Christmas 2012 – everything’s not lost

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Last Christmas was not as merry as it used to be when my grandparents and my parents were still around. My grandma usually prepared a special dinner: biterballen for appetizer, oxtail soup for one of the main courses, and pudding (to die for) for dessert. Grandpa played the organ and sang, my dad and the rest of us eating heartily. The house was stuffed by family members from Jakarta, my aunt’s family, and relatives. We made a cave from cement paper for the nativity, and we decorated a plastic Christmas tree. It was noisy – the pleasant kind of noise.

Years passed, one by one family members was gone, replaced by the new generation. The tradition lived on, year by year. Then it disappeared in thin air. My grandparents and parents were long gone, sustained by us who have turned to Dickensian characters void of the spirit of Christmas that we once had. My Christmas recently was reduced into just a slightly different day. I went to church, called my daughter and my brother, texted other family members and friends with “merry Christmas” messages, and gave small presents to few people. Oh, and I also bought myself some presents: a pair of glasses (because I recently lost the one pair I had), and a small tablet I named Olie. Apart from those, I did cry over what I had lost.

This note is my tribute to what I still have in this life. I am grateful that I have a beautiful and understanding daughter. It may take several lifetimes to return her kindness. I am lucky that I have three cool brothers who in their own ways look out for me. I am blessed that I still have an aunt, my dad’s sister, who represents a parent to me. From my mother’s side, I still have other aunts and uncles who once in a while reach out for me. Next year, if God allows, we will gather once again in a big family reunion. And… here in Bali, I have wonderful souls around me, some are angels, I believe, who never let me go astray.

Everything’s not lost, as Coldplay puts it, and I am still counting up my demons. I still have a hope. MERRY CHRISTMAS!

What’s Your LinkedIn Profile Picture saying?

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Are you aware of what you’re projecting in your picture on your LinkedIn profile? Did you put up the same goofy avatar you put on Twitter? Hope not, because different social medias take different approaches. It is acceptable to put up a picture of you in a creepy Halloween costume on Facebook and Twitter, but it may not be a wise thing to do on LinkedIn.

Unlike Twitter that allows you to write basically anything you like under Bio section on your profile, LinkedIn and Facebook structure your profile based on first: occupation, second: education. While Facebook goes on in detail with these two categories, also with ways to contact you (similar to LinkedIn), it also offers much room for personal details , such as family members and relationship status.  These later details are irrelevant on LinkedIn because LinkedIn is meant to connect professionals around the globe.

Because of the space allotted for personal information and relatively high level of informality, it is not surprising that pictures FB and Twitter users put up on their profiles can be goofy, silly, scary, sexy, nonsensical, anything! You can even put up your dog’s picture. Unless your industry wants to project this ‘unprofessional’ image on purpose, stick to the basic, simple rule when it comes to putting up your profile picture on LinkedIn: look professional. Imagine that a company of your dream comes across your profile and… ! Well, everybody has every right to dream, right?

  1. Unless you are running a company profile on LinkedIn, show most of your own face on your profile. People tend to look at the eyes, because eyes can say a lot of things.
  2. Forget old-fashioned, unsmiling, photo-studio picture. This kind only projects rigidity and poor taste!
  3. We know not everyone is lucky enough to have good looks, but hey, who cares? Charm has little to do (if any) with the shape of your nose, the smoothness of your skin, or the thickness of your hair. Project confidence, content, happiness just enough. Who wants to hire someone who looks insecure, or, on the contrary: someone who looks arrogant?
  4. Embossed, sketched, color-inverted pictures wouldn’t help, would they? They don’t help you look better. Worse, they may attract a thought that you’re ashamed of how you look. Stop worrying about your less-than-perfect facial features. Don’t fret that it’s easier to look confident when you’re good looking either. Even when it’s true, at the end it’s your skills, expertise and attitude that people hire. And attitude is somewhat projected on your profile picture.
  5. You’ve been around yourself for so many years that you know your best angle. Play with it.
  6. Use a camera that generates good results and minimize retouching. Outdoor or indoor, it’s your call, but outdoor settings may project a warmer, ‘openness’ feel.

More and more employers nowadays check on candidates’ social medias to give them some kind of assessment on these candidates’ personalities. While a Facebook profile that depicts you in the middle of a party – projecting your active and engaging social life – may be desirable for some businesses, LinkedIn, on the other hand, is your mini CV. Surely you want the focus of attention is undividedly: YOU.

What is your current LinkedIn profile picture projecting? Is that the intended message? 🙂

Regrets, Part Two (did I tell you that they kill?)

"downtown lawrence kansas in black and white"

My previous post is a sketch on guilty feeling or regrets that I believe every human being has to some extent. Regrets have withering power that sucks up life energy in your marrow. They are friends to the gravity and can slow down your bounciness to zero.

Today I watched a CBS video that features Mel Greid and Michael Christian – the radio DJ’s whose prank on a nurse in London went horrendous. They were on air for the fist time after the suicide death of Nurse Saldanha was reported, expressing their regrets over what happened. In the last section, the reporter said that a survey was conducted to 11,000 Australians asking them whether they blamed the radio DJ’s for the death, and the result was 2/3 said the did not.

Does the statistics put Greig and Christian at peace? Assuming both individuals are normal people, I will bet my sanity if it does. The guilt will stay even if the survey resulted in 100% of respondents saying they’re not guilty. Can the curse of regrets be broken? Can the cycle of guilt-stricken death be cut off? Can time heal the wounds this time when the “crime” has claimed a life in such a terrible way? How else can Greig and Christian find consolation? Asking for forgiveness from the nurse’s children? That’s the least the can do. Elizabeth in Eat Pray Love created an ‘illusion’ (this is debatable, of course, depending on how you see it) that her ex-husband forgave her, despite their long and tiring marital dispute. That way she felt at peace and ready to start anew.

Does surviving from regrets mean escaping from reality? Maybe that’s what it takes to sustain guilt-stricken life. Do you pretend that everything is all right? When you have regrets in your life, you sometimes do have to fool yourself to put things back in balance. Problem is conscience is too smart to be duped. If you regrets are your debts, there’s no other way than paying your dues.

I’m sipping my apple-flavored tea, thinking of ways to be forgiven.

Before you make any decision, think of this: Guilt kills.

hand holding a lit cigarette

A BlackBerry message came in this late afternoon from my neighbor Sherly. I’m hungry. Wanna join me to go to “Ahong” (name of a restaurant)? Hey, don’t know why but I’ve been thinking of my ex. I wasn’t that hungry, but I did go with her. I wasn’t interested in listening to any recounts, let alone about regrets & co., but I listened.

Sherly has not seen anyone for five years now. The last guy she went with was a guy called M. She dumped him because he could not afford having a four-wheel of his own… Well, to put it simply. His presence in her circle would only embarrass her. M – that guy – was furious when he found out that Sherly chose to go with another man who had all he didn’t. He screamed at her and said, “Remember this. One day you will regret it!”

And there at “Ahong”, tears pooled in the corners of her eyes, she told me that M just got married. His curse works! She said. I’m left alone and miserable.

My effort to console her only brought me to my own pain. Everybody has regrets in their lives. I remember bullshitting a few years back, telling myself and others that everything happens for a reason and that I don’t regret anything. Every thing that happens in this world happens for a reason, yes. The second statement, sadly, was a lie.

Over 10 years ago, a 3 years old girl had to let go of her mother at the airport. The mother went to the United States for study. The little girl is my daughter.  I have left her so many times. She has let me go so many more times. I know that she’s grown to be a beautiful teenager now, but her helpless small face at the airport is stuck on my mind.

And there, still at “Ahong”, I was the one weeping helplessly. Sherly was there looking at me. Empty plates. a tissue box, and a long pause between us.

Then, I remember a recent headline about a nurse in UK who killed herself because she regretted having released confidential information on Duchess of Cambridge to two caller-pranksters. The whole world is condemning these two terrible radio hosts whose joke had gone fatal. I have the feeling that the curse of guilt did not stop there. Remember Kevin Carter? The Pulitzer-recipient photo journalist was also killed by guilt. Regrets and guilt are beasts from the ancient time.

Sherly and I moved from our table and paid our bills.

On using non-English in social media

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Is English the only language you speak? Don’t be ashamed because it means that you don’t need to be afraid of losing followers on Twitter who don’t speak your language. Put yourself in the shoes of someone whose timeline or newsfeed is stuffed with words or letters they don’t understand. Oh, you’ve been in those shoes? Don’t you feel frustrated? If English is the only language everyone is using, it will save a lot of problem, no? At least, nobody will feel abandoned because others write status updates in another language. Facebook understands the feeling! That’s why now you can always click ‘translate’ on every news feed they detect using a language other than yours. On the other hand, some people who are bilingual may wish otherwise. No more “talking behind” on contacts who speak only English – which we, bilinguals or trilinguals, sometimes do in certain cases to be safe, for example when we make political statements that may offend people from a certain country. Yes, being able to speak a foreign language means that we have the ability to screen our readers. So, no more secrets eh, Facebook? Hmm… not quite. Facebook has not been able to translate Javanese language, for example. If you are the secretive type and speak Javanese while some of your contacts don’t, you can play with the option!

I speak Bahasa Indonesia, Javanese and English (in proficiency order). I use English with awareness to reach wider audience. I want my friend who is a Thai, for example, to be able to understand and probably retweet my post. And who says I don’t need to practice my English? I’m not an English teacher anymore, and I speak Bahasa most of the time at work, so I have a mild degree of fear of losing my English proficiency if I don’t keep using it. Owing partly to social media, thank God, it’s still there!

I use Bahasa almost instantly in social media. I comment on current national or local issues in Bahasa and attract further comments from the Indonesian speakers on my contact list. I currently live in Indonesia and it’s my current reality that I observe and comment on from time to time on social media. I switch to English with consciousness to have a conversation with the English speaking readers.

It gets amusing with using Javanese in social media. It really does. It’s like going to a (‘Western’) cocktail party where you are the only one wearing a traditional batik sarong and somehow feel funky about it. At least, that’s how I feel. I often find tweets in Javanese made by people I follow very funny. I know that they speak Bahasa and could have tweeted in Bahasa, but they use emotive Javanese instead to better represent their mood. I also observe the rise of Javanese language (and other regional dialects) in social media that goes along with the rise of pride to be part of a nation with multiculturalism and multilingualism. Using Javanese in social media is a way to preserve culture.

Using a non-English language in social media sometimes has nothing to do with abandonment or talking-behind. As I mentioned, it sometimes is the case to be politically safe. Think of a Javanese speaking girl whose crush doesn’t speak Javanese, and on a frustrating day she wants to pour it all out in social media without being too offensive to the guy. That simple. 🙂

On temptation to social broadcast your locations (and your food!)

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Do you really have to always update your status (on BBM, Twitter, Foursquare, etc.) every time you enter a new location? Not always, you may say. Of course, not. We’re not always location-conscious. But my annoyed state-of-mind’s next question is: in what situations are you normally location-conscious, and resulting in social broadcasting your whereabouts? Here’s my guess list. Don’t get me wrong, I came to the list based on my own struggle to resist the temptation!

  1. When the location is so cool that you think some of your contacts may be jealous of, e.g., “In Ku De Ta“; “Party on on Recharge Night! (along with an image of a glass of red wine)”, “DND – at Thalasso spa, trying out the aquamedic pool!” 
  2. When the occasion is so overwhelming that you can hardly contain yourself, e.g., “At Changi airport, waiting for my next flight to Tokyo,” “At NOAH concert – OMG!! Ariel is sooo hot!!! (with blurry image of the artist).”
  3. When you sit there and don’t know what else to do, e.g., “In my sanctuary waiting for him to come,” “In Hotel X (while Hotel X is where you work every day!)”
  4. When you’re hoping that by sharing your whereabouts hopefully your crush will read it and, who knows, he’ll go there too! (Or at least, PING you!)
  5. Combination of some or all of the above.

As I said, it is often difficult for me to resist the temptation, especially since my smartphone is almost always in my hand when I go out. However, happy to share here, I manage to reduce the location-based social broadcasting to some degree. Reason #3 above is the easiest. Why would I update the same status over and over with the same, boring material as my own home? There’s no surprise in going to your own workplace, either (unless it’s your last working day there, or Forbes’ richest CEO pays your company a visit). Unless there’s an element of surprise, stop boring your readers!

Reason #1 makes me contemplate whether it’s the seed of inferiority that’s speaking. Why is going to Ku De Ta a big deal to me? Is it? If I make it public, will people think I belong to the affluent society (which I don’t), or will they think I’m just a annoying brat who’s reality is too ordinary and boring to share? Every time I stop short at the question, I stop myself from hitting the ‘Enter’ button. But when the dessert in front of me looks extremely enticing, and I can’t help photo sharing it, I know that I’m doing #2 which, in some cases, means that I’m allowing myself to be some sort of brand ambassador of that particular dessert  in case any of my contacts is curious to know more about it.

If the coffee shop around the corner is ‘that’ good, some people out there may be interested to go there too, so don’t hesitate to social broadcasting it. Sharing to your readers where you are can be less boring and less annoying.

A hotelier’s note – On Privacy

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A couple of years ago, a tv program that claimed itself to be a reality show carelessly, and unknowingly to many, made a “fatal” mistake. Every episode of the show that was hosted by two celebrities told about a guest’s search for a missing family member. On this particular episode, as it went by, the missing person – the guest’s husband – was detected staying in a famous 3-star hotel chain. The hosts and the guest rushed to the hotel to investigate and were met by the receptionist. Asked about the man’s whereabouts, the silly receptionist said:

Mam, your husband is staying with us, but he’s out at the moment.

Whether the poor woman finally found the culprit or not is not the concern here, but if you travel a lot and stay in a hotel during your trip, or if you are a hotelier like me, your common sense would have suddenly detected something weird in the receptionist’s remark. Hotel staffs are not supposed to release information about their guests under most circumstances. I hope I could tag reality show producers and get them to be more responsible (and resourceful!) so that they don’t send wrong messages to wide audience.

Then again, today, I happened to read my timeline on Twitter where I found the Twitter admin of a big 5 star hotel in Jakarta tweeted names of their VIP guests with warm, cheerful welcoming statements. By doing so, I know that this hotel PR was trying to make a positive image of the hotel – because they are capable of hosting these hot shots – but, at the expense of the guests’ privacy? How could a PR (at an international hotel brand) have lost it? I hope nobody sues anyone after that.

Some hotels make guest privacy notion very clear in writing.  They even make new employees sign an agreement that under no circumstances can they release information about their guests to a third party, even when this third party claims to be a guest’s mother. Jeopardy of privacy can result in expulsion. Some other hotels are not very strict in putting their regulations in words, and they must have been lucky so far if they have not been put in trouble because of this absence. However, privacy policy is some kind of basic agreed rule among hoteliers. At the absence of a supervisor, use your common sense when you have to make a quick decision. I personally think that it doesn’t take much to decide not to release any information about my guests to anyone, especially in social media. Because the consequence is too frightening to face, should things go wrong.

I’m lucky that I formerly worked in the front office where quick decisions had to be made in daily basis in relation to the issue of privacy. Someone claiming to be a journalist asking if so-and-so stayed in our resort. A man calling saying that his wife stayed with us and wanting to give her a birthday surprise and therefore wishing me to let him know her room number. A friend curiously asking if it was true a famous porn star was in house. These were only a few examples.

Working in the operational side also allows you to see things from the perspective of a guest. An ambassador checked in on one day with his lovely wife, and with his lady friend on another day. A world-famous illusionist who wished to have a short break from controversy. Or simply anyone who wanted secrecy for reasons we may not need to know. Isn’t that something we sometimes need, too? There’s less and less space for privacy nowadays, thanks to new gadgets and social media. How do you feel when you pay a hotel dearly in order to “disappear” only to find that they betray your trust?

3: 10 to the Dance Floor (Murder by a Pen)

The pen that’s deadly – I’ve used it to kill a handful of names

All men that once mattered, one or two with haunting ghosts

I put each name every time my heart could not contain
Names – sometimes initials – that became uncontrollably wild
The pen was not any of those men’s genital; it was always mine
A psychic lady told me not to put a man’s name in writing
For my own welfare, she said, else someone was betraying
The pen killed the names, one after another, sometimes altogether
Stay away from the tip of my pen, stop swaying and swirling!
Am I in love with you? How is it from the perspective of illusion?
You’re young, lean, soft-voiced, and that comforting dark past
Now you’re standing still, smiling. I know what’s behind your back