Friday, December 23, 2005

Teambuilding Activities

"Team building" (or "'teambuilding'") refers to the process of establishing and developing a greater sense of collaboration and trust between team members. Interactive exercises, team assessments, and group discussions enable groups to cultivate this greater sense of teamwork. Team building is used in many contexts, for example in sport clubs and work organizations. (Wikipedia)

Unfortunately, this term is often heavily abused. I went to an annual conference this month in which one of the activities was "teambuilding activities" -- which turn out to be more like "how to humiliate your team member". The only teamwork required was choosing the next victim. What a mess. I can't believe the event organizer sold this as a teambuilding activities, and worse, the company let this crap happening.

Go through the followings teambuilding ingredients - those that seen as important to the successful set-up and launch of such team efforts.

  • Selection of participants
  • Establishing goals
  • Allocation of roles within the team
  • Harmonizing personality types
  • Training on how to work together
  • Support within the team
  • Making effective use of resources
  • Communication between team members and leaders
It's surely a lot of works! Event organizer: be sure do your homework and ample preparation.

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Saturday, December 17, 2005

Traveling with bus and train

There are many alternatives for going to Singapore from KL (or vice versa). Flying is one. It takes only about 30-minute flight, but the total time might extend up to 3 hours. Another alternative is to drive. I would think this gives the most flexibility, but driving and parking in Singapore might be a hassle, I guess. The other two alternatives are going by bus or by train. I discount sea travel as it seems not interesting at all.

I went to Singapore by bus earlier this month. It was a double-decker bus from a company called Aeroline. Not as good as the pictures in their website, but the overall experience was satisfying. Passengers are seated upstairs, while downstairs is reserved for meeting - there's a meeting table with several chairs/sofa. Apparently, some people took advantage of the sofa and used it for bed instead of meeting.

Going back, I took the train, for the sake of getting new experience. Bad call. First of all, trains are more expensive than bus (there are many more companies similar to Aeroline or with lower quality) for the same quality, or even lower. Secondly, it took just too many stops along the way. The stop for immigration is also longer as there are more passenger than there are in the bus.

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Thursday, November 17, 2005

Petaling Jaya

Petaling Jaya (PJ) is a suburb, or satellite area, of Kuala Lumpur. I'm not sure if PJ is really a city as it pretty much spans everywhere west of KL. Addresses in PJ are remarkably "structured" yet damn confusing. The area is divided into numbered sections, which to further confuse things are denoted with just S or SS. It takes me a while to understand addresses in PJ, especially these sections are not necessarily 'in order', i.e. section number is increasing going North. No, you can find S52 between S8 and S9.

I work in, I believe, section 4, or S4. It's a commercial/industrial area with many old factories, perhaps built in the 60's. It's about 3 km from PJ Newtown (to me it's a newer set of shops and offices) and about 1 km from PJ Oldtown (guess what, an older set of shops and offices). As is in KL, roundabouts are everywhere. Some are effective, some others aren't and just actually make things worse during the rush hours.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2005


Just got to know another public holiday: Deepavali (or Diwali in India?). Call me ignorant, but this year is the first year I'm in a country that celebrates Deepavali. As long as it's a day off, I'm good.

From wikipedia:

Diwali, also called Deepavali is a major Hindu festival that is very significant in Hinduism, Sikhism and Jainism. Known as the "Festival of Lights," it symbolises the victory of good over evil, and lamps are lit as a sign of celebration and hope for mankind. Celebrations focus on lights and lamps, particularly traditional diyas (as illustrated). Fireworks are associated with the festival.

Diwali is the name used by North Indians for the festivals while South Indians call it Deepavali. However, both names literally translated mean the same, which is "row of lights".

Diwali is celebrated for five consecutive days at the end of Hindu month of Ashwayuja. It usually occurs in October/November, and is one of the most popular and eagerly awaited festivals in India. Diwali comes exactly twenty days after Dussehra. Hindus, and Sikhs alike regard it as a celebration of life and use the occasion to strengthen family and social relationships. For Hindus it is one of the most important festivals, and beginning of the Hindu year. Hindus celebrate Diwali to mark the time when Lord Rama achieved victory beating Ravana. It is also a significant festival for the Sikh faith. In modern India, Diwali is now considered to be more of a national festival, and the aesthetic aspect of the festival is enjoyed by most Indians regardless of faith.

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Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Tea breaks

Among the culture shocks I've experienced, tea breaks is one of a few that stands up. Every day at 10 AM and 3 PM, many people take a 15-minute tea break. Of course, it usually takes longer than fifteen minutes because they just don't drink tea, but have some snacks as well. Many people even go as far as half-portion of nasi lemak. It's confirmed, by a Malaysian friend working at BCG, that it's the culture, especially for the government workers. WTF! We ain't a government corporation.

This tea breaks must be one of the European, or more specifically, British customs. As this website says frequent tea breaks are the bane of office productivity, I can't agree more. Having spent most of my professional development in the U.S. these breaks are just total productivity loss. But there's also arguments for the tea breaks. This article, The Case Against Global Culture, argues that the tea breaks allow interactions with people, which in business context will help cooperation on work issues.

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Thursday, September 29, 2005

Mont Kiara

So I completed the moving in to the new place in Mont Kiara. It's a nice area and looks safe for family living. Close to my daugther's school - within walking distance. The only downside is a lot of construction works are still going on. Petronas Twin Towers is the view from my unit, but it may last only for the next two years as there is a new condominium complex being constructed right on the way.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Mont Kiara, is a northern suburb of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It is strategically located at the heart of Klang Valley. Mont Kiara is only a 15-minute drive to either Petaling Jaya or downtown Kuala Lumpur. Taman Tun Dr. Ismail is only 5 to 10 minutes drive via the Penchala Link tunnel on Sprint Expressway.

Mont Kiara is an extremely successful global condominium township with full broadband services for residential and business users - a first in Malaysia. Complemented by a resort office-retail complex, the strategically located Mont Kiara enclave in Bukit Kiara attracts a high expatriate population, representing more than 30 nationalities and particularly the Japanese and Korean who comprise almost half the total residential population. Mont Kiara, an area known for its large number of Korean expatriates, has recently seen a huge increase of Korean restaurants, retailers and groceries stores around the township area.

Mont Kiara is also close to an equestrian club, a golf club, a stadium, business centres with banking and other facilities, as well as a Japanese school about 15 minutes’ drive away.

Educational Institution

Served by two international schools, (American (Mont'Kiara International School), and British (Garden International School)).


At Plaza Mont Kiara for Mont Kiara Funday (Sunday) 'Arts, Bric-a-Brac & Crafts' (ABC) Market launched in March 2000, showcases 100 exhibitor stalls spread over a 38,000 sq ft fountain courtyard in Plaza Mont Kiara. An innovative concept in its own right, the ABC Market epitomises the 'Made-in-Asia' dream featuring an amalgam of culture, arts and crafts where you can find antiques, books, vintage apparel, clothing, household decorative items, educational toys, children wears, crafts, jewellery, bags and shoes, potted plants, fruits, great asian food and lots more.

The daytime market is held every Sunday and has a most appealing open-air retail character. Shopping environment is made cooler with the jolly green shade sails and misty fans.

The ABC Market attracts a motley crowd of at least 3,000 people throughout the day. Operated by Sunrise Berhad, it serves mainly to promote Malaysian arts and crafts to the public, as well as provide an avenue for households to clear their collections, entrepreneurs to sell popular items and motor traders to hold their snazzy car exhibitions. Over the years the market has carved its niche as an integral part of the lifestyle in Plaza Mont'Kiara.

Night market called Fiesta Nite (Pasar Malam) at Plaza Mont Kiara delights crowds at the fountain courtyard every Thursday (6pm-10pm) night with something for everyone.

Throngs of after-six office workers from Plaza Mont Kiara and Desa Sri Hartamas as well as residents from the surrounding condominiums and nearby housing estates make their way to the market to walk, chit chat and shop around the courtyard for dinner.

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Sunday, August 21, 2005

Indonesian Wedding

Wedding parties in Indonesia, at least those that I'd been invited to, are eye-popping to most non-Asians. Several main differences between Indonesian weddings and American weddings (which seem to be on extreme ends - Chinese wedding I've ever attended was kind of in the middle) are the involvement of parents and the number of guests invited.

Indonesian weddings, like what I had seven years ago, and what my sister just had last week, usually funded mostly, if not all, by the parents. It's them that really wanted to "show off" their achievements: the money they've made so they can arrange such a great party and invite so many people who I probably know only one-fifth of them. Total guests invited in my wedding were 2000 (1000 invitations), and every single of them was fed in buffet type dinner. That number is half of what my parents and in-law were thinking about doing.

Although I truly think it's a waste of money and is very taxing to the couples (traditional clothing, weird costumes and make ups), I'm not sure if I'll be able to not do the same thing to my kids. Peer pressure. However, things are changing. Who knows twenty years from now it's no longer the parents' responsibility to fund the wedding party? That'll be good.

A website for expats in Indonesia considers being invited to an Indonesian wedding fortunate, an opportunity to gain insight into Indonesian culture and social more.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2005

First Day

First day at work after 25 months and 12 days off from full-time job. Though first day at work, or a new place (e.g. school), is nothing new anymore, there's this thing that sometimes bugging the mind. I randomly googled "first day at work", and here's one of the articles popped on Google.

An article (for college graduates) in says by the end of the day you should be able to find the bathroom, break room, supplies, photocopier and fax, know your contact number, know the names and roles of co-workers, and know responsibilities and major projects. Well, you definitely must know what your roles and responsibilities before even accepting the offer. But this is for fresh graduates, so definitely most of them are clueless.

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Thursday, August 11, 2005

Yahoo! Fantasy Football

Here's the thing I've been doing week-in, week-out from August until May since 2000: Yahoo! Premiership Fantasy Football. I just checked my Fantasy profile, it's not that bad! Although my overall rank (out of all the teams registered) has been going down, 99% in 2001 to 98% last season (2005), it's been a great achievement as the number of participants has also grown up exponentially (not proven). What's been consistent is my performance in the private league. Champions in the league of friends, and top four in the private league of Indonesian players - for five years in a row. Despite my hate of the Gooners, I would choose Thierry Henry as the best player in the league - though it comes with the highest price as well.

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Saturday, August 06, 2005

Oh, Jakarta...

Jakarta is just too crowded and has far too short and narrow streets. While it's nice to see everyone again, family and friends, commuting from one place to another may take half a day. If that is not stressful enough, add millions of motorcycles into the equation!

Wikipedia claims Jakarta's population is 8.8 million. I heard, and believe, it is over 15 million during the day and about 12 million at night while everyone is back home in Bekasi, Tangerang and Bogor. Make no mistake, however, that the nightlife is amazing.

From Wikipedia:

Jakarta (also Djakarta or DKI Jakarta), formerly known as Sunda Kelapa, Jayakarta and Batavia is the capital and largest city of Indonesia. Located on the northwest coast of the island of Java, it has an area of 661.52 km² and a population of 8,792,000 (2004).[1] Jakarta has been developed for more than 490 years and currently is the ninth most densely populated city in the world with 44,283 people per sq mile.[2] Its metropolitan area is called Jabotabek and contains more than 23 million people, and it comprises an even larger Jakarta-Bandung megalopolis.

Jakarta is served by the Soekarno-Hatta International Airport. Since 2004, Jakarta, under the governance of Sutiyoso, has developed its new transportation system, which is known as "TransJakarta" or "Busway" and in 2007, Jakarta will establish its newest transportation system, the Jakarta Monorail. Jakarta also is the location of the Jakarta Stock Exchange and the National Monument.

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Friday, July 29, 2005

Mixed Perception about Europe

Europe is nice, but it's definitely different from America (of course, you moron!). We traveled to London (I went to, of course, Manchester), Paris, and Amsterdam via Frankfurt.

Frankfurt airport is nice. Big McDonald's with huge playground. That helps. London is freaking expensive and the meal size is small. We paid twice as much dollars of half of the portion. We missed the fish and chips, but the city tour was excellent. Manchester is old, but Old Trafford is truly the theater of dreams. (Our trip to) Paris was a mess. It must be the hotel where we stayed at. It was somewhere very close to one of the train station, but far from the city center (or at least the Eiffel tower). Cab drivers don't speak English, and it took us more than one hour to get a cab at the tower. The train from Paris to Amsterdam was nice but a bit boring. Surprisingly we enjoyed Amsterdam (I changed the hotel while in Paris -- we stayed in two nice rooms at Swissotel). Internet was free in the business center (I had to go to internet cafes in London; in Paris it was in a small, non-air-conditioned room). The food was great (lots of similarities to those in Indonesia). Tours were great too. The train back to Frankfurt was, again, nice but boring and a bit stressful as we must quickly get down at the airport. Flying back to Singapore, though, was excellent with Singapore Airlines.

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Monday, May 30, 2005

Moving Out

Moving from one apartment to another in the same city or state (e.g. from Ann Arbor to Ypsilanti to West Bloomfield in Michigan) was difficult enough. The good thing was all those places were within driving range (less than 45 minutes apart) so we could manage to have a little overlap between the end of one and start of another. That helped moving in the non-essential items on earlier days (several trips in a day or even a week). The bigger and more critical ones, e.g. sofa, TV, could be moved on the d-day with a U-Haul or Ryder trucks (Ryder trucks are much better, by the way).

Moving to out-of-state, e.g. from West Bloomfield, MI to Durham, NC, was way much more challenging. No more multiple trips to move the non-essential items. Another challenge was to drive both cars, plus the truck. So we decided to rent a service. But at least we knew exactly what, or where, we were getting into.

Moving out of the country was a mess. First of all, we didn't move directly to the final destination. The target was KL, a couple of months after when we had to move out. So we had to 'stopover' in Jakarta while looking for the new place in KL. Second of all, the electrical items were not compatible. It's 120/240v and 60Hz in the U.S., while Indonesia and Malaysia are using 110/220V and 50Hz. The options were to buy transformers - lots of them, or to sell or giveaway all the electrical items. And cars too!

Despite having taken the Pricing Strategy class, I failed to analyze the 'market'. Everything we offered was initially way under what the market valued. The responses were overwhelming. The only bargaining power I used was to hold the items until the last days. It definitely helped for things like TV, DVD player, or mattress.

Another complication was the booking of container, including the attempt to "maximize" it. Some friends would ask for shipping of their goods with container, of which we couldn't make money from :) This includes all the necessary documents from and to the Embassy.

As messy as the others was the packing as we decided to not use the professional service to pack. We used Two Men and a Truck to load the container. That was when we realized all the money we could've paid for the service would've been worth it every penny. These people rocks, and they just know what they do.

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Thursday, May 26, 2005

The Journey

Well, it has been almost exactly seven years since we first moved to the U.S. It's been great journey and adventure. Not much savings made even though I worked for more than four years in Michigan. I think it's because the mindset has always been "vacation", i.e. we always know that we will never end up and retire in the U.S., thus we must make the most of our time -- to travel and eat out.

Firstly arrived in San Francisco in June 1998, we spent the first five years in Michigan. What a state it is. It's geographically flat; no hill, no valley. It's one of the main victim of lake-effect snow. And it's about two hours flying to the East Coast (NYC) and six hours flying to the West Coast (LA). Four-five hours driving to Chicago, although it's only one hour away from Windsor, Canada. But what's in Windsor anyway, except a casino?

The first year, we lived in Ann Arbor, in a one bedroom economy on-campus apartment, where the only two rooms were bedroom and everything else, and a small bathroom, of course. Not a great impression of what America is. The second year we moved to a more decent two bedroom, two bathroom apartment in Ypsilanti. Great location, right in the middle between University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University, and right across from Washtenaw Community College. We moved to West Bloomfield on the fourth year for the next two. A two bedroom apartment with a garage. Great place in a well-established area. I got closer to work. I picked up a lot of football in Michigan, but missed a lot of soccer. Both kids were born in the University of Michigan hospital with the same Obgyn.

We moved to Durham, NC, in June 2003 as I would start my MBA at Duke. We moved to even a better place. Three bedroom (3.5 bath), three-stories apartment with garage. The rent was higher too. Both kids went to school and made some friends.

Durham is pretty strategically located. It's about three hours driving to the beach and four hours to the mountain (where there is snow in the winter). Less than five hours driving to Washington, D.C., and about six-hour drive to Atlanta. Charlotte is only about two hours driving away, but there's nothing much but a huge mall.

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Wednesday, May 04, 2005

What's an MBA worth?

When you're about to graduate from a 100k+ MBA program, this question will most likely pops up. It's a BW's article I took via

Here's my take. I would do it again, for sure, and would let myself enjoy it even more. Career-wise, we'll see - it seems it will start quite nicely. Though the take home pay is less than the average MBA salary because I won't be earning in USD, I feel it is comparable to what I would've earned if I stay in the U.S. Apart from the dollars, though, it's been an amazing journey. The people, the facilities, the hard work, and the fun. I would consider I paid more for these factors than the title itself.

Is the MBA really Worth It?

In a fascinating cover story on the Class of 1992, Business Week answers the question with a resounding yes. My former employer surveyed nearly 1,500 alums of the Class of 1992 from the top 30 business schools to come up with the answer and a bevy of fascinating statistics.

Some of the highlights:

  • Some 89% of the respondents say they would go for the MBA again if they had it to do over.
  • Nearly 80% said they would go back to the same school, although Stanford, Harvard, Northwestern, and Wharton predictably scored best on this question.
  • Average salary of a top 30 alum after a decade at work is more than $155,200, up from the average $56,600 starting pay in their first post-MBA job.
  • Average bonus and compensation for the alums was $232,400 so the total compensation for these MBAs averaged a whopping $387,000 last year (where do I sign up?).
  • Some 75% of the alums say they give to charity, with contributions totallying $8.3 million in the past two years, or more than $7,300 each, on average.
  • Nearly a dozen alums gave $100,000 to non-profit causes, with a handful of gifts over the half-million mark.
  • MBA alums donated some 7,000 hours of volunteer time to causes last year, or about 9 hours per month on average.
  • These alums manage an average 93 employees each.

As the story notes: "What's more, the data depict a managerial class that's in a truly commanding position. Their salaries and bonuses are hefty, and they occupy, after only a decade, top posts in their companies. They are an enterprising lot, an entire cohort of ambitious men and women who have started hundreds of companies and created nearly 100,000 jobs -- a surprising record from a group often derided as better at bean-counting and consulting than actually doing anything."

Before you rush off for the MBA, remember to take all these very favorable and upbeat results with a few grains of salt: This crop of grads left at the best possible time and took best possible advantage of the 1990s' boom. This crop also had the advantage of an MBA from a top 30 business school, not merely an MBA. And most importantly, the results are heavily skewed to be favorable because the largest graduating classes (and therefore survey respondents) tend to come from the very best schools (merely because the best of the top 30 tend to have the largest graduating classes). So Harvard, Northwestern, Columbia and other elite and prestigious MBA factories easily overwhelm the respondents from much smaller top 30 schools such as Carnegie Mellon, Cornell, University of North Carolina, and other public universities.

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Saturday, April 23, 2005

The 2005 Fortune 500

The April 18, 2005, edition of the Fortune magazine presents the 2005 Fortune 500 company list: the largest 500 U.S. corporations ranked by revenue. The top 5 list doesn't change from last year: Wal-Mart, Exxon-Mobil, General Motors, Ford Motor, and General Electric (actually the top 10 remains the same with the exception AIG and IBM switching the 9th and 10th place.

J&J is again on the 30th place - a very good and healthy place to be. It's profit is ranked #10, with market value at #6.

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Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Johnson & Johnson

J&J is one of the most respected corporation, especially in the U.S. It's a company that values ethics highly (as it should be with all companies). J&J's life is governed by its credo, emphasizing responsibility to customers, employees and communities over stockholders. Not exactly what I learned in b-school.

The credo, however, is my key decision factor. Having seen Enron and knowing how business is done in Asia, I'd follow my heart in choosing my future company.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) is a global American pharmaceutical, medical devices and consumer packaged goods manufacturer founded in 1886. Its common stock is a component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average and is listed among the Fortune 500.

The corporation's main headquarters is located in New Brunswick, New Jersey, United States. Its consumer division is located in Skillman, New Jersey. The corporation includes some 230 subsidiary companies with operations in over 57 countries. Its products are sold in over 175 countries.

Johnson & Johnson's brands include numerous household names of medications and first aid supplies. Among its well-known consumer products are the Band-Aid Brand line of bandages, Tylenol medications, JOHNSON'S Baby products, Neutrogena skin and beauty products, Clean & Clear facial wash and Acuvue contact lenses.

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Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Error of Responsibility

I can't stand but post this. Taken from the

The Top 10 Conservative Idiots (No. 182)
January 17, 2005
Error Of Responsibility Edition - click here

This week's edition focuses on conservative responsibility - or rather, the lack thereof. First up is The Media (1) for blatantly whoring the CBS memo "scandal" while simultaneously ignoring the fact that - hey - there weren't any WMD in Iraq after all. Who'da thunk it? Meanwhile George W. Bush (2,3,4,10) takes four slots this week, all for responsibility-related offenses, and Charles Graner's lawyer Guy Womack (5) didn't think his client should be held culpable for activities which were, after all, simply wholesome and American. Elsewhere, Tom DeLay and Bill Frist (6) have been adding to the misery of tsunami victims, and Armstrong Williams (7) is still trying to weasel his way out of trouble with the assistance of the "liberal media." Line 'em up...

Check the latest Top 10 Conservative Idiots here.

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Wednesday, January 12, 2005

The South-East Asia Earthquake and Tsunami Blog

The South-East Asia Earthquake and Tsunami Blog

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Monday, January 10, 2005

Credit Card Fraud...

It finally happened. In my seventh year in the U.S., I found five credit card transactions that weren't mine -- for a total of $2,000.41 in two days!! These transactions were from Thailand; four were restaurants for $737.34 and another from 'gift shop' for $1,263.07. I've been wondering, since then, if my identity has been a victim of fraud as well...

My wife brought up an interesting point, as we had switched to a Bank One last year, after several years with Citibank. Who knows...

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Why Bleu?

Bleu -- Blue stands for the vertical and the spatial. Considered the color of spirit and the intellect, blue is the most neutral of all the colors and represents equality.

It could've been 'M', had I not been to Duke. I was debating between Blue and M. While Mesin ITB and Michigan are both M and Blue, Duke is definitely not an 'M' and Manchester United will never be 'Blue'. My alma mater is, indeed, blue. But there's only one united...

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