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...

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

No pok!

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

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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

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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...

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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...

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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.

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