Monthly Archives: July 2005

On branding, anniversaries and discounts

A common marketing practice is to give discounts during the anniversary month of a company. For example, during the 25th anniversary of a departmental store, they may decide to give a 25% storewide discount to thank customers for their support over the last 25 years. This helps build goodwill and customer loyalty, essential to a store’s survival.

The recent decision by the government to retain the name “Marina Bay”, after spending $40k to find the best name, was insulted by many parties as a waste of taxpayers’ money. They claimed that any Tom, Dick and Harry could have told you to retain the same name, and would cost far less. They also questioned the effectiveness of this branding.

To me, one effective way to build goodwill and customer loyalty is to give discounts during the anniversary month. If a 40% discount is given on HDB flats bought during the anniversary month of August, there will be a stampede to be customers of HDB. Perhaps that would be too steep a discount, perhaps they can use this opportunity to sell off those unwanted flats that have been accumulating dust in the more ulu parts of the island. You know how retailers try to give steep discounts for old stock so they can free up their inventory space and get some value for their investments, far better than to let it rot. Even a 40% discount off the HDB loan for the month will be very welcome.

SBS and SMRT can also give a 40% discount for all rides during the anniversary month. ERP discounts is another way to help the man in the street get by. All of these are ways for the rulers to show that they care, by giving discounts through GLCs that will help the common citizen. But they did not do it during the recession years, and they will not do it now that the economy is picking up.

Help yourselves, they said. Lower the land pricing and the lives of the people will be easier.

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No energy

Haven’t been blogging lately. Too tied up and not much energy to reflect or write. Used to blog a lot more, but that was when I had little challenge at work and blogging was a hobby. Time there still is, but the energy has all been sapped up by my work and wedding preps.

When my mind was on blogging, I would tend to think in terms of what I can blog about. Things that happened will be reviewed in terms of how I can blog about it, how I would phrase it. Now that every hour of the working day is spent on following up, chasing people, servicing requests, tracking progress, checking to see if things can be done in parallel, I can hardly spare the brain juice to think of reviewing my everyday life.

I have collected the keys to my apartment, shortlisted the contractor, the design is almost finalised, the list of helpers starting to be drawn up, the indoor photoshoot over and the outdoor shoot rescheduled because of the rain, 2 of the 4 pieces of jewellery have been bought, and I did not record down any of it.

Perhaps I should have just spent 10 minutes a day writing down whatever I could, just so that it would be recorded somewhere and not forgotten. But that would not be very meaningful without some reflection, and is without joy, end up as another thing to followup on instead of something I enjoy doing. Meaningless. There are enough things to do as it is.

Sometimes I envy the bloggers who manage to take time out to blog properly despite their tight schedules. Though they do not get enough sleep, they will still squeeze in the time to write a short entry that is at least coherent and properly worded. Perhaps words come easier for them, or they are just more disciplined. Then there are those who have amazing amounts of time to do what they like to do. Lucky bastards. Or did they just choose the right jobs?

ICQ5 allows you to create your own status and messages. I have created a status that says, “At work: paying off my housing loan” and 2 colleagues have found it terribly amusing. I am going to be 29, and I will be bound for the next 30 years. And I will have perhaps 15 years after that to retire, more likely find some other job that I will enjoy doing. Perhaps I will finally get to write the whole day. If my CPF can stretch that far, or if I discover a talent for writing that people will pay for.

A person must have something to look forward to, whether or not it is realistic. Just don’t dash your last hope. For now, it is to look forward to the day when I can move into my own apartment. I’ll worry about my career prospects half a year later.

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My old blog is gone. After months of inactivity, the hosting company has decided to remove it. I had wanted to copy out my entries and store them on my wordpress-on-a-thumbdrive but had not gotten around to finishing the job. 20% to 30% of the entries are now irretrievable lost. And it will not be long before I have forgotten those experiences myself.

Why do I blog? See Ah Lim’s reasons for blogging.
I don’t know, but I guess I blog because I want to announce my existence. Because I feel that we human are so fragile, so fragile that we never know when we are going to die. Because I want my life to not go unnoticed and if I die tomorrow I know I had shared the good things, the bad things, and even the mundane things with someone, somewhere, out there. They might not remember, but at least they get to witness my life’.

On hindsight, maybe I should have paid for a single month of subscription, around SGD$5 and exported everything one-time when I decided to call it quits over there.

I blog for a sense of permanency. Kinda like I’m suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

Maybe not that serious, but how long can a person retain all of his memories? What was I doing on this date? When was it when I last met up with a particular friend? What the heck did we do for anniversary donkey years ago? What was going on through my mind at that time? There is lots of information that will be lost forever if not recorded down. Sometimes there are things worthy of remembering, but it takes too much effort to write them down…

One way to overcome this is to become a cult leader and be worshipped by faithfuls who will record down everything I do and say. Or a celebrity who gets hounded by paparazzi, who will record every single foul-up for posterity. Or get indecently rich so that I can hire my own scribe to write it from a nicer angle. A more feasible (and much less evil) way is to wait for technology to advance enough so that I can run my own blog on a PDA with a integrated keyboard. Then I can bring it everywhere and record everything. The blog server must be web-based with a database that can be easily exported and saved offline. Current technology is still too slow and I hate to wait for computers and PDAs to respond. The price will probably drop to an affordable level within the next 2 years or so, but the speed must pick up.

For now, what I can do is to get a camera phone, take lots of photos of lots of things that happen, upload them to a blog server running on my pc when I get home, so I can put minimal comments or keywords so the stuff is searchable. Minimal use of brainpower on those days (pretty common) when I go on autopilot after work. If only there is a simple way to record down everything that is happening, for searching later on, maybe years later. I have read about a project by this guy who was building a portable device to take photos every minute or so and record onto a 40GB hard disk.

That still doesn’t solve the most important thing that I wish to record: my thoughts and insights, what I have learnt. Before I lose them to time.But sometimes what is the point of remembering everything? Inability to let go is a liability. I still don’t attain to the heights that I wish to reach. I wanted to start a new life, but unable to let go of the past, I remain who I used to be.

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The Engineering Mind – a danger to themselves

During the time of the French Revolution, many people were beheaded for “crimes against the state.” One day, a Priest, a Drunkard and an Engineer were led up to the guillotine.

Before being placed in the guillotine, the priest requested the he be allowed to lay face UP so he will be looking toward Heaven when he dies. When the blade of the guillotine is released, it comes speeding down and suddenly stops just inches from the Priest’s neck. The executioner takes this as divine intervention and releases the priest.

Next the Drunkard comes to the guillotine. He also decides to die face up hoping that he will be as fortunate as the Priest. When the blade of the guillotine is released, it comes speeding down and suddenly stops just inches from the Drunkard’s neck So they release the Drunkard as well.

The Engineer is next, and he too decides to die facing up. Just before releasing the blade of the guillotine, the Engineer exclaims “Hey! I see what your problem is….”

NASA was interviewing professionals to be sent to Mars. Only one could go, and he couldn’t return to Earth.

The first applicant, an engineer, was asked how much he wanted to be paid forgoing. “A million dollars,” he answered, “because I want to donate it to my alma mater.”

The next applicant, a doctor, was asked the same question. He asked for two million dollars. “I want to give a million to my family”, he explained, “and leave the other million for the advancement of medical research.”

The last applicant was a lawyer. When asked how much money he wanted, he whispered in the interviewer’s ear, “Three million dollars.”
“Why so much more than the others?” the interviewer asked.
The lawyer replied, “If you give me $3 million, I’ll give you $1 million, I’ll keep $1 million, and we’ll send the engineer.”

A man drifting in a hot air balloon realized he was lost. Reducing altitude, he spotted a guy on the ground and descended to shouting range. “Excuse me, sir,” he shouted. “Can you help me? I promised a friend would meet him a half hour ago, but I don’t know where I am.”

The man below responded: “Yes. You’re in a hot air balloon, hovering approximately 30 feet above this field, between 40 and 42 degrees North Latitude, and 58 and 60 degrees West Longitude.”

“You must be an engineer,” responded the balloonist.

“I am,” said the man. “How did you know?”

“Well,” said the balloonist, “everything you’ve told me is technically correct, but I have no idea what to make of your information, and the fact is I’m still lost.”

Whereupon the man on the ground responded, “You must be a manager.”

“That I am,” replied the balloonist, “but how did you know?”

“Well,” said the man, “you don’t know where you are, or where you’re going. You’ve made a promise you have no idea how to keep, and you expect me to solve your problem. The fact is, you’re in the exact same position you were before we met, but now it’s somehow my fault!”

A pastor, a doctor and an engineer were waiting one morning for a particularly slow group of golfers. The engineer fumed “What’s with these guys ….. we must have been waiting for 15 minutes!”

The doctor chimed in “I don’t know, but I’ve never seen such ineptitude! ”

The pastor said, “Here comes the greenskeeper. Let’s have a word with him.”

“Hi George. Say, what’s with that group ahead of us. They’re rather slow, aren’t they?”

The greenskeeper replied , “Oh, yes, that’s a group of blind firefighters. They lost their sight saving our clubhouse from a fire last year, so we always let them play for free anytime.”

The group was silent for a moment. The pastor said, “That’s so sad. I think I will say a special prayer for them tonight.”

The doctor said, “Good idea. I’m going to contact my ophthalmologist buddy and see if there’s anything he can do for them.”

The engineer said, “Why can’t these guys play at night?”

There was an engineer who had an exceptional gift for fixing all things
mechanical. After serving his company loyally for over 30 years, he
happily retired.

Several years later the company contacted him regarding a seemingly
impossible problem they were having with one of their multimillion
dollar machines. They had tried everything and everyone else to get the
machine to work but to no avail. In desperation, they called on the
retired engineer who had solved so many of their problems in the past.

The engineer reluctantly took the challenge. He spent a day studying the
huge machine. At the end of the day, he marked a small “x” in chalk on a
particular component of the machine and stated, “This is where your
problem is.”

The part was replaced and the machine worked perfectly again. The
company received a bill for $50,000 from the engineer for his service.
They demanded an itemized accounting of his charges.

The engineer responded briefly: One chalk mark $1. Knowing where to put
it $49,999. It was paid in full and the engineer retired again in peace.

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Changing a leopard’s spots

… might be impossible, or maybe it just need more work.

Changing my blogging identity and making some effort to change my style is not just not enough, I am still not that different from who I was a year ago. Less angry, but still cynical and jaded. I cannot believe how much tension and pressure can be released through a simple 4km run after work, and the feel-good lasted 24 hours and made my next working day easier to live with. I can change the way I write, my outlook in life and my viewpoints, but the things that push my buttons remain the same. I am still who I am.

Having pioneered the use of blogs in my department as a communication tool for the project team, I was tasked to set up a wiki for knowledge sharing. I had previously set up 2 proof-of-concept wikis to demonstrate the benefits of wikis, but I had not bothered to really put in the content and made my pitch to the department. And so I lost to someone who was better versed in claiming credit, whether due or undue. By transferring my proof-of-concept into a linux server, he got a more reliable environment and sold the idea as his own. By setting up a new server, he could sideline the old and pretend it never existed and so made no mention of what has been done before this. Give credit where due, give respect where due, damnit!

There are many kinds of people in the world. There are techies who will give due credit when building upon other people’s achievements. Then there are the management type who will build on it as though it was entirely their idea in the first place. The evil M$ type who buys over and absorbs within themselves with no trail of their history left behind. I hate playing these games. The only way to stay on top in the pecking order is to stay constantly vigilant and guard against bloodsuckers.

That time when boss was asking about the wiki, I had ignored the bloodsucker’s request for help and presented my achievements directly to the boss. I could see the bloodsucker’s disappointment and perhaps some fear of losing this chance to promote himself. And I can see his unease when he hears me telling people that I was the one who pioneered and set up the first blog and wiki, that I explained the concept and benefits, that the bloodsucker only moved it into a new server. He knows that his achievements pale beside mine, and he is not comfortable to be found out. I mean, if he has nothing to hide, would he fear being found out?

Such tactics can be used, but what for? If I’m still asking questions like this after a period of 5 years in this company, perhaps it is time to move on to a place I am more suited to, where I don’t have to ask such questions. A place more worth striving for. Or perhaps I’m not using such tactics because I am not an imbecile with the pressure of a house, baby and a car to feed, so I don’t find it worth resorting to such underhanded measures to stay on top.

Are they worth changing my spots for?

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