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.

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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...

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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

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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!

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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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