Friday, December 31, 2010

Taking Stock, Fast Forward

Today being the last day of 2010, am sure a lot of people are also like me, filled with nostalgia, and reminiscing the year that is just about to pass.

I would classify 2011 as a good year, though it came with a lot of trials and tribulations, and at times, at its darkest hours, i wasnt so sure, but yeah, looking back, think I'd just call it a good year!

Found this picture today in a dainty little place (which I will blog a bit later), which really sums up in a nutshell what I want to say tonight, as we are about to usher in the new year.

1) For 2011, I shall remember and always remind myself that my `Attitude is Everything', and that it will dictate how my year will churn out.

2) I shall be less materialistic, i.e. buy less consumer goods, and be happy with what I already have. So, no new cars although I just paid off my car loan. :) The key goal would be to build up my retirement funds adequately, and to pay off my housing loan asap; so, the less consumer goods I purchase, the more extra $$ to put into these funds.

3) I will be less of a pessimist , and try to be as optimist as I can, especially in situations which are beyond my control. We attract what we think! Must believe in the law of attraction, since this is scientifically proven, right? :P

4) Last but not least, I need to be less of a perfectionist, since being a perfectionist sometimes can be very tiring and can actually kill your spirit. And, being a perfectionist can be risky, as it is also known to build up (gulp!) to obsessive compulsion behaviour (OCD).

Happy New Year 2011 ! :)

Monday, October 18, 2010

How to Enjoy summer in Taiwan

Taiwan is a subtropical island nation with hot, wet and humid summers. These could be the best months to travel but for those unprepared, it could also be extremely and unbearably hot. These are some of the learnings I had from this trip:-

1) An umbrella is very useful
An umbrella is useful to help shade and protect against the sun. Don't worry of looking stupid, you will find many people doing so similarly. Taiwan's summer is also very wet and you will find the umbrella useful for those unexpected but short showers, which comes and goes. So, carry a foldable umbrella whenever you move about.

2) Only buy your umbrella when you reach Taiwan, else look for one `Made in Japan'.
I find that the umbrellas made in either Taiwan or Japan are specially made for strong winds as they are usually quite prone to typhoons, or pretyphoon storms. These umbrella are more sturdier, and if a gust of wind is to blow at you, the umbrella will fold upwards, but once you strongly shake it a couple of times, it will resume back to its original position! Umbrellas bought elsewhere (read: local) tends to be broken by strong winds. I find this concept pretty similar to the building design and technology behind the Taipei 101 tower, which was built like a bamboo pole, to enable it to bend slightly and sway (and not be broken in half) to the wind direction should a typhoon strikes. Umbrellas in Taiwan are not expensive, and cost from NTD80-200, you will find these easily available in MRT stations or night markets.



3) No point in bringing a raincoat. Only takes up space in your backpack especially if you already have an umbrella. But raincoat can't protect or shade you from the scorching sun.

4) Bring a foldable `chinese' fan! Summer weather is simply very hot and humid. Alternatively you can find the small battery-operated mini fan in 7-11.

5) Drink lots of water! and also replenish your ions intake with isotonic drinks. These can be easily found in 7-11, under the brands of `Pocari Sweat' or `Supau". Be careful not to buy the one which increases your metabolic rate. Yes, there are 2 types in TW, the latter is promoted as a weight loss aid because it will make you sweat even more.


6) Sunblock every part of your body! For my last trip, I remembered to apply on my face, neck, and arms. But I went out in pants reaching only mid calves and wear open sandals, and I came back with bad sunburn from my ankle to my toes! The next day, after learning my lesson, I remembered to apply all over till my toes but alas, I came back, having sunburnt ears!

7) If you have sensitive skin like me and prone to sunburns, better to bring a tube of aloe vera gel as most shops don't carry this. neither do they carry calamine lotion. I had a tough time trying to find this to relieve my sunburns.

8) Bring a small foldable shopping bag too as 7-11 don't give out plastic bags. Taiwan stresses on being environmental-friendly.

9) In some places, the mozzies are aplenty. Good to prepare some mozzie repellents. I brought along the patches instead of cream but nonetheless it was just as effective and takes up less space in my pack.

10) Last but not least, do remember your sunglasses!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Day Zero: 8-9-10. At Airport Checking-in

Finally the day of travelling! Where exactly am I heading ? Taiwan ! Had planned out an 11-day itinerary of backpacking around the island nation.

Left my house at around noon as although the flight was in mid afternoon, was worried of any raya rush at the airport. I had wanted to check in on-line the day before as well, but wasnt able to do so as an error message kept appearing. Finally I called up the airline office and found out that as my flight is a long-haul flight to Los Angeles, hence web check-in is not allowed due to tight security reasons.

When I arrived at the check-in counter, was surprised to find it all empty. Was I too eager and had arrived too early? anyway, as the counter staff was checking me in, I waited with abated breath on the weight of my check-in backpack. How much would it weigh??

As in my previous post, the weight of my pack had been of upmost preoccupation of mine for the past few weeks prior to the trip. Hence I was particularly anxious to see if all my meticulous `mathematical calculations" and "economised-packing" has paid off?

And...the counter reading says == 8.7 kg !!

Woohoo ! I had expected 11-12 kg. So it s 8.7kg for 11 days of travelling. First time in my life, I am travelling with an unbelievably light luggage (well, by my own standards-lah).

Suddenly, my shoulders felt very light. it is as if the burdens had been lifted. :) psychologically that is!

Ilha Formosa - here I come ! :)

Saturday, September 4, 2010

8 - 9 - 10

All my bags are packed, am ready to go....

Yes ! it is just a few more days before the start of a long-awaited holidays! will be backpacking in a trip that will be a combination of mountains-lake-historical small towns-goodfood !

8-9-10 is the magic number! never knew the date of departure is actually a consenquential series of three numbers, but come to think of it, hey, it will make the trip even more memorable, right? at least, its a date that is very easy to remember in the future years to come. :)

Just to share how my bag looks like.. :) It looks leaner cos I've compressed it ... (notice the luggage tag? its a Fit-to-Fly luggage tag, check out www.fit2fly.com.my. And Thanks to Row for giving me extras :) )


Will be using a 35+10L Deuter bag. The last time I ever used a backpack, it was 55L, and I nearly fell over as after stashing in all my clothes and whatnots, it became simply too heavy to carry! good thing at that time, the group of friends I was with decided to rent a car instead of taking public transport. This time around, have decided to be smarter and opted for a smaller bag and made of more hi-tec lighter material (note : bag is still expandable! so, can still do some shopping if the opportunity arises)


Ah...a smaller bag also means I have to `economise' on my packing and be very efficient with what I bring. This, itself, has been a series of careful planning, thinking and surprisingly, to a certain extent, has become a somewhat mathematical equation/solution. For e.g. taking a bottle of 150ml shampoo will last for how many days? or, should i pour out into smaller containers instead? as every little morsel and milligram will add to the weight to carry around, this has suddenly become very significant. Even the type of material for my clothings, have to be carefully taken into calculation.


Anyway, the bag is all packed now. and the only thing to do now is...

Counting down to take off ! :)

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

There are still good people around

Spent my merdeka holiday doing nothing patriotic. Was at Sunway Pyramid in the morning to meet up with an old friend for a catch-up lunch and gossip.

When it was time to go back, I paid for my parking ticket at the autopay machine and walked to my car. It only occurred to me after I got into my car that, `hey, where's the parking ticket that I was holding in my hand earlier? ". My paid ticket had suddenly gone missing ! and scarily, I seemd to have experienced a temporary state of amnesia. I simply can't remember anything!

Searched all my pockets... searched all my shopping bags..and then turned my handbag inside-out, and then outside-in... searched as I might, still it wasnt there...

It was around this time, that I looked up and saw a family of 5, a mum with 3 children and a grandmother, hovering in front of my car and starring at the pillar (I was parked next to a pillar). The mum was looking hard at the parking ticket and discussing with the family on whether its the `right' pillar.

Ah...apparently, they found my ticket!! and...they found me because I happened to have this habit of writing the location of where I parked my car on the ticket. In this instance, I had written the pillar number on it, that was why they were trying to confirm earlier.

Phew!

So to the mum and the family who found AND took the trouble to find me just to return my parking ticket today, I would really like to thank you from the bottom of my heart. Although some might argue that its no big deal to lose a ticket, you can just pay the fine and still get out of the carpark, however, what this family did was save me all the trouble and hassle of doing that.

And, they also showed that they care enough for a total stranger to go around the carpark looking for the `pillar'. Hey, suddenly, it occured to me that there are still good and kind people around after all! I am very fortunate and blessed to have met them today. Reminded me of what my own mum always tells me, `A little good deed goes a long way". This family's little deed really made my day.


And to those friends who always laugh at me for writing on my car park ticket vs taking a photo of my location with my mobile, well, looks like this old fashioned habit of mine is useful and serves me well after all ! :)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Brand Plans - The Aftermath

Its finally over...
After
- days and weeks of preparation
- sleepless nights due to an over-excited brain
- flip-flopping between references of global and regional slidesdeck
- cross referencing of other portfolios best practices
- overanalysing on market data as woulnt want to be caught `pants down' cos having not done enough analysis
- rehearsing the presentation
- anticipating possible questions
- rehearsing how to `rationalise' the lacklustre performance of certain months

Brand plan came..went by, finally, on last wed, the whole presentation was over in 1 hour !

Will have to spend another day to clean up the plans, finetune the numbers and walla! its all done for the year!

And now...the fun is about to start...its all the way to Execution!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

That Time of the Year

Its THAT time of the year again...

No, its not about celebrating birthdays, anniversaries, festivities...

Its the `Oh No' for most brand managers (at least in my company). For some, its the dreaded time of the year.

Its Brand Plan time. Period.

Its about pulling out ideas, cooking up ideas, and panning it out in a plan to take through for the next 12 months.

Its about trying to put together a bunch of analysis, assumptions and `predictive future' of the marketplace and how it impacts the brand.

Its about identifying market/niche opportunities, and how to drive and convert into something tangible (i.e. sales numbers).

Its about challenges, and how you come up with a way to face up to those challenges or to circumvent it/them.

Its about getting prepared to go in for the presentation, which might sometimes turned out to be a long grilling session , comprising of intensive questions and debates, and of which you have to be on your toes and in top form, to answer as best as you can.

Its about when you have to show that you know the GUTS about your business.

Its about `Oh no, not another new template this year", whereby every year there is almost certain that there will be a new template or format to present your plans.

Some would also argue that its the very essence of a marketer's job.

Its also about `Oh no, another year has passed by....so fast ah? "

That said, after so many years, gosh, I still hate brand plans month!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Conversations



When I was last in Nice, in southern France, came across these 7 statues of men, sitting high up on poles along the Massena square's (Place Massena) tramway. At night, these `men' are all illuminated by colour neon lights into a wonderful array of multi colours. From day 1, I've been asking around to find out the meaning of these `men on poles', and what were the theme/message the artist was trying to convey. Many people just take it as just something nice to look at at night, without trying to know more.








I did eventually managed to find out that this piece of work is by a famous artist called Jaume Plensa, and he gave it a title of `Conversation in Nice'. All the 7 figurines were to represent dialogues between the seven continents in the world. As a result, there are also locals who call it the `Dialogues of 7 continents' art piece. Its basically encourages more harmony between continents, via more conversations between and amongst one another.

Hmm..makes one wonder, in our own lives, do we really talk to each other? between nations? between continents? between family members? colleagues? and friends?
a lot of the miscommunication and some conflicts these days, are really more of lack of communication between parties rather than anything else.

I applaud the artist for his ideals. If only this is well conveyed and received by the leaders of nations....

Meanwhile, come to think of it, I also realised that I am not a good global citizen. Heck, I can't even name all my 7 continents..gosh.. looks like my geo is really failing me...*red face* :O

Monday, January 25, 2010

25 Things About Yours Truly

1) I have 2 left feet.. I can’t dance and am really clumsy at coordinating my movements;

2) I can’t sing either, but I love to sing the chorus parts when others are singing karaokay (sounds very kay-poh, I know!) ;

3) When I was growing up, my ambition(s) changes every few years, and so far, I had aspired to be a nurse (in primary school), an archeologist (after being inspired by Indianna Jones) in lower secondary, a microbiologist when I was in upper secondary, and a lawyer when I was waiting for my STPM results. Ended up being none of these;

4) My Chinese name when merged with my 2 brothers’ Chinese names, can actually form a scenic picture. That of mountains by the sea, and there are swallows flying above. In fact, this is often the picture we siblings usually draw for our parents whenever we do our homemade festive greeting cards (talk about lack of creativity!)

5) I once dreamt of being given a box, which opened up to reveal a 2-headed snake that ate the accompanying hard boiled eggs (yeah, there were eggs inside the box!). The next morning, I was `betrayed’ at work by a trusted colleague..duh! I didn’t realize the dream was a sign..sigh..;

6) On 25th Dec 1981, Christmas night, I locked myself in the toilet and cried. It was the day my younger brother was born, and I was really disappointed that I didn’t get a sister (nope, no ultrasound those days!);

7) I had an unforgettable birthday party when I was 12 years old. My brother (read #6) was an overactive toddler, and he had `accidentally’ stepped onto my birthday cake just before my party started. I had to keep a brave face and still posed for pictures with my guests with a smashed cake in front of me;

8) I don’t eat onions, and I really find them pungent ;

9) I don’t exactly love garlic either, but I like using them for flavouring when cooking. Only thing is, I can’t bear the smell of garlic on my fingers after I peeled them. So, I’ve found the perfect solution – garlic paste!

10) I love to read and re read the Reader’s Digest. I can read the same issue a few times, but of course, on different occasions. I only get to do this when am back in my parent’s house, where my mum is also an avid reader of RD. In fact, she still keeps issues of RD wayback from the 1960’s;

11) I don’t like to eat much of sweet stuffs, be it desserts, biscuits or even danish pastry. In fact I love savoury foods, and my breakfast has to be something savoury, if not I would feel like I haven’t eaten anything at all! So, no go for breakfast cereals and fruits for breakfast, but yes to fried noodles, eggs and sausages (yeah, bring on all the unhealthy stuffs!);

12) Drawing is not my favourite subject in school, and so far, I only have one masterpiece in my whole life. This was painted when I was 14 years old, and so far, is my proudest piece of work. It was actually copied from the calendar produced by the Mouth and Foot Painting Artists. If anyone knows who’s the original artist, please let me know, because I would really like to convey my thanks and gratitude to him/her. This painting was carefully kept by dad for 15 years, and after he had it framed up, it was presented back to me to when i moved into my current house;



13) I love to cook and feed people. It gives me great pleasure and a sense of accomplishment to play hostess, to cook for family and friends, to organise and hold gatherings etc.

14) Refering to #(13), I hate to wash dishes though (so if I cook for you, please `sek-chou’, and help to wash the dishes right after my sumptious meal);

15) All the men/boys in my family, starting from my dad, to both my brothers and now my two nephews have big, round, dark, beautiful eyes with double eye-lids! Of which I don’t have. Why o why was i missed out, and forever deprived of this gene? so unfair!

16) I don’t have Astro at home. Am still feeding on free-to-air (FTA) channels, but thank heavens for 8TV and NTV7, am still doing Okay :)

17) My final year project was processing and producing bee-hoon, made from sago starch instead of rice. That was at the height of a regional price increase for rice. As a result, I don’t eat bee-hoon nowadays if I have a choice!

18) Although I have been living out of Penang since 1993, I still keep my home add in my IC, and will drive 4 hours back to Penang, just to exercise my voting rights, where I think my single vote still counts. Viva Penang!

19) I love musicals, especially broadway, and am a big fan of Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber;

20) The best year of my life was the one year spent in Cardiff, doing my MBA. It was a year of discoveries, many beautiful friendships, and of course, converting my science background over to business and obtaining the degree which launched my career :)

21) I can spend a whole day at art museums (non comtemporary). The ones which made the most impressions on me, would be Prado in Madrid, and the Louvre in Paris.

22) I love roses!

23) I think Michelangelo is the most brilliant, genius, greatest artist ever! It was an awesome yet humbling experience to be able to personally see the Sistine Chapel ceiling. If ever there's one place in Europe that I would really like to visit again, that would be the Vatican City and the Sistine Chapel.

24) My favourite food is dim sum ! esp siew mai and char siew pau. Yup, the 2 conventional staples of dim dum..guess I like my stuffs authentic and original ..:)

25) Last but not least, I'm basically a private person, so this entry has taken me much longer to write than earlier expected! but, now that the mission is completed, what a relief! :)