If only life were as simple as pie

Sometimes I wonder about life and where things might be now if I’d chosen a different direction.

The other day I thought about how I lived on a dead-end road; I wondered if it also paralleled my current career and relationships.

Right now the world is in such a volatile place and things can change on a dime. That however is the thing about hope – the belief that things will be able to change.

We try and fix things so that only the good remains and the bad doesn’t but we don’t often get to choose.

I don’t know where I’m going; but I sure hope it’ll be fun getting there.

Column: Malaysia needs new dreams in 2020

[This first appeared in the Malay Mail, January 1 2019]

JANUARY 1 — Looking at the date change on my computer, it feels surreal.

It takes me back to my teens and reading that old manifesto, thinking that Wawasan 2020 was far off in the future.

Now the future is literally here.

What is strikingly odd is how much time has passed and yet, here we are, with the same man in power who pushed the 2020 agenda.

In many ways, I must admit, we have it better. In other ways, I think we have made quite a few steps backwards.

I think our problem is that we put too much store in certain figures to chart our course as a nation.

We put too much hopes in men; in a prime minister, in a wannabe prime minister, in politicians.

I think it is time we start to learn about that thing called consensus because really, we are not practising it enough.

All it takes is for one rabid group to threaten violence and what do we do? We take action… against the target.

It is odd and discomfiting that instead of calling out those who incite hatred and intolerance, we bend over backwards so they won’t “act out.”

We cannot continue to be held hostage to the wills of questionable groups.

It  is however tricky, this thing we call consensus. We are a nation of many peoples, of many dreams.

Yet there are things we can all stand behind ― better futures for our children and prosperity for all, for instance.

We cannot deal with racism by pretending it does not exist. Yet that is what some would have us do; festering boils need to be lanced, not covered with cloth and paint.

I  hope this one thing for our country, for Malaysia ― that we have not just one dreamer, but many. We need more voices, more thoughts, more dialogue.

We cannot let our collective futures be defined by any one man. Let Malaysia be a country for all peoples, for all its people.

I lift my glass then to this possible new future where we no longer are beholden to any single person’s legacy, where we all can dare to dream, no matter how disparate those dreams may be.

Happy New Year, my fellow Malaysians.

New journeys

Sunset on the Boardwalk, Kota Kinabalu

It’s been an interesting week. After the recent general election, Malaysia still seems to be reeling from the shock of a new government being elected after more than six decades with the last one.
So many questions but the most important one is: where do we go from here?
I’m looking forward to more freedom of expression, the press getting more free rein and an era where politicians are held accountable instead of being put on pedestals.
Hope isn’t something we’re used to having but I like that it still lingers, even after the frenetic madness has settled.

Behold, I have returned in 2018

It’s been years since I’ve updated this website but that hopefully will change.

Have been busy juggling multiple gigs, including a fairly long stint with Stuff Singapore. Still a columnist though I piss fewer people off these days – maybe old age has made me mellow, who knows.

Now that I’ve got a lot more free time I hope to spend time working on my own stuff for once.

Since this is my first year in my 40s, might as well make the start of the decade count.

Hopefully I get around to updating this site at least once a week. The road is paved with good intentions yada yada pancake but I’m gonna try and keep this resolution. As well as my 10-year-old one of losing another 10kg haha haha haha.

Wish me luck!

Samsung Note 7: Why it’s important to control the message

From a PR perspective, it was disheartening that Samsung let a few isolated incidents destroy the good buzz surrounding the Galaxy Note 7.

There’s no denying it is a good phone and some reviewers have even gone so far to say it’s the best phone of 2017. What went wrong with Samsung’s damage control? How could they have done better?
(Just so you know where I’m coming from: I’ve been writing about tech for over a decade, with a few stints in tech PR here and there)
1. Samsung took too long
From the start when reports started circulating about Note 7 issues (software bricking, batteries going boom), Samsung should have at the very least put out a quick statement. Nothing fancy. Just ‘we acknowledge the reports, are looking into it and are taking it very seriously’.
Instead Samsung chose to remain silent, leaving the press to continue reporting on the negative incidents. This is the age of the Internet: there is no breathing time, no saving grace before a publication goes to print
2. Samsung’s customers needed a better explanation
A cursory look at the company’s social media pages show the company could have done a better job explaining the source of the problem. Instead it’s been left to the media and experts to explain to the public what went wrong in the manufacturing process.
That’s not the media’s job; that’s Samsung’s.
3. The absence of positive messaging
Here’s the reality: not all of the Note 7s are affected. Only some units, using a specific battery cell. What should have also gone out is the message that most customers have nothing to worry about but if they have concerns, Samsung will allay them. The negative messaging however has taken over to the point even airlines are wholesale banning all Note 7s, whether or not they are affected. This is terribly unfair to Samsung but the airlines, in the absence of correct information, are doing what is expedient.
4. It should have been about the customers from the very start
One of the biggest failings of the public relations industry is its stubborn approach in always making it about the client first. Sometimes, you have to think a little beyond covering your client’s behind.
Instead of asking ‘how do we control the damage?’, the most important question should have been about the people who keep Samsung alive: the customers. How do we reassure them? How do we let them know we have their best interests at heart?
The good news is that Samsung still has a strong, loyal user base who are loathe to give up their Note 7s. The challenge the company will have in the future is now having to spend additional resources on reassuring their customers that their products are safe. It’s a cautionary tale that in a world where information moves so much faster than we can produce it, you need to work harder than ever to keep your messaging in line…or end up having it blow up in your face.

Hello, it’s me

It’s been a terribly long time since I posted here. A lot has changed and mostly for the better.
Career-wise, I’m now a subeditor with The Malay Mail Online, who’s been nice enough to give me a column. Racked up a few new bylines including a short stint as Zafigo’s editor and a piece in Time Out for it’s Women’s Day special. I’m also a tech correspondent for Stuff.tv Malaysia.
On the personal front, I broke up with the boyfriend and got a dog (pictured).

Life is up when it’s up, down when it’s down. I’m still a mostly broke, talent-less nobody who occasionally distracts a few people on social media. Yeah, that bit hasn’t changed from 2013.

What’s next in 2016? Well, this is the year I work on my book. Not sure how that is going to go and I have no plans apart from writing it, which I will start in April as part of Camp NaNoWriMo.

Had a bit of a health scare last year so I’m, as Fergie said, working on my fitness. Which in my case means eating one cookie instead of five.

Was in a bit of a funk over the last few months, writing becoming a struggle and a lot of imposter syndrome to deal with. I look at a lot of my peers who are giving to the world and I feel as though I should at least make some effort towards contributing something more than waste and carbon dioxide.

I’m still figuring out how to do that. In the meantime, I guess I’ll just try and give a damn.

Blog Action Day: Human rights isn’t just a ‘Western’ thing

I was once chastised for my ‘Western’ thinking about human rights.

Well, excuse me, nobody sent me the memo about it being un-Asian to care about human rights. Human rights matters now, more than ever, in a world where the income and cultural divides seem ever starker.

Zenpencils has a neat graphic that gives a nice summary about what human rights is about.

But what is human rights to me? It’s acknowledging that all human beings are all entitled to the same, basic human rights defined in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.

Yet I live in a country that often ‘forgets’ about the declaration. On Monday, a judgement ruling that a certain word belonged only to a certain faith and was ‘not integral’ to another faith blatantly tramples over Article 18 of the declaration:

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

So I care about human rights because I know too well what happens when people don’t care. When people trample all over the sensitivities of others without care for their rights.

Rights matter. Whether you’re from the West, the East, space, Narnia or The Shire. So it’s great that on Blog Action Day, bloggers all over the world will also be talking about the rights we all deserve, regardless of who or where we are.

On being called ‘white/capitalist/a Malay hater’

Sometimes I hate the Internet. I’m not special enough for people to throw money and free stuff at me but am special enough for people to hate me enough to plaster my name all over the Internet.

Like, yo, I’m not really sure how to react to being dismissed as someone who is too “white western liberal capitalist” to bother with.

Or being accused of being a racist Malay-hater.

Look, y’all. I never said there was no hope for the Malay race. I said there was no hope for it SO LONG AS Y’ALL KEEP ELECTING SHITTY LEADERS. Have you never asked yourself why Malay politicians are so rich while too many Malays are still poor (Hello Felda)? And yet, some assholes keep going around blaming the Chinese for the Malays being poor.

Rich Malays claiming there are poor Malays because = Chinese.

That shit ain’t cool.

Back to the whole “Erna is a capitalist thing”.

So not owning a car because I advocate for public transport, and not owning a house or other big-ticket material trappings, being vehemently anti-libertarianism and believing that the free market is flawed, and that a market without any form of regulation is dangerous…makes me a capitalist?

I must be really confused about capitalism, then.

I admit, I  do not feel very attached to my race’s customs or traditions because, you see, both my parents were different races and were not overly preoccupied with racial identity.

Then why do I ‘get mad’ (apparently) when people mistake me for a Malay?

Because being mistaken for a Malay in Malaysia carries with it a ton of baggage.

Perhaps it is the communal mindset, perhaps it’s just the way it is but being a ‘Malay’ means having to constantly put up with criticism from even total strangers for not being ‘Islamic enough’ or not ‘Malay enough’.

This is something I can’t get used to in West Malaysia, and despite how much I try, I can’t get over it.

I will be honest and say being mistaken for a Malay, has been a detriment 3 times out of 4. It’s cramped my style, yo, because I don’t exactly lead the kind of lifestyle condoned by the Great Guardians of Malay Propriety.

And to be honest, I feel really sorry for Malays who have to put up with so much shit from total strangers (of their own race) who feel it is their ‘responsibility’ to tell them how they should dress, behave or pray.

The guy I used to spend most of my time with (platonically) was Chinese and man, did we get a lot of shit hanging out together because I was perceived as ‘Malay’. But that was then, and things are a little less stupid now.

Is it truly ‘Western’ or ‘white’ of me to believe in human rights, to believe that while culture, tradition and identity matter, they must never come before human rights?

Gee, shucks, then I’m a right redneck then.

How not to be an asshole on Twitter

The problem with Twitter is that it is far too easy for people to misunderstand you. And overreact.

Like when a bunch of ‘bros’ decided to gang up on me for this Tweet.

DudeWithAutisticKid: (Paraphrase) “So you’re saying autistic kids should stay at homelah? Never go out?”

That was only a bit of the nastiness I got over just 140 characters. Basically I was accused of singling out autistic kids, like the bitch I am.

First...where the heck did I say anything against autistic kids? Where in the 140 characters did I mention that? Please underline it in bold Sharpie and send me a copy in triplicate.

Second...autism has a whole spectrum. Personally I think it’s unfair to assume that ALL autistic kids act out and that the rowdy kid who can’t or won’t sit still is autistic.

Here’s the backstory – DudeWithAutisticKid has an autistic kid. His ‘bros’ are all protective about his kid so when DudeWithAutisticKid got offended by my Tweet, they all decided to be SuperMachoHeroBros and collectively diss me.

Now here’s my next offending Tweet:

Note that while both Tweets are about kids running around, they’re not really about the same thing. In the second Tweet, it’s about when kids are RUNNING IN DANGEROUS PLACES. Like where there are TABLECLOTHS.

A tablecloth with a hot teapot on it can be easily tugged by a kid and in 3 seconds, teapot is on kid’s head.

It’s serious enough that the NHS even advises parents to use non-slip table mats instead of table cloths.

Children are forces of nature. Forces of nature that require parents to keep their eyes on when in non-controlled environments.

Autistic kids’ parents have it rough – they have to be careful about triggers, sensitivities kids may have. While some high-functioning autistic kids get on well in public, autistic kids who can’t communicate well or are oversensitised or overreact to stimuli might need an extra pair of eyes.

Just last week I was in a lift with an autistic child. If you know how to look, you can tell – this little boy was pressing all the buttons in the lift while the dad ignored what the kid was doing.

If you’ve been around severely autistic kids like I have, you’ll notice the signs. How their body alignment seems off. A five or six-year-old who talks in gurgles or unintelligible babbles instead of speech.

The kid was hurting no one by messing with the lift buttons. So yeah, maybe the lift would stop a few more floors. It didn’t bother me.

But if said kid, heck if ANY KID was running around unsupervised in a restaurant, running under tables, pulling table cloths with no guardian in sight (or worse, guardian is busy gossiping in corner), I would probably not be amused.

Thing is, most parents of autistic kids I know watch their kids like hawks. They’re watching. Always watching. Always alert. Because their children were born in special circumstances, so they need more watching. I never need to worry about autistic kids because God knows, their parents don’t need telling.

It’s the parents who aren’t as careful that bug me. The ones who are gossiping in a corner while junior is running through the glassware section. The ones who are too busy shopping to notice that their kids aren’t in the same shop.

It’s because I care about your damn kid that I get mad if you’re not watching them. And it should be a good thing that I care.

So think about it when you leave your child unattended in a public place. Maybe the only thing between junior and a hot pot of tea on his head is the stranger who grabs him before he gets to yank at the cloth in the first place.