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Archive for April, 2011

It’s All About The Kiss

Even if you’re not a fan of the royal wedding, what’s not to like seeing two beautiful young people kissing over the glorious Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, carriages and the royal guards in the background?

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We are lucky to be in a place where the royal wedding isn’t the biggest news that people can ever talk about.  The live broadcasts are expected to begin sometime around our Friday afternoon, just when happy hour is about to begin.  In fact, this is going to be yet another highly anticipated long weekend, thanks to the labor day public holiday on Monday, and perhaps some folks are still vacationing somewhere.  When people are downing their beers and wines in pubs and lounges, I wonder whether they will choose to tune in to the wedding channel rather than the usual sports games.

If you don’t have the slightest interest or curiosity over how glamorous and extravagant Kate Middleton’s wedding dress is going to be, here are a few ideas that you can do to “actively” avoid the royal wedding altogether, from mydaily.co.uk.

  • Rival the royals

Get married yourself and live-stream it internationally.  There’s nothing more healthy than a bit of competition so if you think you’ve got what it takes to outshine the royal couple then what are you waiting for?  Westminster Abbey will be busy but St Paul’s might be free, plus we reckon more than a few dress designers will have mocked up a spare royal gown or two just in case something dreadful happens to Kate’s at the last moment. 

  • Read a biography of Oliver Cromwell

This man knew how to organise an overthrow of the monarchy.  Fine, the whole thing collapsed pretty soon after his death and even a toddler could teach him a thing or two about international diplomacy, but if you’re looking for anti-royalist sentiment, Cromwell’s your chap.

  • Work on that novel

With everyone else heading to the pubs and the street parties you’ll finally have the house to yourself.   Add in the fact that every telly and radio station will be set to “wedding” and you’ll suddenly find the motivation to write your literary masterpiece.  That or you’ll spend eight hours watching old Buffy DVDs  and eating party rings.   Either way, well done you!

  • To infinity and beyond

Head to Florida (or indeed the internet) to follow the launch of space shuttle Endeavour from the Kennedy Space Centre.  The 14 day mission will see Commander Mark Kelly and his crew take Endeavour on its final flight to deliver an Alpha Mass Spectrometer and spare parts to the International Space Station.  Perfect for anyone who dreamed of being an astronaut instead of a princess.

  • Retail therapy

Make the most of the deserted town centre and go shopping for that Issa dress, Whistles blouse or crown you’ve always wanted.  Alternatively you could pop down to Wilkinson’s and see whether they have any guillotines in the DIY section.

  • Hijack a street party

If you’ve ever nursed even a small delusion of grandeur then the idea of your neighbours hosting a party in your honour will probably sound pretty good.  Simply sneak over and staple pictures of your own face over that of those of happy couple.   If you get caught just grab as many sausage rolls as possible and run.”

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Countdown To The Royal Wedding

The royal wedding is just a day away, and for some reason the Americans seem to be way more excited than some Brits over the event.  All the prominent network news anchors will be reporting on location this week, and will be broadcasting live starting from 4am Eastern time on Friday.  Apparently, what’s happening in Libya, Syria or Japan aren’t going to cut it.  Are the Americans fantasizing over fairy tales of princes and princesses, or are they longing for some good news to divert their attention from all that suffering we see on the news?

I can’t help to notice that aside from the union of William and Kate, Friday’s spectacle is the ultimate public endorsement of the UK’s national standing and economy.  Take a look of these facts.

  • Some 550,000 people will experience the event in person in the Westminster environs, nearly a million plan to watch it on big screen and over twenty million will favour the convivial experience of huddling round a television. Half a million will watch it on the internet and 51,000 will watch it on a mobile phone.
  • 295,000 Londoners travel into Central London to experience the event.
  • Time off: Over six million adults will be taking extra holidays to make the most of the confluence of Easter, the bank holidays and the Royal Wedding. Workers from London (17%) and the West Midlands (17%) being the most likely to do this, while employee from the South West (7%) and Scotland (9%) the least likely.
  • Economic benefit: PwC calculates the commercial benefit to London from visitors’ expenditure to be £107 million.
  • 560, 000 adults are travelling to London from around the UK for the wedding – regional groupings ranging from 69,000 from Scotland to 17,000 from North East England. While the vast majority will be travelling with friends or family, over 50,000 will be travelling alone.
  • Travel: Travellers choose car, tube and train as the most popular form of transport to get to (Central) London for the wedding. Interestingly, the bicycle is a more popular choice of transport than the bus.
  • 37% of visitors will stay only for the day, but one in five intends to stay for two nights. Men intend to stay longer than women.
  • Accommodation: 185,000 people will stay in hotels, 50,000 in B&Bs. 18,000 will stay with friends.
  • A quarter of the visitors will spend between £50 and £75 a night on accommodation. One in five will spend between £100 and £149. Over 20, 000 people will spend upwards of £300 a night.
  • Shopping: Over two-thirds of visitors will go shopping while they are here and well over half intend to visit bars, clubs and restaurants. 58% say they will visit tourist attractions while they are in London, with 36% of visitors budgeting to spend between £75 and £99 per person per day on tourist attractions.
  • Shopping centres (eg. Westfield Centre, Brent Cross) will be the most popular shopping destinations followed by famous shopping streets (eg. Oxford Street, Carnaby Street) followed by well-known street markets (eg. Portobello Road, Brick Lane).
  • One in five people have budgeted £75-£99 for shopping per day while, at the more extravagant end, 13% say they have budgeted £200-299 per day.
  • The night economy: 60% of people intend to go to the pub, 45% are going to nightclubs, 40% will go to restaurants, 26% to theatres, 24% to cinemas and 7% to casinos.
  • Finally, when asked what they would spend their royal wedding budget on if they weren’t travelling to the wedding, 35% said general living expenses which may lead some to conclude the boost for the London business will be counterbalanced by a negative impact elsewhere. 27% said they would put the money into savings and one in four said they would make debt repayments or pay off credit card bills.

The survey was conducted by PwC.

Last but not least, London is expecting to bring in over 1 billion pounds (1.6526 billion U.S. dollars) from the sales of merchandise, estimating the sale of over 20 million bottles of beer and over 4 million bottles of champagne!  Hmm, I really can’t see myself toasting champagne over the royal wedding.  To be honest, I can think of a million better reasons to down my champagne, any day of the week.   

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I was captivated by the title of this book by Anita Bruzzese a few years ago.  I think it was my wicked sense of humor to attempt to do some of these 45 things to get even with my boss at the time.  Yes I said it was wicked, and I plead myself guilty.  However, at the end of the day, I did nothing of the sort since I cared so much more about my own professional reputation rather than some silly grudges over the most childish cases of office politics.

Are you curious about what these 45 things are?  Well, they are not as obnoxious as you think.  Or are they?

  1. Treating the office like it’s your love shack
  2. Punching the soda machine when you’re stressed out and ticked off
  3. Goofing off on a business trip
  4. Earning a reputation as a whiner, drama queen or general pain in the neck
  5. Discussing your personal beliefs at work
  6. Telling dirty jokes and cussing on the job
  7. Having questionable personal integrity
  8. Blogging about your job (Oh no….)
  9. Having poor writing and spelling skills
  10. Failing to write thank-you notes
  11. Committing e-mail blunders
  12. Failing to speak intelligently
  13. Wearing the wrong thing to work
  14. Behaving immaturely at company parties
  15. Being disorganized
  16. Being a poor listener
  17. Losing sleep
  18. Using your personal cell phone too much
  19. Acting like a boot at business meals
  20. Not appreciating coworkers
  21. Failing to delegate
  22. Being intolerant
  23. Disrespecting a mentor
  24. Not getting to know others in the company
  25. Giving feedback that is deliberately hurtful
  26. Fostering an offensive workplace
  27. Gossiping
  28. Not giving or accepting an apology
  29. Crying at work
  30. Caving in to a bully
  31. Failing to learn from mistakes
  32. Being unable to overcome obstacles
  33. Having too much – or too little – confidence
  34. Neglecting to write things down
  35. Asking for a raise you don’t deserve
  36. Lacking knowledge of current events
  37. Holding grudges (bingo…)
  38. Giving lackluster speeches or presentations
  39. Squandering time at seminars
  40. Skipping company-sponsored events
  41. Ignoring the company’s goals
  42. Dodging meetings
  43. Not going beyond your job description
  44. Neglecting new coworkers
  45. Fighting change

I recommend this book if you are eager to find out how you can avoid the mistakes and mend things with your boss, or, if you have the same devious reason as I did.

Well, of course I’m kidding.

 

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I love the city during this past Easter weekend.  A big part of the population was gone vacationing somewhere and what’s left was an adorable quiet city at a much slower pace everywhere.  Add on the light spring breeze and a hint of sunshine, I am falling in love with Hong Kong all over again.

On Friday I picked a normally bustling Starbucks in Central and found that the place was completely deserted, at 1pm in the afternoon.  I almost cried out for joy.  I picked up my usual venti cappuccino, grabbed all the male fashion magazines I could find, and picked the best sofa to lounge myself away.  Half hour later, an Indian fellow wearing a white shirt, a big gold pendant around his neck, and khaki pants (I believe) walked by where I was sitting with a big smile and saying “Congratulations my friend.”   Normally if I were on the streets, I would have headed off without a doubt.  But I was trapped.  There was nowhere for me to run and I kind of hesitated to get out of my heavenly seat.  Plus, I was in a public place with witnesses.  I took a mental note of where my belongings were and got myself prepared for the worst.

“Pardon me?” I asked.

“My friend, I just want to congratulate you today.  You are a lucky man.” “May I sit down?” He pointed to the seat next to me and invited himself to sit down.

“Errr….I guess.”  I reluctantly replied.  You get the drift of what happened next.  He then went on saying that he was from Singapore, showed me a picture of his “master” from his filofax, and told me 3 great things will be heading my way in May.  My work is going to be much better, my love life is going to be eventful with multiple people loving me (I can’t help giggling even when I’m writing this now), and I’m going to make a lot more money.  He gave me a small crumpled-up yellow paper knot, told me to hold on to it while asking me how many siblings I have in my family, and my favorite color.  After he wrote down what I said, he asked me to unroll the crumpled yellow paper to reveal exactly the same answers I provided to him.  To be honest, I wasn’t really that surprised at all, perhaps due to the all-too-predictable setup.

I wonder how he was going to wrap this up.  He opened his filofax, asked me to return the yellow piece of paper with his predicted answers in it, and said “If you could put in some money for your good luck.”  Alright, the secrets of the trick were finally revealed.   “$100 or $200 would be enough,” he said.  No to hell would I give him $100, but I was prepared to reward him with something for the time and entertainment he had provided.  “You have $30 more?”  He asked seeing the $20 note I was putting in.  I gave him my biggest and brightest smile with a no, and I thanked him for the 10 minute spectacle.

After this self-proclaimed psychic walked out, a tall caucasian man sitting opposite me approached.  I almost thought there was part 2.  “Hey I am just curious to find out what he said,” the man shared.  “I ran into someone similar somewhere before and he could name my dog’s name.  I felt that was spooky then.  And by the way you seem totally calm and in control of the whole thing.”  I replied saying that I just found the whole encounter entertaining.

It was surely unanticipated entertainment of an otherwise quiet Good Friday.  My friends are amazed with how generous I was with a scam artist, but I really had nowhere to run at the time.  Plus I know I am a rational minded person and I made a quick assessment of the worst case scenario right when he started to sit down.  I seriously paid little attention to his predictions at all, but as I told my friends, 3 great things coming my way are way better than him telling me I have only one month to live.

Guess I see a silver lining to everything, huh?

 

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I went to a primary/secondary school that is heavily focused on musical extra-curricular activities.  Every year the school makes sure it is sending its finest team of orchestra players and choir teams to the annual inter-school music competition in Hong Kong.  I am quite sure that the music teachers are all measured in how many trophies they can get every year, very much like the sports trophies some other schools are focused upon.  Then it slowly branches out to other elements of the arts.  Our English teachers start to pull students to participate in prose reading competitions, as well as an intensively trained debating team.

 

With that widespread competitive spirit all over the school, my school days have never been left hollow.  I would be finishing my lunch box within 15 minutes and then ran to rehearse for the choir almost 3 days a week, all through the rest of the lunch hour.  Orchestra rehearsals were much longer and hence started right after school ends.  Even on long school break holidays during winter, chinese new year or summer, you would easily see a team of 50 to 60 students heading to school every other day to rehearse for the upcoming musical numbers that everyone was so anxious about.  The bus drivers used to recognize me hauling my violin case around town.

It may sound so geeky to you now, but that kind of classical music training at a young age proves to be invaluable, plus it’s all free!  For me at the time, though I didn’t get much of free time aside from rehearsals and studies, I got to hang out with my schoolmates a lot during the process.  We got to go to other schools and the city’s fancy cultural venues for competitions, and for a couple of years a few of us were selected to join the St. John’s Cathedral choir for its annual midnight Christmas mass.  The experience was literally heavenly.  Last but not least, one year the cathedral choir was invited to deliver a personal performance to the Governor of Hong Kong (Sir Edward Youde) in the previous Government House, where a grand British style party was held near Christmas.  I used to still have a few red match boxes with the golden letters “G.H.” (Government House) engraved that I snatched from the party, but they are no longer in sight now after all these years.

Our school choirs and orchestras did very well at our time, and we were always within the top 3 places in Hong Kong.  Then there was also the debating team, which was much harder since we only had 3 to 4 representing the school and it took us weeks and months to prepare with our English coach.  You need to possess a highly analytical mind, think fast, be poised, great at speaking publicly, carry confidence, character, charisma, and be able to savage any unforseen challenges, all live in front of a theatre of thousands.  Plus the inter-school competition debate topics were mostly focused on hot political issues of the hour.  We needed to make sure we could brush ourselves up on current events and viewpoints.  It could get even tougher if you were assigned a side that was the opposite of the city’s mainstream views.  I remember I was one of the 3-person team representing the school in the very final round, competing against an all girls school.  This alone was a disadvantage for us since boys are not as eloquent as girls at least at that age.  I found myself speaking in front of an audience of 3,000 students and journalists in the Queen Elizabeth Stadium, a live television camera, and blaring spot lights that I couldn’t see a soul down at the audience, defending why Hong Kong was not ready for universal suffrage in 1988.  It was a sure losing bet, and we did.  Though we lost gracefully, and our rebuttals were to the point and highly skillful.  I only wish that the lead adjudicator then, our respected Mr. Martin Lee, could proclaim in his speech that he focused on assessing the debating logic and techniques on stage rather than the topic addressed.  But no he didn’t.  Instead, he gave a speech in front of the TV crew re-iterating how Hong Kong would benefit from the power of the common vote. 

There was definitely no opposition to that from us whatsoever, even when it was 1988.  Though for a team of first runner-up debating juniors, all we thought at that moment was that the objective of the competition itself had been sidelined, and the image of a great public speaking idol of mine, slightly tainted.

 

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We’ve all made it one point in our career life, and as a consultant that chance is far greater than ever.  We are dealing with multiple client projects at the same time, though likely at different project stages.  All of them are on a time clock.  We are by default low in resources, and there is practically no one else to cross check or even cover for us at times of near crisis.  Rookie mistakes, we’ve all had them. 

Some of these mistakes are silly and understandable, but by no means are they acceptable by your boss and the clients.  Forgetting to bcc your e-mail senders is a catastrophe.   Forwarding the wrong file to a client is borderline violation to the privacy ordinance.  We can check and double-check ourselves, but looking at the same document that you have been working on for the past 5 hours, at 3am in the office, is not going to make much of a difference. 

I love this article by Kristine Schoonmaker of MyConsultingLife.com.  Knowing how to handle a crisis created by ourselves, and how to move on, is one of the most important learning chapters of our career life.  Check it out, and you will benefit from it.

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