30th Nov2011

New York in an Almost Year

by Dorothy

Random quick bits about thoughts and The City from Q1-3:

I guess there is a certain vibe, a certain stigma about New York City. It’s a city on overdrive and it will and can fry your senses if you’re not careful. Mentally, physically, literally, metaphorically.

The city is a curious mix of architecture marvels with history and people. From the eco friendly Hearst Tower, the dimly lit chanderliered entrance of the Royal Palace Hotel, eclectic little shops in Soho and the Lower East Side to the rather sterile concrete buildings of Wall street. The Brooklyn Flea houses a collection of quirky little trinkets and items, and itself is housed in a stately building that was converted from a bank; a stark dichotomy.

Graffiti here is spontaneous and in the oddest of places, narrow subway underground tunnels the top of buildings, each a defiant testament to the people who claimed the space as their own. Not in a tightly controlled environment where a canvas is laid out in front of a curious audience. Like at the Night-festival in Singapore, anyone? Cough. I think that defeats the purpose of it. Don’t think the organizers understood the essence behind graffiti. The only people who should see graffiti being created should be the artists and their friends. Watching it appear in front of you, in a space dictated with crowds of curious spectators watching, with no element of risk, danger or mystery as expected just takes away the soul and experience of it.

I could do a photo series entitled subway trash of still lives – even the trash here somehow manages to look like a still-frame out of a movie.

Ben Stiller walked past us one weekend morning, apparently.

The size of rats vary with the parts of the city – the big black mean ones reside in Manhattan; small furry ones are found on the outskirts. The friendly mouse looking ones live in the Jersey PATH trains. 🙂

If you are anticipating a long subway commute, you probably want to switch your iPhone off while underground if you don’t want to find your batttery at 60 % even before the day has started. Why there has been no serious motion to actually get reception that works well underground or even in various buildings is beyond me. It is kind of like the weekend commute, when basically, the best thing is to expect nothing out of the subway reliability.

Sirens are your lullabies. You grow accustomed to it. The police and fire engines are just, everywhere.

Phones are socially taboo (at least it seems so at most eating spots) or maybe it’s a function of the crazy bad reception. People are engaged with each other here, and with time being such a precious commodity, one notices that cellphones are hardly the focus and the ones whom you meet grant you their attention, for choosing to spend the time.

Colours do not exist in the NYC fashion palette in winter. Everyone wears black black and more black even though the racks have a staple of black, white, red and the occasional electric blue. Who dictated that fashion has to mirror the season? Even within the line at JFK, I was standing out in a bright and (too) happy red.

Unaccustomed to the landscape so distinctly mirroring the seasons, visual cues start to hint to me the arrival of spring. Lighter coats, rain boots, slight colours, (short) skirts. People complain about the heat but hardly ever about the skirts. Do they not see the necessity of the former for the latter to materialize? Thank goodness for the cheeriness of Summer.

The city is edgy, fast paced, if that is your type of fun. Small enclaves of communities exist and in time, I intend to explore these when I’ve gotten my wings fixed. Sometimes the cashier mistakes me for Korean and rattles musically about the items I’m ringing up until I give a polite “I don’t understand you” in English. At other times Korean guys remark really loudly “a Chinese” as I’m trying to get up the steps to dinner in Ktown. I am unsure of the correct response to this so I do nothing save roll my eyes. Ethnicity seems to be a topic of conversation with random people taking bets as to whether you are Korean or Chinese in the most random of places.

Definitely pay more attention to your Chinese lessons if you are still in school, especially if you want to order take out from Ctown. Actually, make that if you want to order food in general. D:

Outside of the tourist belt, there are hardly any children, teenagers or too many old folk. Everyone seems to float around the college age to the young working professionals. And then there are the others, who seem to have decided that being perpetually in Peter Pan mode is their thing. Over 45 and still living like recklessly 25 is just a little creepy. Just sayin’.

There is also the distinction between “the tourists” and “New Yorkers”. Tourists are roadblocks, the grown up children who still find delight in every cranny of the New York environment. New Yorkers are past that – police road blocks and a barrage of media vans and satellite for Osama’s capture or “that IMF guy” being held in an undisclosed location in lower Manhattan? Just part of everyday life, now will you please, not hog the sidewalk so I can get to my cup of coffee/work/you get the idea? Your local news is global here. Something is always happening; somewhere.

I love how people actually care about stuff here.

Photobucket Chivary is alive and well in the city because here is nothing more odd in their senses for a girl to be carrying a shelf on the streets.  People have also been awfully kind to help me move my furniture that I got from them, so maybe I have just been lucky so far. You can get quite a lot out of a conversation in the 30 minutes while moving your desk. So awfully DIY, but just one of those things you do before you succumb to the instant gratification that is Amazon. On an aside, if one ever contemplated never ever having to leave your house, Amazon could fulfill all your hermit aspirations.

Door holding is nice and I hardly get any slammed in my face if I am within close proximity. Anyone who has tried to get into a lift in SG with plently of space, only to have the door closed on you because everyone was too apathetic to press the Open Button will understand this. It’s the little things that count.

What’s better than holding the subway door seconds just before it closes, is having two young teenage guys hold it open for you, upon seeing your approach and not even missing a beat in their conversation rhythm. Equally heartening is having a random stranger call out to you when you are at the far end of a corridor which only leads to an elevator, just so they can wait for you to enter.

Well, obviously there are rude people as well, but perhaps the word is not so much of rude than brash.
Weather is a huge factor here because it dictates your life. It’s the first time weather reports are actually accurate or important. The coats change with the seasons, and rain coming horizontally at you renders normal umbrellas useless. Let’s not even talk about the winds.

Things will go on even if it rains. At the Rooftop films, the organizers quipped that “We’re tough , we’re New Yorkers”, and the show went on. Seats were kept and folded after the show by each member of the audience, ” just so a lot of us can get out there faster”.

PhotobucketThe weather is unapologetically capricious and erratic – winter seemed never ending with the fresh white snow quickly morphing into black piles of slush. There was a brief dalliance with spring and upturned umbrellas. People marginally freaked out over the earthquake aftershocks. Hurricane Irene brought the City to a standstill whilst everyone went stir crazy being confined indoors. Coming from a country with NO natural disasters, you realize you have no clue what to actually do, but you get by. It snowed in Autumn and this surprised the trees in Central Park and many of them broke under the weight.



It seems counter intuitive to find contentment in a restless city, but that’s what New York can offer you, amongst a whole lot of other things. Transience is the only staple. The city has a routine of constant change, and possibilities in anything you believe in, if, of course, you search it out. Or maybe it might find you instead.


The City will speak to you, if you listen to it. The same City, but somehow in a different language for everyone.


^ And more photos, only because they remind…

29th Nov2010

A HP AMPed Christmas!

by Dorothy

Was at the HP Amped Christmas event at House @ Dempsey, and here are some pictures!

HP Amped - Xmas 2010

HP Amped - Xmas 2010

The folks at WE sure do know how to throw a party… I am most fascinated with the 3D station where 3D comes to laptops, now if only I wouldn’t get so nauseous viewing it…. Those, coupled together with mini HP products on cupcakes, games and a whole lot of other festivities!

3D glasses 3dcounter dj


So…Christmas is the arbitrary season where everyone is a little more  indulgent and allowed to get more than a little contemplative, so indulge me. ( but really, contemplative doesn’t need to happen only at year end).

I really need to stop sitting on posts, this has probably been lying around for weeks! Ok, so the question was, “how are you going to Amp your Christmas this year?”. I haven’t any super concrete ideas as of yet, but I’m hoping some things come through, and I’ll share that when it happens. 🙂

Well, I suppose a lot of times we think doing something means having to make some grandiose efforts for external parties. Right now, I’d love to be able to focus on the ones closest to me. The handful of people whom you actually interact with beyond hi, bye and small-talk.

Here are some things that I wish for everyone this year. The 8 Fs.

Faith – This is not just the literal religious manifestation of the
word. It is about belief. Trust me, that can go a long way.

Family – They are the only ones you’ve got. No matter what may have transpired. When was the last time your entire family sat down for dinner, or headed out together?

Friends – Then there are the friends. None of those loose ties. I’m
talking about the friends who know you’ll need decaff, no onions in
your sandwich, absolutely only KFC with the ketchup, and remember it each and every time.

– Not all battles are worth fighting. About a year ago I wished
for something worth fighing for. A strange wish, perhaps, but always good to have something to aspire towards.

Fear – (the unlearning of).

Fun – Frankly, it’s hard to do anything without the element of fun.  School can be fun, work can be fun. Why drag your feet everyday to  what you’re doing? The best stuff is when you can say “Look, no chains.. I’m here because I want to be.”

Freedom – Of speech, of love, of life. Freedom to be yourself.

This is what distinguishes the older cultures of other societies and ours. Acceptance of
diversity. Freedom to be and to deviate from the norm. We aspire after all the glorious products of a vibrant society but we fear the ills that come with it. Why?

(Finding) Time

Lastly, I think one of the best gifts you can give someone this Christmas is your time.

Time flies. It’s been two years since the magic of walking through a 5th avenue
Christmas struck, and watching the first snowflakes fall. Somehow there is a really strong visual correlation between Christmas and snow for me, such is the power of commercialization.

Merry Christmas.



We are each given the chance to leave a unique imprint on the world. What will be yours?

I wish I could touch & change lives, positively.

“I don’t want people who want to dance, I want people who have to dance.” ~George Balanchine

p.s: head on over to the HP Facebook page here to check it out! 🙂

30th May2009

Communication Thoughts Case #1: Crisis Comms & Mainstream Media [updated]

by Dorothy

Case #1: H1N1 in Singapore

So the lowdown, as it literally unfolded on the web…..
The news broke on Twitter early in the morning. Something along the lines of this happened on my Twitter timeline. I will have to tell you that upon seeing the flight number, age of patient and time of arrival, my heart literally sank. For reasons disclosed right below in this post. For one, these people involved are my friends and faculty. Yes, I am from SMU. Yes, I know these guys personally. No, I was not and did not go on the trip. No, you will not get any personal contact numbers/info from me. Especially if I don’t know you. The keyword here used repeatedly is personal. Although given the conversations, the press has already been remarkably active in emails and the likes in trying to reach the students on the trip. Impressive but fyi did not make you particularly popular with them. There is a difference between a message that says ” Are you okay? i’m worried about you.” and “Are you okay? I want to tell x number of other people about this story!“. And people can tell.

Some good lessons:

It’s good to have a crisis communications plan in place.

Bottomline, in this case, I and any number of other people had pointed all queries back to our university’s Corp Comms office. I think in any organization, if there had not been any prior briefings, there might have been all manner of untruths out there because people’s assumptions are being taken as truth when a random sampling of opinions of people not even involved is sought. It is only natural that in times of breaking news, those in the relevant organization will be contacted for their opinions. If you are in the PR/communications department, do you have a contingency plan in place to address this scenario? Are you actively aware of what is being said about your brand/service/employees, etc?

Also, in SMU, we are kept constantly updated about what is being said about us in the news. Apart from the daily alerts about the general mentions of the school that every single student receives, the NY BSM students get forwarded articles in which the class is mentioned. This means that I have a gist of the articles that were previously written about the NY BSM in the news so I roughly know the database of information that the journalists have access to. Do you think this could be extended to become a practice in any other organization or company? I sure think so. This is useful information and at the very least, at least those in the communications department should all be aware of the past coverage on their organization. If only because that’s probably going to be the one of the starting points of reference when any research is going to be carried out on a new article.

Mainstream Media

I cannot believe that people from the various media bodies are just randomly calling up any SMU student they know, asking if they are a NY BSM student (the New York cohort has always been carefully pre-selected from hundreds of applicants) and expecting them to cough up personal contact numbers. You call me, I can totally understand why, given I could very well have been on that trip, and even on that plane, if I had decided to cut short my extension. But random shots in the dark? There has to be a better way to go about doing this. Also, please, try not to do the media version of ambulance chasing.

I also feel a bit like the papers put words in our mouths. I said nothing of the sort of being scared of contracting the virus as appeared in the papers. Which normal human being would want to get it? Yes, that might have been one of the reasons but if I didn’t say it, should it even be taken as fact? A sentence generic enough to be believable was assumed, and stated as true. The same thing happened in a past interview in the New Paper, in an article where I was interviewed about Twitter. Classic “I don’t remember saying that” situation and a feeling of being misquoted ensued. Nevertheless, this is still remains a small issue in comparison with the fact that a certain publication has named the student, something that I am truly disappointed about.

I have heard that there have been other cases of our students in this BSM class being “misquoted” in the papers. I have nothing more to say except that this only breeds even more mistrust so it is highly unlikely that I will speak to any reporter that I do not know personally in future situations that may be similar, simply because I cannot trust them to do the right thing.

As for finding out the actual identity of the student….If you need a visual analogy, the point is that when someone has fainted on the road, they need oxygen. All of the bystanders standing around cramming and trying to sneak a peek simply cuts off that supply. The student has asked not to be named. We want to respect that. If you were close enough to know who it was, close enough to care, you would have already known who it was. If not, let’s just give her some space

I noticed to date from all the coverage that a certain paper has named her – was that honestly necessary? She’s in stable condition, the rest who have taken tests in the States have all tested negative so far. Plenty of other people are arriving from business trips and holidays from the States everyday, maybe someone was sick but didn’t have the courage to head straight to a doctor precisely because they were fearful of having to deal with the media attention and repercussions. Maybe this was the most newsworthy angle? We want names when we want to find out who won the match, sports, elections. I am not sure how everyone benefits from the naming of the student in this case, because it seems to cause more stress for her from the media attention, and honestly does nothing much more for others not personally involved. And yes, I am disappointed as well in whoever it was that volunteered her name to the press. I will not add on anymore because these posts pretty much sum up what many people are talking about privately.

Real Time Search & Information dissemination

So. After the news spreads on Twitter, CNA site crashes due to the influx of traffic (everyone wants to know what’s going on). < Aside: The geek in me wonders about the wonders of cloud computing and why crashes still occur when scalability was promised, maybe they are not hosted on the cloud? Not my area, maybe someone can explain.> Then there was the Today online article. And then, there was the Straits Times version, and SMU’s prompt follow up.

The news is live, information added as people are doing their jobs and filling in the blanks very impressively. Retweets/replurks on H1N1 in Singapore are fast and furious. Not just on Twitter, but on several discussion threads on Plurk. And many more in the other news publications.

Ironically, the Google and Twitter face-off in the real time search space has never been more apparent than this. Twitter was all aflutter with the links to the news article about the first case. Google search results kept returning the ironic link to “SIngapore still free of H1N1” as top post no less. Something to chew on then, for the Googlers, if they want to retain all slices of the search pie. Quite different to read about North American examples of breaking the news, and to experience our own local Singaporean version. Digital ethnography at it’s best, then.

Full disclaimer:
I am the teaching assistant for the NY BSM class that was mentioned in the news. Our business study mission is one of THE best modules that we have at SMU, and in the case of the New York BSM, a chance at global exposure to some of the major media conglomerates in New York and interaction with people in the industry. No, I did not go to New York like I was slated to. For personal reasons, and after discussions with key stakeholders in my life. All these opinions expressed are my own. Thank you to friends who dropped a note and were genuinely concerned and thankful that I did not travel out.

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16th Mar2009

A Different Kind of Currency

by Dorothy

With headlines about the bleak state of the economy dominating the news, it is quite difficult not to feel discouraged about the situation. Nevertheless, here are a couple of links to some good reads.

A different kind of currency
Lets talk about a different kind of currency, one that is not financial, but financially linked.

Will Online Volunteers Transform Our Economic Recovery?
Josh Bernoff is the co-author of “
Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies“.

“A pessimist sees value erosion. But the value’s not gone, it’s just different. The consumer/creators get paid for their contribution in love, admiration, pride and a sense of belonging.”

“The online social world is driven by free, volunteer activity. Now add a horde of unemployed and underemployed digital talent, both those laid off and new college graduates who, when they reach the doorstep of the job market, find a sign that says “Sorry, We’re Closed.” While they wait for better jobs to appear, they’re going to invent online tools that supplant the current ones — tools whose modus vivendi is emotional, not financial.”

You know you truly have someone’s passion when they would be doing it for free anyway. Intrinsic motivation is hard to beat, easier to sustain in the long run. Will we see a surplus of innovative tools as digital talent fuel the volunteer economy? Only time will tell.

What people want – a “good job”
Here is another read on
Global Migration Patterns and Job Creation.
The article details that what people really aspire for is a good job. Given that employment levels are at an all time high, there are no surprises there. As the world moves beyond the basic needs in Maslow’s hierarchy, it is only natural that other qualitative factors come into play in determining one’s fulfillment in life.

This article makes for a good manifesto that leaders of countries, education, lawmakers, military leaders, amongst the few listed, could look into, as we try and move out from the current crisis. It also looks into the driving forces behind global migration and how best to tap into this trend of mobile talent.

“Love and work are the cornerstones of our humanness.” Work is crucial to every adult human because work holds within it the soul of the relationship of one citizen to one government and one country. The most important World Poll discovery, so far, is that the primary driver of almost everyone is a “good job.” This particular condition relates to net migration in high-income countries and GDP growth in low-income countries, but it is also a core influence of elections, revolution, and war.”

“…A successful team of global leaders will need both state-of-the-art classic economics, such as GDP, inflation, population, and birth rates and state-of-the-art behavioral economics, such as law and order, citizen engagement, and well-being to affect the migration patterns of the most talented people and create the next global economic empire.”

Time for a “less selfish” capitalism?
The concept of progress is questioned in this article.

“…despite massive wealth creation, happiness has not risen since the 1950s in the US or Britain or (over a shorter period) in western Germany. No researcher questions these facts. So accelerated economic growth is not a goal for which we should make large sacrifices. In particular, we should not sacrifice the most important source of happiness, which is the quality of human relationships – at home, at work and in the community. We have sacrificed too many of these in the name of efficiency and productivity growth.”

love_currencyThese reads were pretty thought provoking for me, and I do wonder how this situation we are all in will play out. Of particular interest for me would be how technology can help to connect talent around the world, so that physical migration is no longer necessary.

The reasons are, of course partially personal, and ones that I will expand on in future posts!

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07th Mar2009

The “Difference” Factor – Why it matters…and why it does not

by Dorothy

Here, Guy Kawasaki talks about the Harvard’s admission process, an alternative take on an educational institution that one normally assumes does not have to pro actively reach out to get applicants.

Full disclaimer: I am currently schooling in a tertiary institution in Singapore.

Having said that, I am not going to engage in one of those comparison posts. I do not want to compare, because one cannot do so if one has not been in any of the other major universities in Singapore. What you hear about the various institutions is probably true, but remember that perception largely depends on who is perceiving it. It would be prudent to see if the source of an opinion is of a similar personality to yourself, or is similar enough for you to think that a similar experience would result if you attended X institution. Just because your best friend’s niece loved a certain school and excelled while being in it, does not guarantee the same for yourself. But then again, what do you know when you’re around 18 to 20 years of age? 🙂

The institutional salience filter: Labeling Theory

Obviously, labels make a difference. I suppose, to a certain extent, all these labeling issues will always be around. Here’s a take from the article on Harvard.

“What we aim to do is to get the very best faculty together with the very best students,” he says. “Our hope is that these synergies will develop the talents of these students to a much greater degree and that they will then give back a lot more to America and the world.”

That is their promise, and that is the edge that Harvard students get in their first impressions. I suppose the general rule of thumb is, never, ever in a situation to introduce yourself as being from a certain institution and stop there, expecting that that alone will entitle you to anything. Where you are from at most gives you an edge, it is not a reason for anyone to hire you.

Another thing, it is not just the student cohort that makes any institution different. It is also the gatekeepers, the ones selecting who gets to be in the institution, both at an administrative, faculty and student level. It is the industry, the ones who come into contact with those associated with an institution that will perpetuate the external brand image of the typical character found in that institution. It is the school “culture”.

Why I am loving where I am/have been
Totally awesome modules like the Business Study Mission (I’m New York Dec’07), Digital Media Across Asia (here’s what we’re building for the community), opportunities for Student Exchange Programs (GO HOOS! UVA) are amongst the things that I will cherish in my undergraduate life.

A whole multitude of other opportunities are out there when potential students come in, for anyone keen to take them up. These come in the forms of the various CCA clubs, Case Competitions, Overseas Community projects, bond free scholarships. And most of all, the hunger and drive that is in the student cohorts. So there are many chances for you to learn, and also to give back. There are many chances for you to step out of your comfort zone and grow.

Of course, you could choose not to participate in any of these, and just exist as a normal undergraduate.

What I am advocating
Take a more proactive stance in your education. The pedagogy is not entrenched in stone, neither is the syllabus, neither is your educational route. The opportunities are out there, it is up to you to find those that have the best fit with who you want to become. There is also nothing wrong with stumbling into something that you find you are good at.

Open House
I have to say I am loving the experiment into Web 2.0 elements in this year’s Open House Campaign with blogs and the like, but there are just too many things going on in the front landing page of the website, completely overwhelming the viewer. Where do I start?

Their Photoshopped signages in the advertorial campaigns need much more work. Take the cue from Industrial Light Magic when they created Star Wars, and realized that a bit of dirt on their shiny spaceships made it seem that much more realistic. The signs are too clean, too glossy, too distant. On a random note, the signs are also mostly significant only to those already in the institution, who outside would know that they are part of the school architecture? Then again, maybe that was a good way for the campaign to build up the rapport from within the school and not just be outward orientated.

To those contemplating admission…
I guess to sum up, I hope that if you are “different” in terms of what you have to offer to your future counterparts in school, you will come. Don’t expect mere admission into an institution to give you that differential edge. The sooner you realize that the world does not owe you anything, the sooner you can change your strategies towards getting what you aspire towards in life. And the good thing about it is, there are now multiple channels open to you (that are also less socially stigmatized).

To the graduated/graduating…
It is myopic to say that this issue does not concern you, just because you are graduating. In some ways, you are affected by the current cohort in school. You should be very concerned about the kind of people that your alma mater is accepting. It’s heartening to see the Student Association asking if seniors should be invovled in the admission process. This concept has was what they envisioned for the LCKSP program, I wonder if it would be possible school-wide.

There you go. I couldn’t be there physically to help out, but at the end of the day, I am thankful for my institution for shaping me into who I have become today.

Be Great.
So yes to being different, even though I still cringe slightly when people talk about it.

But even more so to being great. Some of the most amazing people around still haven’t got a clue about what they would be doing in 5 years time, but they are great at what they do currently and they continue to strive for this.

Focus not so much on being different (it is possible to be different in a wrong way), just take the time to find out what you excel in, and simply, be great at doing that.

Live or merely exist; the choice is yours.

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14th Jan2009

Quit: It’s not just another four letter word.

by Dorothy

Sometimes in life, issues float about in your mind, and then someone goes and summarizes it in a succinct blog post that pretty much encapsulates most of what I am thinking about.
So, read the post; read my mind.

“People often mistake my love for simplicity, however, as a love for inactivity. Nothing could be further from the truth. The goal of my philosophy is to keep significant percentages of your time unscheduled. That is, not dedicated to work.I define work to be anything that requires a non-trivial amount of your time and attention by a given deadline.

When I say you should quit something this semester, I mean that you should quit something that generates work.”

I have always had an affinity for education and the processes that go behind it. I watch as well-meaning campaigns by the Ministry of Education in Singapore (Teach Less, Learn More, anyone?) somewhat fail to be properly executed, possibly because of the lack of conviction and support by the generally pragmatic citizen. There is nothing wrong with practicality, but if we are to move beyond being merely efficient in our execution and towards a more idea generating economy, we honestly need to make time and room for change to occur.

I am not the type of girl to sit in a room and read about the world. Of course, I do that at times, but not all the time. I want to be out there, seeing for myself. I need to be out there. I’d written some time ago about how learning occurs best outside of a physical classroom. Why confine the process to only the time and things that are in a ‘classroom’, in the most traditional sense of the word?

This is how I found myself somewhat alone right after high school, away from my direct family and pretty much ‘stranded’. (One honestly cannot survive without a car overseas.)
This is how I found myself trying out completely new and complementary complimentary fields of study and institutions. (Insanely tough to switch mindsets between different fields, but they are all a part of me to a certain extent now.)
This is how I found myself navigating up to Class 5 rapids whitewater rafting (I can’t swim to save my life and I hate sports! Turns out it was pretty fun and I am still alive, obviously.)
And of course, the latest satisfaction of my life – If I really want to do something, I will. (Like I said last December, by hook or by crook, some creative rearrangements thrown in.)

That inspirational post of the moment ends it up nicely with the following:

“To me, the ideal student lifestyle has classes, one or two work-generating pursuits that are receiving longterm attention, and copious amounts of unscheduled time left for exploration. If you’re doing nothing, or, much more likely, if you’re doing too much, you’re at risk for getting stuck in a stress-inducing, non-impressive, busy-work saturated rut.

So start your semester off right. Reduce the amount of work in your life. Then go live it.”

I would say you just need to arm yourself with curiousity. Get out there and let life do the rest.

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03rd Jan2009

The Marshmellow Test

by Summerisque

What is your marshmellow? I was first exposed to this phrase during a talk in the last quarter of 2008.

Some excerpts from the above linked article:The character traits highlighted by The Marshmallow Test persist in adult life. They effect our performance in every area. Once you start looking for them, it’s easy to spot the “marshmallows” in our professional — and personal — lives. They are the activities which give us immediate gratification — but undermine longer-range benefits.

The desire to please everyone is a “marshmallow” for the manager who let’s herself be “interrupt-driven” . To get those immediate smiles or words of praise, she spends the better part of each day responding to random requests to do this or that, help this person or that one — and never gets around to pursuing her own projects. She needs to occasionally shut the door, have the calls screened, and focus on the greater gratification of achieving long-range goals.

The current “cash cow” may be a “marshmallow” for the CEO who just wants to continue milking profits from “what’s always worked and is still working for us.” In failing to push his people to explore new products and services, he may undermine the organization’s capacity to keep its edge in the future.

Successful people have developed habits which overcome the marshmallow temptation: Self-Restraint, Focus, Prioritizing, the Long-Range View. The marshmallow test is a telling way to catch people’s attention for a presentation on these strategies, which are so essential to success.

Suffice to say, ever since then, or rather, ever since then I have been aware of how I have been administering my own variation of the Marshmallow Test, and of course taking it in some form of another in different situations. I’ve watched as we’ve failed, I’ve watched as we’ve stumbled, I’ve watched as we’ve passed the test. It’s funny, but I probably scored higher on this test as a child and a teenager.

Conspicuously absent from this site will be the resolution list for 2009, either the to-do list, or the stop-doing list. Let’s just say that it always helps to know exactly what you want (or what you don’t want)…because how else would you be able to recognize it if it were right in front of you?

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness; it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity; it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness; it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair; we had everything before us, we had nothing before us; we were all going directly to Heaven, we were all going the other way.”

—  Charles Dickens. A Tale of Two Cities.

p1071410My favourite quote of the moment – Only when we are no longer afraid; do we begin to live

Here’s to 2009.

06th Dec2008

This is Your life; Are you who you want to be?

by Dorothy

This is a rather belated Thanksgiving post, and also one that has been sitting in the draft folder for far too long.

On another note, I love Ben Casnocha! Simply because his writing is so interesting and he always puts forth a critical argument that allows you to view the world from a different perspective. I’ve been following his posts for a while now, and fully intend to continue.

So here is one of his gems, Make an Extraordinary Effort. It dawned on me that just making that effort makes all the difference in everything we do.

Making the effort, and being fueled by enthusiasm. One of the quotable quotes I remember from Troy Chin’s talk at our BSM class last year was that people could “smell” his enthusiasm for the music industry. How true. I do not know if it is by coincidence that Seth Godin also blogged about effort two days before Ben, but there you go, another person that is a good read, for an entirely different perspective on the same topic, all about the same time.

I wish I could say that I could go through life sustained on my own enthusiasm, maybe more so in the past, but hardly the case of late.
I draw a lot of motivation from the inspiring people around me. Sometimes, we may not even have similar mindsets, opinions, nor interests, but the fact that they are so driven, drives me too, during times that I feel like faltering. There is nothing more discouraging than being all fired up for a purpose, and then having your enthusiasm fall on deaf ears. I really really hate that.

The new recent Gladwell article on late bloomers and genius can be found here.
He says that, “The Cézannes of the world bloom late not as a result of some defect in character, or distraction, or lack of ambition, but because the kind of creativity that proceeds through trial and error necessarily takes a long time to come to fruition.

For me, implicitly that suggests effort, because you have to keep doing it, keep making tweaks to make things work. That’s what trial and error means.

So, to the people around me, from all walks of life, who keep me going.
For all these years, for all these months.
For your gift of time.
And company.
And opinions.
And shoulders.
And love.

Thank you for making me who I am.
I keep trying, because.

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05th Dec2008

Education 2.0/3.0 – Permission to think, Sir?

by Dorothy

Another post on education, while I can still write from the perspective of being officially in the system!

Educational Myths?

So, here are several of the educational myths that have been floating around for years. Perhaps myths is not the word that is most apt. Beliefs?

1. Asians are smarter than Westerners.
Asians score better on tests than Westerns. Almost all social psychology texts will milk this example to death. Studies have shown that just telling Westerners that they are going to take a test and be compared to Asians apparently triggers stereotype threat, and causes them to do worse on a test. Interesting.

2. Asians are less creative than Westerners.
And they typically blame it on the rote learning most Asian children are subjected to. Honestly, this is a horrible generalization. Just look at Japan. It is a world of it’s own and anyone who has ever been there and even try to figure out why half the inventions actually made it to market will testify to that. They have amazing things going on there, and they are Asian.

3. Art is only for those who cannot make it into the Science stream.
My personal pet peeve, because I see no reason why people can’t be good at both. May I point skeptics towards this recent article from the Financial Times on what the MBA curriculum looks set to incorporate in the future. Assuming that those who are accepted into an MBA program are supposed to be of a certain caliber, and assuming that those who designed the program are also not merely of average intelligence, all I ask is that the creative/art aspect gets the respect it deserves. It is not to say that one is better than the other, but I honestly believe that all disciplines are complementary, so lets drop the segregation already!

4. And of course, the age old discourse – to memorize or not to memorize, which Daryl and Mark have written on as well. If you ask me, this as a topic is exceedingly close to our hearts to generate all these thoughts amongst other Singaporeans. When I first read the RWW article, it just resonated with me, as a student. Judging from the offline conversations that I’ve had recently and all the other posts floating around in the blogosphere, I don’t think I am alone in this. We sat through a system where basically one hadhas to turn into a sponge, and the more you can get in and regurgitate later, the better, never mind if you truly understood it or not. Why else would our Chinese corrections in high school be instructions to copy the same sentence 10 times over?
(P.s Quick tip: If you tie a couple of pens together, this makes the task faster. I am proud to say I can handle up to 3 pens at one go. Align them properly to fit the lines and you’re good. Blank paper works best because then you don’t have to worry about misalignment. But I digress. 🙂 )


My point is, with the growing knowledge base of information out there, it is becoming increasingly difficult to know everything. Actually, it is not difficult, it is impossible. Yes, there should be a basic “syllabus” that all children ought to go through, but beyond that, is rote learning and memorization all that essential? I would rather be trained in the methods to help me deal with the various kinds of information, and to analyze what is out there. I cannot fathom why academic journals are sometimes written in such complex ways when the entire research finding could (and is) summarized beautifully in the abstract paragraph. I would rather be trained to be able to think and discern between a valid argument and one that is unsound.

On the flip side, I have to say that sometimes it is not good to focus too much and gripe about the fact that memorization is needed. Sometimes, it is the discipline that goes on behind it, the rigor and persistence of having to deal with and master all that material – that is the real lesson. So it is not really exactly what you are memorizing, but rather, the process that you are going through that you are supposed to learn from.

Also, not everyone has the same level of that need for cognition. And that is fine, because everyone should know themselves best and what they are comfortable with. There is no need to pressurize students into taking all sorts of creative thinking classes and try to force creativity into (or out of) them. It really does not work that way. Provide the channels, provide the tools, and those who enjoy it will naturally make use of what they have learnt. I’m also rather hesitant to box in or label what creativity does and does not entail because that seems to go against what it intrinsically stands for. Everyone can be creative in their own ways. Problem solving is creative. Producing an art work is creative. Writing a story or poem is creative. There is no one definition.

I think that the phrase, “Use it, or lose it“, pretty much sums up everything. If you are going to memorize it, make sure you use it, or it is just going to be lost. An ideal educational system for me combines the best aspects of both rote learning, and creative thinking, allowing for a fluid flexibility and hopefully creating diverse opinions amongst the student population. It is not inspiring to talk to one student, and find out that all of them think the same way. That’s great if you only want a nation of doers, but we definitely need much more than that, going into the future. It is also a psychological weakness, because you(all) become too predictable.

From the abovementioned FT article –
We do think it is important for pedagogical reasons to do something different. We need to create a little space for people, to really get people to open up and think more reflectively and critically,” says David Bach, academic director of the international MBA programme at IE business school in Madrid, and professor of strategy and economic environment.

If you want a generation of thinkers to emerge and lead the country, please provide them with space to think. Train them to think.
I don’t have to ask that you allow them to think, because, once they know how to, I believe that they are going to engage in it regardless of what anyone says.

..Your thoughts?

My previous posts on education here.

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01st Dec2008

My Halloween ’09: UBS Young Womens’ Leadership Connection

by Dorothy

I spent my evening in perhaps what the majority may find a rather unorthodox place to celebrate Halloween, but it was time well spent. It was an evening of sharing and learning, and taking the class out of the classroom always elicits thoughts that only a new mental environment can.

It started off with a light cocktail dinner high up above at the very swanky UBS lounge overlooking the glittering citylights.
It ended with those who stayed long enough going for a visit to the trading floor, oddly quiet because the shift had been passed on to the other side of the globe. Still, the room was flooded with multiple computer screens, and huge plasma TVs on the wall reported the news of the night silently.

What happened in the middle? …On to the main part of the night!
The talk was great. It did not focus solely on the feminist viewpoint as the title might lead one to think, but rather, on a quiet confidence of a panel of females(and male) who have grown into their own, and were willing to share their experiences openly.

Some gems from the night:

  • Being True to yourself
  • Happiness– with small successes as well as your big ones.
  • Strength(s) of a woman

Negotiation – With a knowledge and innate sense of what both sides are thinking, a lot of women end up being very successful negotiators. I suppose integrative solutions are always out there for one to find. In addition, a “Can Do” attitude. When it’s down to the wire, a woman will do what it takes – to support her family, to support herself.

  • Overcoming Your own barriers – Do the gender barriers exist only in your mind?

One of the advice for the young ladies present was to find an industry that is so fast changing, that tradition has not had the chance to take root. Interesting.

  • Jobs, Priorities & Decisions – What to do?

One of the phrases uttered by the panel really resonated with me. How they talked about “stumbling into” many of the opportunities that allowed them to become the people they are today.

Perhaps this theme would have been pertinent to all who are about to graduate, and trying to figure out what to do. What to do with themselves.

As always, Ben Casnocha has a gem of a post on uncertainty in life.

I would add that if you don’t regularly feel utterly confused, if you don’t occasionally feel like you’re treading just above water, if you don’t ever feel misunderstood, then you probably aren’t living in life — you’re just observing it.”

The question was raised during the conference – What then, is the responsible thing to do? Find your dream & follow that? Circumstantial living?

I find change invigorating. I’ve been professionally diagnosed that change has the same effect as rest on myself. But sometimes, too much change, too fast, too soon, can wear anyone (myself most certainly included) out.

We live in exciting times. As Gerald Chan, country head of UBS, mentioned, Mores are constantly shifting. Even in the new millennium (for in the grander scale of things, we have only just begun), issues of race, gender and identity are still salient. The media no doubt have already honed in on the race issue after Obama’s historic win. What’s next? A female president to lead the United States?

I don’t see why not.

p.s: In light of the subject of this post, I really have to share some related social media girl-power links!

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