A Father’s touch

Having been brought up in a relatively conservative Singaporean Chinese family, love is rarely expressed through hugs, and ‘I love you’ is rarely verbalized. If it has to be, it often carries a tinge of restrain.

I have often had misunderstandings with my father, largely due to differences in our personality and outlook of life.

I have always entertained thoughts of moving abroad to create a life of my own, not just to get a respite from the typical rat-race Asian way of life, but also to experience and immerse in Western culture, which has fascinated and enchanted me deeply. I love the way how a white guy can approach you in a cafe just to strike up a casual conversation just because the the flowers look gorgeous in full bloom, or that he thinks your dress is pretty, with no strings attached. Okay, my fascination goes beyond such superficial points.

Bottom line is, I want to work abroad and I need to learn to take care of myself, be independent, cook and do laundry myself, and even be my own handyman and plumber if the bulb blows or if a cockroach flies through my window. And yep, practice begins right at home.

Yesterday, my bulb had blown and I thought to myself, “Time to fix the bulb yourself”.

I dragged the ladder out of the storeroom, got my father’s help to steady the ladder and support my back as I gingerly unscrewed the two spoiled lamps, handed them over to him, and replaced them with the brand new ones. So he was there to Quality Control (or rather, Quality Assurance) the whole process, my first attempt at a seemingly easy task, aged 25.

A father’s touch. It reminded me of the time he taught me to ride a bike. He steadied the bike seat and had my back, and gradually let go as I tried to focus on cycling straight, wobbling hopelessly from left to right till I finally found my balance to cruise ahead.

He has been doing that ever since in life, supporting me, through the heartbreaks, the trash dates, the happy times, the peaks, the valleys, and has never let go.

I have never doubted his love for me; I don’t think he would bear to let me go, even when the time comes for him to walk me down the aisle.

Here’s a post for you, Dad. In honor of Father’s Day, in a week’s time.

I love you.

We may be very different in the way God made us; our views, our temperament and personality. But your unconditional love for me has made me understand that a Father’s love is something very special and to be cherished, beyond any kind of romantic love any guy can give me, or will give me.

College – Does it really make you valuable in today’s economy?

Let me first chronicle my personal experiences in transiting to the working economy after graduation. I had graduated with a degree in Chemistry, pretty general track of studies I would say. The school I had attended was relatively new, and modules were disorganized; and very much related to the respective professors’ field of research and had little related to real world industries. Education quality was very clearly the least of the dean’s concerns, as they were more drawn to the prospect of jetting up the school’s rankings through the route of mass publishing of research papers.

So yep, armed with a general science degree, I wandered about aimlessly navigating the swamped job market with little advice or direction. Needless to say, that vague sense of hopelessness began to overwhelm me. Sure, there were a myriad of jobs out there, but when I scrolled through the requirements section, it seemed that my resume failed to fit the bill. Chemistry related industries requested job specific skills and certs, which my educational background did no justice to. Clearly something had gone wrong with the Singaporean educational system. How could I fork out thousands every semester, slogged like a nocturnal creature to get through the exams, and end up so ‘unemployable’ in the sight of a prospective employer? This did no justice to the pain and sacrifice I had endured through the journey of nailing exams. In such a paper nation, traditional universities seemed to have failed in their purported duty to educate and skill the workforce in an ever changing work environment.

While I do not condone the personal duty of seeking self improvement by exercising vigilance to reskill as acording to the changing work trends, I see that universities really need to buck up in answering to students who pay copious amounts for school fees, that the end product of an university education justifies its cost. We are talking about legit, usable skills that people need to have before they leave school, not just the ability to take exams well and get first class honours.

After decades of shortsighted emphasis on paper grades, society has finally awoken from its slumber, seeing massive powers like China charge ahead with original innovations, technology and even space programmes. This is a true mark of a first-world nation – the ability to identify and solve problems by self-inventing technology, engineering solutions that will be sought after by the world. Clearly not borrowing and buying foreign technology, and importing ‘foreign-talent’ and giving them the leeway to leech off funds to innovate just for them to leave eventually, and neglecting citizens. What a silly way of governance.

With the emergence of learning programmes that aim to fit workers into industries more seamlessly, yes, I agree that finally, some work has been done to plug the skills gap in the local economy, albeit a little too late. Yep and of course, I capitalized on such opportunities and am currently being trained for a specialized role in a high-value manufacturing industry. Eventually I have plans to move abroad to learn more and solidify my career, as I feel that learning can plateau in such a tiny place.

Just some personal thoughts. Why not Singapore borrow a leaf from Germany’s book, and invest more in analyzing trends in the economy to come,? And work closely with universities to tailor degree courses that prepare students to go straight into industries? It saves a great deal of time, stress, and money. The students will thank you for it, which will translate to loyalty to your government, which is what you have been dying to buy since the wave of ‘political dissent’ that has emerged in recent years?

 

Transitions

I had not been very regular at the young adults ministry in my church for a couple of reasons.

The place is chock full of girls, women, dressed to the nines to attract the handful of guys present. Very few guys are present, indeed. And out of these few guys, only a fraction of them are worth a second take. Yeah. How boring can it get, spending every other Friday night at a place that does no justice to your relationship status.

Well, actually, that one reason is major enough make you decide to skip service. But recently, I’ve gotten closer to the Lord due to a myriad of circumstances which are kinda lengthy to explain. So, I’ve decided to give church another shot and listen with an attentive heart.

Surprisingly, it was as if the message had been specially tailored for me everytime I went. To my situation, my season, and I have always left feeling recharged and renewed, on a spiritual high.

As for a life partner, I guess I will have to join the massive marriage market on dating apps, and see where fate takes me. I had this conversation with an ex-prof, and we were on the topic of dating. So I was rather adamant that finding love had a lot to do with luck, to which he retorted with an analogy- If you don’t buy TOTO, you can’t complain that you never strike cos you never will. Very true. I used to think that dating apps were the final destination of the single, desperate and ugly, which made me rather  hesitant to put my picture out there floating around with the rungs of the unwanted. However, increasingly, many of my friends are using these apps, and they have gotten attached to relatively attractive, cool guys. Cooler than the average church dude actually. Time to dump those preconceived ideas of mine and start finding love the 21st century way.

Absolutely Blooming by Dior

Have you ever bought a bottle of perfume and got bored by the scent well before finishing it? Well, to meet the whims of my short attention span, I think it’s more cost effective to buy designer perfume in mini 5 ml vials, the miniature version of the exact usual-sized ones you see at Sephora or department stores.

So I wandered down the alleys of Lucky Plaza to hunt for the shops that sells these vials at the cheapest pries. Finally somewhere you can put these haggling skills to good use, when you thought it was a passe housewife trait confined to the exchanges with wet market butchers and fishmongers.

I really love the flora, sophisticated scent of Absolutely Blooming by Dior. It also has a slight hint of sweetness, that makes my Kenzo Flower pale in comparison. Very feminine, very sexy, yet professional. Something you can wear to a boardroom meeting with your LBD and updo for that extra enchantment, without being judged for trying too hard.

So here’s my little vial perched on top of my laptop. Very proud of my little prize. You can expect me to wear this till something else captivated my olfactory faculties.

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Also, while roaming around Sephora, I chanced upon Laura Mercier lipstick, and one of the shades that caught my eye was the Palm Beach one. Perfect for everyday wear, a cross between coral and pink. Perfect for fickle people who cannot pick between the two shades. Very moisturizing, and the color has staying power. Also another shade I’ll be seen in for the next few months.

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Nah these ain’t my lips, but they look close 😉

 

 

Design thinking

Ecosystem thinking has become an integral in product design today. We don’t just work along the linear train of thought to make a product marketable to a consumer; it involves considering the various entities that affect the consumer’s decision, and how the product fits into the whole web/ecosystem revolving around a consumer. For instance, how it leverages of other factors in the ecosystem of services/products to gain its way into a consumer’s home. Traditional business models in most organisations still remain horizontal in nature. While the horizontal model still works to reach a consumer, it’s probably good to rethink this in light of today’s economic landscape and the fact that no product exists in silo, but it’s marketability is determined by a host of other factors.

In the drive to make accurate decisions on product design quickly, useful data patterns are holy grail, in a world flooded with information. We’ve heard of instances of wiretapping by governments to obtain civilian data, but for businesses, getting accurate data through receptors in the community is especially important. There must be meaning in data, if not it’s just contributing to noise and complication. In the quest to design objects that meet consumer needs, we need to look into the crystal ball of data algorithms for answers. A mishmash of the Engineering and Design fields results. Speaking of which, the Singapore University of Design and Technology seems to be a really exciting place to learn how to solve real-world problems with engineering technology, translating into practical designs. Universities that overemphasize on academics are becoming passe. Also, businesses these days cannot be compartmentalized into a fixed discipline/line. For instance, Apple is a music/ hardware/technology company? Confining disciplines to strictly ‘Computer Engineering’ or ‘ Art and Design’, may not be relevant  in the changing business context. However that being said, companies still value candidates with solid skills in their major discipline.

Also, we see the advent of Singapore start-ups trying to emulate Silicon Valley, having creative working spaces, a warrior mentality to boot- horsepower to last 16 hours straight on coding. Some people wonder if Asians are just experts at copying their American counterparts. Taking a step back, considering our cultural differences, would it be better to allow our start-up culture to develop organically in the local context, rather than conforming to the American model which may not necessarily suit an Asian country whose education system had been so deeply rooted in rote learning? But in reality, Singapore wants finished products quick without hassle. To bypass the usual time required for an organic start-up culture to develop, copying may be the way to go for now, rather that researching on a business model that is original and innately beneficial in the local context.

Many people have lamented that AI may one day usurp jobs, leaving behind a catastrophe of mass unemployment. However, at the present moment, AI capabilities are limited to monitoring trends on the ground and keeping humans informed; sure, they could do jobs that involve a combination of fixed patterns, i.e. drafting contract laws. Decision-making or forming improbable connections, at the moment, seems confined to the realm of human thinking faculties.

My Life as a Courgette

I usually don’t give animation films the same regard as the regular kind, partly because I am a feeling person, and I need to look into the character’s eyes to their soul to feel the exact timbre of that tinge of sadness/wistfulness, or that flicker of excitement dancing in his iris. Therefore, animation has always resided in the cutesy realm, not to be taken too seriously or used to detail sombre subject matter. My Life as a Courgette, breaks the rules by employing cutesy characters to depict complex subject matter like family dysfunction and abandonment of children. However so, with its feel-good happy ending, watching this film is a nice way to end off a wintery year, especially in the days leading up to Christmas.

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Little Courgette gets sent to an orphanage by a police officer following the death of his parents. He gets holed up with a bunch of other kids who get sent there because of dysfunctional families. There, he meets a special girl, Camille, and a magical bond is forged between the two. Camille’s aunt, a witch in her own words, decides to take her back forcefully, as France provides child support funds for her to raise Camille up. The kids in the orphanage devise an elaborate plan to thwart the wicked aunt’s plans to take Camille away, and Courgette and Camille eventually return to each other’s company again. To sum up the feel-good factor, the police officer, whose own son had abandoned him, decided to take in Courgette and Camille as his own. The film ends off with the police officer marking Courgette’s and Camille’s height on a wall, with their names tagged, to commemorate the day they moved into their new home, and found true family.

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The animated effects are pretty cute; the characters have huge billiard-ball-lookalike eyes, oversized heads, and speak French in hushed tones. There are cute interpretations of innuendo jokes made by the kids, a reflection of their experimental phase, with descriptions of sex like ‘his willy exploded into flames’, ‘she starts sweating a lot and goes oui, oui, oui, oui , and stops after a while’. I thought the snowball fights and disco parties during a vacation planned for the kids were heart-warming bonding times.

While this film may not reflect the actual state of the French welfare/ foster care system, it does reveal a graciousness of the French society toward children from marginalised or dysfunctional families. Kids in orphanages have access to decent education, meals, and even time-out such as vacation. Elitism exists across societal strata, and the more fortunate naturally have a better headstart in life. However, it would be a shame to dismiss someone’s potential, because they were not given the chance/born into less favourable circumstances. It seems like Western societies have that innate moral stand to ‘leave no child behind’, which impacts societal cohesion in the long term, for a happier well-integrated society that values civil rights.