful gesture. When he asks her if he has more hair than a guy on tv, she reassures him he looks great. My honesty is good, but I see how it probably is not necessarily what people need to hear all the time. I need to remember to be supportive and not judging in those moments.