Monday, January 29, 2007

Skin color discrimination

A recent study says that skin tone affects earnings in the U.S. The darker the skin is, the higher the chance to get paid less than the counterparts with lighter skin do. The study looks at legal immigrants to the U.S. from around the world.

Several other findings from the study:

-/ Being one shade lighter has about the same effect as having an additional year of education.

-/ Taller immigrants earn more than shorter ones, with an extra inch of height associated with a 1 percent increase in income.

-/ Skin tone still seemed to make a difference in earnings, although other factors that could affect wages (e.g. English-language proficiency, education, occupation, race or country of origin) are taken into consideration.

"... that means that if two similar immigrants from Bangladesh, for example, came to the United States at the same time, with the same occupation and ability to speak English, the lighter-skinned immigrant would make more money on average."

So life's better in the U.S. if your skin color is relatively lighter, or if you're tall. This is sad.

The study also confirms that many cultures show a bias toward lighter skin.

I think Asian cultures strongly show that bias. Bule in Indonesia and Mat Saleh in Malaysia clearly often get preferred treatments over the locals.

They - the foreigners, the white men - probably deserve it, though. Usually, these people are financially better than most locals (except, of course, bules in Jalan Jaksa). And the attitudes too - they typically are more confident and demanding when it comes to service, compare to most locals. They speak English, or a foreign language, for the sake of it. And... perhaps their skins are lighter too...?

Is it the Asian politeness (or dumbness)? Is it that we were colonalized for quite a long time, that we now feel inferior?

What about the Japanese, who, despite of their well-known politeness, are one of the economic and technology 'powerhouses' in the world? But they are already light-colored...

[Read more...]

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Here and there: antibiotics

I moved in to KL about 15 months ago. It's been exciting - new stuff, new cultures, new ways of doing things. Not all are good and at the same time not all are bad. It's clearly a trade off.

Surely there are loads of them. One that I struggle the most is probably antibiotics - the use and prescription of antibiotics.

It took me some time to adapt to the very strict prescription of antibiotics in the U.S. There, not until the symption is proven caused by bacteria, doctors won't prescribe any antibiotics. Even the patient is having high fever. Why? Antibiotics have no effect against viruses, fungal, and other nonbacterical infections (for example common cold). I guess the only positive effect would be psychological.

But here the practice is totally different - as is in Indonesia as far I can remember. Doctors are so trigger-happy when it comes to antibiotics. They even prescribe antibiotics for "just-in-case". That scares me.

And oh, the antibiotics here taste much worse, especially those for children.

Here's excerpt from wikipedia about use and misuse of antibiotics:

Use or misuse of antibiotics may result in the development of antibiotic resistance by the infecting organisms, similar to the development of pesticide resistance in insects.

Antibiotic resistance has become a serious problem in both the developed and underdeveloped nations. By 1984 half of the people with active tuberculosis in the United States had a strain that resisted at least one antibiotic. In certain settings, such as hospitals and some child-care locations, the rate of antibiotic resistance is so high that the normal, low cost antibiotics are virtually useless for treatment of frequently seen infections. This leads to more frequent use of newer and more expensive compounds, which in turn leads inexorably to the rise of resistance to those drugs, and a race to discover new and different antibiotics ensues, just to keep us from losing ground in the battle against infection. The fear is that we will eventually fail to keep up in this race, and the time when people did not fear life-threatening bacterial infections will be just a memory of a golden era.

[Read more...]

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Schoolgirls competing to be No.1 in sex game

I've had tons of guests - family and friends - visiting since I moved to KL. Most who came to Malaysia for the first time usually shared this same impression: "Whoa!" They thought that life in Malaysia was so influenced and governed by Islamic practices, that, for example, there was no or only a few pubs and clubs around.

Well, not exactly. KL, especially, is just another city that shares all the goods and bads of typical big cities. (and frankly I like it for that)

Except, of course, if you live in Kota Baru, Kelantan, where women, working in retails and restaurants, who dress "sexily or indecently" could be fined up to RM 500.

So what about the schoolgirls?

It's a two-week old, or so, news I happened to read. I guess it might contribute to the "whoa!" impression. Perhaps JB, with its proximity to Singapore, has gotten the influence of swinging...

Here's the story from the Star:

A group of female students in a secondary school in Johor Baru are said to be competing among themselves to be the one with the highest number of one-night stands, Nanyang Siang Pau reported.

Each of the 10 students in the group, aged between 13 and 15 years old, would fork out between RM50 and RM100 to be in the game.

The student with the highest number of sex partners within a month would get a "reward", which ranged from between RM500 and RM1,000, said the report.

Usually, a student would need between 13 and 15 sex partners to claim the "reward".

It was learnt that the school had expelled some students involved in the activity, but the report added that it was still going on.

So next time JB instead of KL?

[Read more...]

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Open season

Well, I managed to get some colleagues from work to play basketball again. We ain't no good at all, but the games are actually refreshing and help force us to get out from work early.

After the first game last year I wrote a "report", and attempt to do so again this year. (All initials are accurate)

MFG finds winning way against SCM

Petaling Jaya, Malaysia – Desperate to escape from trailing many points on the first quarter, MFG successfully overcame SCM in the opening game this season.

After a long break, last night’s game kicked off the new season. Both teams, with a long history of basketball rivalry, brought in their new signings – TCP, who undoubtedly was the star of the night, and MF, who scored a couple of points late in the game.

SCM started the game brightly with AP and LBK both scored in the opening minutes. MFG was many times unsuccessful to open up SCM’s tight defense, as MFG’s center MS was physically marked by MF.

The arrival of TCP in the second quarter, however, totally changed the game. His vast experience allowed RT and VN dominated the game. MFG clearly took advantage of having one extra player and continued to control until late in the game. SCM made its best push by cutting the deficit early in the fourth quarter, but MFG put the game away in the dying minutes.

Both teams plan to recruit more players. “We clearly need to get more players. It’s obvious, physically we can’t play four quarters without substitutes. We will need more MCs!” admitted MS. As a follow-up, a hot team has been set up for recruiting.

[Read more...]

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Indonesians are the least unhappy: inferiority complex?

Unspun's "Not unhappy is the Indonesian employee" discusses a global employee survey. One of the findings was

"Those with the lowest percentages of employees feeling unhappy or very unhappy are Indonesia (3 per cent), India (9 per cent) and Thailand and Denmark (both 11 per cent). Those with the highest percentages of disgruntled employees are Luxembourg (36 per cent), Italy (30 per cent) and Belgium (27 per cent)."
Something I didn't expect - that Indonesian employees are the least unhappy in the world. As far as I remember, most of my friends who work in Indonesia complain about their workplace. Yes, confirmation bias.

This result also reminds me of a topic discussed in my alumni mailing list some time ago: inferiority complex. It was the first time I heard the term, and I'm still not sure if I understand the meaning correctly. But here's a definition from Wikipedia:
Wikipedia: "a feeling that one is inferior to others in some way."
There are more in it though. But taking the definition literally, one might argue that Indonesians are experiencing inferiority complex. That these people feel OK (or not unhappy) while people from other countries may feel unhappy being in the same workplace. Possible...

[Read more...]

Sunday, January 21, 2007

About cheating and punishment

Though it could be just a coincidence, I think I might have been a bit recall-biased. After I finished writing the monogamous gibbons, I went to Yahoo!. On the main page where the news rotate, it showed "Cheat on your spouse in Michigan and spend life in prison?". There you go.

To add further bias, here are some quotes from the article:

"The state's appeals court recently ruled that extramarital flings can be prosecuted as first-degree criminal sexual conduct, a felony punishable by up to life in jail."
A judge said: "Technically, any time a person engages in sexual penetration in an adulterous relationship, he or she is guilty of CSC I."

CSC is, I guess, criminal sexual conduct. And CSC I is the most serious sexual assault charge in Michigan's criminal code.

I'm sure it's not as simple as putting men and women to jail once they're found guilty of cheating. But for sure, this will further put the case that lawyer is the most shining profession in, at least, Michigan.

What if someone wakes up in the morning and decides that Indonesia needs to adopt this law? Perhaps no one will want to be the member of DPR anymore...

[Read more...]

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Even gibbons are monogamous

I went to the National Zoo today. On the way rushing back to the exit, we managed to stop by at the apes area and just happened to pay a bit more attention on this guy: ungka kelabu (Bornean Gibbon).

Looks like a loyal creature, isn't he? You bet he is. The information board says that these gibbons are monogamous and that they mate for life.

And a bit closer...

Enough with the big hoo-haa AA Gym created several months ago on monogamy and polygamy.

But what's going on here? Monogamous apes? For the world's sake, animals don't register their marriages. Is this the true loyalty, or monkey love? Or perhaps they all look similar - that it leaves no motivation or desire to find the second partner...

[Read more...]


This is to my buddy in Royal Oak, MI, in welcoming his newborn son on January 17.

"To become a father is not hard. To be a father is, however"
- Wilhelm Busch

Well, conceptually and comparatively.

All the best, pal. Cherish every moment.

About the quote:
My wife used to buy
Real Simple magazine regularly. There's this one I happened to find in the bathroom a couple of days ago, with the quote on the side cover. Pretty simple, yet true.

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Friday, January 19, 2007

General Tso's chicken

I got a surprise from my wife today. She cooked general Tso's chicken for lunch. It's been at least one and a half years since the last time I had this dish. I love you, babe.

No, I'm not writing the recipe here.

General Tso's chicken is the first American Chinese food I had, and I love it since. It's deep-fried boneless chicken with thick, sweet-spicy sauce - just perfect. It's one, if not the most, popular Chinese food dish in the U.S.

There are some other chicken dishes similar to general Tso's. Orange chicken and sweet and sour chicken to name a few. They're all boneless. But Tso's chicken is the best.

It also only exists in the U.S. Wikipedia says that the dish is unknown in China and other lands home to the Chinese diapora. The dish was invented in early or mid 70's in NYC.

I never thought to try to find out who General Tso was, and whether this guy is for real or not. He did exist, I found out today. He was a frighteningly gifted military leader during the waning of the Qing dynasty, said Washington Post's article "Who was General Tso and why are We Eating His Chicken?" So Tso did exist and was, indeed, a military general.

I salute you, general. You and your buddy Colonel Sanders.

[Read more...]

Thursday, January 18, 2007

2007 North American International Auto Show

aka Detroit Auto Show

I was a regular to this show while in Michigan. I'm not, and wasn't, into cars, but it was more because the creativity and imaginations of the concept cars (and to keep up with everyone else in Michigan...). The concept cars are just simply stunning.

Here's a few: the Honda Accord Coupe concept, the Accura Advanced Sports concept, the Chevrolet Volt concept, and the Mazda Ryuga concept.

This year there is ChangFeng. What? Ah, a Chinese automaker - making their first appearance outside China. As ugly as their concept cars mighy look to some, the point is they made it to the biggest auto show on earth! Effect of brain gain?

And last but not least... like any other exhibitions, there are always the SPGs...

(all pictures from Detroit Free Press)

[Read more...]

Malaysia's bloggers sued

Just found this today through Unspun. Bloggers sued by journalists. And, from all the possible places in the world, it's Malaysia. Not sure for what reasons, but isn't it alarming? Now I don't really feel comfortable putting my uncensored thoughts about it...

[Read more...]

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Earn it like Beckham

So Beckham got a deal with LA Galaxy worth, potentially, US $ 250 million for five years. That's the total package if everything goes as planned -- $50 million in salary, $50 million in club profits, $50 million in shirt sale merchandising, and $100 million from sponsors. Or around that, lah.

Seems to be a lot of money. It is, actually, compared to other soccer players in the U.S. The $50 million salary for five years is approximately $200 thousand a week or about 102 thousand Pounds (shoot, I don't know how to type the Pound sign). The second-highest paid player in the MLS earned $1.3 million in 2006, while the average salary for a squad player is $32,000 per year, not week.

That's pretty much on par with other top soccer players in the European league. Roy Keane, for example, earned 90,000 Pounds per week while at Manchester United, while Shevchenko receives around 130,000 sitting on Chelsea's bench. In Spain, Ronaldinho's annual salary is US $11.4 million.

So, apparently the salary itself is not that eye-popping. It's the remaining of the package. It's Beckham's brand equity.

But how about the rest of the industry?

I did a quick google on CEO's salary. Well, they probably are laughing now as people are making a fuss over Beckham's package. A typical total CEO take-home compensation comprises of salary, bonuses, stocks and incentives, and stock options. Most of the pays were in stock options gain. The typical CEO salary itself was ranging from zero to about $2 million.

Here are some examples how much companies paid their CEOs in 2005 (total compensation -- excluding "other compensation" such as personal use of company aircraft). Disney - $10 million. GE - $18 million. American Express - $28 million. Goldman Sachs - $45 million.

Still below Beckham's annual $50 million total package. Try this: Dell - $67 million. Oracle - $92 million.

Capital One Financial even paid its CEO to the extreme: $280 million of total compensation with $0 salary and $0 bonus.

So, wanna earn it like Beckham, or stay in the corporate way?

[Read more...]

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Easier entry into Britain with an MBA

Heads up, MBAs!

MBAs from 50 British-approved institutions will get a higher chance to get the permit to work in the U.K. under the point-based system in the Highly-Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP).

Professionals with MBA qualification, graduated on or after December 2, 2004, stand a better chance as compared to Master's degree holder and Ph.D. Young professionals with high salary get further advantage, as summarized in this table.

I'm not sure whether nationality matters, but I would guess those from the commonwealth nations would have a better chance. I couldn't find what the 50 MBA institutions are, but 10 of them are U.K. institutions and 40 are from the rest of the world.

Despite the high living-cost in U.K., I think it'll be nice to spend several years to get more international perspectives. I don't have any insight on how the working culture is like over there, though.

[Read more...]


One life
But we're not the same
We get to carry each other
Carry each other
- U2

Now the world is gone

I'm just one
Oh God help me
Hold my breath as I wish for death

Oh please God help me...


A couple of my all time favorites.

It's difficult to interpret U2's One. Without paying much attention, I always thought that the song was about two lovers. Others say the song is about about Bono's relationship with his father.

Metallica's One is probably more straightforward. Literally, it's about a dying soldier who has physically lost everything and is wishing for death. I think the picture (from the single cover) tells a thousand words. Well...

There are other (a lot more) songs titled One. Alanis Morissette, Mary J. Blige, Faith Hill to name a few.

I was wondering if there are any Indonesian songs titled "Satu" -- other than that "Satu, satu", the children song...

[Read more...]

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Foreign Workers

There is a lot of Indonesians in Malaysia. Most of them are low-skilled workers like maids and construction workers.

Low-skilled foreign workers account for an estimated 20% (15% are legal) of Malaysia's total workforce as per recent article in New Straits Times about chaos without foreign workers. They work in security, constructions, factories, restaurants, plantations and other industries. Of course, also as maids. They come from many countries too: Vietnam, Bangladesh, Philippines, India, and Myanmar.

Foreign workers let "local" workforce to pursue higher value activities that can contribute to, presumably, better economic returns for themselves and the country. On the other hand, these foreign workers are cheaper too. For instance, local workforce will cost construction 30% more.

It's good opportunities too for the foreign workers. They make much better living than they do in their home countries.

But, what is it for the "exporting" countries? Will these workers add values when they come back? Will the gap between the exporting country and the importing country get bigger?

[Read more...]

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

BCS: Florida beats Ohio State 41-14

Gators won. So what? Buckeyes lost. Great - that's a better news. At least it wipes some disappointments over Wolverines' defeat in the Rose Bowl.

Hail! to the victors valiant
Hail! to the conqu'ring heroes
Hail! Hail! to Michigan,
the champions of the West!

Go Blue!

(listen to the Victors)

[Read more...]

Sunday, January 07, 2007

5 out of 100 Jakarta students have had pre-marital sex

A recent research by a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Indonesia's Public Health Department discovered that five out of one hundred high school students in Jakarta have had sex.

The research surveyed 8941 students from 119 high schools, or equivalent, in Jakarta. It grouped sexual behaviors into eleven categories: sex (I assume sexual intercourse), oral sex, petting, and eight other categories which include chatting and hugging. The survey results for the most interesting categories are as follows -- behavior (% female / % male / % total): sexual intercourse (1.8 / 4.3 / 3.2), oral sex (1.8 / 4.5 / 3.3), petting (2.2 / 6.5 / 4.5)

Here's what I found interesting; please help me understand the statistics.

First, what it means by sex is not clear. (What's not clear about sex, c'mon!) Where does the 5 out of 100 figure come from? My best bet is only when sex here is defined as both sexual intercourse as well as oral sex.

Since 3.2% of the respondents does sexual intercourse, thus there is 1.8% who does only oral sex. This means 1.5% of those doing oral sex also does sexual intercourse. So far so good. But then it also indicates that there is 1.7% respondents who does sexual intercourse (more than 50% of them) without having oral sex. This can mean three things: the definition is not correct, my argument is flawed, or these kids are having a boring life!

Second, the proportion of male-female. Taking a big assumption that the respondents are split evenly 50-50 between males and females, I can argue from the study, referring to the population surveyed, that there are more "active" male students than their female counterparts.

However, it could be that: (1) the female students who have sex are doing so with more than one male student partners, or (2) the male students have sex with not only female students (perhaps with "tante"), or (3) there have been survey errors, from both males and females (e.g. courtesy bias, prestige seeking, social desirability response bias)

The newspaper/reporter should've done a better job explaining this. But I think in Indonesia we still lack individuals with good knowledge in statistics and/or market research. Reporters or politicians can easily swing a survey to the direction they want -- intentionally or unintentionally.

Nevertheless, a good research. We probably are more interested in knowing what the 119 schools are...

[Read more...]

New Year's Eve in KL

Another new year's eve celebration in KL. This time, though, it got closer to the twin towers. Still in an apartment, yet better food and champagne.

Late posting -- pictures just uploaded...

[Read more...]

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Cashless society - all plastics

While doing my 2004 summer internship in Jacksonville, Florida, my colleague shared her passion and belief about cashless society: all monetary transactions should be done with "plastic".

My experience of not carrying cash in the U.S. was good. Most shops and services accept credit cards, brick-and-mortar as well as online. Colleges and universities also promote this idea by consolidating everything into the student cards. Getting a credit card is also easy, for good and bad.

Experience in Asia, especially in Malaysia and Indonesia, however, hasn't been that good. Many shops still don't accept credit card - mostly the traditional shops and services, which are a lot in these countries. Even some big stores - electronics, watches, etc. - charge the interchange (or merchant service) fee, about 2-3% to customers.

Credit card thefts, or frauds, also seem to be more frequent in these two countries. Although I have no data, I have more friends worrying about using their credit cards or doing online transactions here in Malaysia and Indonesia. Perhaps it's the not-yet-matured infrastructure that gives more rooms for crimes.

I once was a victim of credit card fraud in the U.S. But my experience dealing with the bank to cancel the transaction was so much easier than dealing with renewing my credit card here in Malaysia. It could be the bank, but definitely it's the customer service problem in Asia.

It seems to me that the main 'challenge' to cashless society in Indonesia or Malaysia is culture. Business owners still prefer cash, hard cash. Though true, cash is king, I'd still assume that accepting credit cards brings other benefits. Despite the charges and risk of fraud, a merchant should be entitled to these benefits: potential sales increase, cash security (by not storing much cash in the store), financial management, etc.

I ain't working for bank nor am I an employee of Visa, MasterCard, Amex, etc. I just don't like to have a thick wallet. I'm a supporter of cashless society.

[Read more...]

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

New year's bombing and terrorist threats

There goes another bombing in the neighborhood. Now it's Thailand to join Indonesia and the Philippines. That leaves Singapore and Malaysia in the Southeast Asia region. Are they afraid?

More than three-quarters of Singaporeans are, but only less than 60% Malaysians are, as a recent survey shows. The survey, based on 59,000 interviews in 63 countries, was conducted by market information consultant TNS and market and opinion researcher Gallup International. The interviews were conducted between July 24 and August 22, 2006.

Specifically, out of the 1,250 urban Malaysians polled, 59% said in face-to-face interviews that they believed terrorism was a threat. This ranking was, however, among the lowest of the 12 Asia Pacific countries surveyed. Only Hongkong (43%) and Taiwan (45%) registered lesser sense of fear than Malaysia did.

In the region, Indonesians registered the highest level of fear of terrorism at 89%, followed by Thailand (82%), Singapore (78%), Japan (71%), Korea (71%), the Philippines (71%), and Vietnam (61%).

So Thai people's fear was justified. Which then makes it sensible for the Singaporeans to be afraid as well. They live among the countries attacked by terrorism.

[Read more...]

Monday, January 01, 2007

Hakuna matata

It means no worries for the rest of your days.
It's our problem-free philosophy...
- Timon and Pumba

The words themselves are Swahili phrase which means, guess what, "no worries". Not much on the words or the language, but more the philosophy getting into 2007 -- that we probably should take it easy and enjoy more. It's probably easier said than done as many times what we want are different from what others want. Or in professional environment, not aligned.

When we take everything too seriously and too single-mindedly, it won't be a beautiful year. And we may end up having this new year's wish - a friend's favorite:
"May the fleas of a thousand camels infest the ass of the person who screw up your year and may his arms grow too short to scratch it! Happy new year!"

[Read more...]