January 15th, 2010

The Importance of Making New Year’s Resolutions

A strange thing happened to me in 2010. My New Year started without a shiny New Year’s Vibe. This year I decided to do without a proper New Year’s Resolution.

You see, I’ve become quite the compulsive goal setter. I set goals on a regular basis. I have monthly goals taped to my monitor. I have quarterly and yearly targets — both personal and business — defined on a spreadsheet. But my New Year’s resolution is always separate from my Goals. My goals are concrete and measurable, with clearly defined deadlines. My resolutions are positive declarations of change.

It doesn’t bother me that I don’t actually keep most of my old resolutions. I think the buzz I get from looking forward to a change in lifestyle, a new way of thinking, invites me to start the year with a super positive outlook. Plus it’s a lot of fun. I usually start the year on a loud, hopeful note: “This is the year that *** happens!”

2010 came quietly, without much fanfare. It just feels that 2009 got an extension. That was a great year. But it’s time for something new.

New year's resolutions: Fitter, happier, more productive, comfortable, regular exercise at the gym

What’s your resolutions for the new year?

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September 23rd, 2009

A Little Change Can Do You Great

As I’m writing this I am feeling more than a little annoyed by the fact that a service provider, one that I’ve been a customer of for more than 12 years, has failed me on several accounts today: bad customer service, amount of red tape I had to go through to get my problem heard and their general lack of flexibility.

When I was working in my previous job at a company situated in a glitzy part of town, I had my own secret coffee haunt. The unassuming shop was tucked away in a little side street quite a distance from the main road. You really have to know your way to get there. But it was so worth the walk.

The coffee came in a large cup and it was dirt cheap. And good. Very good. To this day, no other cup of coffee has come close to being as good as the one I got from that shop. To top it all off, the service was excellent. Within a few weeks of frequenting the joint, the lady taking my order knew exactly what I wanted. She would also personally hand the freshly-made coffee to her customers herself (as opposed to leaving it on the counter).

In my previous post I talked about how the coffee shop I currently patronize — part of a larger, efficiently-run establishment — has finally acknowledged me as a worthy customer but only after 6 long years. I can’t complain about the coffee served at this place. Though the price could be better the shop is oh-so-conveniently located, so there’s no strong reason for me to find an alternative. The person who regularly serves me is friendly, but she just did not think about going the extra mile until recently.

These two coffee shops illustrate the differences between a small business fueled by passion and sometimes necessity and the less-personal, protocol-orientated nature of larger corporations.

I am not a very demanding customer. All factors considered — convenience, price, product quality, service quality– I’m happy to settle for just 2 out of 4, which is why I was pleasantly surprised when I got The Nod yesterday.

It takes just a little extra to go from good to great. But unfortunately this simple concept is usually lost in between promises of “customers first” and the compulsive act of ”watching the bottomline”.

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September 10th, 2009

Train of Thought

There was a boy, about 12 years old, traveling by himself on the scenic train ride we took in Switzerland. He was seated two seats away from me but the car was relatively empty so the few of us who were in there kept switching seats to get a better view of the beautiful landscape. There is so much natural beauty in the Swiss Alpine region it’s hard to choose which side of the the train to look out from. When there was a particularly awe-inspiring sight, we’d poked our heads out of the windows.

“Achtung!” the boy warned me. The train was going through a tunnel and, bewitched by the gorgeous vista, I didn’t realize it then. “Danke” I thanked him, effectively using 25% of my total German vocabulary. [The other 75% consisting of the words "bitte"- please; "auf wiedersehen"- goodbye (thanks to Heidi Klum and Project Runway) and "würste" - German sausage (which wasn't very useful since I don't eat sausages). I don't know even know if I can construct a coherent sentence with those words: "Please! Sausage? Goodbye." See what I mean?]

Anyway, language proved not a problem for us and the boy and I continued communicating throughout the journey using a series of gestures and sound effects.

At one point, the train stopped close to a herd of cowbell-wearing cows. Hearing the bells jingle softly as the cows lumbered across the field was a surreal experience. I knew what cowbells sounded like, but this was in real-life stereo. So authentic. And soothing. I pictured myself living in the mountains doing nothing but painting landscapes and eating fine Swiss Chocolates for breakfast when the kid gave a loud “Moo!”, interrupting my daydream. The train started moving again and the crowd continued their seat-shuffling routine. The boy did a little monkey dance and pointed at everyone, himself included, suggesting that we all looked like monkeys. I looked around and nodded in agreement. We both giggled quietly and put our fingers on our lips, not wanting to share this silly little observation with anyone else.

The boy suddenly turned to a man in front of him and with much excitement, pointed to something in the distance while saying something in German. The guy replied, “Sorry kid, I don’t speak your language,” unaware of the fact that for the past hour I had been talking to the boy without the need to utter a single word.

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September 5th, 2009

Film Critic

Things I that annoy me in a movie:

  • people brushing teeth without using toothpaste
  • when someone or a group of people are singing to a song out loud, they will sing at half a beat slower than the singer in the song
  • the scene where character A tries out a 32 different outfits at a dressing room until character B agrees on the perfect outfit, which will always be the very last one tried (never outfit number 2 or 4, or a combination of pieces from various outfits).

Things I like in a movie:

  • moments of contemplative silence
  • the sound of wooden floors creaking softly (but not in horror movies)
  • unexpected, well-timed appearance of a cat (even in horror movies)
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July 17th, 2009

Discovering Life

A few months into pre-school, I told my dad that I didn’t wish to continue going to the classes anymore because my teacher could not, for the life of her, pronounce my name properly. (She called me Manina. Manina?! How did the letters “r” and “l” morphed into an “n”? And this came from a person who was supposed to teach me my ABC’s.) After a chuckle and an “Are you sure?”, my dad agreed to let me stay home and play instead.

The days that followed were tranquil and filled with joy. In the mornings, I’d draw, paint and play; the afternoons were spent with my mum who read me stories and taught me how to add and subtract; some evenings, my dad would teach me how to read and write.

One of the mornings, I found myself awake alone in our house that was bathed in the glorious warm tone of a delicious morning sun. I remember walking into the kitchen, thinking the rays that flooded the windows were veils of magic dust. I went into the bathroom, cupped water from a running tap and then watched it flow through my fingers. I caught myself breathing deeply, paused for awhile and thought, “this is life. I am alive.”

That afternoon, I watched my mother’s rhythmic breathing as she was taking a nap. I tried to hold my breath to see if I felt any different. Then I deduced that there was an existence within me that was more than physical. I asked my dad later about it and he told me I’ve just discovered my own soul.

Life is a chance to grow a soul
Do you remember the first time you discovered life?

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June 15th, 2009

Start Up

Sadly, my computer hard disk died on me last week.

Luckily I have back ups done for my client work on a regular basis but 6+ years of personal stuff – sketches, ideas, plans, stories, etc – are all gone.

When I fired up my email application yesterday, my inbox was empty. I’ve lost all my emails too.

My computer hard disk died

A similar event happened to me a few years ago.I used to have backups of all my work on Zip disks then (does anyone remember those blue disks?). When my then PC got corrupted beyond repair, I didn’t really worry because thought I could rely on the backup data on my zip disks. But no – ALL the disk were corrupted and unreadable. 5 years of work gone. ;(

I have to admit there’s a certain amount of liberation, starting on a clean slate. But I’m a little worried about data preservation at the moment. Will my data DVDs last? If they do will there still be DVD readers in future? Do I need to transfer my files onto a new hard disk every few years? Do I need to upload all 89 million terabytes of my digital photos to Flickr? Should I carve my ideas in stone? Or blog every tiny detail of my life online? Hmmm…

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