Thursday, May 31, 2007

Another recall of contact lense solution

It was Bausch & Lomb's ReNu almost exactly a year ago. Then Complete MoisturePlus last November. Now, another recall case of Complete MoisturePlus. This latest case has been linked to a rare but serious eye infection that can cause blindness.

The recall includes products in Asia, so if you currently use one, please stop using it. Check the manufacturer's Southeast Asia website for more info.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Gasoline price and market

I remember gasoline price in Michigan was below $1 in Summer 1998. Today, it's closing $4.

Commenting Beni's question on how to reduce gasoline price, I argued that the demand must be reduced and let market sets the price. It's all in the customers' hands, and government must facilitate this by providing education and means to promote oil usage.

I was assuming that the oil market is perfect and free. Now, having thought about it again, I think I'm wrong.

(Big) Oil companies today are actually fewer than they were in the past. Exxon and Mobil are now ExxonMobil. And then Chevron, Texaco and Unocal. Conoco and Phillips Petroleum. And so on. I'm not sure about others like Roman Abramovich's Sibneft, Medco, etc. The point is, the big players are not many. Thus the market is not really perfect.

Even worse, I forgot about OPEC. The number one cartel that controls most of oil production and price. It has become the cartel example in any game theory readings.

It seems that we can't really let the market sets the price. So?

Like Beni brought up -- go to the street and shout, or write petition. Or blame the Bush administration.

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Sunday, May 27, 2007

On tipping

Contrary to tipping in the United States, perhaps the most tip-conscious country in the world, tipping in Malaysia is not customary. Most, if not all, my Malaysian friends discourage (disallow is perhaps more accurate) me from doing so.

I often call and text some friends to ask whether to tip or not. The answer is always no.

"Be like Malaysians," they said. "Don't raise the expectation."

At restaurants, it makes more sense. Decent restaurants will charge 10-20% service charge. That itself is a tip.

In some other services, it's just awkward especially when compared to the practice in Indonesia. Hairdressing, for example, is a common one where people tip not only the hairdresser, but also the hair-washer.

But then, why is the tipping practice so different between Indonesia and Malaysia - despite the much similarities in other practices and culture?

Whatever the reason is - low salary, westernization, social approval, or even to ensure good service - the pressure to tip from society is definitely big. If only the proportion of people who say "don't tip" is as big as it is here in Malaysia, the critical mass will not materialize and tipping won't be as common.

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Saturday, May 26, 2007

Here and there: wireless, google sms, and online booking

Wireless. Yeah, setting up wireless network was one easy thing back then. All walls are made with drywall and floors are also wooden - the reason why I'm pretty sure the friggin' thick concrete wall is the culprit. Router on the third floor, interrupted-less signal on the first floor. Nice.

Google SMS. Toward 2004 and 2005, I was so addicted to Google SMS. The two most important for me were driving direction and local listing. Get the destination address, and there you go. No more printing from mapquest or google map. Same for local listing. Type, for example, a restaurant name and get the address and phone number - and continue with driving direction.

Online booking (hotels). Internet connection and credit card, that's it. Either for tomorrow or next month, book it at midnight or at any time. Here, now, things are a bit different with the online bookings. Though it's an "online reservation", someone will get back in 24 hours to confirm - it can be a yes or no. If it's a no, it's a 2-day lost. Now I prefer travel agent, for the sake of immediate answer. But they don't really operate after hours.

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Wireless at home

One of the things I've been struggling with since my moving in, almost a couple years ago, is the wireless network. It's been an uphill battle.

What I want is good signal, particularly in the two bedrooms and living room.

As where to place the router, my options are (1) in the room where the desktop is, and (2) in the living room, which is right in the middle of the other two bedrooms. The end-to-end distance between the two bedroom walls is about 10 meters. Desktop is wireless-enabled (but receiver/antenna is at the back).

Until last week, I put the router next to the desktop, so it's wired. But the wireless signal didn't even get to the other (my) bedroom. It was practically wireless only in the living room. I suspected it was because the super thick, 22"- and 7", concrete walls that sandwich the living room.

I bought a wireless antenna last weekend. It did give a bar or two in my bedroom, but it's not consistent. So last Friday I moved the router to living room. This solves the wireless coverage problem, but desktop signal now is weak.

So in the quest of freedom, I am looking at more options: get a wireless signal booster (extender) or replace the router with wireless N router.

Any ideas are appreciated...

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Race no more

The race of the future will be a composite, composed of the many different races on earth today.

"The world has a long way to go before it truly is 'globalized', if by that odd word we mean 'the same everywhere'. No doubt we are on the way. Reading biologist Edward O. Wilson, I discover that in a few dozen generations all human beings will be 'the same', in the sense that whether in London or Shanghai or Moscow or Lagos, the same racial mix would be found," wrote Tim Harford.

That would be interesting, wouldn't it?

No one will bother, or be disturbed, to comment such as this. It will be seen as pure research or study.

There will be no more racial discrimination or stereotyping.

There will be no minorities, bumiputera, or pribumi.

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Sunday, May 20, 2007

Asian wife website and women millionaires

Miund is, and so am I, clearly disappointed with this website, managed by a couple, that generalizes Indonesian women (in villages and small towns) in somewhat not a very nice way. "... treated like prostitutes," Miund strongly says.

Other issues aside, what this couple does is kind of providing a marketplace for retired foreigners looking for good retirement life and Indonesian women, as the website claims, looking to know, or marry, foreign men.

Connecting demand and supply, so to speak.

Here's a thought. With all the loose assumptions and connections, what if the situation is the opposite? Retired women looking for good retirement life - whatever "good" retirement life may be.

Especially now in Hong Kong the majority of millionaires are women.

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Saturday, May 19, 2007

Another workers survey

There was then the not unhappy Indonesian employees. And now, another survey on workers' attitudes to work and work life-balance, it's the Dutch being the least whining.

While Luxembourg had the highest disgruntled employees, the French now have topped a list of the world's most whining workers.

The Work Whinging findings are based on a number of factors, including percentage of workers unhappy with pay, actual income relative to cost of living, percentage of workers who feel work impinges on private life, and average weekly working hours.

There's no information whether Indonesian or Malaysian workers were surveyed out of these 23 countries.

China, Thailand and Japan were the only three Asian countries mentioned in the press release. Japanese being the lowest morale workers, while Thai workers are the second in term of employee morale, along with Irish workers.

I argued that the Indonesians being the least unhappy in the previous study could be an indication of inferiority complex. Now that it is the Dutch, I am thinking that it has something to do with the long colonization period. Cultural transfer, or something like that. Possible, eh?

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Sunday, May 06, 2007

Joosting around

Thanks to Anymatters, I can now Joost around.

What's Joost?

Joost is a new way of watching TV on the internet. With Joost, you get all the things you love about TV, including a high-quality full-screen picture, hundreds of full-length shows and easy channel-flipping.

I was a bit skeptical at the beginning. But it's actually cool as I tried it yesterday. It's definitely not a substitute of the regular cable or satellite TV, but it ain't bad at all. Among the channels available (I only got to try a few so far), Bite TV's Conventioneers looks interesting.

If you're interested, Anymatters seems to have lots of invitations to send.

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Students, MBA, cheating, culture, and disciplinary actions

In the past week, the keyword "Duke MBA cheating" suddenly topped the search coming into this site.

No wonder. On April 26, Fuqua’s Judicial Board, following the procedures set forth in the Honor Code, found 34 members of our first-year class guilty of cheating on a take-home final examination. These students will receive disciplinary actions ranging from expulsion to failing grades.

This incident definitely doesn't help the case of MBA students being the ones who mostly to cheat, a survey found out last November.

A survey of 5,331 students at 32 graduate schools in the United States and Canada found an "alarming" amount of cheating across disciplines, but more among the nation's future business leaders. The study found 56 percent of MBA students acknowledged cheating, compared with 54 percent in engineering, 48 percent in education and 45 percent in law school. The study asked about 13 different types of cheating, ranging from copying a classmate's test answers to lifting sentences from the Internet without attribution.

I agree with the school's decision - to take disciplinary actions and to make it a big deal out of the Honor Code. Cheating is cheating. Incoming students signed the Honor Code. Instructions are typically clear on what students can and can't do during exams or assignments - at least from my experience.

Although I don't have strong opinion on the actions taken, these actions show how serious Duke in not tolerating cheating. I think it's particularly good to incoming students, prospective applicants, and recruiting companies.

Duke has also been continuously informing the 2007 incoming students as well as alumni. The Fuqua Dean confirmed that the students involved were from multiple countries on four different continents.

With no intentions to stereotype, I'm not that surprised international students were involved. I feel that there are many "common" practices, at least in Indonesia, that would've been considered cheating in the U.S. For instance, copying others' assignments. Other practices, like cheating in the in-class exam, also exist (or existed in the 90's).

Two most common cheating practices in this region are probably corruption and bribery. Like copying assignments, they perhaps are more common rather than exceptions. It's like, it's not smart to not corrupt if you get to certain positions. That's THE reason people want to get there. That's probably one of the reasons why people are interested in getting into politics or working for the government.

It will be another long discussion on how to eliminate corruption and bribery. But one thing we can do is to do what Duke did. Consistently and correctly take disciplinary actions to the cheaters.

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