A ghost from the past!

Since the year is only 6 days old, I wish all readers of this post a Happy New Year. May 2013 be a blessed, healthy, and happy one for you.

Just in case you have been wondering what happened to me, here is a quick update.

Good news is I am still alive. I mean there are countless numbers of ways I could have died in 2012. But I didn’t. There were times when I felt like a ghost though, while reading a new comment on a post long after I posted it. Even after months of inactivity, the occasional reader would post encouraging words, making me regret having abandoned my blog.

As you might remember, I started a new job in April 2012 and that basically put an end to my blogging project. Initially I thought that the 4 hours commute to and back from work could be put to good use by writing posts or working on that I book I have been wanting to write for ages. Reality however turned out to be much different. (Isn’t that always the case?) The only thing I did during the journeys was read. I managed to read a couple of interesting books though, which was a definite plus. Since I didn’t have much time for anything else during the weekdays, I had to take care of all my To Dos during the weekend. Still I could have found an hour or so each week, if I had really wanted to blog. But I was mentally too lazy and often succumbed to the senseless occupation of my mental processes by what was shown on Pay TV. J

So why bother posting in 2013 at all? First of all, we have unsubscribed Pay TV. Yeah! I am hoping that less TV equals more time and mental energy for creative pursuits. I hope to post at least once each week, let’s see how that goes.

Happy 2013!

Oh where, oh where is Irene?

Dear (please fill in your name here),

as you might have noticed. I have not been commenting on your wonderful blog posts or react to the insightful comments you have made on mine for about a week now.

Starting a new job is physically and mentally draining. Good Friday and Easter Monday are public holidays in Germany but I needed this time to recharge my internal battery. 🙂

I am not saying that I will no longer visit you. I will but I have to reduce my daily visits to once a week; most probably on a Sunday. I hope to keep you entertained during the week with the flash fiction I write during my commute to work.

I wish you an exciting and happy week ahead.

Take care.

Yours sincerely,
Irene

All to you, this comes…

A nomination for the Creative Chaos Awards by Charles. 🙂 Thank you!

Fingerprints

On the 1st of April, I had two things that cheered my mood—and this is not another fooling story. I was awarded the Creative Chaos Award by Subhan Zein (the guy is one hell of inspiration to me) and my blog’s hits climaxed 2,000! What a feat!

Though I created my blog sometimes in November 2011, I made it public in February 2012 and in two months I have had 2000 hits—an average of 33 clicks per day!

This is awesome. I am dedicating the award to all writerly folks from the Friday Fictioneers at Madison Woods Blog who made this feat possible—all for you!

To accept this award, you must:

1. Tell 3 completely weird things about your habits. If you claim to have no weird habits, you’re lying and we’ll have to send an investigative team for further analysis.

2. You must tell why you look at the “glass…

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The first day

Do you remember your first day in kindergarten? I do not have memories of my own of this day but my mother has told me hers. I am the eldest child and as a result my mother was apprehensive when the day came for her to leave me for the very first time in foreign care. Kindergarten in Singapore is not a playgroup but rather a pre-school. Children learn how to read and write in Kindergarten. I even attended Mandarin lessons as a second language. Unfortunately I was not allowed to continue it in primary school.

Where was I? Oh yes, kindergarten! My mother put me in my uniform, packed my school bag and walked me to the kindergarten. As we approached the building, she saw children freaking out to varying degrees. Some were hanging onto their family members refusing to enter the classroom. Others were crying their hearts out. Some even ran away and were caught and carried back to the classroom. My mom couldn’t bear the thought of seeing me crying. (Actually she admitted that she felt like crying herself.) However I surprised her by taking my school bag from her hands at the entrance and entered the classroom willingly. She still couldn’t bear leaving me alone and peeked through the window to see how I was coping. She said that when I saw that I waved at her; waved at her to go away that is. 🙂

Tomorrow I have another first day ahead of me. On the one hand, I am really excited and looking forward to starting a new job in a new company. I will pack my back tonight, pick out the clothes to wear tomorrow and check out the train schedule. Things I imagine little Irene might have done the day before she went to kindergarten for the first time too; except for checking for the train schedule. J

But there is a part of me that is feeling apprehensive, and afraid. So many ‘What Ifs’ fleet through my mind. I wonder if little Irene was afraid that day too? Did her joy to learn outweigh her fear being left alone, being with strangers or to fail? Maybe I am thinking too much about it. After all my instinct says that it was the right decision to take on this job and that it is exactly the kind of work I enjoyed.

What are your experiences on your first day at a new job?

Racism has many faces

At several points in my life, I have been confronted with racism. These occurrences were not life threatening but they were hurtful nonetheless. When I started going out with Mr.M, I often heard that he was only with me to have fun on his holiday. You know white guy goes on holiday to South East Asia. He promises the innocent Asian girl that he loves her. But we all know what he is after, right? Wrong! I am glad that I trusted my instincts in this case because Mr. M turned out to be my soul-mate. But he had a hard time convincing others of his honest intentions. Once we were walking down a street and a man passing by on a scooter, shouted profanities at us. Since we were the only ones walking on the path, we assumed he was offended by the fact that we were a mixed couple. We could see his face; he was one from my race.

I live in Germany for more than eleven years now. I am often asked, if I have faced racism during that time. I can only say that wherever I have been, I have been welcomed in a friendly and accepting manner. In fact my physical difference seems to add a certain level of exoticness to my being. People often want to know where I come from and what it is like there. The Germans I have met so far are extremely open to other cultures and love travelling, which I think helps to expand one’s mental horizon. They love foreign cuisine too; evident in the number of döner, pizzeria, Chinese or Thai restaurants in most towns.

Having said that, after we moved to the village we are living in now, I heard from several sources that the area we moved to was a stronghold for neo-nazis. The first time I went to the post office, which is actually integrated into a small store run by an old lady, I was hurt by the abrupt way she treated me. She was grouchy and unfriendly. I assumed that the rumours were true and was in tears when I related my experience to Mr.M. I dreaded going there again but I had to post Christmas cards. This time she was extremely friendly to me and chatted with me for a long time. The next day when I came back to post the second batch of cards, she even told me that she had pasted Christmassy stickers on the cards. She was probably having a bad day when I first met her. However the “news” I had heard caused me to interpret her actions wrongly. Imagine how it would have been, if I had only gone there once? I would have unknowingly and falsely confirmed the racism claims.

However recently I had an upsetting conversation with a German teenager. The teenager was never interested in excelling academically. He has the minimum school education. He was complaining about the fact that he had difficulties finding an apprenticeship. He has been rejected with the explanation that he was not qualified for the position he applied for. I thought he was going to admit that it was a mistake that he did not take school seriously. Instead he said in an angry tone, “Instead of training me, a local citizen, they rather employ skilled workers from overseas. They support foreigners, who only come here for the money.” If you asked him, he would not say that his remark was racist. In fact he feels as if he is being discriminated against. Is this the beginnings of racism? How to make it clear to such people in similar situations that their anger is misdirected?

I watched a documentary on the Ku Klux Klan aka the Knights Party yesterday. The reporter followed members of this group for a certain period of time. One of the men interviewed admitted to being a Neo-Nazi as well. He said that his parents did not share his sentiments. However he has felt the hatred against Jews since he was a child. He hated Jews for being Jewish, not because he was taught at home to hate them or because he was hurt by them.

Where does racism start? Does racism sprout off stereotypes? Do clichés fertilise racist ideas? Like we all have the propensity to do evil; do we all have a racist part in us? Does ignorance and hatred cause this side of us to surface and take over our minds and guide our actions?

It cannot be said often enough, be our differences are only skin deep. Inside we are all the same. We have the same anatomy. The colour of our blood is the same. If you need a blood transfusion to save your life, only the blood type and not the race of the donor matters. The same things can hurt us physically. We go through the same cycle of birth, life and death. Ultimately we all want to live a happy life. Living itself is complicated and it is unnecessary to further complicate it with racism.

5 Reasons – Why procrastinating writers should not be blogging

Reason 1 – Blogging is simply another way to continue procrastinating
I was actually proud of the fact that I have actually kept one of the resolutions I made for this year – to blog every day. I was happy until the moment I started analysing what I have accomplished in the first quarter of 2012. I am ashamed to say that all of my other resolutions have failed. I am far from a flat tummy. I haven’t even started exercising yet! I stopped keeping a To Do list a long time ago. It was supposed to help me overcome my procrastination by setting doable goals every day. Instead I spend hours on the internet researching for the next post, writing the next post, replying to comments on past posts or researching my Stats page every other minute. While every view makes me feel happier it also binds me to continuously refresh the Stats page, wanting to get another adrenaline rush associated with a new view.

Reason 2 – Writing posts takes away time that could be used to write that book
As some of you might be aware of, I have been procrastinating in various areas of my private life. One such area is writing a novel. I have aspired to become a novelist for as long as I can remember. I love writing and I believe that I can communicate my ideas well in the written form. Therefore as I was making my resolution for this year, I decided that this would be the year I write that first book of mine. At that moment, I thought blogging would be a great way to get writing practice. While I might have written a handful of fictional pieces, most of my posts are about topics that caught my interest somehow. These posts take time to research and to condense the information in a readable post length. (My hunch is that most people do not read posts that are about a thousand words or more – too time consuming.) All that time invested for nothing much to show for it except for maybe a couple of likes. In the meantime that time and energy could have been invested in finally writing that draft novel.

Reason 3 – Building and maintaining the blog’s followers is a time consuming process
What is the use of writing, if no one is reading it, right? Well spread the message that you have a blog! You could post it on your Facebook profile but as I have mentioned in another post, chances are only 16% of your “friends” would even see that post. More than 2 months after I started blogging, I keep getting questioning remarks on my Facebook wall asking, “You have a blog?” So even if you have hundreds of Facebook friends, the number of views referred by FB could be really low. At the moment I get an average of 2 views per day referred to my site by Facebook. I have about 365 friends. You can calculate the percentage rate.

What else can you do? If you want to increase traffic to your site, WordPress advices you to read other blogs. But reading and liking a post is not enough to entice other bloggers to your own blog. You have to leave interesting comments on them. It might sound kind of sneaky but there is some sense to what they are proposing. After all, a comment is a teaser, showing your writing style and personal interests. Furthermore reading other blogs could help you improve yours, find new inspiration and simply become part of the blogger community. I have to admit that I have come across a few blogs that I would not have found otherwise. But the point is it is time consuming to get people to read your posts. (How many hours were there in a day?)

Reason 4: Bloggers are too nice to criticise
I have had the good fortune that I have only had friendly people visit my blog. Most visitors leave encouraging comments. I have posted some creative pieces, which I personally thought had weak parts. But I was surprised that I only received positive feedback. As I mentioned, the blogger community is too kind. I was thinking that I should add a comment at the bottom asking for constructive feedback. My work is not going to improve much, if it continues in this fashion.

Reason 5: Blogging is an ego-inflator
This point follows reason number 4. With all the praise and likes a post receives, it is difficult not to feel good about oneself. Feeling good is a good thing, right? Wrong! Feeling good in this case would mean that you are reaping the reward before even seriously starting to work on that book. For this very same reason, it is not recommendable to talk about your goals. It is how our brains are wired and I wrote more about it in this post. If you feel the reward, what is to entice you to do work afterwards? Suddenly I catch myself dreaming about getting Freshly Pressed instead of being published.

Conclusion
While blogging brought me into writing mode, it is keeping me away from the writing that novel. Soon I would be working fultime again and have much lesser free time. I shudder when I think about it.

Do you agree with me? Are you an aspiring author? What is your experience with blogging in relation to your goal to write a book?

The Cloud Beckons

This post is about Cloud Computing as understood by me, a nonspecialist in technology. A few days ago the CeBit, one of the world’s leading ICT trade fair, was held in Hanover, Germany. During this week, one of the trending topics was Cloud Computing. Then on the TED website, I came across a feature on a company called Akamai, which provides platforms for Cloud Computing. The signs were there, urging me on to write about it. Therefore here I am writing a post about this super-duper what-ever-it-is.

If Cloud Computing conjured an image of a computer in the clouds turning water into food, I have to disappoint you. No, it has nothing to do with resolving world hunger ala “Cloudy with a chance of meatballs”. That would have been pretty cool. However Akamai claims that Cloud Computing would help fight against global warming. How you ask? To find an answer to that we need to define Cloud Computing.

What is Cloud Computing?

There is no single definition of Cloud Computing and so the following explanation is my personal understanding of it. In essence Cloud Computing refers to sharing server capacity by numerous users and/or organisations around the world. A suitable metaphor I can think of is a safe. You can either store your valuables in a safe at home or you can store them in a bank vault or you can use both to satisfy your need to protect your valuables. Storing at a bank has the added advantage, that there is someone looking after your property all the time and they probably have more resources to protect your property than you might have at hand and you don’t have to buy an expensive safe.

However Cloud Computing is not restricted to sharing hardware only. There are services offering licensed software for the users in their clouds. Therefore instead of buying x number of licenses, which at times might be restricted to use in specific devices, you can make use of a software via the Cloud regardless of the device you are using.

How does Cloud Computing support sustainability?

Carbon footprint has become a household term. When you book a flight, you pay a fee to offset your carbon footprint. When you order a package to be delivered to your house, you pay a fee to offset the gases emitted by the delivery van. You cycle to work and walk to the grocery shop. Your conscience is clean. Maybe you should think again. Do you know how much electricity you consume each day? Laptops, iPads & co., mobile phones all need energy to operate. Do you have any idea what your personal carbon footprint in this area is like? I have to admit I don’t but it probably accumulates to a substantial amount in my lifetime.

Companies are all into sustainability nowadays. Cloud Computing helps you be green and at the same time reduce costs. Have you ever been inside the server room of your company? The rooms are usually cool to prevent the hardware from overheating and there are lots of blinking lights, even when no one is in the office working. Therefore there is energy consumption without corresponding productivity or in other words value creation. By joining the Cloud, you are basically outsourcing these servers. You no longer have hardware taking up valuable office space and consuming energy even when they are idle. You store all your information in the Cloud.

Now those offering Cloud Computing platforms do have hardware, with all the associated non-green aspects mentioned earlier. Is the concept really green? The key point is by serving a wider user base, the Cloud can effectively reduce idle time and utilise the server capacity available. Therefore instead of 500 000 thousand servers being used by various organisations, the Cloud only needs about 40 000 servers to do the same amount of work. (These numbers were cited by Akamai in a promotional video.)

How does Cloud Computing impact you?

Chances are you have already had contact with the Cloud in some form. You are simply not aware of it. Akamai alone has some reputable customers and there are so many other providers of Cloud Computing on the market.

Have you ever lost a work laptop? You lose more than the presentation you were working on. There are usually sensitive company data stored in the hard-drive. Data and information equals to money and competitive advantage in today’s world. If you were using the cloud, no data would be stored locally and ergo no data lost and no breach in security to fear.

Security leads me back to the metaphor of bank vaults. It is common knowledge that valuables are stored in bank vaults. Therefore they are often the target of criminals, who want to get rich quick by getting possession of these valuables. Likewise the Cloud might become a target for hackers and if you are unlucky, they might find a way to get hold of your data. By storing data in the Cloud, you are solely dependent on the Cloud to protect it for you.

My Conclusion

Every cloud has a silver lining. But clouds could cause floods too. As a private individual, I would probably buy an external hard drive to store my personal data; like photos. As it is Facebook and Google know way too much about me, I don’t need to add the Cloud to that list too. I shiver at the thought of what would happen, if they all joined forces. 🙂 That is my view on Cloud Computing.

Related Articles

  1. http://www.ted.com/pages/266
  2. http://www.akamai.com/html/misc/ted.html
  3. http://www.cebit.de/home
  4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloud_computing
  5. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Server_%28computing%29