My Good Friend’s Birthday

First time having a birthday party at McDonald's

Traditionally, the month of June has been quite a busy month of birthday celebration.  Since the advent of the Internet Era – where social email has decimated snail mail, e-card has decimated postcard – it is a rarity that a birthday party invitation card has arrived at my (real) mailbox that I check infrequently.  Like once a month.  The most amazing thing is – venue aside – this invitation was sent to me like months in advance.  That beats all the wedding invitation cards I have received so far.  I felt honored to be invited.  And I volunteered to be the birthday photographer.  While one friend of mine shared with me – jokingly or seriously I cannot tell – he is taking the taxi exam just in case he loses his job, I could be a birthday photographer.  That is even a more awesome career than a wedding photographer.  Most couple only has one wedding in their lifetime.  But everybody has a birthday to celebrate once a year.  You may laugh at me now.  When I do become one of the most sought after birthday photographer in Singapore, you will see me riding my dream Lamborghini down the beautiful street of Orchard.

Maybe I shall not stop at just that.  Maybe I shall become an anniversary photographer, you-and-your-pet photographer, you-and-your-lover-in-your-intimate-moments photographer.  What a lovely exit from my current nine-to-five.

No, I won’t showcase my work here because in the business of birthday photography, better be discreet.  Unless you – fortunately or unfortunately depending on how you see it – are part of my family (my band included), you could well become a semi-public figure.  One friend once asked: I was in the Hong Kong Airport and guess who I saw?  Who, I asked.  Your sister, she answered.

Some share with me that they find it hard to develop deep friendship with those whom they work with, compare with those whom they studied with.  My response would be: It all depends on you.  I am blessed with some of my great friends whom I met at work.  And to the birthday girl, have a great celebration tomorrow.  The photos should be inside your (read) mailbox any time from now.  Snail mail is an amazing thing, isn’t it?

Featured in My Paper – Behind the Scene

My Paper

This must be the first time I see my Chinese name (黃健暉) printed on a local newspaper.  I think my parents in Hong Kong would be happy if they read that.  The first time I saw my English name printed on newspaper was back in the Project Eyeball era.  How I miss Project Eyeball.  The good old days.  Had it been published free of charge like My Paper and TODAY and let the advertisement funds the operation, I think it would survive.  I still believe that the 80-cent Project Eyeball was ahead of its time.

After numerous long email exchange, MSN exchange, and short message exchange with the friendly My Paper journalist Koh Soo May (who has a lovely Chinese name that unfortunately I don’t know how to type it out here) over the weekend, I didn’t know what to expect when I walked into my favorite Coffee Bean at the Republic Plaza looking at the pile of My Paper at the counter.  You know what it is like when you interact with a journalist.  There is this element of uncertainty on what he or she is ultimately going to write, whether you will be in a positive or a not so positive light.

I tried to keep my cool but couldn’t contain my excitement.  I flipped opened the bilingual paper.  Front page (the Chinese side), I saw my site.  Gosh!  And on the third page as well.  I am much impressed by the level of details on the coverage of the topic: Bloggers – Power to the Commercial World (something like that in English).  Journalist Soo May has managed to interview the Companies, the PR firms, and the bloggers covering the areas of social media, product and service reviews and endorsement, and the trend within and outside Singapore.  Bravo!

Good read it is, I was so excited and delighted that I told one of the staff in Coffee Bean quietly behind the counter that I was on My Paper.  That was, by the way, after she asked me for a career advise if she should study Medical Science or Nursing (I love the staff of Coffee Bean at the Republic Plaza, very friendly people always with a smile).  She too was so excited that she grabbed one of the papers.  And then I realized that she cannot read Chinese, and I realized that quite a number of my good friends cannot either.

Oh well, for those who can read Chinese, click here to view the first page and here to view the subsequent one.

I guess most of us read the paper or any publication without really given much thoughts on what’s behind the scene.  After briefly worked with Soo May observing how much time she put into the articles in the middle of the night and over the weekend while busy reaching out to the network, I think I now read the newspaper with a better appreciation.  I always thought that my few hours spent per blog entry is hard work.  I certainly wouldn’t wish to write for a newspaper agency for now.

And so, this blog entry is dedicated to all the hard working journalists who face all sorts of challenges to deliver us stories, stories that don’t usually have a long lifetime and before they are even published, these journalists need to work on the next topic, and the next.

External Site: MyPaper.sg

PS. There is this one person from TEXT100 I would like to thank for all the wonderful opportunities and you know who you are.  Thank you!

A Guide for You to Win A 60″ Plasma TV This Very Sunday (And You Can Thank Me Later)

I am in a dilemma but I simply love to share.  Though I have been blogging about and talking about this too-good-to-be-true contest (seriously do the maths and if you are a Singapore resident, chances to win this is pretty high), none of my friend seems to to be as excited as I do.  Maybe secretly they do.  I have even done a field visit and yes, it does exist, in very good shape. 

Though I am a big fan of Singaporean blogger EastCoastLife (and have met her in person), this entire contest is kind of complicated coming from someone who has read every post of hers.  But fear not.  Here is your guide to win that 60″ full HD plasma TV.  That’s right.  This baby can be yours.  I’ve spent hours to hunt for all the links.  But if you prefer to play the treasure hunt yourself, feel free to skip step 1.  As always, if you don’t want this TV, you can win it and pass it to me.  Thank you.

Step 1

Read the following blog entries and write down the answers to the questions.  If you are touched by my kindness, please email me with your answers and we can compare notes.  A win-win as some of the questions are kind of … tricky to me.

  1. Which knife is a must-have in a kitchen?
  2. What is the main cause of cervical cancer? (warning: gross pictures!)
  3. How long is the underground tunnel of KPE?
  4. On which date was all Chinese males gathered, screened and later faced the machine-gun firing squad?
  5. Who is the winner of 2008 Formula One SingTel Singapore Grand Prix?
  6. Which organisation launched Hi2P?
  7. Where is Underwater World Singapore located?
  8. Besides the 60″ HD Plasma TV, which other product did LG sent me?
  9. LG’s Home Theater Systems was tuned by which world renowned high end audio expert?
  10. What does LG stand for?

Step 2

You will need to send a snail mail to her.  Follow her instruction here.

Step 3

If you do win and wish to keep it, please invite me over.  I will bring along my DVD collection of Ayumi Hamasaki.  Best of luck!

My Friend Made It to Workers’ Party’s CEC (And Another Friend Made Partner)

What a bizarre week!  First my sister got hitched.  Then my old friend of more than a decade whom I have worked with officially made it to the partner’s rank in a major accounting firm just yesterday.  On the same day, I saw another old friend of mine whom I have also worked with featured in our afternoon newspaper Today.  I guess my “Wanted” movie review ready to be published has to wait, same for a new book review.  As for that not-too-successful v-blog mini-series, that will have to be postponed for another week.

I won’t dwell too much onto my sister’s engagement.  You just need to scroll down to read the previous post.  Except, I finally managed to talk to my ma in Hong Kong on the phone and spent 18 minutes trying to explain what my future brother-in-law does in real life (to my parents, it is important to articulate that to the people around them).  I mean, look, my Cantonese really sucks after decades of neglect and attempt to explain what Portfolio Management means to my ma is really hard.  Try explaining risk hedging, diversification, quarterly results, exchange announcement, technical analysis, financial instruments, equity investment and etc. is close to impossible.  I hope I got the message and reassurance across that my future brother-in-law kicks ass (Benny, you owe me 18 sure work buy tips for that 18 minutes of hard work and I am putting my life savings onto that).

Back to my friend who has made partner.  Well, I always tell people that if you don’t see yourself becoming a partner one day, leave the consulting business once you’ve learned all that you can and want (like me).  This is how the business works: the partners milk their people dry, milk their clients dry, and they become very rich.  As simple as that and I gather one day I can write a book on my old trade skill.  In case if you wonder, the word “milk” actually comes up during account planning in the both the consulting firms I’ve worked at.

But of course, within this business, there are always carrots at the end of the sticks.  If not, why would anyone want to sell their souls to the business putting work as the first priority in life?

My old friend and I have gone a long way.  Back to the days when I was literally living off a suitcase.  In the beginning of my career, my overseas assignments were long and in between, I got nowhere to live.  And he didn’t mind me occupying half of his storeroom when I was out-of-town, staying at his place temporary when I was in town.

OK, I must say he is (or perhaps was?) not that popular at work and that seems to bug him.  I always tried to tell him that even an US President only needs and perhaps only has 51% of the people’s vote.  And I did learn a few things from him.  The word ‘politics’ at work seems to have a negative connotation.  Then again, it is whether you are benefiting from it or not that ultimately makes you a hero or a villain in the organization you are in.  Learn the rule of the game and, oh well, bosses always take priority.  As for my friend, he does it well and I am truly happy for him.

Now, let’s talk about my friend Choong Yong.  The moment I saw his picture on the paper when I was inside HMV, I couldn’t contain my excitement and messaged some of our mutual friends immediately (good things must share, that’s my philosophy in life).  Choong Yong runs his own IT consulting business for years and recently, he is appointed as Workers’ Party’s new Central Executive Committee member!  Part of the ‘renewal process’ so as to speak.  And he looks so young inside the news clipping (far right in the picture above).  One unnamed mutual friend of us does admire Choong Yong’s ‘walk the talk’ attitude and I agree.  I couldn’t help but to crack some jokes of course (about this young pretty girl he was photographed with) and nothing beats Mark’s funny response: Is it the one with the headline titled “Convicted, but now blaming his ex-lawyer”?  I laughed so hard inside HMV.  That headline was right next to Choong Yong’s piece.

When I congratulated him via sms, we exchanged a few words.  “We are still friends right?” he asked.  Of course!  My vote to PAP (the governing party) is purely because of my admiration to our Prime Minister.  And our PM happens to be in my GRC.  Hence, I wouldn’t need to scratch my head to choose between voting for the opposition or that who-is-his-name?  The one who is probably responsible in letting the terrorist in captive walked away from a detention camp, and the recent lapse at the Customs got me bang my head onto the desk.  I also did learn something from that minister though.  Whenever I screw up at home, I always say to Cynthia, “Look baby, that was an Honest Mistake.”

Anyways, I am so proud of the people around me.  I wonder what shocking news I may hear tomorrow.  A friend of mine is landing on the moon?

Last Lecture Of Randy Pausch – How To Live Your Life

Randy Pausch

Hypothetically, if you knew that you were going to die and you had one last lecture, what would you say to your students?  It is an academic tradition of Professor Randy Pausch’s University to give a “last lecture” to the students except it was not just a tradition in his case; he is actually dying from cancer and only has months to live.  My friend from work, SF, has forwarded a YouTube video to me and in this Oprah episode, Randy Pausch talked about our childhood dreams, how to achieve them, and in essence, how to live our lives.  And he gave the lecture for only three persons in this world (the answer is in the video).  If you have 10 minutes to spare, you may wish to follow the link below and be inspired.  Below are the summarized points.

  • It is an easy time to dream when we are young (and happy) and we should never lose that spirit.
  • Experience is what you get if you don’t get what you wanted.
  • When people drive you hard, they care about you.  They want you to be better.  When you are doing a bad job and no one points it out to you, that is when they have given up on you.
  • Brick walls are there for a reason: they let us prove how badly we want things.
  • Good parents are instrumental for us to achieve our childhood dreams.
  • The importance of people versus things (people come first, always!).
  • Never ever underestimate the importance of having fun.  Choose to have fun today, tomorrow, and every day thereafter.
  • Work and play well with others: (1) tell the truth, (2) apologize (properly), (3) wait, and people will show their good sides.
  • Tell the truth – integrity.
  • A good apology has three parts.  (a) I am sorry, (b) it was my fault, (c) how do I make it right.  Most people neglect the third part and fail to demonstrate sincerity.
  • Be patience.  No one is pure evil.
  • Show gratitude.
  • Don’t complain, just work harder.
  • If you lead your life the right way, if you live properly, the dreams will come to you.

The YouTube video can be viewed by clicking here.

My book review: The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch – A Lecture from the Heart to Whom He Loves