The world of alternate history

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“There was another life that I might have had, but I am having this one.” – Kazuo Ishiguro

As a book lover, I try to read books from different genres, both fiction and non fiction. Recently, I discovered ‘alternate history’ (abbreviated AH) – a genre of fiction, usually set in worlds in which historical events happen differently from how it did in reality. It is more like a sub-genre of science fiction and historical fiction.

I probably read more historical fiction than Sci-fi. I enjoyed titles like The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini and of course, Philippa Gregory’s The Other Boleyn Girl. 

Sci-fi is my favourite movie genre but I seldom pick up a sci-fi book, until I came across Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go. Set in postwar Britain, but in an alternate universe in which biological technology has advanced more rapidly than in our world. If you have not read the story, (this is a bit of a spoiler), the story’s main characters are clones raised to be adults in order to be harvested for their organs.

The fascinating thing about the AH genre is that it allows the authors to ask “What if” of history. According to Steven H Silver, alternate history requires three things: 1) the story must have a point of divergence from the history of our world prior to the time at which the author is writing, 2) a change that would alter history as it is known, and 3) an examination of the ramifications of that change.

Here are some popular books that you may have read or heard of that fall under the genre of alternate history

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell — by Susanna Clarke

11/22/63 — by Stephen King

The Man in the High Castle — by Philip K. Dick

Making History — by Stephen Fry

1945 — by Robert Conroy

Speak, I am Listening

“Speak, We’re Listening” 
That was the theme of this year’s Hillsong Conference.

More than 30,000 Christians from different churches attended the week-long event (including Justin Bieber) at the Allphone Arena, Sydney. This is my second Hillsong Conference in Australia. I’ve also been to the conference in London. I called it my “annual pilgrimage.”


Musician Martin Smith led worship at the Hillsong Conference ’15

This year’s conference was especially meaningful to me. Almost every pastor/ speaker in different sessions spoke into various situations in my life. It is as if God is using their words to encourage, to remind me of His faithfulness and promises. I walked out of the conference last Friday with revelations
(I called them my “AHA, and AMEN moments”).

There were also several divine connections this trip. Two of my classmates from my recent Art Therapy class went to the conference too (and no, we didn’t plan for it together, infact, we hardly talked to one another in class). And I made some new friends!

Many friends from Singapore who were unable to make the trip have been asking me about the conference. So here are a couple of things I thought I’ll share, hopefully to encourage & bless someone:-

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My Exciting New Adventure with Spotify


Next week, I am starting a new adventure! I will be joining Spotify, as Head of Social Media, APAC.

spotifylogonewI am a huge fan of the brand so this new role is incredibly exciting for me.

When Spotify was launched in Singapore last April, I immediately signed up as a premium user.  It has a massive – and growing – catalogue of more than 20 million songs. Aside from the big names from the US and UK, you can also find Singaporean artists such as PlainsunsetCorrinne May, my talented ex-colleague Tay Kexin and her sister Kewei.

Since its public launch in 2008, Spotify has been leading a revolution across the world, shifting the  music industry’s focus toward streaming as a way to combat illegal downloading. My role will be focusing on building social marketing capabilities in Asia, shaping how Spotify communicates and engages with music lovers through social media.

Other Cool Stuff 

I had the opportunity to speak with some really passionate and inspiring people at Spotify and I really liked what was shared about the company.

Extra perks – some of the offices have been known to host private concerts by popular artists! I am off to New York next week for orientation and to spend some time with the team. Who knows, I might bump into some unexpected famous faces.

Some Great Memories

I also want to take this opportunity to thank the amazing people I worked with in my previous role at SingTel. As the saying goes “There is no ‘I’ in team but there is in WIN.” Together with our agency partners – especially the team at Social@Ogilvy – we had some great successes.

I had so much fun working on the award-winning #Need4GSpeed real-time social marketing campaign and had a total blast being part of the Gordon Ramsay VS #Hawkerheroes brand campaign. The bonus – I get some cool close-up shots with Chef Ramsay!


Exciting Time Ahead 

I am looking forward to starting my exciting new journey with Spotify!  If you have any thoughts or suggestions on how we can add value to each other’s work, feel free to drop me a note. If you are already a Spotify user, you know where to find me!

Here’s a playlist of my current favourites:

My Blog Post Featured on Tumblr Radar

Something cool happened last night.

One of my paintings (yes, of a penguin) got featured on the Tumblr Radar! Overnight, that post garnered more than 4k “love notes” (in Facebook’s terms – LIKES) and hundreds “reblogged” (in Twitter’s term – “Retweets”). As I am typing this, it has grown to more than 6.6k. My Tumblelog also gained hundreds of new followers overnight.

penguins tumblr 

For those who are not Tumblr users, the Radar is an editorial post review, curated by the Tumblr team. Once on radar, the post is highlighted on other users’ dashboard for a period of time.

I signed up on Tumblr a few years ago but wasn’t active until recently. The blog was meant to be used as a ‘creative journal’ to keep & share some random sketches, ideas and paintings I do. I hardly cross-amplify the content on my other social networks, so it is interesting how things can ‘go viral’ overnight.

I just read articles/ tips about “How to Get Featured on Tumblr Radar” and my newly set-up blog met almost NONE of the criteria. And no, I don’t know any one from the Editorial team either.

So, I believe there are a few learnings and reminders I can take away from this experience:

1) Don’t start out wanting to make anything ‘viral’. In fact, get rid of that word in your mind

2) Start with creating authentic & relevant content

3) Think of the audience you want to share it with. I tagged the post with tags like “Acrylic painting, penguins, art”, hoping I can share it with like-minded folks on Tumblr and that was probably how they found the post

4) I believe consistency in content publishing is important. I try to post at least twice a week and only share content that the blog was meant for. So, don’t expect my other obsessions (food or books) to show up on that blog, unless I decided to paint my scramble eggs or sketch my favourite author

5) There are exciting happenings & conversations happening outside of Facebook or Twitter

(And as I finished typing this post, the little penguin has 7.4k “LOVE NOTES”) Woohoo!

Online Learning: My MOOC Experience


Oxford University Press inducted “MOOC” (massive open online courses) into its Oxford Dictionaries Online recently. The definition: “A course of study made available over the Internet without charge to a very large number of people.”

Friends and family know that I love books and I love studying. I strongly believe in life-long learning. Imagine my excitement when MOOC (in the form of Coursera) came to my attention last year. I like the idea behind MOOC – to bring education to the masses, allowing more people globally the opportunity to study university level courses. All the courses are free and in most cases (from what I have read so far) so are the learning materials.

I started browsing through courses and found a broad range of subjects, from medical neuroscience, song writing, child nutrition cooking to artificial intelligence.

An Introduction to Marketing from the University of Pennsylvania was the course I eventually signed up for.

It required some level of commitment to go through all the course materials each week and participating in forums, hangouts and completing the assignments. The returns, however were great! I gained new knowledge on Customer Centricity, new  go-to-market strategies and social advertising concepts that I was not aware of. At the end of the course, I scored 91/100 for the exam and was awarded a statement of accomplishment signed by the three professors who led the course. Students can download and keep all the course materials  even after the course has ended. 

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I am currently enrolled in two other courses on Content Strategy from the Northwestern Uni and interesting one on Moralities of Everyday Life  from Yale.

While I am excitedly telling many friends about my experience with MOOC, only two have tried to do the courses. Most of the reasons are – “too busy” and “I am not very good at studying”. I would like to recommend Time Management for Dummies  to the first group of people and for the latter, it is exactly what MOOC is about. It isn’t your traditional brick and mortar classroom studying as you know it.

I have also read in news reports about low completion rate for those who enrolled.

I am definitely not an expert in the education industry.  I can’t tell if this will be a fad or it could be the future of education. BUT, I know that I’ve gained valuable insights and knowledge and I plan to continue learning.

To read review of the various MOOC providers, click here 

To my Secret santas

I LOVE Christmas.

Religious beliefs aside, Christmas means alot more than just gift exchanges, bright glittery lights, yummy food and alcohol.  (I do like Christmas sales though!)

Every year, I find myself all stressed up about having to buy ‘obligatory’ Christmas gifts for family and friends. I don’t believe in gift buying for the sake of it, esp. for people I am not close to. However, not to be the grinch at parties, I often end up doing rounds of gift exchanges (mostly secret santa styled). This year, I already have 4 secret santas!

So, in the attempt to give Christmas the true meaning of  “Season of giving”, here’s what I hope my secret santas would consider:-

I don’t want any more chocs (am on diet) and don’t need any more scented candles (I just bought a new bright lamp) and definitely don’t want any stuff toy (no space on my bed/ shelves), so if you are also stressing over what to get for my ‘obligatory gift’ …. please just donate in my name (my email at to any of the three Charities/ causes I truly believe in and support:-

* World Vision
* Singapore Zoo

This way, no stress for you and lots of benefits for the people and charities who really need help.

Thank you, Santas. :X

NO seems to be the hardest word

Elton John could be wrong when he sang “Sorry seems to be the hardest word.”

Recently, I realised “NO” is a very difficult word for many people.

Generally, I don’t like to say no. In the past, whenever someone (especially at work) had a request, I would say yes. A part of me did not want to burn bridges and I always try to avoid confrontations. I also try to compromise and say yes to help my friends whenever they ask, because I hate to disappoint.

I also realised many people cannot accept being told “NO.”  The word “No” is almost a dirty word, people take them personally even when the intentions were good.

Over the years, I’ve learned and grown wiser, thanks to various mentors and close friends in my life who helped put things into better perspective.

I learned that every time we say yes to something, we are actually saying no to something else.

When you say yes to working overtime every day, you say no to your social and family life and personal hobbies. When you say yes to a job you don’t love, you say no to a dream you may have. When you say yes to attending a meeting you are not even sure why you are there, you are saying no to another more important task that you could have done with that time.

Susan Newman, author of “The Book of No” wrote, “By saying no, you can focus on your goals.” Saying yes to everything can damage your reputation and hurt your career (and may I add, your life too).

People (myself included) should learn that saying no is okay. Recently, I said No to a couple of requests and immediately was made to feel bad. I was worried about being rude, seen as being unhelpful and not a good person. Someone told me “maybe you should just agree and do what you are asked anyway.”

The episodes kept me awake. I concluded that there was a reason for saying No. And even after communicating the reason, the recipients pushed back. (Aha, those were always tricky). The guilt doubled!

By saying yes to something I didn’t believe in, I would have to say no to doing the right thing and upholding my beliefs.

A very wise mentor used to tell me, “People (the smart ones anyway) respect you more when you say no to the right things.” Sure, everyone may like you because they can get you to do everything they want for them. But do they really have respect for the guy or for his time?

Now, go ponder. And then learn. This is not a post to encourage people to be lazy at work or be an anti-social being. This is a post of a personal reminder and a revelation that saying “NO” is not a bad thing. Learning to say “NO” is not easy but necessary and there are many benefits that come with it. Practising how to say NO in life and at work can be a challenge but one that everyone should take up.