Thursday, January 29, 2009

A Time dotCom Lesson

I am aghast. I am appalled. I am angry. Both Liverpool and Arsenal are building undesired reputations at becoming draw specialists. Liverpool drew with Wigan, and Everton stalemated Arsenal, both matches yielded identical 1-1 scores. I guess this is the time to keep faith with my teams, come what may… This is not easy, especially when both Man U and Chelsea are pulling ahead in the league table at our expense! Nonsense, as Shireen would say. Bloody nonsense, I say!!

North of the border, Celtic at least made me smile, when my very dependable No. 1 team defeated Dundee United on penalty kicks to set up a Co-operative Insurance Cup meeting with Rangers after an incredible semi-final. Celtic played well but the game ended in a scoreless draw, which of course set the scene for an enthralling shoot-out. Both sides scored 10 of their first 11 penalties, Willo Flood (of Dundee United) skied his second attempt and Celtic’s Scott McDonald volleyed home; the final score 11-10.

^ Glasgow's Hampden Park where the semi-final is played

I don't really read The Star much these days – but by chance, I spied this business news article today (January 29, p B1) and it caught my attention enough to want to read it and digest its content. For some reason I cannot fathom, 3 disparate statements from this very article have managed to stare back at me and worm their way into my consciousness: "This company has structural issues and people work in silos"; "... we are dysfunctional as an organization"; and "There is clearly a lack of direction and clarity and everyone only thought of his own work". These pronouncements had a familiar ring to them, and I actually thought for a moment that I was reading about my own organization. In reality, this article was referring to Time dotCom Berhad. Still, this company's CEO, Afzal Abdul Rahim talked about a turnaround plan that consisted of 4 sections: a business plan, turnaround initiatives, divisional initiatives, and quick win labs. Wow, this is great, I thought, because it all makes sense. And it makes me wonder if our own HICT CEO/President is thinking along the same lines as well... To re-cap, we need a total overhaul that incorporates not just the business plan but also a mindset shift in the way things are done is needed to turn HICT around. And I just love the declaration: "No amount of talk is going to change anything if the execution is not there. We just have to focus and get going". So, tell me again, when are we going to start?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Dreadful Word

I have warned last week that this is going to be a ‘challenging’ year for all of us, and like it or not, ominous signs are already forcibly tearing apart our cocoons of self-denial and stabbing the underbellies of our comfort zones.

Let’s start by talking about jobs, since jobs give us our salaries. The International Labour Organization (ILO) is already telling us point-blank that as many as 51 million jobs worldwide could be lost this year because of the global economic crisis. As reported by BBC News (Source: Website, posted January 28, 2009), the UN agency is saying that this global job crisis will push up the world's unemployment rate to 7.1% by the end of 2009, compared with 6.0% in 2008 and 5.7% in 2007; that even their most optimistic forecast is for 18 million more unemployed, giving a global jobless rate of 6.1%; and that developing countries will suffer most from additional job losses. In Malaysia, according to Human Resources Minister Dr S Subramaniam, a total of 33,451 workers lost their jobs last year (Source: The Edge Daily, as at website, posted January 22, 2009). This same minister had also indicated that as of January 12, 14,000 workers lost their jobs (Source: The New Straits Times, as at website, posted January 19, 2009) – this statistic already representing almost 42% of the 2008 jobless figure, and painting a very scary picture indeed! Juan Somavia, ILO director-general has rightly warned us: “We can expect that for many of those who manage to keep a job, earnings and other conditions of employment will deteriorate” (Source: BBC News, as at website, posted January 28, 2009).

And more grim news: Malaysia's Bank Negara had already slashed its key policy rate by a surprise 75 basis points to its lowest level in over 10 years, and is expected to cut rates further. Our economics-illiterate government which had boldly trumpeted that economic growth this year will be 3.5 percent, a figure many private sector economists say is overly optimistic, is sounding like a distant echo because last week, Bank Negara itself had to sheepishly admit that the economy was a lot more vulnerable (Source: Website, posted January 21, 2009).

An obvious outcome of a severe economic downturn is that as the economy goes into a tailspin, crime surges and swells. In fact, just by leafing through any Malaysian daily, we can bear witness to rampant crime in many of our cities. And what’s worse, this is accompanied by what the public believes to be – rightly or wrongly – police ineptitude, corruption, and brutality (this last descriptor is best illustrated in today’s edition of the Malay Mail, January 28, 2009) when its editorial (p 2) carries the headline “Who guards the guards?” which I am reproducing here, mostly verbatim:

The death of 22-year-old Kugan Ananthan in police custody on Jan 20 has once again cast a terrible shadow of doubt on the Royal Malaysian Police (RMP). Kugan had been arrested on Jan 15 on suspicion of stealing luxury cars, but died five days later at the Subang Jaya Taipan police station as a result of a pulmonary oedema (a fluid build-up in the lungs).
Post-mortem photographs taken by his family indicated trauma to his back, arms and legs, and while Selangor police chief DCP Khalid Abu Bakar initially dismissed claims that Kugan’s injuries may have killed him, the Attorney-General has classified the young man’s death as murder. Even as the public has been asked not to speculate about Kugan’s death, the fact remains that the lack of clarity in the way the police handled the matter, and in the interrogation of suspects generally, leaves the people little choice.
At stake is the credibility of the entire police force. We have clear procedures through which every death in custody must be investigated immediately by a magistrate – and a coroner would be better – but what we lack is enforcement of these measures despite calls for their implementation from even the highest levels of government.
The 2005 report of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the police (Royal Commission to Enhance the Operation and Management of the Royal Malaysia Police) found a disturbingly high number of deaths in custody from 2000 to 2004: There were 80 fatalities, and of these only 39 cases were referred to a magistrate – and these in turn resulted in only six inquests.
Likewise, police officers can be cleared of any wrongdoing quickly and with no damage to their reputations if the RMP is subjected to the supervision of the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission, but the police have rejected the ombudsman because they fear the commission might have an adverse impact on dignity and morale.
The truth is, however, that dignity and morale are the natural results of credibility and confidence. Public faith in the police has been badly shaken, and it is long past the time that such faith be restored.
We really need not ask what to do – the Royal Commission has provided us with a clear list of recommendations that, at the very least, might have made the circumstances surrounding Kugan’s death substantially clearer.
For example, the commission recommended that suspects be allowed access to a lawyer or be produced before a magistrate should they have any complaints about their arrest and detention. What became of this?
We should not, in fact, ask any questions at all except to demand that the commission’s recommendations be implemented fully and without delay.
Whatever we do now, we cannot save Kugan. What we can do is save the Royal Malaysian Police

With all these happening in our own backyard, shouldn’t we Malaysians worry? Perhaps, ‘challenging’ is not the right word; perhaps we should use this word: ‘alarming’ instead, or maybe even ‘dreaded’! ‘Dreaded’ – what a dreadful word!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

To Defect or Not To Defect?

Today is the second day of CNY (Tuesday, January 27) and I find myself LOL when I read that cocky Tajol Rosli, the ex-Perak MB was foolish (and daring also) to boast that UMNO is confident of wresting back the state from PR in the next elections. This rashly reckless statement reported in The Malaysian Insider (Source: Webpage, posted January 27, 2009) comes one day after The Star reported that Bota State Assemblyman Nasarudin Hashim is quitting UMNO to join PKR, bringing the total number of state seats held by the PR alliance in Perak to 32, versus BN’s 27. I don’t think I am wrong when I say that very many people share blogger Kamal Abdullah’s sentiment: “At last the first official UMNO defection has begun, and it is expected many more will follow” (Source: Blogpage, posted January 25, 2009). Najib has also been quoted as saying that UMNO and BN elected representatives should understand that the party had done a lot of good deeds for the people and the country (Source: NST Online, January 26, 2009) – Undeniably so, but they have also destroyed the rakyat’s faith in them when they embraced corruption, racism, religious bigotry, and cronyism. So, if these people believe they represent the rakyat, then they should quickly defect, hahahaha! In any case, I hope Kamal is right! I suspect the next defection won’t take too long either. But at the same time, I worry. The political intrigues will produce defections but not necessarily from UMNO only, and we are naive if we believe that defections will help the PR cause!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Timely Deloitte Advice

Today (Monday, January 26), being the first day of the Lunar New Year, brings some good tidings to those who fear this year might indeed be a “dreadful” year (a description that is a Tory understatement, if ever there was one, as expressed by the UK shadow business secretary Ken Clarke, and posted on BBC News, January 25). The good tidings come in the form of a Deloitte Malaysia advice that spells out their 7 secrets to survive this economic downturn (Star, Malaysia, January 26, 2009, p B6). I do hope my bosses at HICT are pondering over this article, and reading and re-reading it, to hopefully learn from the free lessons contained therein. In fact, these 7 survival strategies are very simple to understand and execute – and believe me, they are very relevant to HICT because just as we are growing, we must still be mindful that the present is very unsettled and capricious – and therefore, we need to be strong and resilient enough to ensure performance sustainability over the long-term for our organization. These 7 strategies are:

Decide how much cost improvements are required by evaluating individual company’s situation.
Start with the obvious such as streamlining general and administrative functions and materials and services costs.
Take the enterprise view by looking beyond organizational silos to include cost-cutting opportunities across the entire enterprise.
Balance short- and long-term improvements and adopt a tiered approach to cost reduction.
Choose the right business model that fits in a period of downturn.
Protect strategic investments that have value-add activities.
Actively manage change which involves overcoming resistance to necessary change in an organization.

Basically, what the above means, is that we should institute strategic structural improvements, rather than tactical improvements. But here’s my point: We should examine the individual and department in terms of their “measurable” contribution to the organization. We should not treat each and every individual and department as being equal because resources and budgets are already limited and even stretched, in some cases. We must consider that the outcomes an individual and department yield are bound to be unequal – we simply cannot afford to manage the organization as a sum of equal parts because we are not (equal). We will need to re-examine the way we do things at HICT because what we have achieved so far, are not very tangible and certainly, not far-reaching enough. At meetings, I am resigned to the fact that most of us are happy with what we have achieved thus far, because we have made meager improvements here and there. What we lack is a strategic perspective of the business.

Right now, we are not focused. We do things on an ad-hoc basis – perhaps because we do not have an understanding of how the jigsaw puzzle pieces fit together; we tend to be reactive rather than proactive; we engage in trivial pursuits; and yes, we spend too much time politicking. All of these detract us from the real purpose of the organization: To grow and prosper within a given time frame. And so, it is my hope, that we take these lessons to heart, immediately and seriously. We need strong leadership now – more so, in 2009, no more playing musical chairs, no more pussyfooting around, and definitely, no more political one-upmanship.

I believe HICT is on the threshold of something really big and exciting – dare we take the bull (pun intended) by the horns, and address this challenge? In the end, it’s all about change, really.

Football is also a bleak subject. Yes, Celtic won their match, but both Arsenal and Liverpool did not exactly shine. I am delighted that Celtic scalped Hibernian 3-1, thereby maintaining their No. 1 position in the SPL table; Celtic’s goals came from McDonald (3, 76), and McManus (9). In the meantime, in the FA Cup fourth rounds, Arsenal produced a scoreless draw against Cardiff, and Liverpool managed a lame 1-1 draw against Everton. As I have said, Liverpool must win, but they did not – although it can be said that Liverpool’s FA Cup hopes are still alive; they are perilously holding on by a tenuous thread, at best! To say, I am unhappy, is to put it very mildly – the point is that “Liverpool had enjoyed huge supremacy in both possession and territory” but yet, they didn’t find the net, they couldn’t score – except for that timely Gerrard strike (54) that was badly needed to cancel out Everton’s Lescott goal in the 27th minute. We often forget it is results that count – not the efforts, nor the attempts. In this respect, Liverpool has failed.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

A Labu Tale

Sime Darby is again in the news – this avaricious jumbo of a company is conspiring with AirAsia to build a LLCT@Labu – the latest Malaysia Boleh scheme to build a new white elephant and make tons of money for a couple of cronies (One of them, if you can recall, is a certain budget airline CEO who went to Shahrizat’s ceramah during the last general elections to lend support. Yes, the politician may have lost in Lembah Pantai, but the tireless BN supporter tries very hard to stay in the limelight always - elections or no elections - since he is, what I would call, a pompous narcissist). Coming back to this issue of white elephants, God knows how many white elephants (Proton City, Putrajaya, Islamic Civilization Park, to name just three) we have built in the past, using taxpayers’ hard-earned money, and yet, there are people who wonder out loud why BN regularly loses their by-elections since the March 08, 2008 page-stopping, history-in-the-making main event! The Rocky’s Bru headline from his January 11 blog posting, “Labu LCCT for Malaysia or for Sime?” (Source: Blogpage, accessed January 24) put this issue in the correct perspective though. And one of his readers has even remarked that this whole loony idea was “an ego massage for Zubir and Tony”. Yes, I tend to agree with him. After all, KLIA is very much under-utilized! Wee Choo Keong, MP for Wangsa Maju has asserted that KLIA was originally designed to handle 125 million passengers a year but is now only handling about 25 million (Source: Blogpage, accessed January 24).

The Liverpool-Everton match is on the cards (again) – this time for the FA Cup fourth round tie. And I believe, come Sunday, Liverpool will win – simply because we have the talent and the motivation to want to prevail over Everton! Besides, we simply cannot afford to lose or even to draw - it's unthinkable!

Friday, January 23, 2009

A Challenging Ox Year

To all my Chinese readers and friends everywhere, Kong Hee Fatt Choy/Cong Xi Fa Cai and may you receive generous showers of abundant wealth, good health and everything nice!

The New Straits Times (January 23, 2009, p B12) reported Microsoft dishing out its menu of bad news – disappointing results, the planned elimination of up to 5,000 jobs, and the decision to cease offering profit forecasts for the rest of the fiscal year – and naturally, shocking Wall Street in the process yesterday. Jobs that are going to disappear cut across a broad spectrum of departments: R&D, marketing, sales, legal, human resources, finance, and information technology. Already one analyst has remarked that Microsoft has never had a layoff like this before, and that they are sending a signal that times are definitely changing. Well, recall that even PM-in-waiting Najib (one blogger had an impolite name for him: Naji?) did exhort, Change or perish! How perceptive – although in the case of BN, it is a case of too little, and too late. It doesn’t matter whether it is Permatang Pauh or Kuala Terengganu or any other future by-elections for that matter – BN will lose! For the rest of the world – we can only sit tight, put our heads down and work bloody hard, and just pray that we will see through these difficult times, with our jobs still intact! Just in case, there are still Malaysians who are missing the plot, Microsoft Corporation’s CEO, Steve Ballmer in an email describes the present times we find ourselves in, as “the most challenging economic climate we have ever faced” (The Star, Malaysia, January 23, 2009, p B12). If Microsoft, a Fortune 500 company (No. 44 in 2008) is finding themselves in dire straits, we know we better brace ourselves for a very uncertain, even precarious future. Not exactly a time to celebrate with happy abandonment

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Fung Family

Today, I am happy because Martin told me that there were 2 ADP applications for the April 2009 intake that Owais had concluded. When I scrutinized the applications, I discovered that these were from the Kuantan family that I counseled at the Star Education Fair! Wow, I am tickled pink! I am bowled over! I am cracked up! The Fung family did sign up their son and daughter (as I knew they would). I must not forget to also mention Wei Wei’s contribution since she also shared her student experiences with them – and I am positive it helped too. So I am highlighting this only to illustrate that this is a good example of superb term effort because Owais, Wei Wei and yes, me too made these applications happen! But of course, we need more students to sign up. If only, we had people in Marketing who actually understands Marketing!

Today, we also resumed our Toastmasters meeting at HICT, and we saw a number of guests dropping in, 2 of whom deserve special mention. These two whom I am referring to, are vacationing students, one studying at Universiti Malaysia Sabah, and the other studying at Universiti Utara Malaysia. Incidentally, Weng May and Enki are both from Klang – that figures! Given some last-minute glitches, I didn’t do my speech – which makes me feel woefully wretched. I guess I will have to make sure I do my promised speeches next month. There's a lot of catching up to do!

In the January 19 game, Liverpool drew 1-1 with Everton, the former letting slip a chance to earn 3 precious points. I am disappointed, dejected, and downcast, especially knowing that Liverpool can ill-afford to produce this lame result at this stage of the season. It seemed that even though Liverpool enjoyed plenty of possession, Everton refused to play dead and let the Reds walk over them – so it was a hard-fought game between two hardworking sides. Still, Liverpool deserved to share points because they conceded a dismal goal in the 87th minute when they allowed Everton’s Cahill to sneak in a header.

Monday, January 19, 2009

An Academic's Life

David Lee was kind enough to forward us an invitation from the University of Hertfordshire recently, inviting us to attend The Fourth International Blended Learning Conference: “Engaging Students in the Curriculum” to be held on the 17th & 18th June 2009 at their de Havilland Campus, Hatfield, UK. To be invited, we will have to write an abstract, and submit it on or before January 19. I was very much interested in this, and I managed to secure the interest of 2 other colleagues, and together, the 3 of us prepared this abstract, to submit to UK just in time to meet the deadline. We should know by February 23 whether we are successful or not – but if we are, one of us will travel to the UK to present our working paper on “A Qualitative Study of Blended Learning in Malaysian Tertiary Institutions”. Let’s see how this goes… Wouldn’t it be great if we get to go, and HELP or even UH can sponsor us?

Classes are now in full swing, and I am logging 23 hours a week. But that’s not all, by next month, there’s maybe, another 4-8 hours for me. I will be happy when this semester is over – believe me, the workload is weighty. The only consolation is that I will have expanded my team of full-time teaching staff from 2 to hopefully, 6 by this April. It looked positive, and I am keeping my fingers crossed. Hopefully, with this development, the problems we are having this semester with timetabling, teaching resources, and subject offerings can be considerably reduced. I wonder if other colleges are facing the same kind of problems as I am?

Andy McDonough’s CD sales have now reached 665 units – thanks to Mathew. Also, Brandon has started his Project KL Movie (KL stands for K Loghandran lah) – the movie project – and and so, we should be moving forward now. The only other thing we need to do is to have a sit-down meeting with Loghandran. There are other projects in the pipeline, and I will report on them in due time. Certainly, 2009 promises to be an exciting year for ADP, and our students will have their hands full with activities. I, on the other hand, hope to have my hands full with new students!

Aiyah-h-h, I forgot to mention about the Arsenal-Hull match played on Saturday, January 17. Of course, Arsenal won, with a convincing 3-1 score; the goals coming from Adebayor (30), Nasri (82), and Bendtner (86). It didn't do anything for Arsenal as far as table standings go, since Man U, Chelsea, and Aston Villa also won their respective matches.

Non-stop Talking

According to Yahoo! News today (January 18), Frenchman Lluis Colet broke the world record for the longest speech after rambling non-stop for 124 hours about Spanish painter Salvador Dali, Catalan culture, and other topics. The 124 hours represent 5 straight days and 4 nights of continuous talking, and 3 notaries were on hand to recognize this feat which allows Colet to enter it in the Guinness Book of Records. Whoa! One day, perhaps, I will be brave enough to try it too? But for a guy who lost his voice for nearly a week, and only just got it back a few days ago – it is foolhardy and brash to even contemplate it… Yes, that’s it – I must be going bonkers. Or maybe if I am a little less ambitious? What if I go for the Malaysian Book of Records? Can wad! Okay lah, no need to talk so long – even 24 hours, also can! Still, a record! I must be deranged to even consider it. Yes, yes, I am daft – but then again, so what?

And in the SPL tonight – I was following the Celtic-Aberdeen game through “live text”. An interesting way to keep tabs on a match that is not ever going to be featured on the ESPN channel! Aberdeen’s Gary McDonald opened scoring in the 24th minute, which was, of course, a real bummer. But just as quickly, Brown equalized for Celtic (25th minute). Duff put Aberdeen up again with a 31st minute goal, before Celtic replied very late in the 73rd minute through Scott McDonald. And in keeping with their forward momentum, Aberdeen responded with two Diamond goals in short order (75th and 78th minutes). The final heartrending score: Celtic 2, Aberdeen, 4. A great free-flowing game, but…

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Marketing Meetings that Aren't

Just finished writing some strategies that we can use to build my ADP student numbers – part of my planning for next week’s marketing meeting. It has also just occurred to me that we have been having these marathon sessions, even if they are impregnated with the same tired, old strategies (assuming we can call them, strategies!) – yet at the same time, we still hear of participating HODs confessing that they only possess an impoverished understanding of marketing, and therefore, they may well be ill-equipped to even come up with good ideas in the first place. Surely, this is plain cockamamy because after all those animated discourses we have had, we cannot now shrug our shoulders and plead “we don’t know much about marketing”. Plainly, this is a preposterous situation to be in – if we accept it, it shows that we are nothing more than an asinine bunch of witless HODs, pretending to be clever, when in actual fact, we are stupidly imbecilic. Hello, there's such a thing as reading up on a subject!

And this brings to mind, this particular HOD – his idea of marketing strategy is so deceptively simple: Sell cheap and advertise heavily. I guess we can equate him to AirAsia’s Tony Fernandes because his ideas are dismayingly similar. But little did he realize that AirAsia is a different proposition altogether, unlike Professional courses, where there is plentiful competition in our own backyard to begin with. In fact, whenever I recall his repetitive “cheap, cheap, cheap” refrain – it reminds me of the awful grating noise made by fingernails scraping on a blackboard. Somehow, this HOD has this memorable effect on me…

The results of the KT by-election has been announced, and PAS won. Hip, hip, hooray, BN loses again.

Friday, January 16, 2009

SMJK Kwang Hua

I was at SMJK Kwang Hua again this morning – and I must say here that I did much better as compared to yesterday. I suppose on a scale of 1 to 10, I would award myself a 6 or even a 7 – although yesterday, I would probably give myself only a 4 – I am not being hard on myself, but sometimes, the truth, even if it hurts, has to be told – well, sometimes, anyway… But truth be told, I like this school a lot, and we shall definitely look at ways to collaborate further.

The Kuala Terengganu by-election is just around the corner and I have so far refrained from commenting on it. But I must, especially since I read in this morning’s edition of The Sun, where special mention was made about the late Razali (the reason why this by-election was called), that “never has a former deputy education minister been so honored. He will now have a school and a (training) institute named after him” (January 16, 2009, p 2). Don’t you think this is ridiculously far-fetched? Ludicrously harebrained? Inanely moronic? And do we want BN to win? How low will they stoop to win? I hope Razali is tossing and turning in his grave because he knows he is not so deserving!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

A Few Personal Regrets

I read a Malay Mail editorial (January 13, 2009, p 2) that interestingly implied that Malaysians are still in self-denial about the economic crisis that is plaguing the world. It seemed that Klang Valley retailers had reported that local spending habits are unaffected and some are even thinking of expanding their businesses – so one can only assume that Malaysians are immune to this crisis for some strange reason that I cannot yet fathom. Yet, in the same editorial, it is noted that the Consumer Research and Resource Center (CRRC) had already sounded a warning bell that we must change our spending habits quickly if we are to emerge intact from this financial and economic quandary – and I use the word “quandary” – perhaps inappropriately – only because there are many who still don’t believe we are in a crisis mode or even heading into one! Of course, the government pump-priming the economy, and encouraging everyone to spend, spend, spend is providing the illusion that all is well – but it alarms me that we are not taking this crisis seriously. Let’s hope the majority of Malaysians wake up to the fact that we are already wading in deep shit, and it can get real nasty, in a stinking sort of way. Just consider the layoffs in Penang, and the “proliferation of illegal posters offering questionable loans for those with bad credit ratings” as the Malay Mail put it, is, after all, “a sign not of troubles to come but of troubles already here”. From an HICT-perspective, we should see more student numbers this year, for the simple reason that Klang parents should be expected to send their children to HICT for their tertiary education because it is closer to home (savings on travel and living expenses for a start?) and that our fees are affordable, vis-a-vis the other well-established and reputable colleges elsewhere.

It’s too late now but I think I have missed the boat. Why, you may ask? I was planning to do 3 speeches this month. My busy and engrossing schedule in January has made me forget my speech-making plans, and yes, I am filled with regret and misgiving and even sadness. But being a person who does not dwell on the past for too long – I will have to find a Band-Aid to this non-activity by creating an opportunity for me to make my 3 speeches – somehow. Damn! Now, I am cross with myself for letting this escape from my memory; I am displeased with myself for failing to remember. To rub salt in the wound, I had also forgotten to attend this month’s meeting (i.e. January 08) of the D’Utama Advanced Toastmasters Club. Sheesh! Am I so forgetful now? If I am a woman over 35, I can always blame it on hormonal…OMG! Are you thinking what I am thinking? No, no, it cannot be! Of course not! Positively, I am not! Surely, I am not! What am I thinking of? Err…

This morning, I was at SMJK Kwang Hua and I was giving this talk on “10 Keys to 10 A’s” but there were a couple of students who attended one of my previous talks (on another subject) who were disappointed that I didn’t turn on my trademark humor. Am I losing my touch? Am I becoming an unfunny person? Questions a-plenty I am raising in today’s posting... Time to take a KitKat break and look at myself in the mirror…

Monday, January 12, 2009

Fading Star?

Is the Star Education Fair 2009 losing its luster? Last weekend (January 10 & 11), I was on duty at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre, and it seemed to me that the crowds have thinned significantly. Last year, it was reported that 70,000 visitors came to this Education Fair at the same venue, but I don’t think this year, the number will even touch 50,000. Still, HICT have its small legion of fans, and we counseled and marketed our programs with a big dosage of passionate fervor. By the looks of it, I believe there will be at least 6-8 students who will enroll into the ADP this April 2009 – not bad for 2 days’ work, methinks. I must also salute the 6 ADP students who volunteered to help out – that’s right, they all freely volunteered. Wei Wei, Ivan, Brandon, Wai How, Jacklyn, and Chern Yang – I believe their presence helped because when they shared their own ADP experiences with prospective students and their parents, they made the program seem very personal and authentic. In fact, there was this Kuantan family who remarked that my students who are all only first year students (i.e. freshmen) seemed confident and self-assured. Now that’s a legitimate compliment, and speaks well of the SNHU program, the college, and of course, these students themselves. Verily, I am proud of them. Now, with a bit of luck, we might see this Kuantan family send their daughter and son (SPTM) to enroll into the same 4+0 SNHU degree program. I am keeping my fingers crossed. Owais and/or Rymond can do the necessary follow-ups. Still, it was a difficult 2 days for me because I was suffering from severe throat inflammation that was equally discomforting and distressing. Poor me - many a time, I squeaked, whimpered, and squealed.

There was football action too. Arsenal at least managed to win its game (by beating Bolton 1-0; the solitary goal coming from Bendtner in the 84th minute), while Liverpool produced a colorless display by being held to a scoreless draw by Stoke. And Man U did everyone a favor by demolishing Chelsea 3-0 because this means that the latter’s title race may just peter out. More importantly, it provides some breathing space for table-toppers, Liverpool since Chelsea was too close for comfort. But then again, so is Man U now, especially with 2 games in hand. Liverpool, better watch out!

Friday, January 9, 2009

A-List Managers

Since becoming a Head of Department, I am constantly surprised by the antics exhibited by my colleagues and fellow HODs – these people who are supposedly matured and all grown-up – after all, they are the leaders in an organization, an educational institution at that. We are normally engaged in about 6 or 7 meetings on average per week, and these managers happily put on display their shenanigans for all to see. Why, just yesterday morning (January 08) – one manager walked out in a huff – hardly ten minutes into a meeting! You can see his blue veins on his forehead trembling with pretentious anger and almost popping out in a hissy fit. I tell you, I almost fell out of my chair and cracking up because he was so comical that he could have won awards for scaling the heights of juvenile stupidity and farcical absurdity. And this is the manager who has the habit of periodically walking in and out of meetings – much to everyone’s annoyance. But it’s kinda funny, even weird because when Dr. Paul Chan is in attendance, I notice he hardly moves – it is as if he is pinned down in his chair, his buttocks firmly glued to the seat. And there’s another manager who has this habit of easing into a temporary (read, duration of the meeting) coma. I do acknowledge, most times, these meetings are aimless exercises in mundane impotence – it’s like a dog that spends its time chasing its tail and going pointlessly round and round in circles. I will be the first to admit that it is a challenge to keep awake because some managers are so gifted that when they open their mouths to speak, they have this uncanny ability to put many of us into a lethargic state of drowsy stupor. There’s also this manager who is so repetitious with his tall stories, that he even manages to convince himself that these tales represent the truth and nothing but the truth – and even stranger still, there are people who are believers. I guess falling hook line and sinker is not too difficult for some people to do, if you know what I mean. And then there is this manager who is so dripping with honeyed sarcasm that if she sits for an exam, her demonstration of disparaging derision deserves an A+ grade. And not forgetting – her eyes can shoot daggers at you with nary a blink, and hitting their target spot-on too. Believe me, I am genuinely impressed with her prowess; this skill that must have been honed from many, many years of disciplined training in Singapore and the U.S. of A. This is our A-list of managers whom I have the misfortune to be associated with. I cannot wait for the boss to effect the change that we are all waiting for… Let’s hope for my sanity’s sake that this takes place quickly. In the meantime, I can only sit back and take it all in my stride as best as I can ...

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Of Trains and Hearts and Music

In one of my recent postings, I talked about taking a train ride from Glasgow to London's Euston Station. Even back then, British Rail was famously notorious for always being late – so those of you who incessantly complain about KTM – it may be comforting to know that this is not a new phenomenon. Today, Virgin Trains, which operates the London-Scotland line, says seven in every 10 journeys on the line have been late. According to BBC News (January 07, 2009), it was reported that passengers have experienced lengthy delays in the biting cold, been shuffled onto replacement buses or forced to abandon journeys altogether – so much so, that it has become a serious contender for the title of Misery Line. It just goes to show that sometimes, there are things that never change!
Yesterday also featured a New Straits Times news report that Malaysian conglomerate, Sime Darby has dropped plans to buy Institut Jantung Negara (IJN) because of vociferous objections from the public. Now this is good news indeed – companies like Sime Darby are getting too greedy, their avaricious gluttony is most evident in their high-reaching medical fees charged by the Sime Darby-owned Subang Jaya Medical Centre (SJMC), or the over-priced values of their Sime UEP’s residential and commercial properties in USJ and Putra Heights. Yet they have no inhibitions about adopting a corporate social responsibility posture – it’s all a chimera, if you ask me. Isn’t it hypocritical when you consider that one of Sime Darby’s values they promote is respect and responsibility, and how they will put effort behind “building a socially responsible organization”. Hogwash! But what is also baffling is that the Cabinet had initially approved this sale in principle – gee whiz, they sure considered the interests of the rakyat, don’t they? How could they? We need to remind them not to leave their brains behind the next time they attend Cabinet meetings – assuming, of course, they do have brains in the first place. Duh!
Our Andy McDonough's CDs saw a good push this week, and todate, we have now sold 621 CDs. Mathew, let's push on... HICT students and their friends are supportive!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


It was really nice to have met Kelvin, Edwin, Mas, and the others again over a delectable dinner, and as they say, good food and good company do mix very well! And of course, Avanti was a superb place to be on a Saturday evening, and thank you all for making it happen!

Yesterday was the first day of a new semester at HICT. We had only 9 ADP students reporting, although this is not the full complement. There is obviously a failure in communication between Registry and the new students since there are at least another nine students who failed to turn up. It is something that I need to look into. Still, this looks like a good group of students who can work well with the other ADP students. Many of us are already interacting with them, and this is a healthy sign, methinks.

Football news. On Saturday, Celtic squandered a 2-goal lead against Dundee United to share the points in a 2-2 draw. (Both of Celtic’s goals came from Samaras in the 12th and 58th minutes). Sigh. In any case, Celtic boss, Gordon Strachan himself said he wouldn’t lose any sleep after his side drew. Oh well… In the FA Cup, Liverpool had the upper hand, and defeated Preston 2-0; and Arsenal overcame Plymouth 3-1.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

On the First Day

Today is the first day of the new year – and surprise, surprise – I am a goody two-shoes because I stayed home all day. But I am productive - and I am still working hard to finish my powerpoints before classes start next week. Well, at least, I am now in the midst of Lesson 7 (Strategic Management), but I am keeping a plodding pace, and my progress is tortoiselike!
Before I forget, Brandon surprised me yesterday with a great book, “London: A Thousand and One Intriguing Facts” – I say ‘great’ because he knows that London always holds a special place in my heart. For those who don’t know me – well, I studied in the UK for 4 years, and during much of that time, I made regular trips to London (I still remember how I endured a 5-hour train journey from Glasgow’s Central Station as well as the frequent ponteng-ing of my ‘Industrial Relations’ class on Friday afternoons, just so that I can spend my weekends in London). What to do lah – the lure of London is so great, I made sacrifices! Anyway coming back to the book – it contains very riveting facts that are just so entrancing, such as: (1) At Madame Tussaud’s: Madam Tussaud started her collection of wax models in the 1790s when, after the French Revolution, she was forced to model victims of the guillotine (p 279); and, (2) In 1861, trams were introduced into London by a Mr. Train (p 359); and so on and so forth. Thanks, Brandon.
And this cheesy guy (yes, I am still referring to Brandon) mustered every ounce of courage to announce his cheesy 2009 resolutions! Mind you, “cheesy” is his word – not mine! And yes, Brandon, I am also up to it, and here’s my resolutions for 2009!

2009 Resolution List

1. Start writing my Marketing textbook
2. Start my second Masters
3. Write a short story and get it published
4. Complete 20 Toastmasters speeches
5. Complete 700 teaching hours at HICT
6. Bring up the ADP student population at HICT to 500
7. Yield 5,000 visits to my blog
8. Complete 2 music CD projects

But that is not all. I have actually done a Resolution List that spans 3 years, but I will not reveal… This year’s resolutions should suffice for now… And like a good manager, I will provide a report card at the end of every quarter to establish my level of resoluteness in fulfilling my resolutions, to ascertain how I fare, to celebrate or regret. "Cheers to a New Year and another chance for us to get it right" proclaims Oprah Winfrey, but I disagree - this is not another chance, this is my one and only chance, and I will get it right!!!