Fierce Mimicry

Earlier I wrote an entry about The Big O aka Ms Oprah and her decision to end her talk show in 2011. Now the "big" news is that Tyra Banks will end her show as well. I read this with great derision because it seems as though Tyra Banks' entire career has been as Mini-Me to Oprah. She claims that Oprah was a huge inspiration to her and while there is nothing wrong with an individual being inspired, you cannot take inspiration and turn it into duplication. Tyra never seemed to find her own voice in the five annoying years the Tyra Banks Show was on. She was always playing catch up to a woman who needed no flattery because she had sealed her place in history years before.

So really, it was no great surprise that on the heels of the Big O's decision to end her successful talk show, Tyra suddenly felt like her five year old show had done its and she needed to focus on new projects. And oh look, she is focusing on film projects, just like Oprah has done already. Can someone please give Tyra Banks a hint?

I cannot say I am sorry to see the lady go. I could not understand how she won awards for this talk show that ultimately was ALWAYS about Tyra. In fact, everything usually revolves around her. She always make each moment come back to her and it this singular quality that set her way apart from Oprah.

Good luck to both of them. I know which one I am rooting for though.

Tale of Two Tour Companies

"He who has a thing to sell and goes and whispers in a well is not so apt to get the dollars as he who climbs a tree and hollers." - Author Unknown

In the service industry, poor marketing is as treacherous as bad service. If the people you are trying to reach do not know what you have on sale, what you have to offer, then how will they know to use your service over someone else's - a service that may not necessarily be better than yours, but is marketed better.

Case in point: my vacation.

So when I am on vacation, as opposed to quick trips, I love seeing the place. I love tours. But not all tour companies are the same and you have to really do your research to get the best bang for your buck. I did 3 tours while on vacacy, two with Apples Company, and which were easy to select and I will discuss later. The other took some doing and much googling  but I managed to find it and booked it with the Bananas Company. I really wanted to do this tour so despite a total lack of web presence on the Bananas company, I booked it anyway.

So the Banana Company tour started off okay, with a greeter meeting me at my hotel and accompanying me to the tour bus. While on the bus, the driver indicated that there were 2 tours that day and Group 1 would stay with him and Group 2 would transfer to another bus. It was then I realised there was no Group 3 mention, which should have included me. Okay, so... scary. I indicated to the driver that he seemed to have forgotten Group 3. He did not know about Group 3 - the group of one apparently. poor communication. Things were now on a slippery slope with this tour. He told me he would get more information when he dropped off Group 2.

Anyway, eventually I met my "guide" and he told me he had to pick someone up and he would get me in 10 minutes. Half hour later, I am still working on my not-needed tan in the sun, waiting for my "guide". When he eventually gets back, and I get into the Escalade (not the tour bus, but I was not complaining) we get to talking and he apologises profusely for being late and offers me another tour free of charge. However, this tour was the one I had planned for the next day with Apples, and which was already paid for. This led to a discussion - a bit of a bad minded one - about the competition, Apples and how they were out to get his company. He asked me why I did not choose his company for my tour and I told him honestly I had never heard of his company and in none of my searches did the company ever show up, whereas Apples was all over the place. And not only were they everywhere, but they got awesome reviews on travel sites like Tripadvisor, by which I swear when planning many a vacation. To my horror, homie asks:

"What is Tripadvisor?"

This is where I was gravely alarmed! How could you be running a service in THIS particular industry and not know what Tripadvisor was? Or Fodor's? Or Frommer's? Or Lonely Planet? I was aghast that this dude did not know any of these and how they could impact the success of his business. I don't make a travel move without consulting fellow travellers on these sites. To make it worse, brace yourself, their website is not functional. You heard me. They have a website but they don't really use it, update it, market their business using it. So I had to ask, "How on earth do you expect people to know you?" I think I was so overcome by shock that I did not hear the answer, but he was blaming Apple's underhand tactics for his business' lack of immense success. I listened to what he was saying but really did not want to hear. He claimed Apples' management gave $5 discounts to customers if they would give a review of the tour. Now I dunno about most of you, but if the tour was horrendous, it would take more than $5 to get me to glorify it. I found the Bananas company's tour through sheer persistence and even then, they operated via a third party website and not their own corporate site.

Needless to say, I gave the guy some tips - basic tips like
  • revamp your website - I mean, seriously??
  • love traveller-driven sites, like Tripadvisor
  • network with travellers via social media
  • create a mailing list using email addresses collected during bookings to stay in touch with travellers, share promotions etc so they can pass on to their friends etc (subject to a subscription, of course. Noone likes spam!)

What was scary was that this outfit was run by people under 30! Apples on the other hand was being managed by two 40-somethings. So don't let anyone tell you that technology is youth driven. Apples' website is fantastic. It is updated daily, has an awesome chat feature which facilitated my questions about the 2 tours I booked with them, has information about the company, the staff. I mean, I knew about my driver before I met him.

And to add insult to injury, Bananas' tour sucked. Let me clarify. The tour itself was fantastic because I had a really fantastic guide - ME. This "tour" with Bananas involved them picking me up LATE from the drop point, dropping me off at the place and telling me, someone will be back in 3 hours to pick you back up. Three hours later, I was baking in the sun again, and having to use my expensive roaming to call and argue with the office staff cause I was seeing an afternoon of shopping slipping away as I sat there for over an hour waiting. In the sun! So of course when I get into the Escalade (the saving point of this whole experience) I told him that my review would not be stellar. I felt bad cause he was a nice guy and he apologised again, but on top of poor marketing, the service was not awesome. So what was I supposed to do? And he did not even offer me $5 to lie! lol

Apples' two tours though, were fantastic, and not self-guided. The driver was polite, knowledgeable, EARLY. I had mentioned to the customer service rep  on their online chat service, that I would be taking the tour on my birthday while making my booking a week before, and as soon as they picked me up at the hotel, they were waiting for me with cake and singing. The service was amazing and any allegations of paying customers $5 had to be a lie cause I would not have taken their $5. Their service spoke volumes and they deserved every single positive review they got on Tripadvisor.

So on top of a fab wesbite and great social networking, add super great service and after service. Apples came out a huge winner and got a great review from me to add to a slew of glowing reviews from fellow travellers. Bananas...well, I wish them well.

Christmas: Don't be a victim

As for the issue of commercialization, it should be obvious that the Wise Men went Christmas shopping. Gold doesn’t grow on trees, and frankincense and myrrh require human labor to produce. Merchants have been capitalizing on the holiday since the very first Christmas. - David Chilton, from the article, "Let's Keep Christmas Commercialized."

I thought the above was funny and possibly true. The wise men were the first Christmas shoppers and okay, there may be nothing wrong with some shopping for loved ones. This does not mean that we "loathe Baby Jesus" as Bill O'Reilly suggests, but wow...we have taken the simple act of gift giving to frenetic extremes.

For the past  couple years, I have banned myself from becoming a victim - of Christmas. One year, I paid $10 for a taxi ride to the mall - on any other day, it would have been $3. But these mischievous, cannibalistic, opportunistic drivers saw fit to make a killing cause they knew there would be stupid, desperate people like myself who would fork over the extra 7 dollars to get that present or those new sheets.

I now sit back in my house, with my car safely parked in my driveway, and my credit cards hidden away in my purse, no longer a victim of the media fuelled frenzy. You pick up the paper today and you're likely to see hundreds of ads where merchants are pulling you into their shops with the promise of Christmas gratitude.

Gifts for Dad
Your mum will love you
Make this Christmas special for your kids

Or the promise of your fantasy home, the perfect HGTV/Martha Stewart-esque home for entertaining legions of envious friends and family.

Sleep on a bed fit for a queen
Get a kitchen your friends will die for
Ho Ho Home

So what? My mum will not love me if I don't buy that expensive necklace or gadget? My house will not be fit or holiday entertaining if I don't come to your store and drop hundreds and hundreds of dollars?

But where are the ads which remind shoppers that there are still 31 days in January which one must get through AFTER the madness of Christmas consumerism? Because even the banks get on the money-grubbing bandwagon with loan sales, credit card offers and the like. I am not advocating Scroogey/Grinch like behaviour, but don't get caught up in the hype. I just follow 3 easy steps to ensure I am not ringing the bell on a street corner in January to pay for food and gas.

1. Have a budget. Even Christmas requires a solid plan, so outline how you're going to spend this money and stick to it. Be reasonable and practical and include all your regular expenses like mortgages, utility bills etc. Cause guess what? They don't stop coming.

2. Make a gift list, trim your gift list, stick to your gift list. Not everyone can get a present. I only shop for my parents and my brother and I stick to this. The only other Christmas expense I incur is for a family or person who needs a hand during the holidays, and this year it was Hannah Lendor. So I don't do Secret Santa at work and that nonsense. Keep it simple. Keep it clean. Keep within my budget and my tried and tested gift list.

3. Shop early. Rush shopping means crap shopping means expensive shopping. You end up buying crap on the go or something you may not have budgeted for because you're all sweaty and harassed in a store packed with other last minute shoppers. Newsflash: Christmas is the SAME DAY EVERY YEAR. lol. So you can plan for it. I have nothing left to buy. Shopping is complete.

Life is good.


Hey peeps
It's been a great vacay thus far, and I want to thank everyone who has already sent birthday wishes and those who WILL. Much love and thanks to all my friends and loved ones who constantly remind me I am super duper blessed. Will write more when I get home.


Join Red on World AIDS Day

December 1 is World AIDS Day and I am sorry if you did not know that cause some of us are one day type of people. We know we should celebrate each other every day but we show it on birthdays or Valentine's Day. We should love our parents each second of their lives but we bring out the presents and pampering on Mother's Day and Father's Day. We have commercialised Christmas to the point where maybe even Jesus needs to ask for an invitation so will not comment too much about this. But you get my point. We are one day people. So if you are a one-day person and still did not know December 1 is World AIDS Day then that is tragic. It is doubly tragic because this is not a one-day type of disease. It is not just one day we should recognise the efforts of those who are working to either find a cure, educate those who need to be educated on the epidemic,  eliminate stigmatisation of the disease and victimisation of the infected, or merely supporting those who have been directly and indirectly impacted by HIV/AIDS. HIV/AIDS is a 365 day, and in a leap year, 366 day, 24/7 phenomenon which we need to pay urgent attention to.

And don't leave it to your local leaders or your doctors or your social workers to make a difference. You can make a difference through simple acts.

- Wear a condom. Wrap it up. Ladies, don't depend on the man to walk with the latex either. We can vote, we can run countries, we can take over the world, so dammit, we can buy our own condoms and keep them in our purse.
- Be faithful. The swinging lives of our youth, the reclaimed lives of our middle ages, and even in our second spring should not have to be reckless.
- Abstinence, the word, the concept, often generates laughter and ridicule but if you can, don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
- Support an NGO. Support those who work so tirelessly to support those families affected by HIV/AIDS. Volunteer at a clinic or assist in an outreach programme.
- Educate yourself. Educate your loved ones. Educate strangers. Don't leave it to social programmes to get the word out. We are all part of this massive social undertaking to eradicate HIV/AIDS. So why leave it to chance? Why hope that the local systems will touch that life today, when it may be so under-resourced that it may not get to that life until it is too late.
- Stop the hate. Ignorance and discrimination hinder education. The "that cannot happen to me" and "she was promiscuous, she look for that" mentality will not help us, but rather it will hurt us. You cannot get it from showing basic human decency to another.

I did not mean to make this so long and I meant to really just show how social media can be harnessed in a powerful way but I think you guys know this already. I meant to just share some retweets from @JoinRed. But you know what you have to do. So just do it. Don't just turn Twitter red. Don't just turn Facebook red. Make a difference in your community. Make a change in your own life. Be the change you want to see.

@Join Red. (

RT: It costs around 40 cents a day for the 2 pills that are needed to help keep someone with HIV alive. Pls watch & RT.
RT: 33mm people in world have HIV. 22mm live in Africa. Help fight AIDS in Africa. Turn Twitter #red. Pls RT.What do an Irishman, an Italian, an Englishman, a Brazilian, a South Korean & an Ivorian share in common? A: Laces

And on Facebook:

And the blog:

The Single Female Traveller: Some Tips

So vacation is in the air. I am an infamous solo traveller. Not because I am anti-social or anything but clearly I have different interests to my closest friends, not to mention a whole different lifestyle. So while I can, on a vaps, book a plane ticket and jet off to Miami for the weekend, cause I have no chick, no child to worry about. some of my other friends would need to do some planning in order to do so. And apparently this makes me an Alpha-Female. Who comes up with these terms? A man, nah?

In any event, I am not alone. Women the world over travel alone, and if their mothers are anything like mine, they are nagged from the moment the idea of another solo vacation is broached until the plane touches down on their home soil once more.

How could you travel alone? Is that safe? You don't even know the place.

Yes. It never ends. But as a solo pro, these are the tips that work for me

1. Let the family know WHERE you going and HOW to find you. Leave all the details with them - flight information, hotel information, hotel number, when you check in, send the hotel room number etc. Make sure people back home always know where you're going and how you're getting there.

2. Don't trust the warm smiles of hotel staff. I am sorry. Hotel staff are great and friendly and all, but they aren't really to be trusted. I don't know you so you bet my luggage remains locked and I always try to book a room where I know there is a room safe, or at least access to a safe somewhere. This leads me to my next point ...

3. Don't put your cheapness over your safety and peace of mind. This is the problem I am having trying to go where I really wanna go, but I am going over my budget and if I am going over my very tight budget, I just won't compromise. I have seen a whole heap of cheapo hotels that would do nicely on paper when it comes to the dollars and cents, but not when it comes to solo female traveller SENSE. Don't do cheap if the place is not secure, if the location is seedy, if the reviews point to shady staff or shady neighbourhood characters. If you are going to save money on one thing when planning a vacation, it's NOT THIS. Find a proper hotel, in a good busy area - in my case, I tend to stick with chain hotels, so I am a well known Hilton, Hyatt and Marriott patron. Small Seas Inn and that type of local, unchartered waters stuff is not my bag. Ladies, there are predators out there, so don't take chances.

4. Know you area. In fact, RESEARCH RESEARCH RESEARCH. I was anal when planning my trip to Paris. I wanted to know where the bus stops were, where to get a train, what restaurants were nearby. Don't take this type of stuff for granted. Know where the nearest police station, hospital and your local embassy or high commission are. Don't just arrive and be like a headless chicken in a strange city. Please. Be responsible now.

5. Travel safely. I don't take night flights if I am travelling to a country where I know noone or noone I know is there to pick me up. Don't stay out late if you're alone - travel by taxi, bus, train etc late at night, in a place you don't know - not too smart. On my recent trip to NY, did I dare try the subway? No. I am not THAT adventurous. Also, take registered taxis. While they may not be called "PH" in other parts of the world, there will always be someone looking to hustle a trip without proper cause.

6. Flattery will get you nowhere, buddy. And yes, vacations are supposed to be fun and you let go of your inhibitions and you live by "What happens in Vegas (or wherever), stays in Vegas (or wherever)". But not because the cute native on the sidewalk, looks nice, smells nice, talks nice mean he's nice. Just smile, nod and keep moving. There are a lot of wolves out there and you're the prey!

7. Bridge the language barrier. If you don't know the language where you are, besides learning some key phrases, try to take group tours where you are not as exposed to the local criminal elements. But we spoke about trying to learn the language already, right?

8. Check in with the home peeps regularly. Roaming is expensive and so are calls from hotel rooms but send a text or an email and do the occasional phone call to the people back home to let them know you are okay. It will not kill you to make that 30 second phone call, because if that doesn't kill you, then the worried mother sitting back home, wringing her hands over the whereabouts of her girl chile, will.

9. Try to card it, and not cash it. This is a given for anyone travelling. Take small amounts of cash for emergencies, but generally I use my credit card when on the lam. And let your bank know you will be travelling as well, because you don't want when you try paying for the nice dress your card is cancelled because your bank noticed "irregular activity". They do this. I always call my bank before and let them know my dates so I can shop in peace. Also, keep your bank's emergency card numbers in case your card is lost or stolen so they can then cancel said card...this is the time to have it cancelled. Not when you trying to pay for stuff.

10. Low Fat Dressing for the salad. And while we want to look nice and seck-see, you have to have some sense about your dress code. Don't take the bling with you, ladies. Oh gosh. Try not to draw too much attention to yourselves. Yes, we want to look hot, but we don't want to be the hot target either.

11. Guard your valuables and be mindful of your surroundings. I always think the man walking behind me is a thief, even at home. So much so that one time as I grabbed my purse tighter, the man said to me in passing "Darling, I doh want your purse you know." I did not know that for sure. Don't be laissez-faire with the valuables - the purse, the netbooks, the cameras. And look around you and check out your fellow pedestrians and travellers. You might be the hot tourist attraction of the moment. You and your bag of goodies.

These are just a few tips and as I nixed my Spanish speaking vacation for an English speaking one, shared with family this time around (aka free, thus freeing up funds for my Italian speaking vacation next year...woot!), I thought I would still share my solo pro knowledge with the world.

Following the Commonwealth thread

I am impressed with the social media coverage of the CHOGM-related events thus far. True I have been at the Commonwealth Business Forum the past couple days so maybe have a greater interest than most, but I barely read a newspaper these days and it is unlikely that I would know what's happening in the world if I did not have access to the internet. The tweets and the Facebook updates are commendable and hopefully more of the Generation Y-ers and the internet aficionados will have a better understanding about some of the issues which will  be discussed. It opens the door somewhat, but of course there will always be unanswered questions where things like CHOGM, how it affects us as a society, the ROI on our hundreds of millions of dollars in investment to host the event etc etc etc.

But all I came to say is good job on the currency of the information and the socially appropriate delivery. You can follow CHOGM on Twitter @chogm2009 and they are also on Facebook, and of course their website,

Honest Communication

The Commonwealth Business Forum,, the business and investment sub-meeting of CHOGM, is underway from today. And though I am sure you would love dull commentary on same, since I will spend part of the next couple days on the outside looking in, I thought I would not. lol. Instead, my grouse today lies in 3 words on a sticker.

No Hand Signals.

That was the bumper sticker on the taxi in front of me. He clearly meant to indicate to those behind him that he would not stretching his arm out the window, for fear it get lick off by another motorist's machine, just to tell you, the driver behind his car, that he is stopping or slowing down. I also take this to mean that he will be replacing the archaic hand signal with the more technologically and socially acceptable indicator light.


Not only does he not do the bird flap (you know, when they are slowing down, they wave the arm up and down like a crazed pigeon and this serves as notification that you should touch your brakes), but his brake lights clearly were not working, so your guess is as  good as mine from 50 m away that this fool has actually slowed down. He does not indicate he is turning left or right, so you can only guess.

No Hand Signals.

The bumper sticker is extremely disrespectful as far as I am concerned cause you are basically telling me that you don't care whether I have to hastily pull up behind you as you ply your trade. And I respect you plying your trade cause many an afternoon came when I needed you or your fellow taxi drivers to take me home. But NO HAND SIGNALS is not cool, friend. In actuality the sign should say


I would allow you that cause at least it would be honest communication.

So High

This was an inevitable share, wasn't it? My favourite John Legend song ever, and when he performs it live, it just takes my breath away. I thought perhaps I would have done some baking today but the bug never quite took over. But it's an easy evening with good music and a Hi-Lo cream cone.

Enjoy your weekend everyone.

The Big "O"

And indeed, a lot of you saw the title and rushed over cause I know what you were thinking this entry was about, you sad perverts. lol

But no, I am referring to Oprah. Indeed she is the biggest "O" I know. Oprah is not just a woman. Oprah is not just a name. Oprah is a brand. This woman has taken what her mama gave her and created a brand unrivalled and probably unmatched by any other brand out there. I don't think there is any credible person in the world today who has never heard about Oprah Winfrey. And whether you idolise her for her 23 years on television, her foray into film acting, her philanthrophy, her unique Oprah-ness, you will agree that this woman has made and left an indelible mark on the world. And whether you know her because of the aforementioned, her yo-yo weight issues, for Stedman (poor fella), her huge heart, her emotional outbursts, we all know Lady O. And in some small way, we all admire, respect and love the Big O.

Oprah announcing the end of her show in 2011 is the end of an era. What was the world like B.O. - Before Oprah. Before this force of nature took over the world, what on earth did we do? We sat around and watched shows with mainstream, middle of the road tv hosts, who I guess in their own way, did their bit for the media landscape. But this little black girl, from the South, challenged the middle of the road media and managed to not just enter the homes on the other side of the road, but she took over the whole damn highway and that is power. Oprah's power lies in the way she has managed to breach so many boundaries as a woman, a black woman, an average looking woman - cause let's face it, she ain't no Miss America and many times it's the pageant-ness that gets you through the door first, and the talent later.

Oprah opened the doors for so many after her. Someone had wrote that while Barack Obama paved the way for black leaders to seize the mantle of power in America, Oprah had paved the way for Barack Obama and as she stood crying at his inauguaration, it was almost like the passing of the torch.

But she has not gone just yet and though I myself have not watched an episode of the show in ages, I know Oprah's legacy is a rich one that goes way beyond American culture. Oprah is a global citizen and we have cried with Miss Oprah and laughed with Oprah and cheered with Oprah. It really is odd to think about tv without her. But the amazing thing about it is, she will still be there even after her show cause her brand is far reaching and you just cannot get rid of the Big O. No way, man.

Is your piggy bank blinging or broke?

So recently I have been looking at the expensive as hell properties here, and commented to a male friend that the single woman was seemingly put here to suffer. He suggested that I could marry him, and pay half his mortgage. A good suggestion perhaps, but I told him I would still need to find my own place for the day he decides to put me out. He thought my suggestion was funny and asked if I intended to do something wrong to warrant getting put out. But this is a very real prospect and what happens next?

Fifty years ago, women would probably wait for the knight in shining armour to ride in on his white horse and rescue them from clinical things like savings and money and investing. Today, with more and more women ticking the "Single" box on application forms, this is not an option. Any woman who sits around all day waiting for Mr "Right on Time" to swoop in with his financial know-how is an idiot. I think the days of women not being financially savvy are long gone and if you intend to survive singledom, because hey, let's face it, there is no guarantee that this man will EVER come along, then you need to start being sensible and practical about money.

I give people financial tips all day as part of what I do and where I do it. I am the first to admit that I don't know about everything and don't do everything I send messages about, but I do have my finger on my financial pulse. I am no Warren Buffett but have to know something about money, ladies. Oh gosh. These are the basics and you would not believe how many women have no clue about any of these in this day and age.
  • Savings accounts - Short term savings. Vacations, bills, floating cash, car repairs. I mean everyone should have one, right? Right? And have an emergency savings fund - an account you don't touch, with at least 6months salary in there, so if the worst happens, you have something to fall back on to cover expenses. Unemployment for example should not send you to the street corner with a pan and a bell.
  • Mutual funds - For long term investments and convenient if you don't know a whole lot about the stock market. Start reading up on the different types of mutual funds wherever you are and assess your risk profile and your time horizon. If you are one of those who have sweaty nightmares about losing all your money, then certain funds may not be for you. But if you have cajones and can take stress, look at some more aggressive funds. If you are looking at short term goals, read up on the funds which may work better for these. But don't make the mistake of believing that you need a man to make these decisions. You don't.
  • Have you just come back from a vacation with some left over foreign currency? Some institutions offer certificates of deposit in various currencies. Or look at mutual funds as well. I came back from London with a wad of the queen's money that I did not want to necessarily convert or hide under my mattress. My bank offered CDs in GBP and I looked into socking that money away for the short term until I was ready to go back and spend it! lol
  • Insurance/pension plans - Insurance people may be annoying but don't lock up your house and hide from them forever. You could learn a thing or two from them and maybe then you can make a decision about which of their products is right for your future.
  • Know your financial planner. Let's face it, finance is not always (never) sexy and you will need stuff explained to you, so get to know your personal financial planner. Don't be afraid to ask questions. Get second opinions too. It's your financial health you're talking about. This could be the difference between you having that awesome vacation in 2010 or renting DVDs and sitting on your couch with popcorn for 2 weeks.
  • Be prudent in your spending. Unless you have a sugar daddy (I wish!) or rich parents who spoil you even at age 30 (I wish!), chances are you are taking on the burden of your living expenses by yourself. So do you really need that Nine West handbag this month, when the plumbing needs fixing next week? Noone is saying you cannot treat yourself and be single and fabulous and oh so Sex and the City, but be responsible.
  • Look at other investment avenues eg. property investments. Learn from those who have already done it and start looking at options. Read, ask questions, research.
  • And talk to your other friends about money and how they are saving. Chances are, they may know things you don't and vice versa. But be empowered when it comes to your money. Take some risks and take some action. Don't just spend it!
  • And look at how you spend your money. Seriously. I wish I could drink Rituals mochaccinos every single day, but that $20 multiplied by 5, multiplied by 52. $5200 a year in coffee? Seriously? Have you thought how buying lunch every day or buying that sada roti every day can add up, as opposed to cooking a lil something once in a while? I have cut back on my -ccino fix for diet reasons but still, Hi-Lo has various coffees you can invest in and you get more than the single cup you would get at Rituals. I grew up constantly hearing from both my parents, "Doh let no man buss style on you" and that rings true. I buy what I want when I want it, go where I want when I want to, but everything in moderation. 
And even if I do get that elusive sugar daddy (and I have the t-shirt to prove that this hunt is real), I don't plan to give up my financial independence cause in this day and age, you have to keep worst case scenario in mind because when daddy leaves, where does that leave you if you're not in control of your own money?

Not a nice thought is it? And don't think you cannot ask a man about these things, cause this is not a man hater kinda post, but just saying, you don't have to sit at the window waiting for one to depend on.

C'est vrai! You're rude.

I started learning Italian last year when I had planned to vacation in Venice. Plans changed and my eventual 2008 belated vacation was an English-speaking one, but even then, as the old saying goes "Some people just don't understand English." This is true in daily life cause clearly what I say and what others hear are completely different. Like when I say yesterday, "This is needed urgently", the other person hears "It's not urgent. You can idle all day and have me wait for it until I ask for the thousandth time."

But I digress. I wanted to know enough Italian to get by and not make a fool of myself and also to be polite and not looked at with derision.

A couple people in the past few months asked me for some tips for their Parisien vacations, and I always tell them, Please please please, try to speak the people's language, if even a little.

The French are known to be a bit snobby, though in my experience, it was not necessarily so. But hear me out. If English speakers came to your French-speaking city and expected and demanded you speak English, which may not even be your second language, but maybe your third or fourth, you would not be a little annoyed as well? I mean, I think the Americans are the worst with this, because the world revolves around the land mass that is the USA. One American on a tour even remarked that the place was so "European", as if it were expected to be more American perhaps. But seriously, I don't blame the French for being a little uppity when someone comes into a cafe or a shop and goes "English? You speak English?" I find it a bit rude and people don't think about how this may come across. It is disrespectful and I would not blame anyone who pretended their perfectly good English were nonexistent in response to this rudeness.

I read in my guidebooks and found for myself, that when you attempted to speak French, often failing miserably, they made the effort to be polite and speak in English. The people can be extremely personable (they were to me). I went up to them and spoke to them in French, albeit not so good French, and recognising my shortcomings, they helped me out in English. It's a win-win. They say communication is two-way and indeed it is. But many people always want it their way or no way. I did not meet many people in Paris who did not speak English, but if they look at YOU with a blank stare and say "Non. Ne parles pas anglais", then ask yourself, "Is it me" and then say "Oui. C'est moi."

It's the same way Trinis, notoriously rapid speakers, know to slow it down when speaking to non-Trinis, and though we laugh at tourists trying to pronounce words like "macco", "farse", "lime" and "jammette" (yes!), we appreciate them trying, don't we? This is not that much different. So my advice to anyone heading to a foreign locale for vacation is, learn some basics and help yourself and respect others.

  • Hello/Goodbye
  • Good Morning/afternoon/evening/night
  • My (language) is not that good. Can you help me? Do you speak English?
  • Please/Thank You
  • Where are the hot boys?

Essentials I tell you. Essentials! In the meantime, December 2009 will likely be a stay at home vacation where English is spoken or nothing is said at all. My Italian lessons will resume in 2010 as I hopefully prepare for Rome. Ciao!

Unfriend - Oxford Word of the Year

(AP) What word sums up the year 2009?

How about "unfriend?"

That's the New Oxford American Dictionary's 2009 Word of the Year. It means to remove someone as a friend on a social networking site such as Facebook. Each year Oxford University Press tracks how the English language is changing and chooses a word that best reflects the mood of the year. Oxford lexicographer Christine Lindberg says "unfriend" has "real lex-appeal."

Finalists for 2009 also included "netbook," a small laptop, and "sexting," the sending of sexually explicit texts and pictures by cell phone.

Me: There was also "intextication" - distracted because of texting on a cell phone while driving a vehicle.
To be honest, I had never heard of the word "unfriend". I would simply refer to the act of deleting someone from my friends' list as...well...deleting. Who is responsible for these words being part of official lexicon though? Is there a committee? Is there a  board that oversees these additions? Or is it just some lazy dude, who once a year, picks a word out of a hat and says "this is the word of the year"? I am confused. And how do I get a word included in the Oxford dictionary? An Avi-ism? I have plenty, some more profane than others, most made up while driving and in the throes of road rage, but who do I speak to to get a bligh? Who is the Oxford Daddy? Do you notice that social media is taking over the way we communicate in every way possible? My God! What's next??

But as we are talking about unfriending people, I have to confess that there are some actions which are quite unfriendly and which would warrant some unfriending if I did not love the people on my friends' list as much as I do. Because in reality, my friends' list is not an honour roll of people whom I would like to know, or who flattered me enough that I felt the burning desire to add them. My friends' list are actually...well...friends. But friends, friends....please don't do this to me.

The mass message/mass threads. You know...when someone sends a video or a link via Facebook message and then everyone replies filling up your inbox with junk. Sorry. Opinions. While this is all well and good that we are sharing and exchanging ideas and thoughts, can we do it somewhere else? Seriously? I have stopped tagging people in notes, except for my Grey's Anatomy notes, because I recognised it was annoying. In fact, this blog should serve as a single forum for things I may want to share and when I have updated, I post the link on MY page and it will end up on friends' feeds for them to do with as they please. If you want to share a video and get my feedback, just post the video and let me come find it. Don't do the mass email thing where all 20 of your other victims...umm...friends comment over and over, on and on, and as soon as I check one, the little number (1) appears next to my Inbox again. Just don't do it.

And because there is no way to unfriend myself from these messages, it persists and I get annoyed and then you ask, why I don't comment or give feedback. Now you know why. I don't want to be part of the spam parade quite frankly.

Urban voyeurism

September 2009 stats showed that Trinidad and Tobago was ranked #30 on the list of Highest Number of Facebook users per capita globally, with 182,480 persons on the social media site, representing a 13.63% penetration rate...and growing.

And some of the most ridiculous and disturbing content also comes out of the twin-island republic. While social media has its advantages and is fast replacing traditional channels of communication, because of its immediacy, its appeal to a more tech-savvy demographic and its variety of channels, with Twitter, LinkedIn, Digg, Blogger etc etc etc, it also, like most anything else, can be demonised and used for disseminating the most alarming content.

The most recent of these which I have received is the now viral "Licks on the Promenade" clip, which goes on for over 8 minutes, and shows a young woman and her boyfriend engaged in a most crass argument on the Brian Lara Promenade, complete with profanity, violence and just plain absurdity. I would comment on the woman in question, but all I will say is that she should not show her face anywhere for the rest of her life for acting so stupidly in public. But it was not just for that brief moment, at that location, but with the assistance of the amateur media crew on the scene aka limers with a camera phone, she is now a nationwide, dare I say, global phenomenon.

But as I said in my reply to the stupid video, what was most disturbing to me is the fact that here was a very volatile situation, where someone could have been injured or worse cause tension and anger were escalating by the second, and there was someone with a camera phone, totally exacerbating the situation and in fact making it worse by provoking the couple involved, moreso the female assailant.

This is my problem. Facebook and these sites have now provided idlers with a convenient channel to exploit others and exploit negative situations. Now if in this situation, someone had been stabbed or shot, would Mr Camera Phone have kept shooting his video and worse, would he have posted it online to share with the world? When does the fun end and serious contemplation of decency begin? I saw very limited attempts in this video attempting to defuse the situation, and Part II of the saga (yes, cause Part I was clearly not enough for the masses), shows the young lady attacking the cameraman and yet he keeps filming and laughing and mocking an incensed and emotionally charged woman. If something had happened to HIM, should we have then felt sorry for him? It was clear that this was not the place or time to channel your inner Spielberg. But clearly we have not thought about time and place issues when it comes to the new technologies and people.

This comes on the heels of videos of female students fighting in the street with their skirts being ripped off and the fight continuing with them in just their panties. No matter what one may think of these girls and their behaviour, the reality is they were still minors, so did we need to videotape them in their underwear and post it online? YouTube eventaully saw fit to take the videos down since it breached their policies, but do we need someone else to tell us what we should know already?

Where do we draw the line? When do we realise that everything out there is not for cyberspace? Because if this is not the case, then anything can be found on Facebook in the future Anything. As one person said, you could simply tell someone off for poor customer service and then find yourself as the star of a viral video the next morning. Or you could be on Maracas in your swimsuit, sleeping under the Caribbean sun, and some joker could make you part of a sordid video, without you even knowing it.

Where do we say, okay...maybe this is not the place for this. But it goes back to basic "broughtupsy", and while we will ALWAYS have those who have no sense or propriety and will always find some insane new way to publicly humiliate themselves, do we need to help them along? Because then what does it say about you, the camera man or woman, who may coax them along for a "better" video. For more hits. For a popular video that everyone shares with their friends.

Society has long devolved into one where few people do anything to stop criminal activity, or to think "How can I stop this?" and some of us still have to come to terms with this. But are we also standing by, doing nothing, with our flip cams, our camera phones,  promoting negative elements via social media?

Someone stood by on the promenade for 8 minutes videotaping, what should have been an otherwise private event anyway. But seeing that the woman and her man put themselves out there anyway, does that still mean we have a right to just broadcast the nonsense. When do we stop and say, "Enough of this".

Enough of this.

Try Sleeping with a Broken Heart

Anyone who knows me, knows there are two artistes I would pay anything to see perform live - John Legend, who I have been fortunate to see twice already (God is good, and John is good) and Alicia Keys, and I am terribly excited for her new album to drop, which will be a great birthday present, peeps. Hint hint. I am loving the first 2 singles off the album and since it's Saturday and I am not feeling well and not inspired to write much else, thought I would just share one of my favourite songs right now.

Change and Back Buttons

I am always a bit amazed when I read other blogs (I am a blog reader!) and there is always an entry where the author of the blog has to explain that this is his/her blog and he/she will write what makes them happy and are not trying to please the masses. One particular blogger is very popular and has a legion of loyal readers who may have followed her from her single days. She is no longer single and though her blog has not become an emotional lovefest, it has changed because...well...she has changed. Her life has gone from probably eating ice cream in front of the tv on a Friday night, to sharing vacations with her boyfriend and meeting each other's friends and silly things that happen in new relationships. Yet, when she does share a bit of this, there is always some hater who leaves a comment like "I liked your blog better when you were single" or some crap like that.

I find this a bit sad. Think of a boring lecture where the speaker just blahs through the hour, in a monotone, with no emotional inflection in his voice, with no funny anecdotes. Just dull, sensory-killing monotone. I am sure you can well imagine how you would feel having to endure that. Well, it's the same with a blog I think. Noone wants to read the same thing day in, day out. There has to be something varied and interesting about the blog which is usually the reason we read them and follow them. I personally like the person's blog and her new insights and new experiences are great to follow. How anyone could say something rejecting the change baffles me.

But the underlying problem here is, if you no longer enjoy reading it, why still read it? It's the same concept as with anything else. I had a time trying to read the book, American Psycho. It was a tedious read for me and I never finished it though I am almost sure I will enjoy the movie. I put it down and may never pick it up again. I cannot stand Tyra "It's All About Me" Banks so I don't watch her shows anymore. You don't like a blog, well...just stop reading it. Why make a whole production about it. I mean, there are cases where you may be offended by a view and you may wish to express an opinion, which is fine and well within your rights but move on...especially when it is someone's personal blog. She is not representing anyone but herself.

There is an "x" in the top right corner of every browser window. Try clicking it if you don't like anything you read here or anywhere else online. There is a back button as well. Ever used it? Maybe you're going to use it right now. Great. Have a good day.

Change is good. It's great and everyone should strive for some change. I know I could use some change right about now.

Officer, I have an alibi. I was on Facebook!

November 12, 2009: ASSOCIATED PRESS

NEW YORK -- A 19-year-old New York City man arrested on robbery charges has been exonerated thanks to his Facebook page.

Rodney Bradford was held for 12 days on suspicion of robbing two people on Oct. 17 in the Brooklyn public housing complex where he lives.

Bradford and witnesses insisted he was innocent. They said he was at his father's Harlem apartment when the crime occurred.

A playful message was posted on Bradford's Facebook page one minute before the robbery. In it, he asked his girlfriend where his pancakes were.

Prosecutors dropped the charges after Facebook verified the words had been typed from a computer at his father's building.


Facebook has been in the news a lot. And it has been getting more and more technical, with legal issues arising as well. A judge in Bermuda was faced with the possibility of declaring a mistrial in Bermuda after a prosecutor expressed her annoyance on proceedings via Facebook. Wow. What an idiot. And now this dude. Now they verified that the words were typed from a computer in the father's building but did they do that fancy CSI stuff to see if he was actually the author of said words? Did they check the keyboard keys for his sweat or test the computer chair for bodily fluids, match it to DNA taken from a cotton swab? Or is Facebook so potent that it just stands on its own as a credible alibi. I am not questioning the system or the young man's innocence. Maybe the kid really just wanted some pancakes and was nowhere near the scene of the robbery for which he was accused. But it begs the question, will criminals soon be using the social tools to circumvent the law?

What is to stop me from giving my accomplice my password for my Twitter site, have him/her tweet while I go out on a heist? You may laugh, but I am sure you all read the news and hear about some out of this world stuff (hot air balloon boy; woman marrying name it, it's out there), so why can't this happen?

Facebook is known as a lot of things - maccobook, farsebook, the great evil, idlers' paradise. Add its new moniker - alibi.

Keyboard gangstas and social media suicides

I remember one morning, while having a cuppa, idling on Facebook and coming across a profile, on which the status was a bit shocking. I had to read and re-read to make sure I was seeing this correctly. Now, to each his own, but telling the entire cyberworld what intimate, physical act you were thinking of, in graphic detail, was not something I could have seen myself doing or ever doing. There it was - a digital signature, which would be there for the next few days, and beyond.
Because let's face it, what we put out there on these social media sites more or less stays out there. It's not like a fete where you may act a fool and a couple dozen people may see you, talk about you and then forget about you come next fete. Your digital footprint lingers much longer and can become viral if one is not careful. Look at how quickly a certain illicit video of a former beauty queen spread not just here, but across the world last week? Sure she may get some new fans on her fan page, but is this kind of fame she was looking for?

What you say or do, post or share with others, can ultimately, depending on the subject, hurt, maim or kill one's reputation. There are people out there who do and say some things and post some types of photos which beg the question, "Are these rational minded persons? Do they think before the do these things on the internet?"

I am sure you have seen some profile photos that leave LITTLE to the imagination or read some notes or updates that are so TMI that you cringe.The global community is no longer that small, because of ICT and how communications has transformed lives. The evolution has thus made our own personal universe much smaller as well. So this R-rated profile, shared with so many people, could have eventually made its way to a coworker, a boss, a future employer. And while one's personal life is one's own business, it should be just that. Personal. I don't need to know every whaznat of your life. My own Facebook updates often poke fun at myself and the anonymous, random characters I encounter daily (gas station man yesterday), but let's leave it at that. If you want to know more, I will tell you, in a message, or on the phone. My goodness. I mean, what would my co-workers think if I posted some McNasty images or McSexy status updates and shared it, Tweeted it with all unsundry. I have a "no-co-worker" rule when it comes to my Facebook page as it is, but does that mean I can just go bananas and post photos of myself in my underwear or go on some sort of keyboard gangsta rampage? If you're looking for that, peeps, sorry.

At the conference I went to the other day, one presenter introduced this example of when netiquette should be seriously considered. I have to agree that tweeting about miscarrying while in a meeting is a bit off, by any standards, no matter how hard you try to rationalise it. And people do try to rationalise their digital behaviour, with "It's my business, I can do what I want with it" etc etc. But what one must remember, the new technologies open you up to a whole bunch of people, people who may not have normally have had access to you as they do now. People you may not sit down and have a coffee with and discuss your marriage, your physical ailments/bodily functions, your sex life with.
I think where people lose focus is that with social media, though it may seem like you're communicating in a vacuum, you're not. Social media is real. You're dealing with real people in a very unique way and having unique, yet very real interaction and relationships. So what you say or do...well, it's pretty damn real. The question is, do you want to be REAL distasteful, negative and hurtful, to yourself or others?

Ask yourself, do you really REALLY want to be THAT open with so many people?

Let me Spell it out for you

I have a few pet peeves, like bad driving, slow driving, bad customer service (see below). I also hate typos, or to be more accurate, poor spelling. Typos happen to the best of us. I typed phenmomenon in a previous entry and then caught it and fixed it. And you know a typo when you see it usually. But bad spelling. I am sorry, there is no excuse. In the world of spell check, you really should not have poor spelling especially when it comes to conducting business. Already for the morning, my first morning back at work, I have encountered

It ends that day with a Health Fare
Take a Sneak Peak
Asked for stationary

Of course, there was the ever popular among my Facebook posse

I will laze with you.

In case this one slipped your intellect, the person meant to say LIAISE.

And these were ALL encountered in business related communication. This is alarming. I cannot fathom applying for a job or for funding from a company, or communicating with staff or customers and misspelling something as in the above examples. I am anal about this stuff! It's like going out on a date, looking swanky and you have toilet paper sticking out of your bosom. It is disturbing and unpolished and creates a BAD impression. Even if you're not a communicator by profession, we all communicate on a day to day basis with someone unless you're a hermit. My goodness, read and re-read and let someone check it before you send it out if you're not 100% sure. Sometimes we miss stuff but don't let a bad, bad error put the reader off. That reader could be someone like me! Take an extra 2 minutes just to look it over. I mean, you are looking to get my business or my support, which should be important to you, or else you would not write me. So the least you can do, is treat your correspondence as something valuable and important as well, because one slip and your letter or your email could possibly find itself in the trash or the deleted items folder.

I can excuse and maybe sometimes ignore poor spelling in an IM conversation (yes, Christopher, that means you,, in a text, in a personal email, but not if it is like a terminal illness and it is ever present in every sentence. Yes, I am blessed with good spelling genes but God, use a dictionary if you're not sure. And grammar...that is a whole other entry but this is just as maddening.

Thanks. Y'all are grate!

Customer Service Case Study: KFC

I was going to come here and write about the honest communication when it comes to customer service. Let's face it, customer service in Trinidad and Tobago sucks. There are always the few stellar moments, but the jury has long ago given its verdict. We suck. It is sad when a company's brand is about the suckage of its customer service.

As I was saying, I was going to find the positive in the morass of bad customer service. KFC. Trinis are in no way deterred by the bad service we get at KFC. We boast that the Independence Square branch of the "chicken and chips" giant is the best selling outlet in the world. Yeah, we proud of that. So clearly we don't really care much about its customer service. Fried, artery blocking chicken is bad enough, but to have it served without some pretense of love is just barbaric.

Anyway, I used one of my 2 annual KFC consumer moments tonight. I called area code - 0777 to get my portion of heart disease as I was hungry. KFC has done quite a good job in advertising its new chicken and shrimp wraps aka Twisterz. I wanted one cause I cannot do the junks of flesh. The girl informed me that they do not deliver the wraps. Why, I ask. Brace yourself for the answer.

"Something about when the breeze hit it. When the breeze hits it, it gets stiff"

I picked myself off the floor and told her I wanted it anyway but appreciated her telling me that the wrap's shelf life was rather short. I was hungry, was not willing to start the car to go to the KFC to get it and was certain that a stiff wrap could be un-stiffened with the help of of some Glad Wrap and 10secs in the microwave.

So this was where the honest communication came in.

An hour later, I was still waiting for the wrap and by now, this thing had to be a weapon cause I am sure the breeze was doing a real number on stiffening it. Fifteen minutes later, the delivery man appeared and cause I was certain that after an hour and 15 minutes, there was no way this service could get much worse, I paid for my delivery and went inside.

And happened.

I opened the box and my wrap was there, my drink was in my hand but my fries were missing. I mean....SERIOUSLY?????

Called back and it was not a pleasant conversation but the young lady assured me that the missing fries would be delivered shortly. Well, 20 minutes later, she calls again to tell me the driver would deliver my fries at the end of his 10pm. This is a full 2 hrs after I placed the order mind you.

In all of this, the young lady was apologetic and honest, but this begs the question, is KFC even concerned with their brand? I doubt it cause they sell hundreds of thousands of meals a month I am sure. But does this mean that their customer service must be non-existent? They clearly recognise the inferiority of their customer service cause gone are the days when your order was delivered in 30mins or it was free. They probably recognised that they were losing a lot of money so instead of fixing the lateness of their drivers, they just got rid of the "30mins or free" deal. Wow. They just don't care! This is obvious.

I am just amazed by this and it's now 10.05 and my fries are still...not here.

Communication in transit

And as we talk communication, let's talk about basic transferral of basic information which somehow always goes unheeded.

Passengers seated in Rows 1-5 may now approach the gate for boarding.

This in my estimation, is a maximum of 30 persons, right? So why do over 80 people gang up on the poor gate attendant with boarding passes in hand? Do they think that by getting to the gate, the attendant will say, "Oh, you're in Row 28...poor you. Go ahead!" I encounter this no-obedience phenomenon every single time I travel. Will your seat vaporise if you don't get to it ASAP? Does someone else take your seat in 16F if somehow you don't get to it first? I can never truly understand what the fuss is to get on the plane first? Is there some sort of prize one gets for beating everyone to the finish?

I sit idly by while all these people stand foolishly at the gate, after the attendant shoos them to the side, and wait my turn. I have always found my seat in the place it's supposed to be and on the off chance I find someone in my seat, I kindly inform them that I usually choose that particular seat for a reason so kindly move.

I do have my limits.

Social media

So I am back from the Big Apple, and one can say so many different things about this single experience.

On the one hand, the actual work/reason I went to the city in the first place. I was pleasantly surprised that there were quite a few men in the room. Here, you go to a communications meeting or forum or anywhere where one has to network and you encounter more heels than loafers. It was quite refreshing to have so much testosterone in the room.

Some of the presenters went over pretty well.

James Lynch of Amex basically opened the first morning session with a well thought out presentation of an equally well thought out social media strategy. I was quite impressed with how they have revolutionised the blog and made it hip, interactive and highly dynamic. And even though I have never met and may never meet Ed Gilligan, Vice Chairman, American Express, kudos to him for leadership in actively leading employee communications at the company. It is not every senior executive who would take such a hands-on role in speaking to employees about issues that matter to them - engaging them on such a deeply personal level.

Steve Crescenzo was also quite an animated and compelling speaker, and I agree that you cannot force a social media policy. You have to have a communications plan before you plan any type of social media strategy. Too often we get caught up in wanting to be in and on every app available and to what end? To have your brand uselessly saturating cyberspace?

Great presentations as well from the Fleishman-Hillard duo and our keynote speaker, Aedhmar Hynes. I am sorry I missed the Dow Jones brand reputation session but hopefully the presentation will be comprehensive enough to make up for this.

It was a good conference. There could have been greater opportunity for social networking. I mean, so much was crammed into the 1.5 days that you really could not get around and meet everyone, but the conversations that were had proved to be meaningful nonetheless. Hoping to keep the conversations going as we all go back home and back to the proverbial drawing boards.
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