Sunday, December 30, 2007

Good coffee

Since Rizal of Café Salemba wrote today about good coffee (with economics spin), I feel obligated to share my happiness to finally find the good coffee I like - Taster's Choice from Nescafé. This is one of those things I haven't been able to find since we moved to KL.

Last week when I went to Singapore and had the time to do things I usually don't when I have to go there, Tari and I went to Mustafa Shopping Center. We spent some quality time until 2 AM at Mustafa (kids are with their cousins and grandma). I went home with my Taster's Choice. She got her iPod Nano. We were both happy.

Yeah, I'm not that sophisticated.

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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

At-the-moment-addiction: Scrabulous

Yup, I have some free time towards the year-end. And I use some of them to play Scrabulous - kind of online Scrabble - on Facebook.

What's good about playing online is that all players need not be online at the same time. You can check how the game progress at any time. Which is also not a so-good thing if you're playing with someone who travels a lot. (this can be mitigated by playing more than one game at a time)

Since we can try words, it's amazing to find out a lot of new "words" out there. Like my friend's favorite, ZA, which doesn't appear in Merriam-Webster dictionary. (it may be defined as South Africa's country code, .za, or a short version of pizza)

Or XU, which means "a coin formerly minted by South Vietnam equivalent to the cent".

Currently, the highest-scoring word listed in the global statistics page on Scrabulous is worth 1,778 points - "OXYPHENBUTAZONE". (as a comparison, my highest scoring game was 305 points.)

Cool, eh?

There are many websites that assist players to find such words, like Scrabulous Dictionary, Scrabble cheat-o-matic, More Words, or WordNavigator. Some consider this as cheating.

Scrabulous was founded two years ago in India, and debuted in Facebook last July. Players can play either on Scrabulous website or on Facebook. While we can play against any friends in Facebook, we can play against anyone on Scrabulous website.

It even sells merchandises online. Like this thong.

Perhaps for some fanatics...

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Studying aboard

Ever thought of furthering your education? Forget about the conventional MBA or Ph.D. Try studying aboard (yes aboard, not a typo of abroad) with the Scholar Ship.

What is The Scholar Ship?
The Scholar Ship is a recognized academic program aboard a transformed passenger ship hosting both undergraduate and postgraduate students on semester-long voyages around the world. Participants from diverse cultural backgrounds come together to co-create a transnational learning community that develops their intercultural competence and fosters lifelong friendships.

It offers both undergraduate and postgraduate studies, in areas like International Communication, International Relations, and some more.

What I can't get out of my mind, however, is the fact that there are many ways of communications. Like verbal and non-verbal. And in one semester, students have more than enough time to practice both... and any relations that come with it.

There are tons of examples - and theories, I believe - that prove being together for a period of time may spark something among the participants.

My wife and I, for instance, sort of met in a summer stay program. Or Rob and Amber, from the TV show Survivor, who got married a couple years ago. And all the flings and affairs that happen at work, in business trips, during study exchange programs, and in other "opportunities".

Knowing that these will happen, the program should consider expanding its core and elective courses beyond international communications and relations. Students will surely have a lot from the semester-long practice to analyze during case study discussion.

Two that top my mind are:
  • Social psychology, with Interpersonal Relation as the core subject.
  • Biology, with concentration in human anatomy.

Submit your application here.

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Sunday, December 16, 2007

On tex mex food in KL

Finally after more than two years in KL, we found a decent Tex-Mex food at Las Carretas in Damansara. It's been two Sundays in a row, and we've tried quite a few - Chimichanga, Quesadillas, Fajitas, and Nachos. And so far two Margaritas and a Boca Chica on the house. Good service.

Prior to this, it's been limited to Fajitas and Nachos from places like TGI Friday and Chilli's.

I'm not a big fan of Tex-Mex food, but it's one that I can easily take. Tortilla + salsa, I'm happy. Cheese nachos - great! (now I remember where all these fats came from).

Next - Taco, Enchiladas, and Burrito.


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Saturday, December 15, 2007

LCCT, low cost redefined

Some companies really take low cost to the limit. In this case, it's KLIA's LCCT - Low Cost Carrier Terminal.

I wonder why an airport was so overcrowded, chaotic and messy at 5 AM. So bus-terminal-like.

Perhaps there's really a bus terminal somewhere at the back.

After all, the name is Low Cost Carrier Terminal, not Low Cost Air Carrier Terminal. So we should expect any types of carrier at the end of the gates. Bus, cabs, or even becak. And the services that come with it...

And here's how the cost structure is probably like with regards to LCCT and Air Asia:

Standard air fare price

- decent customer service
- knowledgeable airport personnel
+ (more) inefficient passenger flow
- lots of luggage-scanning equipment
+ four times the queue length
- jet bridge
+ umbrellas when it rains

= LCCT air fare

- 10kg baggage
- in-flight food and drinks
- 10cm of leg room

= Air Asia fare

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Sunday, November 25, 2007

The adorable Sampras

Going to two tennis matches of world's first and second never crossed my mind. It happened last week, with two exhibition matches between Rafael Nadal (2) vs. Richard Gasquet (8) and Roger Federer (1) vs. Pete Sampras (former number 1).

Everything was business as usual, i.e. both Federer and Nadal defeated their opponents. But Sampras stood up among the other players as the most entertaining and spectator-friendly. You go, Pete!

Roger and Pete

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Saturday, November 24, 2007

Dear penis

The older a man is, the further the relationship with his penis...? *LOL*

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

Making friends with Air Asia

I had my first experience with Air Asia, finally, last weekend. Equipped with all sort of information about flying with Air Asia - good and bad, there I was, checking in at the Low-Cost-Carrier Terminal (LCCT).

(This blog shares (bad) experience flying with Air Asia.)

Interestingly, I went through several scenes that, like it or not, provided the occasions to interact with other passengers.

While I knew that the baggage limit is lower than other airlines (both for checked-in as well as carry-on baggage), I didn't know that some people with overweight baggage would approach passengers with lightweight baggage for 'help'. Two students in front of me were ones of the victims - they ended up carrying one of their bags as a lady insisted their help.

I, too, was approached. Not sure what my position at that time, I asked questions like show me your boarding pass, what do you do, etc., before finally let him 'use' my excess capacity.

Well, not knowing this person and what is in his luggage, I felt it was necessary to stay close to him.

Only to find out that he works in a multi-marketing company.


Luckily, he was not the sales person or the marketer, but rather in the setting up the business structure. Phew...

The other occasion was the boarding process, which was worse than I expected. A total chaos. No line to queue, which is even worse than queuing in Genting. And I hate having my body constantly touched or pushed.

And then the race to the airplane. This is where passengers with children are handicapped.

Finally, the seating process. People can get pretty rude in this process - I saw someone who practically indicated something like "I don't want you to sit next to me, look somewhere else." Rude and unacceptable.

Everyone tries to maximize his position. Hoping to sit next to an empty seat.

This is the same challenge, actually, across all airlines that don't assign seat numbers. The difference is the passengers (that people want to avoid sitting next to). In the U.S., for example, there are more oversize passengers. In Asia, or my experience flying between Malaysia and Indonesia, there are more passengers with strong body odor. Yeah, smell bad.

A friend of mine who frequently travels with Southwest Airlines, one pioneer of low-budget airlines, has a tip on this. When you travel alone and light, and the flight seems to be full, board in the last one-third of the passengers. That way you can pick and choose who you want to sit next to.

As a favor to your neighbor-to-be, make sure you take a shower before going to the airport.

Yes, everyone. Please.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

I question the effectiveness of busway

Having had the chance to observe Jakarta's famous busway, as well as discussed it with some friends, I doubt that busway is, and will be, effective.

There are several premises and assumptions in this thinking (or perhaps others have done similar approach as well). One is that the goal of having a busway system is to reduce traffic congestion on the streets where the system is implemented.

Here traffic congestion is defined as the number of cars per unit length of street with busway. If this number gets smaller with busway implemented, then it's effective. And vice versa.

There's no hidden agenda, politically or economically, in the opinion below, which concludes that installing busway lanes, indeed, increases traffic congestion.

The framework of determining the effectiveness is very much simplified, that is by looking at whether replacing a vehicle lane with a busway lane will actually reduce the overall traffic (on the other vehicle lanes).

Without considering the cost, I'm looking at the balance of demand (number of people to ride busway) and supply capacity (number of people that the busway system can transport) - on a unit of length.

Let's say a vehicle, running at a decent speed on a traffic lane, will consume an average space of 12.5 meters (4.5 meters length + 8 meters distance between front-end and back-end of two cars). That makes 80 vehicles per lane per kilometer.

If we assume 1.25 passengers per vehicle (that is 5 people for every 4 cars), that'll make 100 people transported per lane per kilometer.

The question is whether taking off one lane for busway will positively affect (reduce congestion on) other lanes. In other words, whether at least these 100 people in 80 cars will use busway.

Another assumption here is that there's no costs of switching (whether financially or based on comfort). These passengers will switch to busway (if available) once they feel there are more than 80 cars per lane per kilometer, and so on to keep the system in balance.

To complete the demand side of this equation, it is also assumed that in each bus available, 25% of the passengers are actually coming from those who do not drive. These are the people who has the buying power to switch from other means of mass transportation to busway. These people are assumed to be more experienced in using mass transportation, thus will always get in to the busway ahead of the people who are used to drive or use vehicles. In other words, these people are in higher priority.

Let's also say the average speed of a busway is 30 km/h, of which each bus will take 2 minutes to travel for 1 km. If we assume the time between two buses is 1 minute, there will be two buses at any given time in a kilometer of busway lane.

Another important parameter is maximum capacity of a bus. A friend who's a regular busway rider informed me that a normal capacity is 40 passengers, and 60 passengers in an extremely full situation ("kalau dipaksain"). Let's assume an average of 50 passengers per bus.

This will give us a capacity to transport 100 passengers (50 passengers times 2 buses) every one kilometer per one busway lane.

Since 25% of these 100 passengers, or 25 people, come from other mass transportation, only 75 people truly move from driving a car to riding a busway. These 75 people equal to 60 cars (with 1.25 people per car).

A little summary from the above rough estimate:
- number of cars "displaced" when busway lane is installed: 80 cars/km/lane
- number of "cars" that will switch to riding a bus: 60 cars/km/lane

This means, once a busway lane is installed, the other lanes will be more congested by 20 cars for every kilometer. The more lanes available, the less added congestion will occur. But it will always be more congested. E.g. if there is only one other lane, it will be more congested by 20 cars for every kilometer. If there are 20 other lanes, each lane will be more congested by 1 car for every kilometer.

Therefore, busway is not effective in reducing traffic congestion.

Imagine on Jalan Sudirman, which is about 4km long, the two express lanes (jalur cepat) will have an additional of at least 160 cars - displaced from the new installed busway lane.

With this same logic (and only with this logic), several ways to decrease traffic congestion with busway are:
- Increase the capacity of busway - either by using bigger buses (more than 50 passengers per bus) or by having more frequently buses (less than one minute between buses).
- Prioritize passengers who "give up" driving. (How?)
- Add another vehicle lane for every busway lane installed. (Then we may not need busway.)
- Create busway lanes (or other mass rapid transportations) that do not utilize regular vehicle lanes. Subway? LRT? Hmm...

I'm sure there are lots of loopholes in this exercise, mostly through the simplified assumptions (I may need to do some sensitivity analysis?). But the conclusion probably won't be too far...

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Saturday, November 10, 2007

Bridge blogging and English for Indonesians

Four blogs that I regularly read shared their views about bridge blogging last week, a topic started by Unspun's "More Indonesians needed for bridge blogging".

Then Miund expanded on her "On Bridge-Blogging". About how (some) Indonesians perceive English blogs as ‘hard to read’ or ‘pretentious’.

And that perception is really a problem.

I once was asked by an Indonesian colleague: "Is it our ability to speak in English that limit our opportunities to pursue career overseas?"

He was referring to the small number of Indonesians currently holding a regional position - relative to that from other neighboring countries.

"No," I said. "It's more on our networking abilities."

I partially lied.

I believe it is, directly or indirectly, the ability to speak in English. Networking will bring in the opportunities, while the English part will help land the job. Both help go up the corporate ladder.

Directly, through communication skills. Ability to clearly communicate ideas, provide directions, and so on. Broken English will do to a certain level. At the end, the higher the position, the more frequent upward presentations one needs to do. And that's where things get a bit tricky.

Indirectly, through self-confidence. I tend to think that people perform better, verbal-communication-wise, when they're talking to non-native English speakers, or people whose English they perceived to be at most on par with theirs. It's a bit difficult when the counterpart speaks more fluently, or is a native English speaker. I don't know - it works somewhat that way with me.

Drawing from the same logic, if I don't speak as well as I do now, there would be relatively more people with better English, and the more often do I have not-as-great self-confidence while speaking. This is perhaps what's happening to some fellow Indonesians.

This perception can put self-roadblocks to learning and practicing English (or other languages for that matter). And it's kind of a downward spiral if other people keep improving their English while we don't even want to start.

Part of the roadblock could be the fear of something new, or of making mistakes.

But hell, who cares? We can always improve if we really want to. We are always in a learning process anyway.

Wouldn't it be nice if majority of Indonesians can understand some basic, essential English words? Perhaps at least numbers and some basic trading words to allow them to do transactions with English-speaking tourists?

Or the ability to put compelling business arguments and analysis? Or at the least, to give a better first impression. Because the chances are that we do have strong technical skills and work ethics.

All it takes to start is the shift of that perception or mindset, lots of practice, and the willingness to take feedback openly and positively. (and a supportive environment too.)

As for bridge-blogging? It's a medium. A place to make mistakes and to improve.

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Saturday, November 03, 2007

Is flashlight a toy?

A typical scene at home.

*#^$%#$(*& !!!!

"Whoa, whoa. What's happening?"
Anya: "Ben doesn't let me borrow his flashlight!"
"Why, Ben?"
Ben: "Because it's not a toy..."
Anya: "It IS a toy!"
Ben: "It's not!"
Anya: "It IS!"
Ben: "NO!"

"Stop it, stop it."
"Why do you think it's not a toy?"

Ben: "Because... because we use flashlight when it's dark!"
Anya: "No..."
"Wait. Let him finish."
Ben: "So we have to keep it."
"And why do you think it's a toy?"
Anya: "Because it's a Buzz Lightyear flashlight! Buzz Lightyear is a toy!"
Ben: "But it's a flashlight! You said we shouldn't play with flashlight!"

(Oh, now it's me)

"OK. Let's not play with my flashlight, because we need to know exactly where we keep it. When it's dark, it'll be very difficult to find a flashlight if it can be anywhere, won't it?"
"But since this is a toy flashlight, you can play with it."

Both: "Yipiiii...!"
Anya: "Give me."
Ben: "My turn first!"
Anya: "But you've played with it already!"
Ben: "This is my toy. My turn first!"

... I think I found the reason why men play golf the whole day...

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Thursday, November 01, 2007

Terokai and menerokai

Me (sms): dude, what are the meanings of 'terokai' and 'menerokai'?

(15 minutes later)
Dude: explore & exploring.

Me: but X said they're develop and development. (I also sms-ed X.)

Dude: just because X is a Malay doesn't mean he can translate well. Develop and development are kembang and perkembangan.

Me: oh... so terokai is not 'the most OK' and menerokai is not 'making it the most OK'?

Dude (call): what are you doing??!!

Yes, I'm still working on some Bahasa Malaysia words. Being an Indonesian, of course, helps, but there are words that I just have no idea what the meanings are.

Some words are similar to Indonesian words, but with different meanings. Like "bisa" (can, venom) or "jemput" (pick-up, invite).

Other words are "English-based". Like "kolej" (college), "imigresen" (immigration), or "kek" (cake).

So I guess I have a good basis to guess "terokai" as ter-okai -- ter-OK -- 'the most OK'...

There are some more (from Macvaysia): amaun (amount), akaun (account), bajet (budget), bas (bus), bank, beg (bag), buli (bully), cek (cheque), diskaun (discount), draf (as in bank draft), edisi (edition), fail (file), fesyen (fashion), hospital, hotel, imigresen (immigration), kad (card), komuter (commuter), komputer, kompaun (compound, in the sense of a fine or levy), kredit, motosikal (motorcycle), motivasi (motivation), pakej (package), preskripsi (prescription), projek (project), rekreasi (recreation), resit (receipt), sains (science), seks (sex), seksyen (section), sesi (session, as in a university year), skim (scheme), sup (soup), tayar (tire), treler (trailer), tren (train), universiti, wad (ward, as in hospital ward)

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Maybank and customer service

I've never had a good experience since banking with Maybank two years ago. Some were OK perhaps, but definitely nothing good. Not the ever-under-maintenance ATM. Not the teller. Not even account opening.

Last year's credit card renewal was horrible. From a phone number that was never picked up, to repeated visits to pick up my card.

They required a number of ridiculous documents. And they put the most unfriendly and incompetent people to talk to customers.

But I received a surprise today. Maybank sent a credit card renewal notification - that my new credit card is ready for collection. Just like that. That's way beyond expectation! (Though I still yet need to prove it)

Maybe because this time is my second renewal. Or perhaps they don't want to let those unfriendly and incompetent people to deal with customers.

Whatever, one thing for sure they've set my expectation so low, that even this makes me happy.

Maybe they've hired a consultant who taught them a (marketing?) theory that suggests that a customer's satisfaction with a service is a function of his expectation. If you can't improve the service, just lower the expectation, huh?

Anyway, good for Maybank. I hope they will do more improvements.

Another thought about customer service: Jakarta public transportation.

In a way, this is a candidate for the best customer service level. These buses, metro mini, and angkot are willing to stop every 20 meters to pickup the passengers. They will fight with other cars for the convenient of their customers.

But only before you get in.

Once you're in, it's a different story - no more customer service. They keep taking passengers in thinking human are compressible.
They will do their best to take you to your destination as soon as possible, how unsafe it could be. They want you to get off while the vehicle is still moving.

It's been a while since I took a Jakarta public transportation. And I look forward to hop in to Busway the next time I'm going back - this weekend :D

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Sunday, October 21, 2007

A visit to Satria Mandala

I finally was able to keep my word to Aroengbinang to visit the Satria Mandala museum, during my mudik last week. It's been at least 20 years since the last time I visited, and nothing looks to have changed. Okay, my memory isn't so great, but the Rp. 2500 entrance fee is probably a good indication.

Aroengbinang's post tells all about the museum, so I only put a picture of Anya and Ben excited to see a real tank (though not as cool as the ones in the Transformers).

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

On the definition of Malay, politically

M. Veera Pandiyan wrote in the Star last week about the rift between Indonesia and Malaysia on Rasa Sayang. I do think both sides are a bit overreacting and agree with most of what he said.

That aside, though, his explanation of Malay, under Malaysia's constitution, is the one that caught my attention.

clipped from

But most Indonesians don’t realise that Malays, who make up the majority of Malaysians in the peninsula, are not “Malay” as in the context of people from the Riau province on the eastern side of Sumatra, which include Batam, Bintan and some 3,200 other islands.

Not many also know that under our Constitution, a Malay is a political rather than ethnic definition – a person who practises the customs and culture of the Malays, speaks the language and is a Muslim.

blog it

I've been puzzled with the way people here stereotype Malay-like people, really, and these two short paragraphs answer it all. That if someone who looks like a local and is neither a Chinese nor an Indian, he or she must be thought as a Muslim. That's merely my observation.

What would a non-Muslim Malaysian who was born from, say, Javanese parents, be called?

PS. Jennie - in this case, American accent helps too!

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Sunday, October 14, 2007

First posting from Jakarta

Just a quick two postings from other blogs --> on the middle column, Interesting Read section.

The first one is an old post by Marina Mahatir - the daughter of Malaysia's former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. She posted it in January this year, but since the similarity (or difference) between Indonesians and Malaysians is currently a hot topic, it's worth it to revisit her view.

Another one is written by David Lavoie, a Canadian teacher living in Malaysia, on the New Straits Times. Some light and humorous observations about some Malaysians' quirkiness, of which a few is shared by some Indonesians.

In case the link is not working anymore, here's what David wrote.

DAVID LAVOIE: The puzzling quirkiness of some Malaysians
The New Straits Times, Thursday, October 11, 2007

I have to admit that I love it. I enjoy Malaysia very much and I think that Malaysians are fine, fine people. They are warm, friendly, interesting and hospitable. But some of the things they do puzzle me enormously.

What follows are, and probably always will be to me, some of the mysteries of Malaysia. Alang-alang mandi, biar sampai basah; alang-alang berdakwat, biar sampai hitam.

Mystery number one, why do many Malaysians swim in such a bizarre way? Don’t get me wrong, a number of the Malaysians I see every day in my condominium pool are superb swimmers, but the majority employ a strong scooping motion of the arms along with a vigorous frog-like kick which takes them completely underwater for a metre or two. Then they shoot to the surface, desperately suck in a strangled gasp of air and disappear under the surface again, despair in their goggled eyes.

It’s a slow, slow method of swimming and it seems to require an enormous expenditure of energy as well as the risk of serious oxygen deprivation. I may be wrong, but I always thought, silly me, the whole purpose of swimming was to stay on the surface where the oxygen is.

How about roads? It amazes me that Malaysians can build fine-looking roads so quickly, but why, within a month, are they plagued with potholes the size of the Grand Canyon? Wouldn’t it be cheaper, and easier on cars, to put down a proper road base first before laying on the black-top?

Actually I’ve got a theory. I’ve decided that this is all some sort of gigantic Malaysian lottery. Those guys on the side of the road pretending to walk along? They’re really bookies taking bets on which car will hit the hole hardest. When you smack into one, they chortle and money surreptitiously changes hands.

What about double-parking? I realise that Kuala Lumpur, in particular, is plagued with too many cars and not nearly enough parking spaces. The problem seems the same in kind, if not in degree of intensity, elsewhere. I understand why people double-park.

What I don’t get is, where are all the people whose cars are parked on the inside? Why aren’t they outraged?

As a matter of fact, where are all the people who have boxed in other drivers gone as well? Why isn’t there mayhem? Stationary road rage? Wild screaming matches? Where have all the drivers been spirited off to? Extraterrestrials perhaps? This is one of the mysteries of the age.

Why, in so many public toilets, are washbasins, cabinets and urinals numbered? This, I really don’t get. I mean, it’s not like when I pay my 20 or 30 sen, the attendant says: “You are assigned to urinal No 3. Wash your hands in washbasin No 5.”

Is there a mysterious purpose for these numbers or is it just a peculiar Malaysian fetish for order?

Why do all those guys on motorcycles wear their jackets backwards? What’s the point?

Is it to cut down the wind in your progress? To keep you dry in case of rain, to keep your clothes clean? Does it keep you warmer?

I suspect a combination of many factors here, but, if so, that, too, is a mystery.

If it’s to keep your clothes clean, for instance, that means that you are perfectly clean as you approach people, but a mess when you turn around to leave.

I’ve decided that since I will probably never figure this one out, it must be a uniquely Malaysian fashion statement.

Why do Malaysians consider public streets and sidewalks an extension of their front yard or business? Restaurants block sidewalks with extra chairs and tables during peak hours. Businesses expand onto the same sidewalk with a maze of tables and shelves of merchandise.

Best of all are the home parties that block entire streets to vehicular traffic. I have to admit that I sort of like and admire this one.

You need room for your party? Why not put up a tent in the street? Cars can always back up and take an alternate route. It’s so liberated.

Why do Malaysians use plates?

I had to come here before I ate my first meal off a banana leaf and the beauty of it brought tears to my eyes.

If we all ate every meal off banana leaves, no one would ever have to wash a dish again (a chore I hate). It’s too beautiful.

Why, Malaysia could become the world’s largest exporter of banana leaves! Of course, I haven’t quite figured out what to do about laksa.

So there they are, just a few of the mysteries that keep me fascinated with this wonderful country.

Maybe I’ll stick around for a while. After all, I’ve obviously got a lot to learn, lah.

David Lavoie is a retired Canadian teacher who now makes Malaysia his home.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Nasty brother neighbor

A quick update/addendum to my last post.

Yes, it's the latest two incidents in Malaysia - the arrest/detention of an Indonesian diplomat's wife and the forceful breaking into an Indonesian student's apartment.

Can you imagine - a bunch of people breaking into your home, to check whether you have valid documents?

It is said that RELA volunteers are allowed to make arrests and enter or search premises without a search or arrest warrant. It's a bit of a violation to human rights, isn't it? Perhaps they think human rights don't apply to (suspected) illegal immigrants...

I do agree with Unspun that it is the government, and not necessarily the people, who is doing this. In fact, a (Malaysian) friend was bitching about RELA, and we really had fun talking about it. I think RELA would be more of a use if their members take care of the Mat Rempit and illegal double-parking.

Yes, someone needs to educate people that double-parking is rude, lah!

Anyway, happy Eid / Ied / Lebaran / Hari Raya. I'm off to Jakarta tomorrow.

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Monday, October 08, 2007

Brothers syndrome and unexpected treatment

Aroengbinang shares his thought on the "Brothers Syndrome" post: "Many people believe that relationship between Indonesian and Malaysian is or should be like relationship between brothers or sisters. They are wrong. Indonesian and Malaysian were never been brothers nor sisters. They were born from different mothers. They have different fathers as well."

Thus, there are some expectations of being brothers - like respects or special treatment. Expectations that often are not met.

(people here like to use OK as filler) :)

This morning I had to come to the Immigration Office (Jabatan Imigresen) in Putrajaya. A new policy calls for foreign expatriates to be present in person for thumbprint scan. (people in the U.S. might call this an abuse of human rights?)

Aside from driving quite far to Putrajaya (and the highway roadsigns that are placed after the exits), things were nice. I admire Putrajaya for its buildings' architecture. The immigration office is clean and the officers are quite professional - totally different experience than my afternoon at Deplu on Jalan Medan Merdeka two years ago (when I finally gave up and called a connection).

All right.

A while after dropping off my passport, I was called up and asked to go to a (nice) room and do the business there. "The queue is too long here," said the man who looked like a pretty high supervisor.

"Oh shit, I don't even know how much the standard is," I thought.

But it turned out to be something else.

It was a sincere help or nice gesture, because, I believe, I'm an Indonesian.

So we talked about Hari Raya. I found out that his Datuk (grandfather) was from Minang. And other things.

We simply "connected".

So based on this experience, it is there - the brotherly feeling. And it's nicest when you don't expect it.

Just like what Aroengbinang says: "... a healthier relationship may be built as no more false expectations..."

This is true, especially because while it's nice to get the special treatment, being an Indonesian in Malaysia can also lead to relatively-poor treatment (or just that nasty look). This is where a little bit arrogance and American accent help. (why American accent? Because fewer people have it here - many Malaysians go to U.K. or Australia for their study). :)

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Sunday, October 07, 2007


Certain things click just like that to some (memorable) events in the past. Whether nice or ugly.

Heard on the radio yesterday - Kokomo by the Beach Boys from the soundtrack of Cocktail is one of them, back to some years in high school, with significant involvement from Sheque. No details to be shared :)

"We'll get there fast and then we'll take it slow..."

PS. Elisabeth Shue was hot, by the way.

[Read more...]

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Sleep more to lose weight

Now I wonder if there's something between me and articles about sleeping. I just happen to bump into one quite often.

My subconscious mind? (sleeep... sleeep...)

Anyway - all of them seem to be too hard to do, especially if we want to do so consistently during workdays. Getting seven-hour sleep is definitely the least difficult. Not getting up early is probably next. But taking a nap is a clear no-no. Not during the workdays, that is.

Weekend? Possible - though managing late football matches on TV and early morning tennis games is a challenge already.

And now a research suggests that we need seven to nine hours of sleep a night to lose weight and keep it off. One of the catches is that sleep less takes away the energy to exercise and adds to the craving for carbs. The danger is if these - exercise and eating less carbs - don't happen even after we sleep more...

Moreover, a Q-A from the article:
So how can I catch more z's? Calbom and Garcia agree: Reduce or eliminate caffeine, sugar, and alcohol. No late-night meals. No TV just before bed. Warm baths can help, as can meditation and deep-breathing exercises. Garcia often prescribes 5-HTP, calcium, and magnesium.

Hmm. At the same time some people use caffeine and sugar to boost up energy at work. Which help them work longer. Working longer drives getting home later, which means later meals in the evening. And TV? Of course after that - just before bed. Just the opposite, eh?

So try sleeping more. More energy. Less needs for caffeine and sugar. More effective and go home earlier. Earlier dinner, TV, and bedtime.

Gotta try harder!

[Read more...]

B-school Confidential: MBAs May Be Obsolete

Below is a recent article with the same title from Penelope Trunk on Yahoo!Finance.

While I agree that a lot of people go to b-school to get a new job (i.e. business school is like buying a high-priced recruiter), the change that Harvard made to accommodate female student proportion - accepting younger, less experienced, female applicants - is interesting.

Having younger female b-school students will arguably drive the number of male applicants, won't it? That surely doesn't help fixing the wrong reasons to go to b-school, but hopefully will attract the hotshots to start to apply again... :)

B-school Confidential: MBAs May Be Obsolete
by Penelope Trunk

The Master of Business Administration degree has been a holy grail for decades. If you wanted a career that mattered and didn't have the aptitude for medical school, an MBA was a good ticket to prestige and riches.

But things aren't so clear anymore. If the MBA used to be the entrance fee to climb the corporate ladder, there are few corporate ladders to climb anymore -- and people are increasingly experimenting with ways to speed up that climb anyway. One way is to skip the MBA altogether.

So if you're thinking of getting an MBA, you should probably think twice. Here are five signs that the MBA is becoming devalued:

1. Only the top business schools have high value.

The difference between the value of a top-tier MBA and all the others is very big. In fact, if you don't get into a top-tier program, the value of your MBA is so compromised that it's not worth it to stop working in order to get the degree. Go to night school instead.

A lot of people already know this, which has made the competition to get into a top-tier b-school fierce. So much so that you probably need a consultant to help you get in. Wondering how effective those consultants are at gaming the system? So effective that schools are publicly saying they're trying to change the application process in order to undermine the effectiveness of application coaches.

2. Business schools are compromised by a lack of female applicants.

Harvard Business School is so concerned that it's not receiving enough female applicants that it's changed the admission process to accommodate the biological clock. This means that students will have less work experience coming into the program.

In the past, business schools have said that prior work experience is important to the MBA education. But apparently, the lack of women is so detrimental to the education that Harvard is willing to take less work experience.

While the changes are beneficial for women in some respects, one has to wonder if this doesn't compromise the value of an MBA for everyone.

3. Business school is like buying a high-priced recruiter.

The best thing you get out of business school is a good job afterward. But how do you know you wouldn't be able to get that job without business school?

In an article in The Atlantic, management consultant Matthew Stewert says you probably could. He also says you should consider paying a recruiter to get you a good job, and spend your time taking philosophy classes instead. That's because philosophers, as Stewert writes, "are much better at knowing what they don't know. ... In a sense, management theory is what happens to philosophers when you pay them too much."

And if you are thinking of becoming a CEO, Sallie Krawcheck, herself the CEO of Citigroup's Global Wealth Management, says you should be an investment banking analyst first. That's because being a CEO is really about making decisions with limited information, and that's what analysts do best.

4. Hotshots don't go to business school anymore.

For a while now, it's been clear that the true entrepreneurial geniuses don't need degrees. The most effective way to learn about entrepreneurship is to practice in real life. You don't need an MBA for that.

Now that trend is filtering into the finance industry. Pausing one's career to get an MBA used to be non-negotiable for investment bankers. But today, the top candidates in finance are choosing to forgo business school. They're already making tons of money, and they're well-positioned to keep making tons of money, so the MBA seems unnecessary.

The upshot of this is that business school might start looking like something for people who are feeling a little bit stuck in their careers and need a jumpstart, rather than just a starting gate for superstars.

5. People go to business school for the wrong reasons.

An MBA is very expensive in terms of time and money, and it solves few problems. If you're not a star performer before b-school, you probably won't be one after you graduate. And if you just want to make a lot of money, the odds of you of doing that are only as good as the odds of you getting into a top school -- currently about 1 in 10.

If you're still wondering if an MBA is necessary for you, here are five more situations that might put the nail in the coffin of the MBA.

The bottom line is that very few careers today really require an MBA. If you're getting one for a career that doesn't require it, you might look more like a procrastinator than a go-getter.

[Read more...]

Saturday, September 29, 2007


I was away for a training the whole last week to Kuala Terengganu, 50 minutes by air North of KL. At a beach resort, away from routine work. Peaceful. Refreshing.

Almost right.

The place was Gem Beach Resort. About 40 minutes outside Kuala Teregganu. Quite a decent place, actually -- with only gym, telephone line, entertainment and water pressure, among few other things, missing.

No complaint about gym - haven't been to one for some time now, despite I'm now totally out of shape. *sigh*

Telephone line was probably more of a bad luck. The line was struck by lightning some nights before I arrived. But again, landline isn't a necessity anymore these days, is it?

Entertainment, in the evening that is, posed a bigger problem. When the training ends at 5:30 and sun sets at 7, there are at least 4 more hours to kill. Four channels in a 9" TV certainly doesn't help. No LAN in the room and no phone line (now I miss the phone line) provide no option.

There's also nothing in the surrounding area, other than by-the-street shops selling kerupuk lekor - oily, fishy kind of crackers, and a couple of kedai runcit - a bigger size version of warung in Indonesia.

No one even sells playing cards. I suspect cards are banned in Terengganu.

But that's not exactly true, because they actually prepared an entertainment for our group -- traditional Terengganu performance! Well, not exactly what was expected... Even the trainer, whom I suspect the dance was prepared for, had to be picked up from his room... But hey, anything to kill the time, right? Next time I'll be more specific about what I wish for.

Equally interesting, or sad, was the water shower with terribly low pressure. This, combines with the extra-sensitive water temperature knob, presents a dangerous shower activity. You have to stand so close to the wall so that you keep touching the knob and you instantly get hot water. Ouch!

No fun.

On the other hand, there are other "extras" that wiped "peaceful" and "refreshing" away from this stay: bugs.

Yes, bugs, thousands of them. I didn't take any pictures, but they look like ones in the picture, only a bit smaller.

These creatures would crawl into the rooms. A colleague even claimed to have bugs on his bed! Yikes!

The hotel said the bug attack was unusual and unanticipated. Yeah...

Quite an experience was when I got a call at 2:45 AM in the first night. It was a colleague, male, asking if he could sleep in my room because he got bugs in his room. Fortunately, I've got bugs as well...

It would've been dangerous if the colleague was female. But male colleague? It was scary...

[Read more...]

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

No pok!

Omigosh, this video made my day. Got it from Treespotter...

[Read more...]

Sunday, September 09, 2007

On being a loser

"I just think she made a lot of lucky shots and I made a lot of errors."
- Serena Williams at the US Open news conference after her quarter-final defeat.

Lucky shots? Come on, Serena... You don't win the U.S. Open, and six other grand slam titles, with a lot of lucky shots.

If, however, she really thought that way, she probably didn't have to say it. And further, don't say this either: "I really don't feel like talking about it. It's like I don't want to get fined. That's the only reason I came. I can't afford to pay the fines because I keep losing."

Just don't come to the press conference and pay the fine.

In fact, while Henin made just a little fewer unforced errors, she had more double faults than Williams. That, if the total of unforced errors and double faults are compared, Serena had only one more than Justine.

They made the same number of aces - four.

The difference? Number of winners* (this must be the lucky shots Serena referred to). Justine had almost twice the winners that Serena had (30 vs. 17).

But isn't this Tennis about -- making more winners than the opponent?

In each of the matches from the quarter finals into the final, the match winners always had more winners than their opponents did. But not necessarily fewer unforced errors. In the match between Venus Williams and Jelena Jankovic, for example, Venus had 60 winners (vs. 17 of Jelena) and 56 unforced erorrs (vs. 24 of Jelena).

So Serena, please learn to become a better loser. Specially since you keep losing, as you said.

* Winner – (rally) a forcing shot that can not be reached by the opponent and wins the point; (service) a forcing serve that is reached by the opponent, but is not returned properly, and wins the point

[Read more...]

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Getting up early is not healthy?

I've learned what enough sleep is -- around 7 hours a day. And also that sleeping less seems to be better than sleeping more.

I also learned that taking a midday nap helps live longer - based on a study that concludes that drop in deaths ties to a little nap after lunch, specially lowering the incidence of heart attack and other life-ending heart ailments. Well, at least it's true in Greece.

But what is the best time to get up?

"Rising early to go to work or exercise might not be beneficial to health, but rather a risk for vascular diseases," said an abstract of a recent study. It also noted, however, that early risers were usually older.

So get up early put more risk of vascular disease, and at the same time makes us live longer, statistically? Agh...

The question is, what is early and what is late. Is 8 AM early or late? What about 9 PM, or 7 PM, or 6 PM? What about getting up early but not for work or exercise?

Let's say 7 PM is not early, and 7 hours is the best quantity of sleep. Does it mean 12 AM is the best way to go to bed?

If getting up early is not good, is waking up late (or later) more healthier? I don't think so. But if this is true, sleeping at 4 AM and wake up at 11 AM is better than sleeping at 11 PM and wake up at 6 AM. Unlikely...

Unfortunately, the world today doesn't really allow us, well - most of us, to get up not early. To get to work by 9 AM most likely means to wake up by or, very likely, before 7 AM; unless we work night shift or extremely flexible hours. More alarming is students or school hours.

Anyway, we probably should expect the next study to figure out whether getting up later is better for health.

But remember, to stay healthy we need to wake up not early, sleep for around seven hours (or less rather than more), and take a midday nap. Thinking about capable of doing so will make us a bit healthier already...

[Read more...]

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Just add water...

This is from a couple months ago. Some Dutch students have developed powdered alcohol, which was part of their final-year school project.

What a surprise, eh.

They plan to price the powder, called Booz2Go, quite aggressively. It is said that a packet would cost $1.35 to $2. Assuming each packet can make a 24 oz. (~720 ml) drink, its equivalent alcopops, Smirnoff Ice for example, also cost about the same - around $2.20. If, however, a packet can only make 12 oz. drink, popular alcopops would be relatively cheaper at $7.99 for six-pack.

Since Booz2Go is likely to be exempted from tax, this looks like a quite profitable business.

So it's clear that Booz2Go has a niche market that will pay the premium. Like those who can't buy alcoholic drinks.

Like kids under the legal age of drinking.

"Because the alcohol is not in liquid form, we can sell it to people below 16," said project member Martyn van Nierop.

Poor youngsters - early exposure to alcohol.

Anyway, assuming this product will take off, what else can we expect the demand to increase? The complement goods - water. Or perhaps soon grape and orange juice...

[Read more...]

Sunday, September 02, 2007

How I chose which b-school

It's time of the year where I usually get a few emails and questions about MBA schools, especially about getting into one.

The most basic question is perhaps why get an MBA? A question that, thinking back, I probably didn't really have the answer until I graduated. I can probably share why and why not get an MBA now, but not exactly back then.

Also popular, is the question of why you chose this or that school. One that I know the answer is my thought process getting into that decision: How many schools to apply > Which schools to apply > Which one is the school.

Disclaimer: these are all personal experience - by no means the right and only way to making the choice.

How many schools to apply.

My goal at that time was clear: get into a top b-school. So I had 15-20 schools to play with. But how many to apply?

This is probably a question of expected outcome/value. All the stats are available out there, specifically (1) acceptance rate, (2) application fee, and (3) current students' background (e.g. GMAT, work experience, industry background). What's also important is the expected time to complete a good application for admission, and how much time is available to work on it. I also thought about my own learning curve, i.e. which nth school would I expect my application to be competitive. This includes interviews.

Collecting all the information, let's say I concluded that my average chance of admission was 25%, I had slightly less appealing background, the average application fee was $100, and it took three weeks to prepare a good application materials for each school. I also estimated that I would need the first two applications to learn the whole nine yards about MBA application.

Based on all these, I decided to apply to eight schools (I was willing to let go the first two, expecting I would get at least one from the remaining six), committing $800 for applications and half a year to prepare and go through the application process.

Which schools to apply.

This is where I put more personal details and criteria into the stats, such as school-specific chance of admission, concentration/strength, student background, location (weather, big/small city), and probably some other things. I crossed schools out based on this. I also decided that I would apply to two top 5, four from those ranked 6th to 15th, and two from 16th to 20th.

At this stage, some of my considerations were post-MBA career (I wanted to go back to Asia), family (adapting to a new place, moving in/out, family/spouse activities at the school), and the learning process (competitiveness among students, case/lecture type).

For example, I crossed out Columbia because it's in New York City, Stanford because I just didn't think I would get in, Dartmouth because it's located way too North.

Which one is the school.

There were many things happened getting to this stage. School visits, meeting with Admissions Committee and students, attending informational session, sitting in a class, and interviews. It helped make the whole picture clearer.

Seeing is believing. I saw how technology-advanced was one school compared to the others, how the canteen looked like, where to park, the classroom, the library, and school vicinity. I got the feeling how safety the school and the area surrounding it was. I got some ideas how serious and formal, or how easy going and informal, the students and professors were.

I visited five schools, attended four informational session in Detroit, and interviewed with seven out of the eight schools I applied. Some really got me excited, some others left me with a bit of goosebumps.

As expected, although hard to take, the first two results were a ding and a waitlist. A couple of admits and dings, and another waitlist followed. At the end, I got three admits, two waitlists, and three dings. Better than the previously calculated chance.

Again, the school visits helped. I easily got down to only two admits and one waitlist based on the visits, and further decided not to pursue the waitlist, despite the school was ranked higher than the other two.

At the end, I opted for Duke.

Not in order of importance, the final considerations were ranking, culture and students, program curriculum, family-friendliness, and location.

What others may also consider.

While I had my priorities, so did others. They may include things like specialization or specific courses, specific industry strength, financial assistance, time commitment (e.g. 1 year- or 2 year- program), school reputation/name, and perhaps some more.

[Read more...]

Monday, August 27, 2007

On hawk-eye and challenge system

When Hawk-Eye technology entered tennis, it was amazingly cool. At that time only TV stations used the technology in their broadcast. We could precisely see how close a ball was in or out. Whether the linesmen or the referee made a good call or not.

But when the rule was modified to allow players to challenge the call, tennis has become different.

Recently, hawk-eye technology was introduced in Wimbledon to allow for player's challenge - meaning only French Open has not introduced the challenge system out of the four grand slams.

At the final, though, I felt that the challenge rule did not entirely work.

A couple of challenges from Nadal really let Federer down (okay, I'm a Federer fan). In one play, the ball was totally out if observed with naked eyes. There was no way that particular ball would be called in. However, the hawk-eye reply showed, or concluded, that the ball was "in". It barely touched the line - if fact, most people probably couldn't see that the ball touched the line from the reply. Perhaps only millimeters in.

"How in the world was that ball in?" said Federer.

I've seen other sports using the challenge system. (American) football is one that I'm quite familiar, and I totally agree with its challenge system. Why, because the calls usually do not interfere with the play. The challenges could be whether a ball has crossed the line, fouls, or other things. But, again, usually they don't interfere with the play.

In tennis, however, these calls can pretty much interfere with the play. A player's judgment or decision to hit a ball depends on the linesman's call. A player may decide not to return the ball when she hears a foul call from the linesman. So when the the opponent challenges the call and hawk-eye shows that the ball is in, it's unfair to the first player if the opponent gets a point. At the least, the serve should be replayed.

However, it's different if it is the receiving player who makes the challenge. She may feel that the ball is out, although it's not called. It is her decision not to hit the ball.

In other words, it's only fair to use Hawk-Eye technology to challenge an "in" ball out. Or better yet, use the technology for all calls, and forget about the challenge system.

For this reason - not interfering the play, football (soccer) should adopt the same system. Scope of the challenge must be defined correctly and fairly. One thing for sure, it must help the officials to determine whether a ball has crossed the goal line.

Latest incident, last week, was David Healy's "goal" against Middlesbrough. A clear one, but missed but the officials.

Not that I'm a Fulham fan, but I had David Healy in my fantasy team. That was seven points missing from Healy...

[Read more...]

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Holy cow!

This term is not considered to be very popular among teenagers, and most teens claim it is definitely not a very popular phrase. (wikipedia)


But seriously, holy cow! I didn't write (and read) any blogs for the past four weeks. I guess I'm neither a blogoholic nor a blogophile. The truth is, a lot happened and I just naturally decided not to get close to any blog-related activities. It kinda felt good, though :)

Business planning
This was the root cause, definitely. Somehow Asia Pacific region does their business plan just at the start of the 2nd half. Ridiculously way too early. No wonder it has never been accurate. But you know Asians, they like to put a bit too much in their pockets. Anyway, I probably spent too much time given the craps our business partners put in. At the end, though, it seemed to be a big win for Malaysia.

Single life
This has also become a once-a-year routine, during the kids' school holiday in July-August. This year's highlight was sweeping the floor. Having not done it for so long, I found it very difficult to clean just an apartment unit. The area I just swept instantly got dirty again! I felt like Tom, with Jerry kept teasing me... I could've thought about checking the sweeping technique.

Finished season 5 and season 6. I feel like I know Jack Bauer inside out.

Negaraku rap
I'm pretty sure tons of blogs out there talked about this short clip by a Malaysian student in Taiwan. I wonder how most Indonesians will react if this was done to Indonesia Raya...

When everybody knows your name
I didn't do much cooking during this period. Two places I visited frequently for the take-away food were Burger King and SOULed OUT - their pizzas are good! Towards the third and fourth visits, the servers and I were like buddies. Well, I doubt they really know my name, but it has reached a different 'level' in my limited social life. To me SOULed OUT is now among places like Prambors Cafe (used to be in Blok M), Champions Cafe (was in Kemang), and O'Hara (this is where RIF used to play) in Bandung. The first two are now history, physically. Not sure about O'Hara...

Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name,
And they're always glad you came;
You want to be where you can see,
Our troubles are all the same;
You want to be where everybody knows your name.

Business, not results
Spent an evening with a colleague from Thailand and we agreed that the reason we exist in a corporate is to deliver business, not only results...

Fantasy football and Premiere League
New season has started at Yahoo!Fantasy Sports.

IKEA ads
Tidy up! Some hilarious commercials from IKEA.

Gwen Stefani
Gwen Stefani stopped by in KL, the last city in her Sweet Escape Asian tour, despite protests from student groups in Malaysia, claiming that "the concert would clash with local values". What a great performance from Gwen, and totally different audience (much better than the ones at MLTR's concert)! Most importantly, I feel much, much younger... :)

[Read more...]

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The science and business of bra

This is probably one of scientists' wild dreams: mathematical equation to determine new bra-sizing system.

clipped from
But now researchers in Hong Kong have come up with a different mathematical equation which they say will produce shapelier outlines and greater comfort for Chinese women. If successful, their bra-sizing system could be adopted across the globe.

blog it

Further in the article, a report points out that as many as 70 per cent of women in Britain are wearing the wrong-sized bra as a result of inappropriate categorization of breast size for bras (in the current system - A cup (youthful); B cup (average); C cup (large); and D cup (heavy)). The bra sizes, the researchers say, should be based on a new depth/width ratio (DWR).

The new system is based on 3D geometry, with more than 100 key measurements. It follows 3D scanning of 456 Chinese women. There's a catch, though, in following measurements of Chinese women, because another article also reports that Chinese women need bigger bras due to improved nutritions.

Should we expect a 'boom' in bra business with this perfect-fit type of bra?

In China itself, it is said that underwear market is set to grow 20% a year over 10 years. A report mentions that bras accounted for 56% of the total value of the lingerie market in 2005.

Another brief writes: "28% of respondents said they choose a bra solely on cost, while another 38% said they aggressively seek out deals. Brands that consumers crossed their hearts and said they were most true to included Playtex for fit/comfort, Bestform for pricing and Victoria's Secret for style."

So how true is it?

Take Limited Brands, Inc., the parent company of Victoria Secret. It's share price today is 68% higher than it was exactly five years ago. Total return in five years is a bit lower than that of S&P 500, but not that bad.

You never know how the shareholders meeting is like... perhaps the models of Victoria Secret's will be there... hmm...

[Read more...]

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Superlative, record-breaking country

It all started when I teased my colleague about the trashing of Malaysia football team by China and Uzbekistan at the AFC Asian Cup. He started to complain that football here is too political, about being the best only at drinking teh tarik and watching TV, yada yada yada...

Then I realized that here people are, as they seem to me, so into record-breaking. There's barely a day without a record being broken - I'm exaggerating, but it surely feels that way.

Like the Petronas twin towers, which are now the tallest "twin towers" after they were surpassed by Taipei 101 as the tallest building. Hmm, right. If another twin towers come around, they will become the tallest with bridge between the building. And so on...

Don't get me wrong. I admire the twin towers. They're awesome and breathtaking structures. It's the claim that makes it funny.

There's also this Malaysia Book of Records, a book that "recognizes recordholders, recordbreakers and recordcreators in the country". The outstanding achievements include:
- The Highest Can Stacking Event with the record of 26 cans stacked in 10 minutes
- First Malaysian to sail solo around the world. Started from Pulau Langkawi on February 2, 1999
- The Biggest Dinner Gathering on July 16, 2001 at Dataran Ayer Keroh, Melaka. 25,000 people attended, launched by Prime Minister
- The World Longest Coin Line created by 524 volunteers from WWF Malaysia and Dumex Sdn Bhd. Using 2,367,234 pieces of 20 cents to construct the 55.63 km line
- The Longest Malaysian Flag Displayed on the Great Wall of China, by Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia students on October 1, 2000
- The Most Number of Trees Planted in One Minute, 110,461 trees planted, involved 152 locations around Peninsular Malaysia on October 15, 2000
- The Biggest 'Teh Tarik' Event with a total of 314 participants. Organised by F&N Dairies Group, held at Central Market on August 27, 2000
- The First Malaysians to Walk the Last Degree to the North Pole. Began on April 12, reached at 7.27am on April 19, 1999

No doubt some these achievements are impressive. Some others are just ridiculous.

Most faces captured on a phonecam... the longest buffet line on the beach... the world's biggest lemang...

(Longest waiting time for banking service could be the next world record...)

Maybe this whole record-breaking is the right thing to do (we can argue that it can help improve confidence of the people, we can argue this will keep most people too busy to think about politics, or any other speculations). Perhaps it helps to get the world know the country.

One has to do what one has to do, right? Boleh lah...

Other articles about Malaysia and record-breaking:
The World Record-Breaking Capital
Malaysia's Record-Breaking Obsession

[Read more...]

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Michael's graduated, but not the audience... and the foam hands!

Believe it or not, I went to watch Michael Learns to Rock this weekend in Genting (yes, it's Genting again and I got sandwiched again while queuing - this time my tolerance limit was wider). Someone bought us a pair of tickets and two-night hotel room for this show - my excuse (yeah, whatever...)

I bought a CD of MLTR on the way to Genting, and started to realize that I was quite familiar with a few of their songs. They're more than just Actor or Sleeping Child; there are songs like Someday, That's Why You Go Away, 25 Minutes, and Out of the Blue. All of them are love songs. Some are quite cheesy. But, it's hard to keep up with the kind of music I liked to listen 10 years ago. Honestly, I enjoyed the music during the concert.

Having not seen concert for some time (the last concert I saw was U2 Vertigo Tour 2005 - which was a bomb!), I think MLTR did fine. I would say MLTR has graduated from learning rock (answer to a typical question: "are they still learning to rock?"). The beginning was quite shaky, though. The audience seemed not familiar with the songs. The singer even once said: "I hope you know this next song." Poor guy...

If MLTR satisfactorily passed the "learning" with C+, the audience and environment miserably failed. The audience were below expectation. That, plus foam hands provided by the sponsor. It felt like, you know, watching a mix of sport match, music concert, and Kuis Siapa Berani. Puh-leeze...

Or Aneka Ria Safari. S-A-F-A-R-I... SAFARI!!

And the environment too. I captured a short video of what how it was like (pay attention on the waving foam hands). The songs were probably not too conducive for a "having fun" environment, but I believe the audience have got a lot to learn.

Oh, there were also the ushers that were so busy reminding people not to take pictures. Poor them for doing their job (that was just impossible to do it that way). It's like mistaking symptoms for root causes - I'll save my thoughts for another post :)

Well, Michael rocks!

[Read more...]

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Work less (and save the environment)

Most arguments for working less are related to work-life balance. Spending more time for personal needs (e.g. hobbies, social life) or family.

A report, titled Are Shorter Work Hours Good for the Environment?, from the Center of Economic and Policy Research, however, put a different spin on the issue. The report analyzes the impact of working hours to the environment. Specifically, the report compares energy consumption between U.S. and Europe.

Among the analysis made in the report, one interesting figure is average hours worked per civilian employees in 2003 (table 2). In this table, the most "workalohic" country is Turkey with 1929 hours. The U.S. is 1817 hours, while the "Old Europe" (EU-15) countries work on average 1562 hours in 2003.

If we assume 2 weeks public holiday and 4 weeks annual (and sick) leave, there are 46 working weeks in a year. That means the Turkish worked on average 42 hours a week, while the Americans and the Old-Europeans worked 39.5 and 34 hours per week. Japanese, with 1760 hours, worked for 38 hours per week on average.

Geez, that looks good! I'm not sure about other Asian countries, but it seems we (or I) put more and more hours every week. I'll be happy to settle with 50 hours a week.

Or I can also support the Work Less Party, whose objective is 32 hour work week.

Ironically, I post this blog from my cubicle, on Sunday afternoon. (this is the first time, though, and I hope it's also the last time I post a blog from work.)

But seriously, we have to consider the impact of what we do to the environment, and most importantly to the future. We probably should be less capitalistic and be a bit more of a global citizen.

The questions remain - what's the economic impact to the individuals for working less (or more)? What's the marginal income rate at certain work hours? How much do we value other activities or time spent with family, or a greener earth for that matter?

By the way, how many hours do you work in an average week? Mine is around 55, a bit more in the past several months.

* EU-15 countries are Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.


Conclusion (taken from the report):

If Americans chose to take advantage of their high level of productivity by shortening the workweek or taking longer vacations rather than producing more, there would follow a number of benefits. Specifically, if the U.S. followed the EU-15 in terms of work hours, then:
* Employed workers would find themselves with seven additional weeks of time off.
* The United States would consume some 20 percent less energy.
* If a 20 percent energy savings had been directly translated into lower carbon emissions, then the U.S. would have emitted 3 percent less carbon dioxide in 2002 than it did in 1990.9 This level of emissions is only 4 percent above the negotiated target of the Kyoto Protocol.

On the flip side, there is political pressure within European countries to adopt a more American labor model. If Europeans did in fact give up their shorter workweeks and longer vacations, they would consume some additional 25 percent more energy. Translated into carbon emissions, this would have enormous consequences for those countries that have signed and ratified the Kyoto Protocol. Over 1990 levels, the EU-15 emitted 8 percent more carbon dioxide in 2002, despite a clear commitment to reduce emissions to 8 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-12. Thus, the EU-15 must cut emissions by 14 percent from 2002 levels. However, if EU-15 workers had consumed 25 percent more energy and consequently emitted 25 percent more carbon dioxide in 2002, they would have had to cut emissions by more than one-third from that level to meet their commitment to Kyoto.

According to the IPCC Third Assessment Report, the amount of global warming is tied to the speed by which emissions are cut. If by 2050 the world is emitting 10Gt (10 billion metric tons) of carbon, we may be on a path to 2.5 degrees Celsius of warming. On the other hand, if the level of emissions is 14Gt of carbon dioxide in 2050 may mean 4.5 degrees of warming. A worldwide choice of American work hours over European levels could result in 1 to 2 degrees Celsius of additional warming, in addition to higher fuel prices.

Finally, the debate over the European and American models, depending on the extent to which either side prevails, will have economic and environmental implications for a number of middle-income countries. These countries – especially the fast-growing economies of Asia – will most likely choose between these two models of labor market institutions and consumption. South Korea and Taiwan are already at European levels of GDP per capita. China (at $8,004 per person) is still far behind but is growing rapidly and is the second largest economy in the world in absolute size,12 and at current growth rates will pass the United States in less than a decade. The American model is still portrayed throughout the international business press as the one to emulate. The environmental consequences of developing countries’ choices could be very serious.

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Saturday, June 30, 2007

Goodie bags gone wild

We went to a kid's birthday party earlier this month. Usually, my concern is on the amount of candies in the goodie bag. This time, however, there was no candy at all. In fact, there was no bags at all.

Ben got a cool Batman Power Key Playset, and Anya got a set Barbie. Definitely more costly than the birthday present we brought for the birthday boy.

What is really wrong with parentings these days? It took me a while to agree to move from "the original" goodie bags (candies and small party stuff) to things like matchbox, pencil holder, diary, and the likes.

Has the goodie bag standard increased? As ridiculous as it sounds, it scares me - the amount spent for things like this, or for kids in general. Education cost is perhaps the scariest.

A survey in the U.K. found that demand for goodie bag contents had risen 12-fold in the past three years.

Why do we need to give out goodie bags anyway? Why do kids need to get a goodie bag just for going to someone's party?

And then there are parents who just have to try to overdo others' goodie bags. The same survey quoted: "I think that children actually prefer the simple things. In the end, it's the parents that are making all these expensive choices."


By the way, Ben loved his Batman, though I had trouble assembling the toy. On the other hand, Anya didn't really like hers. We settled with a replacement from Toys 'R Us; Barbie will become our next birthday present.

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Managing oils

Fried food is very difficult to resist, isn't it? Some, probably most, delicious food are fried. You name it: french fries, fried chicken, kerupuk (crackers), batagor, etc. And also all the fried snacks or appetizers - fried tofu, calamari, and so on.

The problem with fried food, though, is the oil. Below is Dr. Mao's take on oils from Yahoo!Health. I found it helpful.

Unfortunately, it seems that fried foods taste good only when cooked with the bad oils, and the good oils are expensive... Frying chicken with olive oil will only lead to terrible fried chicken, and financial disaster...

There is a lot of confusing information circulating about oils. Hopefully, the tips below will help you navigate your way to the good oils that will benefit your health in the long run.

The Lowdown on Oil
Oils that originate from vegetable, nut, and seed sources provide the essential fatty acids that are critical for our nerve and brain functions. The typical vegetable oils that can be found at supermarkets have undergone chemical and heat processing that destroy the quality of the oil — bleaching, cooking, defoaming, distillation, extraction, refining, and the addition of preservatives. Additionally, many of these oils are exposed to light and air and are even potentially filled with pesticides.

All of this causes the formation of free radicals, which undermine the health benefits of consuming essential fatty acids. To ensure that you are receiving all of the possible benefits from your oil, buy organic, cold-pressed, minimally processed oils at your local health food store. Be sure that you consume oil within three months; to prevent it from becoming rancid, store your oil in the refrigerator in dark glass containers.

Fats: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
There are three types of fat: monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and saturated.

Monounsaturated fats — including olive oil, sesame oil, canola oil, almond oil, flax oil, and fish oil — are good fats. These contain essential fatty acids such as omega-3 and gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) that are critical in brain development and function, skin health, vascular health, proper immune function, fertility, and normal physical development.

Polyunsaturated fats, such as margarine, corn oil, hydrogenated safflower oil, and sunflower oil, also contain essential fatty acids. Unfortunately, these fats are highly refined and contain large amounts of trans fat. Trans fat, created by hydrogenating vegetable oil to make it spreadable, is implicated in both cancer and heart disease.

Saturated fats are the bad kind of fat. Included in this category is butter, peanut oil, coconut oil, palm kernel oil, and lard. These saturated fats elevate cholesterol and triglyceride levels, leading to an increased chance of heart attack and stroke. These oils are best avoided.

Two Stand-Out Oils
The essential ingredient of the Mediterranean diet, olive oil, has been found to have beneficial effects on blood lipids and it may even lower blood pressure. According to the World Health Organization, nearly 60 percent of strokes and 50 percent of heart disease are associated with high blood pressure.

Hypertension is estimated to be the cause of 7.1 million deaths per year worldwide. A recent study has concluded that olive oil intake is “inversely associated with both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.” The bottom line: consuming more olive oil is linked to lowered blood pressure.

Sesame oil — the most common oil consumed by Chinese centenarians — is enjoyed for its delicious nutty flavor and also possesses some considerable therapeutic properties. Chinese medicine lists sesame as a blood builder, a kidney and liver tonic, and a bowel protector and regulator. It is rich in phytic acid, the antioxidant that may prevent cancer. Lignan sesamin, one variety of sesame oil, appeared to radically reduce cholesterol levels in the bloodstream and liver of rats.

To benefit your health and enhance your meals, add some olive oil to your food and salads; sprinkle sesame seeds and oil into your dishes regularly. Some other excellent choices for oils include: walnut oil, flaxseed oil, and soy oil.

I hope I have cleared up some of the confusion surrounding oil. I invite you to visit often and share your own personal health and longevity tips with me.

May you live long, live strong, and live happy!

—Dr. Mao

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