Octopus

29th April 2017

I could feel myself buckling under the demands of work and Toastmasters. I have been so forgetful that I suspect I might just forget myself one day.

Past week has been busy, with the hours as usually long, and I could feel myself falling sick. Luckily I was to stand in for a colleague in high court on Thursday, providing me a much needed breather from the hectic state courts.

Despite resting on Friday as I took leave to take advantage of the long weekend to have a better and well deserved break, my mind was apparently not well rested.

I forgot to bring Toastmaster manual in spite of reminding my members to do so, and I also left home without Jeremy’s script with annotations on it for evaluation.

It was no better at the meeting. It’s hard to juggle a few appointment roles at the same time. I was the Word of the Day, evaluator of Jeremy’s speech and timer all rolled into one.

Did I say I was the photographer too?

We were stretched, only 11 of us excluding the three guests turned up and some of us took on more than one role.

I didn’t play any role well as a result. Except Kate, Lynn and Jean, no one else used the Word of the Day – spring – in their speeches.

Neither did I excel in evaluating Jeremy’s speech. There was no structure nor conclusion. The fact that I forgot to bring his script made it harder for me.

I was also struggling with tracking the time in between taking photographs using the same handphone.

The chapter meeting started with Toastmaster of the Day, Lynn, testing our memory in the icebreaker. What a game when my memory is apparently failing. But I wasn’t the one who lost the game.

We had five speakers doing their projects with Kate being the new kid on the block talking about herself as an avid traveller and a coffee lover. Jeremy who won the best speaker title for his Ice Breaker project clinched it again with his project speech on Tibetan Dream Yoga. Let’s see if he would have a hat trick. It was a tie with Edwin who researched on Time Travel and talked about paradox when one travelled to the past and it would affect one’s fate in the future as a result of meddling with one’s past. He’s composed. Like Ajoy said, Edwin had a conversational tone.

Steven shed light on High Intensity Interval Training or HIIT in short, and this form of exercise is convenient because it doesn’t require equipment, takes up only 30 minutes per session and it can be done anywhere. Except that this isn’t for those who are not fitness buffs…like me.

Ajoy talked about Agile system in his technical presentation. It was not technical for non-IT practitioners like us and I think he had succeeded in this except that he busted the time limit. After hearing him speak, I noticed that Ajoy has a strong command of English and he was a few rare ones who pronounced the word “overarching” correctly by being silent on “h” and ending with “king” instead of “ching”.

We would meet on 13th May but already a few Toastmasters have told us they would be absent. Taichi would be running for a charity event, Steven would be burying himself in books for a financial exam while Venetia is attending her brother-in-law’s wedding.

 

 

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I’ve not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.

Jamie who participated in International Speech and Table Topics contests won in both, being the victor and second runner-up respectively.

She touched the hearts of the judges with her speech entitled “Quit”.  Unlike conventional speeches that exalt the merits of persisting, she took on a different tag – quitting sometimes is necessary when the route doesn’t turn out to be what you had imagined.

I like Taichi’s Personal Best. It was peppered with humour, and the subject on besting ourselves in public speaking and other aspects struck a chord with me. Lynn thought he would win. But his non ra-ra style might have been under-appreciated.

Both Anthon and Tricia spoke on their personal tribulations, but they had different messages.  Anthon’s was about wedding lasts only a day but a marriage lasts a lifetime, and it won’t be a Disney’s story that always has a happy ending.  Tricia wanted us to volunteer ourselves and it might not be in a big way – as trivial as holding the door for someone whose hands might not be free.

Regardless of who won the contest, I appreciate their efforts.  They have helped me avert going down the history of Kampong Ubi Toastmasters as the president whose term saw no contest or contestants.

Thank you very much.

As for Table Topic contest, I selected the quote by Thomas Edison “I’ve not failed.  I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”.

Suhas who has been with Toastmasters barely two months, emerged the first runner-up.  During the interview while the chief judge was tabulating the results, I asked Suhas who he thought would be the winner.  This young man was very honest and without much thinking said “Pradeep”. I told him, he should give a politically correct reply – Everyone’s a winner.

Pradeep, whom Suhas has considered to be the winner, came in victorious.

The results for the contests were as follows:

International Speech:

  1. Jamie
  2. Tricia

Table Topic Speech:

  1. Pradeep
  2. Suhas
  3. Jamie

In closing, I delivered this speech weaving in the titles of the four International Speech contestants and the Table Topic.

The contestants have made our day with their fabulous speeches, giving their personal best, though not every story was a Disney’s story.  While quitting is sometimes necessary, I hope all of you won’t quit public speaking, won’t quit contesting.

We’d try even if we have not won.

I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.

There were only Suhas and Titus for the induction. But it was enough for us to feel the impact. Jean commented that she had been rejuvenated by the energies of these two young members. Taichi was transported to the time when he was inducted. It’s useful to remind ourselves from time to time why we joined Toastmasters.

Strangely, I don’t recall a single thing about my induction. If I ever had one. As you have seen, I documented the highlights of Toastmasters chapter meetings. However, I had not blogged about the time I was inducted. I might have been left out at a time when several of us joined together.

Celebratory mood set the tone of the meeting today after we gave Jun a mini birthday celebration. He had not intended to attend. After he said he would give it a miss, I told him we had wanted to celebrate his birthday. He decided to come in the end.

Why did I remember Jun’s birthday? Last year, there was a birthday wish for Jun in our WhatsApp chat group. Then I knew that Jun wasn’t born in June, but January.

He turns 38 tomorrow.

Little did we know that there was another birthday member among us. It’s Tricia. During the break, she let on that hers is on 17th January. Happy belated birthday, Tricia.

Besides Jun’s birthday celebration, the induction ceremony was conducted by Lynn. She did a good job by prefacing the induction with a meaningful tale. It’s about three men working on the same task but each had a different vision of what each was doing. We are all Toastmasters but how we make out of our journey depends on us.

Titus delivered his Ice Breaker project. This Taurus has a wealth of talent – he sketches, he bakes and he knows IT. A very humble young man who stands up to greet everyone walking into the room. Very impressive. As a fellow Taurus, I could see a shade of myself in him – reserved and uptight.

Suhas did his Ice Breaker as well and he was very candid about his shortcomings, including smiling even when he was scolded. But he said it depends on how you see the attribute as it could be a shortcoming to one but a strength to others.

Tricia had put off her prepared speech for the longest time. But she decided that no more procrastination and went ahead despite the lack of preparation. She told me that she wouldn’t have done the project today if not for me and also because her evaluator was Distinguished Toastmaster Pradeep.

That’s not the first time a member said she did something if not for me. Jean had told me that she would have resigned from Vice-President Education if not for me as my passion had moved her.

That reminds me of the news maker I interviewed recently and the “Walking Capital” he brought up during the interview. Walking Capital is the freedom to leave a job and not be restrained by finances or feel beholden to anyone.

Oops, I digressed.

It wasn’t Edwin’s first time as Table Topics master.  But he put some thoughts into it by scaling his topics in ascending order of difficulty. It worked in encouraging active participation.

Joyce is the most effective language evaluator any Toastmaster club could probably have. She highlighted some of our mistakes in pronunciation:

  1. “object”, “contest”, “project” have the stress in the beginning when these words are used as nouns.
  2. “opportunity” has its stress in the third syllabus.

Taichi was sharp. He pointed out that Pradeep managed to end his evaluation two seconds before the time limit. This manifested Pradeep’s skill.

And we shall use the title “Toastmaster” in addressing one another out of respect.

All in all, we had a decent meeting.

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Titus and Suhas are now officially members of our club. Welcome aboard.

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Birthday Boy

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Quantitative Easing

It took me a few weeks to nail down the subject for project 7 “Research Your Topic”. I had wanted to present on slogans but couldn’t get statistics. I had toyed with the subject on customer loyalty before settled on Quantitative Easing.

As a result of not deciding on my subject fast enough, I was still amending my script the night before, despite the fact that my last project was two months ago.

I went through a lot of research but only a fraction of what I found was used.

Lynn evaluated my speech and I agree with her that the closing could be improved with a call to action such as advising audience not to take on excessive financial risk or suggesting what to do when savings interest rates are ultra-low.

Here is my script for Project 7: Quantitative Easing.

In November 2008, the central bank of US, the Federal Reserve, started a programme analogous to printing money known as quantitative easing to stimulate the economy during the Great Recession . It created money electronically at the stroke [BOE’s image] of a computer key, increasing the credit in its own bank account, and bought government bonds and other securities from commercial banks with thenew money. As a result, the increase in money supply, interest rates dropped, while the banks that received the funds were supposed to make loans to households and businesses, encouraging them to spend and invest.

In the years that followed, the Federal Reserve created out of thin air, not millions, not billions, but trillions and voila, the central bank added a string of zeros to its account.

Prabhakar, have you got any idea how many zeros are there in a trillion? To give you some perspective, there are 3 zeros in a thousand, 6 zeros in a million. The number of zeros in a trillion is [show fingers] zero, zero, zero…12 zeros.

【PAUSE】

Some of you might think that’s US’ business. What has that gotta do with us, miles away from the world’s number one economy.

But it’s not that simple, in fact it has far reaching implications for you and me.

Today, I’m going to talk about 3 aspects the quantitative easing has affected us, they are:

1) interest rates
2) real estate
3) exchange rates

★Interest rates★
By flooding the banks with money, the Federal Reserve drove the interest rates down.

Here, in Singapore, the interest rates are closely correlated to the US rate, and they are at historic low, having languished at almost zero levels for years.

How many of you have savings accounts with POSB? Did you know the current interest rates?

Let me tell you, for the first $350,000, the interest rate is 0.05% per annum. For example, a $1000 deposit earns you a paltry $0.50 a year in interest. What could $0.50 a year buy you?

Hmm, five visits to the …public toilet, that charges you 10 cents per visit.

As you have heard, low interest rates as a result of quantitative easing punish savers like you and me.

★Real estate★
Given such low rates for savings, some of us would look to investment with more attractive yields. Some might take advantage of the equally low mortgage rates to buy properties as well.

Indeed, that’s what happened after quantitative easing began.

According to an article published this July in the newspaper Today, private home prices in Singapore surged more than 60 per cent after the great recession in 2009 to peak in the third quarter of 2013.
Monetary Authority of Singapore in a statement in 2014 said “it is clear that unusually low global interest rates have stimulated credit growth and an increase in property prices in recent years.

“That is why the government and MAS have taken decisive steps to cool property demand and prevent excessive leverage.”

A Straits Times article published two weeks ago related a woman’s experience in being caught in the easy credit trap.

The easy credit made available by the ultra-low interest rates had turned this woman into a big risk-taker; she invested in eight properties six years ago. Each time a property she owned went up in value, she would get an extra credit line on it to make a down payment on another.

When high-yield bonds became the craze, she hopped onto that bandwagon as well, using credit lines from her properties to subscribe to the bonds. It was leverage upon leverage.

Her house of cards started to collapse came the cooling measures.

Cheap and easy financing can turn otherwise sensible people into credit junkies in their quest for yield, to take extreme risks.

Indeed, the International Monetary Fund has warned of the danger of excessive financial risk taking as a result of quantitative easing.

★Exchange rates★
An effect of quantitative easing was a sell-off in the US dollar, as the freshly minted money hit the financial markets.

This with the nagging concerns over the recovery of the world’s largest economy, depressed the greenback against other major currencies.

Funds seeking higher returns than in the US moved towards Asia, including Singapore as hot money sought a safe haven as well as looked for something more lucrative, thereby drove up the Sing dollar.

The Sing dollar hit an all-time high against the US dollar at 1USD to S$1.2, as seen in this table.

What does this mean for us?

A strong Singdollar against US dollar makes holidays in the US more affordable and online purchases denominated in the greenback cheaper.

Closing
Quantitative easing is not just a matter that concerns the United States. Although we live in the other hemisphere, there are significant implications for us. Whether it’s interest rates, real estate or exchange rates, quantitative easing has impacted us – either positively or adversely.

Thank you.

The contests

“My mind was blank… I don’t know why I am here, ” said Jamie ruefully when interviewed by the contest chair Lynn while the judges were deliberating on the results for the evaluation contest.

Jamie, Jun, Pradeep and Anthonius took part in the evaluation contest held yesterday and the winner will represent the club in the area contest.

While I didn’t contest, I could feel Jamie’s exasperation, having been through some writing tests under pressure.

Though Jamie didn’t clinch the championship, her participation in itself was admirable.

Pradeep clinched the championship for the evaluation contest, with Jun and Anthonius the first and second runners-up respectively.

Jun clinched the championship for the humorous speech contest, with Anthonius and Taichi being the first and second runners-up respectively.

Jun spoke about his family members and girlfriend’s advice to him on being himself.  Anthonius’ was about his first love while Taichi made the Japanese food natto the subject of his speech.

Hesperus and Ethan Chen Kuang, though rookies in public speaking, had made their maiden attempts in contest. Wasn’t it great to see these young people facing head on their fear of public speaking?

I should make it a goal in my public speaking journey to take part in contests to challenge myself as well.

Taichi has been doing very well in this aspect. While he said he was a timid person, he takes part in the sport that has a certain degree of danger, free diving. He claimed that speaking on the feet, that is delivering a Table Topic, is scarier than free diving.  Yet, he has the nickname of “Table Topics King”.  Because he pushes himself to face his fears and challenge his limits.

However, we might lose him should he not be able to get a job by the end of the month.  What a shame to lose someone who inspires us with his indomitable spirits.

But perhaps the time has come for him to go home to start a family and settle down, as well as near to his ageing parents in Nagano.

Whatever it is, we wish him all the best – though we would like him to be here in Singapore.

Briefing contestants before they started entertaining us with their humorous speeches.

Briefing contestants before they started entertaining us with their humorous speeches.

 

taichi

Natto = Durians? Hmm…

 

anthonius

Pumping his fist, Anthonius says he was going to give it to the man who struck up a conversation with his sister.

unspecified

Shhh…Evaluation contestants were so serious as they prepared for their evaluation.

yen

Chief Judge Yen clearly enjoying the speeches.

team

Congratulations to the contestants who emerged winners and runners-up, what a feat!

 

 

President

I have not become Vice President Education.

Nor have I become sergeant-at-arms or secretary.

I am now president of the club.  Yes, I had a fast-track progression because the original President-elect Angela had to withdraw from the post as a result of last-minute overseas assignments.

Here’s my speech at the installation – which from drafting to delivery took only eight days and broke my record.  I was fortunate that I was given the assignment when I was on leave from work and therefore I had time to craft, rewrite and practise (perhaps 30 times before I delivered to a packed room).

Hesperus, you are a new member here, what made you join toastmasters?

Lai, what about you?

Garry, you’ve been here for some time, why would you prefer to be here to, say, having a nap, playing computer games at home or watching a movie?

Just like Hesperus, Garry and Lai, and most of us here, I joined Toastmasters to develop my public speaking skills and conquer the fear of speaking in front of people.

When I joined the club one year ago, I knew nothing about appointments for meetings or executive committee.

But soon I became a timer, an ah-counter, a table topic master and a Toastmaster of the Day, the truth is I have been slow in doing my projects, so I wanted to redeem myself and be active during meetings.

I took on appointments pretty often, it was perhaps enough to give Michelle some ideas.

Some months ago, she checked with me if I would like to be the next sergeant at arms, I said I might not be able to come much earlier to set up the room.

How about secretary,  I counter proposed.  How often does the executive committee meet, I asked Michelle.

Once a quarter, she replied.

Wow, that suits me.

I’m a free-spirited person, as far as possible I like to avoid commitments.  But I can’t just benefit from the club without contributing.

So, I was to be the next secretary.

Weeks later, Jun said he would like me to be the VPE, together with Michelle, sharing her heavy workload. Michelle being a responsible and experienced VPE gave me confidence that I would be fine.

So I agreed.

When we had the election,  my supposed role hadn’t changed but I became the 1st VPE with Tricia the 2nd VPE.  Tricia, to me, seems to be a very steady person and is always on top of the situation.  I knew I would be in good hands.

Guess what?

That’s not the end of the story, of how my supposed exco role evolved,  from SAA to secretary to 2nd vpe to the official vpe.

Last Friday, Jun said the president-elect Angela had been assigned a new project that would require her to be away often and the position of the president had as a result been vacated.

Jun said he had got everything ready for the installation, except the President.

So that’s how I ended up being the president.  How I wish I had such fast track progression at work.

Jun told me to do a speech for this installation, something inspiring.

On this, I would like to share something very honest.

A few months after I joined toastmasters, the thought of quitting fleeted across my mind.

I found myself spending much more time than expected on toastmasters.

I would read the manual for each project before embarking on the research for my speech. Just gathering information for my draft could take me the whole month. And I would watch YouTube for ideas and tips.

Furthermore, after each chapter meeting, I would blog about it, on what transpired, what I should have done and how I should improve.  Blogging takes about 2-3 hours.

But the thought of quitting was quickly extinguished at the following meeting,  when Garry the Toastmaster of the day, reminded us why YOU and I walked through THAT door in the first place.

Yes. That’s right.

Why?  We’re here to hone our public speaking skills.

For you to have walked through that door and are STILL here today, you deserve a round of applause.

Now, give the toastmasters next to you a pat on the back, as well.

As the slogan of Liverpool football club says

YOU NEVER WALK ALONE

Your public speaking learning journey in the past year would NOT have been possible without this GREAT team.

We were privileged to have Jun for the past 2 years,  as the President, who has set the bar too high for me; VPE Michelle who had to fill whatever appointments not taken up at meetings.

Working equally hard behind the scene were VPM Tricia, VPPR Garry and SAA Taichi.

Eg, we have this room ready for use, the projector flashing our ideas and even the Styrofoam cups that we drink from, it’s all thanks to the SAA, Taichi.

Taichi would arrive earlier than us but be the last to leave,  to set up the room before meetings and clean up the place after meetings.

Without them, their selfless contribution, their effective facilitation, we’d not have been able to sharpen our skills here and let the butterflies in our stomach fly in formation.

Please give them a round of applause.

*Next, a lady who deserves our recognition as well. She would have been here addressing you if not for her work engagements, let’s show our appreciation for Angela.*

As for the term ahead,  please give YOUR utmost support to YOUR vpe sheila,  YOUR vpm lynn, YOUR vppr Michelle, YOUR SAAs Jamie and Taichi, as well as me.

We would, to the best of our abilities, make your learning journey as fruitful as possible .

Before I wrap up this speech, let’s remind ourselves why we are here – let’s shout it out.

Let’s REMEMBER this.

Thank you.

** Was not delivered because Angela was absent.

Toastmaster of the Day, Episode 3

14 May 2016

I thought I would improve my performance as a Toastmaster of the Day this time round but I felt that it was a letdown.

Bearing in mind the lesson I learned from being a Toastmaster of the Day in March – my second time as one – I did my preparation this time but having worked late the past week did not afford me the luxury to be better prepared.  Also, the fact that I finished work only at 11.30pm on Friday, I was not as alert as I wish I were.  Therefore, I relied a lot on my script and not doing enough ad lib, tapping contents from the speeches of other speakers.

Or perhaps I don’t have sufficient practice, I wonder.

What I should have done:

  • After welcoming the Toastmasters and guests, draw their attention to the amendments to the programme – which I did but quite late in the day.
  • Talked about the importance of making eye contact, before gathering Toastmasters to the side of the room to play the game.
  • After introducing the Table Topics Master, I should be the one explaining what this segment is about and the time allotted.
  • During the Evaluation segment, I should have mentioned the time alloted for each evaluator.

Here’s my script but it wasn’t complete.


Introduction

Good afternoon, the president, Fellow Toastmasters and guests, I’m Peck Gek, your Toastmaster of the Day.

Welcome to the  【★   】 chapter meeting of Kampong Ubi Toastmasters Club.

Shall we stand up and recite the club’s mission to remind ourselves the benefits of being a member of this club.

Please be seated, thank you.

 

★Game
Making eye contact is important when delivering a speech but sometimes we are too shy to look at people in the eye but making eye contact establishes an immediate bond with an audience.

We are going to play a game to practise making eye contact.  The game is called Wink Murder.

Every one of you will draw a card but please don’t show it to others.  The person who draws an Ace  is the murderer and kills by winking at your victims,

You must not avoid making eye contact with one another because the objective is to identify the murderer while trying not to be killed. 

But you get instantly killed giving an incorrect guess.

When you are winked at, you’re killed and you can “die” in any way,  quietly or make it known.

 

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Who’s the Wink Murderer? 

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★Opening Address

It has been sometime since we last heard from Jun, who has been missing in action.  He’s going to address us today.

 

★Speeches

Before we proceed with the prepared speeches, I’d like to first introduce two appointment holders for today’s meeting, they are Manish  as the Timer and Lynn as the Ah-counter.

Timer will flash at the 【★   】  minute flash the green card, 【★   】   minute the yellow card, the 【★   】 minute the red card followed by a buzz at 【★   】 minutes.

The Ah-counter keeps track of the pause-fillers a Toastmaster uses in his or her speech, eg umm, so,etc.

We will have the timer and ah counter deliver their reports later.

 

We have got  [★Number                         ] Toastmasters delivering prepared speeches today.

Edwin

Edwin clinched the Best Speaker title for his project 4 and today he’s going to share with us for Project 5,  interesting insights into corporate finance, stakeholders and creating value.

Title of his speech is “Corporate Finance – ‘Creative’ numbers”.

Evaluator for Edwin’s speech is  Taichi, Competent Communicator.

Taichi, please read out the objectives of  Project 5 and the time allotted.

Thank you, Taichi.

Edwin please.

Subject on finance is a favourite topic of one of our Toastmasters, Steven.  Now Edwin is probably giving Steven a run for his money [pun intended].

 

Lynn

Lynn is doing her project 10 and she’ll be a competent communicator upon completion.  Title of her speech is The 99 Club. Garry, Competent Toastmaster, Competent Leader, is evaluating Lynn’s speech this afternoon and let’s hear from Garry on the project’s objectives and time allotted. 

Thank you, Garry.


Do you want to find out how to join this club?  Find out from Lynn.  There you go, Lynn.


So, that’s The 99 Club. Would you want to join?

 

Manish

Manish talked about his gym-going experience and how he went from flab to fab for the last project.  Today, he is doing his project 7: Research Your Topic, and his speech is about…hmm… I think this is really going to benefit me…. the title of his speech is From Stupid to Smart. 

Manish’s speech will be evaluated by Ajoy,  and Ajoy, please tell us about the project’s objectives and time allotted. Thank you,  Ajoy.

From Stupid to Smart, Manish. 


Thank you for the enlightening speech, Manish.

 

Garry

Garry’s embarking on Project 1 from The Entertaining Speaker advanced manual and the speech is coincidentally titled “Little Foot: Small Steps to Big Changes”

Synopsis: Last Thursday I was invited to speak as Guest of Honour to a group of junior college students. The occasion was the Installation of their new Interact Club board. I spoke to the incoming board’s theme (referred to below) with some ideas of my own
 

The theme for the incoming board is:

“From the movie ‘The Land Before Time’, it talks about a group of dinosaurs led by Little Foot. The film explores issues of prejudice faced by the different species, just like the people with special needs in our community. Our aim is to create a homogeneous community, where people accept one another for their differences.

As one CCA, no matter what differences, we will have to work together. We cannot get through things on our own all the time and may need to involve the help of others. Being able to work with others enable us to overcome obstacles and challenges that we may face throughout our Interact journey. Similarly to Little foot and together with our united club, our aim is to make great impacts in our community through the small actions that we make.”

Garry’s speech will be evaluated by Cathy, Competent Communicator, Please tell us about the project’s objectives and time allotted. Thank you.


★Table Topics

★★an excellent way to help members develop their ability to organize their thoughts quickly and respond to an impromptu question or topic. Today’s topics are: ★★

Timer [★Name                        ] will flash at the 【★   】  minute flash the green card, 【★   】   minute the yellow card, the 【★   】 minute the red card followed by a buzz at 【★   】 minutes.