Sunday, January 27, 2008

A miracle

The past week really has been like a whirlwind... it came and went and before I could sit down and digest the realities, my (should I say) 'nucleus' family is now no longer just ping and me - we have a much awaited "第三者" in the family!

Between the sleepless nights (action-packed with coaxing, feeding and diaper changing) and the zombified couple of working days since last Sunday, I find myself sitting at home (ya, my own home - not my in-law's place, which has sort of become my 2nd home this past week) in front of the computer, finally able to put things into perspective.

To say the least, it truly is a life-changing experience. From a simple husband-wife setup, to a father-mother-child setup, the changes in lifestyle is just so drastic!

We (ping & me) used to think that getting married was a big deal - in terms of changing of a person's lifestyle. In the end, that was no big deal at all, really... All it took was a some getting used to (living with another person, who is NOT your parents), and a dose of mutual respect and trust. Besides that, you really go on living your pre-marriage lifestyle. Pretty much, that is.

But with this little bundle of joy, life's never going to be the same for us anymore.

I guess words can never fully describe the feelings that a parent goes through when he/she holds the child in his arms, and peer into the little (sometimes half shut, and sometimes only 1 eye is opened) eyes which looks back at you with utter trust and love. That's why only people who have gone through parenthood can relate to this, since no amount of reading books, watching movies, or advise from friends can prepare a person for those emotions.

In the words of Morpheus (from the Matrix), "I can only show your the door. You're the one who has to walk through it..."

And down the rabbit-hole did we fall this time.

At times (maybe due to lack of sleep as well), things seem so surreal, that my wife actually told me just yesteday, "This feels like a dream, and I keep thinking I'm gonna wake up, and we're going back to what we were used to doing just 1 week ago."

Haha.. I kinda agree with her. I too, sometimes feel a little 'scared' that our life has just gone haywire. What's gonna happen to our shopping trips, our restaurants visits, our social gatherings, etc...
For me, I'm not even sure how i'm gonna have time to practise for the guitar solo part in the concert coming up in less than a month's time.

But I know that somehow, things will work out. If only we set our hearts to it.

I know, because not that long ago, we were happily living our lives as a couple, adamant that we're gonna keep that status quo for the rest of our lives. But now, we have little boy boy lighting up our lives.

It is truly a miracle.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Boy Boy!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

People management

People Management ~ not the simplest subject to talk about, nor an easy skill to master, in any sense of the word. That's why there are lots of books out there, supposedly teaching people HOW to be a good people manager.

Also, for the record, there are lots of lousy people managers around here...

First, let's get the point clear:

Many people's namecards carry the word "manager" these days. It's almost a given that as long as a person handle a set of accounts, or are responsible for a collection of items, he can be termed a "manager". Heck, a cleaning assistant in the coffeehouse can call himself a "Facilities Manager" if he wants to.

But a PEOPLE manager has to be a person leading a group of workers (read: homo sapiens), who work under/for him/her. Theses workers report directly to the manager, in terms of their day-to-day job, and the manager is responsible for the culmulative performance output of the team.

Anyway, where the sudden interest in talking about these "managers"? Well, you can say that it has been a popular topic of discussion amongst my colleagues these days, thanks to our department 头子. Sometimes, it seems like he doesnt really know what to do with us - whether to be absolutely strict and rule by an iron fist, but in return endure the enmity and constant talk-behind-his-back; OR to treat us like buddies and hope to gain our friendship, respect and trust, but risk the team running over his head.
Recently, he has taken to wearing a 黑脸 to work everyday, so much so that everyone avoids him like the plague. At the same time (and funnily) he appears slightly offended that nobody offers to chat with him in the office; offers to lunch with him, or even to sit beside him on the few occasions when the department has a group lunch/dinner outing.

To many of us, it's straightforward: you are either our friend, or you are our boss.

So the question really is: Can someone be BOTH a boss and a friend at the same time?

Honestly, I think it is very tough to be both. However, IMHO a good manager has to try to strike a good balance between the 2 extremes, in order to get the best results from his/her team. When it comes to work, he must be tough and demanding. Afterall, he is an employee of the firm, just like the rest of us, and he has his bosses to report to. So when the team performs below par, he has to take steps to ensure everybody bucks up and work towards the team target(s). That may require him to be the 坏人, constantly harping on KPIs and work targets.
But since bad news dont come around everyday (if they do, nobody will be staying around for much longer!) , what's to stop the manager from being a friendly colleague on other working days? Once in a while, everyone needs to hear encouraging words about their performance. Everyone needs some reassurance they are doing ok, and the team is functioning well.

Presently, I think -that- little encouragement (for the team) is a little short in supply these days... and with the departure of a couple of our kakis in training, the morale of the team has taken another blow.

老板,请你领导大家振作起来吧! 别再"黑脸"见人啦.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Genus - Expose ~ A beautiful Sunday!

It was quite simply, a wonderful performance.

The Beautiful Sunday concert, held at the Esplanade Concert Hall on 13th Jan 2008, marks the first time the NUS Guitar Ensemble (Expose) has ventured onto this world-class performance stage. And it certainly turned out to be quite an experience for the 20-odd members who had the opportunity to showcase their music and guitar talents.

Speaking from a performer's point of view, it has to be said that the usual mis-cues and wrong notes/timings were abundant. Afterall, none of us were full-time (ie. professional) musicians. In fact, the bulk of players were working adults holding full-time jobs in their respective fields. The rest were undergraduates from NUS, playing guitar as a hobby. The one thing which connected us was - we are all members of GENUS, past and present.
Yet, despite all the individual errors and hiccups, the music that was presented to the 1000+ audience who turned up (just my estimation, since the full capacity of the Concert Hall is 1600+) flowed along with a kind of confidence and fluency, which I have not experienced since the "original" Expose performed at the then newly launched National Library forum some 2 years ago.

I will always remember that brief performance we had at the library, which was part of the Guitarist Network event organised by the Toa Payoh Guitar Club and its associates. Not only was it a good outing in terms of the experience and strength of the players who played in that "A-Team" then, but also the camaraderie between the players was strong - the spirit was one of mutual respect and belief. Simply put, you have the utmost confidence that the fellow beside you knows his stuff well, and that each one of you is a good player in his/her own right. I truly enjoyed playing in such a group of equals.

Back to the present....

The current cohort of players in Expose arent too bad either. Owls has managed to recruit a bunch of up-and-coming younger players who have proven that they too are able to rise to the occasion when it is required of them to do so. To be absolutely honest, I had at one point decided to stay as an on-looker, rather than to play in a ensemble where I had to constantly worry about the music breaking down, and wondering if the fella sitting beside me knows what he is doing. That has not happened during the practices and rehearsal we've had prior to this performance (although there were times where I got a bit bek-chek at certain players who constantly make the same mistakes week-after-week. But even those were occasional and infrequent). Certainly, credit has to be given to the conductor, Owls for being extra patient and making the extra effort to work out the notes & rhythms with the weaker players outside of the group's rehearsal times. It has paid off handsomely!

The 1 hour long concert was significant to many players in the group, also because not many of them had have the experience of playing -continuously- (ie. in every piece) for a performance. Besides players from my group (Guitaresque) and several other more 老鸟 players there, many had only previously played in Genus concerts where they were playing 3-4 songs at a go, at best. There were always breaks in-between, due to small groups performances and such.
But this time round, it was 1 solid hour of non-stop playing. So in that sense, it was also a "breakthrough" of sorts. (though I suspect many of us felt that even 1 hour was a little too short! haha)

Watching the concert on video again last night (yes, the DVD is out, guys! ), it is easy to fall into a little sense of self-admiration and arrogance - thinking that we are perhaps the best Niibori-styled guitar ensemble in Singapore (dare we say "in the region"? ). Certainly, no junior colleges or tertiary (or for that matter, public) groups can perform at the level which we did. Still, that should have no bearing on what we are currently embarking on, and that is - to continue playing together and enjoying not just the process of making good music, but also (and to me - equally if not more importantly) the bonds of friendship and camaraderie as fellow guitarists/musicians in a closely-knit group. That said, it would be great if the group is able to achieve some kind of formal recognition, be it in a regional guitar ensemble festival/competition, or in a high profile music event. That would be my dream...

Till then, I will definitely look forward to more fun-filled sessions with Expose in the coming weeks.
Using the motto of my alma mater - Auspicium Melioris Aevi (trans: The hope of a better age )

p.s. Next up: Final Fantasy VII medley!! Woo-hoo!