Archive | February, 2009

Still thinking about you

25 Feb

Am a little sad that I won’t be going down to see Brian McKnight perform down in Singapore. But I can’t afford to take a break right now with everything else I have going on in my life.

But heck, there’s always YouTube. Brian’s got great vocal technique, range and then there’s his sick ability to play the piano, trumpet and guitar. And I’ve been a fan of his years before the radio was playing his Back at One song to death. It was random – I turned on the TV and a video of his song One Last Cry was playing. I hunted the album down and soon I was listening to the tape to death, and I’d realised I’d heard his voice before. He’d featured on a few songs on Vanessa William’s debut album. A really decent pop album that one, and his duet with her on Love Is is still one of my favourite songs ever.

One last cry
Before I leave it all behind
I’ve got to put you out of my mind
This time, stop living a lie
I guess I’m down to one last cry

I wish I was that easy to make it one last tear, and one last time that I stop mourning over a loss. But it took two years for me before I could stop tearing at just the mention of my grandmother. And that surprises people, because the people I deal with at work assume I’m tough as nails, brassy, slightly arrogant and super-confident. For work, I have to ‘assume the position’. But I am very emotional and I feel a lot; even if I’m good at not showing it. Which unfortunately makes me a target for people who think I need taking down a notch, who think I’m unfeeling or that I think I’m ‘too good’ for them.

Some people think “Oh, you can change then.” Problem is, even if you change, they’ll end up disliking you for changing. So I’ve decided that I might change my approach to things, if it’s pointed out my approach isn’t appropriate. But I’m not changing myself to please other people because by trying too hard to bend over backwards, you end up pleasing no one at all. Changing your approach does not equate changing who you are.

So I’m always going to be the hard biscuit with a soft, gooey centre. I will just need to figure out how to break less teeth.

Randomness; I’ve discovered my second disliked word after ‘synergy’. Impactful. Ugh. It’s a horrible non-word which you won’t find in the Oxford dictionary but, unfortunately, is in Merriam-Webster.

Urbandictionary.com defines the word perfectly: “impactful – A non-existent word coined by corporate advertising, marketing and business drones to make their work sound far more useful, exciting and beneficial to humanity than it really is.”

But the best description has to come from ABC News Radio. The following anecdote really made me laugh:

‘”A NewsRadio listener has emailed asking me to expose an ugly new word.

We should leave it where we found it – in the rubbish bin of American journalism.

Well, I’m always happy to cheerfully deride ugly new words that we don’t need – and the word is question here is impactful – and it’s certainly ugly, and certainly unnecessary (the two words “with impact” will do the same job). The listener says he originally heard impactful used by work colleagues in Singapore, more recently he’s heard it used by the manager of the Australian cricket team in a radio interview and by work colleagues in the United States. The word is of American origin. I found it listed in the unabridged Webster’s where it’s supported by a quote from a movie review about “some of the most impactful heroines of current films”. So this ugly and unnecessary word appears to have been coined by American journalists. And we should leave it where we found it – in the rubbish bin of American journalism.”

I can’t see clearly now…

24 Feb

IMG_2061Been a bit of a stressful week, one where I had to confront the fact I had too much on my plate. Dropped out of a collaborative writing project because between learning the ropes at my job and producing Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa, I have precious little energy left.

After Bun died, I thought I should get Pie a companion to cheer him up. I thought wrong. Pie didn’t take well to the baby bunny I got (who Calvin has named Ignatius aka Iggy) so I took Iggy inside, leaving Pie to claim the backyard. And I foolishly thought I should get Iggy company too…so I got Pop. Iggy and Pop, get it? Calvin insists Pop’s real name is Zoe. Wishful thinking.

Unfortunately, I’d thought Pop would be placid and docile company for Iggy. Wrong. Pop is a little scamp (she’s the tiny one with a star on her forehead) who will run everywhere if I leave her unsupervised. Iggy on the other hand prefers to just stay in his cage, stuffing his face. Which explains why he’s already gained a fair bit of weight in the 2 days that I got him. He sits, chews, snuffles around for something to eat…and that’s about it. When I put him on my lap, he attempted to nibble on my dress.

Busy PR job, busy in my after hours producing a play…I don’t forsee dating in my future this year at least. But a girl gets lonely sometimes so hey, cuddling a bunny will just have to do. At least I won’t have to worry about one of them giving me the ‘commitment’ talk.

Unfortunately stress levels have gone sky high. Whenever I get stressed, my eyesight deteriorates so I’m pretty much seeing double while I type – my astig’s gone up temporarily, but will return to normal once I pay my sleep debts.

How’s PR? Do I still love it? I’ll always be a writer. It’s my vocation. It’s the one thing I do better than anything else I manage but I don’t miss publishing. In Malaysia, editorial takes a back seat to sales and marketing – inevitable because we don’t have the circulation to stay afloat sans advertisers.

What I like about PR is the excitement of the pitch, the challenge of using ingenuity and sometimes, sheer tenacity, to get points across. It’s hard work but there’s a lot of satisfaction to be had at the end of the day. I’m still learning the ropes and I’m getting a lot of help along the way. But I did end up talking to my boss about standard operating procedures, and processes. I like structure, having a framework to build on. When needed to, I can wing some things but in the end, I need something to hold on to – roots if you will.

I’ve always been a systems sort of person – I like creating systems though it doesn’t mean I’m the neatest person on the block. Am schizo that way. Today you’ll see my desk cluttered with stuff, the next you’ll see it devoid of anything but the essentials. I can live with a little clutter, but past a certain level, I can’t think and will just en masse cull things mercilessly.

Hopefully I can get some sleep tonight because it’s painful to squint at everything. Would be asleep too, if a little scamp didn’t wake me up by prodding me with her nose to play. And I just went out in the rain to rescue the stubborn Pie who refuses to get in his nice, dry cage and was emo-ing in corner while raindrops fell on his head. Pie is now safely in his cage with his favourite hay. Can’t keep him indoors because he’s just not made for indoor living and I can’t give him the running space he needs in the house. Iggy and Pop are tiny, and won’t grow past 1kg or so each, but Pie’s a huge fellow who needs all the space my backyard gives him. Not to mention he thrives on hay and certain plants that grow wild in my ‘garden’.

Right now – I want my sight back. I want time to ride my bike. I want to learn to play the keyboards – since my bro moved in with an ancient but perfectly servicable synth. And now, my body wants to sleep.

A day of change and regrets

19 Feb

pie

My bunny Bun died today. He’d been lying on his side yesterday, which is how some bunnies sleep but it’s unusual for him so I went over to check. As soon as I came near the cage, Bun leapt up as per usual and waited at the cage door for me.

How was I to know Bun really was ill? Rabbits can be hard to gauge sometimes and my last rabbit was low maintenance and hardy. I’m heartbroken and I wish I played more with him, or at least finished chicken-wiring the fence to give him room to play in the yard, instead of keeping him in the cage more often than not. I’m so sorry, Bun Bun.

Pie, the other rabbit, seems to be all right, but I know he’ll be lonely. Will likely get him a new playmate by the weekend so he’ll have company. Pie just doesn’t seem to be very human-trained – hates being picked up or touched, though he’ll nuzzle at me if he thinks I have treats for him.

My Internet in the day was stressfully horrible as usual and by late afternoon, I decided to try and get some work done in Starbucks instead. Then on the way there, I was accosted by this random Chinese dude who asked if I was Indonesian, of all things. Then he tried getting my name to which my answer was to promptly walk off, and as I walked he called “AH MOIIIIIII!!!” Seriously, my life is a frikkin’ sitcom.

And a storm just seemed to be brewing near the LRT so I hopped to the station as fast as I could. By the time I got to Amcorp, the sun was shining fiercely and my stomach was rumbling with as much energy. Guess who forgot to eat again? While having tomyam at Rak Thai, I checked up on the progress of a certain weekend pullout pitch on Gmail, listened to a sob story from a friend whose plans for the month kinda went up in smoke, and by 6 I declared myself too drained to just look at a computer anymore.

So to feel better, I decided to do something I’d been putting off for ages – get my hair rebonded. I don’t like the idea of spending a ton on my hair…but I do it anyway, because a girl’s gotta look good, yada yada pancakes. The hairdresser asked if I wanted it stick straight or more ‘natural’. I opted for the latter because, really, who are you fooling when your hair looks like a steamroller ran over it?

Two hours and damaged ends trimmed later, my hair looks like this:

natural

It is now soft and shiny, and, well, straighter. Why bother? It means 6-8 months of taking less than 10 minutes to fix my hair, ZOMG. Wakeup, see if it needs combing (likely not), then out the door I go. Low maintenance! Except of course I have to drown it in conditioner, which I do with my hair anyway. It still has a little bit of a curve still locked in thanks to my hair being incredibly thick and wavy in the first place.

I miss my curls but I had no time to make them look fab with a curling iron/blow dryer. I gave away my blow dryer, even, because I never used it. The last guy I dated was all for my straightening my hair but then his hair was longish and straight, so I suppose he was biased. So hello low-maintenance hair! What will kill me for the next 3 days is to try and not wash it. Le ARRGH.

Am on leave tomorrow to sort out the Episode Where Erna Still Hasn’t Got Her License. Somehow my L Learner’s license got burned to A PULPY PILE OF GOO in the laminating machine. I feel so special. The machine must have combusted on seeing my GODAWFUL L license picture.

Strangely I do not feel thrilled at having very-nearly shampoo commercial hair. I miss my bunneh. 😦

OCD organising or loving your Moleskine

19 Feb

Working from home for nearly two months, I have come to a few discoveries namely:

Left to my own devices, I tend to forget to eat.
Except if the meal happens to be lunch, for which I will fob off phone calls/requests/work.
“Can’t this wait till after lunch?” is my mantra. If the thing is urgent, I will still steal time to grab a can of tuna and pop out for bread. Or just get takeout duck rice at the stall that’s a few minutes walk from my house. You wouldn’t go for a long drive without fuelling your car, so I refuse to go without at least one decent meal (breakfast/brunch/lunch) in the day.

The thing about working from home is, you need to be even more organised than in an office. Offices have structure and procedures built-in. I have to create my own and after some experimentation, have come up with a hybrid pen & paper/electronic solution.

All my appointments go into my Moleskine pocket diary first. Then they get keyed into my Nokia 5800’s calendar, from which it will be synced to my Google Calendar via the free and wonderful CalSyncS60.Everytime I add a new contact to my phone, I will sync my contacts to my Ovi.com account.

I have one desk-bound journal for jotting down important information that I need at hand in ‘the office’. Two Moleskine cahiers, each dedicated to separate to-do lists, one for Work, one for Personal projects, also desk-bound. And one larger Moleskine for note-taking, which I take along with me with my smaller Moleskine. That sounds like a lot of books but see, it’s easier separating them out than lumping them all together. Also, I never miss an appointment because they’re all backed up on paper and online. Phone, notebook, Gcal. Synced and good to go.

Writing them down on notebooks that DO NOT LEAVE MY DESK are important. So I don’t lose them, and in the case of power failures, my to-do lists are there, on hand, so I’m never left wondering “Oh what shall I do today.” It’s easier to copy out stuff from said notebooks onto my phone/travel notebook than cart them around. And to make my life easier, I find it’s better to prepare most of the to-do list the day before, knowing that I can add on to it in the morning.

My phone, big Moleskine and mini-Moleskines are my travelling companions. Light, portable, functional. On my desktop PC, I have the best bit of software Microsoft’s ever made – OneNote. It is an awesome piece of work which makes taking notes and Web clippings so much easier, allowing you to create multiple virtual notebooks, all which can hold tabs and separate customisable pages.

Yes, I like systems. And structure. But I think my systems are flexible enough to accomodate my planning needs and work schedule, so I can get the things I need done, done. So I can have time to do the things I want to do as opposed to just the things I need to do.

Now I need to sleep.

I have nothing to give you, my friends, but this

18 Feb

It makes me wonder, sometimes, why God blesses me with such beautiful people as friends. I give thanks for you everyday. And I’m at a loss sometimes because I have so little to give to the people who matter most to me.

Right here, right now, I will confess I have little materially. There’s enough (thanks to God’s grace) in my bank account to get me by but precious little besides.

I don’t have a car (right now), I rent a dinky house because it’s near the train and is walking distance to the train. I don’t intend to get my own place until I turn 35. After my parents lost the house when I was little, I have a phobia of mortgages so I’m not going to commit to one until my bank account is sufficiently padded. Not there yet, obviously. Right now, I’m content to get by simply though I confess I do get occasional fits of shopping madness which drives my friend, K, to despair.

So if I call you friend, I commit to this:

  1. My phone is never turned off so if you need me, really need me, you can call, text, whenever. My ear will be yours until it stops working. And even then, I’ll get a hearing aid.
  2. I will never tell you what you want to hear, but what you need to hear.
  3. I will keep your secrets. What secrets? You told me nothing, nothing.
  4. I will still be in your corner, even if my other friends dislike you. I love you all but I reserve the right NOT to take sides.
  5. I will not ‘steal’ your significant other. Your husband/boyfriend/girlfriend is safe from me, I promise.
  6. Just because I may seem distant or aloof, know that I care. And that I will never pretend to care if I don’t.
  7. That to the best of my ability, I will believe the best of you and not let what strangers say colour my judgement of you.
  8. That I will accept you, just as you are, failings, imperfections, whatever. I might judge your actions, but not you. For a good man might do a bad thing, and vice versa.

In essence, my friends, I have nothing to give but myself. Unembellished, unvarnished, but real. And I will take you that way too.

The curious case of the human heart

15 Feb
Brad Pitt (flou/blurry)

Image by IBWK via Flickr

Just came back from watching The Curious Case of Benjamin Button with Irene. It wasn’t a film I’d been excited about watching because the storyline just seemed too ‘out there’. Surprisingly, the script worked and Brad Pitt was incredibly watchable. There’s even this one scene that reminds us just why Pitt is such a box office draw – the man is just almost too beautiful to be real.

And the romance between Pitt’s protaganist and Cate Blanchett’s Daisy is palpable, believable and very well-written. Blanchett is brilliant, perfectly depicting her character’s different life stages, from the flighty, giddy 20-something to the tempered, weary, middle-aged and then finally to her final moments.

“You have to let go.” That phrase from the movie haunts me because it’s so true. And I’ve had so much letting go in my life, to the point I find it hard to hold on to anything anymore and yet get so torn up about some losses.

My parents lost the house when I was little; I lost the comforts of never worrying about material things. So I never bothered too much about money or ‘stuff’ because I knew that they go, they probably can be replaced and best not to hoard or hold on to things.

But attachments are harder. I am slightly upset with myself that I’m still not quite over the ‘breakup’ I had in January. We only dated a month and sometimes, it still hurts. I find myself wondering why I can’t so easily get over something that I should be over by now – it was only a month, after all.

What hurts just as much is knowing that he’s likely not affected by it at all. That he doesn’t think about it, or me, that he’s swallowed up by his work and myriad other attachments. That I was just something shiny that kept his attention for a while and then once I no longer filled a temporary void, I was discarded like used gum.

I wonder if I’ve ever used anyone that way…I don’t think so. Sure, I’ve been tempted but I could never do that to anyone. If I know that I just don’t feel enough to do more than hang out with a person, I don’t lead them on. I draw the lines and even if I have to be blunt or cruel, I tell them straight off that I’m not interested. There was this one guy I went to dinner with just once and he was enamoured. Then came the constant texts which I gave terse replies to – but he didn’t get the hint until I finally just told him that I didn’t want to see him. I was single, jobless and transport-less. It would have been easy to use him as an errand boy or driver, just have him temp until I found someone real for the job.

But that’s never how I do it. I abhor the notion of using people as ‘fillers’. But I knew I would be one, right from the start. That I wasn’t The One, just Some One. And I don’t know whether it’s not really just my ego hurting and not my heart.

Nothing lasts. I was mostly happy for a month. Of laughter and music and long conversations. And it ended. I was replaced. And it hurt. I’m still not over it, but I’m getting there.

Riding a bike will also involve letting go – learning to coast, learning to stop pressing the brakes, and learning to let my body guide turns. In my head, I know how it all works but the practise is a lot more tricky. I guess it goes for matters of the heart just as well.

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The sitcom episode where Erna gets a bike

14 Feb
Moped's ancestor - a bike with a motor

Image via Wikipedia

As a lot of you know, I am terrified of cars. And driving.

So I thought why not get a moped instead and a motorcycle license?

Now that seemed a practical, economical solution. Of course, I do intend to get a car license this year – still waiting for JPJ to process my L license which should arrive next week. So at least I can be designated driver for my long-suffering friends like Suan.

Problem is, I’ve never even learned to ride a bicycle properly. I have been on a bicycle for no longer than 10 minutes. My excuse? Certain areas of my lower anatomy hurt like hell.

My initial idea to get a moped was vetoed by my long-suffering friend, K. “NO, Mahyuni, NO!” I feel blessed to have friends who such concern for my physical well-being. So I dropped by KSH Bicycle which is 10 minutes drive from my house and a short brisk walk from the Taman Bahagia LRT and left with a Merida Juliet 40-V. They gave me a great price for the bike and I got a helmet, bag rack, bag, bottle carrier, water bottle, lock, front and gear lights at a nice discount. The helmet would have been much cheaper if my head wasn’t bigger than most women’s. Yes, insert ego jokes here. If you do go there, say Hi to Zul for me. He’s a really fun guy who helped me with bicycle features and recommendations. Even got a cheaper, better bag than the one I was eyeing for my bike. He’s the man! KSH makes buying bicycles easy – just tell them your budget and they’ll help you to factor in everything else you’ll need for your purchase. Oh, and also warm appreciation to Bobby who transported me and my bike home.

Do I honestly intend to do a lot of commuting with a bicycle? Well, this guy thinks it’s possible. I’d originally wanted to get a foldable bike to carry on trains with me but looking at how comfortable they would be (meaning not at all)…I passed and decided on just getting a regular MTB instead. Foldable bikes like the ones Dahon make are affordable but what if I needed to take longer distances? They’re practical in tiny Singapore where it’s only a 5-6 minute bike ride from one place to another, but I am also choosing a bicycle over getting a gym membership. I already have dumbbells at home, and practise some yoga and Pilates – cycling would be the ideal aerobic complement to my fitness routine. So 30 minutes on a bicycle that would feel like hell to ride just won’t make sense.

I remember in secondary school I would ride pillon on my friends’ bicycles. They would pedal and I would happily sit in front while they did all the work. Being barely around 45kg at the time, it wasn’t much effort on their part thankfully.

So I suppose I’ll probably have to start my own little column here about my cycling adventures. In between producing a play, co-writing another play, and being PR for The Engine and The Very Safe Cars. Hoo, boy.

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