Friday, October 30, 2009

Global Warming

There is a good chance that I should not write this, but I just must. Read fast - it might be removed soon!

There is an article on the second page of the paper today about Singapore's role in global warming, and how they should be a part of the decisions in Copenhagen in December. I just need to outline some of its points.

- Singapore is still a part of the developing world. I.e. it's not part of OECD, therefore it shouldn't reduce emissions.
* If this is true, then you have to be consistent. You can't claim to be the developed island surrounded by the developing world if you're NOT developed.

- There is a quote, "it's not possible to just treat Singapore like an ordinary country."
* Do you think any country thinks of itself as an ordinary country?

- While Singapore has a very high emissions per capita, it cannot be cut, because it's manufacturing sector relies on it.
* YES! That's the POINT! You have to change your techniques and your machinery. You can't continue to do "business as usual."

- The things that are manufactured in Singapore are ultimately exported.
* SO????

- Singapore is so small, it doesn't really make a difference.
* And if everyone thought that...

- The scientific claims for causes of global warming need a "full and fair public hearing."
* REALLY???

Then he goes on to say all the reasons why emissions, etc. doesn't cause global warming and the studies are invalid.

I do think that this viewpoint is valid, but this is in the leading newspaper, on the second page. I'm just a bit shocked. Maybe it's just me.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Customer Service

One of the front page stories in the local paper today is about how people are not generally satisfied with the level of service in Singapore. I fully agree. It said that retail is actually much worse than food and beverage - I do not agree with that. More often than not, I feel like I'm putting someone off when I order something. But...I have experienced totally opposite retail/service customer experiences in the past few days.

I was looking for shoes. My size is 40 or 41, and most places just don't carry that size. I want black sandals that look nice but are comfortable. I went into multiple stores looking for this the other day, and most of them either ignored me, totally laughed when I said how big my foot is, or showed me the ugliest shoes I have ever seen. They seemed to not listen to me at all, or not want to help me find what I want. I was thinking - in the good business school way that my brain works - wow - their incentives must not be set up properly. Clearly they are not rewarded for selling items, and they must be getting a flat hourly wage.

Then, I had two amazing customer experiences. I went for my healthy foot massage two days ago, and the guy asked me if I had been there before. He remembered that I had lived in Bedok. I was only there once, and it was probably about a YEAR ago (if my blog search function worked, I would search, but it's not...). I was VERY impressed. They see a lot of people. By the way - I felt like the massage was very hard, but I felt that he was probably doing it like that for a reason. Finally - 20 minutes into it - he said, "wow. You can take very hard." Well, then don't do it so hard! Now I have bruises on some parts of my knees and ankles. It was good, though. No worries.

Then, yesterday, I went to get new running shoes. I went to a store called Running Lab. The woman evaluated how I walk and run on a treadmill. She looked closely at my orthotics (ew) (sp?), and she recommended a few different kinds of shoes. I think that the whole thing took over an hour - but luckily I'm unemployed and don't have anything else to do. Ultimately she found me a great pair of shoes that were on sale for some reason - and they let you run on the treadmill with them for a week and bring them back if they don't work. That's seriously good customer service. I was impressed.

So? What's the moral? I think that companies need to give their staff incentives to sell items. I think that they need training in understanding customers' needs. I think that there should be a tipping culture here - at least in food and bev, so people WANT to do a good job (same incentive piece, but incentivized by the customers instead). I would also like to see statistics on the woman who helped me at the running store vs someone who just simply suggests shoes. Who sells more? She spent a LONG time helping me, and I thought she could have probably sold other shoes in that time, but by the time she was finished with me, there was no WAY I was NOT going to buy a pair of shoes. When someone spends that much time with you, you feel obligated. I wonder if that is better for business or worse. Instinct tells me better, but I suppose it has to be done in moderation - i.e. she can't spend THAT much time with me.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Kitty's New Boring Life






Kitty's life is very boring now. Rather than going outside and chasing frogs, cockroaches, lizards, crickets, dragon flies and other cats...she has to watch nature on tv. She literally watches nature shows on tv. In the second picture, you can see her batting at baby polar bears after sitting and watching them for about a half hour. This was during the credits.

She now sleeps on a window sill. She likes hiding in between the curtain and the window, or in between the two curtains.

Sometimes she has a relaxing snooze on the balcony.

She also really likes sleeping on her special pillow. Before she sleeps on it, though, she needs to...milk it? Not sure what she's doing here, but she does it for a few minutes - very intensely. She used to do it to my tummy, when she was a little kitty and she would sleep on my tummy.


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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sunday Adventures

This morning...early...Deeksha and I met at Vivocity, a mall, and we walked outside to try to find this walk that spans three or four parks in Singapore. It's along some ridges, and it's supposed to have good views. We found it. Indeed, you could see the water, and Sentosa for a lot of the walk. The parks were a part of Singapore I haven't yet explored. There are a few things that they built in the last few years to attach the parks - one is this wavy bridge, and another is a canopy walk. It's an elevated walk in this foresty area. Was alright. We arrived at the second or third park that was FILLED with people on tours - like swarming people - and it started to rain. We decided to push on. Why not? It POURED and POURED, and we got soaked. Deeksha had it worse than me, because she had shoes and socks, and glasses. I was in keens, quick dry top and shorts, and I had contacts and a hat. We made it to the end, and some (stupid?) taxi picked us up - SOAKING and dripping all over the place. I don't think I need to go back to any of those places again. Just kind of lame. The conversation was good, though.

After this adventure, I watched Marley and Me. Since Matt is in London for two weeks, and a lot of my other friends happen to be out of Singapore right now, I borrowed five movies (I NEVER watch movies). It made me cry. Was so sweet. Then, after I got a few groceries, I had nothing to do. I never have nothing to do. I really had nothing to do...so I took a bus to the botanical gardens, and I ran there for 40 minutes. I believe I made it to most parts of the gardens. There I would go back - it's really nice and pretty. After running, I had a weird pain in my foot, so I decided to walk...all the way back to our house. I think it took over an hour, but I forgot to look. I think that it spanned all of the On the Media podcast, though, so it must have been over an hour. I felt a bit pooped when it was over. Then I made a wonderful dinner for me and watched another movie - Shlomi's Stars (a translation of the title - but I don't know if it's called something else in English), which is an Israeli movie I had heard about. It was excellent. Recommended.

The disappointment of the day was not the lameness of the parks. It was that I tried to hook up the slingbox last night to see if I could get any football excitement, and it didn't work. Unfortunately there is no one "there" to fix it, so no slingbox for me...for two weeks! No Michigan games, no Grey's Anatomy, no Daily Shows. No fun.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The NEW Market

As you know, Matt and I moved almost two months ago. There are lots of changes. Among my favorite changes is our new location and ease of getting around. Among my least favorite changes is the size of our apartment, but I don't mind it very much at all. There aren't too many unfavored changes about this move...

The market has always been a big part of my life, definitely in Singapore. My new market, Tekka Market, has some advantages over Bedok Market. I will share two.

A few weeks ago, I was making a curry, and the curry called for shrimp paste. I'm not that into using shrimp paste, so I went to one of the stalls at the market, and I asked if they have an alternative substitute for shrimp paste. They didn't really know what I was talking about, but they asked what I was making. I told them the different vegetables and other things I was putting in. They then made a little concoction for me - out of some base that looks like liquid garlic with coconut, (but I have no reason to believe that's what it is) and a whole bunch of spices. They open a plastic bag, throw it all in, and then they charge me a buck. Good deal! I have gone back twice since then, and I tell them what I'm putting in the pan, they take it all very seriously - making sure they get each vegetable - and they make me a paste. Just got one today for dinner. I don't think you can really do that in New York.

The other thing that I like is most definitely not specific to Tekka Market, but I still love it here. Let me start with an explanation. For some reason, in 2000 I developed a bad habit of getting a treat (usually a drink) for myself when I go to the supermarket. This obviously started with shoko in a bag (little bit of chocolate milk) in Israel. It was mostly chocolate milk when I lived in the states and Israel. Here it has been a couple of things. First I would get milk tea. It's just so yummy. Then I moved into ice coffee, not-so-sweet (you have to say it like that). Also sooo yummy here. When I dropped caffeine, I moved into juices. This market has a juice called ABC juice. It's Apple, Beetroot, and Carrot. Beets are not called beets here. They're called beetroot. I think that beets (or beetroots) are nature's candy. I LOVE beets. To have a cold cup of apples, beets, and carrots, is quite excellent. It's a big glass of purpleness. I love it.

In my new-found-unemployment, and with Matt being in London for two weeks, I will take you on a virtual tour of our new hood. It's a really interesting area, but I won't spoil any of the surprises by starting here.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Divali




Matt and I celebrated Divali tonight. Deeksha and Rajeev had us over for a nice evening of ceremony, great food, and of course, Settlers.

We learned that Divali is really important to Deeksha's home area - in the north, and not so important to Rajeev's family, which is in Kerala. It's a holiday where they welcome Lakshmi, the god of wealth. It's new year for businesses, and there is a whole story with a king, four wives, four sons, and an evil king from Sri Lanka. Deeksha said that everyone in her family basically eats the same exact foods, and do the exact same things that evening.

First, we made a design with colored rice at the front door to welcome Lakshmi. We even made her footprints, so she would know where to walk (in case she was confused).

Then, after the beautiful idols and flowers were set out perfectly, there was a whole ceremony where Deeksha sang a bit, she sprinkled water on some things, she blessed the idols, and then she put those blessings on us. She also put red dots on the heads of the idols and all of us. She also fed the idols a nice sweet (we got some too). They sang a song together - it was a bit catchy.
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Then, we all got red strings tied around our wrists to show that we participated in a Divali ceremony. Then they lit about 12 oil lamps and 12 tea lights, and we put them ALL around the house, and we also put all the lights on. This was to make sure Lakshmi knows where to go - she could definitely see clearly. We then got to use sparklers! I don't think I have used those since I was a child - camping. After that, we got to eat some yummy dhal and aloo gobi and yogurt.

After the spectacular dinner, we had a great game of Settlers. Deeksha and Rajeev caught on quickly. They were Settler Virgins, and they're "in."

Happy Divali (or as they say in Singapore - Deepavali!!)!!!!

Istana

Matt and I live next to this huge area that is fenced in. There are lots of signs with people aiming guns at each other to tell you to stay away. It's huge - it starts on Orchard Road, and it follows all around almost until Bukit Timah Road. It's just totally curiosity provoking.

No building can have a window that faces this area. There are security guards constantly outside, even in the park near our condo - making sure NOTHING fishy is going on around here.

What's in this secret area is basically the President. There is a huge golf course, and there are a few big buildings - apparently lots of international diplomacy meetings and things like that happen in here. It's called Istana, which means "Palace" in Malay. The big building was built in the 1860s, and the whole thing was handed over to Singapore at independence and then renovated in the late 90s.

Just yesterday, I was exploring the features of my ipod touch, and I saw that Istana was visible on Google Satellite. I was shocked. I mentioned it to my friend at dinner last night, and how I'm slightly obsessed with the fact that it's so central, and it's SO secretive.

Well, after a serious ass kicking in tennis this morning, I got a text that Istana is open to the public today. Matt and I got out of the house as soon as possible, and we went to check it out. The grounds are HUGE. Matt and I just kept wondering how much money Singapore could get if they just built another five malls on that property. It's rolling greenness - with a few ponds, a cannon or two, and a few big buildings. It was really beautiful - and now the mystery isn't so mysterious.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Unexpectedly Unemployed

I have been briefly unemployed at a few points in my life, but I have always been lucky in that I knew what was coming next.

After college, I knew I was volunteering for a year.
After volunteering for a year, I knew I was going straight to grad school.
I got a job before I finished grad school, so I started two months after finishing.
I left that job and went to Pardes, and while I was at Pardes, I found my next job at JCS.
After JCS, when we moved to Singapore, I was unemployed for a couple of months. I had other things to do, though - I got certified to dive, I took the GMAT, and I explored Singapore. Though I hated being unemployed then, at least I had anticipated it. Between Moody's and INSEAD, I only had a weekend...and this summer, though I traveled for six weeks, I knew that I had a job, so I was not unemployed.

Now, I find myself unexpectedly unemployed, and I don't like it. I didn't save any doctors appointments or hair cuts. I have seen most of my friends recently, I just went to the States...I really have no other agenda items other than get a job, which, frankly, isn't that easy.

I have decided that I am going to stay away from non-profits in Singapore (unless there is something that is big, organized, and professional), and I am looking for something in sustainable business, CSR, corporate foundations, internal responsible policies, or some other corporate role that makes the world better in some way. These are mostly non-traditional jobs, and they're not what you come across on job sites, so I think my best bet is networking, networking, networking. I'm working on it...Any ideas? Send them my way!!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Carbon Footprints

Matt and I have always been conscious of our environmental (and other) impact. After reading quite a bit about chemicals and how bad they are for the world (and our family's health), we decided that we would explore the idea of having less chemicals in our life. We thought about this in terms of food first, and now we're looking at cleaning products and toiletries.

While we were in NYC, we decided to buy very little processed food. We ate almost all fresh fruit and vegetables. Some exceptions were made for bread, pasta, yogurt, milk, cheese, cereal. But for the most part we tried. We also tried to get as much whole grain, and least refined as possible. We have definitely carried that into Singapore. And here, we're vegetarian at home, so we basically eat a lot of fruits and vegetables.

I usually ask the market guys where my fruits and veggies come from, and if it's Asia, it's usually good enough for me. Sometimes I have to stretch to Australia, but I try to get nothing from Europe, the US, Africa or S. America (not that much is coming from Africa or S. America to Singapore...). It's hard to eat local here, since nearly nothing is grown in Singapore. I did find one place in Bedok that had a bunch of local organic produce, but I haven't found that in our new place...yet.

I have done a bit of research, and it seems as though we don't REALLY know that cleaning products are bad for us, but we do know for sure that they're bad for the world. They contaminate water supplies, and the processes in making them is also bad for the world in terms of the carbon footprint and damage that the chemicals cause. It seems that most movements in the US for cleaning products are just for clarity - for example requiring that companies publish the ingredients (which is not currently required). There are some sites that say that certain chemicals cause bad things (for fetuses and babies in particular), but there is not a lot of evidence. Seems, though, that given the choice, we should at least TRY to use less chemicals in our lives. Can't really hurt.

I looked around in Singapore, and the ONLY socially responsible choice is not socially responsible. I.e. - it has no chemicals, it publishes its ingredients, etc., but it's flown ALL THE WAY FROM THE USA!! Maybe there is some Australian product that I am missing (anyone know of any?).

So...is the carbon footprint worse if I buy the product shipped from the US or if I buy something that's filled with chemicals, but it's made in Malaysia?

(I bought the one from the US, but I'm not confident in my decision)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Cannot-La!

Last night Matt and I went to Esplanade with our friend Karthik to see the Afro-Cuban Allstars. It was an amazing show. But...before the show, there was some Singaporean ridiculousness.

I try not to complain too much about Singapore, because honestly it's a great place to live - clean, efficient, has lots of things to offer us, and generally we're happy here. But then things like last night happen, and I just want to do something drastic.

Karthik and I obviously needed some ice cream before the show. We went to Movenpick. Karthik knew that they had good chocolate. I love good vanilla, but I had bad vanilla. I asked if I could taste their vanilla. Here's how it went:

"Can I please taste your vanilla?"
"We don't do tasting"
"Well, I really like good vanilla, but I really don't like bad vanilla. Is there any way I could try just a tiny bit? I will for sure either get that or chocolate."
"Sorry. We don't do tastings."
"Ok. Can I please have 80 grams of chocolate?"
"Sure." (gets a cup and puts it on a SCALE. Yes, a scale.
"Actually, is there any way you can put about 78 grams of chocolate, and just put a tiny bit of vanilla on top? I just want to try it so I know if I can get it next time."
"If you want two flavors, you can get two scoops."
"I just want a tiny taste of vanilla - can you just put a tiny bit on top?"
"No - I will have to ask my manager."
"Seriously? You have to ask your manager to put 78 grams of chocolate and 2 grams of vanilla? Wow."

Then, today, I went to the grocery store near our house. I do love this grocery store. I needed two hot chilies in addition to some other things. In this store, you get all of your vegetables, and you have to go to a weigh station, and they weigh them, put prices on them, and then you take it all to the register. I wanted two chilies. I put two chilies in a bag (which kills me, because it's a huge waste of a plastic bag, but then we can use it for kitty poo, but that's another story...). The guy said (in Chinese, but I got the gist), "you need more, because this is below the minimum weight."
"I only want two chilies"
"I cannot put a price tag on unless you put more chilies in this bag." (again - not English, but this is basically what he was saying)
"I will pay whatever amount you want (what will it be? 30 cents??) - but I do not want more than two chilies, because I don't want to waste them."
"I cannot give you this few chilies."
Ok - so I go over and get another chili pepper, and I put it in the plastic bag, and he weighs it, and he prints out the sticker, and then I take out the chili and I put it back.

Some flexibility people!!! It would drive this country MILES forward. Or kilometers.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Long Time No Post

Since I developed a relationship with my blog in May, 2007, I believe this is the longest I have ever gone with out updating her.

I think that's because of something I wrote about two years ago - when you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything.

Well, now I'm feeling a bit better, so I thought I would share my heartache with my blog.

I took a job at an organization that I thought had a lot of potential - lots of strong stakeholders, a strong public image (at least in the media, not necessarily in its field), and loads of options to make it successful. I was really excited about the opportunity. I believe I knew what had to happen to turn it around into a functioning non-profit organization.

Unfortunately, after five weeks in my position, I recognized it was a bad fit for multiple reasons, and I wasn't actually able to DO any of those things I wanted to do. So, this week, I decided to resign. This was obviously a very tough decision, as I had accepted the job in June, and I had tons of expectations around it, and I had built amazing trust with the team, started to build credibility with the stakeholders, etc. But, when you know you're in a bad place, you know you're in a bad place, and I recognized that the things that were not working for me would not change.

So...back to square one. Now I'm a fresh MBA...and jobless. Pretty disappointing, but I'm hoping something better will come along.