A New Beginning

Posted: September 19, 2008 in Uncategorized

After my little nephew was born, my sister will always get on my case for swearing in front of him. “Hey, be careful what you say, he picks up everything.” True enough, at four, he has already surpassed the little devil I was when I was 21.

Last year, he went to my cousin’s wedding and observed that the bride’s breasts were very shining (actually, he meant her gown). And early this year, he told a toddler, just two years younger, “Come come, uncle carry you.”

Lately, I am beginning to feel that my hard disks, Macs, and photographic equipment are all like kids too, and maybe I should not swear in front of them so much. Or, they will just throw a tantrum and show me some colors.

When my two Maxtors died last year, I got so fucking upset and just threw them down the rubbish chute. OK, to be exact, I sent one of them to three specialists, including one in Minneapolis, for thorough checks, before giving up.

They were then replaced by six Western Digitals, which served me well until lately. One started singing when I wanted him to do some work (what so difficult with your job, all you have to do is to eat data?), I recognized the tune to be the same one as one Maxtor made on his last days.

Now, WD Singapore 1 is sitting with two other uncooperative members of this household. Serve you right, play punk and you are out! OUT! OUT! Another member, WD Asia 1 has a plaster on her that says “SICK”. I will check on her later, after lunch that is, to see if she is really sick.

What exactly have I done for you all to be misbehaving? Tell me. When it is hot, I turned on the aircon for all of us. Once a week, the cleaning help comes and give all of you a nice wipe. When I go on a holiday, you get a break too.

Huh, maybe you chaps just don’t like to be chained together by Firewire 400. OK, tell me, I switch to USB2. We can talk right?

Or are you all just worried that I will do the same thing to the iMac globe? Yes, it was funny. For three years that he was plugged in, everything was working fine. The day after I brought home a new 20in and ship globby to a friend’s house, he just refused to wake up. Can u believe, just went to sleep forever.

See, now I have no choice but to bring in three Lacies. I like to call them replacement workers but they are not. These French babes are sleek, and damn expensive, but more importantly, they all have on-off-standby switch. And since this is a new relationship, I am going to try a different tact with them that I never thought of before – a mix of diplomacy, humanity, welfare, love etc.

Don’t get upset WDs, Lacie and Leica have exactly the same alphabets, and my Leica has never left me since 1993. Accept it, they are just in a different league.

For a start, these babies will not be fed to the brim. I am going to give them each a generous buffer. And since they are so flexible and accommodating as to come with options for Firewire400, Firewire800, USB2, and eSATA connectors, I might just try new positions with them once in a while.

For now, they are also very quiet, I hope they stay that way.

In a few more weeks, if these Lacies prove that they are worth my investment, I am going to be nice and add a few more to my stable. And, I might just get them a new playmate, someone who also have eSATA.

But most of all, I promise not to use bad language on all of you. Lets see how far that will take us. OK?


I came home yesterday with two books and I think they warrant a blog. The first is Josef Koudelka’s Prague Invasion and the other, Nicholas Nixon’s The Brown Sisters.

Koudelka’s book is a collection of images taken during the 1968 uprising in his own country. It has been published in different forms over the years but never in such depth and breath. This edition by Thames & Hudson, is longawaited, and my only regret is that – it should have been a hardcover. Those familiar with this body of work will know that he went through a lot of personal danger to get them out.

Nixon, to me, is obsession-personified. For 33 years and more, he photographs the same four sisters. You see them age and change. So much of it is in the images, but even more lies beneath the surface. I want to know what went through their lives, their relationships with each other, with the external world, with Nixon. I love this simple project the first time I saw it more than 10 years ago and I am just glad I am now a proud owner.

Koudelka’s book took 40 years, Nixon’s project is in its 30++ years. There is something in them that makes me even more determined to stay the course.

I have spent the last five days in Bangkok, in the comfort of a five-star hotel, and my daily routine involved a two-hour massage and three good meals. Three hours from I was, is Rangoon and Sichuan Province, where many people have died, lost everything they had; or trying to make a difference.

Should I be feeling guilty?

Just before you accuse me of being an indifferent individual, hold on.

Every night, I went to bed while listening to the news updates on either CNN or BBC. Every morning, I ate my breakfast accompanied by IHT, Bangkok Post and South China Morning Post.

I thought, from time to time, if I should cut short my holiday and head to one of the two disaster zones.

But would I be able to make a difference?

For the record, I received a call from an old contact at a NGO wanting to know if I wanted to go to Chengdu for them. I didn’t say no, I just said I was in Bangkok and won’t be back for another few days.

Earlier, a friend from Shanghai had asked if I would go with her. She felt that she had to do something to help. Later, I would read on her blog that she has decided that going to the disaster zone without a concrete plan would just add to the inconvenience of others, and she advised others against just heading west.

I am torn between wanting and not wanting. And let me try to explain why.

Some years ago, I was very active as a volunteer of a NGO in Singapore. I was their photographer for a year and when the Asian tsunami happened, my role was expanded into that a photography coordinator, where I got to decide who went where. It was in this capacity that I witnessed the best and the worst of photographers (and wannabes).

I met young people who insisted that they be dispatched into the “war front” though they wouldn’t even lift a finger to help move a box in our base in Singapore.

I also worked with photographers who went under our organization’s flag but were using our contacts to do magazine assignments they have gotten on the side.

One of the worst cases was a photographer who demanded that I switch an assignment so he could be in a place he wanted.

I had also the displeasure of dealing with schools that sent a whole bus-load of students (with catered lunch boxes no less) to our collection center, only that they were causing more fiasco than anything. And don’t laugh, the school even alerted the media about their participation.

Thinking back, I realized why so many of my worldly friends were less than encouraging when I told them about my NGO links.

Personally, I still want to help in whatever possible, but I am going to be patient about the whole episode. When the hype has died down, when I believe I can contribute positively without feeling that I am just another hawk, I would.

For the time-being, I am satisfied to be an arm-chair media critic, dishing out my opinions on the disaster coverage.

First, I would have to say the The Straits Times, my hometown newspaper, did exceedingly well with China. I was left speechless with the way words and images were used to put across the situation. Although shocking, the front page picture on May 14 (Wednesday), of a man holding the hand of a dead child, says so much for me.

I was looking for letters protesting the use of those images in ST, similar to those I read in the South China Morning Post, but there were none. I don’t assume that nobody in Singapore is unhappy with those gruesome images.

In all fairness, I didn’t think any of the pictures used made me feel as if the papers were trying to boost circulation.

I am, however, more cynical about the way the Chinese leaders are portrayed in the media. Though I applaud the apparent open-ness, I should point out that the open access to the Chinese leaders were mainly restricted to the Chinese press (at least according to the Wall Street Journal).

Instead of being critical about this and just dismiss them as staged photo ops, I rather subscribe to this other thinking: now that the leaders have set themselves such high standard, they are subjected to higher level of scrutiny. At some stage, I am sure someone will ask: were they for real?

I would hate for them to do a Rudolph Guiliani, who so shamelessly touted his role in 911, during his brief presidential bid, only for many who knew the truth to out him.

At least for now, we can be happy that good and important images have been coming out of Sichuan. I personally believe that as long as the rescue work is not finished, the world needs to be reminded, however painfully, there are still people who need help.

After all, can we ever say that the people viewing the shocking images are in more pain than those trapped under the rubble?

The Starhub/SCV follow-up

Posted: May 7, 2008 in Uncategorized

Alas, there are people who care. Within an hour after sending my complaint letter, I received a call from Cheryl Chan, a sales manager from Starhub. She had worked in the company for 15 years and was very professional, patient and sincere. She made no excuses for what had happened and explained to me what had gone wrong. When I asked if the mistakes were due to the fact that many of the staff I dealt with were part-timers, she told me very firmly, (paraphrasing) “It doesn’t matter. The minute he picks up the phone, he is representing Starhub, and no less is expected even if he is a part-timer.” Cheryl followed up with me every other day, making sure that the new cabling works, that my channels are clear and I am able to get my internet services. She also called back again yesterday to talk about the other services I am interested in. Some time during our conversations, I told her all Starhub customer service personnel should aspire to meet her standard. Bosses at Starhub, I hope you are tuning in …


Posted: April 30, 2008 in Uncategorized

Just when I told my problems with Starhub were solved, more troubles came. So, here goes, a letter to the head of customer services of Starhub. Just to make sure I am heard, I have also copied this email to the CEO, President and a few other senior staff at Starhub. I promise to post any responses received.

Dear Miss Diana Lee,

First of all, let me apologize for writing this terse note to you and members of your senior management. But seriously, I have no other choice.

Perhaps if you have can be patient enough to listen to my complaints, you will understand why.

I called Starhub last week because I was moving house and wanted to have my cable and wireless internet service transferred. I called early because I am moving from a condo to a rented house and I know there will be some issues that needed to be sorted out.

The customer service officer Jeffrey(1), told me that he was not trained to handle landed property sales but he will ask someone who is to call me. But despite that, he spent quite a bit of time gathering information from me. I can only assume that he was taking all the notes and passing it to the next person who could help me.

I waited 3-4 days and nobody called. So I called Starhub again, and spoke to a Justina(2). To my horror, I was told that there was no record of my conversation with Jeffrey. I had to tell Justina what my request was.

I got very furious and asked to speak to someone senior and a Simon(3) came to the line. He confirmed that there was no record of my conversation with Jeffrey. Again, I had to repeat my request to Simon.

It became very clear to me that nobody is taking note of my request, which explained why I had to keep repeating my addresses and my telephone number.

Next, I got a call from Angie(4), who took a lot of pain to explain and sort out my situation. An appointment was finally met for a contractor to hook up my line May 2. But to my surprise, she did not know that Simon had also called me.

Just when I thought everything was settled, I received a call a few days later from a Alan(5) (he said he was from direct sales). Alan’s first question was whether I have any account with Starhub. Do you know how atrocious that sounded?

I told Alan I didn’t think I should be talking to him and asked him to get someone from 1630 to call.

Minutes later, a Dino(6) called. He said that Alan was not supposed to call me and he didn’t know why either. I asked to speak to Angie but she was on leave.

Dino called again and I tried to make sure everything I had settled with Angie are still in order. I asked him if my five-year subscription at my new address can be terminated after one year (length of my lease). He said NO. I told him Angie told me I could, he said he had to check.

Upon my request, someone senior came to the phone. Kelvin(7) was very cool and reassuring and told me Dino was wrong and what Angie told me were correct. I asked him how was I supposed to feel if I had been put through all these?

Today, Angie called again to check on a form that was supposed to be faxed. After sorting it out, I asked her about what I went through and if they were normal. She said no, and the staff are going to be counseled. But she confused me this time by telling me that actually, Jeffrey did leave a message after all.

OK, are you counting? Are you lost? Are you frustrated? Do you feel my pain? I hope you are answering yes to all my rhetorical questions.

Let me help you. It took seven of your staff to settle one very very small request.

In my last shot, I told Angie very sternly: promise me that I get my service on Friday and nobody irrelevant will call me from now on.

Well, I don’t know how you are feeling now, but I have been boiling over this saga since it started.

I don’t know whether my complaint is going to be serious enough to warrant an apology from any one of you.  But I am going to post it on my blog and get some moral support from people who may have gotten the same bad treatment from SCV.

Shame on you.

Kay Chin


Posted: April 25, 2008 in Uncategorized

In a Straits Times April 7, 2008 article, Singapore scores better than average for customer satisfaction, it was reported that “Service standards in Singapore are not far behind South Korea and the United States, although there is still room for improvement.”

“The nation scored 68.7 out of a 100 in the first ever national customer satisfaction survey, compared with 72 and 75 for South Korea and US respectively.”

“The (survey) also dispelled another belief that Singaporeans are the worst when it comes to complaining – the country only scored a national average of 6.3 per cent for complaints, compared to 14 per cent in the US.”

You do realize that the two findings are a little contradictory right? We complain less, therefore we appear to be quite happy with the service standard.

Anyway, if they had surveyed me, the percentage would definitely have been much higher. (who can I complain to for this?)

In this humble blog, I am going to complain (ok, if you so desire, I will change the word to discuss) about why we don’t complain enough, and how those who are aggrieved and don’t complain are just making things worse.

I am a habitual complainer and I am quite proud of it, because I do get things done. For the record, I called taxi companies no less than 20 times last year. I have also filed complaints to all telco companies in Singapore. Some concerned friends told me I should be careful because one day, I may end up with no mobile phone service and no taxi will pick me. Well, so be it.

Inevitably, I always get labeled as an unhappy person, and also a quarrelsome one. But guess what? When some of my friends have a complaint, who do they sometimes turn to?

You mean to say that I should be tolerant when a Comfort taxi driver slammed the trunk cover on my head and accused me of being slow? And that I should close an eye when the taxi driver taking me home was closing both his eyes on a busy PIE? How about the maniac who decided to ignore my repeated requests to slow down in a residential area?

Credit card companies are also some of my “victims”. Wait, I thought I was the victim.

One sent my replacement card to an old address, and having realized the mistake days later, decided to cancel both my existing and replacement cards, thus leaving me penniless in Seattle.

I think I dare say that in my bitchy way, I have contributed to some improvement:) For the record, the (good & patient) people from Hyperdrive/Colorspace have responded to my previous blog. There will be at least two improvements to the product soon.

Some years back, I also got a full replacement for a computer I bought even though different channels I complained to insisted the fault with my unit was too minor and that there was nothing they could do. It took a very senior management with common sense to say, “OK, lets do it.” And yes, I am still using the same brand now.

Today, I had the displeasure of calling Singapore Cable Vision (SCV). Three days ago, I called their customer care hotline to find out about activating new service at a new place I am renting. The customer service officer (what a mouthful for what he didn’t do) said he would be asking someone to call me. No sound, no picture, for the past three days.

I found out from my calls this morning that there WAS NO RECORD of our conversation. Therefore, they also don’t have the contact number I left for them to call.

I have been promised by someone more senior that I would be hearing from them. Oh damn, he didn’t really say they would be calling. So does it mean I have to call? But then why did he take down my numbers in the first place?

Damn, so much for just wanting to give business to SCV.

Just a quick update on the SCV saga ..

A duty manager at SCV just called. She had heard about my problem. I basically had to repeat some of the facts for the fourth time. I asked Angie, (paraphrasing) “Why is your company so screwed up?” “Why do I have to repeat my address again? You know this is the fourth time I am telling you my address?”

And her reply, “I am so sorry, we are looking into these (all my complaints).”

You mean to say that the people I spoke to before did not make note of what we discussed? Then why waste my time? That the announcement that “please note that your call may be monitored for quality control” was just to humor/scare me?

Tell you something equally scary: Angie was shocked that another manager, Simon, had spoken to me. Sigh sigh sigh.

Right, Angie. I still want to believe you since you have a rather sweet voice. Can I encourage you to complain to your company that if your other colleagues take customers’ complaints seriously, you won’t have to complain about my complaints?

Yes, I am enjoying it. Complaining, not complying.

btw, I did my research before starting this blog, here are some background info …

source: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/compliant

5 results for: compliant

Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1) – Cite This Source – Share This
com·pli·ant Audio Help /kəmˈplaɪənt/ Pronunciation Key – Show Spelled Pronunciation[kuhm-plahy-uhnt] Pronunciation Key – Show IPA Pronunciation
1. complying; obeying, obliging, or yielding, esp. in a submissive way: a man with a compliant nature.
2. manufactured or produced in accordance with a specified body of rules (usu. used in combination): Energy Star-compliant computers.

9 results for: complaint

Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1) – Cite This Source – Share This
com·plaint Audio Help /kəmˈpleɪnt/ Pronunciation Key – Show Spelled Pronunciation[kuhm-pleynt] Pronunciation Key – Show IPA Pronunciation
1. an expression of discontent, regret, pain, censure, resentment, or grief; lament; faultfinding: his complaint about poor schools.
2. a cause of discontent, pain, grief, lamentation, etc.
3. a cause of bodily pain or ailment; malady: The doctor says I suffer from a rare complaint.
4. Law. the first pleading of the plaintiff in a civil action, stating the cause of action.

Just yesterday, I received an invitation from a former student to contribute something for their graduation book. Here goes, with pleasure:

Have you all noticed the number of NTU teachers who have gotten into trouble in the past few years?

One stole women lingerie, another ratted on his lover to the immigration department. Then there was this teacher who disappeared overnight after a student allegedly reported him for sexual harassment.

All in all, life is tough as an academic, even more so if you are a teacher at the School of Communication and Information.

Let’s face it, all the stereotypes I heard about journalism/media students turned out to be true.

The SCI students I encountered in my four semesters as a part-time lecturer were among the brightest and most talkative. They questioned, they talked back, they spoke up, they told me off, they even critiqued my critique.

But a handful also knew how to butter up by sending me complimentary notes, like, “You are a cool dude.” Or, “My mom thinks you are happening.”

Which decent human being can resist such accolades?

A few did cause me some problems by being too passionate with their declarations on their blogs. And of course, a few crossed the line of the student-teacher divide by making fun of my favorite football team.

I realized by the second semester that I kind of acquired a reputation of being “mean, sarcastic and demoralizing’. So some smart students pre-empted me by putting themselves down in their self-critiques, in an attempt to get me to get off their case. Little did this group know that I was also capable of being kind and motivating.

I guess some of you might remember that I always liked saying that design is a communication tool, and a person who can communicate with effective design stands a better chance of changing the world.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, some students applied my effective design mantra to the area of their personal grooming. A few times, I had to pretend not to notice the rather provocative clothes. Mac Lab 3 could be very cold, I was worried that some of you might catch the chill with so little cloth.

Yes yes, you could argue that it was effective communication, but did you forget my other hang-up? Like, appropriateness?

It has been almost two years since I last stepped into the campus, but I am always so happy whenever I received an email or a call from one of you.

This is not a secret, so I can say it: any form of communication from any one of you will always make my day.

So, what are you waiting for?