‘In the cloud’

Being technology challenged, I’ve realised that my MacBook Air woes happen to be just one thing that slows me down and keeps me out of the loop. Recently I kept hearing the expression of being in the cloud, or references made to the cloud from my IT geeks and wondered what it all really was about. So naturally I turned to my ever powerful savvy women CEOs group who amusingly assured me I had no reason to worry as I was already in the domain and using the cloud – Being the inquisitive chick that I am, naturally I delved further into nailing this whole cloud scenario thing. It became a mission – only to find out being in the cloud means being totally online in all spheres of your work and social life.
I can’t believe I went through the process of becoming familiar with terminologies like crowdsourcing and unified communications before venturing into what the cloud was all about. (I certainly would like to get my hands on the smarty pants who came up with this whole thing and teach him a thing or two about making life more complicated with phrases than it already is). If in simple terms, the cloud is merely using the web for just about anything and everything, then why not say so instead of beating about the bush coming up with new obscure terminologies.

Writing this blog post is using the cloud, saving pictures on yfrog, tweeting etc all falls under this umbrella. As far as I see, the term was coined by some bored IT or internet specialist who couldn’t think of anything innovative so reinvented a term for something that already exists. Yes, there are some morons who do everything online….their networking, their business, their database management and then they wonder where their lifeline is when the internet is down.
Yes I am one of the people who think putting ‘everything’ online is a big mistake and I was the first one to object when not long ago someone proposed a platform from which we could operate our entire business, put all our resources online, network with clients and colleagues in one space – how incestuous! This is why I am cynical about doing everything in the cloud – there has to be boundaries to protect your assets/resources/staff etc.
Then of course there is the trend of “crowdsourcing”. This involves working with a ‘crowd’ – be it online or off, but mostly using online tools like social media. An article flagged by my lipsticking mates said that there is real business being done through “crowdsourcing sites such as crowdSPRING, CrowdFlower and Trada. To crowdsource a project, you submit an open call to a community of experts and receive a variety of solutions or ideas in response.” What happens when not everyone in your crowd is an expert and the result of crowdsourcing your idea, marketing, or work can backfire. It can only be a worthwhile endeavor as long as you take time to study the results of your crowdsourcing and qualify it as a successful initiative.
The next trend related to Unified communications (UC). The term sounded fairly self-explanatory, involving merging more than one type of communications tool, such as Web conferencing and instant messaging, into a single interface or integrated system. Skype could be considered a UC system because you can switch back and forth between video and phone calls – it all depends on how you need to connect and collaborate online.
Personally, I prefer using one medium at a time and focusing on the person I am communicating with. It does not always work out knowing that I am a multitasking queen and divide my tasks in a needs must basis as a working mum, race track driver, fitness freak, writer, lover, cook and what have you that gets thrown my way. Maybe I should just stick my head in this whole cloud pallava, let cyberspace sort all my tasks in its own complicated way and give it some funky name like the sherrylicious phenomena….now there’s a thought! 

Sensitivity Training!!! What next?

This weekend I finally ventured out to the Ramadan tents which is an institution in itself when you live in the UAE during Ramadan. (Vouching for the manakish at the Address Hotel tent in Dubai Marina & the fruit juices at Royal Mirage). A number of my university mates hung out with me. Some are incredible HR specialists (I guess that’s why they earn twice what I do despite being a lot younger than me). Anyway….amongst the shisha pipes and with me trying hard to negotiate my way around the smoke in a bid to avoid it, we got around to talking about Ramadan, recession and what’s happening in our lives.

Soon we got to talking about work and my HR friends were mentioning how these days they put candidates through several rounds of “sensitivity training” to avoid internal personality conflicts in organisations. At first it sounded like a fluffy exercise but when you really think about it, I wish most organisations would use this not just with new staff but existing ones. The exercise teaches that human beings are all different creatures and not all are inherently malicious, conniving creatures and that most of our ideas and actions are well-intentioned.

At work, if someone is spiteful, there is nothing to say they are not driven by their personal emotions and perhaps you should show concern, compassion, and curiosity to know more. One must give the benefit of the doubt as there must be a reason why a manager would put down a staff in front of his colleagues or a reason why a CEO turns into a nasty piece of work everytime he is with a girlfriend – either she brings out the worst in him or his idea of impressing her is emailing or calling staff and being rude to them to show his authority. Or why a staff would walk out of the meeting and the reasons why a superior, instead of having a private talk with a staff about his performance decides to humiliate him in front of his team. One never really knows ones motives which is why I guess this whole idea of ‘sensitivity training’ has come about – to make people more sensitive and understanding.

I don’t think people need to relate to each other with Mother Teresa-level compassion but assess the actions of management, colleagues from multiple perspectives before feeling hurt. Personally I will never understand people who use facades to show superiority or be negative to mask insecurity. Afterall, isn’t the goal of any organisation to motivate staff, give them confidence and promote camaraderie in times of stress so everyone works that much harder to make things work.

I wonder how I’d do with this sensitivity training thingy – I always find the under-layers of goodness in others fueled by an earnest desire to keep them happy. Its not always a good thing  as someone said, believing the best about people only makes them show you their best and not their real self. Maybe its time to be neutral and not take things at face value. Plus realise that no one is perfect and people you often look up to can also be insensitive towards you. It needs to be all about balance! I’d love to know more about this ‘sensitivity training’ and if it really does work.

MTE Studios, Professor Mike Bruton to Chair the 6th Science Centre World Congress

Over 380 delegates from more than 60 countries including UAE, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia to attend the Congress

Dubai and Cape Town based MTE Studios, a consultancy firm specializing in themed architecture and interactive exhibitions, well known for their turnkey themed projects and world-class installations in science centres and museum galleries worldwide, is honored to announce that their Director of Imagineering, Professor Mike Bruton, will chair the upcoming 6th Science Centre World Congress to be held in Cape Town, South Africa from September 4 to 8, 2011.

Ludo Verheyen, CEO, MTE Studios and Professor Bruton will be part of the concurrent sessions addressing science centre and museum professionals from around the world at the Congress where the consultancy firm will also have a team available at the exhibition running parallel to the Congress.

“The Science Centre World Congress is held every three years in a different continent. It is the main gathering of science centre professionals in the world and has three main goals: to assess the status of science centres worldwide and plot the way forward, to facilitate strategic discussions on new challenges and opportunities for science centres, and to promote the growth of science centres in the region in which the World Congress is being held. The 6th Science Centre World Congress in Cape Town, South Africa, will be attended by over 380 delegates from more than 60 countries, including delegates from the UAE, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and various Muslim countries in North Africa. In addition, a three-day Capacity Building Workshop will be held before the main Congress to develop the skills of science centre professionals in Africa and the Middle East. MTE Studios is delighted to be a supporter of this exciting and inspiring event.” said Professor Bruton.

Recognized as one of the world’s leading museum and science centre professionals, Professor Bruton, along with his peers, will explore the relevance of the concept of the third paradigm museum, highlight the importance of building communities through science, investigate the role of science centres in the present environment, and discuss whether the science centre movement is colonialist. Ludo Verheyen with fellow delegates will highlight the opportunities created by acknowledging the multi-cultural roots of science and technology at the sessions.

“We’re honored that our Imagineering Director, Professor Bruton will be chairing one of the most prestigious events, a gathering that directs strategic planning for the worldwide science centre movement. It is a perfect platform for delegates to meet from all corners of the globe to discuss issues facing science centres and the important role that science centres can play in increasing public engagement in science and technology,” said Verheyen.

With the theme “Science Across Cultures”, the 6th Science Centre World Congress will encourage reconciliation between different cultures and a greater appreciation of the role that science centres can play in highlighting each culture’s unique contributions to science, technology and science education. In the plenary sessions, an international range of speakers will challenge the status quo and propose challenging new ideas. Sixty concurrent sessions on a range of challenging and inspiring topics will provide a comprehensive overview of strategic thinking in the science centre community today.

MTE Studios, creators of the ‘1000 Years of Knowledge Rediscovered’ permanent exhibition on display in the Ibn Battuta Mall in Dubai have also played a major role in the design, manufacture and installation of numerous interactive exhibits at the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, Turkey, and recently delivered a turnkey science museum for the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia. The company is also known worldwide for their global travelling exhibition, ‘Sultans of Science’, celebrating the contributions of Muslim scholars in science and technology during the Golden Age of the Islamic World.

The exhibition has been showcased at the MTN Sciencentre in Cape Town, South Africa; the Liberty Science Center in New Jersey, USA; Ontario Science Centre in Canada and The TELUS World Of Science in Edmonton, Canada. Due to popular demand, the exhibition will soon be hosted at The Tech Museum in the United States. In addition to the design of galleries and the development, design, prototyping and manufacture of exhibitions, MTE Studios also offers operational planning and training for science centres and museums.

– ENDS –

What’s my passion?

Funnily, I have been asked this twice this week. It seems that I have such a zest for life, people think I see excitement and thrill in everything that crosses my path so it’s hard to figure Fijianchick out – as I fight a bout of flu that has made my usual sexy voice go to pot, I thought I would respond in detail on word as I nurse my vocals back to its sexy self.

I agree being hard to get figured may be a pain to some but hey, it does keep peeps on their toes….afterall, my husband has not been able to figure me out for 15 years and possibly reckons I’m the most unusual and mysterious person on the planet. And yet, for some odd reason he still hangs around and wants me in his life in one form or another (mysterious or not)

So what is my passion? I love the tapestry of exotic coral waters and am drawn to the magnificence of the Coral coast’s shoreline of private beaches and waters. (Where else can one go skinny dipping and feel totally at one with nature in total privacy??? ).

I LOVE MUSIC….its my all time passion. Be it bellydancing, salsa or hip hop. My favourite has to be reggae but not too fussy on that end.

I love the inspiring scenery of the highlands, tropical rainforests (just to be able to wake up to it as I did my entire childhood). I like the fact that my home town is probably one of the best kept secrets in the world and that materialism, despite the many 5 star hotels has not touched the lives of the people in my community and we still appreciate nature in its raw form.

Its obvious I love the sea…I was born with the sea at my doorstep and found it had a calming effect on me just looking at it from the windows of my home every morning.  My dad had this bizarre habit of walking around the house every morning pausing every once in a while to take in the view of the forest, the sandhills in the distance, the Sigatoka valley, the town and the sea as he got ready for the day. I guess this had a profound effect on me and my likes and dislikes as well. Afterall, I am a daddy’s girl and since we are both hard core Pisces, we have very similar outlook in life about living simply and finding joy in the simple things in life.

I am extremely passionate about my daughter and her outlook of life and the world at large. Being a clued in kid, she helps me see things from different perspectives and I am not ashamed of the fact that at times, she has had better ideas than I could ever come up with – it makes me proud that she stands up to me as well on things she believes in and the fact that she is highly principled. (I was prepared for this eventuality when she finally came out of me after 8 hours of extremely painful labor born as a Scorpio and a double dragon under the Chinese signs – OUCH!

I was born with a travel gene and very passionate about discovering at least one country a year – I have kept this up for 14 years now and have explored over 97 cities in 22 years. Travelling is in my blood so I guess that is another of my passions.

Food – most of my excitement comes from the joys of discovering, eating, cooking and trying new things. I love cooking and find it therapeutic. After being editor of 3 issues of Menus of the Masters, I took a vow to continue experimenting fine dining with an element of exquisite surprise in taste and presentation. Naturally my favourite restaurant is ‘The Edge” for obvious reasons but as a lover of Japanese food, Nobu, Okku and Zuma feature high on my list of awesome venues.

Another of my big passion is books – there are mini libraries in every corner of every home I have including the bathrooms. Even my house in Spain has books I left behind even though I hardly spend time there and I’m in the process of filtering books through to my Fiji home. Luckily my daughter shares my passion for reading so hopefully she will not hate me for the fact that 85% of her inheritance will be books since Kinukinoya and Magrudy’s take all my salary.

So….the sea, the highlands, my daughter, travelling, food, books and music is my passion – if you were hoping to see your name on the list, perhaps its time to start striving towards impressing Fijianchick. Maybe in a few years time, you could be the next big thing I would be passionate about!

Rugby World Cup 2011

While the Kiwis are gearing up for the much-anticipated Rugby World Cup 2011, the rugby fever in Fiji for the World Cup is equally festive and addictive. There seems to be talk of the big event in the Pacific in all shops, homes, playgrounds etc. (I have returned to the UAE with two official World Cup Rugby balls courtesy of Nadi’s Courts Mega Store who felt my reward for spending over FJD6,000/- for furniture with them entitled me to get nothing but the best I could take from Fiji). Naturally that meant something associated to rugby, the sea or crafts so here I am with two rugby balls I am meant to take to the World Cup for autographs from muscular, hunky, gorgeous, half naked men running around the field battling to get a trophy for their high levels of testosterones.

Mind you, in another context, going up to get an autograph from a hunky obliging dude would be absolutely fantastic but nothing would make me battle the crowds in a World Cup to do this. Afterall, I am on first name basis with rugby legend, Waisale Serevi – what more could a woman want in life???

Punters estimate that there would be about 4 million people venturing into New Zealand for the Rugby world Cup 2011. But from what I hear, this is not necessarily the only attraction our gorgeous Pacific Island has to offer. Alongside the World Cup will be another festival running from Sept 9 to Oct 23 bringing together a host of arts, culture, cuisine, history etc throughout the country.

Visitors will definitely be enthralled with the rich Maori culture, which is very similar to Fijian culture as well as the country’s sophisticated cuisine, wine and arts shows. My fondest memories of New Zealand is about yummy milk, chocolates, corned mutton (Best in the world) and their craft made from wood. One of my favourite pieces at home is a beautiful wooden tabletop oval clock from New Zealand that would always remain timeless no matter where I live and what deco I have in my house.

In Fiji, people are already talking about the World Cup with as much enthusiasm and vigour as they would about their annual festivals like the Hibiscus, sugar or Bula festivals where everyone gathers to have a good time.

Me, I will have my official World Cup rugby balls pumped up and ready for rugby players I deem worth my charming while perhaps at Dubai 7s. Afterall, this diva will not just settle for anyone who has got into the world cup – only ones who come close to the benchmark set by the likes of Serevi!

The story of whitebait

On my way back from Fiji, my daughter was most amused when she saw me have a roti sandwich with fried whitebait in Sydney and asked why would I have that for dinner when there was an amazing buffet of delicacies laid out for us in the Business Class lounge.

I quickly launched into the story of whitebait or digana as it’s referred to in Fiji. Digana, or inanga (common galaxies) is a delicacy amongst food enthusiasts around the world and in Fijian families like mine, it is frozen for consumption when in season for visitors like myself who will never experience the amazing taste in any other part of the world.
The most common whitebait species is found in New Zealand and Fiji waters. They are caught using small open-mouthed hand-held nets similar to ones we used for catching baby prawns in our childhood as a weekend activity.

Whitebaiting in the Pacific is a seasonal activity with a fixed and limited period when they can be caught. Foodies in other parts of the world often find whitebait very different and superior in the Pacific than in other parts of the world. In human terms it’s the difference you would find between Europeans and East Europeans or how people find North Americans far superior than the South Americans who are often seen as low class. They are all humans but many people unfortunately view them differently in terms of superiority. Its the difference of a quality German product and a cheap replica done in some dodgy factory in China. In the same way foodies view the whitebait in the Pacific as far superior in taste and texture than what is found in other parts of the world.

As a delicacy, whitebait commands high prices to the extent that it is the most costly fish on the market, if available. It is normally sold fresh in small quantities, although some is frozen to extend the sale period. I’m just grateful my sister always keeps them in supply for my visits to Fiji.

I met a Kiwi who told me that whitebaiting in NZ was a sport because it takes a lot of patience, luck and the reward of a good catch. In places like Mokau District, there are even a few varieties of whitebait. I remember a menu in Portugal not long ago that had whitebait. I looked at the picture and immediately asked the waiter in Lisbon if it was really whitebait. He showed me a sample and it was a far cry from being delicate. I would even go as far as saying it was an insult to call it whitebait.

If you are a foodie and have a soft spot for high-end seafood that tickles your palate, I suggest trying this delicacy when you are next in the Pacific and lucky enough to be there during the whitebaiting season.

Ramadan in Fiji Islands ++

This year I was lucky enough to catch the first few days of Ramadan in Fiji after 22 years of being abroad during this holy month. It was fun, overwhelming and a wonderful experience for a number of reasons.

My uncle, who is the President of  a Jamat in Fiji had invited us to dinner the night of the first tarawih. As soon as our family in New Zealand sighted the moon, the phone started ringing as my uncle’s house hosts the community for 30 days for iftar meals and tarawih prayers together with other members of the jamat. It was a comical sight as all mobiles kept ringing all around us for people to get news if Ramadan was the next day while half of us trying to manage 2 calls at a time with people we didn’t know.

All of the a sudden, there was a flurry of activity post dinner relating to decisions if we follow the Kiwi’s and start Ramadan the next day, preparing the area where people were going to break fast, where they were going to pray in congregation, my daughter insisting on doing her first proper fast, me freaking out about going hungry the entire day while running around hardware and furniture shops and the like to get my flat in order etc.

Ramadan in Fiji reminded me a lot about Ramadan in Malaysia where I lived for 9 years. There is an air of festive social atmosphere and I guess the reason I was more involved within the community in Fiji was because we went through a special period with loved ones around us. When I’m abroad, it’s not the same but still a very special experience with new insights, cultural uniqueness around the same activities etc.

I love the night life in UAE during Ramadan. During the day, we are too busy to notice the day go by but at night, its lights and activity in all parts of the city. I love spending evenings with my two special friends, Rajah and Maissa who make Ramadan in the UAE that much more special. I asked my daughter what she liked most about Ramadan and she replied “having condense milk with soft yummy roti at dawn + praying in a group with other kids (she is an only child)’.

I must say that sitting here now in Sydney Australia, I feel like I’m leaving one home to go to another. My ex classmate Aiyaz is screaming at me for not having iftar in Preston at his house tonight but I have promised to spend some time with him and his family on my next trip. I would have loved to spend another day here so my daughter could have stayed with Amira, my very special Lebanese Australian university mate who also happens to be my daughters guardian.

There are plenty more Ramadan days to go – while I may not be able to commit myself to a life of a recluse the last 10 days, I sure hope to become more calm and spiritual this month. With the drama I normally go through day to day, wish me luck. I certainly need the life of a hermit to detox and get my chakras aligned in more ways than one!

I hope this Ramadan is a blessed one for Muslims all around the world. Ramadan Kareem.