Monday, April 30, 2007

The naked mile and peer pressure

It's this time of the year that the naked mile usually held in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The Naked Mile is a tradition at the University of Michigan where graduating Seniors run through campus naked the evening of the last day of classes. It started in 1986 and finally was banned in 2004.

I went to the event while in Ann Arbor, 1998-1999. The crowd was superb - the runners as well. Some runners would shout "pervert!" to the spectators. But no one seemed to care. Everyone was too busy taking pictures.

And it was cold too. Late April in Michigan can be as cold as in the 40's degree Fahrenheit.

No, I'm not sharing any naked mile pictures in this blog. An article from the Michigan Daily has a considerate picture of naked mile in 1998. And of course, there are websites selling pictures and videos of the naked mile. Just google "naked mile"...

One would wonder why these students would do such things. Some would say fun. Others would say keeping the tradition.

The rest were under peer pressure, as implied in another Michigan Daily article written by an ex-runner sharing her experience, and an article where a student was having an inner battle whether to run or not to run.

I agree with Cam who said: "It appears to me that the power of peer pressure and social acceptance is the main attraction here. The old saying, "Would you jump off a cliff if everyone else is doing it?" certainly pertains here. Most people would say no, but when confronted with the actual decision, they cave in and conform."

Peer pressure is, loosely, a concern with being accepted by others. Here's a brief TV ad that we used while discussing peer pressure as a motivation for conforming to others. It's quite a big challenge for teenagers. It's a mix of positive and negative influence, and may include things from fashion to alcohol, and from way of life to getting actively in sports.

By the way, it is actually illegal to run naked through the streets. But at the same time it is not illegal to take pictures of naked people. There was a period where most runners were wearing underwear to avoid arrest. That way, the only violation was interfering with traffic...

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Saturday, April 28, 2007

Shar-Pei


When Miund brought up Shar-Pei in her comment on circum(de)cision, I didn't know exactly how they look like.

Here are some selective info about Shar-Pei from Dog Breed Info Center. Things that both the owner and master need to know...

Description
- Both heavily wrinkled dogs with large heads and smaller headed dogs with tighter looking skins occur in this breed.
- It has a square profile with a broad, full head and wide, padded muzzle.
- Puppies have more wrinkles than adults.
- Shar-Pei slowly loose their wrinkles as they get older.

Temperament
- The Shar-Pei is very loyal to his handler.
- It is an intelligent dog that does not always follow orders slavishly.
- Playful, active, dominant, and brave.
- They bond with their family, but are not unfriendly toward strangers.
- The Shar-Pei needs a confident handler.
- If you are too uncertain, too inconstant, too soft, or too mild in the dog's eyes, it will take over as the boss.
- Shar-Pei need firm, but gentle and extremely consistent training.
- They need an owner who as the ability to be "Top Dog".
- Shar-Pei generally hate water and try as hard as they can to avoid it.
- Mixing other dogs can sometimes be a problem and socialization is important.
- Some Shar-Pei tend to slobber, especially when in pain.
- Good Shar-Pei lines will get along well with other dogs and will not have skin problems, which is a hereditary condition.

Living conditions
- The Chinese Shar-Pei will do okay in an apartment if it is sufficiently exercised.
- It is moderately active indoors and will do okay without a yard.
- Because of their padded head, the Shar-Pei is very sensitive to heat.
- Shade and water must always be available.
- Provided they get enough exercise, they will be very peaceful indoors.

Exercise
- The Chinese Shar-Pei have a considerable need for exercise, but keep them on a leash in public so they do not fight with other dogs.
- Do not over exercise them in the heat, as they are sensitive to it.

Grooming
- The Shar-Pei should be brushed regularly.
- Bathing about once a week and brushing the coat daily during this period will remove the old dead hair and allow the new coat to grow in.

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The best of the best


Norman Hubbard of Soccernet.com selected a football (soccer) team from the top two in the English Premiere League: Manchester United and Chelsea. See interesting read on the side bar.

His choices were: Cech (Chelsea); Neville (Manchester United), Carvalho (Chelsea), Vidic (Manchester United), Evra (Manchester United); Ronaldo (Manchester United), Essien (Chelsea), Lampard (Chelsea), Giggs (Manchester United); Drogba (Chelsea), Rooney (Manchester United)

As a Manchester United fan (and trying to be as objective as possible), I think he got it quite right. I would consider Scholes to replace Essien, but Scholesy didn't start the season excellently.

If these are the selection for fantasy football on Yahoo!, the team score today would be only 2711 (3295 if everyone plays all 34 games). Current leader is 3494.

Cech - 201 (17 games)
Neville - 159 (24)
Evra - 161.5 (22)
Carvalho - 206.5 (30)
Vidic - 120.5 (24)
Lampard - 399.5 (34)
Essien - 135 (30)
Ronaldo - 464 (31)
Giggs - 223.5 (27)
Rooney - 303 (31)
Drogba - 338 (34)

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Never gonna give you up

Nah, I'm not being romantic. A bit sentimental, perhaps. Or just don't want to admit it... :)

Anyway, I'm referring to Rick Astley's "never gonna give you up". I think it was in 1988 when the song became a hit in Indonesia. I heard it again today after so many years. Yeah, I'm that old...



Rick's voice is not my favorite, but it's so unique I guess.

I always thought that Rick Astley was an Australian. (I found out today that Rick Astley is an English.) Perhaps because Kylie Minogue was also a big hit at the same time. (She's an Australian, right?)

What's Rick doing now? It seems that he's still doing some music works, but there's rarely any news.

An unofficial Rick Astley website writes: "It's not easy being a Rick Astley fan right now, there seems to be very little news however we are expecting to hear something soon. This quiet period is different from the past, Rick has no intention of hanging up his mic just yet and therefore we do expect Rick to be active in the very near future."

So if there's any Rick Astley fan out there, never give up.

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Saturday, April 21, 2007

Gun ownership - reduce or increase incidents?

I was wondering how effective the gun policy is in the U.S. or other countries that legalize gun ownership. I think it contributed to the recent Virginia Tech incident.

The policy of legal gun ownership and control has perhaps been debated since the birth of the gun itself.

There are two arguments - for and against legal gun ownership. One argues that we need guns to protect ourselves against criminals, or that gun ownership is part of constitutional rights. One can also argue that if guns are banned, we need not to worry about having guns.

One argument for legal gun ownership is that it saves lives. It sounds ridiculous, but that's what statistics tell, says National Center of Policy Analysis, a U.S. non-profit organization.

I think the statistics showcase more on the illegal ownership of guns. How many incidents have been related to legally-owned weapons? Not as many as the illegal ones, I presume. Those that are well-known include Columbine until the recent Virginia Tech incidents. And another incident yesterday at NASA's Johnson Space Center.

How about in countries where gun ownership is not (publicly?) legal? Like in Indonesia with Tommy Suharto and Adiguna Sutowo, for example. Or like in Malaysia with the murder of a Mongolian model. All three involved guns and related to elite or politicians.

It's logical to assume that these shooting incidents will increase if gun ownership is legalized.

With the speed the world is going today, there will be stressed people and lunatics out there. A lot of them. Don't equip them with guns. Gun ownership should be made illegal.

Update:
- Mass shootings more common since 1960s.
- Ria Wibisono has concern over similar bullying practice (and racism) in Indonesia, which she expressed on
Overseas Think Tank for Indonesia.

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Friday, April 20, 2007

Global warning

"Who will fix the world?" Ben, my four-year-old son, asked while I was trying to explain what global warming and Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth are about.

The answer is us. Because we're also the culprit. Gore said: "Each one of us is a cause of global warming, but each of us can make choices to change that".

Ben fell asleep 15 minutes later, despite all the information he could get from the movie.

So how do we fix the world?

Gore continues: "With the things we buy, the electricity we use, the cars we drive, we can make choices to bring our individual carbon emissions to zero." He should've done this movie before running for the U.S. president. World could've been a little better and more peaceful now.

Anyway, here are six things we can do to slow down global warming:
- Electricity end-use efficiency
- Other end-use efficiency
- Passenger vehicle efficiency
- Other transport efficiency
- Renewables
- CCS & Supply efficiency

CCS = Carbon Capture and Sequestration. More about CCS.

It can be as simple as using energy-saving bulbs, unplugging electronics from the wall when not used, or eating less meat.

At the same time, perhaps we can make use excess rainfall in this region. I initially thought business, but after seeing the movie, it should be for human being.

See An Inconvenient Truth trailer here.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Circum(de)cision

clipped from www.nytimes.com
Now that three clinical trials in Africa have shown that circumcision helps protect men against AIDS and the World Health Organization has endorsed it, public health doctors elsewhere — including in New York City — are contemplating whether to recommend it. Then comes the difficult part — how to sell the idea.

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If circumcision does not have ties to any religion, how difficult is it to convince men to get circumcised?

Some supporting ideas include HIV prevention (only for those who penetrate but not on the receiving end) and a say that circumcised men get all women because they can make love longer (at the expense of lessened sensation). In Indonesia, at least, there is also a perception that a boy will grow faster after being circumcise.

Medically, circumcision reduces the incidence of cancer of the penis (yes, I also have never heard it before). And sexually, there is a survey of adult males using self-report that suggests more varied sexual practice and less sexual dysfunction in circumcised adult men. One even argues that circumcision should be mandatory.

On the other hand, circumcision may cause loss of sensitivity. Some also believe that it may reduce volume of or shorten the penis - an Australian survey found that the difference was statistically significant... ouch.

Other concerns include financial costs (vs. benefits) of getting circumcised and possible surgical complications.

In the U.S., however, a study shows that most women prefer circumcision for sexual reasons, with visual appeal and sexual hygiene being the predominate reasons...

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

Kids In Mind

"This is an excellent resource for families. Merits two thumbs up...[Finally] movie ratings that actually work" - Cincinnati Enquirer Editorial

Kids-in-mind provides pretty comprehensive information about a film's content so that we can decide, based on our own value system, whether a movie is appropriate for our kids.

It's one of TIME magazine's 50 coolest websites too.

I came to know this website about a year ago while looking for information on a movie we were about to see. What I like about the website is it doesn't just provide an overall rating or critique. It provides ratings, with detailed explanation why, on three categories: sex/nudity, violence/gore, and profanity.

It also provides the substance use (e.g. alcohol, drugs). But what I find most helpful are the suggested discussion topics and the message that the movie conveys. They help me with discussions with my kids.

Here's an example for Ice Age 2. The rating is 1, 4, 2 (sex/nudity, violence/gore, profanity). The details explanation include "a male mammoth tells a female mammoth that she is attractive and talks about her backside", "an animal is hit in the head twice with a log thrown through the air twice (it's OK)", and more.

The discussion topics include global warming, evolution, extinction, etc. While the message is "let go of the past so that you can have a future".

Basic Instinct, on the other hand got a rating of 10, 8, and 9. One of the details is "a man kisses a woman's bare breast and inner thigh, then puts her legs on his shoulders (cunnilingus is implied)". Suggested discussions include murder, bisexuality, and more. And the message is "you never know who you can trust'.

Yeah, I guess I remember some scenes from Basic Instinct...

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Friday, April 13, 2007

Queuing culture

Some people just never learn, myself included.

Last Sunday we went to Genting Highlands (my parents were visiting us) knowing that it would be terribly crowded because of the Easter Holiday weekend. As if that wasn't enough, we decided to take the cable car.

The picture shows how close the person (a guy, unfortunately) behind me while we were queuing for cable car in Genting Highlands. It was like that - constant contact, my back and whatever his was - for at least 30 minutes.

A visit to Genting (on the weekends) is always full of queuing, just like any other theme parks. But with many visitors trying to cut the queue, Genting's management should do something about it.

Anyway, why do some people like to stand so close to the person in front of him/her while queuing?

Can't really find the reason why, but found an article about personal space:
"Social distance is the casual interaction-distance between acquaintances and strangers. It is common in business meetings, classrooms, and impersonal social affairs. Social distance ranges from 120 to 360 cm. Its close phase, 120 to 210 cm, is the characteristic of informal interaction, while more formal interaction requires the far phase 210 to 360 cm. Some physical barriers such as desks, tables, and counters, usually make people keep this distance. Proxemic behavior of this sort is culturally conditioned and arbitrary (Hall, 1966, p. 121-123)."

Or perhaps personal space is just a Western concept?

I also learned in my operations management class about psychology of waiting lines (pdf) by David Maister. He offers 8 points of psychology of waiting:
1. Occupied time feels shorter than unoccupied time
2. People want to get started
3. Anxiety makes waits seem longer
4. Uncertain waits are longer than known, finite waits
5. Unexplained waits are longer than explained waits
6. Unfair waits are longer than equitable waits
7. The more valuable the service, the longer the customer will wait
8. Solo waits feel longer than group waits
(© Copyright 2001-2007 by David Maister)

Not sure, though, if the list can explain the "closeness" in waiting.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Another blunder - more to come?

After 'not-so-well-thought-out' comment from Malaysian Tourism Minister Tengku Adnan about bloggers, another official made another 'blog-unfriendly' comment.

If officials in a country that's relatively well-developed in the IT infrastructure like Malaysia still make this kind of comments, what about officials from other countries?

I hope the Indonesian officials learned from their neighbor's blunders. Learned
not to talk trash and also learned about what is up in the 21st century.

But the indication is not that good.

Here's an email I got a few days back, claimed to be based on real interview with DPRD (House of Representatives) of East Kalimantan.

===========

LAPORAN PANDANGAN MATA DARI DPRD

Pertanyaan REPORTER: Bapak sebagai anggota DPRD, apa sudah punya e-mail?
Jawaban Anggota DPRD: Apa itu e-mail? Saya belum punya e-mail
karena masih kurang paham teknologi macam itu. Keinginan punya ada,
cuma untuk mengoperasikannya saja saya mesti tanya sana sini. Di
lingkungan Dewan ini sebenarnya sudah ada, tapi sampai sekarang tidak
dioperasikan karena tidak ada yang menggunakan.

Pertanyaan REPORTER: Bapak sebagai anggota DPRD, apa sudah punya e-mail?
Jawaban Anggota DPRD: Sekarang ini belum punya, sebab saya tidak
ingin punya nafsu besar untuk memilikinya namun tidak ada waktu untuk
melihatnya.

Pertanyaan REPORTER: Bapak sebagai anggota DPRD, apa sudah punya e-mail?
Jawaban Anggota DPRD: Saya masih pikir-pikir, karena tidak bisa
dibawa pulang, jadi kurang efektif bagi saya yang terus kerja keras, baik
di gedung Dewan maupun di rumah

Pertanyaan REPORTER: Bapak sebagai anggota DPRD, apa sudah punya e-mail?
Jawaban Anggota DPRD: Sudah, saya waktu itu sudah pernah punya.
Tetapi karena kurang efektif, sekarang sudah saya jual...

Pertanyaan REPORTER: Bapak sebagai anggota DPRD, apa sudah punya e-mail?
Jawaban Anggota DPRD: "Secara pribadi saya belum memilikinya.
Bukannya saya tidak mampu untuk membelinya, namun saya masih cinta
produk dalam negeri. Buat apa kita membanggakan produk luar, kalau
hanya untuk gagah-gahan. Lihat saja nih HP (handphone) saya, masih
model lama kan?"

Jangan dikira ini reportase fiktif lho! Benar-benar merupakan jawaban
anggota-anggota DPRD, ketika reporter kami melakukan semacam
survey di suatu DPRD-Kota di Kalimantan Timur.
Nama kotanya dan nama-nama masing-masing anggota DPRD yang
menjawab sebagai di atas, ada pada Redaksi suatu surat khabar...

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Sunday, April 08, 2007

Bush: number one in failure?

George W. Bush: A Failure Once Again, According To Google, says an article in searchengineland.com; also in the sidebar section.

I took several clips of these searches.







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Saturday, April 07, 2007

How can we engage more people in the democratic process?

Barack Obama, a candidate from the Democratic Party for the next U.S. president, is trying something that perhaps no other presidents or candidates have tried. He posted a question in Yahoo!Answer: how can we engage more people in the democratic process?

I'm not exactly clear what he meant by democratic process - whether it is the election only, or the whole democratic process, whatever the process is.

Some answers are quite interesting:
The first thing I would suggest is to reestablish the people's trust in government. Many people have lost trust in the system and this leads to apathy. After all, who wants to participate in a process that is viewed as flawed or biased? I, myself, have become disillusioned with our democratic process (as have many others I know). Many people just no longer believe that the government has their best interest in mind.
--------

This question assumes that participation in democratic process if a matter of *choice* when in fact its a matter of *ability*. The first step should be to bring all people to equal *ability* to participate in the democratic process. With massive inequalities in education, standard of living, and access to resources - we are clearly not there yet. On one hand we have those who don't even know whether they will get to eat tonight - worrying about voting in the mid-term elections is hardly on the top of their mind. On the other hand we have those who have paid millions of dollars to politician's election campaigns to make sure that their needs are taken care of once the politician gets elected. Can this really be referred to as "the democratic process"?
--------

It would help if politicians could be trusted. And the best way to gains ones trust is an act of generosity on their behalf. I think proposing legislation to remove corporate and private donations, essentially cleaning up the system, would prove to the voters you are genuine and can be trusted.
--------

By ending the smear campaigns. Many people have become apathetic to politics because they are fed up with the negativity and mud slinging. We want to hear what the candidates CAN and WILL do, not a list of every crime against the other.

--------

Send corrupt politicians to real prisons to serve real time. Stop treating us like children. Stop lying.
--------

The majority of the people I talk to tell me "it doesn't matter what I say or how I vote, Congress does what the people who donate the money to their campaigns tell them to do". I believe most politicians in Washington D.C. probably are bought and paid for and unless their constituency makes enough noise to change their vote they vote with big donor interest in mind. Unless we have Federally funded campaigns and some way to reign-in lobbyist pocket books and influence we will never get enough people engaged in the democratic process to make it really a "Government by the people".

Why do politicians want to engage more people in the democratic process? At the same time, why do people want to get engaged in the democratic process? I guess, whatever the answers are, politicians should not engage people in the process just for the sake of making the process looks democratic.

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Friday, April 06, 2007

He who shoots faster than own shadow

Lucky Luke shoots faster than his own shadow does. One of my favorite comics back then.


I used to collect a lot of comics available in my preteen; my dad reads a lot too. Mostly bought in Gramedia bookstore, some of my favorites include Tintin, EPPO, Album Cerita Ternama, and some more.

Lucky Luke rides Jolly Jumper, who sometimes is smarter than his master. In most editions, Luke fights the Dalton brothers, who are like dumb and dumber among them. There is one where Luke is the host to a Russian visitor or ambassador, of whom he gets in trouble a lot. And in some, Rantanplan, a dumb yet lucky dog, gets in his way. Rantanplan is his journey to look for his parents, if I'm not mistaken.

Tintin is probably one of the most successful comics ever. The first Tintin was published in 1930. It now even has its own official website though there hasn't been any new edition since 1986.

EPPO is a bit unique. It was probably not too suitable for kids in elementary schools. There was
Storm, a six-pack hero, and his partner 'Rambut Merah' who almost always wore bikini-type war clothing. I never really understood the story...

I like Roel Djikstra story in EPPO too. One of the plots I remember was when Roel was shot while getting ready for a corner kick. It was all football politics and stuff. And there were Arad and Maya with their teleporter device, and I think a story about a French military guy who tried to put a bomb in the Eiffel tower... or somewhere along that line.

Album Cerita Ternama, a comic series published by Gramedia, was all about classic stories. Not only the stories were from the Western authors like Karl May or Jules Verne, but it also had stories like the Mahabarata, Pandawa, and such. A very enjoyable reading and learning.

I guess I will check out what kind of comics are available in the bookstores nowadays...

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Sunday, April 01, 2007

Global Services Location Index is (not) Labor Cost Advantage Index?

As I work in supply chain management area, news related to labor costs or outsourcing always interest me. So does "Malaysia ranks 3rd in labor cost advantage index" in recent newspaper.

The more I dug in, though, I feel the title is inaccurate and, potentially, misleading.

Though I read the article in a newspaper, other news websites, like Bernama, NST, and Business Times, are identical.

The study referred to was done by A.T. Kearney, called Global Services Location Index. Its report, "Labor Cost Advantages of "Offshore" Locations Decline in 2006 According to New A.T. Kearney Study", was posted on March 15. The index itself is comprehensive, comprising of 41 measurements in three major categories.
clipped from www.atkearney.com

About The 2007 Global Services Location Index


The A.T. Kearney Global Services Location Index analyzes the top 50 services locations worldwide against 41 measurements in three major categories: cost, people skills and availability, and business environment.

The Index assigns weightings reflecting the drivers of offshoring decisions based on A.T. Kearney research and engagement experience. Because cost advantages have been the primary impetus behind offshoring, financial factors constitute 40 percent of the total Index weight. People skills and availability and business environment each receive a 30 percent weighting.


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Malaysia does rank 3rd in overall - considering the three categories: financial, people, and environment. However, Malaysia ranks 21st in financial attractiveness, 19th in people skills & availability, and 14th in business environment. Vietnam tops the financial attractiveness category. See the data behind the 2007 Global Services Location Index here (pdf). A.T. Kearney also provides regional highlights of the study. Indonesia, by the way, ranks 2nd, 14th, and 49th in the same categories respectively.

Unless I'm totally off, i.e. I'm talking about a totally different study, I think it's pretty fair to say the report is somewhat inaccurate, i.e. there's no such Labor Cost Advantage Index. (I hope my words are politically-correct enough to not get me into trouble.)

One explanation of this, I can recall from one of my previous courses, Managerial Effectiveness, is confirmation bias. So I searched my old class notes (it's Sunday, I can do anything I want, right?) on this topic. Here's what the notes say about confirmation bias: the tendency to gather evidence that is consistent with a prior hypothesis. Some of the reasons are (1) laziness, (2) incomplete search, and/or (3) desire to reach a specific conclusion.
"The human understanding, when any proposition has been once laid down... forces everything else to add fresh support and confirmation... it is the peculiar and perpetual error of the human understanding to be more moved and excited by affirmatives than negatives." - Francis Bacon (1620)
Boooring... enough for the theories.

Another interesting example was when one poll was interpreted in two opposite ways: optimistic and pessimistic. Dave nicely put his views on this. I guess, we really are what we think we are.

So this perhaps can explain why Malaysia’s ministers are blogophobic as Unspun brought up, although in this case it's not only for bloggers, but also other official websites.

Well, I might be simply wrong or be “provocative, politically motivated, inaccurate or just floating rumors for the interests of certain parties.”

On the A.T. Kearney study itself, I'll save it for next week... enough study notes for one Sunday...

Source: A.T. Kearney Global Service Location Index 2007

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