The last few weeks have been a constant flow of changes after changes.
Work wise, a bunch of changes appeared out of nowhere.
Our team’s service manager, Kim, left our group to join another group with just around two weeks of notice. Just as my team was prepping for her transfer, our director moved on as well. Both departures in such a short timeframe shook the foundations of the group.
One thing that did came out from these was that I was asked to take over as the interim service manager till the group replaces both headcounts. I’ve jokingly said that now i have two jobs’ work that i can delegate to my team 8).
On the personal note, both Sharon and I were shocked to hear our dearest grandniece, Tracy, having to undergo some urgent surgeries. We were constantly pinging our nieces for updated information on how Tracy’s recovery is going on.
A few more days and nights in our new place and i think we’re slowly getting used to the additional space that this place has. Sharon and I joked about how much walking we have to do from the bedroom to the kitchen, and how it might become another diet “weapon” as it’ll discourage us from thinking of midnight snacks etc.
TV and cable internet are still pending, and as part of a promo, we'll be getting the full cable channels for the first time since 2005. Sharon gets to watch her Food Network and those home improvement programs yet again.
In the meanwhile, we are catching up on all the Stephen Chow movie DVDs that my buddy Ryan purchased for me in China. We even (re)discovered some of the inner-jokes that Stephen left in his movies that could only be possible in a marathon viewing like this. Just don’t ask me to view his CJ7 again!
Just before we settled in, i took a quick video, and it’s available for viewing here.
Perhaps our experience in moving four places in the last 5+ years, on top of the biggest move in the relocation from Singapore, this move was frankly speaking the fastest and the smoothest ever.
Our regular purging of old stuffs to charity organizations (Goodwill, Children Hospital etc) resulted in only the essential stuffs around. The luxury stuffs such as soft toys, video games, and an unexplainable number of USB cables were also compressed and optimized to the absolute necessary ones.
We overestimated the work required and invited my whole team, and moodyone to assist in the move. Sharon also arranged for our ex-landlord to assist as he has a huge truck and is an experienced contractor dealing with houses etc. We also did a few initial rounds of moving some of the stuffs over, and by the time the invited help came, the old place was practically empty!
The new place also was a factor in it, being on the ground floor, and a huge living room door that allowed for the dinner table, sofa set, TV etc came in within 10 mins. The handimen in Andrew and Kim’s husband also helped in assembling the bed frame and my most hated object in our belongings, the Ikea computer table. Both took less than 15 mins to assemble something that would have cost me 2-3 days and hours of cursing and swearing!
Sharon and I are joking about the unique layout of the new apartment. I even used “workflow” as a term to describe how the layout is impacting our usual workflow in getting in and out of the house. Probably just need more time to get used to it i guess.
We’re going to move to another place yet again. That’s the shortest we’ve ever stayed in a place since moving over to US.
Called up my team and the moodyone to help to move stuffs over, but we’re pretty experienced by now !
Via Reddit, i joined in the donation drive, and got a matching donation by the company for the Haiti earthquake. A grin after i read Mr Brown’s post on the significant donation by the government back home.
Once we’re settled down, we’ll share some photos of the lovely sight of the lake nearby (we wish we’re THAT near!).
Sharon shared her thoughts after a 2.5 year period away from it, and here’s mine…
I feel that the combination of smaller portions,lower quality food, and a lower level of service personnel made the food experience a total loss across the board. Hawker centers,housing estate coffee-shops, air-conditioned food courts, restaurants all gave me the same kind of feeling: a sense of loss of what used to be good.
Two examples that reiterated how it is nowadays:
1) A well-known second-generation stir-fry prawn noodle stall has either a branch or a franchise (most likely) in the neighborhood mall, and Sharon wanted to get a taste of a dish she used to like.I went to the stall, and read a few of those typical newspapers/TV programmes’ photos on the display window. Those are getting quite common everywhere, but the signage about the 30+ years of family traditional way of cooking it surely wasn’t as common as the others.
I acknowledge the 30+ years, but looking at the hired folks that are obviously not in the “family” implied to me that it is no longer about the family anymore, but just another typical stall. Indeed, that was the case as i saw a hurriedly made dish amidst some cellphone usage to the workers’ contacts in a faraway land.
2) Every year that i’m back, i will visit the sinseh based in Chai Chee that helped my back to fully recover. Visiting Bedok central was part of the routine but hearing a Malay old lady screaming at a Muslim stall about buying nasi lemak was definitely not routine. I looked closer and saw that the worker at the stall didn’t understand what the Malay lady said in Malay. WTH? Indeed it was a foreign worker, probably a Chinese national, that was working there. Now that was a surprise to me, even though reciting the incident to my friend’s mother later indicated to me that this is also common even in Little India?
The saddest thing about this common experience between Sharon and myself is that the previously VERY IMPORTANT thing about local food is no longer a factor for us to yearn for a visit. That made us really sad and disappointed.
I’m guessing the immediate visit of Japan before Singapore and the focus of quality of food, service, and experience might have given me a tinted pair of glasses, but looking at how much changes in the last 12 months made me wonder about what have occurred?
Edit: Just after posting this, i saw a report on the Serangoon Road restaurants here..
PS: Happy new year to you all!
Due to some regrettable issues in India last year, i didn’t attend the conference at the very last minute. In fact, i was already in Japan, on my way to India via Singapore, when i was told it’s not advisable to do so.
An aborted first attempt at going to Japan this year gave me some worries. On the way from Seattle, as the plane went near midway, it turned back due to, according to the pilot, hydraulics problem. That was the third conference trip in a row with travel issues. I scared the heck out of Sharon when i came home knocking on the door, and made Kim laughed so much as she cannot believe my luck!
The next day, same ground crew, same flight crew, same co-travelers and lots of humor on the flight as we all joked about the aborted trip.
Travelling separately on different airlines was always something that i recommend when my team travel, and Ian luckily went through on the first attempt, though me being missing-in-action at the Narita airport gave him some first-visit challenges that he addressed admirably.
After reaching Kyoto, Ian and i did some touring around the city and i thought that it was a beautiful city indeed. Some of the food we tried was so exquisite and tasty, and I'm sure my second trip there together with Sharon will be full of such visits to restaurants that make variations of tofu, one of Sharon’s favorite food.
The conference report by the last year’s hosts indicated that they did the best efforts and the board appreciated that.
For this year’s conference, i was honored to be assigned a few activities to assist the AVAR organization with. A session chair, a informal panel discussion with ISVs as one of the directors for AVAR, and a joint paper presentation about the service that I'm handling.
Papers-wise, there was an abundance of top quality papers and it was the first time ever we had two tracks in this conference. It resulted in some tight time management challenges, and made Randy missed Ian and my presentation on the service. We had to do a separate 10-minute version just for him, which Nick Fitzgerald came by and commented something like “you reminiscing a bit about this”.
The presentation on reverse engineering on paper (really!) was one of the most unique presentation on the subject, while the various cloud presentations gave me a lot of things to think about. The translation services were top-notch too and even the humor came through.
The gala dinner showcased Kyoto’s culture. Some geizhas sang and danced, while i think the highlight of the dinner was the traditional drumming performed by a guy with his back towards us. His back went from a healthy tan to a back flushed with redness! Later on, his second act highlighted his left biceps, and fellow gala attendees indicated that they were too focused on his muscles.
As part of the tradition, there was a series of award presentations for the sponsors and three individual awards. Another colleague won his second award and i was honored to get an award for best AVAR member for the year. Ian and Kim forced me to bring the awards into office. A photo of the trophy and award is on flickr too.
At the end of the conference, it was also decided that the 2010 conference will be hosted in Bali, Indonesia. Looks like it’s already going to be one of the most anticipated conferences for most of this year’s attendees already! I wonder if i’ll be attending that!
Edit: added some links to a fellow delegate’s photos.
Today was the release of the new version of our flagship product.
I remembered the last two flagship product launches in my tenure in the company. Started with a huge amount of manual work, and multiple OSes to handle the first launch, while automation work helped to reduce the manual work, though a first attempt at an end-to-end automated service proved to need lots of supervision than expected.
With lots of lessons learnt from the past, a lot of preemptive work was made by folks on my team, and i am happy that the team effort was recognized. There’s a twinge of regret that some of the team members no longer work with the company, though at no choice nor fault from them.
I’ve been using it on my two netbooks and i’ve been loving it. On my work laptop with a SSD, it is literally flying!
And on the topic of food again, a recently discovered good place to have hot Szechuan food was shut down; two days after i’ve brought my team there for a team lunch!
We even joked about the fact that their food was all filled with enough heat and spices that all sources of contamination were totally killed!
To our horror, we found recently another Chinese restaurant was shut down for another issue, just as we were planning to visit there to get some dim sum.
Coupled with the fact that another long-timer closed due to tax reasons, at the rate that restaurants are closed, food sources stopped, we might have to start eating potatoes!
It’s been a trend that i’ve been noticing at the Asian supermarket chains. It’s troubling me somewhat that it is a repro-able process.
Going through some of the archives on this blog, i can easily find at least four instances. The Thai dried cuttlefish was the first.
Then after the food scare from China went the black bean fish, which looks like this small little picture that i was able to find:
Then it was Brahim’s Beef rendang paste. Luckily, it came back… and i bought a full dozen of it!
Then it was an Indonesian Sambal Belachan chilly.
Most recently, and in the prior post, the Prima Taste range of mixes, from Singapore curry to Laksa… the only one that was usually left on the shelves is the Satay mix. Probably the “local” Singaporeans all know it’s impossible to do satay right with the meat we can find here.
Turns out that at the most recent attempt to get the curry paste, i found about 8 cans of the belachan chilly, and i swept all into our shopping cart. It’ll probably be gone and no longer replenished the next time we go there.
Interestingly, Sharon’s fave Nescafe 3-in-1 coffee mix, the one particular SKU she likes, isn’t available here. Guess what i have to fill in my luggage whenever i fly back to Singapore? 8)
At the rate it’s going, pretty soon we’ll run out of any close resemblance of the food we used to have in the island country. Then we’ll really start to live like a local!
It had been a while since we gotten our hands on the Singapore curry chicken premixed paste, and repeated visits to two of the local Asian supermarket chains did not result in us getting them. It just seems like they are not longer available here!
So i went online and did some Binging, and some Googling, and so on… and found some California-based sites having some of the range of the Prima Taste products, but not the curry chicken paste.
After a few more days of longing and constant searching for it, i found their online site and made an order of a bunch of the curry paste, and some of the char kway teows. Turned out that after including shipping and handling, the price per box was only about 50 cents to a dollar more than what i paid for here.
A quick email from Prima notified us of the shipment and two days later, i already received a “missed delivery” from the courier service. Somehow or rather, they again decided not to leave the package at the door, even after my signature was placed on the first delivery slip.
Sharon and I decided to rush to the courier company to pick them up, and with the help of the GPS on my phone, away we did.
Rushed there right near their closing time, and we finally got our hands on the two boxes. Sharon was so anxious about it that we opened the boxes up to make sure we got the right items, and we did!
We went straight to the supermarket, and purchased the chicken drumsticks, the potatoes, the bean curd skins, and some nice French loaves and made a big bowl of curry the next evening.
Needless to say, we were happy.
Cross-ocean flights twice in a month that is. I’m not a frequent flyer by any definition, but it just seems that in the last three years, i’ve been doing flights like SEA-NRT-SIN twice in a very short period of time.
At least this time, it’s somewhat of a minor variant, in that my first trip will be to Tokyo & Kyoto to attend and co-present in a conference. I am happy to be chosen to do some additional duties for the conference as well.
Somehow, this trip is going to become a beta testing ground for the second trip, with Sharon joining along to Tokyo, Kyoto & Osaka, and then back to Singapore for a short stay.
I’ve even bought a HK-made tourist book on Kyoto and its surround areas. I typically find the tour guidebooks made in Hong Kong or Taiwan to be much targeted towards pragmatic Asian travelers than the Lonely Planets or the Frommers.
It should be fun to be back again as well.Just heard the country now has almost 5 million people.. wow! Sharon has been away from Singapore for a long while, and should be quite a surprise for her. I know i did when i was last back there in December… walking along Orchard Road… @ @~ !!
I must be one of the folks that have the “luxury” of owning a PS3 Slim for the shortest amount of time.
Without thinking too much about using my Amazon gift vouchers, i pre-ordered a PS3 Slim and acquired a HDTV and tried out a few games.
If folks were complaining that the Nintendo Wii has no games,…. god knows what they’d say about this console then?
The funniest thing about my short experience with it is the fact that it copies so much from the PC/desktop concept. Download files… install files… run files… patch files…
I guess it is too much like a PC for me. Back to the Wii + DS for me… selling the PS3 Slim on Craiglist after a few failed internal offers.
Air Jordan he was.
During a workout session at the pro club, i noticed a bunch of guys all stopped their workouts and started gawking at the big projected screen in the weights area. Who else but Jordan and his highlight reels can captivate the audience like that?
Thinking back, regardless which basketball team you support, fans all celebrate the awesomeness of Jordan. Little did they know that height is not going to be attained anymore in the near future.
I quickly finished up my weights workout, and rushed to the cardio area where they have FM channels of the TV audio, and i started to listen to his speech. A few points caught my attention, and i like to share them.
First and foremost though, as typical of any issues in this country, there’s three major groups of opinion of his speech.
a) He’s a bitter and petty old man
b) He’s open and transparent about what motivates him to reach that level
c) He’s still the best player ever, and i don’t care about the speech
My take of him is (b). He shares his insights to what drove him day to day to beat his perceived enemies, with a twinge of (a).
One of the quotes he made was “The organization didn’t play with the flu in Utah”, which the subject of the quote made a clarification the next day. I bet the folks that “ignited” his drive felt bad that night too. That sentiment reflects some of the challenges that i see, and is something that though no longer disturb me, is creating some churn with the newer members of the teams, where they see others getting awarded and rewarded for the sweat and tears they put in.
The other quote i remembered was that some coach of his told him that there’s no I in team, but he rebuked with a “there’s an I in WIN!”. Oftentimes, though not applicable in Jordan’s games, people have to lower down to the lowest common denominator level in order to prevent being perceived as not a “team player”.
Another subject that he targetted also made a response. I let my team tell me who the counterpart for this is. 8)
As part of my effort to reduce clutter, i’ve been removing DVDs from their individual cases and putting them into a larger folder.
In an indirect link to one of my previous roles, it surprised me to see such a filmsy and light DVD case around:
The recycling logo i guess implies that this is a “green” dvd case. I don’t have a weighting scale to measure, but it’s at least 40% lighter than a standard case like this:
It probably also saves the film publisher a lot of money too in terms of reduced shipping costs around the world.
After a last minute aborted trip to Vegas a few years ago due to a system issue that my manager at that time decided to make me stay to handle, it has been a place that Sharon has been yearning to visit.
Finally this year, amidst the release of the new operating system, the system was stable enough to allow me to finally be gone for Vegas. And so we did…
We stayed at New York, New York, a pretty busy place that er… resembled New York… the room itself was fine, though the hotel did place us into a room that need a long and winding road before we reach it.
The weather was almost kind to us, except the Friday where it was over 110/43 degrees, and we felt that we were walking around in a open-air sauna.
We watched two Cirque du Soleil shows, namely O at the Bellagio, and The Beatles – Love at the Mirage. O was simply breathtaking and it was amazement after amazement from the beginning till the end, where the performers were greeted with a standing ovation. I don’t want to point to any spoilers, except to say that it’s worth a trip to Vegas just to watch it!
Having been so impressed with O, and with decades of admiration on The Beatles’ work, i was tempted to watch Love too. Sharon was kind enough to arrange for a summer promotional ticket price, and there we went!
The Love show was pretty entertaining, and tears of joy came down my cheek when i get to experience the Beatles’ music in such an arena. The show wasn’t as amazing as O, but i see it as a celebration of the love that fans all over the world have for this great band.
At the Mirage, prior to the show, we went to our first pub together in USA, the Revolution, based off the Beatles’ song. It was constantly playing songs from the band, and video clips of past media shows… a great little place.
There were some really nice touches, of audio clips of the band and some nice interpretation of their music. I totally enjoyed it, though i also feel that it could have been much better.
The son of George Martin remixed the music, but it wasn’t as good as DJ Dangermouse’s seminal work on The White Album+Jay Z’s Black Album (The Grey Album), nor a bootleg megamix that i’ve enjoyed in the past. Perhaps they already have plans for a sequel later..
I also bought a bag, and a notebook, both based on the Abbey Road album. They were the only ones that i can afford after these two shows!
Since Sharon has been away from Singapore for so long, it was actually a good way for me to explain the increase in people that i’ve experienced in Singapore along the Strip. It was that crowded at all times.
Other than the Strip’s craziness, we did a small detour to the Red Rock canyon. That was a good breather! Phew…
Now..it’s time to plan for Tokyo and Singapore near the end of the year!
The current POTUS was acknowledged to have won the election, among other factors, by his messaging. His speeches were at a different level from the rest of the candidates, and that captivated the audience. After his victory, and a series of good action that complied to his intents that he vocalized during the campaign, things are starting to falter a bit now.
His current push for health insurance reform has been one hurdle after another. Messaging, and even the phrasing of the reform has to be changed constantly. It was only till the point that he took to the roads again that the first “good news”, or '”local support”, was reported. It also appears that folks were pushing back on something that they do not really understand, or that the original messaging was so flawed that educated folks do not really understand it enough to explain to the non-educated folks.
That’s a (un)pleasant corollary to some of the confusion that’s arising about the intent messaging, and actions with the new change.
Prior to the change, there were some efforts by a non-biased panel to gather feedback about what worked, what didn’t worked in the prior regime. One very vocal point was raised, and was even agreed upon by one of the panelist. How ironic it is to find out that the first action by the panelist after the change was to perform the same exact action that was a known irritant to the org. I wonder if the intent or the action could have been messaged to the org?
With the change come some new channels of communication with the management. There’s always pros and cons to it. A major pro would be the fact that I get to provide direct feedback that used to be a skip-skip-skip level discussion, which in the past meant all “skipped” levels folks actually joined in the discussion. Kind of defeats the purpose of a skip-level then, but that’s in the past. With the new structure, and the initial confusion about who should be doing what in terms of the management team, i gave some frank feedback. Clearly (pun intended), i didn’t do a good job myself. My feedback was taken seriously and remediate action was taken pretty promptly to explain the new structure to us, but with the explanation came a few more points of confusion and dissatisfaction.
Today, my immediate org team met for an official team meeting. The new manager tends to speak too much, which he acknowledges as well. 8). Hopefully, he’ll know to tone that down, and let the team talk more. Otherwise, i wouldn’t be surprised if people start to tune him out.
The interesting discussions came when we met up for an informal lunch with most of the org team members. Issues, opinions, and thoughts were shared and i think it was generally a good exchange, and time well spent. The topics discussed ranged from the current confusion of the new org structure, to long ongoing cross-org issues, to career development etc. Wouldn’t the management team be willing to be a “fly in the wall” during the discussions to hear what we really think of.
Another common issue that i am observing is that due to the feedback on the prior regime, the current team is trying to do drastic changes. Some of the purported changes seems to be “designed” for certain teams. The lack of clarity around the messaging rooted some ideas that might be a distraction for some.
A recent meeting brought up the topic of soft-skill training, such as vendor account management skills. I can see the good intent behind it, though the broad brush to apply it to the immediate org team seems to ignore the different experience that each team member might have. That, reluctantly, puzzled me as well. Given the constant issues with the lack of clarity in terms of the messaging, the intent, or the action made, perhaps the management team also need to look at the possibility of doing some training themselves on messaging, or team communication?
Again, it’ll be interesting to see how the changes develop. Unlike some of the team members whom are very excited and boldly claiming a whole new world, I’ve seen enough through the years to be (very) mildly optimistic, but realistically cautious.
Those who expect moments of change to be comfortable and free of conflict have not learned their history. ~Joan Wallach Scott
Or in my worklife, reorgs. That’s the one thing that’s always constant through my years in the company.
Probably as a result of feedback given last year, we had what some might label as a major reorg. Managers were moved around; groups were switched, and amidst all that, my team got a new people manager.
With changes, there’s bound to be some form of acclimatization that needs to be done, or kinks that need to be ironed out. A few initial but surprising bumps have brought up some doubts and wonderment, but folks are being perceived as doing things with good intentions, and teams are probably giving them some burn-in time too.
I wonder how this new structure will work out…